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Emporium Lumber Company Records

Identifier: mss-059

Scope and Content Note

The Emporium Lumber Company papers were obtained in 1972 from the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York. This collection is only a portion of the original Emporium Lumber Company papers housed at the Museum. Other Emporium papers, those dealing with the company's Adirondack operations, remain at the museum and a third portion has been transferred to repositories in Pennsylvania. (An inventory of the Adirondack Museum's Emporium collection is filed in the inventory folder in Carton 1 of this collection).

The Papers pertain to the company's Vermont logging operations and the selling off of its Vermont land holdings.

Emporium's Danby office reported mainly to the Conifer and Cranberry Lake headquarters of Emporium Forestry Company. The collection begins however in the pre-Emporium Forestry days and it ends well beyond the date of the Emporium Forestry's dissolution. The name of the parent company has therefore been retained as the collection name.

The Emporium Lumber Company Papers consist of 7 cubic feet of company correspondence, financial and legal papers, printed matter and survey maps. It is arranged into 11 series.

Series I - General Correspondence contains letters between George and Clyde Sykes at Conifer and Nelson C. Nichols and E.L. Staples in Vermont on the one hand, and letters betweeen the Conifer office and William L. Sykes and Evan J. Jones in Pennsylvania or New York on the other. There are also letters to and from various pulp and paper companies such as International Paper and St. Regis Paper, to and from surveyors and timber cruisers, and to and from attorneys, notably Marvelle C. Webber of Rutland, VT. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series II Subject Files consists of five subgroupings:

1. U.S. Forest Service - Green Mountain Land Purchase is composed of correspondence between Emporium Forestry and U.S. Forest Supervisors Otto Koenig, G.S. Wheeler and Paul S. Newcomb, and between the company and various attorneys. There are also special files within this subgroup regarding specific property matters or containing legal papers, deeds, etc. This series is arranged by type, correspondence is arranged chronologically. (Note: some of the correspondence in Series I refers among other matters to the Green Mountain purchase).

2. Vermont Water Power consists of letters between the Sykes brothers and Barker & Wheeler, Engineers of New York State, and Neil S. Reilly of Danby, Vermont, specifically at Long Hole, the Old Job, and the Black Branch of Otter Creek. Also included are some deeds and a report on the Big Branch project by Irving Frost. This material is arranged chronologically. The deeds and reports are foldered individually (see inventoy below).

3. Vermont Timberland Owners' Association consists of correspondence between Emporium Forestry Company and the VTOA, 1917-1967, and of reports, minutes of meetings and miscellaneous VTOA related materials. This group is arranged by type.

4. Griffith Estate consists of letters and legal and financial materials between the company and various members of the Griffith family, notably Katherine T. Griffith, the executors of the Griffith Estate and the Baxter National Bank of Rutland.

5. Bellows Falls Ice Company consists of correspondence between H.A. Hatch of Bellows Falls Ice and Emporium Forestry Company regarding spruce cutting at Griffith Lake.

Series III - Subject Files, Property Miscellaneous concerns individual or corporate property matters, most often land sales by Emporium Forestry Company, and it consists of letters and accompanying deeds. It is arranged by person or organization with whom the deal was made and is arranged alphabetically (see inventory below for individual listing).

Series IV - Subject Files, Company Miscellaneous contains scattered folders from the Conifer office: product or service inquiries and price quotations, letters regarding rail shipments and other material. This series is arranged by type.

Series V - Deeds: The deeds in this series reach back to the mid-19th century and to Silas Griffith's original land purchases; they are for the most part arranged by town. A section of this series is Company Copies (?) - deeds that were possibly copies for office filing at Conifer or Danby. There are also New York and other non-Vermont deeds in the series along with bound title abstracts for Peru, Stratton, Sunderland and Glastenbury, VT.

Seies VI - Miscellaneous Legal and Financial Papers is a small series consisting of ledger sheets, scattered receipts and bills, and some leases. It is arranged by type (see inventory for individual listing).

Series VII - Survey Reports reflects the various timber cruises and surveys of the company's Vermont holdings made during the years 1950-1959. These are listed by name of the individual cruiser or lumber consulting firm. Minutes and memos often containing rough cruise reports, land lists and descriptions and rough estimates of timber and timber values are also contained in this series.

Series VIII - Tax Materials consists of 19 folders of tax notices, forms, and miscellaneous correspondence between town listers and the company. It is arranged by town or by type of tax material, such as Vermont corporation tax, tax inventories, etc.

Series IX - Photographs contains six photos and a few unidentified negatives. The photos are listed individually in the inventory.

Series X - Printed Matter consists mainly of town reports of the Vermont towns in which Emporium Forestry Company had holdings. Other items such as Vermont related publications, articles about Emporium Lumber Company and newspaper clippings are included.

Series XI - Maps contains mostly survey maps of the company's Vermont lands. Many of them are duplicated. They are arranged by town and by type, i.e., Vermont Water Power, Green Mountain National Forest, etc. There are also a few geological survey maps, maps of the New England states and some unidentified maps. They are listed in the inventory below.


  • Majority of material found within Bulk, 1907-1947
  • 1853-1967



Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Collection does not circulate.

Historical Note

The Emporium Lumber Company was formed from the partnership of William L. Sykes (1859-1941) and William S. Caflisch (1855-1917) in 1892. Nine years earlier Caflisch had invested $6000 in Sykes' small hardwood mill at Benzinger in Elk Co., Pennsylvania. The new company, Sykes & Caflisch, bought and logged over one thousand acres of Benzinger timberland adjacent to Sykes' sawmill. The partnership was a profitable one but both men relaized that the company was limited in terms of location: expansion was not possible at Benzinger.

In the summer of 1892, with $30,000 in stock, Sykes and Caflisch, along with William S. Walker, William T. Turner and Evan J. Jones, launched the Emporium Lumber Company, named after the Cameron County town where Sykes and Walker lived for a time.

A sawmill was built at Keating Summit, PA, the following year and although the Benzinger mill was kept in operation until 1897, Keating Summit became company headquarters.

Several years prior to Emporium's formation Sykes had turned to hauling timber from the yards to the mill by means of a railroad. In the mid-80s he built a small chain-driven locomotive which he patented in 1888. Throughout its lifetime, the Emporium Lumber Company and its subsidiary the Emporium Forestry Company were primarily railroad logging operations.

A new mill was built at Galeton, PA, in 1899 and two years later sale of the company's unlogged Trout Run lands in Jay township allowed the purchase of the A.G. Lyman mill at Austin, PA.

Although the hardwood supply on the company's Pennsylvania lands was by no means exhausted, Sykes, in the early years of this century, began to look eastward for new lands to work.

Eighteen thousand Adirondack acres were obtained at Clare, New York, in 1905, and another 50,000 - the Silas Griffith properties in Rutland and Bennington Counties in Vermont - were purchased the following year from the Griffith Estate. Another Adirondack purchase was made in 1910 and in 1911 a mill was put into operation at Conifer, New York.

Danby became the headquarters for the company's Vermont operation. E.L. Staples and Nelson C. Nichols managed the small mill there until 1916 when Emporium's logging in Vermont ceased altogether. The Danby office remained open under N.C. Nichols who oversaw and reported on the inspection of the lands by prospective buyers. International Paper Company showed immediate interest in buying a large tract but after three years of negotiations only 14,000 Sunderland acres were taken and this in exchange for International Paper lands near Cranberry Lake, New York. (St. Regis Paper Company and West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company showed interest in the Griffith lands as well).

Emporium Lumber's charter did not allow for operations in New York state so the Emporium Forestry Company was formed as a subsidiary to handle the Adirondack and Vermont operations.

By 1918 active lumbering in Pennsylvania had ended. The Keating Summit mill closed down in 1913, the Galteon mill in 1918. A number of the company's Pennsylvania workers, including Sykes and Caflisch, moved east to Upstate New York and the Adirondacks. Emporium Lumber remained in existence however to manage the selling off of its denuded acreage in Pennsylvania.

W.L. Sykes' son, George W., was made president and general superintendent of Emporium Forestry. Another son, Roy O., became vice president and sales manager, and a third son, W. Clyde, became treasurer. Evan J. Jones was general counsel and vice president, with Arthur Owen as secretary.

Work in the Adirondacks, which included both hard and soft wood lumbering, was concentrated around the Conifer area. A mill opened at Cranberry Lake in 1917.

Emporium mills turned out a variety of products but the main product was industrial flooring - beams and floorboards for mills in southern New England and elsewhere. Other products were residential flooring, special kiln dried flooring (used in bowling alleys), billiard cue stock and piano action stock. Sales offices in Boston and New York City handled the ordering and distribution of the products.

The Cranberry Lake mill was closed in 1927 and from 1928 to 1967 the company sold off tracks of its Vermont lands to the U.S. Forest Service for Green Mountain National Park.

Emporium's eastern operations were never so profitable as those in Pennsylvania had been. While the Depression did not ruin the company, no money was made during that period. (It was Emporium's ownership of the Grasse River Railroad that helped to keep it afloat during the Depression). Practical lumbering had all but ceased by 1945. During the War Emporium had contracted with Heywood-Wakefield, a furniture manufactureer from Gardener, MA. In 1945 and 1948 more than 72,000 acres were sold to the Draper Corporation. Heywood-Wakefield made an offer to buy what remained of Emporium's milling operation in 1949. The Emporium Forestry Company was dissolved in 1950, all assets being transferred to Emporium Lumber which continued to exist out of Cranberry Lake to tend its remaining properties. In August of 1972, after eighty years of lumbering, Emporium Lumber Company was dissolved.


10.0 Linear feet (7 Cartons, 8 map folders)

Language of Materials



Correspondence between the company office in Danby, Vt., New York headquarters at Conifer, and general headquarters in Pennsylvania; deeds relating chiefly to the Griffith lands in Bennington and Rutland Counties, Vt.; survey reports and maps relating to specific land parcels in Danby, Mount Tabor, Peru, Stratton, and Sunderland, Vt.; and material (1928-1967) relating to purchase of the company’s Vermont lands by the U.S. Forest Service for the Green Mountain National Park.

Physical Location

Library Research Annex; contact for access.

Separated Materials

The following printed items have been transferred from the Emporium Lumber Company Records to the Wilbur Collection:

American Forest Products Industries, Inc., Vermont Forest Facts. 1953.

Annual Report of the Borad of Officers of the Town of Glastenbury, Vermont. 1917.

Annual Report of the Board of Officers of the Town of Mt. Tabor, Vermont. 1909, 1910.

Annual Report of the Town Officers of Sunderland, Vermont. 1909, 1910, 1911, 1917.

Auditor's Report - Town of Peru, Vermont, for the year ending February 12, 1909.

Burlington, Chamber of Commerce, Industrial Survey, Burlington, Vt. 1929

McGuire, John R. and Robert D. Wray, Forest Statistics for Vermont (Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, U.S. Forest Service) 1952.

Vermont Timberland Owners' Association, Annual Reports 1924, 1925, 1927-1930.

Postcards transferred to Wilbur Postcards:

Wallingford Inn, Wallingford, Vt 2 copies undated

Homestead of President Coolidge at Plymouth, Vermont undated

Spruce logs of the Rich Lumber Co., Manchester Depot, Vt 1918

Emporium Forestry Co. at Mt. Tabor, Vt. undated


  • Gove, William G., "William L. Sykes and the Emporium" Parts I-III, The Northern Logger, Vol. 18, No. 12, June 1970, Vol. 19, Nos. 3 and 6, September and December 1970.
  • Taber, Thomas T., Whining Saws and Squealing Flanges, Chapter 6.2, "Emporium Lumber Company" 1972.
Guide to the Emporium Lumber Company Records
Finding aid prepared by Thomas Connors
1982 October
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Funded with the assistance of the National Endowment for the Humanities

Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)