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Urania Lumber Company Mill



Urania mill before 1925


Prior to 1900 small sawmills were built and operated by the Prestridge near Pine Hill, then when the Iron Mountain Railroad 1888 was built from Monroe to Alexandria, there was a spur (side-track) called Prestridge Spur. About 1900 the Prestidges sold the mill and timber to the Hardtner’s and it was moved to Urania and was a fast-growing lumber company. The Chick and Prestridge Mill was located on Hwy 126, west of Grayson, LA. The school, post office and community took their name in the late 1890's from Joseph S. Chick, a young lawyer from Missouri. John Q. Prestridge, a resident of nearby Catahoula (now LaSalle) who had recently purchased a three-acre tract in Olla, LA, and established a sawmill there. The Chick-Prestridge partnership was dissolved sometime later. Prestridge resumed his role as realtor in LaSalle Parish, selling the mill in Olla to the Hardtner family and the mill was relocated and later, become the Urania Lumber Company.


The Lumber Stackers

At the company mill, some of the new rough sawn lumber would be stacked in large stacks for drying. They would start with a course of planks spaced about an inch apart and each successive layer would have 1 inch strips between the layers and this gave circulation so the lumber could dry. The stack would measure about 10 feet wide and 20 feet high with the length determined by the lumber being stacked, probably around 20 feet.

The crew usually amounted to 4 men, two handing up and two on the stack placing the boards. Since this was pretty strenuous work, the crew was necessarily young and healthy, which led to a lot of foolhardiness. So much in fact that since my paper route took me through the mill yard as a shortcut, I would always in advance try to determine where this particular crew was working and avoid that row of stacks, even though it meant a detour of the longest way. The reason, they would hooray any one passing without mercy. I am not sure of all the makeup of the crews but remember a few that worked the stacking, probably in different gangs at different times but here are some of them.

Tonie “Sunshine” Wilson       “Slim” Lofton       “Sugar Tit” Williams   “Popoff” Pete Powell   -   Just a few but they were the worst of the hecklers. And think of what they put old William Henry McBroom through when he would take water around to them. It must have been brutal!

The Pulpwood Loader

William H. “Doc” Holloman was a long time mayor of Olla back in the 1960’s and 70’s and told me this story: in those days, pulpwood was loaded by main strength and awkwardness, IE: railroad cars were parked on the sidetracks just south of town and the pulpwood was loaded by mostly black men throwing the individual sticks of wood onto those cars. Some of those were quiet large, probably as much as 10 inches in diameter and 5 or so feet long. As you can imagine, it took a really strong man to throw those aboard, especially when the wood had stacked up on the railcar to the top, probably a good 10 feet or better in height.

It seemed that one of those guys got into a bit of trouble one night, was arrested and put into the jail. In those days, the town hall was located where the maintenance facility now stands and incidentally, about where the railcars were on the siding. There were a couple jail cells in the rear of the building and as “Doc” related to me, during the night the inmate tore the door off the cell and escaped. I asked “Doc” if they ever caught him and he said, “Heck no, we didn’t really want to have anything else to do with that guy,”

E. Forrest Cook

(More to come!)


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