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The Long Bell Lumber Company

Early History of Doucette, Texas

By: Bryan Shirley


Found in the files of the Whitmeyer Genealogical Library

Woodville, Texas

 

A sawmill was founded at what is now Doucette, Texas, in the early eighteen-nineties by William McReady and Pete Doucette. The sawmill was soon transferred to a partnership composed of Samuel Fain Carter and J.P. Carter, and was called Emporia Lumber Company. The mill was operated under this name from 1892 to 1906, and Doucette became one of the leading towns in Southeast Texas. Samuel Fain Carter was the chief executive of Emporia Lumber Company until the sale of his limber interest in 1906. He died on March 1, 1928.

The Emporia Lumber Company was succeeded at Doucette by the Thompson Brothers Lumber Company which later sold out its Tyler County holdings to the Fidelity Lumber Company, the predecessor of Long Bell lumber Company.

In 1925 the Long Bell Lumber Company was a prominent sawmill in Southeast Texas that worked around the clock. It was divided into a long side and a short side. The long side, run by a sawyer named Taylor Nicholson, cut pine. It was called the "Long Side" for the long bodies of pine it cut. A man by the name of Rube McCurby was a sawyer on the short side. Here he cut hardwood. The shortside was so called for the shorter bodies of wood it cut.

Kermit Parker, a young boy when he moved to Doucette in 1925, began to work at the mill at age seventeen around the year 1928. He was first employed in a section crew where he worked for almost a year with mostly Black and Hispanic workers. After his work in the section crew, he was transferred to the machine shop where he began his machinist trade. He worked under Mr. Swearinger, and his fellow workers included Casey Hendrix and Steve Woods. Mr. Parkerís starting salary was sixteen cents per hour.

Long Bell produced hundreds of thousands of feet of lumber every day under General Manager Mr. Kenesson. Mr. Swearinger was the manager over the car, machine, and blacksmith shops. The man was mill foreman when Mr. Parker moved to Doucette could not be remembered, but his successor was Pick Lacey. Jim Hicks was the grade crew foreman . George Hicks was in charge of the Yard in Doucette proper. A man known as "Hardwood" Smith managed the hardwood yard, and a Mr. Davis the pine yard. Oscar Owens was over the planer mill.

Guy Shirley and Dud Blakney worked in the car shop. Here they repaired railroad log cars. Mr. Blakney and Ray Hancock worked here and at times called upon the help out in the two other shops when needed. The car shop, Mr. Parker remembers that at times they had to replace the drive shafts and even wheels of railroad cars to prevent breakdown and slippage of wheels on the track.

Most of the houses in Doucette were owned by Long Bell, and there was a camp at the Lumber yard. There was a Hispanic Quarter and a Colored Quarter. The houses all around the lumber company were for employees. They were furnished with lights and water by the company for small monthly fees. Not all employees of Long Bell lived in Doucette. "Old Man Simms," as he was called, walked to and from work everyday from Woodville. When the Long Bell Lumber Company finally shut down, the houses were practically given away.

Long Bell had itís own doctor who was paid by his patrons a weekly rate of fifty cents for medical attention. Mr. Parker remembers only two serious accidents, each involving a death. A Mr. Hooper fell into a belt as a smaller mill operated by Long Bell, and was killed. The other fatality occured when an older Hispanic man got his jumper caught in a wheel while oiling machinery at noontime. He whirled around and beat to death before fellow workers could free him. Although the mill was relatively safe, employees had to be alert to such potential dangers as those causing these deaths.

All lumber used for the building of houses was stacked in planer sheds. The stacking of Lumber and such was all done manually. Long Bell had two steel gangs. One was continually building new tracks, while the other was taking up tracks to move from one logging tract to another. a grain door operation would come to Doucette once a year for the sole purpose of building doors for Long Bell. After their job was completed, they would move on to another mill. Wesley Knight a carpenter who worked for the mill, would repair homes of workers when necessary. He built coffins for the dead because there was no funeral home around Doucette at the time.

Almost all the people who lived in Doucette were employed by the Long Bell except those who worked for Mr. Fain at his store. Mr. Hobson, John Lewis, Cotton Bookins, and Rusty Roberts were some of the clerks as Mr. Fainís store. After work began to drop off due to the depression, Mr. Fain naturally had to let some people go.

Doucette had a drugstore, hotel, tennis court, basketball court, and a big baseball diamond. Long bell had its own baseball team and even paid some men good wages and gave them jobs at the mill to keep them around to play baseball. The team later became what is known today as the Tyler County All-Stars. There was a theater and many other forms of entertainment besides sports. People came form a;; over the country to Doucette: entertainers, speakers, revivalist, and magicians. The ammeter actors of a Little Theater group including Billy Van Ferguson, Kermit Parker, and Steve Woods, furnished entertainment during the winter months. Cultural and social activities in Doucette centered around the Community all, which served as a meeting place for the Masonic Lodge, the Ku Klux Klan, the Woodmen of the World, and parent-teacher organizations.

Kermit Parker, the major source of information for this paper, lived and worked in Doucette for eleven years. The most money he ever made was twenty-five cents per hour until he and his wife, Mildred, moved to Beaumont in 1936. Long Bell Lumber Company was later acquired by International Paper Company in 1956. International still maintains a yard and an office in Doucette, although the sawmill has been closed since 1944.

Bibliography

 

Mosely, Lou Ella. Pioneer Days of Tyler County. Fort Worth: Miran Publishers, 1975.

Parker, Kermit. Former employee of Long Bell Lumber Company. Personal interview. 3 March. 1987.

Wheat, James E. and Josiah Wheat. Sketches of Tyler County. Bevil Oaks, Texas: Whitmeyer Printing,

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