Hand-Fed Shingle Mill Steals the Show

Circa-1870s horizontal shingle mill highlight of the Godfrey Country Days Antique Tractor & Stationary Engine Show

Classic Iron Club member Cody Vinyerd places a block in the shingle mill.

Classic Iron Club member Cody Vinyerd places a block in the shingle mill.

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The Godfrey Country Days Antique Tractor & Stationary Engine Show featured a variety of tractors, plows and toys, but one of the most interesting sights there was an old wood shingle mill.
Before the mill was powered up, Phillip Steidley, Hettick, Ill., and Cody Vinyerd, Greenville, Ill., explained to onlookers how the hand-fed shingle mill worked.

The boys (both 14-year-old members of the Classic Iron Club) brought their tractors to the show and used them to power the belt for the mill. Phillip brought his 1936 John Deere H, and Cody brought a 1941 Farmall M.

Fred Nolan, who ran the mill, said that this one is somewhat rare.

“In Illinois, there are probably only approximately six shingle mills of various ages in operation,” he said.

Years ago, when the mill was part of a sawmill, cedar logs were sawed into blocks. (Red cedar was a common choice for roofing shingles.) Those blocks, in turn, were run through the shingle mill to produce shingles. The finished shingles were sold in seasoned bundles. In use, the shingles were nailed to a roof and lapped in such a way that air could get to them.

“They had to breathe,” Fred said. “They couldn’t be just on a solid board backing. They had to have air space.”

This particular machine is a horizontal mill, but little else is known about it.

“It was built around 1870, and it has no name on it,” Fred said. “It has no markings, so that is why I say 1870-75. Later ones have a name on the blade guard (a casting around the blade which offers some protection).”

The mill (which weighs about 2,000 pounds) will accept blocks of different dimensions. Block size dictates the size of the finished product. This mill was designed to compensate for block size.

“It has a centric that tilts the block to the left and to the right to give even distribution and thickness of the shingle,” Fred said.

Although Fred operates the shingle mill, it is owned by Duane Selby, Sullivan, Ill. The mill will also be displayed at the Jersey County Victorian Festival – a festival with heavy focus on the Civil War traditionally held Labor Day weekend at the Col. William H. Faulkerson farmstead. FC 

For more information on the shingle mill or the Jersey County Victorian Festival, contact Fred Nolan, 1510 N. State St., Jerseyville, IL 62052; (618) 498-5590.