Early Individual History


Among the first hardwood businesses in San Francisco in the 60’s of the last century, were Straut White & Co., Walrath & Hunter, and John Wigmore. Peter White, of Straut White & Company severed his connections with that concern in 1872, and joined with his brother, Asa L. White, establishing the house of White Brothers. They bought out the firm of Walrath & Hunter and are the oldest existing hardwood concern on the Pacific Coast. Mr. Straut died some years later, and his business was carried on by his widow for a number of years, but finally failed and the stock was taken over by Edward F. Niehaus. John Wigmore continued his business until he died in the 90’s. The business was carried on by his son until finally the stock was bought out by the White Brothers. J.H. Dieckmann, an importer, opened a hardwood yard with a sawmill, for cutting up tropical woods such as mahogany, Spanish Cedar, and Prima Vera, in the late 80’s, employing Edward Niehaus, who a few years later branched out for himself by buying the bankrupt stock of Straut & Company. The Dieckmann Hardwood Company went out of business in 1926.

The Allen & Tuggle Lumber Company was completely destroyed by fire in 1885. Mr. Tuggle did not care to resume business and Mr. James E. Higgins, Sr. purchased his half interest in that year. Upon the death of Mr. Allen in 1902, Mr. Higgins purchased his half interest also, and the firm continued under the name of Allen & Higgins until 1913, when the name was changed to J.E. Higgins Lumber Co. In the year 1927, the J.E. Higgins Lumber Company absorbed the Strable hardwood Company of Oakland. In 1925, they bought the stock of Cadwallader Gibson Company in San Francisco as well as the stock of E.F. Niehaus & Company and in 1929 purchased the remains of the Richard Hardwood Company.

In 1889, Mr. E.S. Howard, with Frank C. Mott, took over a hardwood lumber business in Oakland, succeeding W.C. Fife who commenced business in 1885, and named the concern Howard & Mott. In 1893, he moved to San Francisco and adopted the firm title of E.A. Howard & Company. Mr. M. William Davis entered the hardwood lumber business in 1894, and in 1913 started the Davis Hardwood Company. Mr. Davis was the first hardwood traveling salesman on the Pacific Coast. He was known from Vancouver to San Diego as “Carload Davis”.

In 1911, E.F. Niehaus died and his business was carried on by his widow and two nephews, first Adolph Niehaus and after his death, by Otto Wahlefeld, until 1920, when the business closed up and the stock bought out by J.E. Higgins Lumber Company. Otto Wahlefeld started a small business in Berkeley, handling principally Fir panels. He died in 1928.

Felix Richards, in 1907, established the Australian Hardwood Company with Mr. Simmott as a partner. They dealt first in Australian Ironbark and Spotted Gum, but gradually added to their stock American hardwoods, flooring and panels. Then name was later changed to the Richards Hardwood Company. Felix Richards died in 1927. The business continued on for several years and was finally closed out by the creditors. The J.E. Higgins Lumber Company bought the remaining stock.

In 1908, George H. Brown and Walter King entered the Hardwood business in Oakland, California, under the title of Brown-King Company. Later the name of the concern was changed to the Strable Manufacturing Company. The Michigan Lumber Manufacturers of that name becoming financially interested and under Mr. Brown’s control, continued until 1927, when it was bought out by J.E. Higgins Lumber Company and still continues as a subsidiary. Mr. George H. Brown, after about a years retirement, found a life of leisure unbearable and in 1928, bought himself a stock of hardwood lumber, flooring and veneered panels, and commenced business again in Oakland under the name of G.H. Brown Hardwood Company.

Samuel Forsyth, who had been a salesman for E.A. Howard & Co. for several years, started in San Francisco with the help of Monson Brothers, contractors and millmen, a hardwood lumber enterprise under the name of Forsyth Hardwood Company in 1917. This business continued under his management until 1927, when he sold out his interest to Robert Kahn, who had been in his employ since 1921, and William Schiemann. Mr. Schiemann retired in 1931.

Homer B. Maris, son of a veneer manufacturer in Indianapolis, came to the Pacific Coast at the age of 20 years in 1906. His first employment was with Western Hardwood Lumber Company of Los Angeles. He moved north to San Francisco in 1907 and after working as a salesman for White Brothers, did a brokerage business from 1908 to 1912. In that year he opened his own hardwood establishment under the name of Maris Hardwood Company. In 1918, he became a specialist in veneers and panels.

Henry Kirchmann, an importer and exporter, securing a favorable contract with a Philippine sawmill, commenced importing Philippine Mahogany in a large way in 1913. He established a wholesale yard and dominated the Philippine market for a number of years, also carrying a number of hardwoods of all kinds.


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