Industrialists from the North invest in Southern Timberlands
Charles Waterhouse Goodyear was 56 and Frank Henry Goodyear was 52 when the brothers set their sights on land in Louisiana and Mississippi. Industrialists with timber, coal and railroad interests in New York and Pennsylvania, they realized that timber stands were being depleted by their lumber operations and if they were going to continue in the timber business, new sources had to be found.
In 1902, they answered an advertisement in the American Lumberman: “J.D. Lacey, Timber Estimator and Agent for Timberlands.” It was the beginning of a massive project – the creation of the Great Southern Lumber Company, construction of the New Orleans Great Northern Railroad and the building of a lumber town in rural Washington Parish, Louisiana, which seemed to spring up overnight from a small encampment on the Bogue Lusa Creek.
The Goodyear brothers traveled together to see their Louisiana property in 1905, by 1911 both had passed away. Neither had the opportunity to see what their vision would become or to hear the drone of the largest sawmill in the world. Their dream grew to a rich maturity, guided not by the brothers themselves but instead by future generations and thousands of dedicated employees.
Vast Virgin Pine Forests
The Goodyear brothers were on a quest for the last great stands of yellow pine east of the Mississippi. When they arrived in the South they found vast forests of virgin pine that blanketed the land for miles in every direction. Part of the deep green foliage turned brown in the winter and fell to the ground, making a thick carpet of pine needles that smothered the underbrush. Travel by horseback or wagon was impeded only by an occasional fallen tree.
Before the Great Southern Lumber Company came in with the mills and rails, logging in the area was done with oxen and 8-wheeled wagons that made it easier to haul heavy loads over rough terrain and soft ground by distributing the weight. The limited production of rough lumber was confined to a few portable sawmills in the pine forest. By the time manufacturing of lumber began in their Bogalusa sawmill, these primitive methods had been replaced by machinery and the use of railroad cars which traveled over temporary and permanent tracks that crisscrossed the wooded acres of enormous longleaf pine.
Turning Land Opportunity into the Great Southern Lumber Company
Traveling salesman Jim Lacey drove his horse and buggy through endless tracts of virgin pine timber between the towns he visited to sell his wares. It was among these thousands of trees that Lacey recognized an opportunity. It occurred to him that he might purchase timberlands as an agent for prospective buyers. After familiarizing himself with several large tracts of land, Lacey placed the advertisement that garnered the attention of the Goodyears and soon he was on his way north to meet the brothers.
Jimmy Whalen came to Louisiana as a “scout” for the Great Southern Lumber Company, and with the help of Jim Lacey he became familiar with the huge tracts of land. Uncle Jimmy, as Whalen was soon known by everyone in this Louisiana timber country, estimated the timber for the new company and was the first person on the Great Southern Lumber Company’s payroll.
Another of Whalen’s companions was Tom Pigott, who Uncle Jimmy said, “could locate a section corner like a bird dog spots a covey of quail.” Tom had grown up in the wilderness of the rural area and by 1896 had been appointed parish surveyor.
These three men – Lacey, Whalen and Pigott – had a big job; to acquire, appraise and survey over 600,000 acres of timberland that was to become the heart of the Great Southern Lumber Company. The 5,500 acres we know today as Money Hill are carved from these holdings.