William E. Ramsay
Nearly twenty years ago a group of northern lumbermen turned their attention from the somewhat depleted white pine forests of the North to the more promising South country where grows the longleaf yellow pine. One of this group was William Edmund Ramsay, of Lake Charles, Louisiana, who, after nineteen years of active work, during which time was built up one of the most successful enterprises in the Calcasieu territory, retired to enjoy the fruits of his labors, following the sale of the property of the company in which he was interested.
He was the executive head of the Bradley-Ramsay Lumber Company, a pioneer concern in longleaf pine manufacturing, which, in March, 1906, was sold to the Long-Bell Lumber Company, of Kansas City, Missouri. For nearly two decades the Bradley-Ramsay Lumber Company operated extensively in Louisiana, exploiting a superior quality of longleaf pine and building up a business that placed it in the front rank of southern lumber producers. This eminent position of the company was secured not in a day, but after many years, and much of its success must honestly be credited to the active man in its affairs—William E. Ramsay.
William E. Ramsay is a Canadian by birth, having been born at St. Johns, Province of Quebec, July 9, 1855. His parents, S. P. Ramsay and Jessie (McKay) Ramsay, were of the true Scotch blood, having migrated to Canada from Perth, Scotland. The son began his early education in the schools of the Province, later attending high school and se-curing a higher mental training at one of the Jesuit colleges.
His first experience in the business world was gained as a clerk in a grocery store in his native city when he was fifteen years old. He followed this line of business for five years, developing good qualities as a salesman, which were evidenced in later years when he broadened his career in the white pine country. In 1876 he became connected with a New York mercantile house for which he traveled about one year, resigning his position to enter the employ of Wells, Stone & Co., a firm dealing extensively in lumbermen's supplies at Saginaw, Michigan. This was his introduction to the white pine country. The partners in this business were Ammi W. Wright, Charles W. Wells and Farnham C. Stone. Mr. Ramsay quickly made his services valuable to his employers, and within five years had been advanced to the head of the office force of the, firm, and later, when the business was reorganized under the name of the Wells-Stone Mercantile Company, he assumed the treasurership of the concern.
In 1887 Mr. Ramsay severed his connection with the Wells-Stone Mercantile Company to organize the Bradley-Ramsay Lumber Company, in connection with Nathan B. Bradley, Lewis Penoyer, Robert H. Nason and Benton Hanchett. As early as 188o these men had begun the investment of money in timber lands in Louisiana. At this early date it was evident that the white pine production of the North was nearing its highest mark and a few years more would witness its decline; therefore, newer fields for the carrying on of lumber operations would be necessary. Following the organization of the Bradley-Ramsay Lumber Company a large sawmill was built at Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Mr. Ramsay was placed in charge of the operations, and he took the novel method of shipping sample carload lots to the northern and western states, where it was found the lumber could readily be used for sash, door and blind purposes as well as for other finishing material. It did not take long to get a foothold in this trade and the company soon became a heavy shipper to the sections mentioned and gained an enviable reputation for making high grades of lumber. It shipped even into Michigan, then in its zenith of prosperity as a white pine producing state, and succeeded in holding nearly all the trade thus originally secured. Mr. Ramsay's attention was directed toward the possibilities of longleaf yellow pine for railroad material, and for many years large contracts were handled for ties, bridge timbers and other railroad material, much of this demand coming from Texas. This feature of the business became so important that much time was devoted to it and the mill was kept sawing regularly on heavy orders for the railroad companies. An extensive trade was built up also in decking for Government vessels and ships of the merchant marine.
The timber holdings of the company exceeded 150,000 acres, these holdings being added to annually in order to replace the timber cut at the Lake Charles mill. The timber was conceded to be the finest in the Calcasieu Valley. The company was one of the first in the field and went over the ground, employing the most expert estimators and woodsmen, and practically had its choice of the now famous Calcasieu pine.
The mill properties operated included the Mt. Hope mill, acquired by purchase, and a big plant about one mile above on the banks of the Calcasieu River. The upper or main mill was called the Gossport mill and was situated about two miles from the center of Lake Charles. The general offices of the company were located at this point and were models in their way. The Gossport mill itself was equipped with a circular and a band mill. A stock of about 10,000,000 feet was carried at the Gossport yard and about 5,000,000 feet at the Mt. Hope plant. The dry kiln facilities were not excelled by any in the Southwest and the planing mill equipment was modern and complete. Every known appliance for fighting any possible conflagration was put into operation and the insurance risk was reduced to a minimum.
Besides depending on the river for a supply of logs, the company operated the Lake Charles & Leesville Railroad, a standard gauge road laid with heavy steel rails and having a full complement of rolling stock. The road extends thirty-eight miles into and through the timber holdings of the company.
Through his connection and interests in the Bradley-Ramsay Lumber Company Mr. Ramsay acquired other interests and became a director of the W. H. Norris Lumber Company, of Houston, Texas, and interested in the Gebert Shingle Company, Limited, of New Iberia, Louisiana. He is a director in the following enterprises: The Murray-Brooks Hardware Company, Limited, Interstate Oil & Land Company, Lake Charles Chemical Company, Majestic Hotel Company, First National Bank of Lake Charles, Lake Charles National Bank, Calcasieu National Bank, all of Lake Charles, and the Ramey-Hutchins' Rubber Company, of Los Angeles, California.
Mr. Ramsay married Miss Katherine M. Penoyer, a daughter of Lewis Penoyer, at Saginaw, Michigan, June 28, 1882. Residing in the beautiful home at Lake Charles with their parents are the four children of Mr., and Mrs Ramsay—Lewis P. Ramsay, who recently attained his majority, Herbert H. Ramsay, Katherine Ramsay and Marjorie Ramsay. The family attends the Presbyterian Church.
Mr. Ramsay is a Republican but never has sought prominence in politics. He is a Mason and a Knight Templar. He is a member of the Pickwick Club, of New Orleans, and made the club his headquarters during his frequent visits to that city. His favorite recreation is yachting, though the demands of the business he directed permitted, formerly, of his giving but little time to this form of rest.