Hal Aldridge relocated from Rockland, Texas, in the early 1900s, and began purchasing stands of longleaf yellow pine in Angelina County. In 1903, he began the construction of a sawmill near a scenic bend of the Neches River, which he completed by 1905.
As business grew, the Aldridge Sawmill produced approximately 125,000 board feet of lumber daily and employed 500 people. The site featured employee housing, a commissary, hotel, post office, blacksmith shop, train depot, two schools, and various shops and saloons.
On August 25, 1911, a fire destroyed the original wooden mill buildings. They were replaced in 1912 by the reinforced concrete structures that stand on the site today. Business does not seem to have suffered for long, and by 1913, the population of Aldridge is estimated to have been anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 residents.
Another fire in 1914, however, caused Aldridge to depart the lumber business, apparently leaving it in the hands of his brother, who was also the company’s vice president. Operations continued as business began to slow, until another fire in 1919 finally ended the Aldridge Lumber Company.
The township was essentially abandoned by 1920, eventually being annexed into the Angelina National Forest. Today, visitors can see the remains of four concrete buildings, as well as the mill pond that would have once fed the sawmill’s boilers.
Know Before You Go
The Aldridge Sawmill can be accessed via a 2.5-mile hiking trail beginning at Boykin Springs Recreation Area. Alternatively, head south on Highway 63 from Zavalla for approximately 20 miles before turning right onto County Road 32. Make another right turn when you reach County Road 34, then follow 34 until you reach a gated trail with an Aldridge Sawmill sign. There is some space for parking on the shoulder, and the sawmill is a short walk (less than 100 yards) down this trail. A high clearance vehicle may be necessary for this route in inclement weather.