THOMPSON BROS. LUMBER COMPANY.
Doucette, Tex., has been a manufacturing point for yellow pine lumber for a great many years and is situated about seven miles south of Colmesneil, Tex., on the Texas & New Orleans railroad and thus has by the Southern Pacific direct connection with the Gulf and foreign trade, via Sabine Pass; over the Southern Pacific lines in all directions; into southern and southwestern Texas to the far west via the main line of that road at Beaumont, and into the north and northwest, especially the Panhandle of Texas, via Dallas, and all connecting roads to that point; and by combination of Southern Pacific, Missouri, Kansas & Texas and International & Great Northern via Colmesneil and Trinity, to all International & Great Northern points in central Texas territory.
Doucette is fifty-five miles from Beaumont and 198 miles from Dallas, Tex., has Wells-Fargo express, Western Union telegraph connection and Southwestern telephone and telegraph connection by way of a private line, at another point. Doucette, the town, has about 1,000 inhabitants.
When the Thompson interests came to Doucette in 1906 there had then been cut and shipped through that place about 100,000,000 feet of lumber.
Peter A. Doucette, now the logging superintendent for the Thompson & Ford Lumber Company at Grayburg, Tex.—for whom the town was named—and William McCready and a brother of P. A. Doucette were the pioneers in point of residence at that point.
For four years previous to the advent of the Thompsons there had been a lumbering business done there under the corporate name of the Sunset Lumber Company, which was practically owned by the Emporia Lumber Company stockholders, and this was the property the Thompsons purchased early in 1906.
The Thompson Bros. Lumber Company was incorporated in July, 1906, with an authorized capitalization of $600,000; J. Lewis Thompson, president; Alexander Thompson, vice president and manager; Liggett N. Thompson, secretary, and Hoxie H. Thompson, treasurer. The directors are J. Lewis Thompson, Liggett N. Thompson and Jonathan Lane, of Houston, Tex.; Hoxie H. Thompson, of Willard, Tex., and Alexander Thompson, of Doucette, Tex.
Not counting the construction gang, which recently has begun operations on the building of the new mill at Doucette, there have been employed there to date, in normal times, in the timber one man; forty men in the woods work; twenty-five men on the railroad; two men handling the logs into the mill; thirty men in the saw mill; twelve men in the planing mill; nine men at the dry kilns; twenty-six men in yards, shedding and shipping; five men in fire protection; four men in the machine shops; two men in the mercantile department, and three men in the mill offices, making a total of 159 men. When the new mill shall be finished this number will be increased to 200 men.
Timber Lands at Doucette.
The timber holdings of the Thompson Bros. Lumber Company lie entirely in Tyler county, Texas, and the millsite at Doucette is near the center of the tract of land, but the stumpage mostly lies east of Doucette along the Neches river on the south and west banks thereof. The company has not gone out into that quarter with its logging operations, but when the railroad is built in that section it will be built far enough back of the stream to avoid overflows. That, however, need not occur yet for six or seven years.
It is essentially a longleaf yellow pine proposition, covering 38,467 acres, on which there is yet standing 365,499,000 feet of pine, averaging 10,000 feet to the acre, and 14,705,000 feet of hardwoods; at least these are the estimates made by expert timber cruisers when the timber was bought—but the Thompson brothers are confident after careful survey that their present holdings of lands will cut 450,000,000 feet by the time the tract is all lumbered.
The hardwoods are estimated as follows: Oak, of various sorts, 13,355,000 feet; cypress, 550,000 feet, and gum, 550,000 feet.
The logging proposition here presents some difficulties owing to the hilly nature of the country. This applies only to the logging railroad, which is built up and down the rather steep slopes, owing to the irregularities of the hills.
It is impossible to find valleys following any general direction, and likewise the slopes are also too sinuous to follow. The hills are not steep enough to present great difficulties in the logging operations, however, and no difficulties are encountered in the character of the soil, except the general prevalence of sand, which is firmer in wet weather than in dry.
Naturally in a hilly country numerous stream beds are encountered, in many of which water is abundant the year round, but there are no streams of any considerable size in the tract and the creek bottoms are narrow valleys.
The general character of the timber is excellent, and the open longleaf pine woods are a delight to the eye. But little of the tract has ever been cut over before, so that virgin pine is seen almost everywhere. Where the logging operations are now being conducted on the J. Blunt league, on the Herrara league, on the Robert Rowe league, on the W. F. Peters survey and on the Gulf-Brazos Navigation Company's surveys longleaf yellow pine timber of the finest kind was found, but in mentioning these in particular there is no intention to intimate that they are the only good sections of the tract.
It should likewise not be inferred that the portions of this or any other tract of timber that are not of the best are located on poorer soil. The age of the timber has much more to do with it. Originally, when the Indians held this land it was their custom to burn it over annually and much that is now in timber was then prairie land, upon which the timber has spread as the annual fires have become less frequent. Thus the age of the standing timber has much to do with its present size and the chance lodgment of the seed cones explains the lighter or heavier stand of the timber on the ground.
The foregoing will largely account for the comparatively low average of 10,000 feet to the acre in a longleaf region, which as a bare statement is unjust to the Thompson Bros. Lumber Company. Much of the land already cut over has gone 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 feet to the acre and the best is yet to come.
The timber in this section of east Texas is pretty near all taken up by the Thompson Bros. Lumber Company and the Houston Oil Company, and the Thompson Bros. Lumber Company will ultimately cut at Doucette but little more than its present holdings, about thirteen years' cut, day run, for its double band which is being erected at Doucette.
The character of the longleaf yellow pine holdings of this company at Doucette, coupled with the fact that the mill is situated on the Texas & New Orleans railroad, having direct connection with Sabine Pass— a nationally and internationally well known yellow pine export port—is a matter of great interest to consumers of such lumber abroad.
Woods Operations at Doucette.
When the fire occurred at Doucette on August 4 the woods operations were in activity, the camp being situated about eight miles from Doucette, and forty men without the aid of the Decker loader—which had not then been put into commission—were putting in 75,000 feet of logs daily, with one loading crew, two horses and a relief team.
In doing the logging for the Doucette mill of that time four horses and thirty mules were used.
Anticipating the much additional capacity that will come to the plant when the new double band saw mill is finished, the logging, if not at the present time, will soon undoubtedly be prosecuted again in order to accumulate plenty of stock for the fall and winter cut.
The Railroad at Doucette.
The whole railroad proposition will be changed at Doucette as rapidly as it can be accomplished.
Up to the present time the railroad has been a narrow gage which has reached a length all told, counting main line and spurs, of about sixteen miles.
This road was laid with 40-pound steel and there were in active service one 15-ton Shay to handle the steel in the building of the road, one 27-ton Shay, used in switching, and one 38-ton Shay, employed on the main line to bring in the logs in small trains of eight cars each, which were as many cars as could be conveniently pulled over the road with the equipment provided on account of the steep grades made necessary by the rolling character of the timber lands in which the logging was being done.
There were two other locomotives used as extras, a 23-ton Pittsburg and a 38-ton Cook.
All this equipment will be disposed of now and an entirely new equipment provided, the gage broadened and preparations made to meet the requirements of the changed conditions at Doucette.
Log Storage at Doucette.
The mill that was burned at Doucette had always handled its logs from a wide ramp which would hold about what the mill would naturally cut in two days' time. These logs were hauled into the mill by the usual method of a chain and great care had to be taken to keep the supply of logs exactly commensurate with the storage place and the mill requirements.
No other department at Doucette has advanced quite so long a step as has the log storage department by virtue of the fire of August 4, 1908.
The log pond which is being created at Doucette will be a wonderfully commodious affair and as it will hold comfortably 4,000,000 feet of logs without crowding the cost of the logging end of the business in the storage feature will be measurably reduced.
The Saw Mills of Doucette.
The saw mill which the Thompson Bros. Lumber Company took over in its purchase of the plant and belongings of the Sunset Lumber Company was destroyed by fire August 4, 1908, but at this writing, August 26, 1908, a small mill has been erected on the site of the one burned and is now cutting 25,000 feet of lumber each and every day, and back up on the hill east of the railroad tracks of the Texas & New Orleans railroad at that point ground has been broken and a log pond is being excavated for a magnificent, double band mill which Manager Alexander Thompson expects to have sawing lumber at Doucette before Christmas eve, 1908.
Saw mill builders and the saw mill fraternity of the southwest will watch with a great deal of interest the erection of this new mill at Doucette and it will be prosecuted with all dispatch known to all the saw mill building craft, in an endeavor to break the record in the erection of a high class, double band saw mill; not probably as an endurance feat but because the rising values and the increasing demand for lumber fully indicate that the Thompson Bros. Lumber Company will need nothing else so much during the last months of this year and first months of 1909 as high class saw mill capacity.
The old saw mill was a circular with top saw, Filer & Stowell carriage, Lufkin Foundry & Machine Works 10-1/4-inch shotgun feed and 8-saw 28-foot trimmer, Clark Bros. standard edger, and would handle logs up to 34-feet in length.
The lumber was handled from this mill in the usual manner. When the mill was destroyed by fire a number of new boilers had just been added, and it was planned to get along with that equipment until some time next year.
The fire of August 4 hastened the plans for a new saw mill building at Doucette, but brought the matter about at an awkward time. The Thompsons, however, have met the emergency gracefully, and while the burning of the mill, just at that time, worked a little hardship, the happening, on the whole, was not an unmixed evil.
The new saw mill which is to replace the old one will be most modern in every respect.
In order to familiarize the reader with the changed conditions at Doucette an outline drawing has been prepared by and through the courtesy of W. C. Trout, of the Lufkin Foundry & Machine Company, Lufkin, Tex., which will fully illustrate the relations of the various buildings at Doucette following the completion of the saw mill now in process of erection.
The new mill is to be situated on good high ground with excellent drainage facilities. The log pond adjoining will have a capacity of 4,000,000 feet and the relation of the mill to the balance of the plant will make everything exceptionally convenient in the handling of the lumber to the dry kilns, yards, planing mill, sheds etc.
The main saw mill will be 56 feet wide and 204 feet long and will be built with brick and concrete foundations. The frame work will be of extra heavy construction and it will thus he made as far as possible a building of the slow combustion type.
The power house will set away from the mill and will be entirely of brick and steel. The lumber producing features on the saw floor of this mill will consist of two 8-inch Diamond Iron Works band mills of the heaviest type, carrying 14-inch saws; two Filer & Stowell carriages, one arranged to handle timber up to 36 feet and the short side up to 24 feet in length, both equipped with the latest improved Filer & Stowell double acting set works; two extra heavy edgers with five saws each; a 32-foot slab dasher; a 32-foot trimmer.
Steam apparatus of the most modern type, built by the Lufkin Foundry & Machine Company, of Lufkin, Tex., will be installed on the log deck for the proper handling of the logs, which may be brought in full length and cut to requirements by a Filer & Stowell steam logging apparatus, installed in a similar manner to the one in operation in the mill of the Thompson & Ford Lumber Company at Grayburg, Tex.
This will allow the bringing in of all logs at practically tree length, a method much to be commended on account of its economy.
This mill will be especially well adapted for handling either timber or boards, all the machinery being extra heavy but simple in design. It is equipped with every device for the economical handling of lumber and timber from the saws and to operate will require only a minimum number of men.
The power house of this saw mill plant will be a model in every respect, the boiler room being provided with steel floors, stairways from dutch oven floor to main floor, all portions of this house being entirely fireproof. The entire power plant is arranged in the most simple and economical manner possible, and is an almost exact duplicate of the power house at Grayburg, which has given such excellent results to its owners.
The boilers installed in this power plant will be furnished by the Houston, Stanwood & Gamble Company, and are supplied by two 10x6x10 McGowan steam pumps and a 600-horsepower heater of the most improved type. The engine room will also contain a 12x18 engine of the Houston, Stanwood & Gamble manufacture which will operate a large dynamo supplying light to the entire plant and the town.
The Houston, Stanwood & Gamble boilers in which the power is generated are five in number, 72 inches in diameter and 18 feet long each, high pressure, set in steel casings of the most improved type, and are equipped with an excellent system of steam piping, both to the engines and to the saw mill and dry kiln.
A very fine system of conveyors has been arranged to carry the refuse from the mill to the slab pit, which will take all the sawdust back to the boilers or the dust house at the same time, and it is so arranged that the refuse can be so thoroughly picked over that every possible piece that is useful for lath, staves or heading can be picked out and saved.
The slab pit is located 250 feet from the mill building and is entirely separated from the mill by a fireproof wall.
The sawdust from the mill will be fed automatically into the boilers, as will also the surplus shavings from the planing mill, the overplus of either being held in storage in the dust house provided for that purpose.
When the mill is shut down at night, or for any other purpose, a separate conveyor will be put in operation by a small engine and the furnace automatically fed with the necessary fuel to keep up steam for the kilns and for fire protection purposes.
Every part in the mill has been made in duplicate so far as possible, so that a minimum amount of extras may be carried for repairs. All shafting and gearing is also in duplicate and is made extra heavy.
An excellent arrangement will be made for handling the timber orders, the timber dock being located to one side of the mill and built 250 feet long so that ample storage capacity will obtain for any number of bills and exceptional convenience be had for the loading.
After the lumber comes from the trimmer it will be assorted on a chain sorter. This sorter will be 250 feet long and arranged so that there will be separate dollies for each length, width and grade, so that the stock can be thoroughly graded in every respect before leaving the mill. This will especially apply to the yard stock.
The dry kiln lumber will pass along the chain sorter to an edge sorter, and will there be graded to length and thickness and handled to the kilns. The lumber will also be regraded back of the kilns before being put into the rough dry shed. Thus every possible opportunity will be given for grading the company's entire output, of whatever size and character, in a thorough and careful manner.
The site of this mill will be ideal, there being a gentle grade from the mill to the planer, because the mill and lumber yard are practically on the highest point at Doucette.
With this mill completed the plant will take rank with that of the plant at Grayburg, and everything in a mechanical way that may be lacking today will speedily be added in the collateral and complementary adjuncts to the mill. The annual capacity should be 30,000,000 feet.
Care of Lumber at Doucette.
The piling ground for the rough lumber at Doucette is exceptionally fine because of drainage and the general elevation of the land at a point where it is necessary it should be piled to make the handling of it most convenient.
The lumber that was on hand when the fire occurred, August 4, is being shipped out rapidly. That part of the business has continued as active as ever. It has not been the policy at Doucette, and likely never will be, especially to pile up lumber, for lumber is made here, as elsewhere at the Thompson mills, for the purpose of turning it into money as rapidly as possible.
The dry kilns are of the "porcupine" type and consist of two rooms. The dry kiln capacity at this plant will be increased by the addition of two rooms.
The dry kilns will be heated from the new saw mill boilers as they were heated in the past from the saw mill boilers of the old mill.
The rough shed of the plant is 200 feet south of the dry kiln and is 60x280 feet in size and holds about 1,500,000 feet of lumber, the building standing north and south as to general direction.
The shed for dressed lumber stands down the line from the rough shed several hundred feet, is 40x300 feet in size and holds about 1,000,000 feet of lumber.
The planing mill at Doucette was built in 1900 and is contained in a building 60x100 feet in area. This building stands north and south in general direction.
The power for the planing mill is furnished by one 72x18 Huntsville and one 54x16 Erie boiler. There is a Gardiner duplex pump, 6x6x12, south of the planing mill. The power is transmitted to the machinery by an 18x24 Atlas engine. The machinery consists of one Berlin sizer, two combination Berlin matchers, one Berlin edger, one Berlin resaw, one Berlin picket machine, one Hall & Brown Woodworking Machine Company combination matcher.
The water supply at Doucette for the log pond and for tire protection both will be furnished by a combination of a deep well and the bringing of water as usual for a distance of about one mile from Turkey creek, through the medium of force pump and 4-inch pipe. The present piping system of Doucette includes the pipe mentioned, 100 feet of 3-inch; 2,600 feet of miscellaneous piping; about thirty hydrants scattered through the plant; 100 barrels and 100 buckets. There is a 60,000-gallon tank elevated to a position eighty feet high and instantly available for an emergency.
A section of hose is adjusted to each hydrant so that immediate use of the water pressure can be secured through the 6x6x12 duplex pump located near the planing mill.
There is no regular machine shop at Doucette, but a well equipped blacksmith shop.
The mercantile business of Doucette is handled by two men and amounts to about $50,000 annually.
The company provides a physician to take care of the health of the community. There are a union church for white people, two churches for negroes, a white school and a negro school and a very picturesque fraternal hall.
Other general features of the Doucette business are mentioned in the introduction to this article.