Robert Alexander Long (1850–1934) was a lumber baron, developer, investor, newspaper owner, and philanthropist. He lived most of his life in Kansas City, Missouri and founded Longview, Washington and Longville, Louisiana.
By 1906, Long owned 250,000 acres (1,000 km2) of pine in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana and converted it into 61 lumberyards. As the timber land was deforested in Louisiana, he moved west to the state of Washington and bought 270,000 acres (1,100 km2) of Douglas fir. There he became a pioneer in reforestation. Long eventually owned many acres of land and buildings, spanning the United States from Washington D.C. to the state of Washington.
Long was born December 17, 1850, in Shelbyville, Kentucky, one of nine children born to Samuel M. Long and Margaret Kinkead White. His mother was a cousin of Joseph Clay Stiles Blackburn and Luke P. Blackburn. Three of Long's older brothers, Thomas, E. S. and Belvard, served in the American Civil War but Robert was too young.
Long moved to Columbus, Kansas in 1873 where his uncle, C. J. White, was a banker. In 1874, Long met 19-year-old Martha Ellen Wilson. She was a Quaker and became a school teacher. After a year of courtship the two were married December 16, 1876. A son lived only a few weeks but the couple had two daughters. In 1879, Sally America Long (Ellis) was born, and in 1881 their youngest daughter, Loula Long (Combs) (d. 1971) was born. Long started a hay bale company along his cousin Robert White and a friend, Victor B. Bell; the hay venture failed but the three were able to sell the lumber from the hay sheds. Seeing that lumber was in demand they order more lumber. Business was good and the partners opened more yards. In 1877 the youngest partner, Robert White, died and the remaining partners bought out his share. Robert and Victor formed the Long-Bell Lumber Company in Columbus, Kansas.
While in Columbus he bought 1,520 acres (620 ha) and developed a profitable coal mine with two shafts at Stone City. The location exist only on historical maps, as the town no longer exists today, but was just east of NW 40th street south of the junction of NW Meir road, which is northwest of Columbus.
Long-Bell Lumber Company
In 1887, Robert A. Long and Victor Bell formed the Long-Bell Lumber Company in Columbus, Kansas. The headquarters was moved to Kansas City where it remained until sold.
In 1889, Samuel H. Wilson, Robert's brother-in-law, that began with the company in 1887, took over the retail department, a position he held until his death on October 20, 1903. In 1891, the capital stock was increased to $500,000. The Long-Bell Lumber Company was vertically integrated from the forest to the lumber yard and became the world's largest lumber company in the early 20th century.
Long-Bell Lumber Company filed for bankruptcy in 1934, then filed a reorganization plan in the Kansas City federal court in 1935, after Long's death.
When the railroad entered Louisiana Robert Long was among the earliest to set up shop. He purchased land in many parts of the state to begin lumber harvesting to supply the needs of his giant lumber company.
In 1900, the Long-Bell Lumber Company organized the King-Ryder Lumber Company at Bon Ami, Louisiana. By 1904 the mill was producing 300,000 board feet of lumber daily which made it the largest in the area at the time.
In 1903, Long-Bell organized the Hudson River Lumber Company in DeRidder and built a sprawling mill across the tracks from Washington street. Kansas City Southern Railroad and the Sante Fe Railway ran through Deridder.
Long-Bell bought out the two mills of the Bradley-Ramsey Lumber Company in Lake Charles on March 16, 1906. This included 105,000 acres (42,000 ha) and 36 miles of the Lake Charles and Leesville rails that was renamed the Lake Charles and Northern Railroad. This purchase included seven locomotives and 120 log cars and a total of 58.599 miles of tracks. With the new rail, which formed part of the Atlantic System of the Southern Pacific Company. Long-Bell looked for and found a site along the line for a new mill. In October 1906, a new location (sections 25 and 30, township 5, of range 8 west) was set to be cleared for the Longville Long Leaf Lumber Company and town. A town arose to support the mill that included a three-story, 60-room hotel, 163 cottages for workers, a large commissary with $30,000 worth of supplies, a school, complete machine shop, roundhouse, car repair shop, and blacksmith shop.
Circa 1913, Long-Bell acquired the Ludington Lumber Company and transferred 3000 acres (for $157,000) to shore up the stumpage (uncut lumber) reserve. When the mill burned in 1920, there were an estimated 2500 residents in the town meaning it rivaled Fullerton. With the stumpage reserve dwindled the mill was not rebuilt so the town began to disappear. The planer was converted to a hardwood flooring mill, which was moved to DeRidder in 1927, when all operation at Longville ceased.
He founded the city of Longview, Washington, a "planned city" built in 1923 near two of Long-Bell's lumber mills. He personally donated funds for the city's public library, first high school, train station, YMCA hall and its Monticello Hotel. The mills were advertised as the largest in the world.
A newspaper was planned along with the city and on January 27, 1923 the first issue of Longview News came off the press.
Long was the principal stock holder until his death on March 15, 1934, and in a family trust until 1947. In 1981 the paper won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.
Long was an early investor in the Kansas City Southern Railroad, a source of transportation for his raw material and products. Longview Development Company was formed for handling real estate in Longview, Washington.
Death and legacy
Long died on March 15, 1934. His legacy included a city he built and named, churches which he helped build, 13 lumber mills, 110 retail lumber yards, a sash and door factory, many warehouses, and towns that prospered in part to his businesses.
In Longview, Washington, a bronze bust of Long, by Alonzo Victor Lewis, was placed in the renamed R. A. Long Park on August 24, 1946.
In 1956, International Paper Company (IP) purchased all remaining holdings of the Long-Bell Lumber Company and renamed it IP-Long-Bell. With the lumber depleted and the mill being antiquated, IP-Bell ceased operations in 1960 and the mills were dismantled and sold. Some of the giant old-growth beams were used to build Microsoft-founder Bill Gates’ mansion in Medina on Lake Washington.
The R. A. Long Historical Society was formed in 2006.
In : History
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