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Heart of Louisiana: Historic Fullerton Sawmill

Updated: Jun. 22, 2021 at 9:45 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The historic Fullerton sawmill in Central Louisiana was supposed to stay open for generations, but only in 20 years, the historic mill town of 5000 people was gone.

The sawmill town of Fullerton, Louisiana barely lasted a generation, but in its heyday, 5,000 people worked and lived here. Now what’s left is being consumed by the forest that Fullerton cut and milled.

“Front door would have been right here, okay. This was the porch to the motel,” says Stanley Fletcher.

Stanley Fletcher has researched and written about the old sawmill town near Leesville in the Kisatchi National Forest.

“The head office was to our left, and then to our right, you had the hospital across the street, you had the elementary school and the high school, and between the hospital and the school, you had the swimming pool,” says Fletcher

Fletcher shared some of the old photos he’s collected. You see kids playing in the spring-fed pool, the hotel, the office and shopping center, and the town’s dance pavilion.

“The pavilion we built about 5 or 10 years ago is a replica of the original pavilion that was built in the early 1900s,” says Jonny Fryar.

The new pavilion is part of the Fullerton recreation area where you can picnic, hike or camp, and fish in the old mill pond.

“Many of the homes had electricity and indoor plumbing, and that was really unheard of back in the early 1900s,” says Fryar.

The sawmill started operating in 1907. It was owned by S.H. Fullerton who bought 100,000 acres of virgin longleaf pine forest.

“It was the largest sawmill west of the Mississippi.”

The forest service found a square cut piece of wood in the old mill.

“So it had been in the pond 100 years, then when I cut across section, and this was about an 18 by 18 piece of wood, 18 inches by 18 inches, there was 247 growth rings in the piece of wood, which was virgin longleaf pine,” Fryar says.

The sawmill was supposed to last for generations, but its life was cut short by the high demand for wood in WWI. After operating for 20 years, the timber was all gone. The mill shut down in 1927 and the town of Fullerton was abandoned. Some of the old homes and buildings were moved to neighboring communities and the structures that remained were lost to the army.

“The United States army prepping for WWII, prepping for D-Day, they knew they were going to be blown up a lot of concrete bunkers, so the military used Fullerton for Demolition teams to come in and learn how to set explosives,” says Stanley Fletcher.

During its short 20-year life span, Fullerton was home to families and friends, and celebrations, but those memories now only live in the stories passed down from ancestors, old photographs, and the scattered concrete foundations of a long-lost community.

You can learn more about the historic Fullerton sawmill and other Louisiana attractions at HeartofLouisiana.com.

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