I’ve recently been going though some very old materials. In the Business Manager’s Papers, mostly generated by A.B. Cohn in Rice’s very earliest days, I unexpectedly came across a box full of warning signs. One of the pieces of property William Marsh Rice left to the Institute was a huge tract of timber land, roughly 50,000 acres mostly in Beauregard Parish, Louisiana, just north of Lake Charles. It was the timber on this property that paid for much of the early building on campus and protecting it was serious business:
I’m sure few of you will be surprised to learn that this is about to take a weird turn, so here we go.
For no really good reason I instantly recognized the name of the Institute’s agent, Frank Shutts. He was an engineer in Lake Charles and an important figure in the development of that city. Here’s a picture of him that I found in the Southwest Louisiana Historical Collection at McNeese State:
And here’s why I knew him–that’s his goofball son, Elmer, a member of Rice’s first class, on the left:
Elmer has been mentioned here before in the context of his risqué dorm room decorations. A bit surprisingly, he also went on to become an important figure in Lake Charles, applying his Rice engineering training to the task of building and running that city’s port facility.
If you follow this link you’ll find more than you ever wanted to know about Lake Charles, but I would point out that Section IV on the lumber industry after 1900 was written by Elmer Shutts himself and includes a very interesting section on Rice’s introduction of professional reforestation efforts to the area.