- The Long Shadow: The Lutcher-Stark Lumber Dynasty by Ellen Walker Rienstra and Jo Ann Stiles
The Long Shadow is a deeply researched, three-generation biography of the Lutcher and Stark families of Orange, Texas. The authors, Ellen Rienstra and Jo Ann Stiles, not only utilized primary materials never before publicly available, but also cataloged the family and business papers for scholars. The result is an in-depth chronicle of the Lutcher-Stark lumber dynasty (1836–1965), which “significantly altered the course of the economic and cultural history of Orange, Southeast Texas, and the University of Texas” (xvi).
The book relates the lives, vicissitudes, and achievements of the visionary founder of one of the nation’s largest lumber companies, Henry Jacob Lutcher, moves on to the enterprising capitalist who expanded its holdings, William Henry Stark, and then addresses the heir and philanthropist, Henry Jacob (H. J.) Lutcher Stark, who used his great wealth for public good. The saga concludes with an epilogue about the Stark Foundation, which the authors maintain is the trio’s permanent philanthropic legacy.
H. J. Lutcher Stark, who in the 1870s envisioned an expanding market for lumber, especially the high stands of longleaf yellow pine in the forests of Arkansas, Louisiana, and East Texas, soon recognized, along with his partner Bedell Moore, that the once vast timber forests of the east were rapidly being depleted. With “foresight and shrewd business sense” (17), Lutcher relocated to Orange, with its large supply of cypress and pine and its proximity to the Sabine River, the Gulf of Mexico, and large tracts of public lands.
The Stark family, who had arrived in Texas in 1837, was lured to the Piney Woods for that land. One descendant, William Henry Stark, went on to saw lumber for the new Lutcher & Moore mill. There he met and married Miriam Lutcher, becoming a son-in-law to H. J., by then co-owner of the largest lumbering operation in the region. Possessing great business acumen, William Stark expanded the parent company’s interests to rice milling, utilities, and oil. His guidance of this vast realm of diverse ventures, the authors contend, was his “particular genius” (138).
Henry Jacob Lutcher Stark, the philanthropist, was the only surviving child of William and Miriam Stark, born into privilege and “indulged, protected, and idolized” (121). After graduating from the University of Texas in 1910, he became its active benefactor, even naming the football team for the longhorn. He was appointed to the UT Board of Regents, rising to chairman, the youngest to hold that office. Unlike his father, “the quiet man,” Henry Stark possessed a temper, which he exhibited freely during feuds with Will Hogg, a wealthy Houston lawyer, and Homer Rainey, the controversial UT President. At the same time he was civic- and charity-minded, [End Page 109] supporting numerous philanthropic causes that benefited youth, the community, and educational institutions, including Shangri-La, a nature center opened free of charge in 1946.
Several important themes run through this book: Gilded Age capitalism, politics, race, gender, and philanthropy. The authors present this corner of Texas as distinct in its history, ecosystems, and opportunities, yet immersed in global events that could create or destroy great fortunes. Unencumbered by federal regulations or tax laws, and helped by the availability of vast timberlands, Lutcher and the Starks capitalized on a free market without what they regarded as government interference. Like other men of wealth, they directed their surplus funds toward philanthropy for charitable purposes and as shrewd business decisions. The creation of the Stark Foundation in 1961, for example, committed itself to the betterment of society while continuing the donors’ tax-exempt control of the family fortune.
This volume is a valuable contribution to the history and culture of Southeast Texas that deftly tells an important story of economic development, power politics, and community identity. Numerous photographs familiarize the reader with the individuals and their unique environment. Coverage of the three generations, however, is uneven, perhaps due to...