The career of William Cameron, one of the great lumber manufacturers and lumber merchants of the Southwest, was suddenly terminated by death at Morgan City, Louisiana, February 6, 1899.
William Cameron was born in Perthshire, Scotland, January 11, 1834. He received a common school education such as is given the children of the common people of Scotland, and at the age of fourteen was apprenticed to an attorney in Edinburgh. In 1852, at the age of eighteen, he came to the United States, landing in New York with barely enough money to carry him from that port to Illinois, where he had relatives. He worked on a farm for a time and then engaged himself with a relative who was in the grain business in that state. Later he went to Missouri and became a section boss on the Missouri Pacific railway at the time it was being extended west from St. Louis.
When the war broke out he was at Sedalia, Missouri, and helped in organizing the "home guards" of that town. He was captured at the battle of Springfield, carried to St. Louis and paroled. When he was captured he had $150 and a silver watch, which he turned over to a locomotive engineer of the Missouri Pacific to be sent to his sweetheart in case of his death during the war. This lady subsequently became his wife.
After being paroled he returned to St. Louis and engaged in supplying hay and feed of various kinds to the government. About the same time he entered the lumber business in a small way. His contracts with the government were profitable and a short time afterward he opened a lumber business at Warrensburg and also at Sedalia, Missouri. From Sedalia he extended his operations south, following the extension of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas railway, establishing yards at Clinton, Nevada, and other small towns in Missouri, and also at Fort Scott, Kansas. He started a pork packing establishment at Clinton, Missouri, but as it did not prove very successful he closed it out after a few years. He followed the Missouri, Kansas & Texas railway into Texas and opened yards at Denison, Sherman and Dallas. His identity with the lumber interests of Texas extended over a quarter of a century.
William Cameron & Co.'s north and south divisions were formed in 1882, but were consolidated four years later, with headquarters at Waco, Texas, which town was Mr. Cameron's place of residence. The firm's retail yards were at Waco, Lott, Rosebud, Gatesville, San Antonio, McKinney, Brownwood, San Angelo, Dublin, Stephenville, Granbury, Weatherford, Paradise, Bridgeport, Chico, Decatur, Wichita Falls, Vernon and Quanah, Texas; Terral, Ryan, Comanche, Duncan, Marlow, Rush Springs, Chickasha and Minco, Indian Territory, and Elreno, Okarche, Kingfisher, Enid, Waukomis and Hennessey, Oklahoma Territory.
The wholesale business of William Cameron dated from 1884. In 1886 he acquired with a partner a saw mill business at Saron, Texas, of which he became later the sole owner. Among other interests of which he was part or sole proprietor were the Texas Lumber Company, a timber land concern; the Whitecastle Lumber & Shingle Company, at Whitecastle, Louisiana; the Cameron Lumber Mills Company, at Carmona, Texas; the William Cameron cypress manufacturing plant at Bowie, Louisiana, and the Tyler Car & Lumber Company, at Michelli, Texas. This plant was operated under the style of William Cameron & Co., and the name of the place was changed to Angelina. In addition to these numerous interests, William Cameron & Co. controlled the cut of a number of large manufacturing concerns, and the firm was among the heaviest owners of timber land in the South and Southwest.
Mr. Cameron was also an owner of flouring mill property in Texas, and at one time was considered one of the largest dealers in grain and one of the heaviest flour mill operators in that state. He was at the time of his death chief proprietor of the Cameron Mill & Elevator Company, of Fort Worth. His interests and investments were not confined, however, to the lumber and grain industries, for he was a heavy stockholder in the Slayden-Kirksey Woolen Mills, at Waco. In addition to his manufacturing and commercial interests, he was heavily interested in banks, being a prominent stockholder of the First National Bank, of Waco, the Hibernia Bank & Trust Company, of New Orleans, and the Southern National Bank, of New York.
Mr. Cameron had secured control of the Jeanerette Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, of Jeanerette, Louisiana, at which place he was putting in a fine new saw mill when death terminated his activities. He had also more recently acquired the saw milling property at Rockland, Texas, formerly owned by W. H. Aldridge, and at the time of his death was erecting at that point one of the finest saw mill plants in the South.
The will of William Cameron was probated February 11, 1899, and the inventory showed an appraised valuation of about $4,000,000.
The man who accumulates so great wealth from nothing may sometimes be spoken of with more or less contempt by the abstract thinker, who forgets that it is money or rather the lack of it which makes workers of men. Most of the results of ingenuity, skill and intellect are due to its unremitting pursuit. The very labor a man has to perform and the self-denial he has to cultivate in acquiring money are an education in themselves. They compel him to put forth energy, vigilance and intelligent effort, and bring out many of the stronger qualities of his nature.
Let no one, then, underrate the character of a man like William Cameron. Certainly no other man in the Southwest has so thoroughly impressed his personality upon its lumber business and commercial interests generally as he did. Energetic and forceful, enterprising to a high degree, nothing in the way of investments in timber or manufacture was too formidable for him. Hence it was that in the yellow pine and cypress manufacturing industry he was always a leader. As a wholesaler and retailer his interests were of greater volume than those of any other individual or corporation in Texas or Louisiana.
Mr. Cameron was twice married, his first wife having died after they were married about eight years, leaving two daughters, one of whom is now Mrs. Sadie McDonald, wife of F. A. McDonald, of Fort Worth, Texas and the other is now Mrs. Anna Downman, wife of Robert Henry Downman, of Waco, Texas. Mr. Cameron was survived by his second wife and three children by his second marriage Flora, now Mrs. Frank B. Baird, William W., and Margaret.
The remains of William Cameron were taken to Waco, Texas, the day of his death and buried February 8, 1899, with honors by the Grand Army of the Republic, the Confederate Veterans and various civic societies of which he had been a member.