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Research: Sawmill Database

Alpha-Numeric Key: HD-30
Corporate Name: J. A. Bentley
Local Name: J.A. Bentley and Co. Lumber Company
Owner Name: J. A. Bentley and E. W. Zimmerman, both former employees of Lutcher-Moore at Orange. J.A. Bentley. R. Oscar Middlebrook. Noble & Sheldon.
Location: Plank, about seven miles north of Kountze
County: Hardin
Years in Operation: 15 years
Start Year: 1882
End Year: 1896
Decades: 1880-1889,1890-1899
Period of Operation: 1882, Noble & Sheldon; Middlebrook, 1885-1890; Bentley, 1890-1896.
Town: Plank (Noble's Switch)
Company Town: 1
Peak Town Size: 500 at its peak
Mill Pond:
Type of Mill: Bridge timbers a specialty
Sawmill Pine Sawmill Hardwood Sawmill Cypress Sawmill
Planer Planer Only Shingle Paper
Plywood Cotton Grist Unknown
Power Source: Steam
Horse Mule Oxen Water
Water Overshot Water Turbine Diesel Unknown
Pit Steam Steam Circular Steam Band
Gas Electricity Other
Maximum Capacity: 20000: 188250000: 188865000: 1893
Capacity Comments: From 20,000 feet of lumber daily in 1886 to 65,000 in 1893
Rough Lumber Planed Lumber Crossties Timbers
Lathe Ceiling Unknown Beading
Flooring Paper Plywood Particle Board
Treated Other
Equipment: Saw mill only with a circular 72-inch circular saw
Company Tram:
Associated Railroads: Texas & New Orleans in 1882
Historicial Development: The firm of Noble and Sheldon Lumber Company purchased Joseph M. Tryon's sawmill in 1882 and relocated it two miles north of the Tryon site. The new site became known as Noble's Switch and, later, Plank. It was sold in 1885 to J.W. Middlebrook and Brothers. J. W. Middlebrook's brothers were R. Oscar Middlebrook and E.S. Middlebrook. George Ewing, later of the Devers Lumber Company in 1900, was a bookkeeper for the Middlebrooks. The mill's capacity was increased from 20,000 board feet per day to 45,000 board feet per day in 1887 and 25,000 feet on the planer. By the following year the mill was rated at 50,000 feet and employed sixty men. Bridge timbers were a specialty. The mill was sold to J.A. Bentley & Company in 1890, but R. Oscar Middlebrook stayed on to work for the new owners. The 12-inch by 20-inch steam engine cut 300,000 feet in a week in 1891, with a top day's cut of 60,000 feet of lumber. The timber was cut out by November 1896, and the mill was dismantled and moved to Zimmerman, Louisiana, where Bentley and Zimmerman owned another mill. W. T. Block notes the Middlebrook brothers were sportsmen and “avid bear hunters.” Several of the Beaumont lumbermen would join the Middlebrooks and their large pack of hounds for hunting in the Plank area. The logging tram equipment worked sixty men and consisted in 1888 five miles of tramway and nine cars; in 1895, a Baldwin Mogul locomotive was added to the inventory.
Research Date: JKG 10-13-93, MCJ 03-13-96
Prepared By: J Gerland, M Johnson