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Industries That Built the City

THE first industrial effort in Beaumont was the killing of cattle for hides and tallow. The carcasses, which are worth so much today, were thrown into the Neches river to be swept on out into the gulf and become food for fish and carrion fowl. Today such a waste would be considered criminal, but was it then?

Cattle multiplied in the forests and on the coastal plains in great numbers, practically without care or shelter, and only with what feed nature afforded. The market for beef cattle was limited, and the only way to reach one was to drive them overland to New Orleans. There were no great packing houses to absorb the surplus, or cold storage plants, no refrigerator cars, no refrigerator ships to reach distant markets. The cattleman was much in the same position as Daniel Defoe placed Robinson Crusoe when he landed on a lonely island. Crusoe needed plank with which to build a house, but having nothing at hand but an adz, was forced to hew away all the log but the one plank in the center. It was an enormous waste of timber, but the plank was worth more to him than the tree.

It was the same way with the cattleman. The meat was valuable if there was anyone to consume it. But there was always a market for the hides and tallow, and they could be shipped to any part of the world. He took what he could use and threw the other away, as Robinson Crusoe did the greater part of the tree. Any other course would have allowed the cattle to die of old age.

The Neches river made an admirable open sewer, for there were practically no inhabitants along its banks be offended at the floating carcasses. Little did the primitive butcher who was rendering up tallow to grease bearings in machinery and provide candles to light the humble cabins, dream that within less than a century there would be extracted from the ground within three miles of where he had the cattle corralled more lubricating oil and kerosene for lighting than the entire world was producing in tallow. Such dreams were left for future generations.

So far as is known, the next attempt at an industry in Beaumont was the purchase by a man named Ogden of 50 acres with the view of manufacturing brick. Just what became of his efforts is not known; but the Beaumont Brick company, with its plant on the east side of the Neches river, is one of the biggest brick manufacturing concerns in the state.

The next step was the manufacture of shingles, which was a very slow process in those days. Logs were sawn by hand into the proper lengths and after being split with frees were then dressed down with hand drawing-knives.

This industry gradually drifted into sawmills, and they furnished the first foundation for a real industrial center, although hardly sufficient to make a great city. But there were fortunes made out of the lumber industry, and many of these captains of industry invested freely in the upbuilding of other institutions.

Outside the lumber industry there were no great strides made in an industrial way for some years. Brick yards northwest of the city furnished employment for a number of men, the building of railroads with accompanying shops, create d quite an industry within themselves, while the demand from the sawmills brought about the building of iron foundries and machine shops.

It was not until January 10, 1901, that the great industrial era opened up that was to build a city in a score of years. On that date the Lucas gusher came in with a roar at Spindletop, and the future of the sawmill city was made secure. Oil brought to Beaumont many of the allied industries which manufactured machinery, tanks, tank cars, and other equipment. The manufacture of oil well machinery and supplies is one of the big industries in Beaumont today. The iron and brass manufacturing business is now represented by nine industries, exclusive of machine and repair shops. These institutions have a combined capital of $1,215,000, and annual sales are near $4,000,000. Approximately 600 men are employed, who receive $900,000 annually .

But back of the oil industry came rice, which resulted in the construction of four of the largest mills in the United States. The planting of rice began in the 90's and has grown into an important industry. Feed manufacturing mills followed closely behind.

Realizing from oil other than the benefits accruing from pumping it from the earth was slow. Northern refineries had been accustomed to a much lighter grade, and condemned the heavy coastal crudes as being unfit for refining purposes. This theory was soon exploded, and an experimental still was erected. This was followed by others, and from them grew the great plants of the Magnolia Petroleum company in Beaumont, the Gulf Refining company, the Texas company (two plants) and the Pure Oil Refinery in other parts of the county. One of the Texas company plants became the largest roofing manufacturing plant in the world, asphaltum, which formed the basis of Spindletop oil, being used in its manufacture.

Oil products in the way of kerosene, gasoline, lubricating oil, greases, paraffine and laxatives, are shipped to every country in the civilized world. A great deal of it is carried out in enormous tank ships, while some is canned to be transported across rivers and over mountains in China, Africa, Persia, India, South American and many other countries where railroads and waterways do not reach the interior. Asphaltum is manufactured in large quantities to be used in building streets and roads.

During the World War wooden shipbuilding was developed, and hundreds of men were employed in those plants when the German submarines menaced shipping on the seven seas. Beaumont retained one large shipbuilding plant from this effort, which is equipped with a marine railway and facilities for building both wooden and steel vessels. It also secured at the same time a tank car and structural steel plant and a plant manufacturing steel drums for oil containers.

In Beaumont there are approximately 135 manufacturing plants turning out a great variety of products, among which are: Oils, furs, candy, sheet metal products, ships, tank cars, tanks, oil drums, rice, feed, bakery products, bottle d goods, bags, boxes, crates, brick, boilers, floor sweeping compounds, jewelry, cigars, oil well rigs and supplies, refinery supplies and equipment, mattresses, brooms, awnings, ice, lumber, shingles, printing, auto trailers, medicine, mill work, creosoting products, marble and granite materials, milk products, barrels, optical goods, cabinet work, macaroni, packing house supplies, and others.

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