NAME: Bessmay
COUNTY: Jasper
CLIMATE: Probably Humid in the summer, it's in southeast Texas!
COMMENTS: I have not been there so I don't know what is left. Bessmay has been left out of even the Texas Handbook Online so I have no idea what is left of the small town.
REMAINS: Don't know.
Two historians have written a bit of Bessmay. Harold Willis of Hardin County wrote: "... located on the Santa Fe Railroad just east of the Neches River in Jasper County. It was built by Kirby Lumber Company and named for Bessmay Kirby, the only child of John Henry Kirby. It was a large mill, with a commissary, post office, and several small businesses. The town was abandoned when the mill burned in 1949." W.T. Block wrote in an article to the Beaumont Enterprise, Saturday August 21, 1999: "...also to be known as "Mill R" in its alphabet soup of mill identities. The new town, 2 miles north of Buna, was named Bessmay, after Kirby's only child. ... The town also had a large mill office, commissary, post office, physician's office, and hotel. The 200 residences of Bessmay were segregated into white and black sections to conform to the living patterns of that age. W. H. Preston was the first mill superintendent. In 1907 the Bessmay sawmill cut 58 million feet of lumber, which probably was its banner year. By 1918, production was down to 46.5 million feet, and its 716 mill employees were paid a total of $452,000 in wages. Bessmay was built on swampy land, and after a rain, employees had to wear rubber boots to work because of the muddy streets. Nevertheless many men spent a lifetime working there. Dave Bird, who began as band sawyer in 1905, was promoted to plant superintendent in 1929, and filled that post until 1942. Joe Marriott, who began as chief carpenter in 1903, still held that title in Nov. 1935, the month that Beaumont Enterprise published 4 articles about Bessmay, as follows: "...People in Bessmay 25 years ago were much different than today. There was no law here then, every man making his own law. The superintendent wore a gun, and many residents also.... Boys who stayed at the hotel shot at box cars on the siding... Once they saw something running out... it was whiskey dripping from a bullet hole in a barrel..." By 1935 some Bessmay streets were blacktopped. Houses had electricity and running water, and employees paid a nominal monthly rent. Company-filled medicine cost 10 cents for one prescription. The grammar school had 5 teachers, but older students were bused to Buna schools. " Submitted by: Sherry Wilkinson
Mr. Richardson & Frances Etelka Hardin, now Mrs. Richardson, in the woods surrounding Bessmay, where they moved to from Silsbee, Hardin Co.
Courtesy Sherry Wilkinson