Speech to PTA by L.F. Nelson
ASHS Column for 01 19 06
There’s simply no telling what one might discover
in the archives of the Alger-Sullivan Historical
Society – or for that matter, in the boxes and boxes
of "stuff" I’ve accumulated over the years. Some
years back, I ran across this typewritten copy of
notes for a speech given nearly 60 years ago to
the Century Elementary School PTA by Lawrence
Nelson of the Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company.
Mr. Nelson and his family lived in the big two-story
house now occupied by Lina Showalter at the
corner of Church and Jefferson Streets in the
Historic District of Century.
One of our prettiest and nicest members,
Frances Spann, is a daughter of Lawrence
Nelson. She and her husband, Eddie, are
among our most faithful and we value them immensely. Also, Larry Jones of Flomaton is Mr. Nelson’s grandson and is named for him.
THIS COMMUNITY OF OURS (Address by L. F. Nelson to P.T.A. 1947)
Our community, as little as one would think, has a most interesting background. … The locality for the mill site was decided upon [near] the then known community of Teaspoon. As rural areas go, [it] was thinly populated, the old landmarks being the home of Mark Mayo, now the A. E. Simmons residence; J. D. McCurdy’s home, now occupied by Mrs. McNeil; the old McCurdy School, now the Gay home; Wade Mayo's home, now unoccupied.
Also I am told that the Pilgrim Lodge Baptist Church … is one of the old landmarks. It is noted that the main highway to Flomaton [from Pensacola] passed through this community.
You have no doubt heard a number of stories as to why the community was named "Century." Mr. Hauss tells me that when the post office was established … Mr. Millen preferred the name of Jefferson, and Mr. Hauss’s choice was Century…
The Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company began construction in 1901, the plant was completed and started cutting early in January, 1902, taking about twelve months to erect and start operations. It was expected when the mill started that the company would have about fifteen years of cutting, operating day and night. It was found that the night operation was not practical … and was carried only for about twelve months in the years 1902 and 1909. In May, 1910, the sawmill burned, and in building the new mill, … it was decided to acquire additional timber lands, and in 1911 the company purchased what is known as Michigan Tract - Evergreen - of timber. [This] had the effect of extending further the life of the operation.
By conservative cutting, and by virtue of the fact that prices were extremely low, only the cream of the timber could be cut profitably, … and too, much of the swamp timber was left.
In those days there was no such [thing] as a forestry program…. I recall having heard Mr. Hauss tell a very interesting story of a cut-over tract involving several thousand acres near what was then known as Jones Mill (Frisco City). The small timber plus the land had but little value, and in fact most of the larger mill operators considered what was left as more of a liability than an asset.
Turpentine people were interested … [and] made a proposal to the company, and there being a difference of something like 50¢ per acre in their price ideas, the turpentine folks not wishing to give in, neither the company, so the sale was not consummated, and consequently this tract was held by the company, and has been cut over more than one time for logs for the cutting of lumber…
So, sometimes, Providence takes care of us.
The company owns approximately 225,000 acres, and are cutting and milling logs from only their own holdings. Many saw mill operations today claim perpetual cut. Our program is not far enough advanced and we only claim a ‘prolonged operation’, which is a conservative way of putting it. Its expected this will continue.
When the company acquired a mill site and began erection of plant, and homes for employees, at the same time a three room school was erected and rented to the County because of their inability to finance at the time; the site of the original school being the present playground. Subsequently this building was added to, and when it was deemed advisable to increase the facility a new high school building was erected across the street by the company, and for a period rented to the County, and later sold to them.
The new high school building and the old elementary school were occupied as such for several years, and when the present High School building was erected by the County and made ready for use, the elementary school was demolished and the old high school building occupied by, and is now known as, an elementary school.
As stated above, the Pilgrim Lodge Baptist was on the site when the plant property was acquired, and I am told that the Methodists erected a church in 1902 on land which the company donated. [In] 1904, the Baptists erected their church, the land for which likewise was contributed by the company.
These churches have passed in and out of their doors many converts, and they have been well directed, and [today] we have standing two nice buildings, with proper facilities to take care of the people of the community. Century should be proud of its school and church program.
It would hardly be appropriate in speaking of the community without having something to say about the Hospital. This I am told was operated as a boarding house for several years prior to Dr. O’Gywnn’s coming to Century and establishing a hospital. This was carried on under Dr. O’Gywnn’s supervision for some years, and subsequently taken over by Dr. Sam Turberville, and has grown and developed to the present modern and well operated Hospital. This unit too the community should be proud of.
In addition to the most interesting beginning and our present happy situation, seems to me that we should speak of our people, and particularly of our youth. We have six Scout Units — [two] Senior Outfits and [two] Boy Scout Troops; [one] Cub Pack; and a Girl Scout Unit. Alger-Sullivan sponsors the Senior and Scout Troops, four units, the Lions Club the Cub Pack, the Girl Scouts the P. T. A. The institutions sponsoring these units have a very definite obligation towards these young people, and I know personally that every assistance is being given. More than that, we have a number of good citizens interested in our youth movement who are giving of their time and money in the development of character and citizenship. It’s an admirable undertaking.
Programs are being carefully planned, and as we go along I feel that they are being better executed, and with the incentives that are being given by our National and Regional organizations, and that of the Navy which, incidentally, is doing a great deal for youth since V-J day, we have a lot to look forward to and each of us, particularly parents, should interest themselves in behalf of their own youngsters as well as those of their neighbor.
I would like to say too, that we now have under construction in our community a fine new Masonic Temple, which is going to replace a meeting hall that has been open to the Masons for many years past. When this building is completed it will be enjoyed and will afford a place for recreational purposes. Also a Lions Club that has been doing much for the community and the outlying areas, and it too has under construction a building, which will mean much to the membership, visiting Lions, and the community generally as a recreational center. These additions mean much to us, each individually and collectively, and [are] appreciated by all.
I am happy at the opportunity of being with the P-T organization and to review this community set-up. It has been an inspiration to me because of some things that have been dug up that I have not known during my years of residence here.
Next week Mrs. Collier will bring you news of the Annual Meeting held January 17