100-year-old sawmill battles Miss. River

It’s been two weeks now since the owners of JM Jones, a 100-year-old sawmill in Natchez, Miss., stopped running their equipment and started building levees instead. Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, this family owned operation has been piling up dirt by the truckload as the water level continues to rise.

Last week, when the river broke a 73-year-old record of 58 ft. in Natchez, JM Jones began adding concrete highway dividers, lent by a local contractor, on top of the dirt levees, according to an article in the Natchez Democrat. This brought the barriers up to 65 ft. But owner Lee Jones was still worried about the stability of the makeshift levees. 

“At 63 ft., we are in good shape. At 65 ft., it’s a mess,” he said. Although the company was still working on the levees this week, it had moved out some equipment and sold off a lot of inventory. JM Jones exports southern hardwood to customers around the globe. The previous week, some of its trucks headed south to Mexico City.

The latest update of the mill’s fate, from a CNN news blog, was on Thursday, May 19, when the water level had reached 61.8 ft. The Jones family was still at the business, nervously watching parts of their levees crumble in the wake of passing tugboats and barges.