TexasEscapes.com 
HOME : : NEW : : TEXAS TOWNS : : GHOST TOWNS : : TEXAS HOTELS : : FEATURES : : COLUMNS : : BUILDINGS : : IMAGES : : ARCHIVE : : SITE MAP
PEOPLE : : PLACES : : THINGS : : HOTELS : : VACATION PACKAGES
Texas Escapes
Online Magazine
Texas Towns by Region
  • Texas Hill Country
  • Central Texas North
  • Central Texas South
  • South Texas
  • East Texas
  • West Texas
  • Texas Panhandle
  • Texas Gulf Coast
    Texas Towns A - Z
    Over 2700 Towns

    Texas Ghost Towns
    Over 700 Ghost Towns

    Book Hotels
  • Texas | Columns | Bob Bowman's East Texas

    Old Emporia

    by Bob Bowman
    Bob Bowman

    It is on one of the most enduring mysteries in East Texas.

    In the early 1900s, an explosion and fire struck the old Emporia sawmill south of what is now Diboll. More than thirty sawmill workers, most of them black, are believed to have perished in the conflagration.

    Burned beyond recognition, the men were reportedly buried in a mass grave somewhere on the Emporia town site, now a part of Diboll, with no tombstones to mark their final resting place.

    While few records exist to confirm the incident, there is enough information about old Emporia to hint that the story may be true.

    Emporia began with the purchase of 5,755 acres of land north of the Neches River by Samuel Fain Carter and M.T. Jones from W.H. Bonner on November 3, 1892.

    Within a year, the town had a sawmill owned by Carter and Jones, a post office, company houses, a school, a church, a store, a hotel and a railroad spur to ship lumber to the Houston, East and West Texas, the main line leading from East Texas to Houston.

    Two years later, another sawmill owned by T.LL. Temple and his family sprouted north of Emporia with the name Southern Pine Lumber Company. The establishment of the mill led to the founding of Diboll and one of Texas’ largest lumbering empires.

    Carter and Jones, both from Houston, were no strangers to sawmills. Jones was a well-known and wealthy lumber dealer who owned two sawmills at Orange. He was also the uncle of Jesse Jones, who founded the Houston Chronicle and served as new New Deal architect of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.

    Born in Alabama and raised at Sherman, Texas, Carter settled in Beaumont in 1882 and within a short time owned an interest in a sawmill at Village Mills. He later moved to Houston.

    With the startup of the Emporia sawmill, Joseph P. Carter not only became the mill superintendent, but served as Emporia’s first postmaster in 1893. Samuel Fain Carter’s brother, Press, served as a bookkeeper and manager of the Emporia commissary store.

    At its peak, Emporia had a population of about 300 with 125 employees working at the mill and with logging crews in the woods. With a daily cutting capacity of 75,000 board feet a day, the sawmill specialized in lumber for railroad cars and timbers for bridges.

    Emporia apparently lacked most of the conveniences of older and more established sawmill towns of the day. Employee housing, except for cottages for mill managers, were of unpainted clapboard construction with outdoor toilets. The town had a commissary store, a community church and meeting hall, and a small school.

    There were at least two recorded fires at the sawmill. In July of 1897 the mill burned to the ground. By 1900, Emporia built a new sawmill and acquired additional timberlands in Tyler County and bought a sawmill at Doucette.

    The second fire that occurred in March of 1906 and killed the thirty or so employees dealt a death blow to the town. The disaster could have been the result of inadequate water to fight the fire. A news article in 1904 said “water is so scarce that, in order to operate the mill, water has to be hauled from the Neches River,” a mile distant.

    Following the fire, the company sold its Emporia and Doucette mills to Thompson-Tucker Lumber Company, which owned mills in Polk and Trinity counties.

    Today, there are no remnants of Emporia except for a cemetery behind a convenience store on U.S. Highway 59. The cemetery contains a large number of unmarked graves with pieces of petrified wood and native rock to mark their location.

    The oldest marked grave is that of a Waltman child who was born December 11, 1880, and died August 14, 1882.

    Cemetery officials said a long-standing legend claims a black cemetery lies in the thick woods around the graveyard, but no signs of it have been found.

    The Emporia sawmill supposedly stood beside what is now the Union Pacific railroad crossing of Maynard Street at milepost 106 in South Diboll. So far, no one has located the purported mass grave at Emporia, but it is rumored to lie somewhere east of U.S. 59 in Diboll’s South Meadow area.

    © Bob Bowman
    March 18-24, 2007 Column, updated July 2, 2012
    More Bob Bowman's East Texas >
    A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers

    (Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 50 books about East Texas history and folklore. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)
    Bob Bowman's East Texas >
    "All Things Historical" archive >

    Related Topics:

    East Texas
    Texas Towns
    Texas Ghost Towns
    Texas
    Texas Hotels


    Bob Bowman's
    East Texas
    Order Here

    Custom Search
    Book Hotel Here - Expedia Affiliate Network

    CITY SEARCH


    TEXAS ESCAPES CONTENTS
    HOME | TEXAS ESCAPES ONLINE MAGAZINE | HOTELS | SEARCH SITE
    TEXAS TOWN LIST | TEXAS GHOST TOWNS | TEXAS COUNTIES

    Texas Hill Country | East Texas | Central Texas North | Central Texas South | West Texas | Texas Panhandle | South Texas | Texas Gulf Coast
    TRIPS | STATES PARKS | RIVERS | LAKES | DRIVES | FORTS | MAPS

    Texas Attractions
    TEXAS FEATURES
    People | Ghosts | Historic Trees | Cemeteries | Small Town Sagas | WWII | History | Texas Centennial | Black History | Art | Music | Animals | Books | Food
    COLUMNS : History, Humor, Topical and Opinion

    TEXAS ARCHITECTURE | IMAGES
    Courthouses | Jails | Churches | Gas Stations | Schoolhouses | Bridges | Theaters | Monuments/Statues | Depots | Water Towers | Post Offices | Grain Elevators | Lodges | Museums | Rooms with a Past | Gargoyles | Cornerstones | Pitted Dates | Stores | Banks | Drive-by Architecture | Signs | Ghost Signs | Old Neon | Murals | Then & Now
    Vintage Photos

    TRAVEL RESERVATIONS | USA | MEXICO

    Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Contributors | Staff | Contact TE
    Website Content Copyright ©1998-2011. Texas Escapes - Blueprints For Travel, LLC. All Rights Reserved