by Rickey Robertson
Many folks who read this story of the sawmill town of Peason have very special memories of this once great mill town located in southeast Sabine Parish. The have memories of their grandparents and their own families living and working in the town during the mill run, many were born in Peason and were delivered by one of the company doctors , many attended school at Peason High School, and they remember the names of A.J. Peavy and R.J. Wilson, the owners of the large sawmill and of whom the town was named after. These memories never leave us do they !
In 1916 A.J. Peavy acquired over 40,000 acres of land in 1916 and later purchased more acreage after he had partnered with R. J. Wilson. They formed the Peavy-Wilson Lumber Company that would become the largest pine sawmill west of the Mississippi River. The town site was laid out and by March 1917 the town began to be built along with the large mill location. This new town was named PEASON from the names of Peavy and Wilson and today this community still exists in Ward 1 of Sabine Parish, La. And by 1918 the mill was ready to begin operations with the town being filled up with the workers for the mill and logging operations. It was to be a modern town that would have running water, electricity, a movie theater, a large commissary, ice house, post office, church, garage, and a large high school. Also built was the Christie and Eastern Railroad that came from Sandel, La. located on the KCS Line 12 miles to the Peason Mill that allowed the processed lumber products to be shipped nation-wide but would also allow passenger service to and from Peason. Once the mill was completed there was one item that alerted the towns people of a special incident and to alert them of a dangerous situation. This item was the mill whistle. There was an ample supply of steam at the mill and the whistle could blow long and loud in case of a fire or for a special event, and once the mill was built and steam was built up, it blew to let everyone know the mill was now in operation ! An exciting day ! And when it was learned that the Armistice had been signed on November 11, 1918 in France the mill whistle again blew long and loud ! Victory had been won and the boys would be coming home ! And the school kids and family members always listened to each whistle during the day for they knew what time it was. The whistle blew at dinner time and it blew when shifts were changed. But if a whistle blew off schedule everyone stopped to listen to see if it were the fire whistle. The fire whistle was several short blasts to alert everyone of the danger. Was it the mill or someone’s house. If it was a fire in town all the high school boys were dismissed so they could go and assist in fighting the house fire.
At the height of the mill run over 2000 people resided in Peason. Over 450 were employed just at the mill with several hundred others working in the rail and logging operations. And one thing is remembered about Mr. Peavy during the Great Depression. He did not lay off any employees. They all had a job so they could provide for their families. Peason can actually be called one big family. Everyone knew everyone else living in the town or the settlers who lived on Peason Ridge. They lived together and would watch the lumber trains depart and the log trains arriving at the mill continuously. They worked together, raised families, and were friends. Something we sure need in America today isn’t it !
But in early 1934 the end was near for the mill town of Peason. For over 17 years the mill had made some of the best pine lumber in the United States. But everyone was apprehensive about what would happen when the mill closed. When the last tall pine trees were cut on Eagle Hill, the last board was cut. And remember that mill whistle ? The mill whistle blew for the last time in June 1934 and continued to blow till it ran out of steam. The people living in Peason cried and wept at this “last whistle call”. So ended the town of Peason. The mill moved to Hollopaw Florida and operated there till 1947 and many of the workers moved there to work. But it was not Peason was it.
But Peason’s memories did not die on that day in 1934. In 1959 at Fort Jesup State Park there was a large gathering of people who once lived and worked there. A great reunion for these folks, both white and black. I have a listing of many of the 200 who signed the guest book and where they lived in 1959: John Tarver master of ceremonies, Rev. J. H. Ricks opened with prayer . From Shreveport : Mrs. L.a. Thomason, R.D. Thomason, M/Mrs Joe Russell, Mrs. Lessiie Whittington Hill, M/Mrs. W.B. Yerger, M/Mrs. Hosea Dowden, M/Mrs. W.L. Shiver and John, Mrs. Emma Oxley, M/Mrs. Bob Wilson, M/Mrs. Jimmie Cromwell, and Mrs. Robert F. Gay.From Miami, Florida : Mrs. John R. Taylor and Mrs. Regina Fraser Taylor. From Orangeburge S.C. Mrs. Sedan Fraser Stroman. From Dallas, Tx.: Mrs. Lola Richards. From Pt. Arthur, Tx. Allie D. Gay, W.C. Wright and son, JaneWright, M/Mrs. Clint Johnson. Ers. Edna Bailey Hester, Mrs. M.D. Woods and Janice. From Orange, Tx.: Mrs. Irwin Brister. From Corpus Christi, Tx.: M/Mrs. Harry Smith. From Beaumont, Tx. : M/Mrs. Bill Hawthorne, Tommy and Kyle. FromHouston, Tx.: M/Mrs. Jack Beard. From Lake Charles, La.:M/Mrs. G.W. McInnis, M/Mrs. Dave Greenwood, M/Mrs. Vernice Handley. From Hemphill, Tx.: Nancy Greenwood. From DeRidder : Mrs. Eva Bailey Austin and Mrs. Janie Docharty. From Leesville, La.: Mrs. Helen Wingate Allen, Mrs. Laura Lynch, M/Mrs. Bill Cole, G.C. Errington, and M/Mrs. I.B. Claeum. From Monroe, La. : M/Mrs. W.C. Sullivan and M/Mrs. Z.J.Byrd From Natchitoches, La.: M/Mrs. Wayne Dew and Christy, M/Mrs. Fred J. Russelll, Mrs. N.B. Russell, Mrs. Luther Tarver, M/Mrs. Harold Matthews, and Glen P. Russell From Boyce, La.: M/Mrs. C.A. Ricks and Karen. From Robeline, La.: M/Mrs. Johnnie Carnline. From Jasper, Tx.: P.R. Salter and Walter Latham. From :Hornbeck, La. :M/Mrs. Ed Mitchell. From Anacoco, La. :M/Mrs. Fred hall. From DeQuincy, La.:Mrs. Earl Myers. From Merryville, La.:Harry E. Laurent and Clarence E. Manasco From Coushatta, La.:M/Mrs. Joe Carter From Kountz, Tx.: M/Mrs. Fred Hobbs and Donald. From Silsbee, Tx.: M/Mrs. Ed Hawthorne and family. From Newton, Tx.: M/Mrs. Robert E. Hawthrone and family. From Lafayette, La.: M/Mrs. Ellis Conerly. From Oberlin, La.: M/Mrs. C.H. Jordan, Jr. and John. From Zwolle, La.: Mrs. Annie Lee Beard Winn, M/Mrs. Wesley Dockens, Miss Doris Franklin, Mrs. Claude Davis. From San Augustine, Tx.: M/Mrs. Bryan Gannon, Mrs. Pat Gannon Brazeal. From Overton, Tx.: M/Mrs. Oscar Leach. From Kisatchie, La.: M/Mrs. Artis Dowden and family, M/Mrs. E.B. Sylvest. From Belmont, La.:M/Mrs. Troy Britt . From Westlake, La.:M/Mrs. P.H. Perkins and Gail. From:Mansfield, La.:M/Mrs. Dewey Goins, Rodney, Janet, and Paula. From Springhill, La.: M/Mrs. Bill Carter. Glenmorea, La.: R.L. Miller. From Fisher, La.: Hoyt Lockwood and Charles, M/Mrs. Marvin Salter and family, M/Mrs. B. Stringer, Gary Salter. From Provencal, La.: M/Mrs. Oscar Sparks. From Florien, La.: M/Mrs. C.H. Jordan, M/Mrs. H.L. Thomas and Anne, Rev. J.H. Ricks, Grady Ricks, M/Mrs. Clyde Dowden, M/Mrs. Edward Browning, Mrs. Vivian Herrington and Marguerite, Jerelene Allen, Clarence Allen, Velma Leach Jett, Joseph Byrd, M/Mrs. L.A. Raiford, Elvin and Nelda Kay Brwoning, M/Mrs. Everest Carter, Mrs. Everest Carter Jr. and children. From Many, La.: M/Mrs. Floyd Alford, Mrs. Henry Lee and Pauliine, M/Mrs. Jerry Petty, Ray Alford, Chris Alford, M/Mrs. Cullen Dowden, Dean Dowden, Jimmie Dowden, M/Mrs. Noah Miller, and Mrs. J.W. Simpson, Mrs. Hardy Reeves, M/Mrs. Melvin Raiford and Patti, M/Mrs. John Liggett, Mrs. John Whittington, M/Mrs. John Tarver, Mrs. J.W. Aldredge, E.L. Allen, M/Mrs. Wingate Dowden and children, M/Mrs. S.J. Westbrook, Reisy Carnline, M/Mrs. Jack Maxey, M/Mrs. James Stringer, M/Mrs. Jim Oxley, M/Mrs. H.C. Oxley, and Carrie Blinks.
If this story brings back memories of Old Peason and you are out traveling on La. Hwy. 118 in the Peason Community stop and visit the Peason Memorial Park located right where the town and mill was located. You will leave there with many more memories…and listen closely…maybe one day we will hear the mill whistle again ! And we have an old saying out here at Peason that still rings true:” If you ever take a drink of Peason water you will always come back to Peason “ ! Come on back and visit with us !