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West Yellow Pine Lumber Company Records, 1855-1916

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 1-25

Scope and Contents

The MSS 1-25 accession of the West Yellow Pine Lumber Company Records includes correspondence, letterpress books, time books, invoices and other financial records, lumber reports, railway waybills, and records of the Madison Southern Railway. The majority of the collection covers the 1900-1916 period. The MSS 1987-001 accession consists of letterpress books, record books, and several law firm record books. Some of these latter materials date from 1855.


  • Created: 1855 - 1916
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1900-1916


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to research.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean of Special Collections & Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Florida State University Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Biographical or Historical Information

John W. West, of Valdosta, Georgia, with his brothers Eugene E. West and Abram Hunter West, owned the West Yellow Pine Lumber Company, in addition to various merchandising, lumbering, and turpentine manufacturing enterprises in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas. Based at Olympia, in Lowndes County, Georgia, the West Yellow Pine Lumber Company consisted of a lumber mill and a store (possibly a company store). These records indicate that they also incorporated a railway, the Madison Southern Railway.

W.J. Kelly and William P. Smith of Jacksonville, and John W. West chartered the Madison Southern Railway Company in 1906. Their purpose was to build a 60-mile line from Madison southward to Deadman's Bay (now Steinhatchee), Florida. According to Elmer Spear, in his Madison County Florida Family History Book (2002), for reasons unknown, the road was not immediately built. Before and after the turn of the century, several roads were projected to Deadman's Bay with the idea of developing a deep-water port at that location. However, none of these efforts proved fruitful because offshore barrier reefs rendered the construction cost of such a port prohibitive.

The Madison Southern Railroad was finally built in 1909 by the West Yellow Pine Lumber Company, and incorporated by John W. West, W.J. Kelly, and C.P. Kelly of Madison, all lumbermen doing business in Madison County. The lumber company used the Madison Southern to haul lumber from its sawmill at Weston, Florida, 43 miles south of Madison, and from its logging camp at Waco, Florida, three miles south of Weston, to the sawmill. It also hauled lumber from two other sawmills, one at Lillian, Florida and one at Alamo, Florida, five and six miles, respectively, south of Madison, and served a turpentine still owned by C.P. Kelly. The 6.7 mile road was built with 40-pound rails, most of which were leased from the Seaboard Air Line Railroad.

The Madison Southern Railway's original equipment included three locomotives, one passenger car, and 33 freight cars. By 1919, the number of locomotives was reduced to one and the number of freight cars to five.

After several good years of hauling forest products, traffic on the Madison Southern gradually declined. During 1921, according to Spear, only 11,219 tons of inbound and outbound freight were handled and total passenger revenue was only $37.15. By coincidence, the railroad's charter expired on May 22, 1922, about the same time the West Yellow Pine Lumber Company's sawmill was shut down and dismantled. The road and equipment reverted back to the lumber company, which used it to scrap their logging camps and tram roads into the woods. On December 18, 1922, the Madison Southern applied to the Interstate Commerce Commission for permission to abandon the line.


54.75 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The West Yellow Pine Company records include correspondence, letterpress books, time books, invoices, account records, lumber orders, lumber reports, and railway waybills. The collection also includes the records of the Madison Southern Railway, owned by the West Yellow Pine Company.

Method of Acquisition

The MSS 1-25 accession of The West Yellow Pine Lumber Company Records was given to the Florida State University Libraries by the Madison County (Florida) Historical Society in 1972. According to a letter from the late Tallahassee author Clifton Paisley to N. Orwin Rush, former Director of FSU Libraries (October 11, 1972), these materials were also known as the Colin P. Kelly, Sr. lumber records, since Mr. Kelly was an owner of the West Yellow Pine Lumber Company. Mr. Kelly's daughter, Mrs. Emma K. Howerton, who lived in Madison, originally gave the records to the Madison Historical Society. The MSS 1987-1 accession was given to the Florida State University Libraries and its donor is unknown.

Processing Information

Special Collections Department staff processed the MSS 1-25 accession in 1982 and the MSS 1987-1 in April 1987.

West Yellow Pine Lumber Company Records, 1855-1916
Burt Altman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository

116 Honors Way
PO Box 3062047
Tallahassee FL 32306-2047 US