East Texas Town Site of Historic Lumber Fraternity

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By Bob Bowman, Tyler Morning Telegraph, January 12, 2009

 

Separated by more than 200 miles, Gurdon, Ark., and Lufkin share a unique legacy: the Concatenated Order of the Hoo Hoo, an international fraternity of lumbermen.

In 1892, five lumbermen waiting for a train at Gurdon decided to walk around the town and finally stopped to rest on a stack of lumber beside the railroad. Armed with frequent libations to ward off the chill of the night, they decided that lumbermen needed a fraternity and came up with the Order of the Hoo Hoo, using Egyptian lore for the order’s titles, customs and rituals.

Concatenated, said newspaperman Bolling Arthur Johnson, meant chained or linked, symbolizing the closeness of members of the order. As their symbol, they adopted a black cat with his tail curled to form the figure nine, indicating it had nine lives. The club would have nine officers, nine directors, meet at nine minutes past 9 p.m. on the ninth day of the ninth month. The order limited its membership to 999 with monthly dues of 99 cents and, as the organization grew into an international fraternity, the limitation was increased to 9,999.

HOO HOO AND SNARK

The words Hoo Hoo came from Johnson’s description of a tuft of hair on the otherwise bald head of Charles H. McCarer, a fellow newspaperman. Instead of having a president, the Hoo Hoo order elected a Snark, a name taken from Lewis Carroll’s book, “The Hunting of the Snark.” Johnson said in 1912 that the “whole scheme of annual meetings of lumbermen was a bore.” The Hoo Hoo order, he said, would be “a war on conventionality.” But, ironically, it wasn’t a lumbermen who brought the Hoo Hoo order to Lufkin in East Texas, although the town was heavily dependent on lumbering.

In the 1890s, Lufkin had a community band sponsored by the Lufkin Weekly Tribune. The “Trib Band” often performed on Lufkin’s downtown Cotton Square. Around 1903, Johnny Bonner, a Lufkin native living in Houston, contacted Tom Humason, a member of the Trib Band, and invited the band to accompany the Texas Hoo Hoo delegation to an international meeting in Milwaukee.

HOO HOO RAGTIME
The band’s performances, featuring ragtime music, were greeted with such wild enthusiasm by the Hoo Hoo members that the Trib Band was named the official band of the order. “After that, everywhere we went, we were known as the famous Hoo Hoo Band of Lufkin, Texas,” recalled Sam H. Kerr in a 1953 interview with the Dallas Morning News.

Today, the Hoo Hoo Band is no more, but is remembered by a mural on Cotton Square and a nearby Texas Historical Marker. Gurdon, Ark., however, remains the home of the International Hoo Hoo Order and occupies a building near the one-time stack of lumber where the Order’s beginning was conceived in 1892.

Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of 40 books about East Texas, including “Making Music for the Snarks,” a history of the Lufkin Hoo Hoo Band.