PLACES THAT TIME FORGOT
Written and compiled by Harold W. Willis
Chairman - Hardin County Historical Commission
Old Olive is just a name today and many folks don't even know that it existed much less know where it was located. Some confuse the town site with the Olive Cemetery. And even Olive Cemetery is so covered with trees and vines that a person would need to know where it is located to find it. At one time the town of Olive was the largest town in Hardin County. Of course, like most sawmill towns of times gone by, Olive only existed about 30 years - between 1881 and 1912. There was a thriving sawmill town there during this time, located about 3 miles north of Kountze on the Old Sabine and East Texas Railroad built by the Kountze Brothers.
Plank was another early sawmill town, located about 6 or 7 miles north of Kountze on the Old Sabine and East Texas Railroad. It was once a thriving community built about 1882. When the timber in that area was cut out about 1890, the town was abandoned and the mill was moved. There was a voting box there for several years. Today all that is left of plank are a few scattered homes.
Thicket was first known at Williams' Station, since Dave Williams had built a sawmill there on the Santa Fe Railroad. The U.S. Post Office got their mail mixed up with another Williams, Texas, so the community's name was changed to Thicket.
Bessmay was 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.
Fresenius, a sawmill community, was located on Village Creek between Kountze and Silsbee. It was established on the Santa Fe Railroad about 1900 and was named for a railroad engineer according to Bob Bowman, formerly with the Southland Paper Mill of Lufkin, Texas.
Lillard was another sawmill community on the Santa Fe Railroad about halfway between Silsbee and the Neches River. It was built by The Yellow Pine Tie and Timber Company in 1898. The mill was sold several times before it burned in 1902. There was a U.S. Post Office located there between 1899 and 1904.
Tyron was another sawmill site up on the Sabine and East Texas Railroad between 1888 and 1893. There was a U.S. Post Office located there during that time. The community was named for Joseph M. Tyron, a Houston lumberman, who built the mill. Later, the mill was moved by another company to Plank.