Sawdust In Their Veins

Williams Grove Steam Engine

Sawmilling at the Williams Grove Steam Engine Show, 1960. A Farquhar Mill, made in York, Pennsylvania. It has a 52 inch saw. The Mill is owned by the Association and is being operated by Kenneth McGuire, E.D. 2, Mechanicsburg, Pa.

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Duncannon, Pa.

Sawmilling, once Perry County, Pennsylvania's prime industry, has shrunk in significance the past 25 years, but the whine of the big saw has not entirely passed out of existence.

The great hemlocks, pines and oaks have been decimated, but many smaller sawmills, mostly locally owned and operated, still raise huge piles of sawdust at the end of the waste chains each year. They supply railroad ties, paperwood, mine boards, steel mill braces, and last but not least, the countless cords of slabwood that feed the maws of the farmers' kitchen ranges and heating stoves.

These localized operations are mostly installations that can be moved to a more fertile area in a matter of days. Methods are more modernized, keeping up the trend of speed and efficiency commonplace these days.

Small, powerful diesel engines have largely replaced the cumbersome, chugging steam engines with the enormous flywheels, to drive the dollies and turn the circular saws.

Small gasoline driven chain saws now cut the amount of timber from the forest in a half day that once reauired four experienced tree fellers, with hand cross-cut blades, most of a week.

One of these small but profitable operations is located in the Pisgah Valley section west of Shermans dale. It is owned by Dow Fosselman of Blain, Pennsylvania.

The mill is busily engaged converting black oak, pine, poplar, and ash trees into boards, planks and railroad ties. The 52-inch blade of the singing circular saw is supplying steel mills at Harris burg and Steelton with heavy timbers, and the Pennsylvania Railroad supply center at Newport with ties.

Lumbering as a whole is safer now, with the latest safeguards and devices being employed, and is not the destructive process of ruining the forest land for scores of years to come. Each year, sawmill owners, soil conservation services, and commercial users combine their collective efforts in the planting of trees. Last year more than a million saplings were planted in Perry County alone.

Man has finally realized he cannot take everything and give nothing. The intensive reforestation programs will insure the continued operation of the little sawmills in Perry County for a century to come.

This article appeared in the Sunday Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa., October 24, 1954.