A little history on the Cypress Mill

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 11, 2012

If you are a lifelong resident of south Louisiana, you will probably remember the Louisiana Cypress Mill that was located just south of Ponchatoula. Have you ever really given any thought to how it got started or anything else about it?

Just south of Ponchatoula, the swamp was full of cypress trees, some of them towering some 300 feet high. Almost all of the swamp was bought by Mr. Davis Joyce of Lyons, Iowa, around 1850. In 1921, Mr. Joseph Rathborne of Ponchatoula started building the cypress mill in Ponchatoula. The mill was completed and started operating in 1922. The mill was later purchased by William Joyce, son of David Joyce, who passed away in 1904.

The land that was located behind the cypress mill was known as Millville. This was where carpenters from the cypress mill built or remodeled more than 140 homes for the workers of the mill. The mill in its first year of operation cut 23,122,333 board feet of cypress lumber. Workers would go into the swamp and cut notches around the bottom of the large trees and let them set for six months. This would cause the sap to drain out of the trees and make it lighter. The logs were then cut and brought out on the tracks laid in the swamp. The mill would employ between 185-200 men and would hire local workers first.

Today, if you travel between Ponchatoula and Manchac, you will see signs that the property is now the Joyce Management Area. The Joyce family donated thousands of acres of land for the wildlife management area.

The Louisiana Treasures Museum has a list of all the employees, where they worked and how much they were paid by the cypress mill. The museum also has documents of the safety meetings and a list of everyone that was injured while working for the mill. We also have film of the train going into the swamp and building the railway to get the cypress out of the swamp. We have several crossties that were used and many of the tools that were used in the day to day operation of the mill.

There is so much more to hear

and learn about the cypress mill and the cutting of the large cypress trees, so visit the Louisiana Treasures Museum, and you can see

lots of artifacts that have been preserved and the records of the mill operation. It’s truly a step back in time.

Louisiana Treasures Museum is located on Louisiana Highway 22 West of Ponchatoula. Call Wayne Norwood at 225-294-8352 to schedule tours or for more information and hours of operation.

Wayne Norwood is a lieutenant with the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Department and owner and operator of the Louisiana Treasures Museum.