Brevard Lumber Company (BLC) was one of the longest operating businesses in Transylvania County under the stewardship of one family. Started in 1910 by Francis Edward Byam Jenkins (1865-1940), it grew over time to become an integral part of the construction industry locally for decades.
Born in Worcester, England, Jenkins, who went by “Frank” and even sometimes “Feb” or “February” as a play on his initials, moved to Transylvania County with his parents, Arthur and Mary Roberts Jenkins both of Worcester, England, and four siblings in April 1873. The family bought a place on Wilson Road that was frequently referred to as “The Old Jenkins Place” for years after, though it passed through many hands and had previously been owned by the Gadsden/Gadsen family from the South Carolina coast as a summer residence who gave it the name “Bevere.”
The Jenkins family sold the farm and moved to Brevard by the 1910 Census, when it lists their address as “Maple Avenue.” Despite the obvious, the Maple Avenue mentioned here is not the current Maple Street of today. Records indicate the name Maple Avenue was put forward for the then-unnamed street due to the number of maple trees lining the road, but it was renamed as Whitmire Street because the name Maple Street was already in existence for a different roadway.
During this span of years, Frank Jenkins grew up and married, starting a family of his own, with the lumber business to follow. Although the details are a bit unclear, it seems Frank was in the building materials business for some time before opening BLC. A 1908 Brevard News article mentions that Frank Jenkins was the manager of the Cotton Mill store, so perhaps that retail experience informed his decision to open BLC.
The first advertisement for BLC was published in April 1910, and this is generally accepted as the beginning of the company. The first building was described as a “stand for handling lumber and building material at the Jenkins warehouse, near the depot.” In the same issue, an ad placed by Frank sought someone to rent his “good store room, 100 ft. long, shelves, counters and well-lighted, next door to the Post office. A splendid opening.” This indicates that he must have had some kind of business in operation at the post office-adjacent location that was now being transitioned to a rental due to the shift to his new lumber business.
Over time, they sold more than lumber, diversifying into other building materials as well. Brick, cement, plaster, and lime were also purveyed by the Jenkins. As the business grew, they purchased adjacent plots of land and built storage and office space to facilitate operations. These wooden structures are largely gone, with only a couple of storage sheds remaining. The historic brick building that most would associate with BLC today was built in 1962, much later than the start of the business.
As the years went by, the Great Depression was challenging for BLC, and they experienced some economic hardship. Son Don Jenkins joined the business in 1931 to aid his father in its operation, especially as father Frank began to age and decline in health. By 1938 Don had completely taken over the business. BLS operated for another 70 years, with Don at the helm for much of that time until he passed away in 1999. Presumably, some of his partners in business carried on until BLC closed permanently on May 2, 2008.
Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. This article was written by Local History Librarian Laura Sperry. Sources available upon request. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.