BESSMAY, TEXAS. Bessmay is on U.S. Highway 96 one mile north of Buna and thirty-seven miles north of Beaumont in south central Jasper County. The construction of the Gulf, Beaumont and Kansas City Railway from Silsbee to Kirbyville in 1895 and the Orange and Northwestern from Orange to Newton between 1902 and 1906 opened the area to extensive lumbering operations. Bessmay is named for the daughter of John Henry Kirby, whose mill opened at the site in the early 1900s. The Bessmay post office began operations in 1903. By 1904 Kirby inspectors called the Bessmay facility, with planer, sawmill, and kiln, "the best owned by the company." Mill R, as the plant was called, was equipped with modern conveniences, including an electric light plant, and was valued at $350,000 in 1907. In 1914 a Kirby manager noted that the sawmill, which could cut 130,000 board feet in a single ten-hour shift, was "running day and night." As forests were depleted and lumbering operations consolidated at Silsbee, the old sawmill town of Bessmay lost some of its population, from 600 in 1949 to 400 by the mid-1960s. However, logging remained important in the local economy. The Bessmay election precinct was consolidated with that of Buna in 1956.
Kirby Lumber Corporation Papers, Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University. S. G. Reed, A History of the Texas Railroads (Houston: St. Clair, 1941; rpt., New York: Arno, 1981).