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Monday, October 20, 2014 8:01:50 am


Ozan Lumber Company

In January, 1891, Messrs. J.H. Bemis and Benjamin Whitaker began moving a mill into Prescott, setting it up on the western outskirts of the town. In April of 1891 the mill began active operations. July 13, the same year, Articles of incorporation were filed and a charter issued by the Secretary of the State of Arkansas in the name of Ozan Lumber Company.

On December 15,1915, the mill ceased to operate under the name of Ozan Lumber Company, at which time Ozan Lumber Company was merged with Grayson-McLeod Company, and a new company operated under the name of Ozan-Graysonia Lumber Company. The Charter of Ozan the Ozan Lumber Company was not surrendered, because there were certain lands and other properties that were not put into the merger. These properties and name of Ozan Lumber Company were retained by the Bemis family.

J.H. BemisJ.W. BemisW.N. BemisJ.R. Bemis

In 1901 a wholesale office was operated under the name of Ozan Lumber Company. J.H. Bemis, W.N. Bemis and J.W. Bemis operated this under a partnership. J.H. Bemis died in 1918, and the business was continued by W.N. Bemis and J.W. Bemis. J.W. Bemis died in 1922, and the partnership ceased to exist at that time.

J.R. Bemis went to Graysonia, Arkansas in 1919 to learn the lumber business as an employee of Ozan-Graysonia Lumber Company. He returned to St. Lois in March 1920, and operated a commission lumber business with a Mr. Don Lambert. After gaining some experience, he went to work for Ozan Lumber Company on July 1, 1921. After J.W. Bemis' death and dissolution of the partnership which had existed between J.W. Bemis and W.N. Bemis, J.R. Bemis continued with the name of Ozan Lumber Company under a partnership with his father, W.N. Bemis, operating a wholesale lumber business in St. Louis. This business continued until July 1929.

In July 1929, J.R. Bemis and his cousin, Hubert Whitaker, came to Prescott, bringing the name "Ozan Lumber Company" with them. In 1929 the present Ozan Lumber Company was formed and incorporated by Messrs. J.R. Bemis, W.N. Bemis and Hubert Whitaker with $25,000.00 in cash put into the business by J.R. Bemis.

J.R. Bemis and Mr. Whitaker decided they would like to set up their office in Prescott to do a wholesale lumber business, and possibly branch out into manufacturing a little later. In 1930 the manufacturing business started by Hubert Whitaker and J.R. Bemis began operating. J.R. Bemis was in charge of production and Hubert Whitaker in charge of sales. This operation comprised a Corley tractor mill. On July 5, 1933, the Corley tractor mill was torn down, and replaced by a two story mill, which burned down on July 31, 1936.

In the meantime, a mill was being operated by the Ozan Lumber Company at Whelen Springs. Construction on a mill at Delight began in 1936, but the loss of the Prescott mill severely hampered construction of the Delight mill. Yet it was finally completed and began operation on January 1, 1937.

In 1938 the Whelen Springs operation was closed down, and construction began on a mill at Rosboro, Arkansas. The Rosboro mill began operating in 1939, and was a feeder plant for the Delight mill; the lumber moving via Missouri Pacific Lines.

Reconstruction of the Prescott mill had not begun until after the Delight mill was put into operation in 1937, and was not completed until early 1938.

After the death of W.N. Bemis in 1935, Ozan-Graysonia Lumber Company merged with Ozan Lumber Company, and stockholders of the former corporation became stockholders of Ozan Lumber Company. It was through this merger that the number of stockholders grew to a figure of approximately 90, and has remained at approximately that figure since.

In the merger with Ozan-Graysonia Lumber Company, Ozan Lumber Company acquired four retail lumber yards, located at Prescott, Hope, Arkadelpha, and Nashville, Arkansas, and about 52,000 aces of timber growing land. The retail lumber yards were disposed of in 1941.

Ozan Lumber Company began acquiring timber growing land in the early 1930's. D.K. Bemis, a cousin of J.R. Bemis, followed Ozan Lumber Company in 1935, and took charge of the land and timber operations. The company owned approximately 132,000 acres of timber growing land by August 1956, under the operation of its well-established forest management program, augmented by neighboring Tree Farm harvesting which the company actively promoted. There timberland acquisition program had as its ultimate goal a perpetual cut. Under the dirction of D.K. Bemis and T.R. Moberg, Chief Forester for the company, the company was constantly improving its forest stands through replanting and selective harvesting of timber.

D.K. Bemis pioneered the school forest idea, which is now widespread. Through his efforts, Ozan has given the various school districts in this area plots of land, furnished seedlings assisted in the planting of school forests. Many and assisted in the planting of school forests. Many of the school children who assisted in the earlier plantings of the school forests had witnessed one or more cuttings from the plots by the end of 1956. In the sawmill industry, timber growing is one of the most essential parts of the business. Without a strong forestry department, Ozan Lumber Company would have become one of the industries of the past.

As president of Ozan Lumber Company, J.R. Bemis had blazed the trail with many ideas of modern mechanization in the lumber industry. He constantly worked toward a better product for the market, better working conditions for the employees, more complete utilization of the sawlog and economical operation.

The Delight sawmill was destroyed by fire in March 1952. The Rosboro mill placed on a two-shift operation shortly thereafter so that a sufficient volume of lumber would move through the Delight kilns and planing mill to merit their continued operation . To further supply the Delight kilns and planing mill, Ozan leased a sawmill at Antoine, and began operating this plant on October 1, 1952.

The second shift of the Rosboro mill was discontinued on November 1, 1953, and the plant completely closed down on February 7, 1956.

According to the Nevada News, Thursday, August 30, 1956 article, from which the above summary of highlights in the history of the Ozan Lumber Company was taken, the Ozan Lumber Company celebrated its 65th anniversary. At that time plans were under way to concentrate manufacturing at Prescott where a new mill of 30,000,000 board feet annual capacity was being built, embracing Swedish type equipment for high efficiency. The company was employing some 240 persons in the mill operation alone.

In addition to this, some 60 persons were employed by logging contractors. The company also operated the Prescott Motor Company in Prescott, and the Smackover Motor Company in Smackover. Organized in the latter part of the 1800's, has operated under various names and ownerships, but is still operating as part of the Potlatch Corporation.



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