The likeness of the clear eyed, self-possessed man shown herewith is that of George W. Bancroft, the founder of the Bancroft Lumber Company at Orange, Tex., and now superintendent of the company's plant at that point. Mr. Bancroft began to gather his lumber experience at the early age of 12, when with the world before him he started to work in a shingle mill. The mill was run by his father and older brothers, and aside from the performance of his daily tasks he gained a thorough knowledge of the manufacture of shingles. This active connection with the manufacture of lumber and shingles was interrupted at the age of 18, when he went to school for a year, taking a thorough commercial course. After completing his studies in this line he returned to his former place of business and took active charge of the office.
When the Bancroft Lumber Company was formed, in which organization he was a prime mover, he took charge of the office work as to both the records and the sales, and later spent considerable time on the road as a salesman. After the death of T. Bancroft, in 1896, the company was incorporated, the brothers all taking stock and continuing the business as formerly. The company has met with success worthy of the efforts put forth and was doing a lucrative business when it accepted the offer to make its plant one of the mills in the Kirby consolidation.
Mr. Bancroft is now 35 years of age, one of the best posted lumbermen in the southwest, a pleasant talker and has a thorough knowledge of his business to the most minute details. In addition to overseeing the affairs of the plant under his charge he has found time to organize the Orange National bank during the past year and is president of that institution.
EQUIPMENT, CAPACITY AND OUTPUT.
The mill was constructed by the Bancroft brothers and is one of the largest and most conveniently arranged of the entire number. At the time it was built it was decided that the best way to secure good work from the men employed was to give them ample room in which to move about, and the saw mill building proper is an extremely commodious affair for a single circular mill. The mill is built on the right bank of the Sabine river, about a quarter of a mile from the center of the town. The circular saw is supplemented by a 4-saw gang edger; a 2-saw self-feed trimmer; picket header, and all other necessary equipment. The planer is equipped with two flooring machines, a No. 1 Hoyt's sizer, re-saw, swing cut-off, etc.
The mill was built by the Bancroft Lumber Company in 1888. The officers of the company before the ownership changed hands were A. J. Bancroft, president; E. W. Bancroft, vice-president, and George W. Bancroft, secretary and treasurer. There was no change in the official roster until the company was merged with the Kirby Lumber Company.
The floor on which the machinery is located is at an elevation of ten to twelve feet and the lumber is switched from the mills on hand trucks which run on iron tracks raised to a level with the mill floor. The yard is built close in to the mill and an elaborate system of fire protection has been installed to guard against the ravages of possible conflagrations. The office of the company is located at some distance from the mill, on the water's edge, and, as shown by the cut, presents a cool, inviting appearance.
The yard is connected with the main lines of road by a complete system of spurs and switches which parallel the stacks of yard stock, enabling the workmen to load directly from the lumber piles. Adequate shed room has been provided for storing the finished lumber such as flooring, ceiling, etc., and between the sheds, which are built facing each other, runs the switch from the railroads so that dry stock can be loaded at any time despite stormy weather, without danger of becoming wet.
There is no dry kiln connected with the plant, but in lieu thereof an unusual system of piling lumber. has been inaugurated which does away with the necessity for an artificial dryer. The boards and yard stocks are stacked in narrow tiers between stationary supports erected for the purpose. These stationary bins are from six to ten feet wide, are built facing the elevated truckways, and several are used for each size of stock. As soon as one is filled it is roofed over and left to dry and another one is started. Lumber for shipment is taken from the oldest stack of the material desired and when stocks are in a normal condition this plan assures a constant supply of material in prime shipping condition and does away with the danger from blackening; which sometimes damages stock when left too long in storage.
The mill is now used principally in cutting bill stuff and timbers for export. The larger part of the company's export business is gotten out and shipped by the Orange mill. The location of the mill and the easy accessibility of sea-going vessels from Orange, connections being made via the Sabine river and Port Arthur, were potent influences in deciding the company upon adopting this plan of procedure. Material for both the European and Mexican trades is cut by the mill and either rafted to the coast or shipped to the port by barges, from which it is transferred to the sea-going vessels for final transportation. Very little stock is now cut for interior shipment and the greater part of the lumber so made is from the side boards or trimmings of the logs from which the heavy timbers for export are secured. A fair estimate of the lumber shipped to interior points from the Orange mill places the figure at from one-fourth to one-third of the total output, the remainder being shipped to foreign countries to supply the orders received by the Kirby company from that source.
Two special grades of lumber are gotten out and shipped to European ports. One is selected logs from which a block of timber containing 35 cubic feet of lumber is cut. These timbers are made any size, but must contain the desired number of cubic feet. The illustration given shows a stick of this timber making a leap into the river from the chute leading from the elevated track. These timbers are collected in the water, made into rafts and towed to the side of the vessel waiting at Port Arthur and are taken on deck directly from the water, thus saving lighter charges, which would amount to about 50 cents a thousand. Another cut shows men making these timbers into rafts for shipment. So great has the demand for this class of lumber become that a large percentage of the logs that come up to the specifications of this material are so used. The mill is now being run night and day to enable it to keep abreast with the orders received.
The other special grade manufactured here is what is known as prime lumber, which is gotten out especially for export. It grades about 95 per cent clear and is in big demand by manufacturers of furniture on the European continent. The mill cuts 300,000 to 400,000 feet of this stock each month and shipments are made after allowing the material thirty days in which to season. The heavy demand for longleaf pine from foreign countries has given the Kirby Lumber Company an exceptionally good trade in this material during the past twelve months.
Liverpool, Hamburg and Rotterdam dealers are especially anxious to secure consignments of this lumber. Any size is available that is 9 inches or wider by 12 feet or longer, 1 or 2 inches in thickness. The stock is shipped in the rough. The high reputation established and maintained by the manufacturer of this stock has caused it to become a recognized standard and the demand for it has steadily increased.
Two cuts are given of men loading a barge with bridge timbers for Mexican ports. A great deal of the timber cut which will not grade up to the requirements for export to European cities is devoted to filling orders for bridge timber for Mexican consumption. These barges when loaded are towed to the port where by its own lighters the Kirby company transfers the material to the vessel destined for the desired port. The cost of towing is placed at about 50 cents a thousand and the lighters are allowed 40 cents a thousand for loading the timber, making the entire cost of transferring it from the mill to the vessel 90 cents. The lighters are operated independently, are charged with all expenses they incur and are then given credit at the rate of 40 cents a thousand feet for handling the stock.
There is no commissary maintained by the company at this point, as the close proximity of the Orange stores renders this unnecessary. The Kirby company employs here about eighty-five men, including mill, planer and yard force.
The plant is logged entirely by river, the logs being put in singly at the camps maintained on both sides of the river farther up. Storage booms with capacity of 50,000,000 to 60,000,000 feet have been provided for holding a reserve supply of cutting stock. Every advantage has been taken of the river in order to increase the capacity of the log pens and in some instances where the river makes a sharp bend a canal has been cut through the neck for the passage of boats and the old river bed is utilized for storing additional logs. The booms extend twenty miles above Orange. The necessity for these precautions has been demonstrated by the low water at certain seasons of the year which prevents the company from receiving logs from the camps. Very little attention is paid to the logs until they begin to make their appearance along the company's booms, when men stationed along the river take them in charge and store them away, filling the lower pens first as a matter of course. It is estimated that from 8 to 10 per cent of the logs put in the river by the logging camps are lost. Some of these become water-logged and sink and others go astray in the swamps. There is not so much loss from this latter source. Logs stranded in the swamps can be gotten out during high water, while only those whose specific gravity is too great are lost beyond recovery.