Tuesday, July 20, 2021

1916-1941 - The Lumber Mill - J. Ray Arnold

1899 - The Edge Saw Mill

   Elliot Erastus Edge built the Edge Mercantile Store in Taylorville, which targeted the settlements that had been forming in the area and along the Orange Belt Railway.
   He also purchased the Taylor Brothers' sawmill and the long-leaf yellow pine forest land they owned.

1910 - J. Ray Arnold Rides Into Town

   J. Ray Arnold, a sawmill machinery salesman, rode into town in 1910, on horseback, stayed, and would end up marrying Robert Dowling's daughter.


J. Ray Arnold

The Arnold Lumber Mill - A Family Affair

   Arnold then took over Dowling's interest in the sawmill and would later buy out Edge's share of the sawmill.


Early Sawmill in Taylorville Located Along the North Side of Today's Crittenden Ave

Abt. 1912 - Looking Westward along Today's Crittenden Blvd


   "There was a gentlemen's agreement between J. Ray Arnold and E. E. Edge. J. Ray Arnold ran the sawmill, while Edge ran the turpentine business and the mercantile business. They would work together in managing the town.
   This agreement, whether true or not, was honored until the end of the sawmill at which time Edge then ran the town." - Julian Rowe (b. 1915 in Taylorville)

   Under the new ownership, it was destined to become the largest saw mill in the Southeastern United States.

   By this time, J. Ray's two brothers, Baker and Luther had come to town, along with their sister and parents. Together, the Arnold Brothers ran the sawmill:
   J. Ray Arnold - President, General Manager, and Mill Designer
   Baker Arnold - Vice President, Office Manager, and Sales Manager
   Luther Arnold - Secretary, Treasurer, and Supervisor of Milling Operations & Employees

   The Arnolds came of pioneer stock that had wrested Virginia and Kentucky from the wilderness. Then seeking new frontiers to settle, moved to the Southwest and went in for cattle raising.
   The oldest living member was John S. Arnold who had always taken a deep interest in pure bred stock.
   They came to Florida in the early 1900s as winter visitors. Becoming interested in timber lands in the northern section of the state, they were soon attracted to Lake County, the center of what was then an almost unbroken area of long-leaf yellow pine forests. Long-leaf yellow pine was a high demand wood, because of its natural repellent to termites.

   By the 1920s, in Groveland, these brothers had the largest sawmill in the Southeast United States. At it's peak, the mill was a half a mile long and spanned from today's 7/11 Fuel Station to Billy's Meat Market, along the north side of Crittenden Blvd.

   They owned six locomotives and 100 logging cars.

   At the time, it had more timber area, owned more acreage, and had the largest pay roll of any industry in the country at $70,000 per month.
   The Arnolds housed practically all of their workers. They also helped many of their employees, so that the children could graduate from schools and some from colleges.

   At its peak it employed 500 workers.
   The mill produced 5 million board feet of timber every month and even generated its own electricity. Tall smoke stacks poured smoke from furnaces that generated thousands of horsepower of energy.
   For many years,
   Benjamin Franklin Hawkins supervised the logging operations;
   Rufus R. Rhodes the sawmill operations;
   Sidney S. Simpson the mechanical divisions;
   and Emmet C. Palmer the planing and shipping divisions.

1925 - The Sawmill Fire and Reconstruction

   The sawmill burned down on the evening of May 9, 1925 and millions of feet of lumber were burned. The flames climbed hundreds of feet in height and could be seen from miles around, with reports as far away as Leesburg.

   The mill was rebuilt 1926. From the ashes arose even even larger saw mill, with its skyline of over half a mile of large buildings. The mill extended for half a mile along the north side Crittenden Blvd. from today's 7/11 Fuel Station to Billy's Meat Market on S.R. 19.

   It had:
   tall smokestacks, from which poured the smoke from the furnaces that generated thousands of horsepower of energy;
   immense derricks which handled a carload of timbers or a railroad locomotive with ease;
   conveyors for transporting stock;
   high pressure steam exhausts from fast moving, powerful machines,
   and much more.

   By 1929, with logging and sawmill operations, mechanical, planing, and shipping divisions, the area's long-leaf yellow pine was being shipped to 48 countries.

1941 - The Closing of the Sawmill

   With a dwindling supply of timber, the mill closed in 1941 and was dismantled. All the iron and steel were shipped off to be melted down for the war effort.

The Arnold Family


   J. Ray Arnold and his wife, Eva (Dowling) Arnold, had six children.
   The last surviving child, Kitty (Arnold) Herzog passed away at 97 years of age on March 9, 2020.
   Born in 1922, in Groveland, Kitty graduated as Valedictorian of the Groveland High School class of 1940 and was class president.

   The Arnold family was instrumental in the building of the original sanctuary of the First Baptist Church in 1922 (since been torn down).
   The two large stained glass windows in the current FBC sanctuary were given in honor of the Arnold Brother's parents, John Samuel and Cynthia Arnold.
   John Samuel had four brothers, all of them Baptist preachers.
   Alberta (Arnold) Simpson led the girls' choir.
   Wife Eva sang in the church choir and was described as a true saint.
   Luther Arnold's son John Arnold was treasurer of the church for 19 years and a Bible teacher and deacon.

   It has been said that J. Ray Arnold and the rules for employees of the sawmill were contributed to the peaceful and idyllic nature of Groveland.
   He would not tolerate unruly behavior from his employees. If a man was caught abusing his wife, he would be fired immediatley.
   J. Ray, an expert marksmen, always carried a set of revolvers, with which he maintained law and order.

   The Arnolds were also heavily involved in the Groveland School System, even recruiting and housing teachers.
   During the Great Depression, milk was donated to the school from their dairy cows and lunch sandwiches were provided daily for students in need.
   Legend says that J. Ray Arnold even came up with the name of "Greenbacks" as the school's mascot.

   After receiving her Master's Degree from the University of Florida, Kitty taught school prior to marriage. Her husband, Donald Herzog, was member of a family who owned a toy manufacturing company in Pennsylvania. They created the "Wooly Willy" toy (a cartoon face with metal filings used to design facial features with a red magnetic wand). It made the list as one of the most memorable toys of the 20th century.
   Kitty was a dedicated Bible scholar and strong supporter of the Groveland Historic Museum. Up until her end, much of her conversation centered around memories of her days growing up in her precious Groveland! Although living in Naples, Florida, she made frequent calls to Groveland, checking on the well-being of the museum which she followed with devoted interest.

   Quotes from Kitty:
   "We were taught that high standards were the norm and to excel was expected. Top priority was placed on education."
   "Music teachers were brought in from Orlando to give us lessons."
   "Dad always dreamed and thought big!"
   "Mom was involved in all church activities and her love influenced her family and the community."
   "Dad said it was 'poverty of vocabulary' to not know and use the best word. We were not allowed to use slang or talk like we had mush in our mouth."
   "Dad's trademark was a huge diamond stickpin."
   "Dad led in our singing of hymns around the piano. He played the fiddle. He entertained us by dancing in and out of a twirling rope."
   "An expert marksman, he could shoot from the hip with his two pistols."
   "He wrote love poems to mother."
   "Dad and his brothers worked together by choice and harmoniously, which was their great pleasure and privilege. They had a strong work ethic taught them by their father."

[Contributors: Kitty (Arnold) Herzog, Mary Helen Myers, Jason Brown]

Next Article: 1918 - Groveland's Third School is the Best of the Best 






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