Historic Yellow Pine harks to early timber era

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

By The Sibley, Lake Bistineau & Southern Railway was built in 1899 by the Long-Bell Lumber Company of Kansas City to connect their mill at Yellow Pine with their timber lands to the south and with the big railroads at Sibley, Louisiana. The railroad was operated daily between the forests of fine timber and the mill, where the logs were manufactured into lumber that was sent to all parts of the world.

Bill McKinney, co-owner of Yellow Pine Inn, grew up listening to the local folks talk about the historic town that faded away after the timber was depleted and the once bustling saw mill town of Yellow Pine was no more. "Yellow Pine centered around the sawmill and had a population of about two thousand," McKinney said. "In its day, it was second only in size and population to Shreveport. It was a typical noisy, bustling sawmill town. In addition to the mill, surrounding lumberyards and warehouses, it had numerous shotgun houses for workers to live in, three hotels and its own post office. Doctors lived on site to treat cuts and bruises and broken bones associated with sawmill operations. There was a commissary that furnished general supplies needed by employees and their families as well as surrounding farmers."

McKinney, a third generation family member living adjacent to the former railroad and mill site remembers how the cut-over land looked after the lumber company had harvested the trees. "They cut everything," he said. "Oak was used for rough lumber and pine trees furnished a better grade. I remember standing on our rooftop as a ten-year-old and being able to see the town of Ringgold."

Today, a turn onto Yellow Pine Road off Highway 371 south of Sibley takes one through tall trees and dense undergrowth typical of the Dorcheat-Lake Bistineau area. A few dwellings are scattered here and there before you reach a house that reaches out to draw your interest. Flowerpots line the open front porch and a dog basks out front in a rare ray of sunshine on a cold winter day. As you walk up the front steps you see this sign on a brick pillar.

"Yellow Pine Inn, Circa 1906, National Register of Historic Places."

Yellow Pine Inn is one of two buildings left of the Yellow Pine community built by Globe Lumber Company. The church, further down the road, is still active. The Yellow Pine Inn was once the schoolhouse, voting site, and community center for Yellow Pine, Louisiana.

"I was born and raised in this house," Bill McKinney said as he opened the front door opening into a large inviting room. "The school was built in 1906 and closed with the consolidation of schools in 1923. My grandfather, Willie S. McKinney, bought the building and converted it into his family residence. My mother lived here until her death in 2003. She asked me, not long before her death, to not let the house fall down. After one year of renovation work by my wife Mary and I working 18 hours seven days a week- I think, barring storms, tornado, or other disasters, the old house will hold up another 100 years."

"This room," McKinney continued was the original schoolroom. "It had eight tables for eight grades and one teacher. It took Mary and me three months to strip the old paint off the beaded lumber on this wall. The floor is of the same beaded lumber turned upside down. This stain here is from the old wood heater that once sat in this spot."

"Converting this old school building for use as a Bed & Breakfast was not easy. It helped that my Dad was a carpenter and I learned from him how to do the work. The work caused my body to hurt in places I didn't know I had, even my hair hurt. My wife was willing to labor along with me and shares a life style where we learned to get along with much less than former jobs had supplied. We spent our life savings on this renovation. An insurance appraisal before and after showed the value of the property the same as it had been before. It's just that we love this place and can't bear to throw it all away."

Civic groups often reserve the large front room of Yellow Pine Inn for their events. Bill and Mary McKinney cater meals for church groups, Red Hats, garden clubs, homemakers clubs, and others, by appointment only.

The intimate bed and breakfast boasts a tradition of offering Southern hospitality and spans 116 acres of meadows and woodlands. Explore nature trails, relax in the parlor or sit on the porch swing. Delightful guest bedrooms with 12-foot ceilings feature comfortable furnishings and rustic views outside. Fishing and boating is available on nearby Lake Bistineau.

Yellow Pine Inn will host their annual Spring Fling featuring a plant sale and swap, booths with antiques, collectibles, and food, plus entertainment by musicians, storytellers, jugglers, on Saturday, March 29, 2008 from 9 a.m. - until, rain or shine. To learn more, contact Mary McKinney at 318 377 3600 or access www.yellowpineinn.com