The age of railroads was not only the age of iron, steel and coal, but of wood — specifically, the millions of board feet required for cross ties, which were laid transverse to the rails to absorb the load and maintain the correct gauge. As the proprietor of a store in Olaton, Kentucky, Oscar S. Bond (1876-1971) got into the business of selling cross ties when farmers would offer them to him in exchange for merchandise. In 1908, he and two brothers incorporated Bond Brothers, Inc. in Elizabethtown and began to purchase timberland to supply the firm’s operations. In 1922, the company acquired land for a wood treatment plant in Louisville, its new headquarters. Securing contracts with the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, Bond Brothers was poised to become the country’s leading supplier of cross ties.
By the time the family sold the company in 1957, annual revenues were $10 million and operations included 29 lumber yards, 118 tie yards, 24 sawmills and 3,000 employees. In addition to cross ties, the company produced creosoted lumber, poles and fence posts. Oscar Bond also ran an 1,800-acre cattle farm (part of the former Shakertown farm) in Logan County and served as a director of Elizabethtown’s First Hardin National Bank.
A collection of Bond family papers housed at WKU’s Special Collections Library offers a look at this prominent Kentucky business and the personal and financial affairs of Oscar Bond and his wife Mary (Baird) Bond. Included are dozens of photos of Bond Brothers operations — workers, tie yards and equipment — as well as of family members who contributed to the company’s success. Click here to download a finding aid. For more collections relating to railroads and other Kentucky businesses, search TopScholar and KenCat.