Life’s Byways And A Family Reunion

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Photo by Mark A. Corson.
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Photo by Mark A. Corson, September 1998.

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.”

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