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German-American Lumber Company Records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 1986-27

Scope and Contents

The German-American Lumber Company Records cover the years 1887-1922, and consist of correspondence, accounting records, ledgers, journals, cash books, time books, contracts and deeds, and other company records. In 1898, Henry Bovis and his partners built the St. Andrews Lumber Company sawmill on the St. Andrews Bay in Florida. He sold the mill in 1901 to a German organization which renamed the business the German-American Lumber Company. Following a period during World War I in which the mill was seized and held by the federal government, Minor C. Keith and Walter C. Sherman bought the company and renamed it the St. Andrews Bay Lumber Company. This organization operated until 1930 when it was forced to close because of timber depletion in the forests. The company records are organized into the following series: Correspondence; Financial Records; Legal Records; and Personnel Records.

The Correspondence series, 1890-1920, comprises the most significant portion of the records and consists of business correspondence reflecting southern business interests, the economic history of Florida, especially the lumber trade business in Millville and Pensacola. Much of the correspondence relates to the orders of lumber to be shipped, delay of orders, payments of orders, ship construction, and other topics. One of the most prominent correspondents is H.H. Boyer, vice president of the company. This series also includes letters from various businesses and banks such as Donaldson Lumber Company, C.T. Patterson Company, American National Bank, Citizens and Southern Bank, Robert L. Merwin & Company, and others.

The Financial Records series, 1887-1922, includes various accounting records, cash books, invoices, inventory records, shipping records, bank statements, and others. Cash books contain records of money received and paid out, showing dates of transactions, names of clients, descriptions of the transactions, and amounts received and expended. Ledgers contain postings to accounts receivable and accounts payable. Sales ledgers show logs of customer sales. This series also includes gold bonds of various amounts of money for the company. This series reflects the accounting system and financial history of the company over approximately twenty years.

The Legal Records series, 1901-1919, consists of various abstracts, contracts, and deeds. Abstracts contain the copies of the abstracts to lands of the German-American Lumber Company, as well as the J.S. Betts Company in Jackson County, Florida.

The Personnel Records series, 1902-1919, includes accident reports for employees of the company, personnel time records, and payroll memos. The series also includes time books contained in four bound volumes.


  • Created: 1887-1927
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1906-1920

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to all researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has not been transferred to the Florida State University Libraries. All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean for Special Collections and 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

In 1898, Henry Bovis, a French Canadian with ties to Bagdad, Florida, discovered the vast forests surrounding St. Andrews Bay and realized that the area would be the perfect port for a lumber operation. Bovis and his business partners built the St. Andrews Lumber Company sawmill on the east side of the bayou.

Bovis and his partners sold their mill in 1901 to a German organization which renamed the business the German-American Lumber Company. J. R. Saunders served as president of the German-American Lumber Company when it was organized in Pensacola. This large company eventually owned over 200,000 acres around St. Andrews Bay and 125 miles of logging roads. It became one of the largest lumber companies in the country.

The stock in the company was principally owned by the Emperor of Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm, whose nephew, H.G. Kulenkampff, frequently visited the mill. In 1906, Millville was selected as the site of operations for the sawmill owned by the German-American Lumber Company. At this time, the company owned 75,000 acres of land and employed 1500 people. It also supplied electric power for the entire community of Millville. According to an amendment of the German-American Lumber Company charter in 1911, the officers of the company were: H.G. Kulenkampff, president; H.H. Boyer, vice-president; Fr. Julius Schreyer, second vice-president; and G. Rolfs, secretary-treasurer.

During World War I, after pro-German literature and a hidden gun emplacement were reportedly discovered in the mill, the U.S. Government seized the German-American Lumber Company. Newspapers around the country gave accounts of "a spy center on St. Andrews Bay" after the federal government's takeover of the mill under the Trading with the Enemy Act. From that point on, the mill continued to operate under the name of the American Lumber Company.

In 1919, multimillionaire Minor C. Keith of New York and sawmill owner Walter C. Sherman bought the conglomerate known as the American Lumber Company (including subsidiary Bates & Rogers Construction Co.) from the government for 1.25 million dollars. They renamed it the St. Andrews Bay Lumber Company. This organization prospered during the 1920s. In a surprise move by the State Legislature, Millville became part of greater Panama City along with St. Andrews on March 12, 1926. The St. Andrews Bay Lumber Company continued to operate until 1930 when it was forced to close because most of the good timber was gone from the forests. The mill burned on March 22, 1931.


163.36 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The collection includes correspondence, deeds, accounting records, bills and debt letters, contracts, invoices, shipping records, and various ledgers. The majority of the collection consists of correspondence, 1890-1920, concerning orders of lumber to be shipped, shipping status, and payments. A large portion of the collection is comprised of shipping records, 1904-1919, contained in 12 boxes.  It also contains 115 bound volumes including various ledgers, letter books, cash books, sales records, log books, shipping records, cash reports, and accounting journals.

Method of Acquisition

According to a letter (February 28, 1957) from V.L. Bedsole, Head of Louisiana State University's Department of Archives and Manuscripts, to Florida State University (recipient unknown), the German-American Lumber Company Records were acquired by the National Archives in Washington, D.C. by transfer to that agency from the Office of the Alien Property Custodian. That transfer was made prior to 1942. In a letter from Wayne C. Grover (December 28, 1955), Archivist of the United States, to Dr. M.M. Vance, Director of the Southern Business History Center at FSU, the German-American Lumber Company Records for 1890-1921 were offered for deposit with the Center. Grover noted in this letter that the Office of Alien Property Custodian did not regard these records as federal records, and therefore had no objection to their release to a public institution. Norman L. Kilpatrick, Director of Libraries at FSU and Secretary of the Southern Business History Center, acknowledged in a letter (January 11, 1956) to Wayne C. Grover that the Center would gladly accept this collection. The Collection was subsequently given to the FSU Libraries, although the date of this transfer has not been determined.

Existence and Location of Originals

Portions of collection available online?: No

Related Materials

Blount & Blount & Carter Papers, Beggs and Lane Collection, M1985-20, Special Collections, University of West Florida. Veverka, T. (1957). Scars of civilization: A progress-sketch biography of Walter Colquitt Sherman. Montgomery, Ala.: Paragon Press.

Processing Information

The German-American Lumber Company Records were transferred to the National Archives by the Office of the United States Alien Property Custodian prior to 1942 - possibly in the late 1930s or early 1940s. Assistant Archivist Robert Lando, an archival employee of the then Justice Division of the National Archives, processed the records. Lando prepared summary descriptive slips for each record series. V.L. Bedsole, Associate Archivist of the Archives' Justice Division at that time, reviewed the slips. Bedsole revised and annotated the slips and prepared rough record series entries. Completion of the work was prevented by the close of World War II and the reassignment of some members of the National Archives staff to new work assignments after the war. In 1956, the Collection was transferred to Florida State University's Southern Business History Center. In 1957, Mr. Bedsole, who was now Head of Louisiana State University's Department of Archives and Manuscripts, noted in his letter (February 28, 1957) to Florida State University (recipient unknown), that if many of the rough inventory slips were not transferred to Florida State University (FSU) in 1956 as part of the files of the German-American Lumber Company, they may have been retained by the National Archives. The Collection was later given to the FSU Libraries. Processing resumed in 1986, when Special Collections staff rehoused the materials in archival folders and boxes and created a temporary box list. Since that time, additional German-American Lumber Company materials were identified and processed.

German-American Lumber Company Records
Burt Altman
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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