Over 100 Years Old and Still Sawing!

Paul R. Allen
September/October 1995
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5667 S.E. Hwy 69 Lawson, Missouri 64062

Russell 'Massilon' Medium Mill (No. 2), in the Allen family for over 100 years. The frame of the barn in the background was sawed out by my great-grandfather over 100 years ago using this mill.

Our old Russell sawmill was purchased by my great-grandfather, John R. Allen, over a hundred years ago and is once again ready to serve the Allen family. My great-grandfather purchased our family farm in 1876 and bought the Russell mill and a stationary engine somewhere between 1880 and 1887. The mill was originally called 'The Extra Heavy Mill' but was later referred to by the Russell Company as the 'Massilon' Medium Mill, specifications 'M' after they introduced a heavier mill, specifications 'N', around 1888. The Russell mill was not John R.'s first experience with sawmills since his father had owned and operated a sawmill and grain mill a few miles away near Elmira, Missouri.

A few years after purchasing the Russell mill, John R. rented out his Clinton County farm and moved his family and mill to 250 acres of Ozark timber which he had purchased in Texas County, Missouri. The mill was moved to that location on a railroad flat car. My grandfather, Daniel J. Allen, was 11 at the time and was allowed to ride most of the way in the train engine. Daniel recalled being upset when he had to join his mother in the passenger car before they reached their destination.

This move took place during the time period in the Ozarks when the Grandin Big Mill was in operation. The Grandin Mill was owned by the Missouri Lumber and Mining Company and was one of the largest saw mill operations at that time in the world, producing 285,000 board feet per day. John R. and his family found the lumber competition in the Ozarks very tough and decided to return to our Clinton County farm two years later; however, the two years in the Ozarks made an everlasting impression on my grandfather and he spoke of it often.

Because of health problems that plagued my great-grandfather, my grandfather, Daniel, became the sawyer for the Russell mill before his fourteenth birthday. John R., my great-grandfather, spent hour after hour, day after day, sitting, watching, and teaching Daniel the operation of the sawmill. Daniel's skill at mill operations soon earned him an excel lent reputation as a sawyer. Oldtimers in the area used to say that they thought Daniel was 'born' in a sawdust pit.

By 1918, Daniel had acquired a Reeves traction engine which he used to operate the Russell sawmill and a Red River Special separator for thrashing in the neighborhood. He was never satisfied with the small Reeves and later traded it for an 18 HP Peerless engine.

The Russell sawmill enabled Daniel and his family to keep the farm during the depression years. My father, Raymond D. Allen, Daniel's son, often got up before dawn and went down to the sawmill to fire the Peerless engine before going to school. The engine would then be fired and ready for Daniel and hired hands who would come down soon after daylight to start sawing. Daniel earned money from sawing during this time by acquiring a contract with the Elmira Coal Mine to supply it with mine timbers. Daniel really liked the Peerless engine that powered the mill, but, he replaced it before WW II with two Buick motors belted together. He quit sawing altogether soon after the war and devoted the rest of his time only to farming.

The photos were taken in 1942. The photo was taken while my grandfather, Daniel J. Allen, and two hired hands were sawing on the double Russell Mill. He is located behind the topsaw and was 60 years old at the time.

After retirement, Daniel started at tending several of the steam engine shows in the area and northward at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. In 1962 and at the age of 80, he told my dad, Raymond, that he really wanted to do some sawing with the old Russell mill again. He and my dad brought the old mill from out of the woods to his shop and rebuilt it for his last time. Over the next two summers he and my dad sawed several thousand board feet of lumber for neighbors. Many neighbors brought logs over just to watch him saw once again.

I continued the family tradition of sawing on the Russell mill for several years after my grandfather's death. I also rebuilt and started operating a Port Huron sawmill at the Lathrop Antique Car, Tractor, and Engine Show. Jim Plowman, Sam Swindler, and I acquired the mill east of Braymer, Missouri, just for use at the Lathrop Show. We have belted several engines to the Port Huron mill over the years and our sawing continues to draw a large crowd.

Raymond D. Allen standing at the controls of the Allen family's Russell 'Massilon ' Medium Mill (No. 2). This mill was purchased by Raymond's grand father, John R. Allen, and has been in the family for over 100 years.

A close-up picture of the 'Massilon' mill. Russell advertising literature often displayed the double mill from this view. The mill was restored in 1994 by Paul and Raymond Allen. For the mill's life story, look inside for 'Over 100 Years Old and Still Sawing,' a story by Paul Allen, 5667 S.E. Hwy. 69, Lawson, Missouri 64062.

I was able to continue operating the Port Huron sawmill during the Lathrop shows, but my job as a school administrator restricted my sawing time at home and eventually the Russell mill rotted down. Two years ago, I decided to rebuild and restore the Russell mill once again. My dad and I moved it near the house I built on the family farm and began to restore it. The restored Russell mill now sits just a few feet from where it was originally set up by my great grandfather, John R., and is ready for operation once again. If you look at the picture, the old barn in the back ground was sawed out by my great grandfather over 100 years ago.

In rebuilding the mill, I spent quite a bit of time trying to find out more about Russell sawmills by contacting anyone who I heard knew something about them. In the process, I have acquired two more Russell mills that I plan to restore. One is a Russell No. 3 mill with a topsaw that I bought from Jerad Crowe in Navarre, Ohio. This mill was only about 10 miles from the original Russell factory in Massilon. A member of our club just recently purchased a 25 HP Russell engine and I am looking forward to putting the two together in the future for some sawing. That ought to make quite a show!

I would like to find a topsaw rig for my other mill and I would love to hear from anyone who has or knows of a Russell mill or parts and any information and literature about sawmills. Hope to hear from some of you soon.


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