One of the earliest Kansas City retail lumber dealers to follow the line of the Kansas City Southern Railroad into Southwest Louisiana was Long- Bell Lumber Company. In 1900, Long-Bell organized King-Ryder Lumber Company at Bon Ami, near Deridder, where by 1901 that mill was cutting 120,000 feet of long leaf lumber, and by 1904, 300,000 feet daily on two ten-hour shifts. By 1903, Long-Bell had built the Hudson River Lumber Company mill at Deridder, which cut 150,000 feet daily. The building of another huge Long-Bell sawmill, known as Longville Long Leaf Lumber Company, was completed in 1907, about one year after Long-Bell bought out both Bradley-Ramsey Lumber Company sawmills at Lake Charles on March 16, 1906.
Acquired by Long-Bell in the latter purchase was 105,000 acres of timberlands, north of Lake Charles, along with 36 miles of the Lake Charles and Leesville tram road, running roughly from Newton to a point south of Deridder, seven locomotives and 120 log cars. 1 In the summer of 1906, officials of (Long-Bell) King-Ryder Lumber Company at Bon Ami rode over the L. C. and L. rails, soon renamed the Lake Charles and Northern Railroad, in search of a site for a new sawmill, and Longville, formerly a logging camp, was chosen because of its ease of access to all the surrounding timber. A square-mile mill site located on parts of sections 25 and 30, township 5, of range 8 west, was chosen, and in October, 1906, the Bon Ami mill sent its two steam stump pullers to the new mill site to clear the land. 2
In addition to its location on the Lake Charles and Northern, the Longville tram road was incorporated as the Louisiana and Pacific Railroad. Several miles of the L. and P. trackage ran west to connect with the King- Ryder tram at Bon Ami and with the Kansas City Southern rails at Newlin. Another stretch of rails ran east to connect with the logging camp at Vandercook. A telephone line was also built to connect Longville with the King-Ryder mill at Bon Ami and the Hudson River sawmill at Deridder. The Louisiana and Pacific Railroad was a standard gauge tram road, built of heavy-duty 60# rails. Its other logging and rolling stock included two 43-ton Baldwin locomotives, two iron tank cars to haul water, eighty log cars, a passenger car, and two Lidgerwood steam log skidders, each equipped with four skidding cables. In order to make Longville Long Leaf Lumber Company the most modern plant in the area, no "second-hand" equipment was to be installed in it.
The Longville sawmill, built size 90'x390-feet of concrete and iron, was designed to cut 250,000 feet on a ten-hour shift, but a list of its sawing equipment quickly reveals that it probably could saw 350,000 feet of timbers 4" or larger. The mill was equipped with two nine-foot double-cutting band saws, one eight-foot SC band saw, and one 52-inch gang saw or "bull edger." The long side and short side carriages were steam "shotgun" fed, and equipped with log turners, trippers, etc. A Coleman slab conveyor carried away all refuse. The sawmill was two-story in height, with a filing room as the third story, and its associated equipment included a variety of cutoff saws, trimmers and edgers, band resaw, drag saw and slashers. The mill was also equipped with a lath mill. 3
The Longville main power house was of brick and sheet iron design. Built size 100 feet square, the main 32x48-inch steam engine, a 1,000 hp. Corliss Strait machine, rotated all the band saws and smaller saws. A 350 hp. Phoenix engine, size 16x20-inch, rotated only the gang saw and a 150- kilowatt, 2,200-volt dynamo to supply electricity throughout the mill area and town. A battery of ten 72"x18-foot marine boilers generated 1,600 hp. of steam for the engines. 4
The Longville planer mill was built size 160 x 318-feet, of concrete and sheet iron. It was equipped with sixteen new Berlin-make machines, two 30" sizers, one 30" double surfacer, ten matchers, four moulders, two 30" gang edgers, one ripsaw, one resaw, one picket machine, and one lath machine, plus fans and blowers. Capacity of the planing mill was 300,000 feet on a ten-hour shift. The planer power house contained three 72"x18-foot marine boilers, one 24'x48-inch, 700 hp. Strait steam engine, with a smaller engine rotating the fans and blowers needed to remove sawdust and shavings. 5
The Longville log pond was a dammed-up creek branch, which had been enlarged to contain fifty acres of deep water. It was fed by the water runoff from all the nearby hillsides as well as two deep artesian wells. A log skidway beside the log tram railroad was build on pilings, and the holding capacity of the pond was 10,000,000 scaled feet of logs. 6
One history of the new Longville plant reported in 1907 that: 7
". . . There will be eight Standard (dry) kilns, 22'x104 feet, built of brick with tile roofs, having a daily capacity of 200,000 feet. There will be 17 hand stackers and drop sorters. The sorting chains will be located at the discharge of the kilns and will be 300 feet long.... The dimensions of each of the six sheds for rough lumber will be 72'x400 feet, with a capacity for 12,000,000 feet. The dressed lumber shed will be 218'x300-feet, with a capacity of 4,000,000 feet.....
The Longville sawmill and town enjoyed a thoroughly-equipped system of waterworks and electricity. Two 8-inch artesian wells, each 230 feet deep, pumped water into the 8-inch water mains throughout the area and into the 6-inch laterals. Thirty fire plugs were installed throughout the town and mill area. Two Worthington water pumps furnished pressure to the 40,000 gallon tank and standpipe, elevated 130 feet, and to a reserve tank that held 150,000 gallons. The 150-kilowatt dynamo furnished sufficient current for 3,000 incandescent lamps. There was also a complete sewer system.
A three-story, 60-room hotel was completed, with porch galleries on three sides. It was equipped with electricity, heated with steam, and had sufficient water for the kitchen and baths. The Longville commissary occupied a building size 30'x100-feet, with three lean-to annexes, each 30'x100 feet. It was well-equipped throughout with glass show cases, and with "cash trolleys" (cups traveling on wires) radiated from the cashier's desk to all parts of the store. The store carried a $30,000 stock of groceries, dry goods, hardware, and notions. As was common to all sawmill towns, the commissary was the point where all news and gossip were exchanged. 8
Some of the key personnel employed at the Longville sawmill by the end of 1907 included B. H. Smith, who was general superintendent of both the Bon Ami and Longville plants; C. W. Lawrence, assistant manager; Robert Jamison, chief clerk; C. A. Yarborough, bookkeeper; John McDonald, timekeeper; Dr. J. M. Lemons, Dr. T. C. Marshall, mill physicians; H. E. Hodge, H. H. Hudson, stenographers; Mrs. Harry Hudson, cashier and postmistress; Maggie Hutchinson, postal clerk; W. W. Baker, receiving clerk; H. T. Roehl, machine shop clerk; W. E. Switzer, master mechanic; J. D. Donnell, yard foreman; O. L. Switzer, woods foreman; Jackson Shirley, team foreman; Ralph Vandercook, civil engineer (for whom one of the log camps was named); Will Shepherd, saw boss; G. W. Nichols, M. S. Stillson, carpenter foremen; Eugene Cates, Robert Lisle, locomotive engineers; H. Byers, foreman, stump gang; J. Malone, brush foreman; Gordon Herrigan, deputy sheriff; J. H. Dierks, commissary manager; E. H. Brown, C. M. Kenney, B. H. Smith, Jr., commissary clerks; Robert Branders, butcher; Mrs. E. H. Brown, cashier; and - Walker, boarding house keeper. 9
The Longville mill was also outfitted with a complete machine shop, equipped with metal lathes and mills, drill presses, shapers, pipe cutting and threading machines, bolt cutting and threading machines, car wheel machines, and various pneumatic tools. Nearby was the wood-working and cabinet shop, the round house and car repair shop, and a blacksmith shop. All types of mill machinery, tram car, and locomotive repairs were completed there.
As of November, 1907, 83 cottages, varying from 3 to 6-rooms in size, had been finished for white employees, with water, sewerage, and electricity connected to all. There were also eighty tenant houses completed for black employees, and one new cottage was being completed each day. The housing varied from bungalows, log-pen, and pyramidal cottages in the white area to log-pen, pyramidal, and two and three-room shotgun houses in the black quarter. School buildings were scheduled for completion for the beginning of the 1908 semester. Also churches, community halls, and lodge rooms were due to be completed in 1908. 10
In 1913, when Longville's stumpage reserve of uncut timber lagged, Long-Bell transferred 3,000 acres of timberlands from its recently-acquired Ludington Lumber Company to Longville Long Leaf Lumber Company for $157,000. All things considered, the heyday of Longville as a lumber- producing center was relatively short - from 1907 until the sawmill burned in 1920. The maximum number of mill hands and loggers employed at any one time was about 600, and Dr. George Stokes reported the maximum population at about 2,500. The latter may have been somewhat exaggerated, since even mighty Fullerton's 1920 population was only 2,412 residents. Since the Longville sawmill was never rebuilt, the Longville planer was converted to a hardwood flooring mill, using rough lumber brought in by rail. In 1927, the Longville flooring facility was moved to Deridder, and all operations at Longville ceased. 11
Dr. Stokes also reported in his dissertation, "Lumbering in Southwest Louisiana," that: 12
". . .. . . In the town were the company offices,... boarding houses for whites and colored, churches for both races, a depot, a doctor's office, drug store, barber shop, theater, and post office. An ice plant was operated there by the company.....
". . . Also of special interest was the Longville bank, at present (1954) occupied as a residence.... Schools in the settlement offered classes through the seventh grade for white and Negro children. A high school for whites was built about 1920. The town had no cemetery, and interments were generally made at Deridder.....
Dr. Stokes added that after 1927, the better class of homes at Longville often sold for as little as $150. As one passes through Longville today, one can readily discern that what survives now is only a shadow of the Longville that once was. Still, Longville has escaped the complete ghost town status of such former bustling Western Louisiana sawmill towns as Carson or Fullerton, where one might be hard-pressed to find even an abandoned cemetery or a concrete foundation, covered with pine needles. Longville's last mill whistle and the screech of its big band saws floated away as echoes across the nearby hills ages ago, leaving only memories of that mammoth sawmilling epoch that once was.