all the industries we have in East
Texas, few have the history and public appreciation as a paper
mill at Lufkin.
This year, the
mill -- owned today by Abitibi-Consolidated -- marked the anniversary
of the startup of a paper machine which gave Texas newspapers their
first home-grown source of newsprint. As part of a $230 million
renovation, the 60-year-old No. 1 paper machine is being replaced
by a newer, modern paper machine. In 1940, the Lufkin
mill and its first paper machine became the genesis for the South's
papermaking industry, and ended the depression for a cluster of
counties in deep East
Ernest Kurth had been trying to build a paper mill in East
Texas since the 1920s, but was unable to generate sufficient
support when the depression settled over the region In 1936, he
met Georgia chemist Charles Holmes Herty at a Beaumont
agricultural conference where Herty was promoting his concept of
making newsprint from southern pine trees. The pine fiber had long
been considered unsuitable for paper because the pine rosin gummed
up the papermaking machinery.
In his Georgia
laboratory, Herty had developed a practical way of neutralizing
the rosin, largely by using alum in the papermaking process. He
also made several successful trial runs on a paper machine in Canada.
Intrigued by Herty's efforts, Kurth sold the idea of building a
pioneer paper mill to Texas newspaper publishers dependent on foreign
sources for their newspapers and East
Texas timberland owners anxious to sell their pulpwood. Hundreds
of deep East Texas families also invested their money in Kurth's
On January 14, 1939, ground was broken for Southland Paper Mills,
Inc. in a cotton field east of Lufkin
and a year later No. 1 made the South's first southern pine newsprint.
It was a rocky
beginning, however. Jim Moynihan, a Lufkin
teenager who was employed at the mill in 1940 as a tester, recalled:
"Day after day, I spent six hours scraping pine pitch off the press
roll (of No. 1)."
In a decade
or two, dozens of additional paper mills, many of them using the
Herty process, sprouted across the South and shaped an industry
that gave the region some of its greatest economic growth. Southland
itself added six other paper machines, three at Lufkin
and three at Sheldon, between 1940 and 1976.
remains a major economic contributor in East Texas with more than
$150 million spent annually on payrolls, wood fiber, energy, and
The mill is
also intertwined with the lives of hundreds of deep East
Texas families. Many of the mill's employees today are the children
and grandchildren of the original employees who started the mill
in 1940. However, Charles Holmes Herty, who dreamed of a newsprint
industry in the South, failed to see his dream come true. He died
of heart failure a year and a half before No. 1 made its first paper.
of Herty, Kurth and No. 1 won't be lost in history. The Texas Forestry
Museum in Lufkin
is building a special exhibit room to tell the Southland story.
All Things Historical
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