Robert Henry Jenks, biography c. 1905
[American Lumberman magazine]
  Source: American Lumberman. The Personal History and Public and Business Achievements of One Hundred Eminent Lumbermen of the United States, First Series. Chicago: American Lumberman, 1905. pp. 127-129. Original courtesy University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Texas Transportation Archive
Robert H. Jenks

The lumber operator who, with headquarters elsewhere, consigns direct from the mill to the retailer without bringing the product to a central yard to be reasserted is one of the later evolutions of the trade.

It is of the foremost man in this line that this article is written Robert Henry Jenks, president of the Robert H. Jenks Lumber Company, of Cleveland, Ohio.

Mr. Jenks was born at Crown Point, New York, July 26, 1854. His father was Benjamin L. Jenks, a pioneer lumberman, farmer and hotel keeper of Vermont and New Hampshire. In 1856, when Robert was two years of age, his father moved with his family to St. Clair, Michigan, buying a farm and putting in several winters in lumbering operations on the Huron shore. The family next moved to Forester, Sanilac county, the senior Jenks being connected with Smith, Kelly & Co. in their logging business and saw mill interests. The family lived at Forester until Robert H. Jenks was six or eight years of age. A few years later Benjamin L. Jenks went to the John L. Woods mill, five miles below Forester.

When Robert H. Jenks was fourteen years old his father died and his mother returned to the farm at St. Clair, young Jenks engaging his services for that winter to Brad & Smithbeck, of Tawas, who were engaged in lumbering. When eighteen years old he went to Cleveland, Ohio, and entering the employ of Woods, Perry & Co. developed such business ability and grew into such importance to the institution that when the firm was reorganized in 1886 it was styled Woods, Jenks & Co., and Robert H. Jenks became managing partner. This house went out of business in 1892, and in July, 1893, Mr. Jenks began business under his individual name as a buyer and seller of forest products. Having in mind a distinct theory of business, Mr. Jenks proceeded to put the theory into practice. He immediately began assorting stock where produced and distributing it to the trade direct.

Mr. Jenks himself confesses that when he entered this line of trade he had no idea of the enormous development possible in it.

The growth of the business was so large from the very start that Mr. Jenks found it necessary two years later to organize the Robert H. Jenks Lumber Company, of which he was president and treasurer, John H. Jenks, his cousin, vice president and Samuel R. Griener secretary. During the progress of a vastly increasing business the officers of this company have been ably assisted by A. B. Lambert, now the treasurer of the Robert H. Jenks Lumber Company, who has acted in the capacity of head bookkeeper and cashier. While the first year's transactions of the Robert H. Jenks Lumber Company showed a business of about 15,000,000 feet, within five years the volume of lumber handled exceeded 115,000,000 feet. Of this immense quantity, by far the larger part is shipped to consumers by rail direct, from points of production.

The interests of the Robert H. Jenks Lumber Company involve a very wide line of lumber production. It is one of the largest handlers of hemlock, in both lumber and shingles, in the United^ States. The company is the buyer of the total product of more than a score of hemlock mills in Michigan and Pennsylvania. White pine and norway lumber are other important items in the company's handlings. In the sale and distribution of yellow pine, both longleaf and shortleaf, it is the most important house in the middle West. In poplar and various hardwoods also it is an important factor.

In addition to these many and important enterprises, Mr. Jenks is heavily interested in the manufacture of yellow pine. In 1901 he organized the Tremont Lumber Company, at Tremont, Louisiana, and became its president; W. G. Collar was vice president and H. H. Denison secretary and treasurer. The Tremont Lumber Company has about 600,000,000 feet of yellow pine timber, from which it was in 1904 cutting at its two mills at the rate of from 36,000,000 to 40,000,000 feet a year. The Tremont Lumber Company owns also the Tremont & Gulf railroad, a standard gage line that runs from Tremont a distance of twenty-five miles into the timber, along which several towns have been established that contribute a handsome volume of general traffic. This road was from its inception the work of Robert H. Jenks, and he is its president and general manager. It has nothing to do with the logging road which the company operates, but is a traffic line pure and simple. Mr. Jenks expects to extend the Tremont & Gulf road into a traffic line fifty miles long and of unusual importance, considering its short length.

Outside of his distinction in the lumber business, in his particular line of which he is dean, Mr. Jenks is intimately associated with three important Cleveland banking institutions, being a director of the Union National Bank of Cleveland, the Central Trust Company and the Colonial National Bank. He is on the loan committees of the two last named. In addition he is president and a director of the Lake Erie Lumber Company and of the Cuyahoga Lumber Company, two large retail lumber concerns of Cleveland. Of course Mr. Jenks is a Hoo-Hoo, and a loyal one. It is largely due to his efforts that the concatenations held in Cleveland have been attended with such success. He is also a member of the Union Club.

As to the private life of Robert H. Jenks: He was married to Miss Clara Brampton, of Cleveland, twenty-four years ago, and has twin daughters who are now eighteen years old. There is a well defined legend that when "Bob" Jenks, as everybody affectionately calls him, was a small boy he sat for his portrait. The man who engineered the daguerreotype machine suggested that Robert "look pleasant." That smile of healthy and hearty good nature has never left his face. It is a smile that is at once winning and infectious.

Text and images were digitized and proofread from the original source documents by Murry Hammond. Contact Murry for all corrections and contributions of new material.