Over 100 Years Old and Still Sawing!

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A hired hand oils the lumber rollers.
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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.

Farm Collector Magazine
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