And Now You Know: Once Orange was a rich little town

Published 3:11 pm Saturday, March 23, 2019

In 1877, Henry J. Lutcher and G. Bedell Moore moved from Pennsylvania to Orange. In a relatively short time, they had in operation a sawmill that could deliver a daily capacity of between 80,000 and 100,000 board feet of lumber.

Stark Foundation, Henry J Lutcher

Others would soon join Lutcher and Moore in the timber and lumber business in Orange. From the late 1880s to the 1930s, in the part of Orange that was the west bank of the Sabine River, there were mills operating that consisted of the upper and lower mills of Lutcher and Moore, the Orange Lumber Company, the mills of David R. Wingate, Alexander Gilmer, T. Bancroft and Sons, Miller-Link, Excelsior Mills that made both lumber and shingles operated by J. Jordan, the L. Miller Shingle Mill, Robert Jackson, lumber and shingles, John McKinnen and Company shingle mill, A.E. Smith Shingle and Saw Mill and the Yellow Pine Paper Mill that used large quantities of waste from the saw and shingle mills.

Outside of Orange were the lumber camps and sawmills at Lemonville, Texla, and Remlig, (Remlig was owned by Alexander Gilmer and was Gilmer spelled backward)

Millions of board feet of lumber and shingles were turned out by the mills and millions of dollars were going into the pockets of the lumbermen and the banks of Orange.

An interesting article, in a July 1912 issue of the Orange Daily Leader, gave some financial information about money in Orange.

“Orange has the biggest little thing of any city in the state regardless of population,” the article stated.

The “biggest little thing” was the Orange Land and Trust. It was promoted by Charles D. Dickensheets of Beaumont and A.M.H. Stark of Orange.

First Financial Bank. Here yesterday, here today, here tomorrow

With a capital stock of $100,000 and a surplus of $100,000, it seemed to be a modest small trust company. However, it could back big financial projects due to having individual “responsibility” from wealthy Orange citizens.

A few of the backers were Mrs. H.J. Lutcher with wealth of $25,000,000, Colonel W.H. Stark with an estimated wealth of $15,000,000, Dr. E.W. Brown, also worth about $15,000,000, the estate of the late Alexander Gilmer was estimated at $6,000,000, J. Dilbert’s wealth was about $5,000,000 and L. Miller with a worth of $1,000,000. These six people had an aggregate worth estimated at $67, 000,000 that was available backing for the small trust company.

One million 1912 dollars equates to $26,059,381.44 in 2019. Today a similar institution would have a backing of nearly $1,750,000,000.

It was once said that Orange had more wealth than Wall Street and that Green Avenue, a shell street lined with mansions, had more millionaires per capita than any other city in America.

Maybe that was true?

“And now you know.”