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Research: Sawmill Database

Alpha-Numeric Key: HD-36
Corporate Name: Kirby Lumber Company Mill E
Local Name: Silsbee
Owner Name: Texas Pine Lands Association (1896-1901); Industrial Lumber Company (leased, 1898-1901); Kirby Lumber Company Mill E (1902- 1954). Bought by Santa Fe in 1936.
Location: Twenty-one miles north of Beaumont at Silsbee
County: Hardin
Years in Operation: 59 years
Start Year: 1896
End Year: 1954
Decades: 1890-1899,1900-1909,1910-1919,1920-1929,1930-1939,1940-1949,1950-1959,
Period of Operation: 1896 to 1954 (operations transferred to new Silsbee plant)
Town: Silsbee
Company Town: 1
Peak Town Size: 3500 in 1934
Mill Pond:
Type of Mill: General lumber products. 1928: pine and hardwood
Sawmill Pine Sawmill Hardwood Sawmill Cypress Sawmill
Planer Planer Only Shingle Paper
Plywood Cotton Grist Unknown
Power Source: Steam with electric lighting; two engines, 200-horsepower each.
Horse Mule Oxen Water
Water Overshot Water Turbine Diesel Unknown
Pit Steam Steam Circular Steam Band
Gas Electricity Other
Maximum Capacity: 40000: 189660000: 189890000: 190450000: 1928
Capacity Comments: 40,000 feet of lumber daily (1896); 60,000 (1898); 90,000 (1904); 1928: 50,000 on sawmill and 100,000 on planers
Rough Lumber Planed Lumber Crossties Timbers
Lathe Ceiling Unknown Beading
Flooring Paper Plywood Particle Board
Treated Other
Equipment: Sawmill with a circular (1896-1906), and perhaps band and circular after 1906. Planing mill and dry kilns (added after 1904). 1928: Band, resaw, planing mill, edgers, trimmers, dry kilns, logging road, electric light plant, commissary.
Company Tram:
Associated Railroads: Gulf, Beaumont & Kansas City and the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Rwys
Historicial Development: The site was the headquarters for Texas Pine Land Association, an early J. H. Kirby enterprise, in 1894. TPLA, to supply the mill of the Reliance Lumber Company at Beaumont with two million feet of logs monthly, however, had a surplus of logs, prompting the TPLA to build its own mill at Silsbee in 1896. The town was named for a Kirby business partner, Nathaniel Silsbee of Boston. In 1898, its capacity was increased from 40,000 to 60,000 feet per day, and the mill was leased to the Industrial Lumber Company of Beaumont. The lease expired in 1901, and the mill became Mill E, one of the original fourteen mills of the newly formed Kirby Lumber Company, on January 1, 1902. By 1904 the mill was connected by tram road with the Kirby mill at Village, on the Texas & New Orleans railway. This action allowed the Silsbee, Village, and Woodville mills to share the same logging camp (camp #1). Portions of the mill burned in 1906 and were soon rebuilt. The original planer was housed in the same building as the saw mill until at least 1906. The plant had no dry kilns originally. They were added possibly during reconstruction of the plant in 1906. In any event, they appeared in a 1911 appraisal of the mill. The appraised value of the mill in 1904 was $65,900. In 1911 the mill was valued at $277,500. The Silsbee mill cut long leaf pine mostly and some short leaf pine. Until the building of new Silsbee plant in the early 1950s, the sawmill at Silsbee regularly employed 250 to 275 workers. The mill ran nights often.
Research Date: JKG 10-13-93, MCJ 03-13-96
Prepared By: J Gerland, M Johnson