Stephen F. Austin State University

2017 WAS PEASON'S 100TH ANNIVERSARY (January 2018)



Time sure flies doesn't it. Can you believe that the year 2017 was the Centennial Year for the old sawmill town of Peason, Louisiana? Yes, in March 1917 A. J. Peavy and R. J. Wilson came to southeast Sabine Parish and purchased over 45,000 acres of rich virgin timberland. Giant pine trees grew everywhere on these lands. The trees were so tall that you could see for long distances through the forest because there was no underbrush to be found. It is hard to believe today but this mighty forest had never been harvested. We don't see trees like this anymore. Nowadays in a few short years the new hybrid pine trees can grow into a forest. Sadly there were no conservation practices for the forests during these massive days of clear cutting and moving out by the many lumber companies who came to Louisiana to harvest the pine forests.

Mr. A. J. Peavy was an established logger and lumber man and he partnered up with R. J. Wilson who was an experienced mill manager. Beginning in March of 1917 the mill and town site was found and laid out. The large mill and town was built and mill workers began to move in an obtain jobs at the new mill. A name was needed though for this new town. So from a combination of the two owners surnames, PEA from Peavy and SON from Wilson, the sawmill town of PEASON was named. The mill began logging operations and small scale runs of the mill in 1917 but full operations began in early 1918. The mill was in operation until 1935 when the mill whistle blew for the last time. An era had ended. Let's look at some of the unique history concerning Peason.

1) The name PEASON was derived from the surnames of the owners of the mill.

2) By 1922 Peason had telephone service.

3) Peason had running water and electricity to all the company owned houses.

4) The Peason Hotel had 134 rooms and 2 large dining rooms and an excellent restaurant.

5) The Peason Mill and logging operations employed over 450 people.

6) At its beginning Peason had a population of 1500 and at its peak over 2000 resided in the town.

7) Peason had a movie theater, a garage, an icehouse, a commissary, hotel, doctor's office, high school, and church.

8) Peason had its own Post Office. Allen Butler and his daughter Exie worked in the post office. The post office closed in 1937.

9) The last tree cut for the mill was located on top of Eagle Hill.

10) During the Great Depression Mr. Peavy DID NOT lay off any employees. Only their hours were cut.

11) Dr. Alford was the first company doctor at Peason. He supported Huey Long who was running for governor and was replaced by Dr. Thomas Franklin. Mr. Peavy was afraid that Huey Long would organize the mill workers into a union. The company doctors delivered many babies and doctored everyone in the town.

12) Peavy Wilson Company had its own railroad line to Peason. The Christie and Eastern ran from just west of Sandel on the Kansas City Southern Line all the way to Peason. In the 1920s the Christie and Eastern joined the Red River and Gulf Line at Kurthwood.

13) The Peason mill was torn down and was moved by rail to Holipaw, Florida where it ran from 1935 until 1947.

14) Peavy Wilson Company had a trolley that ran from Peason to Sandel and back each morning and afternoon carrying passengers and cargo. The trolley was known as the "Toonerville Trolley."

15) The main corral site for all the horses, mules, and oxen is located on present day Peason Ridge. The logging stock was even given every Sunday off. O. A. Robertson would go and doctor the sick and injured animals at the corral every Saturday. When the mill closed the stock were turned loose to run free. One old mule lived to be 48 years old and died in 1978.

16) Trams were built throughout the area for the use by the log trains bringing in the massive logs to the mill.

17) Thurman (Thurm) Boring was Peason City Marshall.

18) Peason had a high school basketball team and baseball team.

19) The first graduating class of Peason High School was in 1922 and the last graduating class was in 1934.

20) The late Louis Hanks told of when as a boy in Peason, there was a large fire in Pleasant Hill, LA that destroyed part of that town. He stated that the residents of Peason could see the glow of the great fire on the horizon.

21) After the timber had been cut around Peason, people residing in Florien were able to see the town of Peason across the cutover lands 12 miles away.

There are still many people in our area who are the ancestors of the loggers and mill workers of Peason. Your ancestors were part of both Louisiana and American history and they made history at this large sawmill town. Over 4 million board feet of lumber was cut from 1918 until 1929. Such an enormous amount of production! I recently was asked, "Just where is that hotel located at Peason?" Sadly no buildings remain but there are lots of memories still here at Peason. Located in the old front yard of Mill Superintendent Daniel Handley's home is Peason Memorial Park. At the park is a historical marker to the sawmill town of Peason and to the Heritage Families of Peason Ridge. At the park are two photo kiosks filled with pictures of the mill, the town, and the workers. I am always looking for old Peason pictures and if you have any to share please contact me. Many memories remain of Peason and many folks born here are still with us, and when they hear the words "Old Peason" or "Peavy Wilson Lumber Company" they are flooded by memories of this former booming lumber mill and town. The late Wingate Dowden, himself raised in Peason, told of being in a bunker in Korea during the war there and early one morning one of the soldiers on guard duty said "I sure wish I was in Peason!" Wingate asked how do you know about Peason? The soldier replied I was born there! Yes you can run into people everywhere who have roots here at Peason! Here in Peason we still have two special old sayings. They are "To the folks who reside in Peason, a stranger is just a friend we haven't made yet" and "If you ever take a drink of Peason water, you will always come back to Peason!" So I want to wish my home town of Peason, LA a very special "Happy 100th Anniversary Peason!"

Photograph of the sawmill town of Peason taken from the mill water tower. The Peavy Wilson Commissary is seen in front and the Peason Hotel can be see also on Main St. (Robertson Collection)

Dr. Franklin was last Peason Company Doctor. (Robertson Collection)

Postcard stamped at the Peason Post Office on the last day of operation in 1937. (Robertson Collection)

Peavy Wilson Commissary located at Peason. Also located in the commissary was an ice house, doctors office, and feed store. (Robertson Collection)

Peason Church was built by Peavy Wilson Company and when the mill closed the building was given to Pine Grove Baptist Church. The congregations joined together as one in 1935. (Robertson Collection)

Peason High School. First graduating class was 1922 and the last graduating class was 1934. (Robertson Collection)

Part of the Peavy Wilson Lumber Company mill located at Peason, La. (Robertson Collection)

Hotel Peason had 134 room and 2 large dining areas and had a fine restaurant located there. (Robertson Collection)

Peason High School basketball team in 1922. (Robertson Collection)

Peason had an award winning baseball team and had current up to date uniforms and equipment. Photo taken in 1925.(Robertson Collection)

The Toonerville Trolley carried passengers and cargo from Sandel to Peason each morning and afternoon. (Robertson Collection)

A mother with her son and baby in carriage visiting the mill on Sunday. Large stacks of fine lumber can be seen behind her. (Robertson Collection)