Clarence D. Johnson
The gift of bringing out the latent qualities in themselves and in men with whom they come in contact, and the ability to force achievement in things material, are part of the mental makeup of more than one successful lumberman of today. It is an easy task to plan and scheme, but something more than dreaming is necessary if one is to realize his plans. Clarence Dean Johnson, of St. Louis, Missouri, has in notable degree this ability. Modest was his start in the commercial world and as modest his beginning in the lumber industry. But a position of honor was bound to come to him, and it took the form of the headship of the Union Saw Mill Company and of the Little Rock & Monroe Railway Company. These enterprises have been the means of awakening one of the sluggish corners of the South a no small section of the lower part of Arkansas.
There is a strain of English blood in Mr. Johnson. His father, Edward Johnson, is an Englishman by birth, but his mother, Electa M. Herrick, is of the well known Herrick family of New York. Both parents are alive and reside in Kansas City, Kansas. He was born at Caton, six miles from Corning, Steuben County, New York, April 1, 1866, where he lived until he was twelve years old, when the family moved from the Empire State to the western part of Kansas. The lad's education, begun at Caton, was continued at Larned, where the Johnson family made its home.
A move was made by Mr. Johnson, Senior, to Kansas City in 1885, when Clarence had reached the age of nineteen years. The latter was anxious to devote his energies to business and, therefore, went to New Orleans. Seeking a job, he secured one as a collector for a local firm and in the course of business met a sawmill man from Chopin, a station on the Texas & Pacific Railway, in Louisiana. Becoming interested in the lumber industry from facts related by the new acquaintance, young Johnson, with all the enthusiasm of youth, gave up collecting and went to the mill of John Newton, at Chopin. For five months he worked on the trimmer, then on the edger and, before he severed his connection with the mill in the latter part of 1886, or the early part of 1887, he had filled nearly every capacity in and about the sawmill and planing mill. It was a valuable experience for the young man, whose brain was as active as were his hands during this time. He observed closely the operation as a whole and formed some ideas which he hoped some day to put into practice for himself.
While at the Chopin mill Mr. Johnson made the friendship of Sam Wilson, another young man, and the two went from Chopin to Shreveport, and from the latter place to Carmona, Texas. They journeyed there for the definite purpose of sawing logs in the woods, and it was not long before they got a contract from Sam Allen for cutting logs at fifty cents a thousand. Mr. Johnson's next experience was as yard foreman for A. W. Norris, a yellow pine manufacturer, at Barnum, Texas, and added to the duties of foreman were those of shipping clerk.
After being at the Norris plant for a year and a half Mr. Johnson, in 1889, returned to Kansas City and from there went to Chicago. In the latter city he became foreman on the docks for the South Branch Lumber Company, but a strike among the longshoremen put an end to the necessity for his services. From Chicago he made his way to Clinton, Iowa, and for a short time trucked lumber for W. J. Young & Co. A man of his experience was not to do this for any length of time, and he soon procured a position as foreman in the yard of the Sunny South Lumber Company, at New Lewisville, Arkansas. His executive qualities exerted themselves and he was made superintendent of the whole plant, a post he retained until the business went into the hands of R. L. Trigg.
In 1894 Mr. Johnson moved to St. Louis, where was incorporated the R. L. Trigg Lumber Company, in January of that year. Three years later this concern was succeeded by the Frost-Trigg Lumber Company, of which Mr. Johnson is, and has been for a number of years, vice president and general manager. It is one of the foremost of yellow pine institutions and has enjoyed well-deserved prosperity. In 1899 Mr. Johnson became interested in the Lufkin Land & Lumber Company, of Lufkin, Texas.
It was in the creation of the Union Saw Mill Company that Mr. Johnson made an ineffaceable record for himself. It was in the fall of 1902 that he began the movement to gather the 90,000 acres of shortleaf pine timber land which now form the basis of the company's operations. The larger holdings were secured in the county of Union, Arkansas, and in the parish of Union, Louisiana, from Hackley & Hume, of Muskegon, Michigan; from T. C. Starrett, of Detroit, Michigan, and from Rutherford & Cavenagh, of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. A conservative estimate is that 1,000,000,000 feet of yellow pine timber and 500,000,000 feet of commercial hardwoods are tributary to the company's plant.
In Huttig, Arkansas, which is a model town made by the Union Saw Mill Company and which stands as the accomplishment of the president of the company, is embodied in actual form the ambitions of Mr. Johnson. It was he who conceived the idea of organizing an enterprise on such an elaborate scale and it is he who has labored so indefatigably to make the operation unsurpassed in anything that goes to make up a successful operation. Work on the mill was begun February 5, 1904, and before the end of twelve months 10,000,000 feet of shortleaf yellow pine lumber was in pile ready for shipment. The Union Saw Mill Company is a model concern, managed by men of modern ideas, and the logging methods, sawmill, lumber handling, dry kilns, planing mill, hardwood mill, machine shop, fire protection water supply, etc., are modernized in harmony with the controlling spirit.
In addition to being president of the Union Saw Mill Company Mr. Johnson was president of the Little Rock & Monroe Railway Company until its sale to the Missouri Pacific Railway. The absorbed road is destined to open up and develop a large section of the country along the line from Little Rock to Monroe, Louisiana. Logging spurs are run off the main line and the lumber company will never suffer from a scarcity of logs. Mr. Johnson is vice president and general manager of the Frost-Trigg Lumber Company, a director of the Noble Lumber Company, of Noble, Louisiana, and is interested in the DeSoto Land & Lumber Company, at Mansfield, Louisiana.
Mr. Johnson has many interests to keep him busy, but he has a keen appreciation of the social side of life. He is prominent in Masonic circles, being a member of Tuscan Lodge No. 360, of St. Louis; St. Louis Chapter No. 8, Royal Arch Masons; Ascalon Commandery No. 16, Knights Templar, and Moolah Temple, Ancient Order of the Mystic Shrine, St. Louis. He is a member of the Commercial and the Glen Echo Country clubs, of St. Louis.
He married Miss Dorothy Farrar, of New Lewisville, Arkansas, in April, 1893. The couple has two children C. D., Junior, and Ernest and the family occupies a beautiful home on Forrest Park Boulevard, St. Louis.