James Edwin Lindsay, 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. 351-354. Original courtesy University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Texas Transportation Archive
James E. Lindsay

No amount of work seems able to wear out some men to the contrary, their very activity seems to bring to them a hale, hearty old age as its especial reward. For fifty years James Edwin Lindsay, of Davenport, Iowa, has been actively engaged in the lumber business and now at the age of nearly four score years still retains active control of large interests. He was born at Schroon, Essex county, New York, April 12, 1826. His schooling terminated with one year's training in civil engineering at Norwich, Vermont. His father was a hotel keeper, farmer and lumber manufacturer combined.

Young Lindsay worked at measuring and hauling logs at his father's mill, a water power affair propelled by the old style flutter wheel. This saw mill was facetiously called the "thunder shower mill" on account of its utter inability to operate unless a copious rain would kindly fill the small creek dam from which it derived its power. Young Lindsay lived in an atmosphere that tended to make him a lumberman, and included among his neighbors Israel Johnson, the inventor of the much used "mulay" saw, and Philetus Sawyer, the longtime prominent lumberman who was for many years United States senator from Wisconsin.

Before his twenty-first birthday Mr. Lindsay had gained some experience in the logging business in partnership with his brother-in-law, John Tompkins. The firm was known as Lindsay & Tompkins and existed for four years. In the fall of 1856, the year he was thirty years old, Mr. Lindsay went west, and with his own savings and some money that had been entrusted to him, secured through land warrants about $7,000 worth of lands in the Black River Falls (Wisconsin) country.

In March, 1861, Mr. Lindsay located at Davenport, Iowa, and his Black river timber was logged and rafted to Davenport, where it was sawed into lumber at the mills at that place. He had formed a partnership with E. Harris, of Queensbury, New York, the understanding being that Mr. Lindsay was to go west, look about for business opportunities and take an interest in whatever seemed most favorable.

The absolute trust of his partner in Mr. Lindsay's judgment seems to have colored the latter's subsequent career. He had not only his own interests to further but also had absolutely in his keeping the interests of another. This tended to make him conservative, which characteristic he has never lost. This conservatism, however, should not be misjudged, for he has ever had an aggressive and enthusiastic confidence in the future values of timber lands.

Later in 1861 Mr. Lindsay secured a lease of the so called Renwick mill at Davenport, Iowa. Shortly afterward John B. Phelps bought Mr. Harris' interest and the firm became Lindsay & Phelps, and it has so continued barring its incorporation as the Lindsay & Phelps Company in 1890 -- for forty-four years. In 1866 Lindsay & Phelps built a mill at Davenport. It started with a circular saw; a gang saw, at that time the only one in that section of the country, was added in 1867; and later, in 1880, a band mill was added, together with other machinery necessary to the equipment of a more modern plant. The mill at Davenport is still in operation and is classed among the old landmarks along the upper Mississippi. John B. Phelps, Mr. Lindsay's partner for so long a time, died in July, 1900.

Mr. Lindsay's confidence in pine timber was of the broadest kind, and as early as 1882 he personally supervised the location of the first holdings of the Lindsay Land & Lumber Company in Arkansas. Mr. Lindsay and C.R. Ainsworth might be named among the pioneer northern lumbermen in Arkansas, for certain it is that they were among the earliest to purchase timber lands in that section and they have continued to be prominently identified with lumber operations in that state.

The Richardson Land & Timber Company, of which J.E. Lindsay is a director, made purchases in Little River, Dallas, Sevier and Howard counties, Arkansas, and later extended its operations into Mississippi. At one time it held a large acreage in Arkansas. At the present time, however, it owns only 45,000 acres in Mississippi.

In 1884, when Messrs. Renwick, Shaw and Crossett went north to Cloquet, Minnesota, and organized the Cloquet Lumber Company, with George S. Shaw as manager, Mr. Lindsay and Mr. Phelps became members of that company, and after Mr. Phelps' death Mr. Lindsay succeeded him as a director.

The big trees of the Pacific Coast next attracted the attention of Lindsay & Phelps, and, associated with Weyerhaeuser & Denkmann and the Richardson interests, they organized the Sound Timber Company, December 23, 1899. This company owns over 50,000 acres of fir, cedar and spruce on the Skagit river, Skagit county; Stillaguamish river, Snohomish county, and Nooksack river, Whatcom county, all in Washington. These lands carry upwards of 1,500,000,000 feet of timber.

In 1901 Mr. Lindsay's attention was again directed to the South, and with Weyerhaeuser & Denkmann, the Laird, Norton Company, Dimock, Gould & Co. and the Richardson interests, on May 4 of that year he formed the Southland Lumber Company to engage in the purchase of timber lands in Louisiana. The present holdings of the company are in southwestern Louisiana and approximate 125,000 acres of longleaf yellow pine.

The Southern Lumber Company of Arkansas was organized January 28, 1902, by Weyerhaeuser & Denkmann, Dimock, Gould & Co., the Richardson interests and J.E. Lindsay, and has at the present time a saw mill in active operation at Warren, Arkansas, and 75,000 acres of shortleaf yellow pine.

Local interests have always received the strong support of Lindsay & Phelps, Mr. Phelps being identified with many local organizations before his death and Mr. Lindsay still being connected with a large number of them.

Mr. Lindsay married in 1858 Mary Helen Phelps. He has three children Ralph E. Lindsay, Mrs. Fred Wyman and George F. Lindsay.

Mr. Lindsay impresses one with his personal dignity, yet he is approachable at all times. He is a quiet, unassuming man, yet possesses those qualities that give strength and firmness to character. He may be compared to one of the giants of the forests with which he has been so long associated: Tall and sturdy, having borne the storms of years, yet towering as majestically as though not having withstood the vicissitudes of many seasons.

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.