Stephen F. Austin State University

Call, Texas: 1893-1953 (July 2017)

Call, Texas: 1893-1953

by Jonnie Miller

The town of Call itself was named for Dennis Call, who with George H. Adams built the Cow Creek Lumber Company in 1894. At the time a tram road connecting the CCLC to Old Salem where logs were put into the Sabine River and floated down to Orange. Mr. Frank Roberts of Paris, Texas built the tramway. The lumber to build the actual mill came from a small sawmill in Call Junction, a train junction a few miles southwest of the proposed site. Once completed the mill began drawing people from Salem to work in the mill and houses had to be furnished for their families. The first completed was a commissary. Each house completed was celebrated by a dance in that home. It was like a housewarming for each new completion. Over the next few years the community came together for a variety of social gatherings. The mill burned twice in this time and like most mills was rebuilt each time.

A spur connecting Call to the Santa Fe railroad already located at Call Junction and the Cow Creek Lumber Company began shipping lumber out over the Santa Fe Line.

In 1901, John Henry Kirby arrived and began buying up timberlands. With plenty of financial backing he began building a huge sawmill and logging complex. It wasn't long before Adams and Call saw the handwriting on the wall and sold out to Kirby. Even the town was sold but the name stuck. The town grew as people flocked to Call to find work. A school was built and later another was built. These were later consolidated with Sugar Hill and Wright's Settlement and a three story structure building was erected about a mile south of Call. The third story was never used because of damage from a storm.

Call thrived for many years until Kirby shut down the mill in 1953. Events continued through the years but World War I changed the make-up of the population. Around 1924 or 1925 the mill burned a third time and was rebuilt as a hardwood mill.

The crash of 1929 brought things to an end when the depression arrived. Kirby went bankrupt and finally had to close but allowed the people to stay in their houses. Men left home to find work. Vegetable gardens sprang up and if you were lucky enough to have a cow and chickens you had butter, eggs, and milk to sustain the family. My own grandfather grew cotton. His son, my uncle died at the mill when a wire flew off one of the machines he was operating and struck him in the heart. Soup lines became a normal sight in the area. Eventually a few pipe line projects established but these did not alleviate the needs of the area. The WPA and the CCC were established and one of those camps was built east of Call. Kirby Lumber Company went bankrupt and into the receivership of McDonald and Meecham. Kirby Lumber Company was reorganized as Kirby Lumber Corporation. Life was never the same even though many tried. Baptists and Methodist preachers preached on alternate Sundays and no matter what you were you were there to hear one or the other. G.A.s, R.A.s, boy scouts and baseball games kept the community together for a while. Then in 1939 the Nazis invaded Poland and World War II had begun.

The mill at Call was declared an essential defense industry and a security fence was built around it with guards. Women began working at the mill and when the war finally ended few men returned to Call. Some fell in battle, some stayed in the service and others went elsewhere to find jobs. Kirby began streamlining its operations and either closing mills or modernizing them. Voth, Call and Bessmay closed while Silsbee was modernized. The last work whistle blew on April 30, 1953 and in March of 1954 the last houses and buildings were sold and began moving on down the road to Little Call and beyond.

Today little is left of the town. Perhaps a semblance of a mill pond and some debris left from several parts of the plant. The school consolidated with Kirbyville and there remains a church or two and Manchac's store a little to the east.