WILLIAM T. CARTER— In the history of the City of Houston, and of the lumber industry of the Lone Star State, there is perhaps no name which stands higher than that of William T. Carter, for more than half a century a leader in development and civic work, and one of the best known lumbermen in the Southwest. Mr. Carter had little of the idealist in his make up, but was rather of that practical type that conquered over difficulties, and his friends often said of him that he could build a saw mill with a pocket knife if necessary. This talent for rising to the emergency influenced his entire life, shaping his career from the day he opened his first saw mill, until the owner of a vast, perfectly organized lumber mill, his name was known and respected wherever yellow pine lumber is used.
William T. Carter was a native son of East Texas, the land of the yellow pine. He was born the fourth of February, 1856, at Tyler, Smith County, Texas, the third son of Joseph J. and Jane Carter of Georgia, who came to Texas and settled in Cherokee County in 1849. As a boy William Carter grew up amid the environment of the lumber mill, of the pine trees, and it was but natural that, when choosing his life vocation, he should turn to the lumber industry. The Carter family was of the old South, and well to do, but, as was so often the case, the Civil War reduced their fortune and left them in straitened financial circumstances. Mr. Carter's father was Senior Captain of Hubbard's regiment, and made a record for valor during the Civil War. After that struggle he became a school teacher, and the subject of this sketch studied under him, and later under Professor Steele, at Pennington, Texas. One of his boyhood heroes was an uncle, George T. Anderson, known as "Old Tige" and who served in the war with Mexico, in one campaign against the Indians, and in the Civil War, rising under General Lee to the rank of Brigadier General. And it was Old Tige's example and grit that nerved his nephew to heroic struggles in his youth. Governor Hubbard of Texas was also a close relative of the family.
Mr. Carter's real career began when a boy of seventeen; without funds or financial assistance, he entered the saw mill business for himself, trading raw lumber in payment for men and teams to build his first mill. This mill, opened in 1873, was during the next several years moved from time to time, follow'rg the forest. In 1881 the building of the railroad from Trinity to Colmesneil, opened up a vast virgin forest, and Mr. Carter moved his mill here, locating it at Barnum, in 1882, where it remained until destroyed by fire in 1897. He then rebuilt in the midst of his vast timber holdings, and the town of Camden was founded, a typical saw mill town, where he located his mill. This mill was later to meet the fate of the mill at Barnum, and was replaced by the huge steel structure which stands a monument to the achievement of its builder. Mr. Carter was married in 1879, at Pennington, Texas, to Miss Maude Holley, a native of East Texas, and the daughter of Porter Jackson Holley and Frances Mathews Holley of Alabama, who came to Texas in the early days and was a planter the rest of his life. In speaking of his marriage Mr. Carter often said that he considered it the finest investment he ever made, and out of that happy union six children survive: Lena Lister, wife of J. J. Carroll of Houston, and a member of the firm of the W. T. Carter Lumber Company; Jessie Gertrude, wife of Dr. Judson L. Taylor of Houston, Texas; W. T. Carter, Jr., of the W. T. Carter Lumber Company of Houston, and who married Miss Lillian Neuhaus; Agnes Jayne, wife of F. Haywood Nelms, a cotton man of Houston; Aubrey Leon, who married Miss Marjorie Leachman of Dallas, and Frankie, wife of R. D. Randolph of the Carter Investment Company. The Carter home in Houston, at 14 Courtland Place, is one of the finest homes in the city, and Mrs. Carter has continued to reside here since the death of Mr. Carter, the twenty-third of February, 1921.
William T. Carter was not only a great lumberman, but as a citizen was equally distinguished. On more than one occasion he showed, in a material way, his regard for Houston and the welfare of his fellow citizens. A man of distinguished bearing, thoughtful, kind and hospitable, he impressed his influence on the life of those about him, and won the admiration and respect of all who knew him.