Longville

1906-1934


(Special thanks to Mr. Joe Warren, Jr., for a large amount of this story and pictures.)
In 1906 Robert A. Long and Victor B. Bell of the Long-Bell Lumber Company came to southwest Louisiana and specifically to an area where a town was to be constructed bearing Mr. Long's name - Longville - to prospect for "Gold." The gold they were searching for was not mineral; it was a living, growing tree -the Southern Longleaf Yellow Pine. The trees in these magnificent virgin stands of timber were often 150-200 years old.

Long-Bell bought out the two mills of the Bradley-Ramsey Lumber Company in Lake Charles on March 16, 1906. This included 105,000 acres and 36 miles of the Lake Charles and Leesville rails that was renamed the Lake Charles and Northern Railroad. This purchase included seven locomotives, 120 log cars, and a total of 58 miles of tracks. With the new rail, Long-Bell looked for and found a site along the line for a new mill. In October 1906, a new location was set to be cleared for the Longville Long Leaf Lumber Company and town. It was reported that the land for the mill was purchased from the Ragley-Ramsey holdings. The town was built on land reported by some sources as having been acquired from the government for 25 cents per acre, although many believe a more accurate figure would have been from $15 to $35 per acre. All lumber used in the construction of Longville was cut at Long-Bell's King- Ryder mill at BonAmi, Louisiana, and Hudson River Lumber Company mill at DeRidder, Louisiana.

Workers were recruited from the local population of original settlers, but the majority of the employees for the new sawmill came from out of state. By the latter part of 1906, the population of Longville was estimated to be 1,000 white males, 1,500 black males, and according to an article in the Lake Charles American Press, a contingent of 500 Japanese males - all employees of the Long-Bell Lumber company. When wives and children of the mill workers are added to these numbers, then the town of Longville becomes a major population center in northern Calcasieu Parish. Longville was known as a modern town with almost every convenience except paved streets. Homes had bathrooms, telephones, electric lights, a sewer system, water system, and fire hydrants. One section of the town was set aside for whites, one for blacks, and a section known as "Jap Town" for the Japanese.

The sawmill at Longville was one of the three largest in the state during the early 1900s, the largest reported to have been the Great Southern Lumber Company sawmill at Bogalusa, Louisiana, followed by the Gulf Lumber company sawmill at Fullertown, Louisiana, then Longville.

Just when everything was going well for Longville (labor had increased to $2.20 per day), tragedy struck the thriving town just after 5 o'clock on June 3, 1921. - The Longville Lumber Company mill burned.

In July 1922, Long-Bell built a hardwood flooring mill in Longville. The hardwood flooring mill continued to operate until the mill closed in the latter part of 1929 and moved to DeRidder. It was said that the Longville mill sold more than one-tenth of all the hardwood flooring in the United States.

After the flooring mill closed, all the company-owned businesses closed. The people who worked at the flooring mill had to seek employment elsewhere. This left Longville practically deserted. Long-Bell started selling land to the people who remained and brought people in from out of state to buy land. Land less than one mile from the highway sold for $5 per acre or $10 per acre with ten-year terms. Land one mile or more from the highway sold for $3 per acre.

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. The folks of Longville today have refused to let the town die. Although only the church, a few company homes, and the mill pond are all that remain of Longville's original grand past, the town still survives.