Miles Lumber History

N. Miles & Sons, Inc. was founded in 1933 by Joseph Nicholson Miles. One year later he purchased his own portable sawmill and began operations in Covington, Louisiana. Production at that time was roughly 10,000 board feet per day (BF/d). Joe Miles soon became well known as a lumberman and many folks affectionately began referring to him as “Uncle Joe.” In the early 40s, Uncle Joe was the owner of a peckerwood mill just east of Lumberton, Mississippi. It was state-of-the-art with its 3-block carriage, 2-saw edger and a swing trimmer saw. A single 100 HP Booter diesel power unit drove this portable unit that could be moved from location to location and be up and running in a mere 3 days.

By the 1940s, Uncle Joe had moved from being a lumberman to a lumber executive. It was about this same time that he welcomed his 2 sons home from the war in Europe. Together, Uncle Joe, J.P. and Roy formed the Joe N. Miles & Sons Company.

That’s also when he decided it was time the timber came to him rather than him going to the timber. So he set up his first permanent base mill with a dry kiln and a planer in Lumberton, the town he and most of his family had come to know as home. During this period of time, America moved toward great economic growth and so did Uncle Joe’s corporation. Employment grew and board production passed 25,000 BF/d. “Uncle Joe” was the captain of the ship we know as the Miles Corporation. It was a ship he steered through great spurts of growth; a ship he captained until his death on October 19, 1962.

Miles Lumber History Quote 1In American history, 1968 will always be recognized as a milestone. The demand to increase both productivity and efficiency meant that changes were needed. It also meant the installation of a chipping saw. The Lumberton Mill was one of the first in Mississippi to install a shiny, new Mark II chipping saw. It was about this same time that Roy’s son, Mike, joined the company. What a difference this meant in production! In the late 60s, production reached about 70,000 BF/d. By 1970, production had jumped to nearly 80,000 BF/d and more members of the Miles family joined in the day-to-day operation. Just as pine trees grow, so did the Joe N. Miles & Sons Corporation with the new addition of J. P.’s son, Duddy and Roy’s son, David. The corporation’s second mill began operation in Bogalusa, Louisiana in 1972 and a third Mill began operation in Silver Creek, Mississippi in 1975. Bogalusa began as a chipping saw mill with a Yates planer and 1 dry kiln. When Union officials didn’t like construction work being handled by non-union crews and picket lines went up, Roy and J.P. took a different approach. Concrete trucks wouldn’t cross the picket lines, so the Miles Corporation bought their own truck. Progress was slowed at the new Bogalusa site, but the task was completed. By the end of 1972, production for both plants totaled close to 160,00 BF/d. In addition, many of the new Bogalusa employees were being trained at the Lumberton Mill – all part of the effort to ensure a smooth start-up for the new plant.

By the mid-70’s, the Joe N. Miles & Sons corporation was no ordinary corporation. It was a company committed to progress. The Silver Creek Mill was making news, even before its completion. This new mill was to be the fastest, most versatile and innovative high recovery installation of its type in the southeastern United States. Silver Creek differed from other mills because it would use 2 canters and a quad bed rather than a chipping saw. The higher capacity would increase feed speed from 180 ft/min. to 300 ft/min. The Miles Corporation received another addition to the team when J. P.’s other two sons, Johnny and Nicki climbed aboard.

In the early days of its operation, Silver Creek didn’t have a dry kiln or planer mill, so the green lumber was transported by truck to both Lumberton and Bogalusa for drying and planing. Corporation-wide production swelled to 260,000 BF/d and by 1978 that figure climbed to 275,000 BF/d. Fueled by advances in technology, in 1985 Silver Creek embarked on a renovation project aimed at staying competitive by ensuring a more efficient and productive facility. The company entered into a $2 million upgrade that added 3 scanning stations, a Cocom sharp chain reducer twin band saw and a Sherman 12″ double armor gate. This combination was one of the first in America with a feed speed of 200 ft/min. Rounding out the new equipment was a Miles-built chipping cam. The capital investment resulted in a 30% jump in production at Silver Creek.

After 14 years of successful operation, Miles Lumber demonstrated its commitment to technical innovation by upgrading its Bogalusa facility with a $3 million addition including 4 Henco scanning stations, a Cocom sharp chain reducer twin band saw, a Cocom quad bed, a Henco simulator dispatcher and a Henco trimmer. In addition to buying new equipment, the corporation also built and installed 2 of its own edgers and a cam. With progress comes changes and for the Joe N. Miles & Sons Corporation, that meant the end of an era in 1987 with the closing of the Lumberton Mill. In 40 years of successful operation came changes in business practices and natural resources. The Lumberton plant had served its purpose as the base of the Joe N. Miles & Sons Corporation, as it’s known today. For Lumberton residents, the mill had become a landmark and part of everyone’s daily life. Memories of the mill are as varied as the people who worked there and many will remember J.P.’s hat trick, where, for good luck, he placed his hat on the first log to run through the chipping saw. This had become J.P.’s trademark and a family tradition. Others remember Roy’s hands-on testing of new heavy equipment, pushing it to the limits to test its quality. Nothing was more familiar than the sawmill whistle. And when that whistle went silent, so did a part of the town’s history.

In 1992, the family and mills suffered another loss: the death of Leroy Elbert Miles. The family was missing one of its roots and the mill was missing one of its leaders. As always, the Joe N. Miles & Sons Corporation weathered the storms. Not even the lose of such a loved one and the closing of Lumberton could dampen its collective spirit as it moved full throttle into the last decade of the 20th century. After a 1994 fire that destroyed the Silver Creek Planer Mill, the company faced tough times again. Silver Creek was still able to operate its sawmill and kiln.

The first post-fire production plan called for sending the bulk of Silver Creek’s product to Bogalusa for planing, with the remainder going to McComb, if necessary. However, the plan was quickly revised by Management to allow Bogalusa the task of handling the increased overflow of the lost Planer.

With construction of a new planer mill a necessity, Silver Creek was soon to be outfitted with the finest equipment available. Included in this new state-of-the-art equipment, was a Miles’ built stacker, a Coastal feed table, a Coastal high-speed planer, capable of running 2,000 ft/min., a high-tech trimmer and a 38 bay, high-tech bed sorter with a high-tech package maker. While the fire meant the planer mill benefited with the finest equipment money could buy, it also meant the in-progress renovation at the sawmill would have to be placed on hold for a short period of time. But once the planer mill was back online, the sawmill was given its shot at being updated. A new canter was built in-house, plus scanning and optimizing packages from High-Tech were installed at the RBS, canter and edger.

In early 1993, the Bogalusa facility implemented the Total Quality Management philosophy. This Total Quality Management, or TQM (as it’s commonly known), is a simple, yet powerful technique that has produced astounding results. Simply put, TQM puts every worker at the Bogalusa site on equal footing. There is no real distinction between bosses and employees; instead everyone associated with the plant is recognized as a team member, with equal responsibility for getting the job done. Since the TQM concept took hold, Bogalusa has seen increased production, a rise in morale and a drop in the accident rate. TQM was only the beginning of improvement and upgrades at Bogalusa.

The Miles Corporation is about to begin a multi-million dollar, multi-layered upgrade that included the latest trend in lumber operations. Bogalusa is setting its sites on both the present and future of lumber production with its new equipment purchases. Bogalusa is beginning to move from the most traditional ways of straight sawing, to the newest, most modern way of sawing; Curve sawing. This new method allows cutting with the grain of the log in order to best utilize all of its raw materials. Further strengthening its proven manufacturing strategy, this new method will ensure Miles Lumber’s continued ability to stay on the “Cutting Edge” of the lumber industry. Curve sawing is expected to increase the plant’s yield by 8 to 12% over the standard yield. TQM and facility upgrades continue to be a part of the long-term plan for the Joe N. Miles & Sons Corporation – a plan to maintain its leadership in the sawmill industry and at the same time meet our customer’s production expectations for high quality lumber.

Today, Uncle Joe would probably be beaming with pride to know that in addition to the involvement of his two sons, this solid family corporation now includes all the offspring of J.P. and Roy in either hands-on or stockholder positions: Susan M. Byrd, Mary Ann Einhart, David E. Miles, Joanna J. Miles, John E. Miles, Joseph M. Miles, Michael L. Miles, William N. Miles, and Deborah M. Smith. Quite a legacy and tribute to Uncle Joe!