UA-88846530-1

About Us

BAILEY LUMBER COMPANY- THEN AND 70 YEARS LATER

Older photo of tree harvesting The lumber industry was one of the first to be established in our township. Early settlers took advantage of an abundant supply of timber to build their homes, barns and fences. The timber also served as a fuel supply to heat homes. In the article that follows, Albany Township native Lester Bailey shares his memories of the timber industry and how it relates to one of the area’s older commercial establishments, Bailey Lumber Company. (Now Bailey Wood Products, Inc.)

It was springtime in the year 1928. Hank was plowing with a team of horses in the field south of the road where the Bailey Lumber Company is now located. The previous winter Hank and his father, Howard Bailey, had cut some mature oak trees on the farm woodland, dragged the logs with horses, and hauled them to the roadside by wagon.

Having bought the farm three years previously, they were looking for extra income to help pay the mortgage. Money was scarce, timber was plentiful, but demand was very low.

Hank heard a Model T Ford chugging up the road and watched as it stopped by the pile of logs. Three men climbed out and were looking at the logs when Hank approached them. They introduced themselves as Ed Eckroth, his son Guy, and John Long. They were mine timber dealers. “Are these logs for sale?”, one of the men asked. Hank told them to go over to the farmhouse and talk to his father Howard. They did, and struck a deal to buy the logs. This was the first sale of timber that was made and the start of Bailey Lumber Company.

The coal mining just to the north of our valley was booming and brought on a huge demand for timber. Eckroth offered Howard a deal to log and take out timber from various tracts of woodland that he bought in the valley. Timber was plentiful, and with the arrival of the 1928 stock market collapse and severe depression, many landowners were anxious to sell. Good timber could be had for $35.00 to $50.00 an acre.

Photo of someone driving an old forkliftMany dealers were cutting in our area. Among them were Eckroth, Neiswender, Schellhammer, Long, Kimmel, and Kemmerer, among others. The coal mines provided jobs for many workers during the Depression even though wages were low. Farm labor was usually a dollar a day, plus room and board. A good timber cutter could possibly earn $5.00 a day.

About this time Howard Bailey and Robert Snyder, a neighbor, bought a small portable sawmill and started sawing lumber for the mines, railroad ties, and for farm buildings. To power their sawmill they rigged up a Chalmers Auto engine. Logs were dragged by horses and all work was done by manpower. In the early 1930’s, Snyder left the business and Howard continued by himself. He had several employees plus his sons Hank, Norman, and myself, even though I was still in school at the time. For many years, George Correll and Oswell Reinhart were the sawyers.

The 1930’s were very tough years to be in the lumber business. Orders were very hard to come by. I remember accompanying my father to Hamburg and Kutztown, calling on foundries, pattern shops and steel mills, trying to sell lumber. If we sold several thousand board feet, we felt lucky. Clear White Pine sold for 4 cents a board foot at the pattern shop. Blocking and crating material went for 2 cents a board foot. One of the Hamburg customers, Pennsylvania Steel Foundry & Machine Company, is still a customer today!

In the 1930’s, we purchased a small Caterpillar 10 tractor to replace the horses for skidding logs. Soon after the first truck with dual tires, a 1935 Ford, was bought. Also, a four headblock Farquhar sawmill was purchased. This was moved to several tracts of timber in Berks, Lehigh, and Schuylkill Counties. We had a number of tractors. A Cletrac, a T20 International, and then a very good versatile Model 22 Caterpillar.

I graduated from High School in 1940. Shortly thereafter, my father had a severe heart attack. He was ordered not to do any kind of work. I was 17-years-old and since both of my brothers had bought farms of their own, I had to take over. My first task was to buy some timber because there was none in inventory. Imagine how I felt negotiating with an elderly farmer. Somehow I gained his confidence and bought his timber on my second call. With the help of several faithful employees, we kept the company going. My father never again took full control of the business. He relied on me for most of the management.

Photo of one of the old sawmill set-upsIn 1942 we moved the portable sawmill to a tract of beautiful White Oak. That tract is the location of the Whitehall Mall, in Allentown, PA today. The U.S. was getting in the war in Europe and most every manufacturer was producing for the war effort. One day, just after we started in the White Oak tract, two men, George Paxton and Paul Frantz, representatives of the Northeast Building Supply Co., Philadelphia, PA, informed us that the U.S. Navy was buying all available timber for use in shipbuilding. At about the same time I received notification from the draft board that I was 1A for military duty. I later received a letter stating that I was required to stay at my present work and cut Navy Ship timbers.

For the next several years Bailey Lumber Company was under contract to cut tracts of timber supplied by Northeast Building Supply. Our next location was a large tract of Oak on the Mason Dixon Line, south of Oxford, PA. We built a portable bunkhouse and moved it and the portable sawmill right in the middle of the woods. We worked long hours, mostly from sunrise to sunset. George Correll the sawyer doubled as cook. George was a former Army Cook and we certainly ate well. Since there were no forklifts and chainsaws in those days, we had large appetites, worked very hard, but still managed to have a very good time. Evenings were spent at the Octarora Creek fishing. We bought milk from a local farmer that was some of the best I ever tasted. We were a crew of six that managed to get out a trailer load of Oak nearly every working day!

After the job near Oxford, we got a job cutting a tract of Oak near Calvert, Delaware. Northeast Building Supply made sure that wherever we were cutting that the timber was hauled by tractor trailer to the Delaware Bay by MacFarland Trucking of Phoenixville, PA.

In the Fall of 1943, I returned home and got married to Sarah Bleiler. Hank took my place cutting ship timbers and Oswell Reinhart and I got the sawmill going in the old neighborhood. We got a lot of timber from the mine timber cutters who could not use the larger logs for the mines. One of those cutters, Moses Kimmel, took me to give an estimate on some timber they were buying in Schuylkill County. On the way there, he told me that he was going to show me the most beautiful tract of timber I had ever seen. He was correct in that statement. It was 27 acres of mostly White Pine with some Maple, Poplar and Oak. I could not believe what I saw. It turned out that it was close to 1 Million Board Feet on 27 acres. The trees were straight and tall and were mostly 20” to 36” in diameter. It was owned by an elderly bachelor and his two spinster sisters. When I told my father what I had seen, he said that even though we were told that it was not for sale, we still could make them an offer. I made careful estimate of the timber and Dad and I made an offer.

About a month later they accepted our offer, and we set up a sawmill in a small adjoining field. I still remember the first trees that we cut. It was a White Pine 20” in diameter and measured 6” at100 foot in length.

Office of Price Administration (OPA) controls were still in effect, and lumber could only be sold to approved buyers due to the war. Some of the Pine we loaded directly into railroad cars. A railroad siding adjoined the field where we had the sawmill. The lower grade hardwoods were bought by the coal miners. We bought other timber close to home and remained in the same area for the next four years.

In the late 1940’s, we used a 5 headblock heavy duty Frick sawmill with a Waukesha power unit, which was later replaced by a Buda diesel engine. Another big boost to the business was our first power saw, a two-man 11 HP Diston. After all of the years of hand sawing, we were amazed how well it sliced through the logs. Our 22 Caterpillar was traded in on a new D4 Caterpillar. What a wonderful machine! I still remember the serial number (5T150W).

Having completed the tract in Schuylkill County, we moved the mill back to Albany Township, setting it up on a small corner field of the farm. This was supposed to be a temporary location, but it has remained there ever since. We cut numerous tracts close by the mill.

With the end of World War II, the restrictions on lumber sales were stopped. We began sawing a lot of timber for barn construction, farm buildings, some for home construction, foundries, pattern shops, and for general farm use. We supplied lumber for industry such as Lehigh Structural Steel in Allentown, the Kutztown Foundry, and the Allen Sherman Hoff Co. in Hamburg, PA. Sales of low grade hardwood lumber were limited to the coal mines. Many trailer loads of 6’ and 8’ boards were hauled to the Coaldale Mining Company and the Maple Hill Colliery at Mahanoy City.

To improve business we decided to erect a 40’ by 60’ building and installed a planer, a tenoner, and a small molder to do some millwork. Howard, my father, became interested in retailing building materials. We started buying West Coast lumber and Southern Yellow Pine. We also began selling doors, windows and a full line of building materials.

Around this time I began toying with the idea of rigging up a portable sawmill that would be much easier to set up than our previous mills. I purchased a single axle 28’ semi-trailer and fabricated 20’ extensions for each end. These were held in place by several bolts and were removed for transport. This gave us 68’ and enabled us to cut long timbers. We mounted a new Farquhar 4 headblock mill on the unit that swung in over the carriage truck for sawing. This design proved to be very successful. We could move to a new tract and be ready to make lumber in a few hours. We cut many small tracts with this unit over the next 10 years after which we sold it.

During the 1950’s several big changes came about. One was the forklift, which made moving logs and lumber much easier and faster. With the invention of the forklift many companies started stoiing and shipping their products on small pallets. This gave a tremendous boost to the sale of low grade hardwoods. We immediately started selling to the first large pallet mill in the area, the TAM Pallet Company. Thirty years later, we are still selling to the same mill that is now Remmey, the Pallet Company.

In order to keep stock for the retail lumber business, we built a three story 60’ by 70’ building to house all of our products. We also built a new sawmill building that housed the sawmill and began automating it with the first automatic log turner.

At about this same time I got a contract with Cromar Hardwood Flooring Company of Williamsport, PA. to supply them with 4/4” Oak. This began the start of many loads of Oak being hauled with our F6 Ford Tractor and Fruehauf trailer. On one of our trips to Williamsport, our driver was stopped by the owner of Reese Lumber Company. Mr. Bob Reese told the driver to have me give him a call. I did and immediately got an order for Red Oak. This was the start of a 35 year business relationship. He became my best customer. I don’t ever remember offering him any lumber that he would not accept.Photo of the Johne Deere Loader

We purchased our first forklift, a Sherman lift mounted on an 8N Ford Tractor. Even though its capacity was only 4000lbs., it gave us a big boost in handling logs and lumber. This was followed by a John Deere with a bit more capacity.

Through a broker friend named Campbell Coe, we started manufacturing pallets for the Stevedore and Mailer Companies of Brooklyn, NY. These were very large specialty pallets and were also very heavy. We turned out a trailer load a week, all being hand nailed. Later we got primitive nail guns. We also supplied pallets to Boise Cascade envelope plant in Allentown, PA. We eventually quit the manufacture of pallets in the 1980’s.

I had been taken in as a partner by my father Howard in June of 1948, and became sole owner in 1963 when he retired. My other brother Norman had established his own company in the 1950’s, Norman Bailey Lumber Company, in Auburn, PA. He operated a sawmill and as a building supply retailer for 25 years until his health failed him. After the retirement of my father, I decided to discontinue the retail building materials portion of the operation and focus solely on the sawmill, which I had always loved more. Shortly after Howard’s retirement, I purchased a new Frick Automatic Lumber Transfers to further automate production.

In 1970 Bailey Logging Company was founded by my brother Hank and his son Richard. Upon Hank’s retirement, Dale Bailey, Hanks son, was taken on as Richard’s partner. Today they operate as Bailey Bros. Logging, supplying the logs for Bailey Lumber Company. The demand for the lumber we produced on the mill necessitated the need to have a separate logging operation to supply the mill's needs. Prior to this, I purchased the timber and was involved in the logging and the milling. This allowed me to focus solely on the sawmilling part of the operation.

In the early 1970’s we purchased our first 4 –wheel drive forklift from Elmer Plasterer of Lebanon, PA. This was later followed by two used Pettibone Super 8 Carrylifts. In the early 1970’s we purchased our first automatic sawmill carriage, a used Helle that we got from Maljovic Bros., in Kane, PA. Along with this, we also installed a 6” Cornell Gang Edger. This gave production a nice boost. In 1981, I purchased a brand new Pettibone Super 8 Forklift. It was a far superior machine than any we owned before. A second forklift was added to the operation in 1990, in an articulating W14 Case. We later traded that in on a new John Deere 444 in 1993.

One of the most major improvements to the sawmill operation in the 70’s was the installation of a 3 Phase 440 V Electrical Service. This provided a steady supply of clean power. It also allowed us to get rid of all the diesel engines and a lot of maintenance.

Throughout the 1980’s the company's focus was the wholesale production of green hardwood lumber that was sold to distribution yards. We produced on average 2 trailer loads of grade lumber a week in addition to 1 to 2 trailer loads of pallet lumber, some railroad ties, and custom cut orders for foundries, industrial blocking and timbers, and custom cut orders for farm and general use. We continued this into the 1990’s. In order to streamline production we installed a new Cleereman Sawmill in 1989. This mill has far exceeded any mill than we have ever owned in its performance due to reduced repairs and down time.

In 1990 my Grandson, Jeffrey Schucker joined the company as a partner. Jeffrey has been around the sawmill since he was 10 years old. He worked in the operation every summer break from school. During his college years he learned more skills around the mill working part time, and during summer break. My daughter Sandra Schucker also joined the organization as the tax accountant and payroll clerk in addition to her full time position as a Registered Nurse. After Jeff’s completion of his Bachelors Degree in Business Administration, he has assumed more of the management of the company.

With Jeff doing most of the management, much needed new ideas are being tried with most turning out to be successful. With the increasing cost of timber, we decided to add more value our production. This decision led Jeff to purchase our first lumber dry kiln. In April of 1992 we installed the first Koetter Dry Kiln. We began kiln drying select boards of high quality hardwoods that Jeff began selling to local woodworkers and cabinet shops. The quality of the kiln dried lumber that these kilns produced was well received by our new customers. The demand for the Red Oak, Poplar, Maple, Cherry, Walnut, Ash and other hardwoods was not able to be supported by the production of one dry kiln. I soon saw the need to add a second unit which we installed 6 months later. In 1994 a third and larger kiln was installed allowing us greater flexibility in the variety of species of lumber we offered and also thicker material. We also started offering milling for our customers in the form of planing. Later, a straight-line rip saw was added for providing customers with straight edged lumber and ripped to width lumber. We also began providing some glued panels and other custom products such as butcher blocks, bar tops, stair treads, among other custom items.

Improvements to the sawmill continued throughout the 90’s with the installation of an overhead sawdust storage bin. Our mill dust became a valuable commodity for bedding. This unit will allow us to capture all of our production and keep it clean and dry for sale to our customers. Improvements to sawmill equipment were installed to increase yield and the grade of each board we process. The Spring of 1997 proved to be very busy, and the three dry kilns could not keep pace with demand. The decision was made to add a fourth dry kiln. This would allow us the opportunity to dry a greater volume of the slower drying items such as Oak and thicker materials. In 1998 we installed a Mellott hydro-electric Log Debarker. This was a big boost to the mill production due to the fact that we removed the dirt and bark that has a direct impact on saw sharpness and run time. It also greatly reduced the amount of debris generated from the sawing process. We also generate and additional salable product in the bark that we sell to be reground for landscape mulch. We also started having all of our off fall and trimmings ground up and used for landscape material. Nothing goes to waste!

In 1997, Bailey Lumber Company incorporated. The business structure that existed between its founder Howard Bailey and partners Lester Bailey and later Jeffrey Schucker changed. The formation of the corporation allowed the business to grow. After much consideration, the decision was made to name the company Bailey Wood Products, Inc. We felt that the name best described the direction that the company would take in the years to follow.

Steady growth and demand for timber resources made Jeff look at ways to make the sawmill more efficient. In the Spring of 2002, the mill underwent several changes. The most important was the installation of a new Band Head Saw. The company had operated with a circular head saw since its inception. With the need for greater yields and efficiency, the bandsaw produced half as much sawdust for every saw cut made. The resulting lumber is also smoother and more uniform. A new electrical service was installed to handle the increase in demand for the improvements and for future expansion. The edger machine was also retrofitted with computerized setworks and mill flow was also improved. The Cleereman saw carriage was rebuilt and upgraded. Later, a DC Electric saw carriage drive was added to improve production and replace the hydraulic system maintenance. In 2004, a steel warehouse building was added to store package inventory of kiln dried hardwoods.

After making a life-long career of the lumber business, I retired at the age of 80. My days are spent with my wife of 60-years, reminiscing of our life together and our years in the lumber business. She has been a great partner, taking care of the payroll and accounting, and on several occasions in her younger years has also been a delivery person helping whereever she could. Many memories of good friends and customers remain.

Late at night on December 30, 2005, tragedy struck as we watched the flames rise up from the roof of the sawmill building. We were called by a neighbor who spotted it and quickly called 911. Fire Companies responded quickly and the blaze was limited to the mill operation. The fire destroyed the center of the building and the edger and other transfer equipment. In the months that followed on the path to recovery, a plan was made to reconstruct the mill in a more efficient flow and setting. Lumber wholesale markets were stagnant and in decline, particularly for Red Oak, a major staple for the operation.

After contemplating his options, Jeff decided to focus on the core competency of the business, the kiln drying and retail sector of the business. The fire did not affect that portion of the operation and continued to function. In 2006, a new bandsaw was purchased allowing the operation to produce for the needs of the retail and dry kiln operation. Plans began to reconstruct the mill building and to modernize it into a mill shop where the kiln dried lumber could be further machined into a variety of hardwood products. A Weinig molder was added to the company's equipment inventory to produce a wide variety of hardwood products. Up grades to the existing planer were done in the form of a helical cutterhead to eliminate tearout on high end lumber. A wide belt sander was added for the finishing of lumber and value added products. A tool room equipped with grinder was also added to support the Weinig molder and make the necessary tooling to produce a wide variety of profiles. A 1.25 Million BTU Taylor Water stove has been installed to take all of the mills trimmings and waste and convert it into hot water to heat the dry kilns and buildings. The dry shavings from the mill shop are used for animal bedding and also sold for the manufacture of wood pellets for heat. The development of a web site to showcase the companies products and capabilities has been completed, making it an informational source for the woodworker as well as provide inventory information on current stock and offerings.

As with all things in life, change is one constant that we need to face and deal with. The fire has brought forth new challenges and opportunities. We look forward to meetings those challenges and keeping the spirit of determination strong that has kept the company alive over the decades.

The demand for wood products will increase in the years ahead with a growing population. My hope is that we all realize that the Lord gave us trees for our existence and to use them wisely. With common sense, we can harvest timber and have forests to produce resources for future generations. Working with wood is a very satisfying and creative occupation. Let us all make sure that the supply will last.

TOP

Yes, Sign Me Up!

Never miss a thing! Sign up for our monthly Newsletter and Special Offers email!



A value is required.
A value is required.
A value is required.

Please select an item.