New Iberia, La., is situated on the Southern Pacific railway, 126 miles from New Orleans; has Wells-Fargo express and Western Union and Postal telegraph lines. New Iberia has 12,000 inhabitants.
Situated there of interest to us in this article is the Iberia Cypress Company, Limited, of which R. H. Downman is president and general manager; Sam R. Ely, assistant general manager; Frederick H. Lewis, vice president; J. F. Wigginton, secretary and treasurer, and George W. Dallas, manager.
This company manufactures Louisiana red cypress lumber, shingles, ceiling, siding, molding, ties, timber, cisterns, sash, doors, blinds etc.
The daily capacity of the New Iberia plant is 50,000 feet of lumber, 100,000 shingles and 25,000 lath. It is the company’s aim to keep on hand an average stock of lumber of about 6,000,000 feet; of shingles, 5,000,000, and of lath, 3,000,000.
A saw mill had been built on the site of what is now the Iberia Cypress Company’s mill by Gebart & Russell in 1885. In 1887 Mr. Russell sold his interest to Gebart & Son. In 1889 this firm was succeeded by Aucoin, Breaux & Renoudet. G. W. Broughton and George W. Dallas were admitted to the firm in August, 1889, and the name was changed to the Acouin, Breaux & Renoudet Company. In 1891 the saw mill, planing mill and sash and door factory were built.
At the death of Mr. Aucoin, in 1893, the remaining partners purchased his interest and organized the Breaux, Renoudet Cypress Company, Limited. That company continued until 1898, at which time George W. Dallas bought out G. W. Broughton and then the company’s name was changed to the P. L. Renoudet Cypress Company, Limited, which company was composed of P. L. Renoudet, Joseph Breaux and George W. Dallas.
In December, 1901, R. H. Downman bought the entire concern. The Iberia Cypress Company, Limited, was organized in 1902 with the gentlemen named as officers. At that time the company had a saw mill, planing mill, sash and door factory, a mill site of forty five acres and about 22,000 acres of timber.
Since that time the company has built four dry kilns, unloading and cooling shed, dry lumber shed, store building, hotel, cottages, two steamboats, one dredgeboat, one pullboat and five large barges and the timber land holdings have increased 10,000 acres, which will be added to before the end of the year by the purchase of at least 3,000 acres more, which will increase the acreage to 35,000 and put the Iberia Cypress Company, Limited, in possession of enough timber to provide for its present plant for fifty years.
Story of Iberia Timber.
This company owns at least 500,000,000 feet of cypress. There is really no way of getting at the number of millions of feet of "other woods." The timber of this company is in Iberia, St. Martin, St. Mary, Iberville and Assumption parishes.
Woods Operations at New Iberia.
The logs cut by the Iberia Cypress Company, Limited, are towed an average distance of 150 miles, so that a very superior steamboat—the Sadie Downman—is employed for that work.
This boat is five years old, was built at New Iberia and is worth $15,000. She is 110 feet in length over all, is of 24-foot beam and is 31 foot across guards. This boat has towed 1,450 logs from Lake Long to New Iberia, 104 miles, in six days; these logs were in eleven booms and this means 1,250,000 feet long run. Another boat soon will be in commission.
The company is now operating at Buffalo Cove, 104 miles distant by water from New Iberia. It will soon be at Blue Point, another logging location in that territory. Buffalo Cove is at the north end of Grand lake and rather a peculiar condition in this matter of distance from New Iberia is that both of these places are located in Iberia parish and while the farthest is 104 miles away from Now Iberia by water neither of those places is over twenty miles distant from New Iberia as the crow flies.
Blue Point is on the Southeast corner of Grand lake, in Iberia parish. The new camp at that point will be maintained at least five years. There are at least two years' operations at Buffalo Cove.
The timber of this company in put into the water by contract. The logs are stored at New Iberia as they are at Jeanerette, along the Bayou Teche. There is room for 2,000 logs; besides a harbor in the lower Atchafalaya river where 6,000 logs can be stored.
The Saw Mill at New Iberia.
At New Iberia 50,000 feet of lumber, 100,000 shingles and 25,000 lath
are produced daily. The building in which the lumber, lath and shingles are manufactured is 40 by 250 feet in area and stands on the bank of the Bayou
Teche; it has an annex 40 by 60 feet. The mill is two stories in height and was built in 1892.
Five boilers in the saw mill provide power by which the saw mill and dry kiln are run. The heat is produced by two Dutch ovens fed automatically. The engine for the saw mill is a Filer & Stowell 20x30 and has been in use since 1892. It is a most satisfactory engine and has cost all told for repairs since it was put
in place just $6, which was spent for one set of crosshead brasses.
On the saw floor is one 9-foot band mill with Filer & Stowell twin engine feed.
Stock and Shipping at New Iberia.
The lumber goes from the mill to the sorting table, is sorted in all grades and put on a 4-wheel truck which runs about the yards on a 16-pound rail track with a gage of 2 feet 5-1/2 inches. Thirty of these trucks are utilized on the three miles of this railroad in the yards of the Iberia Cypress Company, Limited.
Over the twenty acres of piling ground in the Iberia yard the trucks run out on elevated trams through the yard and also on the ground underneath those trams, so that the lumber is piled above and below the trams.
Dry Kilns at New Iberia.
The dry kilns at New Iberia are located 218 feet east of the saw mill and consist of four rooms 22 by 90 feet each. The experience at New Iberia in the matter of drying is that it takes eight days for 1-inch, which results in only .02 percent checking. The process of drying at New Iberia is peculiar to this plant. Shingles and lath also are dried.
Factory Work at New Iberia.
The planing mill department at New Iberia, let it be understood, includes the planing mill, the sash, door and blind factory and the factory for the production of cisterns, porch columns etc. The area of the lower floor of the factory is 85 by 190 feet; the area of the upper floor is 40 by 190 feet. The planing mill at this place is all on the lower floor and is equipped with twenty-five machines, some of them engaged in cistern making, however, and the manufacture of porch columns.
The power to run the factory is from a 150-horsepower Filer & Stowell engine; steam is generated in two boilers of 100 horsepower each.
The manufacture of cisterns is an important specialty here and the product is very generally distributed over the southern half of the United States and into the Spanish-American country as well. The factory contains thirty machines.
Tracks and Sheds.
The Southern Pacific has two lines of track in the yards and there is a mill track at least half a mile long, so that accommodation may be had for loading all and as many orders as may be on hand at any time.
Both the dry kiln and planing mill have sheds that hold half a million feet and a separate shed holds 2,000,000 feet of lumber. The dressed lumber and molding shed holds 500,000 feet. There is shed room also for three carloads of glazed sash and all other products of the factory are provided with shed room until they can be conveniently shipped.
Water for fire protection at New Iberia is drawn from the Bayou Teche and the piping to the saw mill plant is four inches in size. There is a water tank 60 feet high that will hold 32,000 gallons of water and a fire company is organized among the employees. Something like 3,000 feet of hose is variously distributed; over forty-five hose pipes are in use; 260 barrels of water ready for use and 400 buckets on hand to be utilized.
Electric Lighting at New Iberia.
The dynamo at New Iberia has capacity for 350 lights, 16-candlepower each, and 25 arc lights. The engine that drives this dynamo is a high speed automatic of 30 horsepower.
R. H. Downman.
Robert Henry Downman, president of the five companies and general manager of all the business of those companies, is one of the very few masters of detail that the writer has ever known who did not allow the minutiae of his work to weigh him down and put him in long straight furrows.
It is no exaggeration to say that Mr. Downman goes more explicitly into the innermost happenings of his business than does any other lumberman in the United States. He is a man of wonderful memory and seems to store away all the facts he gathers on his many trips through his possessions against the time when he might need them for reference. Ninety-five percent of the men and all of the foremen who work for the five companies know him personally. From stable boss to manager he knows each man, his value, his mental weight and the work that he essays to do.
Mr. Downman is a personal court of adjustment for claims and grievances inside and out of business; while most men with his responsibilities would act by proxy. He literally keeps open house—possibly an attribute of Virginia hospitality inherited from a long line of Virginia ancestors. He is as easy to see as the town pump in a country village. But by being swift in his conclusions and thus being able to say he will or he won’t on all propositions he does a personally conducted business—a rare accomplishment in these modern days.
Robert Henry Downman was born in Fauquier county, Virginia, February 27, 1860. The place of his birth was near Warrenton. About 1869 the family moved to Warrenton. Robert Henry attended school until he was nearly 15 years old.
Mr. Downman’s father was the county clerk of Fauquier county and Robert Henry was from 1874 to 1878 a clerk in his father’s office.
Mr. Downman was educated at the Agricultural and Mechanical college of Virginia, located at Blacksburg. After his school days he went back to Warrenton and was interested in the hardware, agricultural implement and lumber trades during 1879 and 1880.
Mr. Downman had an uncle at Bryan, Tex., who was in the retail drug business, and after his experience in Virginia he went to Texas and stayed with his uncle for about a year in the retail drug trade.
In 1881 R. H. Downman went to Waco, Tex., where he opened up a retail business in drugs. He sold that business in 1882 and went on a farm near Waco to do general work. He went with J. W. Castles & Co., of Waco, in the spring of 1883 as a clerk in the office, taking care of invoices and correspondence relative to orders. He stayed there until January 1, 1884. At that time J. W. Castles & Co. became Cameron, Castles & Story, wholesale groceries and drugs, and R. H. Downman was put in charge of the wholesale drug department. He stayed there until 1886, when the drug business was sold to Behrens & Castles, whereupon Mr. Downman went to represent Mr. Castles in that firm.
Mr. Downman married June 6, 1888, Miss Annie S. Cameron, daughter of the late William Cameron.
He stayed with Behrens & Castles until in February, 1889—at the solicitation of William Cameron—Mr. Downman went into the lumber firm of William Cameron & Co. as one of the working partners of that business, his part of the work being to look after the retail yards. Mr. Downman stayed there until the end of the term of that partnership, March 1, 1897. When that partnership was dissolved by mutual consent, in 1897, the firm continued under the name of William Cameron & Co., with William Cameron, R. H. Downman and W. W. Cameron the partners—the other junior partners retiring. This latter firm existed until the day of William Cameron’s death, February 6, 1899.
R. H. Downman was one of the executors of Mr. Cameron’s will together with his (William Cameron’s) wife and son, W. W. Cameron, and assisted in winding up the affairs of the estate. This resulted in a division of the estate under the terms of Mr. Cameron’s will. Mr. Downman in this division secured the Bowie Lumber Company, Limited, at Bowie; the stock that William Cameron owned in the Jeanerette Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited; stock in the Whitecastle Lumber & Shingle Company, and two retail lumber yards in San Antonio. This inheritance, however, brought only a modicum of what has since been added to the original in the six and a half years that have elapsed since the division.
Mr. Downman is today the owner of 90 percent of the stock of the Iberia Cypress Company, Limited, New Iberia, La.; the Bowie Lumber Company, Limited, Bowie, La.; the Des Allemands Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, Allemands, La., and of 70 percent of the stock of the Whitecastle Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, Whitecastle, La., and 60 percent of the stock of the Jeanerette Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, at Jeanerette, La.
Mr. Downman’s properties in Texas and elsewhere are not made a part and parcel of the general estimate of his holdings in this article, but reference—in figures —is made only to his lumber possessions.
The William Cameron interests in cypress lumber began in the Whitecastle Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, at Whitecastle, La., but their chief pride in the latter part of Mr. Cameron’s life was the building up of the plant at Bowie, of which Mr. Downman took active charge and which has prospered under his management in a wonderful way.
After getting Bowie in proper order Mr. Downman purchased the timber holdings of Francis Martin in La Fourche parish and acquired a mill at Allemands. This he bought November 5, 1900. The rebuilding of the plant of the Des Allemands Lumber & Shingle Company, Limited, was begun in June, 1901, and between that time and January 1, 1902, was rebuilt and put into shipshape order. December 26, 1900, Mr. Downman bought out the P. L. Renoudet Cypress Lumber Company, at New Iberia.
Mr. Downman moved to New Orleans October 1, 1900, and now occupies offices in rooms 1003-4-5-6 in the Hibernia Bank building, shown elsewhere.
Mr. Downman purchased the C. L. Hopkins tract of land of the Creole Cypress Company at Allemands, La., March 15, 1904. This plant has been abandoned.
Outside of his lumber business Mr. Downman owns large tracts of highly mineralized lands at Llano, Tex. It is considered a very valuable property, worth into the millions.
Besides his lumber stock and mining properties Mr. Downman owns stock in many other institutions which would not be of interest to lumber people to have mentioned.
G. W. Dallas.
George W. Dallas, manager of the Iberia Cypress Company, Limited, at New Iberia, La., is a native of that state, having been born at Plaquemine, La., in September, 1861.
He is a power politically and socially in his community. He is a man of great personal popularity.
Mr. Dallas is a practical man in every sense and has had a prominent career in the lumber business in Louisiana of which he may well be proud.
Mr. Dallas was raised in New Orleans. He entered mercantile business at the age of 14 years. He stayed in mercantile lines for three years and at the age of 17 went to New Iberia; cutting loose from the city and all of its attractions and in fact leaving a city position on the mere chance that there was something better for him in the country places.
There was no particular reason why he should have gone to New Iberia more than to any other well known point in the state, but it was out there in the open air and where there was some promise for the future that gave to young Dallas a choice and he rolled up his sleeves and went to work wheeling wood at a saw mill.
He was in the saw mill of J. Gall at New Iberia two years and at the age of 19 went into the timber business with G. W. Broughton, his stepfather, and was with Mr. Broughton associated in business until he was 21 years old. At the age of 21 he went back into the mill business. Following that he spent a year and a half in Florida.
Mr. Dallas has been identified with the saw mill business since 1879. He has filled positions of mill contractor, filer and sawyer, sold lumber on commission and has done a considerable proportion of all of it.
Mr. Dallas has been identified with the saw milling proposition at the present mill site of the Iberia Cypress Company, Limited, since 1882.