Mendocino Redwood Company


Southern Redwood Company

If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.

  W. E. Hickson (1803 - 1870)

The successor to the Finkbine-Guild Lumber Company was the Southern Redwood Company (1928-1929). Very little is known of this part of Rockport history. We do know that Southern Redwood had ties to the Goodyear family, both in Buffalo, New York and Bogalusa, Louisiana. In 1887, Charles W. Goodyear (1846 - 1911) banded together with his brother Frank H. (1849 - 1907) to form what eventually would be called the Goodyear Lumber Company. The brothers, C. W. and F. H., who owned vast forests of hemlock in Pennsylvania, were considered prominent lumber barons of the Gay Nineties, with mansions on "Millionaires' Row" in Buffalo and powerful friends like Grover Cleveland, Governor of New York and later the only President of the United States to serve two non-consecutive terms (1885–1889 and 1893–1897). The Goodyears made their money during a period when there was no minimum wage and no income tax. The U.S. Congress had enacted the nation's first income tax law in 1862 to support the Civil War. They eliminated the income tax in 1872 and it was only the 16th Amendment to the Constitution that permanently re-instated it in 1913.

When their forests in Pennsylvania were exhausted, the middle-aged Goodyear brothers, C. W. at 56 and F. H. at 52, bought up thousands of acres of long leaf virgin pine in Louisiana. The tract of virgin timber was a "triangular area running approximately seventy miles east and west and extending north one hundred and thirty miles" (Goodyear 127). Eventually they founded the town of Bogalusa, Louisiana in 1906 when they erected a sawmill on the Bogue Lusa (Dark Waters) Creek. From this start-up operation emerged the Great Southern Lumber Company (1908-1938), reportedly the largest sawmill in the world until it ceased operations. In 1950, C. W. II wrote the story of Bogalusa and the company that his father and uncle had built. The land they purchased had originally belonged to the Choctaw Indians, who had been relegated to a reservation in Oklahoma. This, of course, was a story repeated over and over again in 19th century American history. Chief Joseph (1840-1904) of the Nez Perce, who also saw his people sent to a reservation in Oklahoma where many died of malaria and starvation, was eloquent in speaking about the difference between his people and the white men who displaced them on the earth:

I have carried a heavy load on my back ever since I was a boy. I realized then that we could not hold our own with the white men. We were like deer. They were like grizzly bears. We had a small country. Their country was large. We were contented to let things remain as the Great Spirit Chief made them. They were not, and would change the rivers and mountains if they did not suit them.

As if to prove Chief Joseph's point, C. W. II recounts the forest story through white men's eyes as wilderness would soon give way to a sawmill, houses, businesses, churches, saloons, and a brand new town. "Choctaw Indians, hostile and shrewd," writes Goodyear, "had guarded it long and well and, they left it as they had found it—a forest wilderness of magnificent expanse, its riches waiting to be tapped" (Goodyear 1). The Goodyears definitely had their tap shoes on and their act did not include leaving the land as they had found it. Like many Americans of their generation, they saw the land in terms of conquest and exploitation. This, of course, was long before forest science and forest management saw their way into university curricula, long before timber harvest plans and habitat conservation plans. Moreover, the Goodyear brothers had not mellowed with age and wealth. "Making money from the production of lumber was still in their blood," Goodyear explains. "So they carried on in Louisiana what they had started in Pennsylvania, but on an even greater scale" (Goodyear 69). Neither of the brothers actually lived to see the so-called "Magic City" that their sawmill had created. In earliest days, however, it seems to have resembled not so much the Magic Kingdom as Dodge City and the Wild West. "Revolver shots were often exchanged and sometimes there were 'killins', " writes Goodyear. "The lynching of a Negro, who perhaps was innocent of any wrongdoing, caused greater tenseness in the relations between the whites and colored. Bogalusa became 'the toughest town in the country" (Goodyear 83).

Two of C. W.'s sons, Yale graduates, carried on the next phase of the Goodyear lumber business. It was then that the story of Bogalusa and that of Rockport intersects. On July 1 1928, all of the lands and timber owned by Finkbine-Guild Company were deeded to Southern Redwood Company (Rockport Records, ctn 4, folder 7-1). Anson Conger (1877 - 1964) and C.W II (1883 -1967) were installed as president and vice-president of Southern Redwood. Southern Redwood took out a second mortgage on the Rockport property through Great Southern Lumber Company. Cottoneva Lumber Company, however, still held the original deed of trust and Finkbine-Guild's first mortgage on that same property. Whatever the Goodyear plan for the mill at Rockport was, it did not work. Southern Redwood was staring not just the Finkbine-Guild creditors in the face but something much bigger—the Great Depression. Like the national economy as a whole, the timber and lumber industries started spiraling downward. Housing construction stalled, mills closed, and mill workers joined the new class of unemployed Americans, often homeless and transient. Eventually E. T. Dusenbury, the trustee for Cottoneva Lumber Company, foreclosed on the Rockport property. E. C. Cronwall was a friend of the Dusenbury's and apparently brokered the original deal between them and Finkbine-Guild. "I never did know, nor could I learn," Cronwall writes in a letter dated 14 February 1945, "just what the arrangement was between the Southern Redwood Company and the Finkbine-Guild Company, but whatever this arrangement was, as so far as it concerned the Rockport plant and timberlands, was all subject to the Finkbine-Guild Lumber Company bonds, and when the mortgage securing those bonds was foreclosed it, of course, wiped out the equity of the Southern Redwood Company as well as that of Finkbine-Guild Lumber Company" (Rockport Records, ctn 4, folder 7-1).




Primary Source

Rockport Redwood Company Records, BANC MSS 70/184c, The Bancroft Library (Berkeley, CA).

Secondary Source

Goodyear II, Charles W. Bogalusa Story. Buffalo, New York: Privately Printed, 1950. Transcribed for the Web by Patricia Darlene McClendon (© 2002).


 Mendocino Redwood Company - Ukiah, California