AN IRON MAN I KNEW

B. C. Beall

B. C. Beall chats with an old friend. (I think this is a terrific character'' picture-don't you? I really like it!-Anna Mae) Courtesy of William E. Hall, 15700 Santini Road, Burtonsville, Maryland 20730.

William E. Hall

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15700 Sanitini Road, Burtonsville, MD. 20730.

The man of whom I write was my Grandfather, Mr. Bernard Cleaveland Beall. He was the son of Joseph Silas Beall, a master carpenter, and Mary Ella Beall, who was a good housewife and mother to a good sized family. He was born Sept. 30, 1884, in Burtonsville, Md. He was the only son who lived past infancy, although he had 4 sisters. There were 6 children who died at an early age. He was a lifelong resident of Burtonsville, Montgomery County, Md. He attended school through the 5th grade, which was the limit of his formal education. He then began doing chores around the house and garden for his mother and father. He was expected to follow his father's trade as a carpenter, but the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray. Every time a steam engine whistle blew in the distance, his garden hoe was found in the garden, but not him. The nightly beating he received lasted only until the next whistle blew. It was not long until he was assisting in the boiler room of a nearby mill which made cotton shirts, dresses, etc. One of the earliest amusing stories I recall his telling is of the engineer in charge sending him to the back door of a nearby place of business, and for 20c coming back with a ten quart bucket of an unidentified cold beverage.

During this time he met a young lady named Mary Elizabeth Merson, who was employed at the mill as a seamstress. She was born July 4, 1883, and had to quit school after the 4th grade, to help take care of her brothers and sisters and help to support the rest of family, as they were a large family with a small income. A few years later, on February 19, 1908, they were united for life, despite the fact it was not liked by either set of parents.

In the meantime he had gone to work for a man known to one and all as 'Uncle Lewis' Wooten, who, along with several relatives owned several steam traction and portable engines and all types of related machinery. This was about 1901 or 1902. 'Uncle Lewis' taught him the operation and care of all of this equipment. By about 1904 he was in charge of one of the outfits. He often told of some of the comical things that happened.

One was of an incident when the crew was going to have to sleep in a hay loft over the week end, as it was Saturday night and no work could be done on Sunday. This was before his marriage, and one of the fellow workers suggested that the two of them go calling on a neighbor farmer, who had two young daughters. After buying two new blue denim overall jackets at the local general store, they proceeded to call on the two girls. They were seated in the parlor about 9:30 in the evening, when the farmer walked in and said, 'Young men it is time for working men to go to bed.' To which my grandfather's companion replied, 'Yes Sir but we were waiting for you to show us where to go.' The farmer replied, 'Come with me young men', and they slept between sheets in a feather bed and the rest of the crew slept in a hay loft. Of course they also had a good breakfast before leaving. I could tell many such stories, but it would make this a book length article.

According to an article published in the Baltimore Sun newspaper, of December 16th, 1956, he purchased his first sawmill in 1915, but I believe there is an error on the date, but I cannot prove it. I believe it was somewhat earlier. While working for Uncle Lewis he helped unload a brand new Geiser sawmill and stored it in a shed due to the beginning of the threshing season. It remained there for two years, and then was bought by grandfather. He already owned a Greencastle traction engine, shingle mill, fodder cutter, etc. The little Greencastle was too small for the sawmill so a larger engine was bought. I believe this was either T or TT Geiser, but I am not sure. I do not know how many engines he owned during his lifetime, but I have records of several Geisers, Fricks, Autlman-Taylors, and at least two Hubers.

He worked during slack seasons for several counties, the State, Washington D. C, and over a half dozen contractors. I have letters of recommendation from over one dozen sources as to his skill, dependability, etc. in the operation of all types of steam powered equipment. Quite frequently he was called on to provide steam heat for a school building with one of his engines during a heating boiler failure. His experiences were many and varied over the years.

The earliest pictures I have of him date about WW I. My grandfather and grandmother had one child, a daughter, Thelma Mae, who was born January 22, 1909. She married a man from Philadelphia, Pa. Lawrence Hall, on October 17, 1929, and I was born February 11, 1933. My Mother passed away St. Patrick's Day, 1933, leaving me 5 weeks old. I was raised by my Grandparents and went to the sawmill at the age of four, and found the advantage of a sawdust pile over a sand box. I was my Grandfather's constant companion at the age of six, and this is why I know so much of the details of his life. Rainy days were spent with his old companions and friends talking about stories of their old experiences.

I started working at the sawmill summers when about 12, and since threshing was a thing of the past in this time, I only helped on one run.

The first engine I can remember his having was an Aultman-Taylor 20hp. tandem compound, bevel gear. This was close to 50 years old when he replaced it in 1937 with a I6hp. Frick, bought from Mr. Notnagle, a machinery dealer in Frederick, Md. on Easter Sunday morning in 1937, for $325.00. This was used until 1956, when it was replaced with a 20hp. spur gear Ault man-Taylor, which I still have.

The Frick is still in operating condition somewhere in Pa. It was serial No. 18246 or No. 18248 and if anyone knows of the whereabouts of this engine I would appreciate hearing from them. I can positively identify it by certain features and if they will contact me I will reply promptly.

One of the most interesting annual events was the visit of the State Department of Forestry class of the University of Maryland. They would be told before hand of the hazards of a sawmill and that all sawyers, sooner or later, sawed off one or more fingers. Upon arrival and introduction, the professor would ask my Grandfather to show them how many fingers he had lost in his 50 years in the trade. When my Grandfather held up both hands with all 10 fingers, the expression on many faces was worth an admission fee. He always said that when he bought his first saw, the salesman told him it was made to Cut and it did not matter what it was, man or log.

He suffered no major injury while on the job during his 50 plus years, nor did any man who worked with him. He made his last threshing run in the 1929 season, although he still helped his friends in season until the 1940's.

He traveled from farm to farm with the sawmill after this and made his last move away from home to a neighbor's place about 1 mile away in 1942. He then set up the sawmill on the old family home site where it remained until it's closing. In 1948 he suffered a broken hip, in an off the job accident, and despite major surgery and the insertion of a steel pin he fully recovered and was back at the mill in less than a year.

Upon graduation from high school in 1951 I joined him full time at the sawmill and purchased some slightly newer equipment. Even at this time I saw the handwriting on the wall for the custom sawyer. In July of 1956 my Grandfather suffered a severe heart attack. Although he later returned to the mill he also saw the end in sight. The equipment was as much as 50 years old, the timber was running out, and labor was hard to get. The area was becoming too urban for a sawmill, so I closed the mill and took another job in the winter of 1957. I kept the Aultman-Taylor engine and one 10-20 McCormick Deering industrial tractor and that is all. The rest was worn out and was sold for junk by my Grandfather before his death on Good Friday, April 15th, 1960. Thus ended the life of a true Iron-Man, who left us younger ones to carry on.