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Cudlipp Forestry Center at Texas A&M Forest Service

The Texas A&M Forest Service Cudlipp Forestry Center was once located just outside of Lufkin, Texas. The center’s history dates back to 1935 when the Texas legislature made funds available for the construction of a new office building and warehouse to accommodate the Division of Forest Protection and the Division of Forest Products Research of the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Although Texas A&M Forest Service headquarters have always been in College Station, much of its field activities have been centered in Angelina County and more specifically the city of Lufkin from the start. In 1922, the Division of Forest Protection was established by State Forester E.O. Siecke and in 1924, the division was moved from College Station to Lufkin.

Bill Oates, Texas A&M Forest Service Agency Associate Director, said “Mr. Siecke wanted to enhance oversight for the growing field operations ­­– essentially get the leadership closer to the battle.”

In 1924, the division included two fire protection inspectors and 28 patrolmen. By 1934, the staff had grown to 126 patrolmen/emergency patrolmen and 78 forest guards, a majority of which were part-time. Over this same period of growth, the Texas A&M Forest Service annual budget experienced unprecedented growth from $57,597 to $142,398, a 247% increase. By 1934, roughly two-thirds of the agency’s budget was from state appropriations, with the remainder from federal and private sources.

When first relocated to Lufkin, the division headquarters was sited in a house on East Shepard Avenue. The structure remains today and houses the Court Appointed Special Advocates organization.

In 1936, the new office building for the Division of Forest Protection was constructed on a five-and-one-quarter-acre tract of land at a total cost of $21,590.76. In addition to the two new buildings, a Civilian Conservation Corps (C. C. C.) warehouse was constructed with funds in the amount of $2,400 allotted by the federal government.

The new office was a combination of beauty and efficiency in modern office construction and 10 of the 14 rooms were finished in different Texas wood paneling, all donated by operating lumber companies of East Texas. The new Division of Forest Protection office building and two new warehouses were completed and dedicated on December 12, 1936.

Texas A&M Forestry Center December 1936
 Texas A&M Forestry Center December, 1936 

In 1937, the headquarters for the Lufkin District of field operations, known as District 3, were established at the center. District 3 was one of 6 Texas A&M Forest Service administrative districts for field operations in East Texas, each led by a District Forester.

The center was also the site to the first wooden forest fire lookout tower in Texas erected in 1938 behind the division headquarters and remained there until 1953 when it was dismantled.

This view shows the headquarters of the Division of Forest Protection office on the left and the wooden lookout tower in the background.

 Division of Forest Protection Headquarters in Lufkin

Division of Forest Protection Headquarters in Lufkin

In 1940, the Division of Forest Products Research, now known as the Texas Forest Products Laboratory, was formed and headquartered in a new six-room building at the forestry center. Wood scientists located there were active in research, education, wood production development and forest industry assistance. Specialists from the laboratory were involved in pioneer work on the use of wood residues for pulp chips used in paper manufacturing. The laboratory also housed the most complete reference library on wood and wood products in the state and was equipped to conduct all major strength and mechanical tests on wood for research purposes.

Basic aims of the laboratory were to find new uses for both high and low grade and commercial and non-commercial species of Texas woods, improve methods of processing and manufacturing forest products and seek ways of reducing wood and mill waste through improved manufacturing methods and utilization of the waste materials. The original building contained a chemical research room, a woodworking shop, photographic darkroom, offices, library and general workshop.

Shortly after the laboratory was in operation, a research dry kiln was constructed. In addition to the dry kiln, the lab also operated a small sawmill, shake/shingle mill and a wood treatment plant. 

In 1949, under the leadership of the fourth State Forester of Texas, Dr. Alfred Folweiler, the Divisions were renamed Departments.

The next building to be constructed at the center was the headquarters of District 3 in 1953. By this expansion, the center’s acreage size included a total of 12-and-a-half acres.

District 3 was and still is responsible for the conduct of all service activities and programs in the 10-county area comprised of Sabine, Shelby, San Augustine, Angelina, Nacogdoches, Trinity, Houston, Anderson, Leon and Cherokee counties. The district maintains centralized wildfire dispatching for six million acres, provides forest management services such as timber marketing, tree planting, timber stand improvement of fire break plowing for private landowners and conducts conservation education programs for school children and other interested groups.

The center was formally dedicated and renamed to the Cudlipp Forestry Center on June 1, 1962 in honor of the late Albert E. Cudlipp by the Board of Directors of the Texas A&M College System. Cudlipp, of Lufkin, served as a member of the System Board from 1949 to 1961. Cudlipp also served as the Vice President and Director of the Lufkin Foundry and Machin Co., the Board Chairman of the Houston Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Texas Lumber Manufacturers Association and the Vice President of the American Trucking Association.

In 1962 the Forest Pest Control Section was established in response to periodic and widespread Southern Pine Beetle epidemics throughout the Pineywoods. By 1967, a Pest Control Laboratory was constructed at the center containing three offices, a complete reference library and a modern laboratory facility. This section coordinated the Texas A&M Forest Service responses to major insect and disease outbreaks across the state and conducted applied research to address threats to forest and tree health.

Construction of the Pest Control Lab at Cudlipp was a culmination of 30 plus years of work by forest entomologists, foresters, industry and family forest landowners to raise the awareness and manage the impacts all biotic forest pests have on our trees,” said Oates.

 The Forest Pest Control Section strived to minimize economic timber losses from insects, diseases and other pests throughout the forested regions of Texas. In 1967, the resident entomologists were involved with detection and control programs for the Southern Pine Beetle, the most important and destructive insect pest in Texas as well as research on cone and seed pests. The lab was also the first operation in Texas A&M Forest Service to make regular use of computer technologies. 

Responding to the need of formal and realistic training for wildland fire fighters, the A.D. Folweiler Training Building was constructed in 1981 and included a state-of-the-art fire simulator.

Due to a decline in budgets, the Forest Products Lab was essentially moth-balled in 1993 and all forest products research operations completely ceased a few years later.

By 2015, due to serious structural problems, the original Forest Protection headquarters at the Center was demolished, leaving only the two warehouses as the last remnants from the 1936 dedication.

Overview of Cudlipp Forestry Center work

The Cudlipp Forestry Center spanned the careers of seven of the eight State Foresters of Texas, including E.O. Seicke, W.E. White, A.D. Folweiler, Paul Kramer, Bruce Miles, Jim Hull and Tom Boggus. With that, it also produced innovative and revolutionary projects for the Texas A&M Forest Service.

A large project to come out of the center was the educational program, specifically motion pictures. By 1934 the educational program had shown such promising results that another motorized motion picture unit was equipped and began operation in Northeast Texas. From 1926 to 1939 over 4,000 shows were given to an audience of 600,000 people in East Texas. Starting in 1939, two educational assistants working out of the Cudlipp Forestry Center each equipped with a panel body light pick-up truck containing a Delco electric generator, a portable motion picture projector, a sound system and a loud speaker which were capable of re­producing sound motion pictures and music from phonograph records.

 Motion Picture Unit 1941

J.R. Thigpen with Motion Picture Unit, 1941

The shows were free of charge and open to all. They typically included a short talk by an educational assistant, the showing of the Texas-made film, “Tex-as Forestry,” and then two comedies. The shows not only served a great need from the forestry education side but offered a means of entertainment to many rural communities which otherwise would have had seldom access to a movie house. The average attendance of these shows were 153 people and in March of 1938, the Army furnished each C. C. C. camp with a motion picture projector of its own. Motion pictures shown are still available today at the Texas Archive of the Moving Image site.

Another project under the supervision of the Texas A&M Forest Service and conducted from the division of forest projection at the center was the Forests of East Texas mapping project. By 1940, enrollees in East Texas C. C. C. forestry camps had covered 5,250,000 acres by marching through field and forest working on the most comprehensive survey ever undertaken of the piney woods belt.

On January 23, 1948, the Texas Dry Kiln club was formed at the Lufkin Forest Products Laboratory at the center. E.D. Marshall, the then forest products lab chief, initiated the formation by calling a meeting of dry kiln operators, engineers and wood technologists. The association in such a club provided an opportunity for an exchange of ideas in reducing wood seasoning losses and the attending operation and maintenance costs in dry kiln work.

“A big part of the agency to come out of Cudlipp was the Rural Fire Defense Program,” Oates said.

The fire department program provided training and equipment to rural volunteer fire departments. The program took Federal Excess Property (FEPP) and converted them to fire equipment, such as engines, to give to volunteer fire departments.

 Rural Fire Defense Truck

Rural Fire Defense Truck

During its tenure, the Cudlipp Forestry Center hosted thousands of Texas A&M Forest Service operations and activities as well as meetings with local, state and federal officials, forest industry leaders and conservation organizations.

In 1978, students from Stephen F. Austin State University's School of Forestry visited the Texas A&M Forest Service's Cudlipp Center. The students were shown the fire control operation and were given a tour of operations which included fire weather fore-casting, dispatching operations and new experimental models of the "Texas Snow Job".

 Forestry students visit Cudlipp Forestry Center in 1978

Forestry students visit Cudlipp Forestry Center in 1978 – Shown here is district forester with the Texas A&M Forest Service (third from left) explaining to SFA students the operation of the then newest addition to the ITS’ experimental fire fighting equipment the “Texas Blizzard”.

The Cudlipp Forestry Center housed many other significant programs including Training, Radio Communications, Engineering, Forest Inventory and Analysis, Water Quality, Cartography, Aviation and Fire Prevention.

“If College Station was the head of the agency, then Cudlipp was the heart,” said Oates. “For nearly 70 years, it was where things got done in the Texas A&M Forest Service. Without the work we did at Cudlipp, it’s doubtful Texas would have the forest resources we enjoy today.”

The center marked the history books in more ways than one and its legacy will live on for the Texas A&M Forest Service.

The Cudlipp Forestry Center no longer stands today though all agency programs remain in Lufkin, relocated to the Hudson district office location on Highway 94.

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