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Elizabeth in Allen Parish, Louisiana — The American South (West South Central)
 

Town of Elizabeth

 
 
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The Elizabeth Mill

During Louisiana's timber boom, the Industrial Lumber Company purchased tens of thousands of acres of virgin pine forests. In 1907 The company founded the town of Elizabeth and began the construction of a huge mill in the town. Operations at the mill began in 1909. When running a single shift (and the mill often ran a double shift - meaning they ran day and night), the huge Elizabeth ill produced a daily capacity of 160,000 board feet. Elizabeth quickly became the company's headquarters because of the mill's production and the town's proximity to the railroad line that connected Elizabeth to two other Industrial-owned mills in Oakdale.

A Father to Many

At the turn of the century, many lumber owners saw themselves as much more than business figures. In their eyes, the ownership of a mill meant providing work and paychecks for poor backwoodsmen and former sharecroppers but it also meant overseeing the lives of their workers and their families. To do this, many owners carefully oversaw the development company town around the mill. Company towns often included a school, a church, and even a theater: All of these amenities were designed to improve the mill worker's way of life. For some, this approach was merely an extension of the lumber owner's misguided sense

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of control, and for others it was proof that the owner wanted his workers happy.

A Planned Oasis

Elizabeth held all the components of a town built to feed the lumber mill: office buildings, houses, stores, and a modern hospital. Elizabeth also had exceptional recreational facilities, including a civic auditorium, a park complete with an open-air pavilion, and a golf course. To distinguish Elizabeth from other ramshackle, unrefined lumber towns, the company held strict standards for its buildings, including their company houses. In order to encourage community involvement and socialization, every company house included an open front porch.

"Builders, not spoilers."

In its day, Industrial Lumber described itself as "builders, not spoilers" and took great pains to ensure the business would be profitable after all the virgin pine had been cut. Unlike many other companies during that time, Industrial Lumber did not quickly clear-cut the land for the valuable heart pine. Instead, it spread the cutting of the 70,000 acres over several years. In addition, the owners built other operations at the mill to use the less valuable and unwanted pieces of pine. To prevent the land around Elizabeth from losing its value after logging, Industrial Lumber also established experimental farms, a sweet potato curing plant, and a canning plant.

An Era Ends

An

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Era Ends In 1942 Industrial Lumber ceased operations and leased the industrial field to the Calcasieu Paper Company, which in 1926 had opened a paper mill nearby. In 1946, C. G. McGhee's Jacksonville Paper bought the Calcasieu Paper Company and took on Industrial Lumber's lease of the town. In 1955 McGhee purchased the town outright. In essence, for nearly ten years Elizabeth was owned by a single man. In 1964 Governor Jimmie Davis signed a proclamation of incorporation for Elizabeth, making it an entity impossible to be owned.

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A Grocery for a Growing Town

The Commissary

The company town had many parts, but the commissary was its heart.Mill workers and their families bought all they needed at the company store. "Without leaving the building, a person could buy a pound of bacon, a box of shotgun shells, a gallon of kerosene, a rocking chair and a pair of overalls," one person wrote.

Elizabeth's Heart

A.B. Finke's store was Elizabeth's heart. Around 1910, A.B. Finke arrived from the coal mines in the east to manage the company store. The massive store held a soda fountain, maintained a full-time druggist, and sold tickets for the company-owned theater. The building had hardware supplies and a complete men's and ladies' apparel department. A meat market and adjoining grocery store handled foodstuffs, and upstairs townsfolk

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could square several accounts at the makeshift bank and payment center.

The Lure of the Company Store

Commissaries drew not only local townspeople but also people traveling from some distance. Since the mill shipped its timber out on rails, the commissary had access to cargo shipped in by train. The commissary also had the space to keep items on its shelves. As a result in many cases, the company commissary stood larger and better stocked than any store in nearby towns.

Since it was so well stocked, many people in the surrounding community made a trip to Finke's part of their weekly ritual. Especially on Sunday's, folks traveled to Finke's to but a week's worth of groceriesand to catch up on the news of the day. Perhaps the most well-known of these pilgrims were Locial and Lulu, two sisters from a rural area near Elizabeth who came to Finke's each Saturday to shop, visit and enjoy ice cream at the commissary's soda shop.

Its Happening at Finke's

Throughout the years Finke's store served as everything from a place for workers to collect their pay to a shopping center for the town, but perhaps the most important function of Finke's store was its social one. People visited while they milled around the store and gossiped while they stood outside its doors. Business deals, local meetings, rotary club functions, and even political speeches all happened on the

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platforms and streets adjacent to Finke's. If something was happening in Elizabeth, it was bound to be happening at Finke's... and if it didn't happen at Finke's that's where people were headed to talk about it.

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Elizabeth Hospital A Town Hall Connected to a Rich History

This town hall built in a Colonial Revival style once served as a hospital for the Industrial Lumber Company. In 1924 Industrial Lumber built the two-story structure to care for the company's workers and the townspeople of Elizabeth. The building contained four large wards, two for white patients, male and female, and two for African-American patients, male and female. A number of private recovery rooms and patient dressing rooms allowed the hospital staff - three doctors and two nurses - to easily care for patients. The staff utilized X-ray machines and an incredible array of up-to-date devices. The state-of-the-art operating rooms and sterilization rooms earned the hospital a stellar reputation.

Since construction, the building has received only minor alterations. The first floor of the building currently serves as the town's municipal center and the second floor serves as a museum. The museum's collection includes pieces of the hospital's equipment, the large projector from the company-owned theater, and other keepsakes connecting the company yo the town's past.

The Tales the Walls Could Tell

Over the years, workers in the building and several visitors have reported a number of strange occurrences. For instance, people say that at night they hear the voices of little girls chiming in the dark or a faint conversation between a woman and young boy. They claim to have seen as unidentified woman pass the second-floor window and an unseen hand adjusts a heavy curtain. Even when the building is empty, people swear they've heard footsteps and hushed voices in the hospital's hallways.
One Elizabeth mayor also experienced an unexplained event one night while brewing a pot of coffee downstairs in the kitchen. Alone in the building, he heard what sounded like someone walking upstairs. Surprised and concerned, the mayor climbed the stairs to investigate the source of the sound. No one was there. When he came back downstairs he found the coffee pot - the same one he securely placed on the counter - in the middle of the room shattered into pieces. He couldn't explain what force picked up the pot and smashed it on the floor.
 
Erected by Louisiana Myths and Legends Byways.
 
Location. 30° 51.905′ N, 92° 47.733′ W. Marker is in Elizabeth, Louisiana, in Allen Parish. Marker is on Poplar Street near Cedar Street, on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 230 Poplar Street, Elizabeth LA 70638, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 6 other markers are within 13 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. SSG Timothy Bruce Cole, Jr. - Bronze Star with Valor (approx. 0.4 miles away); Old Confederate Military Road (approx. 6˝ miles away); SSG Timothy B. Cole, Jr. (approx. 8.6 miles away); Vietnam Memorial (approx. 8.6 miles away); Sgt. Leroy Johnson (approx. 8.6 miles away); Old Camp Ground Cemetery (approx. 12.4 miles away).
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceSettlements & Settlers

 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on November 8, 2018. This page originally submitted on October 20, 2018, by Cajun Scrambler of Assumption, Louisiana. This page has been viewed 29 times since then. Photos:   1. submitted on October 20, 2018.   2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on November 8, 2018.
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