A STORY OF A 20TH CENTURY IRON-MAN

Yoke of oxen

This scene shows my Father and yoke of oxen with timber cart and loads, 1939. Courtesy of John Goslee, Sharptown, Maryland 21861

John Goslee

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Sharptown, Md.

When reading the IRON-MEN ALBUM there is always a story that brings back memories about some Iron-Man, either deceased or still living. Today I have decided to write one about my father, Eddie L. Goslee of Sharptown, Maryland (1894-1969), who was not a threshing man but a sawmill man one of the best that ever pulled a mill lever.

He was a Christian man who always put his God first, and could always be heard above the sound of the mill, singing a hymn. He started at the age of twelve driving a twelve-mule team a distance of about twenty miles a day, with a wagon load of lumber. Freezing rain or snow did not stop him. He would leave early before day and would not get home until after dark. (Not many boys would do that today if any!) At age of fourteen he was firing a stationary boiler. The mill he was working at blew up and killed several one day while he was gone with lumber. The owner got a new outfit and put him firing the dust burner boiler. He said he found out a man was not always reliable, so he would try a boy this time. He did this a long time until he learned to saw.

By this time Uncle Sam had plans for him a short while in the army. When he came out of the army he farmed with his father and brother a few years. Then he married and went to work at the Sun Shipyard in Chester, Pa. But as is the habit of many steam men, they have to go back to the steam engine. So he took a job sawing in a large stationary mill. When the owner died he went on a steam pile driver for quite a number of years and became the foreman of the crew. In 1935 he went in the lumber business with his brother-in-law, Samuel W. Owens, a carpenter and sail-maker. They started out with a Knight Mill and a little 16 H.P. Aultman Taylor traction engine that belonged to another Iron-Man, although a very small man. (Ernest Culver of Hebron, Maryland) He knew this little engine well, as he had bought it new about 1918. Mr. Culver did the firing and could be heard singing 'O Where, O Where has my little dog gone with his ears cut short and his tail cut long. Where, oh, where has my dog gone.' My father was the sawyer and he could be heard singing a hymn 'I shall not be moved.' In 1937 they bought a 35 H.P. Reeves engine. This engine was a powerful engine but a hole came in the boiler and could not be repaired. Engines were cheap then, so they junked her and bought a ten-year old 25 H.P. case for $300. This turned out to be an iron marvel. It was very easy to fire always with green pine slab wood. They used this engine from 1938 to 1958 with practically no repair other than tubes and a set of piston rings. I used to ride the left-hand seat over the drive wheel with my brother when they moved the engine from one tract of timber to the next. They had to move the mill and engine under its own power as much as sixty-five miles.

One time he was to cut a tract of timber for the E. S. Adkins Company of Salisbury, Maryland. They had to go through Salisbury to get to their destination. The mayor and fire marshall, who was Mr. Adkins, said they could not go through town unless it was on a trailer. They could not get one, so when the one o'clock freight train went through on the same route, they fired up and went through also, while everyone was asleep. The engine had to pass by the fire marshall s front door. Two days later they sent the first load of lumber to the Adkins Company.

The first question was 'Who hauled the engine through town?' When they were told what Dad had done, they all had a big laugh.

About 1947 they stopped sawing in the woods and moved the mill in Sharptown and put it under a shed. There they added more machinery. Still using the 25 Case engine, they had a steam fed carriage, a 54 inch saw, a Frick double-edger, an automatic slab saw that cut the slab wood into stove wood lengths and loaded it on a truck. This saw alone required 7 H.P. to run it. If that did not give her a load, a big 6x24 four-sided planer running off of a line shaft gave her something to snort and puff over. She did it well as long as the fireman could keep up a good head of steam.

After a year of this they put the planer to itself and pulled it with a 10-20 International Unit. This engine would cut about ten to twelve thousand square feet a day and if the timber was large, it would do better than that.

By now, another problem had arisen. The saw dust pile was getting the size of a mountain. Therefore, they bought an Ajax 35 H.P. engine and boiler to burn the dust, but the extra 10 H.P. was not enough to outsaw the Case.

The Case was sold a few years later to Mr. Kinzes at Lancaster, Pa. Last year I decided to trace it down and found it had been sold two or three times and is now owned by Mr. Atlee D. Byler, Route 1, 13481 Clay Street, Middlefield, Ohio. He says it is still in good condition and plenty of power.

Finally the lumber business took such a slump, they sold the mill in 1960. Dad started farming and raising broilers for market with my brother. Again in 1965 he just had to have a mill, so he bought a #9 Farquhar Mill for $200 and a 22-36 International Tractor for $75 and rebuilt it all. He was now happy to be able to do a little custom work and some for himself in the winter after farming was over.

As I said in the start of my story, Dad was a Christian man. He was never too tired to drop everything to go to church. He would also just about drop everything else to run that mill.

The day before his Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary we found him lying on his back beside the mill track, where he had a string lining it up. He was at peace with the world and had gone on to his Heavenly reward. He was 73 and had never known the word 'retire'. He worked ten to twelve hours a day. He died doing what he liked most.

As I write this I must hurry to finish, as I must go to the funeral of my uncle, Mr. Owens Dad's mill partner. Yes, the town of Sharptown has lost two of its best citizens, but God has gained two in his Heavenly Home.

I am sending some pictures of dad and the engine and one of him with a yoke of oxen. My brother and I still use the mill every winter.