Pickering Lumber Company Records
The Pickering Lumber Company Collection mostly contains documents pertaining to East Texas and Western Louisiana. The collection contains land surveys, business correspondence, oil and gas lease records, ledgers, and maps. The collection contains 18 boxes of documents, records and correspondance, 5 boxes of dismantled and intact ledgers, and 52 maps.
Biographical / Historical
Born in 1849 in St. Louis County, Missouri, W.R. Pickering began his career in mining and then merchandising lumber with partner Ellis Short in Joplin, Missouri in 1880. Pickering and Short sold lumber in Missouri then expanded their retail outlets to Arkansas in 1883. Pickering partnered with Short until 1894 when he organized and established the W.R. Pickering Lumber Company in Springfield, Missouri. The company began as a retail lumber business, but quickly expanded to wholesale with three lumber mills in the Choctaw Nation. Pickering had lumber yards in Springfield, Lebanon, Deepwater, Ozark and Pierce City, Missouri, as well as, in Fayetteville and Van Buren, Arkansas. The company continued to expand, and by 1898, Pickering began construction on its first large sawmill operation in Louisiana at Pickering.
Although Pickering was one of the first lumber companies to take part in the Lumber Boom of Louisiana, the company by no means the first to arrive in Louisiana. The decision to expand the company’s timber business into Louisiana and Texas became paramount due to dwindling timber reserves in Missouri. In February of 1898, William Alfred Pickering, W.R. Pickering’s son and successor, began the task of examining land for timber in Louisiana and Arkansas. The Pickerings quickly decided on 30,000 acres of land in Vernon Parish, Louisiana.
The Pickering Lumber Company’s land holdings increased exponentially to almost 130,847 acres of land in Vernon, Calcasieu, and Sabine Parishes by the time operations ceased in Louisiana in 1927 and in Texas in 1929. The company’s first Louisiana mill, named Pickering, began operations in December 1898 and ceased operations by 1926. The second mill, Barham, began operations in 1901; operations ceased at Barham completely in 1915 when Pickering sold the mill to the Weber-King Lumber Company of Louisiana. The company’s third and final Louisiana mill, Cravens, operated from 1905 to 1925. Pickering’s Texas mill, Haslam, operated from 1906 to 1929 when the company halted operations in the region completely.
William Russell Pickering died in April 1927 and was succeeded by his son, and vice president, W.A. Pickering. William Alfred Pickering held the position of President of the Pickering Lumber Company until his sudden death on April 15, 1930. After W.A. Pickering’s death, George R. Hicks assumed the responsibilities of president. At the time of W.A. Pickering’s death the Pickering Lumber Company “had 51 retail lumber yards, four general stores, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, and other assets totaling $40 million,” along with over 450,000 acres of land and 227 miles of railway. These three years between the death of W.R. Pickering and W.A. Pickering marked dramatic changes in the company’s financial stability.
After the stock market crashed on October 29, 1929, Pickering’s stock holders attempted to collect their dividends, but the company’s looming debt made paying its shareholders and debtors impossible. Unable to repay its debts the Pickering Lumber Company fell under court supervision and was ordered to reorganize in order to secure a Reconstruction Finance Corporation Loan issued by the Federal Reserve.
In 1929, Pickering sold its Haslam Mill in Shelby County, Texas and operations in California continued on a limited scale until 1932. By 1933, Harold H. Woodbury filed a suit against Pickering citing nonpayment of dividends. The court allowed Pickering to pay its stock holder dividends until the company regained its financial stability and reorganized itself.
In 1934, George R. Hicks resigned from his position as receiver and trustee of the Pickering Lumber Company and the court appointed T.M. Barham as trustee and receiver. Barham was now in charge of paying debtors and securing the R.F.C. Loan. The Pickering Lumber Company’s reorganization plan shows the company was almost sixteen million dollars in debt with only $485,327.54 in working capital, and note payments totaling over two million dollars due on December of 1934 that Pickering failed to pay. The plan also shows the estimated values of their land holdings in California, Texas and Louisiana. Interestingly, Pickering reported holding property in California with a total value of $128,615.58, but reported holding property described as “cut-over” in Texas and Louisiana totaling $747,574.45.
The company’s reorganization took place in 1937 under long-time Pickering manager, D.H. Steinmetz Sr., who assumed the role of President. Steinmetz completed the reorganization of the company, but in April of 1938 Steinmetz announced his retirement. In 1938, soon after the Pickering Lumber Company secured the R.F.C. loan in the amount of two and a half million dollars, the board of directors elected Ben Johnson president. Pickering operations in California resumed fully by July 1, 1938 and the company’s operations continued in California until 1965 when the corporation merged with Fibreboard Paper Products.
35.00 Cubic Feet
Language of Materials
Series I contains Texas land documents and is arranged by county and then by abstract. Series II contains business records and is arranged by state, county and then by document content. Series III contains correspondence and is arranged by state, county, subject matter and chronologically. Series IV contains ledgers and these are arranged by subject matter and date. The collection did not possess original filing order, so arrangement was based on location, aggregations of records, subject matter, and date.
The collection contains 18 boxes of documents, records and correspondance, 5 boxes of dismantled and intact ledgers, and 52 maps.
- Guide to the Pickering Lumber Company Records
- Joy Pitts
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note