Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Hamilton Oil Mill

Hamilton Oil Mill on Hamilton Road
Bossier Parish Library collection: 0000.001.071
In the late 1800s, Hamilton Oil Mill was known as Hamilton & Co’s Oil Mills, Cotton Gins, and Corn Mills located in Shreveport on Cross Bayou between Market and Spring Street. The owner was Col. William E. Hamilton of Bossier Parish. Though the mill started off as an oil mill, cotton gin, and corn mill for the majority of their time in operation they focused on processing cottonseed products such as oil, hull, cakes, meal, fertilizers, and feed. The oil was used to produce a broad range of products including early plastics.

On October 31, 1880, Hamilton Oil Mill was utterly destroyed by fire. The only items that were able to be removed before the fire got to them were some empty sacks, the books, and some papers from the business office. Since it was their busy season and there had been a "virtual suspension in navigation" the mill had accumulated a large amount of oil and oil cake. They had nearly 400 barrels of oil, eight to ten thousand sacks of cake, around $10,000 worth of seed in bulk and $6,000 worth of cotton seed sacks in bales.

Unfortunately, the total loss was higher than the insurance coverage. Not to mention the cost of clean-up, rebuilding and the loss of production. Hamilton Oil Mill employed about one hundred people at the time. This loss was felt not only by the firm and those in its employ but also by those that transported the raw cottonseed and the products of the mill. The loss of such a large and successful factory negatively impacted the city, too.

Just one month later, Hamilton & Co. announced that they were cleaning the debris left from the fire and would start rebuilding immediately. One year later, ads for the Mill began to appear in the papers again.

In 1893 Hamilton Oil Mill invested in some precautionary measures in case of fire. They built a high brick firewall between the seed and hull warehouse and the main mill building. A steel tower eighty feet tall was erected adjacent from the main building with an enormous boiler iron water tank on top of it capable of holding 20,000 gallons of water. This water tank was intended to serve as a back-up supply for the boilers allowing only 10,000 gallons of water to be used so that the rest can be reserved for use in case of fire. Fire pipes were connected at the bottom of the tank and connected with the safety water pipes which extended all throughout the buildings arranged to deluge every floor in case of fire. These safety pipes were also connected to the water supply to ensure plenty of water should the tank become drained.

These precautionary measures paid off because, on December 19, 1896, the Hamilton Oil Mill’s cotton seed shed caught fire and once again they had to ring the fire alarm. Fortunately, when the fire department arrived, they were not needed. In addition to their automatic water safety pipes, they also had the employees well trained in the event of a fire. By the time the fire department reached the scene the fire had already been put out.

On September 16, 1900, along with an advertisement for lots for sale in the McCormick Annex of Bossier City was an announcement that the Hamilton Oil Mill was being erected there. In 1905 it was announced that the Hamilton Oil Mill was now back in operation in their new location in the McCormick Annex of Bossier City. The mill continued to thrive here for decades and is how Hamilton Road acquired its name.

To learn about other Bossier Parish industries visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City.

By: Amy Robertson

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