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KELTYS, TX

KELTYS, TEXAS. Keltys, now a part of Lufkin, was once a separately incorporated town near the junction of the Angelina and Neches rivers and the Cotton Belt railroads in northwestern Angelina County. Charles Louis Kelty built a sawmill at the site when the Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad was completed between Tyler and Lufkin, intending to use the mill to provide ties for the new railroads. He also established the first logging railroad in Angelina County, a tram road four miles long. In 1887 Joseph H. Kurth, a German immigrant, acquired the sawmill from Kelty. Within a few years he was joined by associates S. W. Henderson, Sr., and Sam Wiener. In 1890 these men organized the Angelina County Lumber Company in Keltys. It became one of the largest timber concerns in Texas. In 1890 the partners also chartered the Angelina and Neches River Railroad, which they later extended to Chireno, thirty miles to the northeast.

Early production at the Angelina County Lumber Company amounted to a few thousand feet of lumber a day. The mill was expanded twice before 1900, when it had a capacity of more than 50,000 board feet a day. After a fire destroyed the mill in 1906, a larger one was built with double that capacity. A fire destroyed this mill in December 1939, and it was replaced in 1940 by a steel and concrete mill able to produce 12,500 board feet per hour. During World War II the Keltys mill received the first American Army-Navy E Award for efficiency and continuous production. It contributed lumber for army camps, crate materials, and ship timbers. Full-time production continued unabated even after the war was over. By 1948 the mill was producing 45 million board feet of pine limber and 15 million feet of hardwood. In that year it employed 465 people and had an annual payroll of $1,104,000.

In 1886 Keltys had a population of about 500. By 1925 it had grown to 800 and by the late 1930s to 1,000; in the early 1970s it was 800. The Methodist church began meeting in the school in 1890, and the present First Methodist Church was established in 1899. The town acquired a post office in 1900. When the Angelina County Lumber Company was sold to Owens-Illinois Glass Company of Toledo, Ohio, in 1966, it was the longest continually operating timber concern in Texas. The sawmill had been closed in December 1965, and the company general store and office building were soon razed. Nothing is left of the mill but its foundations. Many fine homes from the lumber-boom period remain in Keltys, including the Classic Revival home of J. H. Kurth. Keltys was still listed as a community in 1990, when it had a population of 800, but no population estimates were available in 2000. By that time Keltys had disappeared from county highway maps. Only the Keltys Cemetery was shown within the city limits of Lufkin.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Angelina County Historical Survey Committee, Land of the Little Angel: A History of Angelina County, Texas, ed. Bob Bowman (Lufkin, Texas: Lufkin Printing, 1976). Archie Birdsong Mathews, The Economic Development of Angelina County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1952). Lita M. Mayberry, Keltys: An East Texas Sawmill Town (M.A. research study, Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College, 1948).

Megan Biesele

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Megan Biesele, "KELTYS, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlk04), accessed April 18, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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