The Stolen Sawmill


| November/December 1998



P.O. Box 3128 Deer Park, Maryland 21550-1028

Whenever I have the opportunity and can find them, I like to read old area newspapers of decades ago. Usually I always find at least one news article, or advertisement, of special interest to me. THE REPUBLICAN newspaper, printed in Oakland, Maryland, on a weekly schedule, is a local paper that I enjoy reading old past issues of. This paper's August 6, 1908, issue carried an article on a stolen sawmill and hopefully, it was an accurate accounting of the incident, as it is the source of information of this newer article, 90 years after it occurred.

In July, 1908, the partnership of Sterling and Dillinger were engaged in the saw milling business, using a portable-type circular sawmill that they moved about, location to location, doing contract saw milling for area farmers and other small acreage timber owners in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

These partners had recently completed a sawing operation somewhere, and at this time, they were in the process of moving their mill machinery to the Emmett Lyons Farm, where they were next to operate their sawmill. In the moving of their mill equipment over public roads, they were overtaken by the arrival of darkness, near the village of Gans, Pennsylvania, located east of Point Marion, Pennsylvania, and just north of the Mason-Dixon line. With some distance yet to travel to the Lyons Farm, the men pulled their traveling equipment off to the side of the road in a suitable spot and left it there for the night, unattended.

Unfortunately, the newspaper's article did not give details of the mill's machinery, nor, how exactly it was being moved. In that era the mill machinery would be loaded onto wagons, then the wagons pulled by either use of animal team or a steam traction engine (steam tractor). From what I've determined, the Sterling & Dillinger sawmill was being moved by use of an animal team.

Portable-type sawmills of this time period, once setup for their operation, were chiefly powered by use of a steam traction engine, being belted to the sawmill's machinery. A portable steam engine was a steam boiler, which had a steam engine mounted on top of it, all of which was mounted on wheels for any required transportation, or movement of it. It was pulled by an animal team, but later in time, gasoline powered farm-type tractors also were used. A portable steam engine was not self-propelling like a steam traction engine.