Henry Weston of Logtown, Hancock County, Mississippi
Henry Weston was born 09 Jan 1823 in Skowhegan Island, Somerset County, Maine to John Whitney Weston and Sarah “Sally” Parker Walker. Henry and a brother, Levi, migrated from Maine to Sheboygan, Wisconsin in the fall of 1844 looking for better business opportunities. He was also looking for a healther place to live. Several members of his family had died of tuberculosis. He initially got a job floating logs down the Eau Claire River, but later operated a sawmill on the same river. Because of his health, he decided to move south.
Henry migrated to New Orleans, Louisiana in 1846, where he stayed about a month. While looking for a job on the wharf he noticed a schooner hauling lumber from Gainsville, Mississippi to New Orleans. A discussion with the Captain convinced Henry that he should be in Mississippi where the logging industry seemed to be going strong. The captain hired him as a deck hand in return for his passage from New Orleans to Gainsville, Mississippi. As Henry often explained the trip, he left New Orleans on the schooner with everything he possessed in the world tied up in a red bandana handkerchief. Shortly after arriving in Mississippi, Captain William J. Bill Poitevent gave him a job working for Poitevent and Favre Lumber Company for $49 a month. His talent was soon recognized and was promoted to the job of sawyer, the most important and highest paid job in the mill. This mill was large for its day, processing 7000 board feet per day. His talents as a first class sawyer became well known and on July 1846 he was offered the job of managing Judge David Robert Wingate’s sawmill in Logtown, Mississippi. This mill was located on Bayou Homa at its junction with Pearl River. This mill had the capacity of 9000 board feet per day.
He wrote to his brother Levi Wyman Weston on 7 January 1847. They live too well in this country for me. They kill everything with pepper and salt and spices and mix it so that you could not tell what the original is. We breakfast at 7, dine at 2. A great many dine at 3. Sup at 6. So you see that we have 7 hours between breakfast and dinner and that we eat too much dinner every day.”
While working for Judge Wingate in 1849, cholera got so bad in New Orleans and up Pearl River that Henry left and went back to Wisconsin with no intention of ever returning. For a time as many as 250 people a day died in New Orleans. In Wisconsin his health soon became so bad he had to return Mississippi the following year.
Judge Wingate fired his replacement and gave Henry back his old job. It appears that the Judge paid Henry a commission for every thousand board feet of lumber the mill cut. Henry wrote his brother that he was making $3 per day, getting board with the engineer for $8 a month and saving about $65 per month. The mill employed 14 workers with a payroll of $210 per month. Old records show that Wingate was getting about $10 per thousand feet for the lumber.
In 1854 Judge Wingate sold his mill at Logtown along with the Chalons Claim comprising practically all the land at Logtown to John Russ, W.W. Carrie, and Henry Carrie. Henry continued to operate the mill for the W.W. Carre Company.
In 1856 John Russ conveyed his interest in the mill to Henry Weston. This was his first ownership in a sawmill. Two years later he married Lois Angela Mead the daughter of Stephen Mead of Bedford, Middlesex County, Massachusetts and Adeline Russ of Brunswick County, North Carolina on 15 Jul 1858 in Gainsville, Hancock County, Mississippi. He purchased the Wingate home where all his nine children were born
By the time of the war Henry Weston and partners had paid in full for the mill and the big tract of land where Logtown stood. In addition to the mill and lands they owned $20,000 worth of slaves. Each partner was drawing $5000 per year salary, a huge amount for that time. Lumber business profits prior to the Civil War were large compared with investment and labor costs. Henry Weston bragged that he made money like smoke.
The W.W. Carrie Company continued to grow and maintained successful operations until the Union Army captured New Orleans in 1862. Their markets blockaded, the mill closed and the equipment buried in the forests of southern Mississippi for the remainder of the Civil War.
Henry Weston stayed in Logtown operating his farm and doing other things. Records of the Police Jury for April 1863 show that Henry was appointed Captain of the Patrol from Logtown and Pearlington eastward for several miles. The Patrol was formed to protect citizens from irregulars and jayhawkers. These years were filled with uncertainty and unrest as deserters and Jay Hawkers were raiding theses sparsely populated areas. They would rob and kill widows and women, whose husbands were at war, of their cattle, horses and everything of value. Federal troop worked with and encouraged these bands.
A particular incident is quoted from Henry Weston’s grandson, John Roland Weston’s history.
In the latter part of 1864 law enforcement had broken down in many areas of the South and particularly in the rural sections. Bands know as Jay Hawkers, roamed over the many areas of the South, robbing and murdering Confederates and Yankees alike. A band came close to Logtown and encamped on a branch of the Pearl River. They intended to kill Henry Weston, Henry Carrie and several other prominent citizens. Then they would rob their widows of the cattle, horses and anything else of value.
“My grandfather and the others heard of this and formed a posse and attacked the banditï¿½s camp. They killed several and several escaped. One, by the name of Pape, was captured and hung almost immediately at the camp site. This location is about 2 miles east of Pearlington, Mississippi, close to U.S. Highway 90 and from that day to this the branch has been known as Pape’s Branch”.
The mill resumed operations following the end of the Civil War and soon began to prosper again. There was a big demand for timber of all kinds. By 1870 the lumber business was booming. Everyone was giving up subsistence farming to work in the logging business. In 1874 Henry bought out the Carrie brothers share of the mill. Records do not show what he paid, but it is said that he paid them the biggest price that any sawmill had ever sold for in that area. In 1877 the industry was devastated for two years when the federal government seized the lumber at the mills on the Gulf Coast claiming that it was illegally taken from federal lands, including strategic naval reserve forestlands. The Poitevent and Favre and the H. Weston Lumber Companies closed their mills and spent the next two years in court defending their position. A compromise was reached in 1879. The economic havoc created by this incident was felt along the coast. People were on the verge of starvation with food riots being predicted. To make matters worse a yellow fever epidemic struck in 1878 causing problem from the coast to Memphis. In Mississippi alone 3000 people died. Govenor James K. Vardaman proclaimed a shotgun quarantine and called out the National Guard to seal off the coast from the interior by stopping travel to or from Pearlington, Logtown and Napoleon.
In 1888 the company was incorporated as the H. Weston Lumber Company with two new partners, John Sidney Otis and H.U. Beech. Henry Weston devoted all his energy to improving the efficiency of his plant. He would visit other mills looking for better ideas.
In the early days Henry would work side by side with his workers. He remained the common man even after he became a millionaire. He would wear a hat until it was in shambles. “The family being ashamed of the hat would hide it or burn it to get him to buy another”. Mr. Ulman Koch, who worked for Weston for many years in the mill and as a tugboat captain, said that Weston was like a father to his men. He would loan his employees money with no security or notes.
Leonard Kimball Russ said that Henry Weston watched after his sons like he did when they were boys. If he saw something at one of their homes that needed attention he would take a man or a crew and attend to it. He was strict with his sons even after they were grown men with families. At one time the mill broke down in freezing weather the day before Christmas. He made his sons as well as others of his crew work all day Christmas to have the mill read to operate the next day.
According to Leonard Kimball Russ, Henry Weston used to try to impress on everyone that saving money-thrift- was the key to anyone’s success in life. He kept a milk cow and milked her himself long after he became a millionaire, in fact, until just before he died in 1912. He wore common inexpensive clothes and would ridicule his sons for putting on airs and wearing fine clothes. He would take a spike pole and cross a river of log, a feat that none of his son could ever do. It was said that he was a calm, conservative man who seldom got excited about anything. When he found a man loafing on the job his demeanor changed and he became very riled. He was a conscientious worker and expected everyone to do the same. After a big storm one of his sons came and told him much timber had been blown down and would ruin. Ruin, heck, he said, get out of that car, put one work clothes, get a crew and go to laying a road to it and haul it out.
The H. Weston Lumber Company was for a number of decades a major employer in the Hancock County, Mississippi area. See the Plant At the peak of the company holdings were almost two million acres in Mississippi, Louisiana, Mexico, Oregon and British Columbia. Markets had expanded from the domestic to international with much of its lumber going to South America and Europe. At this time H. Weston Lumber Company was the largest lumber company in the world. At the zenith the capacity of the company was 30,000,000 board feet of lumber per year. The company railroad tied into the Southern Railroad at Nicholson, Mississippi (south of Picayune on old Highway 11), and into the Louisville and Nashville (L & N) Railroad 12 miles west of Bay St. Louis.
Henry Weston died 29 October 1912 in Logtown, Hancock County, Mississippi capping a 64 year career of operating lumber companies that made him a multi-millionaire. Two of his sons, Horatio Stephen and John Henry Weston, took over the operation of the company. The company continued to thrive until 1925 when the mill ceased sawing operations. In 1930, the mill shut down never to open again. Most of the 150, 000 acres of land were sold to International Paper Company. Other people like S.G. Thigpen bought much of the cut over land for as little as $1 per acre. Many lumber companies let the land go for taxes.
Logtown was a one company town. It was the Company Store with the company owning the commissary, the power station, the ice house, the livery stable, the telephone company, railroad and maintained the roads and docks. It was a self sufficient operation with much of the supplies being shipped in from New Orleans. They had a fleet of boats, piers, and wharfs to handle the movement of logs. Now Logtown is just a memory. Only the cemetery remains. The Tourist Bureau located on Interstate 10 just across the state line from Louisiana is now called Logtown.