Robert A. Long

Robert Alexander Long
Born (1850-12-17)December 17, 1850
Shelbyville, Kentucky
Died March 15, 1934(1934-03-15) (aged 83)
Occupation Co-founder of Long-Bell Lumber Company, real estate developer
Known for Liberty Memorial; namesake of Longview, Washington and Longville, Louisiana,
Home town Kansas City, Missouri

Robert Alexander Long (17 December, 1850 15 March, 1934) was a lumber baron, developer, investor, newspaper owner, and philanthropist. He lived most of his life in Kansas City, Missouri and founded Longview, Washington and Longville, Louisiana.

By 1906, Long owned 250,000 acres (1,000 km2) of pine in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana and converted it into 61 lumberyards. As the timber land was deforested in Louisiana, he moved west to the state of Washington and bought 270,000 acres (1,100 km2) of Douglas fir. There he became a pioneer in reforestation. Long eventually owned many acres of land and buildings, spanning the United States from Washington D.C. to the state of Washington.

Early years

Long was born December 17, 1850, in Shelbyville, Kentucky, one of nine children born to Samuel M. Long and Margaret Kinkead White. His mother was a cousin of Joseph Clay Stiles Blackburn and Luke P. Blackburn. Three of Long's older brothers, Thomas, E. S. and Belvard, served in the American Civil War but Robert was too young.

Long moved to Columbus, Kansas in 1873 where his uncle, C. J. White, was a banker. In 1874, Long met 19-year-old Martha Ellen Wilson. She was a Quaker and became a school teacher. After a year of courtship the two were married December 16, 1876. A son lived only a few weeks but the couple had two daughters. In 1879, Sally America Long (Ellis) was born, and in 1881 their youngest daughter, Loula Long (Combs) (d. 1971) was born. Long started a hay bale company along with his cousin Robert White and a friend, Victor B. Bell; the hay venture failed but the three were able to sell the lumber from the hay sheds. Seeing that lumber was in demand they order more lumber. Business was good and the partners opened more yards. In 1877 the youngest partner, Robert White, died and the remaining partners bought out his share. Robert and Victor formed the Long-Bell Lumber Company in Columbus, Kansas.

While in Columbus he bought 1,520 acres (620 ha) and developed a profitable coal mine with two shafts at Stone City. The location is found only on historical maps, as the town no longer exists today, but was just east of NW 40th street south of the junction of NW Meir road, which is northwest of Columbus.[1]

Long-Bell Lumber Company

In 1887, Robert A. Long and Victor Bell formed the Long-Bell Lumber Company in Columbus, Kansas. The headquarters was moved to Kansas City where it remained until sold.

In 1889, Samuel H. Wilson, Robert's brother-in-law, that began with the company in 1887, took over the retail department, a position he held until his death on October 20, 1903. In 1891, the capital stock was increased to $500,000. The Long-Bell Lumber Company was vertically integrated from the forest to the lumber yard and became the world's largest lumber company in the early 20th century.

Long-Bell Lumber Company filed for bankruptcy in 1934, then filed a reorganization plan in the Kansas City federal court in 1935, after Long's death.[2]


When the railroad entered Louisiana Robert Long was among the earliest to set up shop. He purchased land in many parts of the state to begin lumber harvesting to supply the needs of his giant lumber company.

In 1900, the Long-Bell Lumber Company organized the King-Ryder Lumber Company at Bon Ami, Louisiana. By 1904 the mill was producing 300,000 board feet of lumber daily which made it the largest in the area at the time. In 1903, Long-Bell organized the Hudson River Lumber Company in DeRidder and built a sprawling mill across the tracks from Washington street. Kansas City Southern Railroad and the Sante Fe Railway ran through Deridder.

On March 16, 1906, Long-Bell Company bought out two mills of the Bradley-Ramsey Lumber Company in Lake Charles. This included 105,000 acres (42,000 ha) and 36 miles of the Lake Charles and Leesville railroad and was renamed the Lake Charles and Northern Railroad. This purchase included seven locomotives and 120 log cars and a total of 58.599 miles of tracks. The new rail formed part of the Atlantic System of the Southern Pacific Company. In October 1906, a new location (sections 25 and 30, township 5, of range 8 west) was cleared along the route for the Longville Long Leaf Lumber Company and town. The company built the three-story, 60-room "Southern Hotel", 163 cottages for workers, a large commissary with $30,000 worth of supplies, an elementary and high school, a complete machine shop, roundhouse, car repair shop, and blacksmith shop. There was also a two story fire department building, providing around the clock service, that started with a horse-drawn wagon then a fire truck, the First National Bank, a barber shop, and the Dixie Theater.[3]

Circa 1913, Long-Bell acquired the Ludington Lumber Company and transferred 3000 acres (for $157,000) to shore up the stumpage (uncut lumber) reserve. When the mill burned in 1920, there were an estimated 2500 residents in the town meaning it rivaled Fullerton. With the stumpage reserve dwindled the mill was not rebuilt so the town began to disappear. The planer was converted to a hardwood flooring mill, which was moved to DeRidder in 1927, when all operation at Longville ceased.[4]

Sawmill life

Sawmills had to import workers to build the mills and property as most of the timber country was sparsely inhabited. The lumber companies would bring in workers and their families providing a place to live, income, and a place to spend money. The mills set up ready made towns with all the amenities to include a commissary, dance hall, and a theater. The mills generated electricity that was also provided to the houses along with streetlights, running water, and sewer. If there were black workers the mill was segregated to include separate schools. The commissaries did not have competition. At the turn of the century pay could be as low as $1.25 for mill hands up to $1.66 a day for skilled jobs. The workers usually worked long hours, six and sometimes seven days a week, and the pay was considered poor. Every aspect of living had a cost at the mill. A worker had credit and just had to sign his name. The pay was by company notes called "scripts" and was paid monthly after living costs and this led to discontentment.


Further information: Grabow riot

Unions had been operating in many industries, such as the railroads and coal mines in the United States as early as 1870, and played an important part in securing a better working environment and pay. Coal miners benefited from unions because their work under ground was poorly ventilated causing Pneumoconiosis also known as black lung (and even referred to as P-45),] was a fact of life. Railroad worker unions succeeded in getting rid of the "old man-killer" link and pin coupler.[5]

Union organization began at Carson, Louisiana, led by Arthur Lee Emerson and Jay Smith in December 1910. Other areas such as Lake Charles, Merryville, and Eastern Texas soon followed. They met in Alexandria in June 1911 to established the Brotherhood of Timber Workers (BTW). The Southern Lumber Operators' Association had been created by member mills in 1906 to stop any future union organizations. The association took immediately plans to include lockouts, importing strikebreakers, hiring the Burns agency, Pinkerton detectives, and other steps with the purpose of destroying the union.

John Henry Kirby, that owned the American Lumber Company in Merryville, Louisiana, did hire agents to infiltrate the union. Other mills either imported workers or closed mills. After the incident at Grabow suspected union workers were fired. There were no laws to protect unions such as the Erdman Act for interstate railroad workers. The cases of Allgeyer v. Louisiana (1897), and the landmark case of Lochner v. New York (1905), called the Lochner era that did acknowledge that states have certain "police powers", but effectively took away a lot of state control, resulting in more company allowed controls. It wasn't until 1955, ending the Lockner era.

Employees of many sawmills were required to sign yellow-dog contracts to prove loyalty to the company and agree not to join unions. The union office in Merryville was destroyed, and within three months union activities ceased.

C. B. Sweet, of the Long-Bell Mills, chose not to honor the lockout. Sweet already paid his employees in cash and made other concessions and there did not appear to be any union action directed at the Long-Bell company sawmills in Louisiana. This was not to be the case with the Longview, Washington sawmill and other areas of the country.[6]


He founded the city of Longview, Washington, a "planned city" built in 1923 near two of Long-Bell's lumber mills. He personally donated funds for the city's public library, first high school, train station, YMCA hall and its Monticello Hotel. The mills were advertised as the largest in the world.

A newspaper was planned along with the city and on January 27, 1923 the first issue of Longview News came off the press.

Long was the principal stock holder until his death on March 15, 1934, and in a family trust until 1947.[7][8] In 1981 the paper won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Other businesses

Long was an early investor in the Kansas City Southern Railroad, a source of transportation for his raw material and products. Longview Development Company was formed for handling real estate in Longview, Washington.

Structures affiliated with Long

Corinthian Hall, Long's former residence, now the site of the Kansas City Museum.

Corinthian Hall

Long's home in Kansas City, named Corinthian Hall, was completed in 1911. The 72-room French Renaissance mansion, located on Gladstone Boulevard, was Kansas City's first million-dollar home, is now the Kansas City Museum. On November 14, 1980 the building was entered into the NRHP.

R. A. Long Building

In 1907 the R.A. Long Building,[9] a Beaux-Arts skyscraper in downtown Kansas City was built at 928 Grand Avenue. On January 8, 2003 the building was llisted in the NRHP.

Longview Farm

Longview Farm was built in 1913-1914, in eastern Jackson County, on the outskirts of Kansas City. The 2,000-acre (8.1 km2) farm had 42 buildings, 250 acres of clipped lawns, extensive flower beds, and four greenhouses; in later years fresh carnations and gardenias were shipped daily.[10] Portions of the farm are now sites of Longview College and of Longview Lake. The farm was listed on the NRHP on October 24, 1985.

Liberty Memorial

Long was a driving force behind the creation of Kansas City's Liberty Memorial, a World War I museum and monument. He was the president of the Liberty Memorial Association and a major contributor. In less than a year the organization collected $2,500,000. The monument was dedicated on November 11, 1926.

R.A. Long High School

The R.A. Long High School was a gift to the city of Longview, Washington in 1923 from Robert Long. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic places. The school was one of several buildings that Long built from personal funds.


Long was involved in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), as well as his family, until his death. Loula remained faithful to the Longview Chapel Christian church (Disciples of Christ) until she died and was celebrated as one of the longest attending members.[11]

Long was active in several associations. Long was the president of the Southern Pine Association founded in 1915.[12] The name was changed in 1970 to the Southern Forest Products Association[13] with a division being the Southern Pine Council[14] and is still active today. Long belonged to the National Lumber Manufacturers Association.

His other associations include:

Death and legacy

Long died on March 15, 1934.[2] His legacy included a city he built and named, churches which he helped build, 13 lumber mills, 110 retail lumber yards, a sash and door factory, many warehouses, and towns that prospered in part to his businesses.

In Longview, Washington, a bronze bust of Long, by Alonzo Victor Lewis, was placed in the renamed R. A. Long Park on August 24, 1946.

In 1956, International Paper Company (IP) purchased all remaining holdings of the Long-Bell Lumber Company and renamed it IP-Long-Bell. With the lumber depleted and the mill being antiquated, IP-Bell ceased operations in 1960 and the mills were dismantled and sold. Some of the giant old-growth beams were used to build Microsoft-founder Bill Gates’ mansion in Medina on Lake Washington.[15]

The R. A. Long Historical Society was formed in 2006.[16]

See also


  1. -Stone City
  2. 1 2 - Port of Longview History
  3. -Longville
  4. "History of Railroad Unions in the U.S.". Union history. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  5. King, Helen (August 1936). "The Economic History of the Long-Bell Lumber Company". History Thesis. McNeese State University. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  6. -Longview News
  7. -Longview News
  8. - R. A. Long Historical Society
  9. -Longview Farm
  10. -Loula; church membership
  11. -Southern Pine Association
  12. -SFPA
  13. -Southern Pine Council
  14. -beams to build a mansion
  15. -R.A. Long Society
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