1920s Herb Miller Sawmill
Although the Herb Miller Sawmill is still under renovation, the building is now open to visitors. It also has a newly built accessible ramp.
A warm thank you to the Friends of Moreston and Grey Roots volunteers for their participation in this project.
When the “Queen’s Bush” was surveyed and opened up to non-native settlement in the mid-nineteenth-century, it was a densely forested area - with a lot of hardwood (especially maple) and other species such as beech, birch, ash, rock elm, soft elm, spruce, cedar, tamarack, balsam, pine, and hemlock. The County of Grey-Owen Sound Museum collection had a circular sawmill carriage, manufactured in Owen Sound by the Wm. Kennedy & Sons company. After being restored by Mr. A. W. Landen, the saw carriage needed a demonstration area. Landmark Builders and museum staff built the sawmill structure. Mr. Herb Miller, who owned Welbeck Sawmill in Grey County, is the namesake of this building, in gratitude for his long-time commitment to helping the museum and archives, and his enthusiasm for the interpretation of sawmilling and woodworking history. He also had funded the acquisition of the Wm. Kennedy & Sons saw carriage in 1980.
The Herb Miller Sawmill opened for public viewing in 1998. It was occasionally used for sawmilling demonstrations, with either a steam traction engine or a tractor providing the power for the long pulley belt needed to run the saw. The building was moved on June 7, 2006 to Moreston Heritage Village. A pond was dug nearby, to provide the "hot pond" feature of old sawmills (where logs would be kept).
Historically mills were dangerous to work in, and fire was always a threat. In photographs of Grey County sawmills, water barrels and ladders are mounted on the roof, as a primitive form of fire protection. Our museum's sawmill uses a 48-inch circular saw. It is in what was intended to be a portable saw carriage, designed to be put up in the bush and powered by steam traction engine. A large sawmill operation would consider this a "light-duty" sawmill. Sawmills were busy places, often with tramways and huge piles of lumber, logs and slab wood. Horse teams would be coming and going with logs and lumber in the winter. Circular saws were once used exclusively, but were eventually superseded by gang saws, which operated vertically, and then by band saws (double & single), by the 1920s.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, six sawmills existed along the waterfront of Owen Sound Bay. Each of the mills had its own source of timber from the old timber limits on the shores of Georgian Bay and the north shore of Lake Huron, which were towed to Owen Sound's harbour in giant log booms each spring after the winter's logging. Grey County men also brought in horse-drawn sled loads of huge logs, and such teams were a familiar sight in downtown Owen Sound in the winter. In 1910, more than 38 million board feet of lumber were produced by Owen Sound sawmills. In addition to lumber, Grey County also had furniture factories and woodenware manufacturing. Owen Sound's Keenan's flat-style Kaybee brand toothpicks were likely the smallest woodenware product and were produced for a very long time.