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Wisconsin Governor Cadwallader C. Washburn commissioned his brother-in-law, G.A. Buffum, to make a trip down the Mississippi River to find a suitable location for a lumber mill. Mr. Buffum recommended Louisiana, Missouri, because of its desirable trade location, which included easy access to the river and close proximity to the Louisiana and Missouri River Railroad terminals, and the St. Louis, Alton and Chicago Railroad Western Terminals.
In December 1873, the fourth railroad bridge to be built along the entire length of the Mississippi River was opened to traffic at Louisiana. With shipments by boat to the north and south, and with railroads for shipments east and west, Louisiana became one of the best distribution points in the Midwest.
In case you’re wondering how La Crosse Lumber Co. was named, financiers from La Crosse, Wisconsin joined Washburn in establishing the company, which was named in their honor. Mr. Buffum bought the company in 1882 from the Washburn Estate.
At that time, northern white pine timber was floated down the river on rafts and was manufactured into lumber at a planing mill located north of Louisiana on the river bank. At the mill, a variety of operations were used to turn “raw” lumber into finished products: intricate wood carvings, created by European immigrant craftsmen, embellished mantels, cornices and door casings.
As the manufacturing facilities grew, and people came for miles by wagon to Louisiana to buy lumber, it was apparent that there was a need for a better way to serve the outlying communities. To accomplish this, retail yards were established in several inland communities to the west of Louisiana. As transportation improved, the company extended its operation to Illinois.
The retail yards were owned and operated by Charles G. and Frank W. Buffum, sons of the founder. On March 1, 1888, all family interests were pooled and the company was incorporated.
On January 20, 1914, Charles G. Buffum became president and remained at the helm until his death in December 1934.
In January 1935, Charles G. Buffum Jr. was elected president and remained in that capacity until 1985, at which time he became the Chairman of the Board until his death in October of 1988.