William Alfred Pickering, biography c. 1906
[American Lumberman magazine]
  Source: American Lumberman. The Personal History and Public and Business Achievements of One Hundred Eminent Lumbermen of the United States, Third Series. Chicago: American Lumberman, 1906. pp. 85-88. Original courtesy University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Texas Transportation Archive
William A. Pickering

Heredity has often played a prominent part in a man's choice of a career. In family after family it is found that a profession or vocation of one generation has been handed down to another, and additional laurels have been won by the younger generation through the display of a cumulative alertness, earnestness and persistence. A lumberman who has inherited all the excellent qualities of his lumberman parent is William Alfred Pickering, of Kansas City, Missouri.

William A. Pickering is the son of William Russell Pickering and Jane (Coggburn) Pickering, and was born December 26, 1870, at Springfield, Missouri. His grandfather was an Englishman who came from the Midlands of England to America and settled in Missouri, where he became a judge of the county courts. William A. Pickering had about the aver-age experience of the healthy boy; he was in as much mischief as any one in his native town, with a vigorous constitution, wholesome ambition, an inquiring mind and a hopeful spirit. He gained his education through the ordinary channels with-out much effort in the way of conquering his studies, and concluded his education by a course at Drury College, Spring-field, Missouri.

In 188o W. R. Pickering had formed a partnership with Ellis Short to do a merchandise business at Joplin, Missouri, this business eventually being extended into Arkansas, and a tract of timber was bought at Seligman, Missouri. By 1887 the timber business had developed into manufacturing, and the operations of Short & Pickering were extended into Indian Territory. This was followed, in 1894, by the organization of the W. R. Pickering Lumber Company, with head-quarters at Springfield. Young Pickering, fresh from college and at the age of nineteen years, insisted upon applying his hand and all the industry of his nature to acquiring a knowledge of the lumber business. During his apprenticeship to the trade he was employed alternately in the yard and in the office, which had a wholesale department. The wholesale business was started to give an outlet for the product of three sawmills which were run in the Choctaw Nation and were handled in conjunction with the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad.

The industry and tact displayed by W. A. Pickering soon placed him in the position of sales manager of the business of the firm of which his father was a member. He had handled lumber and kept books and dealt with customers and salesmen and fitted into the place as sales manager with an ease and grace that made him a prominent factor in the trade. When the W. R. Pickering Lumber Company was organized the sales manager secured an interest in the concern and became the active director of affairs. The company started yards at Springfield, Lebanon, Deepwater, Ozark and Pierce City, Missouri, and Fayetteville and Vanburen, Arkansas, with a planing mill at Tuskahoma, Indian Territory. This business was closed out in 1898 and the company entered into a strictly wholesale yellow pine lumber manufacturing business.

Mr. Pickering realized that the extent of the manufacturing operations in the Indian Territory were limited because of the growing scarcity of timber, and, therefore, he sought some other opportunity to invest the capital of the W. R. Pickering Lumber Company, and to which to devote his energy. He chose a location in Vernon Parish, Louisiana, where was bought 30,000 acres of virgin longleaf yellow pine timber, upon which it was estimated there was 300,000,000 feet. The mill was built in 1898 at a point which has developed into the thriving town of Pickering, on the main line of the Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf Railroad, now the Kansas City Southern. The mill is equipped with two bands and one pony circular and has a daily output of 200,000 feet. A planing mill, with the most modern equipment, is operated in conjunction with the sawmill. The logs are brought to the mill over a standard gauge railroad seven miles long, laid entirely with steel rails, and with a full complement of cars and locomotives. A stock of 12,000,000 to 15,000,000 feet of lumber is carried at this plant. Shipments aggregate 50,000,000 feet annually.

Since entering Louisiana the company has bought several large tracts of timber land in addition to the original purchase and established another town, called Barham, the name being the same as that of the secretary of the company, and given in honor of the man who was of assistance to Mr. Pickering in the organization and development of the business. The progress which marked this concern from its inception continued, and the business grew rapidly in one phase after another.

A third mill of 200,000 feet daily capacity was built in 1905 at Cravens, twenty miles southeast of Pickering, on a new branch of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. All the operations of the company are conducted on the Kansas City Southern line, or close to it, and are connected with railroads projected, constructed or operated by the W. R. Pickering Lumber Company.

The new mill has two fourteen-inch band saws, Corliss engine and every mechanical device, which gives it a place with any of the first-class plants in the South. The mill contains more steel and concrete than any of its predecessors, and this fact will tend to insure a permanence which has not always been possible with sawmills where wood has been the chief material of construction, and which frequently are subjected to fire hazard to which other materials are not amenable. It is estimated that the company has about 1,500,000,000 feet of timber in Louisiana and eastern Texas.

The officers of the company are W. R. Pickering, president; W. A. Pickering, vice president and general manager, and T. M. Barham, secretary. R. E. Browne is general sales agent of the company. May 1, 1899, the general offices were located in Kansas City, in the Keith & Perry Building.

Mr. Pickering has a social as well as a commercial side to his career. He has traveled as extensively as circumstances permitted, is a widely read man and, although he left school at an early age, he has employed desirable agencies and instrumentalities to complete an equipment which, in connection with his commercial career, places him in the front rank of American business men. He is a member of several social clubs of Kansas City and devotes much of his leisure time, in the golf season, to the Evanston golf links, and frequently is found at the Railway Club and at the Commercial Club. His family is identified with the Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Pickering married Miss Zoe Cravens, of Springfield, Missouri, Dec. 11, 1891. The couple has one son, Russell Cravens Pickering.

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.