Harrison Joins Himmelberger

Seemingly, while in the prime of his life and in good health, Isaac Himmelberger was suddenly stricken with an illness and died July 16, 1900. John H. Himmelberger became president and resident manager. 

Buffington and Morehouse was still the site for their saw mills. Besides cutting timber and making dimension lumber, a planning mills making char squares, draw stock, making custom parts for furniture manufactures, a spoke factory, and other items.

Lumber was shipped out to the building industry and they were supplying other mills with timber. Himmelberger was national known and within a thirty year had grown from a small crude sawmill to become one of the largest factories in its industry.

In 1902, Luce was no longer connected to the Morehouse operations.  That year, W. Harrison acquired the greater part of the Luce interest to form Himmelberger-Harrison Lumber Company. The reach of the company continued to grow. They made acquisitions and dispositions of land that included ownership, warrants and leases to lands in southeast Missouri and into northern Arkansas.

During 1900 W. J. Harrison joined the company and moved the corporate offices to Cape Girardeau. Leaving a career in railroads, he became vice-president and treasurer when he realized how large I. Himmelberger and Co. had grown.

During 1907-1908, Himmelberger and Harrison built the Himmelberger and Harrison Building at 400 Broadway in Cape Girardeau. In a story on July 17, 1906, the Cape Girardeau Daily Republican featured a story declaring the Himmelberger and Harrison Steel Structure the first of its kind in Southeast Missouri. The structure was a five-storied red brick, H-shaped building exemplifying the Commercial Building, ca 1850-1950.

During 1907-1908, Himmelberger and Harrison built the Himmelberger and Harrison Building at 400 Broadway in Cape Girardeau. In a story on July 17, 1906, the Cape Girardeau Daily Republican featured a story declaring the Himmelberger and Harrison Steel Structure the first of its kind in Southeast Missouri. The structure was a five-storied red brick, H-shaped building exemplifying the Commercial Building, ca 1850-1950.


           Himmelberger and Harrison 1900

One has difficult realizing the extent of the Himmelberger and Harrison operation in 1900. During the first decade of the nineteenth century, one could walk for sever miles with stacks of rough lumber taller than their heads on either side of them.

From Mill Number 1 (closed by 1919) the lumber was hauled to the various stacks by trucks or elevated tracks. The lumber being stacked from the high tracks; with each layer separated by slim strips of wood to allow air to circulate between the layers to help dry, or cure, the lumber. Lumber Yard 1 (closed by 1919) was much higher than at Lumber Yard Number 2, which was twenty feet tall.

Lumber Yard Number 2 was stacked from the ground from lumber hauled by wagons. This was green lumber fresh from the saw mills. Here, the lumber remained for ninety days to season slowly.  After seasoning for six months, it was considered “bone-Dry,” which later became a trade mark for the company. Lumber Yard Number 2 had a capacity to hold 5, 000,000 feet of lumber.

However, a considerable amount of lumber, especially one inch thick or less, was shipped before three months In the Yard.

 Each mill had a dry kiln where the lumber was place on large trucks and enclosed in an area where the temperature is kept at about 160 decrees. Each section of the kiln was laced with a series of hot pipes. Wood scraps from the mills fired steam boilers to furnish heat.  The heated air in each kiln was circulated by large fans.  By 1910, Himmelberger and Harrison had lost three kilns from fire.

Not all the lumber shipped was air dried or green from the saw mills. Some of it spent ten days in a dry kiln before shipment. Air dried lumber was considered superior to that artificially dried in kilns. 

A Planning Mill was constructed in 1902. Here flooring, ceilings, molding, and about any custom wooden articles wanted for any variety of use was cut. Also in the Planning Mill furnished dimension materials for that part of the operation that worked in hickory products.

Saw Mill Number 2 was constructed in 1904. That was also the year the last of the Billington Mill was moved to Morehouse. This new mill was state-of-the-arts with a capacity to cut 50,000 board feet in a ten hour shift. This was done by a large 30 foot diameter band saw on one side of the mill and a large 20 foot diameter re-saw on the other side.

Belt and chain conveyors carried dimension squares to the Planning Mill where they were cut into the desired product and made ready for shipment. Slabs and offalls (unusable scrape pieces) were conveyed to the boiler area to either be burned to heat the kilns or send to a wood pile that could be used by the citizens of Morehouse for heating and cooking.



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    Having grown up on Little River, I have been fascinated with it. Over the past several years, as a local historian, this area has been a special interest. 

     These areas have been treated much like step-children by Jefferson City and Little Rock. They seem to believe nothing has ever happened here.  Our history has been long and varied. Hope you enjoy my trip.  

    Near Puxico is the swampy Mingo Wildlife Refuge. One hundred and fifty year ago, most of the Little River Valley appeared that way. This valley covering two million acres was part of the largest wetland in America.

    Floods frequently intimated the Valley. Between 1815 and 2011, 15 major floods covered or threatened the area.

    Timber companies came in at the end of the 19th Century to clean cut the forest. Louis Houck, a Cape Girardeau lawyer and railroad builder, envisioned a rail network that covered the wetlands.

    Little River Drainage District (LRDD) Corporation was established in 1907 by an act of the Butler County (MO) Circuit Court. 

    Between 1909 and 1928 the LRDD dug nearly 1000 miles of ditches and constructed 30 miles of levees to drain 1.2 million acres of swamp and overflow land in Southeast Missouri. More dirt was moved than in building the Panama Canal.

    One surprise I had was the number of settlements in the area before 1811-1812. Another was the water connection between the Mississippi River and the St. Francis and I had no idea that Little River had enough current to run a grist mill.

    Norman Vickers


    January 2015
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    Little River's Geographic Past