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Research: Sawmill Database

Alpha-Numeric Key: OR-3
Corporate Name: Alexander Gilmer Shingle Mill
Local Name:
Owner Name: Alexander Gilmer Shingle Mill. Leased to G. W. Michael.
Location: On the Sabine River at Orange
County: Orange
Years in Operation: 23 years
Start Year: 1877
End Year: 1899
Decades: 1870-1879,1880-1889,1890-1899
Period of Operation: 1877 to 1899
Town: Orange
Company Town: 1
Peak Town Size: 7000 in 1906
Mill Pond:
Type of Mill: 1880: cypress shingles. 1883: lumber and shingles.
Sawmill Pine Sawmill Hardwood Sawmill Cypress Sawmill
Planer Planer Only Shingle Paper
Plywood Cotton Grist Unknown
Power Source: Steam
Horse Mule Oxen Water
Water Overshot Water Turbine Diesel Unknown
Pit Steam Steam Circular Steam Band
Gas Electricity Other
Maximum Capacity: 75000: 1882
Capacity Comments: 800,000 shingles weekly; 40,000 shingles and 75,000-80,000 feet of lumber daily (after 1882)
Rough Lumber Planed Lumber Crossties Timbers
Lathe Ceiling Unknown Beading
Flooring Paper Plywood Particle Board
Treated Other
Equipment: Two 4-gang saws, one circular saw, double-band saw
Company Tram:
Associated Railroads: Sabine Tram Company
Historicial Development: Alexander Gilmer, one of the grand old men of East Texas milling, built a shingle mill at Orange in early 1879. The 1880 Census enumerated the capitalization of the mill at $35,000. Gilmer employed thirty-five men, who worked nine hours daily in the winter and eleven during the winter for skilled wages of $3.00 daily and unskilled of $1.50. Gilmer paid an annual wage during the Census reporting period of $10,500. From cypress logs worth $15,000, logged from the swamps of the Sabine River, and supplies worth $500, the factory manufactured 14,000,000 shingles worth a gross value of $32,900. The mill was leased to Sheriff G. W. Michael in January 1882. The first of several disastrous fires at the plant occurred the following December, causing a $35,000 loss with only $15,000 insured, but five million shingles and the raw timber were saved. Gilmer took control of the operation and rebuilt the mill, expanding it to mill lumber as well as cut shingles. The dry kilns burned on February 12, 1891, with a $9,000 loss against a $4,000 insurance policy. A fire on March 15, 1893, resulted in the destruction of the mill, the kilns, and five million feet of lumber and heavy damage to the planing mill. Insurance covered only $22,000. The net loss came to $128,000. Gilmer persevered and rebuilt. This mill burned in October 1899, with a complete loss of inventory, equipment, and lumber. Of a loss of $150,000, only $40, 000 was covered. The mill was not rebuilt. Gilmer used company schooners to ship export trade. The first three fires cost Gilmer $225,000 in buildings and equipment and $225,000 in lumber. The location of this mill (and others) can be found on an Sanborn-Perris Map of Orange, which has been annotated by Howard C. Williams.
Research Date: MCJ 03-23-96
Prepared By: M. Johnson