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Wm. T. Miller Lumber Co. Inc. closes today after 78 years

Posted: May 17, 2018 3:59 p.m.
Updated: May 18, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Provided by John Miller/

John Miller’s father, William T. “Bill” Miller, works at a desk inside the company’s office in this photograph from the 1950s.

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After 78 years of continuous operation, Wm. T. Lumber Co. Inc. will close both its Camden and Elgin locations today.wner John Miller, who began formally working with the family business after graduating from college in 1971, announced his intention to retire in late April and then announced today would be the company’s last day.

William T. Miller, opened the doors in 1940 on York Street using a portable sawmill, which was used to cut down trees and saw up lumber out in the woods. Crews would then haul the lumber back to Camden to be finished by a planer operator who had a shop across the street.

Even before that, though, Miller’s grandfather, William F. Miller, and great-grandfather, A.A. Miller, were involved in the timber business dating back to at least 1900.

“They would go out at the start of the week and stay in the woods in lean-tos,” Miller said. “It wasn’t fun,” Miller said. “I couldn’t have done it.”

When William T. Miller installed the stationary mill on York Street in 1940, his father, William F., actually worked for him.

“They still had to haul it across the street to the man with the planer,” Miller said, even with the stationary saw at the yard.

The 1940s also brought World War II.

Miller said his father was sent overseas, so his mother, Glennie, and grandfather, William F., kept the business going until his return.

At some point, William T. bought a planer -- which his father operated -- so the company could sell finished lumber products. By 1948, they were also selling building products.

“The first thing they started selling was window sashes,” Miller said. “My father would drive to Augusta in a truck with no air conditioning to buy sashes and sell them here.”

Some 30 years later, in the 1970s, Miller Lumber got out of manufacturing lumber products.

Although he had pitched in at the mill while growing up, John Miller began working there officially in 1971.
“I just kind of did it,” he said of joining the family business.

Thirteen years later, the Millers opened the Elgin store.

“We knew it was a growing area. It’s also a great location since there aren’t any other places like it between Columbia and Camden,” Miller said.

He said he has been grateful that his family has been able to serve customers for 78 years.

“Former (Camden) police chief John Arledge remembered coming into the shop as a kid,” Miller said. “We appreciate the support from generations of families. I know of one family that we’ve served for five generations.”

Miller said he decided to retire knowing that his daughter, who is a lawyer, and his son, who works in advertising, would not be continuing the family business.

When asked what he plans to do next, Miller quoted the title to a Jerry Butler song, “I’m just thinking about cooling out.”

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