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In 1880, before the rails reached Hardin County, heavily-forested pine lands, with virgin timber of four or five feet in diameter, were a drag on the market at 25 cents an acre. As soon as the rails and mills began to arrive in 1881, the price of timber lands advanced, but there was quite a variation in price that the proprietors paid, probably because of the distance from the mill and the amount of tram trackage to be laid. In 1887, they paid from 50 cents to $6.00 an acre for four tracts of land, as follows: to U. M. Gilder, $150 for 320 acres; to S. B. Turner, $100 for 160 acres; to P. A. Work, $450 for 640 acres; and to East Texas Land and Improvement Company (the real estate arm of Kountze Brothers, bankers), $1,000 for 160 acres.18

Beginning in 1881, Olive and Sternenberg faced an unknown facet of the lumber industry not previously encountered by them the need to operate a logging tram railroad. Although they had previously logged the southeast Hardin County forests for the Centennial mill, all timber removed by them had been so near to the Neches River and its tributaries that only mules and oxen had been needed. Hence, after building the Sunset mill they purchased a locomotive, five flat cars, and railroad iron. By 1889, the Sunset tram was five miles long.19

By 1887, however, Olive and Sternenberg had grown weary of the logging end of the lumber industry. On December 31, 1887, they signed an indenture with two logging contractors, Gustav Linderman and J. S. Davis, to supply logs to the mill for $2.20 per thousand feet, log measure. The sawmillers agreed to furnish supplies and maintenance for the tram, and the contractors agreed to buy for $7,200 all of Olive and Sternenberg’s forest equipment, including 29 mules, 22 yokes of oxen, as well as harness, saws, axes, cant hooks, and sundry items.20

In 1889, the proprietors signed a new partnership agreement, admitting two new members, each with a newly-acquired one quarter interest, and detailing the duties of each member. Olive would continue as outside financial agent, buying all lands and timber and selling all manufactures, much of which went to his retail outlets around Waco. Sternenberg would continue to oversee operations, maintenance of mill machinery and the tram road. V. A. Petty, the secretary-treasurer who had just acquired a quarter interest (half of Olive’s half), would continue to keep the books, accept and disburse funds, supervise the company store and saloon and make their purchases, and provide for the payroll, inventories, and profit and loss statements.

18Volume N, pp. 470, 472, 480, 507, August 17 to November 25, 1887, Hardin County, Texas Deed Records.

19Galveston Daily News, July 27, 1889.

20VoIume N, p. 529, Hardin County Deed Records.

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