A GLIMPSE OF OAKDALE BETWEEN 1890 AND 1925
© By W. T. Block
(click here for W. T. Block web page)
Oakdale, that sparkle in Allen Parish's halo, is a
relative newcomer to Southwest Louisiana history, having been founded as
Dunnville in 1890. In 1893, when the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern
Railroad came to town, its name was changed to Oakdale.
By 1905 Oakdale could boast of 500 inhabitants; its
school had an enrollment of 150 scholars under Supt. T. J. Hargrove. There were
also 3 religious congregations in town - Catholic, Methodist, and Baptist. And
there were also 10 stores in town, 2 hotels, a livery stable, a physician and
dentist, 4 fraternal orders, telegraph and telephone facilities, but no
In 1925 none of Oakdale's 5 sawmills could be seen
from the downtown area, but their smoke was visible above the treetops. The
Calcasieu River Lumber Co., located a mile northwest of town, was built in
1896, soon to be on the Santa Fe Railroad to Pitkin, and its mill cut 85,000
feet of lumber daily on its 66" double circular saw. In 1904, the mill
shipped 30,000,000 feet of lumber. It employed 175 mill hands and loggers who
lived in 80 tenant houses. In 1905 Charles Lee was the sawmill foreman and R.
H. Harang was the planer foreman.
The Oakdale Lumber Co. mill was built in 1900, 1 mile
north of town on the St. Louis Railroad, and the plant shipped 26,000,000 feet
of lumber in 1904. It also employed 175 mill hands and loggers, cutting 85,000
feet daily on its double circular saws. H. T. Miller was the sawmill foreman at
Oakdale, and William Tempner was the planer foreman.
In 1925 the sawmill of Forest Lumber Co. was located
northeast of the city, and it cut 70,000 feet of lumber daily. The Bowman-Hicks
sawmill was located southeast of town, and it was the newest and most modern of
the pine mills. West of the city, the plant of Hillyer, Deutsch, Edwards Inc.
cut 150,000 feet daily of hardwood, making it, with its 2 bandsaws, the largest
hardwood mill in Louisiana.
Sawmilling had become the principal industry in
Oakdale, employing about 1,000 persons with a weekly payroll of $60,000.
Oakdale's five mills shipped 750 box cars of lumber every month, and the town
had become the largest lumber shipping center in the south.
As more timber was cut out, and large acreages were
cleared for agriculture, the parish farmers organized the Oakdale Fruit and
Vegetable Growers Cooperative to buy and market their products. Already 100
acres of cabbage had been planted, along with 100 acres of Irish potatoes, and
200 acres of sweet potatoes. One company operated a yam curing plant in
Oakdale, as the growing of yams became a major crop throughout Southwest
Louisiana. Another success of the parish cooperative was to locate a large
creamery in Oakdale, where many Allen Parish dairymen sold their milk; and an
all-out effort was made to upgrade the parish's cattle, sheep, hogs and
By 1925, the live-wire Oakdale Chamber of Commerce,
with its 125 business house members, had located a branch of the Calcasieu
Marine bank in Oakdale; they also organized a parish fair to exhibit their
produce and livestock in October. Although lumber was still the mainstay of the
city's economy, its citizens were already preparing for the day when the
marketable timber would be cut out.
Oakdale is still a vibrant and bustling city
approaching 10,000 persons, still surrounded by countless acres of timber and
meadowlands, and proud to be one of the key communities in the parish. And no
one can predict that its future is anything
other than bright and promising.