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Kirby Lumber Company Records

Identifier: RG D 0034

Scope and Contents

This collection provides valuable information on labor and living conditions in East Texas lumber towns, as well as data on domestic and foreign lumber sales, charitable activities, stumpage and freight contracts, and the company's financial standing. It also contains correspondence and financial statements for the Houston Oil Company and the Texas and Louisiana Lumber Company, John Henry Kirby's first lumber venture.


  • approximately 1900-1940s

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from RG E 0034 Kirby Lumber Company Records must be obtained from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center or the appropriate copyright holder.

Biographical Note

John Henry Kirby, lawyer, lumberman, and financier, formed the Kirby Lumber Company in 1901 in his native East Texas. With the discovery of oil at Spindletop in mind, Kirby sought to create a unique business arrangement. He would organize dual corporations, one oil and one timber, with the lumber company to buy and manufacture timber from the oil company. The Kirby Lumber Company would gain timber rights on its extensive East Texas properties, while the Houston Oil Company would hold mineral rights. Kirby also agreed to help the oil company gain title to approximately 800,000 acres of East Texas timber land.

The failure by Kirby and his eastern financiers to determine clear title to their various properties, as well as Kirby's overestimate of the worth of the timber, resulted in litigation. After the Maryland Trust Company, the primary backer of the scheme, brought suit, a Texas court placed both the Kirby Lumber Company and the Houston Oil Company into receivership between 1904 and 1908 allowing the two sides to determine their respective responsibilities.

Despite its initial troubles, the Kirby Lumber Company prospered, selling lumber throughout the United States, Europe, and Latin America. By the 1920s, it had become the largest yellow timber manufacturer in the Gulf Southwest. The company owned numerous lumber mills and rail connections.

John Henry Kirby died in 1940, seven years after declaring personal bankruptcy. The Kirby Lumber Company, however, continued operations, passing into the Santa Fe Railroad's control by the 1950s.


66 Linear Feet (63 document boxes, 16 flat boxes [8 small, 8 large], 18 loose volumes)

Language of Materials



Whenever possible, the folders in this collection have been given the original captions and placed in their original order.

Processing Information

Processed by Suzanne L. Summers, July 1990
Kirby Lumber Company Records
July 1990
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center Repository


(832) 393-1662

The African American Library at the Gregory School
1300 Victor Street
Houston, Texas 77019
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Houston Metropolitan Research Center
Houston Public Library
550 McKinney St.
Houston, Texas 77002
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