Carson Sawmill Town

Velmer Smith- Beauregard Daily News - August 7, 2005
Known as a pretty village, Carson was another sawmill in the DeRidder hub of sawmills. It was located on Louisiana Highway 27 about 5 miles south of DeRidder, at Cowpen Creek and founded in 1901 by the Central Coal and Coke Company of Kansas City. On March 19, 1904, the sawmill was completely destroyed by fire, including all mill buildings. Yet only eighty days elapsed between the fire and the first cut made by the new mill.

Quarters built for comfort and convenience were furnished to 600 workmen and their families. According to the 1910 census, the town had about 1000 inhabitants. White families at Carson resided in bungalows, pyramidal, or logpen housing. African-American housing was either of small pyramidal or shotgun varieties. All housing was painted yellow, white, brown, or gray.

Electric lights were supplied throughout the plant and offices. An abundance of water was supplied to the whole village by an artesian well with a depth of 250 feet.

One of the features of the plant was a large commissary that carried a $50,000 inventory, plus it operated two delivery wagons. Ice was also delivered to each dwelling every day.

Also available was a doctor's office with dispensary and drug store. Families were assessed $1.25 monthly fee for medical care, and single employees paid $1 monthly.

A large community hall for use by the different lodges and schools was provided for both races. Among other facilities were an ice cream parlor, a barber shop, an ice house, one boarding house for whites, and two for African-Americans. Best of all, free motion pictures were shown three nights a week in the community house.

Like most sawmill towns, Carson had its own ball club, the Carson White Sox. The local playing field had bleachers that seated 250 persons, but on May 30, 1908, more than 1000 people paid $210 in admission prices to see a doubleheader that Carson played against Leesville.

The Carson mill owned fifteen miles of tram railroad; and it utilized two locomotives, eighty log cars, eighty horses and mules, and a steam skidder and loader in the woods to handle the logs.

The mill had a daily cut of 200,000 feet of lumber from its single band saw, a 48” gang saw, and a 72” circular saw. Carson planing mill had fourteen planers, along with moulders, flooring machines, matchers, ripsaws, resaws, and edgers. The sawmill was operated by one 700-horsepower Corliss engine and power unit that included a battery of boilers.

During World War I, the Carson mill employed day and night shifts to cut ship timbers for the war effort. It was during this time that the firm was reorganized as Delta Land and Timber Company.

Kansas City Southern served Carson. By 1915, the sawmill also owned its own chartered short-line road, the Neame, Carson; Southern Railroad which connected Carson with the Santa Fe at Grabow; and the Lake Charles and Navigation Railroad, ten miles to the east.

Carson is best remembered as the place the first Local of the BTW was organized by A. L. Emerson and Jay Smith in 1910. The Brotherhood of Timber Workers was an industrial union of sawmill workers in east Texas and western Louisiana.

The union grew out of discontent of sawmill workers and poor farmers who worked in the mills on a seasonal basis. Complaints typical of a company town dominated the workers' everyday lives.

Worker reactions to sudden and unannounced pay cuts and irregular paydays led to sporadic work stoppages in the Texas-Louisiana pine region from 1902 to 1907. In the years after 1907, corporate abuse continued to result in worker frustration.

The constitution of the BTW welcomed women and African-American members as well as anyone working at sawmills. The document also demanded union recognition, consideration of workers' grievances, and a living wage. Reaction by the Operators' Association was to characterize the BTW as "socialistic” and "anarchistic” and imposed a lockout of "infected” mills with the purpose of destroying the union.

Things were running peacefully at Carson when A. L. Emerson decided to unionize Carson, BonAmi, and Grabow. People walked, rode horseback, and rode in wagons to accompany Emerson to Carson on July 7, 1912. Waiting for them at Carson was a frigid welcome and cat-calling. Regardless of the fact that BTW had a stronghold in the area, the Grabow Riot and unsuccessful strike at Merryville contributed to the eventual downfall of the BTW in the South.

Carson sawmill burned in 1922 but quickly rebuilt. Nevertheless, Carson was another victim of "cut and run” in 1926. All that remains at the sawmill site is a place known as Carson Ranch and a large pond that had been used for both swimming and baptizing.