Eastman, Gardiner & Co. (1891-1937)

Laurel & Northwestern Railway (1897-1900)

Laurel & Tallahoma Western Railway (1900-1937)

Standard Gauge

Headquarters: Laurel, MS (Jones County)

Years of Operation: 1891-1937

Mill Capacity: 220,000 ft/day

Miles Operated: 60

Locomotives Owned

Equipment: 

200 cars, 4 Barnhart loaders, 2 home-made skidders in 1910

June 30, 1914- 8 locomotives, 3 passenger, 20 box, 4 water, 6 flats, 100 log cars

Click Map for Larger Version

History by Tony Howe:

     On April 1, 1891 Eastman, Gardiner & Company, of Lyons, Iowa, purchased the sawmill plant at Laurel, Mississippi, and approximately 26,000 acres of timber land, of the Kamper & Lewin Manufacturing Company.  The mill was located on the south side of downtown Laurel, near the present-day Sawmill Square Mall. Eastman, Gardiner & Co. was composed of George S. Gardiner, his brother Silas Gardiner, and brother-in-law Lauren C. Eastman. Lauren’s brother Charles S. Eastman was also involved in the company for the first few years. Other members of the family eventually joined in the company, as well. George S. Gardiner served as president of the company from its founding until his death in 1921.  

     The Kamper & Lewin plant included a sawmill, shingle mill, planing mill, dry kilns and pole logging road. The pole road was replaced with a standard gauge steel-rail logging railroad running east from the mill by late 1891. Much additional timber land was added to the company holdings throughout the 1890's. About 60,000 acres were purchased in 1899 alone. The old sawmill was replaced by a much larger mill in 1893, which could cut 25 million feet of lumber per year. In 1897-98, the capacity of the mill was increased to 40 million feet per year with the addition of a band saw to the mill equipment. Capacity was increased again in 1902, when the company added a second band mill and bought the adjacent mill of the Laurel Lumber Company, which boosted production capacity to 60 million board feet of lumber per year.  

     To supply the ever-increasing demand for logs, the company’s logging railroad was also greatly expanded. A new logging railroad was built in 1897 running northwest from the sawmill. This railroad was named the “Laurel and Northwestern Railway.” The old rail line running east from Laurel was removed after the logging camp was moved to the new cutting area northwest of town in mid-1897. This portable camp was moved frequently as logging operations moved slowly westward. By 1905 the camp was at Summerland, on the Jones-Smith County line. From this time on, logging operations were conducted in Smith, Covington, and Simpson Counties. The main line of the Eastman, Gardiner & Co.’s logging railroad reached the Leaf River near Taylorsville in 1899. At this time, the part of the railroad running from Laurel to this point was sold to the Gulf & Ship Island Railroad, and completed to a connection with their main line at Saratoga by the following year. Eastman, Gardiner & Co. retained the right to run their log trains over the railroad from their own logging spurs built off of the G&SI to the mill in Laurel. At this time Eastman, Gardiner & Co.’s railroad was renamed the “Laurel and Tallahoma Western Railway.”  By 1908 the company’s logging camp at Wisner, two miles west of Taylorsville, had grown large enough to be incorporated as a town. After a brief stay at Rogers Camp, the main camp was moved several miles north of Mize and renamed Cohay in 1915. This would be the first of three camp locations to be called by that name. The camp was relocated to a point northeast of Raleigh in 1929 and called Leaf River Camp. In 1934 it was moved again to a point southeast of Magee, where it remained until the company stopped logging by rail in 1937.

     In 1917, the company built a hardwood mill west of their main mills in Laurel, and formed the Eastman-Gardiner Hardwood Company. Before this time, the company primarily cut pine, both longleaf and shortleaf varieties. In 1928 the officers of Eastman, Gardiner & Co. also formed the Pascagoula Hardwood Co. to log a tract of hardwood timber in the Pascagoula River basin in George and Jackson Counties. This company built a large mill in southeast Laurel near the Masonite Corporation plant. It operated until 1933, and was sold to the Mengel Co. in November 1935, who ran the mill many more years. The Mengel Company stopped logging by rail in 1947. 

The Eastman, Gardiner & Co. mill at Laurel finally cut out in 1937.  On October 9, 1937 the sawmill in Laurel and remaining timber holdings were sold to the Green Lumber Company, who operated parts of the plant on a greatly reduced scale throughout the 1940's.

For a detailed history of this company, see our new book YELLOW PINE CAPITAL available HERE

Eastman, Gardiner & Co. had a rare 4-8-0 used on the mainline log train for many years. Here crew members pose on front of No. 67 about 1910.

 

 

Eastman, Gardiner & Co.'s first locomotive crossing a long low trestle about 1902.

Locomotives and loaders at the company's servicing facilities at what is probably Hebron Camp about 1904.

Eastman, Gardiner & Co. camp cars about 1905.

Shay Number 6 was built new for E-G with a full-length canopy, a feature of Shays built for Eastman, Gardiner & Co. It is also lettered for the short-lived Laurel & Northwestern.

Shay 3 at an early E-G camp about 1896.

2-6-0 Number 53 at Eastman, Gardiner & Co.'s logging camp at Summerland in 1906. Four Barnhart loaders are visible in the photo.

The Eastman, Gardiner & Co. camp at Wisner was one of the first in the country to feature a YMCA in 1909.

Rare 2-4-0 Number 61 was built new for Eastman, Gardiner & Co. by Baldwin and was lettered for the Laurel & Tallahoma Western, the name given to E-G's logging railroads.

A feature of most Eastman, Gardiner & Co. logging camps was the group of boxcars converted to commissary cars, including a meat market, drug store, clothing store, and pay car.

One of Eastman, Gardiner & Co.'s Barnhart log loaders loading on a crib trestle about 1906.

Eastman, Gardiner & Co.'s elegant office building in Laurel was completed in 1912 and still stands as a landmark in Laurel today.

A crib trestle made of pine logs is nearly complete and ready for the section gang to lay track in this 1906 photo. 

The caption states this 1906 photo shows the camp that the trestle and grading crews stayed in ahead of the logging crews.

The Eastman, Gardiner & Co. camp at Rogers Camp is being set up in this photo.

A Barnhart loader is used to move logs at the E-G sawmill at Cohay III in the late 1920's.

The commissary cars set up at the Eastman, Gardiner & Co. camp at Summerland in 1906.

1906 view of the Eastman, Gardiner & Co. mill at Laurel shows a nearly full log pond. The photo was taken from the roof of the old Laurel Lumber Co. mill, which was bought by E-G. The company's 4 stall engine house and machine shop is also visible.

A later view of E-G's homemade combined skidder and loader.

The school at the log camp at Wisner about 1910.

One of Eastman, Gardiner & Co.'s home-built skidders.

Another view of an Eastman, Gardiner & Co. skidder in operation about 1910.

Eastman, Gardiner & Co. loading crew.

Eastman, Gardiner & Co. ordered this rare 2-4-4-2 from Baldwin, but apparently it was unsatisfactory and was sent back to the factory within a year or so.

Sand house and steam-powered dynamo used to provide electricity to the camp at Summerland in 1906. Electricity was rare at this time even for a town of some size in Mississippi!

E-G Shay Number 71 was kept by successor Green Lumber Co. until about 1940.

High water from nearby Leaf River floods the Eastman, Gardiner & Co. camp at Summerland about 1906.

 

 

 

 

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For more information contact Tony Howe at howe6818@bellsouth.net or David S. Price at dsprice46@bellsouth.net