John Albert Bel


Born: December 1, 1857 in New Orleans, Louisiana
Died: December 30, 1918 in Lake Charles, Louisiana
Buried: May 9, 1934 in Orange Grove Cemetery, Lake Charles, Louisiana
Father: John Philippe Ernest Bel
Mother: Della Delphine McLean
Wife: Della Moeling Goos
Married: December 17, 1879 in Lake Charles, Louisiana
Children: Ernest Fruitosio Bel
Marie Dorothy Bel
Willie Wardwell Bel
Katherine Moeling Bel
Della Anna B. Bel

Beaumont Journal:


        A lumberman of Texas, long of service and vast experience, was asked by the writer whom he considered the best all-around mill man in the Southern Pacific territory. Without hesitating a minute the Texas replied, "J. A. Bel, of Lake Charles."
        "Why do you think so?" the Texas was asked.
        "Because he knows every branch of the business," the gentleman replied.
        "He knows the practical and the mechanical side. He knows the office part and he knows how to sell lumber. There are many millmen who know perhaps as much if not more about either the practical and mechanical branch of the lumber business, and there are a few who are probably just as good office men as Albert Bel and there are, perhaps one or two who can sell lumber as well as he, but where one may equal him in one way or another I know of none who combines all the qualifications to such a degree as does Albert Bel. He has that happy faculty very rare in the lumber business of being equally at home in every department of this many sided industry. No matter how good a man may be in the manufacturing end, it doesn't avail if he doesn't know how to dispose of his lumber to the very best advantage. It is in the adaptability to all the requirements of the business that Albert Bel excels."
        "He is a men of careful methods and fine commercial discernment. He has carefully weighed the importance of every detail of the mill in all its ramifications. He controls his establishment in every department and the whole vast machinery works well without friction and without lost motion. Yes, I consider Albert Bel the best all-around mill man in the Southern Pacific territory."
        Then the Texas went on to tell how Mr. J. A. Bel sorts logs and keeps his stock regulated, how he manages his correspondence, and how he sells his lumber, how his is always in the front and never behind, and how he manages to do all this and never seems to be overworked, although he manages his mill with what some men would consider a very small force.
        An illustration of what J. A. Bel can do was furnished when the levee broke in the Mississippi valley that year and there was a sudden call for lumber of unusual lengths to be shipped in haste to close up a crevasse. J. A. Bel was the first to respond that he could meet the order. It was on a Sunday afternoon that the telegram was received for the lumber. Mr. Bel got his men to the mill in a hurry. All his big logs were in one separate compartment of the boom, the mill was started up, the saws began to sing and before 8 o'clock the following morning the cars were rolling toward New Orleans laden with the lumber that was to stop the ravages of the father of waters. That's the way J. A. Bel does business. He can be depended on in emergency. He is prepared to meet emergencies. He acts quickly.
        J. A. Bel is the president of the J. A. Bel Lumber Company of Lake Charles, La. His mill has a capacity of from 85,000 to 90,000 feet per day. Every economical labor saving device is used to its fullest in his establishment. He sells to the trade generally.
        As a sort of a side issue Mr. Bel operates a barge line between Lake Charles and Sabine Pass. This line consists of two tugs and four barges and serves all the mills in the Lake Charles district.
        Mr. Bel has made large investments in pine lands and is assured of an ample supply of logs for many years to come.


        While Lake Charles has many reasons to be proud that she is the greatest lumber manufacturing point in the Texas-Louisiana timber belt, she can take just as much pride in the character of her mills and the men who have made the industry a success and developed it upon its present high plane. In bringing these conditions about it has required the combined efforts of an army of men experienced in every phase of the lumber business, ample capital and above all an unlimited amount of that push and energy which is necessary in the development of any new industry or county. No better illustration of the successful combination of all these essential points could be found than in the J. A. Bel Lumber company. In point of equipment it can not be surpassed on the entire timber belt.
        The sawing capacity is now 200,000 feet daily, Mill A at Lake Charles cutting 125,000 feet, and Mill B at Moeling 75,000 feet. There is ample dry kiln and planer capacity, and the mills are so perfectly arranged that a piece of timber or lumber hardly stops moving from the time it leaves the log until it strikes the loading racks. The Lake Charles mill has a boom capacity of 60,000 logs, and at their plant is a specially constructed wharf for shipping.
        The J. A. Bel Lumber Company was organized for business twenty six years ago, and owns 50,000 acres of virgin pine timber lands selected by experts at a time when a selection could be made, but it has not been their policy to cut their own timber, but rather to buy from logmen who furnish timber under contract. Realizing, as every posted lumberman must know, that the time is not far distant when for lack of timber the lumber mills must go out of business, the J. A. Bel Lumber company has saved their own select holdings, cutting from it only now and then, when some extra select timber, of which they make a specialty, is desired. This mill has always made a specialty of select timbers and their facilities for this is not outclassed by any mill in the entire country.
        The J. A. Bel Lumber Company has been of vast assistance to Lake Charles. Being one of the pioneer mills its success has attracted other mills, and the lumber industry now taken as a whole, is the backbone of the industrial prosperity of this city. The J. A. Bel Lumber Company alone gives employment to about 500 people, and their pay roll runs up into the thousands.
        The officers of the company are as follows: J. A. Bel, president, and manager; W. S. Goos, vice-president; W. G. Moeling, secretary and treasurer; H. N. Green, assistant secretary and treasurer. All of these men have grown up here, their homes are here, and they never tire of working for the best interests of the city and parish.
        Mr. J. A. Bel, the president and manager, is one of our most useful and substantial citizens. He is also vice president of the Calcasieu National Bank, and heavily interested in many enterprises that are helping to build Lake Charles. While his business affairs keep his time pretty well occupied, he has given a lot of it to the city, and has been several times president of the Board of Trade. He has at his own expense done considerable to develop the waterways, and is altogether a most useful citizen.

Lake Charles American Press, December 30, 1918:

John Albert Bel
Pioneer Lumberman, died at home here at 4 o'clock this morning.

        Mr. J. A. Bel, pioneer lumberman and leading capitalist, closely identified with many of Lake Charles' larger projects, passed away at his home in Lake Charles at 4 o'clock this morning.
        Mr. Bel, who has been in ill health for some years, seemed unable to rally from the shock of the recent death of his son, Ernest F. Bel, who fell a victim to pneumonia on Dec. 15th.
        Mr. Bel was born in New Orleans, Dec. 1, 1857, and spent his early childhood days there and was educated in the schools of that city. He came to Calcasieu parish when about fifteen years of age.
        He was the son of Mr. John Bel, native of France, and Della Delphine McLean, of Scotch descent, whose forefathers emigrated to this country at the time the Puritans landed at Plymouth Rock.
        Mr. Bel's first employment after coming to Calcasieu parish was with the late Captain George Lock, who then operated a sawmill at "Bellview," at the head of Prien Lake.
        During those days all lumber manufactured on the Calcasieu river was shipped by a fleet of coast-wise schooners, there being no railroad until about 1879.
        When nineteen years of age Mr. Bel became manager for W. F. Stewart & Co., who at that time controlled the output of all of the mills at Orange, Texas including the old Judge Wingate, the McKinnon and the Lutcher mills. Messers. Stewart & Co., held large contracts for the furnishing of all the railway timber for the construction of the Texas & New Orleans railway, then building east from Orange to Morgan City, where it connected with the Morgan Line to New Orleans, and for the building of the Texas lines of the Santa Fe railway.
        Mr. Bel had at that time some twelve hundred men under his management. After the completion of the contracts of Stewart & Co., in the early part of 1885, he became manager for the late Dr. A. H. Moss of the old Lake Charles Lumber company mill, which was originally located at Bagdad, but later moved to the present site of the mill on Lake Charles.
        Mr. Bel's contract as manager provided that he should receive a salary of $125 per month and one third of the net earnings of the business.
       This connection may be considered the foundation of the great industrial plant since developed.
        Among the first acts of Mr. Bel when he assumed the management of the mill, was to put it on a monthly cash pay roll basis, the first mill of the Calcasieu to follow this policy. There were no banks in the community at that time and delays in arrival of money by schooners from Galveston or New Orleans made it at times difficult to find the required cash, but pay day never came at any of the Bel plants that did not see the cash provided from some source.
        In 1889 Dr. Moss's interest in the business was sold to M. T. Jones of Houston, one of the South's leading lumbermen, and to the late Mr. Charles Bunker of Boston. These two became associated with Mr. Bel under the style of M. T. Jones & Co., which was succeeded in 1894 by the Bel-Bunker Lumber company. In 1896 Mr. Bel acquired the interest of Mr. Bunker in the corporation and changed the name of the company to the J. A. Bel Lumber company, under which name the business acquired a most enviable reputation and has for years numbered among its customers many of the country's largest industries and greatest railway systems. It is probable that during this period the company has manufactured timber from more than 100,000 acres of land.
        In October, 1899, Mr. Bel acquired the M. T. Jones interest in the company, since which time he and his family have been exclusively in control of its affairs.
        In 1890 the company purchased from the Bradley-Ramsey Lumber company, some 32,000 acres of virgin Louisiana long leaf yellow pine, the larger part of which timber the company still owns.
        Mr. Bel was a pioneer advocate of deep water for Calcasieu parish and always gave freely of his time and means to bring about the desired result. He built the ocean-going tugs, "Ernest" and "Della," and a fleet of lumber transports to further the export lumber trade from Lake Charles, and in the building of these tugs and barges manifested his faith in the value of Calcasieu timber by using it in their construction -- the building of this fleet marked the beginning of the shipbuilding industry on the Calcasieu river.
        Mr. Bel was a man who was always easily approached, the last important employee having access to his office at any and all times and no one ever came away empty handed. He encouraged his men to own their own homes and to this end advanced the money with which to buy their lots, furnished them lumber and shingles and paid their carpenters, permitting them to repay him as they could. There has never been an instance of foreclosure.
        Mr. Bel was especially interested in the success of young men and in a great number of instances has aided them to start in business or to develop one already started.
        He became associated with the Calcasieu Bank shortly after its organization as a state institution in 1892, and upon the nationalization of the bank, became a director and its first vice-president, which position he retained until the National Bank consolidated with the Calcasieu Trust & Savings Bank as the Calcasieu National Bank of Southwest Louisiana, at which time he became its president, which office he filled at the time of his death.
        While Mr. Bel took no part in the handling of the details of the bank's business, he always took a very great interest in its affairs and devoted some part of every day to the shaping of its policy and the direction of its course in the larger lines. His advice and counsel was daily sought by his associates in the bank and his broad sightedness and liberality were a very marked influence in bringing about the growth of the bank.
        He always advocated giving the fullest support to Calcasieu parish industries, and none was ever permitted to suffer when the only need was additional funds.
        On Dec. 17, 1879, Mr. Bel was married to Miss Della D. Goos, at the old Captain Goos homestead at Goosport. To this marriage were born Ernest F., deceased Dec. 15, Marie D., deceased wife of Mr. Chas. S. Fay of New Orleans, Katherine, wife of James W. Gardiner, and a son and daughter who died in infancy.
        In addition to Mrs. Bel, Mrs. Gardiner and the grandchildren, Mr. Bel's only other living relative is his half brother, Mr. Walter G. Moeling, who has been associated with him since boyhood.
        While his larger business interests required much time and thought, these were never permitted to encroach upon his home life where he was always a considerate husband and father, surrounding his family and his friends with everything that love and thoughtfulness could do.
        In all of the demands made by the government and various charitable organizations for the prosecution of the war, Mr. Bel took a keen interest and was always ready with unlimited support.
        In this community made up largely of the life-long friends of the one gone before and his beloved ones left behind, the bereaved will surely sense the sincere sympathy and love of their neighbors and townspeople in their great grief, even though it may no be expressed to them individually.
        The funeral will be held Tuesday afternoon at 3 o'clock from the residence.

Lake Charles American Press, December 31, 1918:


        A commanding figure was removed from the affairs of Lake Charles yesterday in the death of J. A. Bel. His demise further diminished the small surviving group of pioneers who developed the great pine lumber industry of the southeast. In this group he has been a conspicuous leader and a narrative of his 46 year career in this industry would cover all the salient features of the history of pine lumber manufacturing in this section. The same biography would include practically all of the chief events in the life of this city and parish, for in that time Lake Charles has emerged from a little saw mill village, far removed from railroad facilities, to a modern city exceeding 20,000 population. In this growth Mr. Bel was a great factor at all times. Only those who know more intimately his business affairs can realize how effectively his great wealth was employed for the development of Lake Charles and its territory.
        Beginning in the early days of the banking business when at a time of financial stress all over the nation he concentrated all of his funds in the home bank for the protection of home business enterprises, down to the present when we learn that his investments have all these years been exclusively placed at home with the exception of the war bonds of the nation and the bonds of our state; he took the part of the broad-minded and far-visioned man who took pleasure in using the earning of his own business to supply capital for the financing of all worthy projects of agriculture, merchandising and industry among his neighbors.
        This is an example worthy of emulation for investors, large or small, are prone to see greater attractions in the industries and enterprises of faraway sections than in those of their own homes.
        In the brief biography printed in The American Press yesterday, it is seen that Mr. Bel began work in the lumber business in Calcasieu at the age of fifteen, beginning at the bottom and conquering all the tedious processes of the industry. There was no job on the works that he could not fill. This should be inspiring knowledge to young men; that success is still to be gained by the mastering of the hard details of a business from the lowest step up, without capital and influence.
        It is pleasant, too, to reflect that this wealthy man remained always true to the old fashioned virtues of love and loyalty to home, family and friends, and no matter what important business matters pressed for his attention, his first thought was always of his family, for whose care and happiness he was assiduously active to the last.