Henry J. Lutcher.
The instinct of achievement, shrewd business judgment and unfailing energy have been potential in the industrial and commercial progress of the United States, and have built to themselves many enduring monuments in the shape of great business enterprises. Such achievements are to be found everywhere, north and south, east and west. But perhaps some of the most remarkable have been found in the South, for there the obstacles have been greatest. One of these great lumber industrial enterprises is primarily and principally due to one of the pioneers of the southwestern yellow pine belt, Henry J. Lutcher, of Orange, Texas. In every sense of the word he was a self-made man and his career furnishes a marked example of what, in the face of obstacles and despite the lack of early advantages, may be accomplished by pluck, energy and sterling worth.
His parents, Lewis and Barbara Lutcher, were natives of Württemberg, Germany. They were married in 1826 and started for America the day after their wedding, settling in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where they resided during the remainder of their lives. The son, Henry J. Lutcher, was born to them November 4, 1836. The boy was early compelled to provide for himself. His pluck asserted itself and in 1857 he engaged in business. At the end of five years his savings amounted to nearly $15,000.
With this capital he associated himself with John Waltman, and together they formed the firm of Lutcher & Waltman and entered into the lumber business at Williamsport, Pennsylvania. As a boy Henry Lutcher had an insight into the business, as he paid for his last year's tuition at Dickinson Seminary, Williamsport, by picking edgings in the Langdon & Dibens sawmill. While devoting most of his time to the lumber business he dealt in cattle also, shipping them by the carload to eastern points. Two years after the firm of Lutcher & Waltman had been organized Mr. Lutcher induced his partner to withdraw from the firm and to sell his interest to G. Bedell Moore, who was Mr. Lutcher's partner for many years thereafter, under the firm name of Lutcher & Moore.
Unexploited timber land in western Pennsylvania was growing scarce at even that early period, and the firm sought an opening in some more promising section. Michigan and Wisconsin already had been generally invaded by lumbermen and the opportunity that Mr. Lutcher sought was not to be found in the white pine North. In 1876 he made a trip to Texas to prospect for timbered land. Traversing the Neches River as far north as Bevilport, he followed the Sabine River to Burr's Ferry. Crossing the river there he followed the east bank to Orange, passing through a remarkably fine tract of longleaf pine. The tract was such as to attract his attention, and after he had cruised the timber he determined that this locality held forth a promise of great success for a lumbering enterprise.
So the management of the firm's business in the Keystone State was arranged to allow of the protracted absence of its principals, and the scene of their active, personal operations was transferred to Orange.
Mr. Lutcher and his partner were the first northern capitalists to invade that part of southeastern Texas after the Civil War, but the slight dislike founded on sectional animosity was quickly dissipated. Heavy investments were made in lands and in 1877 a large modern sawmill was built at Orange, the firm finding that it could manufacture lumber for one-third of the expenditure necessary in the old fashioned mills. A railroad business of no mean proportions was built up and the profits were invested in 500,000 additional acres of pine and cypress lands in Texas and Louisiana. Later, the firm organized the Lutcher & Moore Cypress Lumber Company, and at Lutcher, Louisiana, forty-two miles north of New Orleans, built, in 1889, one of the largest and best equipped sawmills in the United States. It is said that $750,000 were expended on this mill before a dollar was received in return. The town of Lutcher, a thriving place with a population of 4,500, was built up by this enterprise. The mills at Orange also rank with the best and cut 300,000 feet of logs a day, averaging 75,000,000 feet of lumber annually.
The old firm continued the operation of the mill at Williamsport until 1888, when the business there was wound up and the attention of Mr. Lutcher and his partner devoted entirely to southern mills. Mr. Lutcher's investments have been so fortunate that he is rated as several times a millionaire. The capital and surplus of the Lutcher & Moore Lumber Company at Orange is $750,000, and of the Lutcher & Moore Cypress Lumber Company, $900,000. The Red Cypress Door & Sash Company, of Kansas City, Missouri, another venture, represents an investment of $200,000. But these figures are merely nominal, and it is conservatively estimated that the companies today undoubtedly are worth between $9,000,000 and $10,000,000, Mr. Lutcher and his family owning 90 per cent, if not all, of the stock. The mills at Orange alone pay out $100,000 a month for labor. Many southern mills have taken the Lutcher plant as a model in the planning of new enterprises.
Besides the interests already enumerated Mr. Lutcher is interested financially in the Orange Mercantile Company; the Orange Ice, Light & Water Works Company; the Magnolia Rice Plantation; the Gulf, Sabine & Red River Railroad; the Mississippi & Pontchartrain Railroad; the Orange & Northwestern Railroad; several vessels in the South American trade, and lighters and tugs. The Magnolia rice plantation embraces 5,000 acres. The Gulf, Sabine & Red River Railroad is thirty-five miles in length; the Mississippi & Pontchartrain Railroad, seventeen miles in length; the Orange & Northwestern Railroad, thirty miles in length, now being extended to the town of Newton, thirty-one miles more.
Mr. Lutcher has been an active member of the Texas Lumbermen's Association and of the Southern Lumber Manufacturers' Association during his active business career and has swayed with his forceful ideas much of the legislation of these organizations. The Lutcher & Moore Lumber Company at Orange and the Lutcher & Moore Cypress Lumber Company at Lutcher both claim Mr. Lutcher as president. He is remembered to have taken but one vacation, and that was in 1890, when he spent most of the year in Europe accompanied by his wife.
As a public spirited citizen, Mr. Lutcher did more to promote the interests of Sabine Pass, Texas, and to open up that port to deep water than any other individual in the South or Southwest. His appeal to the rivers and harbors committee of Congress, which resulted in attracting the attention of that body, will never be forgotten in the valley of the Sabine. He has been an indefatigable worker, every hour having its appointed duties, which permitted of no deviation. Possessed of a strong, magnetic personality, Mr. Lutcher has been a potent factor in the development of the Texas coast country.
He early manifested a taste for reading, and, although his business interests required close attention, he found time to familiarize himself with the works of the best writers and thinkers of the Old World and the New. His knowledge of the events that preceded the American Revolution is more thorough than that possessed by many public men. He is the author of a pamphlet entitled, U A Stronger and More Permanent Union," advancing the principle of electing United States senators by the choice of the people direct.
Mr. Lutcher married January 23, 1858, at Williamsport, Pennsylvania to Miss Frances Ann Robinson, daughter of David Robinson. Two children were born to the couple Miriam M., wife of W. H. Stark, and Carrie Launa, wife of Dr. E. W. Brown, both of Orange.