Stephen F. Austin State University




Located in Sabine Parish on Louisiana Hwy. 118 is the small community of Peason. Looking back over 100 years this little community was once the sawmill town of Peason where over 2000 people once lived and worked for Peavy Wilson Lumber Company. This sawmill and town came about due to the hard work, planning, and dedication of two men, A. J. Peavy and R. J. Wilson. These two men became a team that formed one of the most successful yellow pine sawmills in the South at Peason. Let's look at these two great men who are still remembered as the founders of Peason.

In southeast Sabine Parish in 1916, A. J. Peavy, a logger who had decided to become a lumberman, purchased a tract of land of over 40,000 acres. Mr. Peavy had enough financial backing that he could purchase this land, located in Ward 1, with a large cash payment with the balance to be paid in 88 promissory notes. Additional lands were also acquired by Mr. Peavy. Knowing the logging industry, but not knowing the mill and lumber business, he partnered with R. J. Wilson who was an experienced mill manager. Peavy Wilson Lumber Company was now formed. They planned a large town and sawmill to be operated by their company. The site was chosen and in March 1917 the town and mill site was chosen. Thomas Wingate was in charge of the large land clearing and construction operation. The town needed a name and from the combination of the two owners surnames, PEA from Peavy and SON from Wilson, the sawmill town of PEASON was named. The town and mill, despite interruption by World War I, were completed and by 1918 lumbering, logging, and mill operations began. And Peavy Wilson Lumber Company also completed its own rail line known as the Christie and Eastern Railroad. This rail line ran from Sandel, Louisiana on the Kansas City Southern Line out twelve miles to the town and mill at Peason. Later in the operation of the mill at Peason, this rail line extended eastward and connected to the Red River and Gulf Line at Kurthwood, Louisiana. This old rail line now lies on present day Peason Ridge Military Reservation and the old tram bed is used as part of the main perimeter road by the military.

Anderson J. "Jasper" Peavy was born in Covington County, Alabama in 1866. In 1877 his family moved to Angelina County, Texas. For the rest of his life he called Angelina County home. A. J. Peavy began not as a businessman but as a farm boy who became a school teacher. He had other jobs also such as a clerk in a store in Lufkin, Texas, as a logger, and then, with financial backing he went into business for himself in 1898. He became one of the best-known lumbermen in the South. With his great success in the lumber industry, he became president of Peavy-Byrnes Lumber Company, Peavy-Moore Lumber Company, Peavy-Welsh Lumber Company, and Peavy-Wilson Lumber Company. Mr. Peavy made Shreveport, Louisiana his headquarters and he resided there until his death. Mr. Peavey was always known as a big strong man with a big smile who was very self-reliant and confident in everything that he did. He was what us country folks describe as a self-made man through his hard work. Looking into the future of the lumber industry, in 1929 Peavy Wilson Company bought a very large track of timberland in Florida. This land was held until the mill's run ended at Peason, when the town and mill moved to Holopaw, Florida in 1935 where it operated until 1947. On November 16, 1942 the final mill whistle blew for Jasper Peavy. What a legend in the southern lumber industry he was. And he has never been forgotten!

Riley J. Wilson was the partner of A. J. Peavy when they formed the Peavy Wilson Lumber Company. With Mr. Peavy knowing the logging business, he needed someone who had vast experience in managing such a large sawmill such as would be built at Peason. R. J. Wilson knew both the lumber industry and sales of this valuable product and in the operations of lumber mills. He also kept up with the operation of the company office and even the operation of the town itself. And what a town it was, with a commissary, doctor's office, barber shop, theater, ice house, post office, school, hotel, and garage. A complete town owned and operated by Peavy Wilson Company it had all the amenities that other sawmill towns would never have. Peason was so modern it had electricity, running water, and telephone service, plus company housing for all the workers. And due to Mr. Wilson's operation of the Peason Mill, lumber from this site was sold all over the United States, with some timbers even going all over the world. An estimate of the finished lumber products shows over 600 million feet of lumber cut and processed. In dollar amount during the mill run this would have brought in over 18 million dollars to Peavy Wilson Company. Stop and think, in today's money value this would have been hundreds of millions of dollars in today's currency! All I can say is Peavy and Wilson were a great and successful team!

During the run of the Peavy Wilson Lumber Company, the years of full production runs were from 1918 to 1929. The Peason Mill was known as the largest pine lumber operation west of the Mississippi River. The monthly production was about 4 million board feet. During the mill run, there was from 200 to 450 workers with a population in the sawmill town of 1500 to 2000 inhabitants. One thing that Mr. Peavy and Mr. Wilson were proud of was that during the Great Depression they never laid off any of their workers. Through skillful management practices all the employees were able to make their weekly amount of hours. There were white, black, and Hispanic workers both at the mill and in the log woods and other crews building and maintaining the spur rail lines. They had many varied jobs from cutting the timber, skidding the logs, mill work, and building the tram roads, and there were many workers who took care of the hundreds of horses, mules, and oxen used by the company in its logging operations. Descendants of these animals still reside on present day Peason Ridge Military Reservation. Opportunities during the Depression were scarce but Peavy Wilson Lumber Company took take care of its employees and their families.

The mill run ended in 1935. Usually when a mill ceased operation it went out of existence. But remember the land purchased in 1929 by Peavy Wilson Lumber Company? The company moved the mill and town from Peason to Holopaw, Florida where it ran very successfully until 1947. Many of the workers went to Florida but some of the people remained at Peason and I am the proud descendant of these loggers and mill workers who so proudly worked for Peavy Wilson Lumber Company. Many are the memories that linger of A. J. Peavey and R. J. Wilson and their accomplishments. The final mill whistle may have blown at Peason in 1935 but the memories of Peavy Wilson Lumber Company live on!

Photograph of the sawmill town of Peason, La. that was built by Peavy Wilson Lumber Company. The mill operated from 1917 until 1935. The town had as many as 2,000 people living there during the mill run. (Robertson Collection)

Sign located on La. Hwy. 118 letting you know you have reached Peason. (Robertson Collection)

Peavy Wilson Company Commissary was located at the sawmill town of Peason. It was open to everyone in the town and surrounding areas. (Robertson Collection)

The Peavy Wilson office staff located at Peason. R.J. Wilson was in charge of the office and all sales at the Peason Mill. (Robertson Collection)

A.J. Peavy and R.J. Wilson were the founders of the town of Peason and Peavy Wilson Lumber Company. (The Lufkin Line 1921)