The purpose of this article is to pay tribute to a man who is of a vanishing breed and should be recognized for his unselfishness and dedication to his fellowman. This story begins in the year of 1976 when the Douglas County Historical Steam and Gas show at Arcola, Illinois had just purchased from the original Peterson Estate in Indiana, a patented 1889 Double Bladed Garr Scott Sawmill. The mill was of heavy duty type construction and consisted of large castings and mortise and ten on wood beams for both the husk and the track. The mill had long since sat idle and had deteriorated to a point where total restoration was going to be necessary.
Having purchased the mill for its rareness and the fact that it was a steam engine company manufacture, plans were made to move it to the Historical Jacob R. Moore showground's. The mill was piled in a heap in the barn and various visitors began to shake their heads in wonderment of why such a piece of machinery had even been brought to the showground's. Wood patterns and dimensions had deteriorated to powder and sawmill brainpower was going to be needed in great abundance to bring this mill back to its original working condition.
Two weeks after the arrival of the mill I can still remember an old green Chevrolet pulling up in front of the barn and a gentleman leaning out and asking if this was the place where an old sawmill had been brought in. I said yes it was and from that moment on I was to experience the friendship of one of the nicest people I have ever met.
Earl Entler far right, poses with his friends and neighbors in his Hugo General Store while enjoying morning coffee and good companionship.
Earl Entler of Hugo, Illinois, slid out of that front seat, grabbed a packet of Red Man chewing tobacco from his hip pocket and immediately headed for the barn. Upon seeing the rusted pile of iron he immediately stuffed his mouth full of Red Man, pulled up an old nail keg, and surmised the situation. He finally looked up at me with a devilish grin and said, 'She's an old one, and will take a lot of work, but I believe it can be restored.' From that moment on I was to see Earl Entler every weekend that weather permitted and the seemingly unsurmountable task began.
Weeks turned into months and over a period of roughly two and one half years Earl worked on the mill and never once said I don't believe we can do it. As a result of heavy lifting, hand-mortising, in depth figuring, and sheer determination, the mill began to take shape under Earl's guidance. Earl also cut on his own sawmill, (which he still operates along with the original Hugo General Store) heavy white oak beams for the husk and provided an ample supply of every kind of tool imaginable to accomplish the job. The 1978 show came and went and the mill was still not completed. Earl refused to give up and called upon many of his friends to help with the final restoration of the mill. I will not mention Earl's friends or mine because of the great numbers (and lest I forget one), but they know who they are and how much Earl and I appreciated their help.
The sounds of hammering, sawing, drilling, welding, and good fellowship prevailed as the mill began to near completion and just to put the final icing on the cake, 13 yards of concrete was poured for a permanent foundation. The 1979 show dates had arrived and Earl, assisted by his friends, completed the mill the day before the show opened. A double cylinder Reeves steam engine had stood by patiently through the hours of the afternoon, sighing and hissing while awaiting the drive belt which would signify the christening of the restoration project. With a long awaited signal from Earl, the Reeves big flywheel slowly began to turn the 56' blade on the bottom and the 24' blade on the top saw to a high pitched hum that had not been sounded by that mill for many, many years.
From left to right: B.J.K. Helmuth of Arthur, Illinois, Bob Valentine of Monticello, Illinois, and Martin Prosser of Hugo, Illinois, assist Earl in turning a log on the carriage. (Photographs courtesy of James Gray.)
The rest is history as Earl sawed log after log at the 1979 Douglas County Show and there was no doubt that Earl and the Garr Scott mill were a big hit of the show. Earl, hats are off to you and may we, your friends, be graced by other acquaintances as rewarding as yours has been to us.
Enclosed are photographs which are of Earl in his Hugo General Store and operating the restored mill.