Life's Byways And A Family Reunion

Frick engine

Photo by Mark A. Corson, September 1998.

Mark A. Corson

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9374 Roosevelt Street Crown Point, Indiana 46307

The Corson family ran sawmills in New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. My grandfather was Seward M. Corson; the 'S. M.' was often modified to Sawmill Corson, but he was best known as Bud Corson.

It was in the late '50s that Bud Corson had a sawmill operation in the Town of Maine, New York, and was using a portable Frick engine on this mill for power. If he would ever be short-handed on his sawmill crew, his second wife, Nellie Morgan Corson, would fire the engine with slab wood.

The engine was sold in the early 1960s, but the Corson family always had the story of Bud Corson running his sawmill with Nellie firing the engine. The family had no additional information and only one known photograph. My grandfather had bought the engine from George A. VanNatta (September 14, 1896 b April 12, 1975 d.).

It was in the 1994 January/February issue of the Iron Men Album that a letter from a Fred Pugh appeared. Mr. Pugh was from up-state New York, and told a story of how he had recently purchased a portable Frick engine. He did not know much about the engine, but he had been told that one of the previous owners had run a sawmill while the head sawyer's wife fired the engine.

It took me about four years to write to Mr. Pugh, but the timing was right; the engine was for sale. Fred had bought the engine from Danny Green, and it was Bud s old engine, as a state record would show.

Frick #20200, built April 29, 1919, was shipped May 1, 1919 upper state New York to Warren Signor. The engine was owned by Bud Corson, Maine, New York, until 1959. The engine was then out of the family over 35 years.

My father, Jack Corson, and I returned to New York to take a look at this old family friend. When we went to inspect the engine for possible purchase, we were joined by my father's sister, Beatrice, and her daughter Burneeda. We were also joined by my father's half-brother, Douglas Corson. It was Doug's mother who fired the engine. My Uncle Doug was with my grandfather when the engine was purchased and told a story of pulling the engine home behind a pickup. Doug Corson, after seeing his dad's old engine, remarked that we made his day. He passed away three weeks later.

It was on a trip to the Frick Museum that we found that on April 29, 1919 Frick engine #20200 was built; it was then shipped to upper state New York on May 1, 1919 to a Warren Signor.

The Manwarrings had a farm on old Cherry Valley Road; one of the mills that the family owned was an Irland Iron Works. This mill was up for sale at one time, at a time when the S & M Corson were sawmill poor. This Manwarring family mill was later purchased by Henry Manwarring & Son from the Manwarring Estate. Word was received that Henry had the mill up and running, so on a recent trip to New York we paid Henry and his son a visit. The mill ran smooth, and the shed that they had built for it would make running the mill a pleasure any day. Just as we were leaving, it was mentioned that George VanNatta had owned Bud Corson's old Frick engine. Henry said, 'You need to talk to 'Bus.''

Photo by Mark A. Corson.

In front of Frick #20200 in West Edmeston, New York, are Percy Pugh, Fred Pugh's father, Jack Corson, Bud Corson's son, and Jim Oxender.

Bus lived up the road from Henry, so my father and I paid him a visit. George VanNatta had a sawmill operation near Owego, New York. George moved and had a mill operating on Diamond Valley Road in Tioga Center, New York. It was here that Harold Bus Eiklor worked for Mr. VanNatta. The mill was an Irland and used the Frick portable for power. Bus told a story of Mr. VanNatta buying an army Caterpillar tractor. It was first used to pull the old Frick out of its place at the mill site and the Cat was then moved into place as power for the mill.

We enjoyed the visit with Bus and Joan. As we were leaving, they told us where to find George VanNatta's daughter. It was during this visit with George's daughter that we were given directions to Mr. VanNatta's grave.

'When the Corson's look at old iron; don't wait up and don't try to keep supper warm.''