Olive Texas 13
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The Sunset Sawmill suffered its worst misfortune after midnight on May 1, 1904, when the sawmill caught fire from unknown sources and burned to the ground. The fire was so advanced when discovered that it was only with great difficulty that the planing mill and lumber yard could be saved. The estimated loss of the sawmill, which had a daily cutting capacity of 75,000 feet, was $40,000, a part of which was covered by insurance. The company soon announced that the mill would be rebuilt, and to the extent possible, company employees would be used to rebuild it. Nevertheless, as usually resulted from a disastrous sawmill fire, many employees found it necessary to move elsewhere when their livelihoods were severed.30

Two months later, a Daily News correspondent returned to Olive and left what is perhaps the best published record of the town and its people. A new 100,000-foot mill was at that moment being built, and “employment is given to 200 men.” The company also took advantage of the shutdown to stockpile logs and repair and extend the main tram road, as follows:

The company has nine miles of tram road in operation and is adding more when needed… In bringing the logs to the mill, four large locomotives are used and Mr. [M. P.] Hargraves is engineer on the main line. Shay engines are used on the spurs to bring the logs from the skidways to the main tram… Mr. G. A. Sternenberg is superintendent; Mr. A. G. Boudreaux, mill foreman; Mr. Jules Berg, planer foreman; Mr. Arthur Sternenberg, yard foreman; and Mr. J. F. Alexander, woods foreman… There are 5,000,000 feet of lumber on the yard, and enough timber land is available to last five more years.31

Alas, the correspondent was already predicting the town’s ultimate fate when the available timber had all been cut, and only “stump land” surrounded the mill. He also left the following excellent description of Olive, as follows:

The town has a current population of 700, of which eighty are pupils of scholastic age. Public school is maintained eight months in the year, and the school building is modern in all its appointments. A nice church in which all denominations have the privilege of worshipping… The company store closes at 6 o’clock each evening, and the saloon closes at the same hour… Somebody said it is the only saloon in Texas that observed regular business hours.32

30Galveston Daily News, May 2, 1904.

31“The Town of Olive,” Galveston Daily News, July 10, 1904.

32Ibid.

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