Brackenridge Lumber Company

Up to the late 1800's - southeast Louisiana was covered by virgin forests of pine, cypress, oak and many other varieties of timber carved by numerous bayous and rivers which flowed into Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain with large expanses of swamp lands to the south.

By 1889, a northern enterprise - Brackenridge Lumber Company - bought large tracts of untouched forest lands in many states including Louisiana and Mississippi. They acted as agents for other large lumber companies in the north by locating and buying nearly 700,000 acres of pine-covered forests in Louisiana and surrounding areas.

Brackenridge Lumber Company

Brackenridge Lumber Co. sawmill - early 1900s

Edward F. Brackenridge joined his father in the lumber business in New York and Michigan in the late 1800's. He later relocated in New Orleans, Louisiana, where his two sons also entered into the family lumber business. Together they built an empire in yellow pine, short and long leaf pine, and cypress here in Louisiana. By the turn of the Twentieth Century business was booming. Charles, one of his sons, became the front man and manager for the Brackenridge lumber business in Louisiana.

Brackenridge Lumber Company "clear-cut" the land and sawed the logs into lumber in its 641 lumber mills operating at that time. One of these mills was located about three miles south of Albany just below the current intersection of I-12 and Highway 43 in Livingston Parish.

The "Dummy Line", a narrow gage company railroad, hauled the sawmill’s lumber five miles southward to Springfield. There, workers loaded the cut lumber onto steamboats that plied the local rivers and slowly navigated their way through Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain on toward the port of New Orleans, Louisiana. The lumber was loaded onto ocean-going freight vessels and shipped through Gulfport, Mississippi, heading toward advantageous markets here in the United States and abroad.

However, by 1906, as the timber was "clear-cut" and harvested from the land, there was no longer an abundant source of timber and the lumber business in southeast Louisiana was on the decline. Charles Brackenridge and his company sought out and explored new forest lands in the Pacific Northwest around Oregon and Washington state as they had done earlier in the South. Charles Brackenridge was planning the move from Louisiana and Mississippi to the Pacific northwest when he suddenly died at the sawmill in the Hungarian Settlement on December 27, 1912.

Their motto was to "cut out and get out." As a result, they owned large tracts of land that were no longer of any use to them. To recover the company’s large monetary investment in this enterprise and clear a profit from these large tracts of land, they needed to sell the acreage as quickly as possible to allow them to move on to other ventures. Good business practices in those early days dictated the accelerated and comprehensive divestiture of unessential business elements to ensure that the business remained on a solid foundation. Consequently, they wanted to completely divest themselves of the encumbrance of business interests in the South, Louisiana and Mississippi, as they moved toward a brighter and more lucrative future in the Northwest.

To facilitate this resolution, they had the land surveyed into twenty-acre plots for sale to anyone who could pay the price. The Brackenridge family advertised the land sale in the northern newspapers. Men working here in the local sawmill also wrote letters to their family and friends up north telling them of the opportunities that were opening up from this proposed sale. By that time Brackenridge was ready to move ahead to those more lucrative markets. As the remaining lumber products were sold from the local mill, the closing down of the mill began. By 1916, Brackenridge Lumber Company packed up its business and closed its mills in the southeast permanently.

Previously those who left Hungary seeking a better life for themselves and their families immigrated to Canada and northeastern parts of the United States. They settled in the larger northern industrial cities and worked in the factories, industrial sites and coal mines of Kentucky and West Virginia since that was the only source of work available to them. They were intelligent, bright and capable of better occupations but the language barrier precluded them from more acceptable work. They were dissatisfied and discouraged. These people, whose economy and social structure in the old country had been based on agrarian and mercantile businesses, were living here in ways that were totally foreign to them. Hungarians living in the north, read about this proposed land sale in their Hungarian language newspaper, The Szabadság of Cleveland, Ohio. For many, it was the chance of a lifetime.


Sources:

Kropog, Royanne 2007, The Story of Árpádhon, Hungarian Settlement 1896 - 2006 by the Residents and Descendants of the Early Settlers as told to Royanne Kropog Printed by Moran Printing and Emprint, Baton Rouge, La. in August 2008.

Mocsary, Victoria Ann 1996, Árpádhon: An Early History of Hungarian Settlement Livingston Parish, Louisiana, Center for Regional Studies, Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, LA.


About The Museum

The Hungarian Settlement museum is located in the restored Hungarian Settlement school, and is dedicated to the historical preservation of the Hungarian community in Albany, Louisiana.


Hungarian History

In the late 1800s, Hungarian settlers began to move from the harsh industrial environments of the North and East United States to a more desirable and familiar agricultural environment.


Photo Gallery

Our photo gallery features both historic and recent photos that illustrate the rich history and culture of South Louisiana’s Hungarian settlers. Also includes photos of our museum renovation.