Whitecastle Lumber & Shingle Company at Whitecastle, Louisiana, in 1905; excerpts from American Lumberman magazine.  
Source: American Lumberman. "A Journey through the Vast Downman Cypress Interests with Camera and Pen", American Lumberman, Aug 5, 1905 pp.43-82. Chicago: American Lumberman, 1905.

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.

Early History.
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.

Fire Protection.
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.


R. H. Downman.
Robert Henry Downman, president of the five companies and general manager of all the business of those companies, is one of the very few masters of detail that the writer has ever known who did not allow the minutiae of his work to weigh him down and put him in long straight furrows.

It is no exaggeration to say that Mr. Downman goes more explicitly into the innermost happenings of his business than does any other lumberman in the United States. He is a man of wonderful memory and seems to store away all the facts he gathers on his many trips through his possessions against the time when he might need them for reference. Ninety-five percent of the men and all of the foremen who work for the five companies know him personally. From stable boss to manager he knows each man, his value, his mental weight and the work that he essays to do.

Mr. Downman is a personal court of adjustment for claims and grievances inside and out of business; while most men with his responsibilities would act by proxy. He literally keeps open house—possibly an attribute of Virginia hospitality inherited from a long line of Virginia ancestors. He is as easy to see as the town pump in a country village. But by being swift in his conclusions and thus being able to say he will or he won’t on all propositions he does a personally conducted business—a rare accomplishment in these modern days.

Robert Henry Downman was born in Fauquier county, Virginia, February 27, 1860. The place of his birth was near Warrenton. About 1869 the family moved to Warrenton. Robert Henry attended school until he was nearly 15 years old.

Mr. Downman’s father was the county clerk of Fauquier county and Robert Henry was from 1874 to 1878 a clerk in his father’s office.

Mr. Downman was educated at the Agricultural and Mechanical college of Virginia, located at Blacksburg. After his school days he went back to Warrenton and was interested in the hardware, agricultural implement and lumber trades during 1879 and 1880.

Mr. Downman had an uncle at Bryan, Tex., who was in the retail drug business, and after his experience in Virginia he went to Texas and stayed with his uncle for about a year in the retail drug trade.

In 1881 R. H. Downman went to Waco, Tex., where he opened up a retail business in drugs. He sold that business in 1882 and went on a farm near Waco to do general work. He went with J. W. Castles & Co., of Waco, in the spring of 1883 as a clerk in the office, taking care of invoices and correspondence relative to orders. He stayed there until January 1, 1884. At that time J. W. Castles & Co. became Cameron, Castles & Story, wholesale groceries and drugs, and R. H. Downman was put in charge of the wholesale drug department. He stayed there until 1886, when the drug business was sold to Behrens & Castles, whereupon Mr. Downman went to represent Mr. Castles in that firm.

Mr. Downman married June 6, 1888, Miss Annie S. Cameron, daughter of the late William Cameron.

He stayed with Behrens & Castles until in February, 1889—at the solicitation of William Cameron—Mr. Downman went into the lumber firm of William Cameron & Co. as one of the working partners of that business, his part of the work being to look after the retail yards. Mr. Downman stayed there until the end of the term of that partnership, March 1, 1897. When that partnership was dissolved by mutual consent, in 1897, the firm continued under the name of William Cameron & Co., with William Cameron, R. H. Downman and W. W. Cameron the partners—the other junior partners retiring. This latter firm existed until the day of William Cameron’s death, February 6, 1899.

R. H. Downman was one of the executors of Mr. Cameron’s will together with his (William Cameron’s) wife and son, W. W. Cameron, and assisted in winding up the affairs of the estate. This resulted in a division of the estate under the terms of Mr. Cameron’s will. Mr. Downman in this division secured the Bowie Lumber Company, Limited, at Bowie; the stock that William Cameron owned in the Jeanerette Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited; stock in the Whitecastle Lumber & Shingle Company, and two retail lumber yards in San Antonio. This inheritance, however, brought only a modicum of what has since been added to the original in the six and a half years that have elapsed since the division.

Mr. Downman is today the owner of 90 percent of the stock of the Iberia Cypress Company, Limited, New Iberia, La.; the Bowie Lumber Company, Limited, Bowie, La.; the Des Allemands Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, Allemands, La., and of 70 percent of the stock of the Whitecastle Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, Whitecastle, La., and 60 percent of the stock of the Jeanerette Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, at Jeanerette, La.

Mr. Downman’s properties in Texas and elsewhere are not made a part and parcel of the general estimate of his holdings in this article, but reference—in figures —is made only to his lumber possessions.

The William Cameron interests in cypress lumber began in the Whitecastle Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, at Whitecastle, La., but their chief pride in the latter part of Mr. Cameron’s life was the building up of the plant at Bowie, of which Mr. Downman took active charge and which has prospered under his management in a wonderful way.

After getting Bowie in proper order Mr. Downman purchased the timber holdings of Francis Martin in La Fourche parish and acquired a mill at Allemands. This he bought November 5, 1900. The rebuilding of the plant of the Des Allemands Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, was begun in June, 1901, and between that time and January 1, 1902, was rebuilt and put into shipshape order. December 26, 1900, Mr. Downman bought out the P. L. Renoudet Cypress Lumber Company, at New Iberia.

Mr. Downman moved to New Orleans October 1, 1900, and now occupies offices in rooms 1003-4-5-6 in the Hibernia Bank building, shown elsewhere.

Mr. Downman purchased the C. L. Hopkins tract of land of the Creole Cypress Company at Allemands, La., March 15, 1904. This plant has been abandoned.
Outside of his lumber business Mr. Downman owns large tracts of highly mineralized lands at Llano, Tex. It is considered a very valuable property, worth into the millions.

Besides his lumber stock and mining properties Mr. Downman owns stock in many other institutions which would not be of interest to lumber people to have mentioned.

A. C. Johns.
Arthur Clifford Johns, manager of the Whitecastle Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, at Whitecastle, La., is the dean in the saw mill managerial force of the Downman interests as regards his age and the length of time he has been interested in lumber. Mr. Johns, however, is the last one of the five managers to become associated with the business in Louisiana. He, however, has been associated with Mr. Downman in business for many years.

Mr. Johns was born June 23, 1853, in St. Charles, Mo., and his primary education was in the town school of St. Charles; besides that he was at Westminster, Mass., for two years.

In the latter part of 1872 Mr. Johns went to work in the wholesale grocery business and stayed in that line of trade until 1883, when he went to San Antonio, Tex., and started in the lumber business. The first concern of which he was a member was Gauss & Johns, a retail lumber business at San Antonio, situated on South Flora street, that city, at which place he was continuously in business until 1891, in which year he bought out his partner, Mr. Gauss, and ran that business until 1894.

In 1894 he sold the business to William Cameron & Co. In 1899, when R. H. Downman acquired his interest in the Cameron properties, after the death of William Cameron, Mr. Johns' yard was a part of the acquisition. After Mr. Downman became associated with the business Mr. Johns had a working interest in the business at once and up to June, 1904, when the business was sold by Mr. Downman, and he came to Whitecastle with his family to cast his lot for the crowning event of his lumber career, the management of the business at Whitecastle.

Mr. Johns is a man of high social qualities and strict attention to well thought out and laid down lines of business integrity.

Under Mr. Johns’ management, with the added facilities that have come to the Whitecastle plant, that one of the first institutions to popularize cypress lumber will still be found working at the old stand many years.

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