Away back in 1906 the Foster Lumber Company, of Kansas City, Mo., went into the lumber manufacturing business in Texas. They accumulated a lot of timber in the vicinity of Cleveland, Texas, and there they selected a site on the Santa Fe Railroad lines, and built a big sawmill. They called the site of the mill Fostoria. They started operations in that mill in January, 1906. You can walk into that mill today and see nailed to some timbers up out of arm's reach the first board ever cut in that plant. They must have cut it out of a good log because it is sound as a dollar right this minute.
When they started the Foster mill they thought they might have timber for fifteen years. At the end of fifteen years they were wondering how much longer they could run, and now, at the end of 32 years the mill still is cutting away full blast, and they are wondering if it will ever quit. The chances are that it won't. It's that way with Short Leaf Pine timber in East Texas. Anyway, at the end of 32 years they have enough of their own timber left to last them for many years, they are being offered commercial logs by small loggers in almost unlimited quantities, and there are other timbered lands available. So the Fostoria mill not only has a long record behind it, but it has a long life ahead of it.
When they built the plant they put in two double cutting bands. They cut strictly Pine for many years. Finally, finding that they had a lot of good hardwoods on their land, they dismantled one side of the pine mill and erected a complete hardwood manufacturing unit nearby. Several years later they had cut out their available hardwoods, and they discontinued operation of the hardwood mill and dismantled it. Recently they installed a big gang saw to help with their Pine cutting. So today they operate one double cutting band and a gang in the Fostoria mill.
Mr. G. F. Dalton, superintendent of operations at Fostoria, is an old-time sawmill man, and mighty proud of the Fostoria mill and the lumber it produces. It is a highly efficient mill. In many ways it is unique. The double cutting band mill is one of the few left. It slices the log both going and coming, and they consider it highly efficient for their present-day operations.
There are no tramways at Fostoria, as at practically all sawmills. The lumber comes from the mill onto a drop sorter, and is piled on the dry kiln cars. There is no lumber yard of any kind at Fostoria. All the lumber, both inch and two inch, goes through the five kilns, and is stored under cover.
From the dry kiln cooling shed it is unloaded on a take-off chain, that carries it toward the battery of four very large one-story rough storage sheds. It is pulled off the take-off chains by hand, and stacked on rollers. Wagons hauled by mule teams are backed under these stacks, a trip causes the rollers to roll the lumber right onto the wagons, and the wagons deliver it to the rough sheds, where it is stacked in the rough until wanted for dressing and shipment. These same wagons load and deliver it from the rough sheds to the planer. While this manner and method of handling the lumber around the plant is entirely different from that of the average mill, their cost sheets show it to be decidedly economical.
The four rough storage sheds hold six million feet of lumber. On the far side of the planing mill from the rough sheds there are three large dressed storage sheds.
The planing mill is a practical and efficient one, and the lumber that comes from it is bright, straight, well-manufactured stock. They give more time and thought to the careful manipulation of their lumber today than they ever did. That is why they can make wonderful lumber out of timber that averages smaller than their timber did during the early years of their operation. They make few timbers, but lots of long dimension. Their standard items of inch stock are free from stain, and evidence the high quality of manufacturing effort that prevails throughout the Fostoria plant.
Mr. Dalton welcomes visitors at Fostoria. He likes to show them the mill, its cleanliness, freedom from dirt and waste lumber, its veteran crews of trained men, and the splendid lumber they load out to the trade. They handle each board at Fostoria as though they were proud to be the authors of it.
The crew at Fostoria is mostly made up of men who have been there a long time, some of them all their lives. The sawyer who pulls the levers has been there thirty-one years. Many other employees have been there practically as long. Fostoria is not only their place of employment, but their home, and they evidence their satisfaction in their loyalty, and in their sticking to the job year after year.
The Foster Lumber Company is all owned by the Foster family of Kansas City. It was started away back in 1879 by the late John Foster, the father of the family. The company was incorporated in 1896. John Foster was the first president. When he died his eldest son, Ben Foster, succeeded him as president and general manager, which office he has held ever since. J. Ford Foster, a son of George W. Foster, is vice president; George W. Foster is treasurer; James M. Foster is secretary. Another brother, Thomas S. Foster, used to live in Houston and manage the Texas end of the business. He died many years ago.
Besides the Foster Lumber Company mill, land, and other interests in the Fostoria territory, the Fosters also own and operate the Trinity River Lumber Company, of Houston, which is their selling end. This concern is a wholesale lumber company which sells the product of the Fostoria mill, and also does lumber wholesaling. Ben Foster is president of this concern; Russell Palmer, of Houston, is vice president and treasurer; Harry G. Dean, of Houston, is secretary and sales manager.
Mr. Palmer is also general manager and legal agent for the Foster Lumber Company in Texas, succeeding the late F. J. Womack in that post when Mr. Womack died. He had been Mr. Womack's assistant many years, and has been associated with the Foster interests in Texas for 29 years.
Mr. H. G. Dean is a veteran. He went to work for the Fosters when they built the mill in 1905, left them for several years to hold other employment, rejoined them in 1911 and has been sales manager ever since.
The Foster lumber interests, like the Foster family itself, are sound, conservative, well financed, thoroughly estimable and dependable.