The role of the towering pines and forest that famously make up The Woodlands has long been an important part of the economic success. Long before the concept that would later become The Woodlands was drawn up by George Mitchell and his team of engineers and urban planners, the land was utilized as supply for a timber mill.
Thankfully, the Grogan-Cochran Lumber Company, which later gave name to two of the earliest villages in The Woodlands, did not employ clear-cutting techniques and left enough forest for The Woodlands to have woodlands.
In the early 20th Century, Montgomery County was home to a vast array of lumber mills. The nature of the industry, with frequent camp relocations, fires and mergers, meant that mills often set up shop in a particular area only long enough to build a store or a church. This, according to the Montgomery County Genealogical and Historical Society, resulted in numerous ghost towns throughout the county. In 1912, George and Will Grogan formed a timber company in Gladstell. According to the Historical Society, the company also operated in 1917 at Grand Lake Switch and reincorporated to become the Grogan-Cochran Lumber Company. The company cut timber in portions of Tamina and what is now The Woodlands.
Roger Galatas, whose book, "The Woodlands: The Inside Story of Creating a Better Hometown," chronicles the history of The Woodlands, said one of the company's many mills operated near what is today Lamar Elementary School. In fact, the pond located a short distance away at Tamarac Park, visible from Woodlands Parkway, served as a mill pond. Galatas said workers would cut down trees, donkeys would carry the trunks to rail cars, which would then transport them to the mill. The logs would soak in the mill pond prior to being cut, Galatas said.
In 1927, the Grogan-Cochran Company merged with the Lone Star Lumber Company in Magnolia. The company maintained operations up until 1960. In 1964, Mitchell purchased 50,000 acres of land from the Grogan Cochran Company. at $125 an acre, Galatas said.
"When George bought it, he wasn't really thinking of developing a master-planned community," he said. "He was thinking of an investment he could make."
In fact, Mitchell entered into several contracts for lumber and gravel from the area, which Galatas said Mitchell fulfilled. The cuts consisted of about 7 percent of the forest per year, Galatas said.
"He was just cutting what could be replaced each year," he said. "George has always been an environmentalist."
At about the same time, Galatas said Mitchell became interested in developing a community for about 100,000 people. He hired Carl Camrath, an architect, to help identify a place where he could implement his community concept of "living in harmony with nature." Galatas said Mitchell first looked at areas along FM 1960, since that's where the development at the time was headed. Instead, Mitchell and Camrath looked farther north to the land Mitchell had already owned and was plush with the forested landscape Mitchell sought.