Whitecastle is on the Texas & Pacific railway seventy-four miles from New Orleans and is reached by Western. Union telegraph and by Pacific express.
Situated at this place is the pioneer "dry land” cypress plant, the plant which was first known in cypress lumber production as a "railroad” proposition and a plant which bids fair to live as long in the future as it has in the past, having before it in prospect more than fifteen years of active business.
The corporate name of this concern is the Whitecastle Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited. The officers of the company are R. H. Downman, president and general manager; Sam R. Ely, vice president and assistant general manager; W. B. Brazelton, secretary and treasurer, and A. C. Johns, manager. Whitecastle has 1,800 inhabitants and is practically on the bank of the Mississippi river, where good dockage is afforded for steamboats, and thus has actual water communication with all the outside world.
William Cameron and his associates became interested in Whitecastle as a cypress lumbering point in 1888. Those in interest were William Cameron, R. H. Downman, W. B. Brazelton, C. L. Johnson, George M. Bowie and Fred Meyer.
The first proposition contemplated a little mill which they found at Whitecastle when they came. The first purchase of timber amounted to 12,000 acres. The little mill that was there was making shingles and it was utilized for the sawing of timbers for the erection of the new plant. The plant which was erected was begun in 1889, began running in 1890 and is still running.
This plant has been considered as a model by many. It has been really one of the most successful saw mills ever erected in the southern country, its dividends probably aggregating more money considering the investment than has been returned from any similarly situated proposition in the United States.
Capt. George M. Bowie, so well and favorably known in all the southland as a successful managing man in lumber interests, took charge of the business as manager in the fall of 1890. Up to the present time there has been cut and marketed from the Whitecastle plant upward of 250,000,000 feet of cypress lumber—that is, counting shingles and all, in lumber feet.
The Cutover Lands.
A feature of the lumbering at Whitecastle that cannot be spoken of under any other subhead than this of "Early History" is the disposition that is being made of the land that has been cut over. Those lands that have been entirely denuded are found to dry out rapidly and become the most valuable sugar planting land known in the state. Experience with the lands at Whitecastle has established a policy among the Downman managers looking in the direction of colonization.
A Change In Management.
Capt. George M. Bowie left the management of the plant in April, 1901, and at that time R. H. Downman purchased his interest. Then, in June, 1902, W. B. Brazelton and R. H. Downman bought out the Cameron interests. Mr. Downman is in control of the stock, but Mr. Brazelton is very active in the company.
A. C. Johns took charge of the company as manager May 1, 1904. Coming as he did from the management of Mr. Downman’s yard at San Antonio, Tex., and having had a long acquaintance with Mr. Downman, Mr. Johns fitted at once and admirably into the responsible position.
The Story of Whitecastle Timber.
In the years that have gone since the plant was established at Whitecastle 10,000 acres of cypress land has been cut over to get the amount of lumber and shingles indicated by the statement made in the "Early History" division of this article concerning lumber production at Whitecastle. The timber holdings of the company are in Assumption and Iberville parishes.
The life of this plant has been extended very largely by the building of the Lake Natchez branch of the Whitecastle & Lake Natchez road, a very difficult piece of engineering which has put Whitecastle into communication with all the cypress district of southeastern Louisiana. The hardwoods on this land have not been touched and are estimated by Mr. Downman to amount to not less than 200,000,000 feet, combining hardwoods of all kinds indigenous to that section. A very large proportion of these hardwoods of course is bay poplar, which is, as is well known, coming into general use at the present time, as its good qualities are becoming known.
An arrangement has just been consummated for the manufacture of staves, heading and hoops at Whitecastle. The Whitecastle Cooperage Company, Limited, will be the name of the company, with Dr. James B. Patterson, of Detroit, Mich., as president. The Platz brothers, of Michigan, will be in active charge. This factory will utilize in some measure the vast quantity of hardwoods so easy of access.
Woods Operations at Whitecastle.
Inasmuch as the Whitecastle Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, was the pioneer in woods operations by rail, it may be expected that by this time the woods operations at that place have been developed to the acme of perfection.
The Whitecastle & Lake Natchez railroad has a total length all told, including the spurs in the yard and elsewhere, of a little more than eighteen and three-fourths miles. It is fair to estimate that it is, in many parts of it, the most expensive railroad that has ever been built for the purpose of carrying logs to a mill—certainly the most expensive of any in that part of the south. Mr. Downman’s engineers and operators in railroad building have been pretty faithfully busy at the work of extending the road to Lake Natchez for the last two years. The great frontispiece of this article shows a portion of that line just completed, all on its high but very solid piles, running straight through the woods.
The Woods Equipment.
This road employs altogether three locomotives to haul logs and do the other necessary work of a logging railroad.
There are all told three Lidgerwood skidders in use. There is one pile driver that has been in commission for months, actively engaged in assisting in the building of the road to Lake Natchez.
The logs at Whitecastle are not put into the water, as they are at most mills, but are dumped onto a log ramp of large area that is conveniently situated at the tail of the mill and are handled into the saw mill by a skidder contrivance that is in commission for that purpose alone.
The Saw Mill at Whitecastle.
The Texas & Pacific road at Whitecastle runs due east and west and from the south windows of a northbound train is seen the plant. The office of the company is close to the railway track.
The saw mill is the most prominent building of the plant and it stands a slight degree to the southwest, but on a line almost due north and south. Over the north end of the saw mill are the large letters which hark one back to the days of William Cameron. They spell out in no uncertain terms "Cypress Queen."
This building is irregular in shape, with boiler house and engine room on the cast side. The building is 173 feet and 5 inches over all in length and has a breadth of 103 feet 8 inches.
The boiler house is built of stone and brick and is fireproof in construction. This house contains a battery of five boilers 48 inches in diameter and 16 feet long which are horizontal tubular affairs nested over Dutch ovens. The furnaces are fed with sawdust direct and by automatic conveyors.
To the north of the boiler house building is a 1-story brick engine house. It contains one 20x42 inch Reynolds-Corliss engine, built by the Allis-Chalmers Company; one 8x5x10 Marsh duplex pump, and one 36-inch 8-foot tubular water heater.
The saw mill is divided into ground floor, subdeck, engine room, dynamo room and mill deck.
The principal ground floor machinery consists of a Garland 3-arm steam log stop; stationary steam nigger; 12x20 Cunningham twin engine feed; one steam jump saw 7x28 inches; one 10x14 center crank slide valve engine; one 8-kilowatt 125-volt dynamo; one 25-kilowatt electrical generator; one 6x12 slide valve engine; one 24-inch upright drill press; one single knot saw, and several other pieces of machinery of minor importance.
The principal subdeck machinery consists of one 6-saw shingle edger; one single knot saw; one combination lath binder and trimmer; one iron frame 3-saw lath machine; one iron frame 3-saw lath bolter; one 36-inch hog; one hand shingle machine, and one iron frame swing saw, with other smaller machines too numerous to mention.
The mill deck of the saw mill is provided with a log haulup 304 feet long; one double overhead canter; one No. 1-1/2 right hand Allis band mill; one 30-foot 5-block carriage; one 54-inch gang edger; one 24-foot gang lumber trimmer; one gang slab slasher; one steam cutoff saw for 40-inch saw; one wooden frame knee bolter, with 48-inch saw; one automatic double block shingle machine for 38- inch saws; one automatic double block shingle machine for 30-inch saws; one hand saw sharpening machine with 22- inch cutter saws.
There is over 3,000 feet of belting of all sizes in this mill and the mill contains over 350 saw mill tools. The mill is fitted with thirteen stations of the Newman watchman system, with clocks.
Planing Mill and Sash and Doors.
The planing mill at Whitecastle is really the planing mill and sash and door factory in a departmental sense. The building is 88 feet 6 inches one way and 190 feet 5 inches the other.
Near that building is the boiler house, 34 feet by 45 feet 5 inches, and near this building also is the shavings vault, 25 feet 3 inches by 34 feet in area. In the boiler house referred to is a battery of two boilers, each 60 inches in diameter by 20 feet long and of the tubular variety, and from this boiler house a steel smokestack 42 inches in diameter ascends 88 feet. In this building are two Sims water filters.
The engine house adjacent to the boiler house has one 15x18 inch right hand slide valve engine; one automatic 12x16 inch left hand high speed balance valve engine; one 16-kilowatt electric generator; one 8 x 4-1/2 x 10 inch single steam Hughes pump; one Covel saw sharpener for 72-inch saws; one 30-inch automatic planer knife grinder, and some other minor machines not necessary to be mentioned here.
Planing Mill and Other Machinery.
There is an extremely large number of machines in this department of the Whitecastle plant and they are worth mentioning in detail if for no better reason than to construct a sentence in English which would contain them all—but there is not room for such an enormity in a detailed way.
Stock and Shipping at Whitecastle.
The lumber sheds at Whitecastle are very complete affairs. There is one north of the Texas & Pacific railway switch which runs north and west through the yard, which is 22 feet 3 inches by 227 feet in area, including a 12 by 277 foot platform extending along the Texas So Pacific switch south of the shed.
Another is a building 48 feet 5 inches by 68 feet 6 inches. There is one 50 by 130 feet. Southwest of these latter two named sheds is a building 20 by 90 feet. East of the planing mill is a shed 15 feet 5 inches by 49 feet 8 inches. Between the planing mill and the dry kiln mentioned first is a very large shed 71 feet 7 inches by 86 feet 3 inches, known as the planing mill shed. This building contains a self feed rip saw with iron frame and two power drum rolls, and one 5-foot cutoff saw.
The principal dry kilns are located on the direct runway from the tail of the mill to the northwest and just at the left as one goes out is a stacking shed which is 20 feet 2 inches by 28 feet 9 inches. This contains a steam lumber stacker which puts the lumber in stack for the kilns about to be described.
Just west of the planing mill is a small steam dry kiln 20 by 50-1/2 feet in size. The principal kilns are two in number; one is 23 feet 4 inches by 91 feet 6 inches and is a 1-story brick, with a charging platform 23 feet 4 inches by 40 feet, located south of the kiln; another is a 1-story frame and brick metal clad structure 24 feet 8 inches
by 100 feet 4 inches. There is a cooling shed 41 by 99 feet at the northwest end of the two kilns.
Another cooling shed in this vicinity is 22 feet 6 inches by 51 feet and a dry lumber shed is 56 feet 3 inches by 121 feet. North of the Texas & Pacific tracks is a 1-story frame dry lumber shed 20 feet 6 inches by 104 feet, which stands opposite the dry kiln.
The piling grounds for the lumber are of sufficient capacity in area to hold 15,000,000 feet of lumber in stock. The stock at Whitecastle is piled down and up and in no case in very high piles. A track of 40-pound rail over three-quarters of a mile long runs from the plant to the river for convenience in handling lumber etc. and bringing back freight brought by boat from New Orleans and elsewhere.
The pump house is located near the mill and has one water tank tower. A drilled well east of the mill is 185 feet deep, from which water is drawn for use through the pump house. This pump house contains a duplex steam pump of the Worthington make.
West of the blacksmith shop is the city pump and boiler house; south of this is the city reservoir, 37 by 61 feet, and west of the reservoir is the city water tower. This equipment was originally built by the company and sold to the town of Whitecastle, and is operated yet by the company under contract for the general welfare of the community.
The complementary tools and accessories for fire protection at Whitecastle consist farther of over 3,200 feet of hose, about 30 hose pipes, over 200 barrels of water ready for use, nearly 350 buckets, two wells, seven tanks of various sizes and a complete sprinkler system with 672 heads.
The total of complete water pipe at the Whitecastle plant is exactly 7,381 feet. Three hose carts are ready tor active use at a moment’s notice. In the collateral part of the fire protection might well be mentioned the refuse burner, which is 24 feet in diameter and 80 feet tall, with screen hood, and which is lined with fire brick. This refuse burner is located sixty feet to the west of the north end of the mill and is a very material portion of the security of the company against fire.
Electric Lights at Whitecastle.
The electric light plant at Whitecastle is very complete, as will have been discovered already in some measure by the description of the dynamos and the necessary power employed to run it.
This light is distributed throughout the plant and town by something like 350 16-candlepower incandescent lamps and seven are lights.