While our physical offices are closed until at least April 13 due Austin's COVID-19 "shelter-in-place" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Robert Wooster

BESSMAY, TEXAS. Bessmay is on U.S. Highway 96 one mile north of Buna and thirty-seven miles north of Beaumont in south central Jasper County. The construction of the Gulf, Beaumont and Kansas City Railway from Silsbee to Kirbyville in 1895 and the Orange and Northwestern from Orange to Newton between 1902 and 1906 opened the area to extensive lumbering operations. Bessmay is named for the daughter of John Henry Kirby, whose mill opened at the site in the early 1900s. The Bessmay post office began operations in 1903. By 1904 Kirby inspectors called the Bessmay facility, with planer, sawmill, and kiln, "the best owned by the company." Mill R, as the plant was called, was equipped with modern conveniences, including an electric light plant, and was valued at $350,000 in 1907. In 1914 a Kirby manager noted that the sawmill, which could cut 130,000 board feet in a single ten-hour shift, was "running day and night." As forests were depleted and lumbering operations consolidated at Silsbee, the old sawmill town of Bessmay lost some of its population, from 600 in 1949 to 400 by the mid-1960s. However, logging remained important in the local economy. The Bessmay election precinct was consolidated with that of Buna in 1956.

Kirby Lumber Corporation Papers, Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University. S. G. Reed, A History of the Texas Railroads (Houston: St. Clair, 1941; rpt., New York: Arno, 1981).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Robert Wooster, "BESSMAY, TX," accessed April 07, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hjb05.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Texas AlmanacFor more information about towns and counties including physical features, statistics, weather, maps and much more, visit the Town Database on TexasAlmanac.com!
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...