Art Stone, owner and operator of six sawmills in Pennsylvania and Maryland, was featured as a hard-working old timer in an article by Bill Crawford in the AARP News Bulletin for June 1985.
Art has a 1917 Frick steam traction engine on his home property, and keeps a 1907 Case at Williams Grove, Pa., where he and his wife Beatrice have been members for 30 years. He also has a Frick stationary engine, 9 x 12, 1917. He operates the sawmill at his home site, Sandy Spring, Md., with a Rumely 40-60. 'It's a big one,' he comments.
This article is reprinted from the AARP News Bulletin with permission.
Art Stone makes money the old-fashioned way. He works with his hands and muscles. He's an early riser, doesn't drink or smoke and says he can 'do the work of two men.'
At 87, Stone is the owner and operator of six sawmills, two in Pennsylvania and four in Maryland. He built the first mill near Grantham, Pa., in 1932, and soon decided he had found his niche in life. He loves the business so much that his wife, Beatrice, 77, says, 'He gets up at five o'clock every morning and works all day...I can't remember when he missed a day in the mill it was so long ago.'
In 1964, the Stones moved to Sandy Spring, Md., a bucolic setting only a few miles from the teeming suburbs of Washington, D.C. On a 10-acre spread that is storybook stuff from a bygone era, Stone can be found huffing and puffing, exhorting workers and toiling as though he were a hired hand. Stone and his workmen are sawing walnut logs that will become panels for a customer's new den.
As the speeding buzz saw cuts long slices from the walnut, chunks of splintered wood fly through the air. The noise is ear-splitting and no one seems to hear anything Stone is saying. But they all go through the paces; they understand the 'Boss.'
Stone and his crewmen punch wood through the rotating blade until a loud bang erupts. Stone cuts the engine and says, 'Damn, that log had a nail in it, boys.' They rush to the log and quickly extract the nail. 'Gotta watch these logs,' blurts Stone, not directing the warning to anyone in particular as the roaring begins anew.
A customer, Charles Tyler, has been watching for a few minutes along with Stone's wife. 'That man can do the work of three men... he can outwork anybody,' says Tyler. 'I buy all of my lumber supplies here because he has the best prices.'
Tyler adds that while Stone is 'a tough man,' he is also 'a kind man. He is demanding, hard working, but he'd give you the shirt off his back.'
About 30 minutes elapses before Stone takes a short break to talk to his visitors. 'I've been in the sawmill business for over 52 years and I've seen a lot of tough men wear down before a day's work was over, ' says Stone. 'You have to get used to it... I love the work. Sure it's rough.'
Why does Stone love this business? 'It's making something from nothing,' he responds, pointing out that some of his wood has turned up in some better known addresses around the U.S.A., like the White House and some Georgetown estates in Washington, D.C.
A 1928 steam engine graces the surroundings. 'A big company offered me $100,000 for that baby...I wouldn't part with it,' Stone says.
The engine could do 'the work of a mule team and then some,' Stone claims. Today, when he's 'in the mood,' he travels around the country with portable steam engines demonstrating what has made him perhaps the most colorful miller on the eastern seaboard. 'I guess I'm famous,' he muses. 'Lots of reporters and TV camera crews have been here and up in Pennsylvania.'
Stone was born in Texas, studied at Notre Dame and later became a Texas Ranger. 'Those were wild and wooly days out there in west Texas, but it was fun and you got respect,' he recalls. He says he chased 'ornery cowboys and moonshiners,' risking his life for $2.00 a day.
A few years later, on a whim, he decided to 'try the East' and became a Pennsylvania state trooper. Did he ever use his guns? 'You know I did,' he says. 'Pennsylvania has moonshiners, too. And they don't mind shootin' at you.'
Once Stone and a deputy chased some 'shiners through the Pennsylvania mountains in a blinding snowstorm. 'We finally found 'em and arrested 'em... but it took some climbing and doin'.. .about two days, I believe.'
During the stint with the Pennsylvania state police, Stone decided he wanted to start his own business. 'I was driving down the road one day, went by an old sawmill and I said, 'I'll bet that would be fun to run one of those.' That was in 1932 and in the years since, he has owned and operated more than a dozen mills.
Another customer drives up to the Sandy Spring mill. 'Time to go back to work... gotta make some money today,' he smiles, walking back to the saw.
Stone's old-fashioned way of making money has created assets that exceed $1.5 million, according to one source. But as his wife puts it, 'It's a living.'