More than a century ago, local business leaders invested in a paper mill to use scraps left from the timber mills. The Orange Paper Company, later the Yellow Pine Paper Mill helped pioneer the paper industry in the South.
Ken Steppe, a retired paper mill manager, gave a history of the mill Tuesday night during a quarterly meeting of the Orange County Historical Society. He also brought copies of old photographs and Sanford maps to show the mill, which was at the west end of Front Street.
Steppe had a long career in the paper industry and came to Orange in the 1960s with the construction of the Owens-Illinois mill, now International Paper.
Investors in Orange Paper Company included William H. Stark, Dr. Edgar Brown, Leopold Miller, J.W. Link, F.H. Farwell, and others.
An expansion in 1910 included a capital investment of more than $1 million of money, which would be about $27 million today.
The mill developed new processes that were used by others for paper mills across the South, Steppe said.
The mill could produce eight tons of paper a day. He said the International Paper plant in Orange County today produces about 2,000 tons a day of liner board, which is the outside of cardboard boxes.
The original Orange paper mill grew enough that in the 1920s, the plant site had about 30 people living there. The site had ning single family dwellings along with a “tenement” and a restaurant.
The Yellow Pine Paper Mill ceased operations in 1931. Another company bought it but was not able to keep it running. Equitable Bag bought the mill about 1936. Equitable operated the mill for more than 60 years before it closed.
An arsonist burned the mill in the early 2000s.
Steppe’s presentation was part of a community “show and tell.” Carroll Holt talked about collecting scrap materials during World War II to help the war effort. People then collected paper, old tires, old pots and pans, old rubber boots, toothpaste tubes, and even burned-out lightbulbs to be recycled into goods for the military.
Ed Henry brought samples of his hand-carved wooden items made from local cypress. He said he would buy the wood scraps from Tracy Bland, who owned a small sawmill. When Henry was young, Bland likved at the end of Jack’s Island Road, bordered on three sides by cypress swam and on the other side by Little Cypress Bayou.
The Orange County Historical Society meets quarterly and publishes Las Sabinas, a historic journal.
-Margaret Toal, KOGT-
Kenneth Steppe will give a historical talk on the history of the city and county of Orange at the weekly meeting of Golden K Kiwanis on Wednesday, February 12, at 9:45 a.m. in the Salvation Army Meeting Room, 1950 MLK Drive, Orange, TX 77630. The actual speaker will talk from about 10 a.m. until 10:30 or 10:45 a.m. Light refreshments will be furnished by Karen McKinney. Coffee will also be provided. Meetings are held every Wednesday at same time and place.