Thank you for more than 100 years!
Home Lumber Company is the oldest business in Hazard under the same management as it has been since 1914, serving the building needs of Eastern Kentucky.
Home Lumber Company (HLC) began as Hazard Lumber and Supply Company (HLSC) in August 1914, founded by the partnership of George M. Wolfe and J.L. Johnson. Johnson owed a sawmill on Messer’s Branch (Bluegrass Hollow). Wolfe, traveling through Eastern Kentucky, saw a market potential spurred by L & N Railroad’s arrival to the Hazard Coal Field, bringing coal companies and a need for miners’ housing in the coal camps. The L & N ran small branch lines to the hollows where the mines were located. Materials for the camps, such lumber, bricks for chimneys, windows, doors and were hauled from the newly formed Hazard Lumber and Supply by oxen and wagons since the railroad tracks had not been laid yet. The Messer Branch location later crossed the North Fork to a location behind Engle Hardware on property that is now a parking lot for Peoples’ Bank in Hazard, KY.
It is said that Mr. Johnson nailed the invoices to a tree.
In the late teens, Eli H. Brashear and John Hall joined the company. They were so busy that they did not have time to come home for lunch, so other members of their families were employed.
In 1918, after serving in WWI, William P. Morton joined the firm, as Manager of the Hazard yard until 1948, when he moved to Winchester, KY to serve as President of the Company. Morton, like Wolfe, grew up in Catlettsburg, KY and worked for the W.M. Ritter Lumber Company, the largest hardwood timber company east of the Mississippi. After Morton moved to Winchester, Nick Brashear became Manager of the Hazard yard. For most of the history of the company, the Hazard yard did as much business as the rest of the locations put together.
HLSC bought rough, green lumber from local sawmills, which it then dried and run through the planing mill to make boards, siding and moldings. The woodworking shop manufactured windows, doors, cabinets and anything else that could be made from wood. Home Lumber Company (HLC) still has a woodworking shop when most lumberyards have discontinued theirs shops.
HLSC went through a period of steady growth: In 1919, a lumberyard was built in Whitesburg, KY to serve the mines and housing needs in Letcher County, then just 4 years later, a large lumber storage shed, planing mill and woodworking shop were built along the Kentucky River and the L & N team tracks in Hazard. The company even had its own rail siding to receive boxcar loads of materials to be unloaded directly from boxcars right into the shed.
In 1927, there was a flood putting 36”of water through the shed and washing out the depot bridge, serving the HLSC and L&N Depot. The only access was by wagon fording the river and going through a large culvert under the railroad that carried the water of Messer’s Branch. A private company built a new toll bridge in 1929, charging 5 cents for vehicles and a penny for people. Governor “Happy” Chandler had the state pay the bonds and freed the bridge in the mid 1930’s.
Even through the hardship of the flood, HLSC continued its expansion, purchasing the Scobee Lumber Company in Winchester, KY in 1929. The name was then changed to Home Lumber Company to reflect its expansion. Afterwards HLC opened yards at Irvine, Mt. Sterling, and Versailles, KY.
A yard was built in Jackson, KY that was once a busy town until the railroad came on up the river. The yard burned, was rebuilt, and then closed, because Jackson did not have the markets that Hazard and Whitesburg had.
Bill Morton, son of William P. Morton, managed the yard at Versailles in 1948, after serving as a B26 pilot in Europe in WWII during the Korean Conflict. In 1952, Bill Morton moved to Hazard, and became president of Home Lumber Company and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1988.
In 1955, HLC expanded its services by constructing a Ready Mix Concrete Plant near the old shed in Hazard, which was replaced in 1979 by a state-of-the-art new plant on Coal Harbor Hill in Perry County. The company also had a Concrete operation in Whitesburg, KY.
Unrelenting to remaining prosperous, and in spite of the worst flood in history of Hazard in 1957 that put river water 7’2” in its floors, HLC bought the old Mahan Grocery lot next to the depot bridge and built a new office and store in 1960. HLC also bought the passenger and freight depot and team tracks from L & N, using the freight depot as a warehouse for building materials and demolishing the worn down passenger depot.
In July 1986, a fire destroyed the shed and mill. Wade Morton saved the riverside shed by closing the fire doors. In October, there was another fire in the old L & N Depot, so after demolishing the old riverside shed, a new shop was built with new woodworking machines. Now under the leadership of Peyton and Wade Morton, a new modern lumber and building material storage has been built.
Presidents of Home Lumber Company has been:
- George M. Wolfe
- William P. Morton Sr.
- Leon Gibson
- George S. Morton
- William (Bill) P. Morton Jr. (who sold his controlling interest in the company in 1995). His sons,
- William Peyton Morton III and Wade Wiley Morton