Photo by Arlan Heiser
I went for a walk in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park one day. I am told that there are over a thousand Indian sites (mounds, camps, villages, ceremonial places and more) within the area now part of the park. I was dowsing for a mound that was supposed to be somewhere in the woods near Wetmore Rd.
I walked a ways up and down hills, across creeks and thru the woods. I found a trail or two that I thought were probably old logging or maple syruping roads. Then I came upon a sawmill. That was a surprise.
I went to park hdqts. to ask them about it, and they said, “What sawmill?”. They didn’t know it was there. We went to look at it, then the discussions began. Three years later the “surplus” sawmill was mine.
At first I tried to get the Richfield Historic Society to take it and use it, along with their Old Town Hall building, to start a historic village. But they just were unable to see beyond what they already had. So, the sawmill came home. It became the first “relocated” building of the Museum of Western Reserve Farms & Equipment.
It was kind of an interesting move to get it home. There had been a dirt road to the mill winding thru the woods from Wetmore Rd. But it was grown up with 6′ to 7′ weedy plants. At the time I figured I would just drive my van thru the tangle and see if I could make it. Over the course of many trips to disassemble the mill, the “road” slowly reappeared.
I took off the metal roof and rafters, used a jack to pull the posts out of the ground and took apart the mill. Then I took home, by van, as much as I could. When all was ready to move the rest of the mill, I made the long and slow trip to the mill driving one of my tractors, to which I had hitched two hay wagons. The load was so heavy that, driving up out of the valley, I considered asking at one of the passing houses if I could leave a hay wagon till the next day. But, happily, I made it home just before dark.
The mill is back up. I have all the original equipment including the truck, track, saw head and saw dust remover. But currently all the parts are in storage and I am using a modern bandsaw mill. It’s safer than the old style circular saw. (I met a guy one time who told me that when his father was young, he was watching his dad run their mill. A large tree being run thru the mill had a grown over a horse shoe someone had hung on a branch. When the blade hit the steel shoe, it flipped the tree around and swept his dad into the saw. He was cut in two at the waist. Grandad’s son held his father’s upper half, and talked to him as if nothing had happened, until he died.)
The Pittenger Sawmill was built in 1887. Its first home was in West Virginia. It was moved to the Pittenger Farm on Wetmore Rd. in Peninsula, Summit Co. in the 1950’s. The Pittengers primarily used the mill for cutting fence posts. These days the mill is put to great and constant use in sawing the many hundreds of board feet of mostly pine and oak used in the reconstruction of the buildings of the museum.