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
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
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.