How a sawmill helped win WWII

Railcars crisscrossed the forested Louisiana landscape in the 1930s as dozens of sawmills like the one in Longleaf harvested the massive virgin longleaf pine tree.

The Longleaf sawmill opened in the 1890s.

Trains were used to haul equipment and logs between forests and the mill. Several of those trains are still on the property, parked in the places they were abandoned.

On Valentine’s Day, 1969, the red stop button on the control panel was pushed for the last time. A giant blade stopped spinning. Equipment parked, lumber stacked, the yard fell silent with a final puff of smoke. Up to 300 employees went home, never to return.

“The story is, they just came in and said ‘Boys, go home. We’re closing.’ That’s it,” said Claudia Troll, Museum Director. “And it was such a shock, that we even have places in the sawmill where the lunch pail is still sitting there where it was left.”

But, during its heyday, the mill played a role in world history.

The heart of the longleaf pine was a tough wood. It didn’t splinter. And, it could withstand saltwater! For that reason, timbers like the longleaf pine was used to build thousands of Higgins Landing Craft.

The museum at the mill has letters from owner R.D. Crowell to boatmaker Andrew Higgins and a telegram to President Roosevelt about how hard the workers at the mill were working and how the supply of longleaf pine was dwendeling.

But those boats were credited with helping to win the war.

Long Leaf was a company town until the pines were gone.

There was housing avaliable for families who worked at the mill, a store, a post office and a doctor.

Most of the houses are gone but the mill is still intact.