Lane shingle mill

Wooden shingles.

Wood shingle cladding has been an important building product in America for hundreds of years for use as both roofing and siding. Before the 19th century shingles were split using hand tools, but through the 1800s dozens of companies developed powered shingle machines. Shingle mills powered by water were often part of a sawmill or gristmill operation in New England and other parts of the country. This was true for the Ledyard Up-down Sawmill. There was a shingle mill operated on this site beginning in the mid-1800s.

The Lane shingle machine in the Ledyard mill

When the sawmill was returned to operating condition as a town-owned museum, a shingle mill donated by A. Palmer Stevinson in 1974 was installed as part of the water-powered operation in the restored mill (although due to low water conditions the power for the shingle mill was converted to a gasoline engine). This shingle mill, manufactured by the Lane Manufacturing Company of Montpelier, Vermont, is still at the Ledyard Up-down Sawmill, although it hasn't been used for number of years.

The stock for the Lane machine is round wood bolts cut from small logs about 14-16” long. The cedars are preferred species, but pine was frequently used for shingles, too. The bolt length of 14-16” works for the 36” saw on the Ledyard shingle machine (although the saw was reduced to 31” from a lifetime of resharpenings). The bolt is clamped into a carriage that moves back and forth across the saw blade. The carriage rocks on each cut to saw tapered shingles. (Or the machine can be set to saw parallel boards for boxes.)

The long edge of the sawn shingle is held against a spinning flywheel with blades that joints the edges even and makes them square to the thick end of the shingle. Sawn shingles are placed in the shingle packer for bundling.

Lane Manufacturing Company. Dennis Lane patented a shingle mill design in 1878; the mill in the Ledyard sawmill is cast with this patent date. This mill design was manufactured by Lane Manufacturing Company of Montpelier, Vermont starting in the late 1870s and continued into the 1920s, so the 1878 patent date on the Ledyard machine does not indicate the manufacturing date. Operational Lane shingle mills are demonstrated at several New England museums and agricultural fairs.

Lane was a major manufacture of many types of mill and woodworking equipment including sawmills, planers, jointers, and lathes. Lane circular sawmills were particularly successful for the company and were manufactured and sold by the thousands from the 1860s well into the 20th century. Many Lane circular sawmills are still in use today.

Images: US Patent 200,546, 1878. St Louis Lumberman, Mar 11 1910, XLV (no 5), p 144. Lane 1906 catalog: Lath, Shingle and Heading Machinery

Shingle mills at the Ledyard mill 1840s-1915.

1845-1857. Ledyard tax records (Historical Room, Ledyard Bill Library) show that Albert Brown was taxed for a shingle mill for at least part of this period. The 1848 tax rolls specifically indicates “shingle mill”; for the remainder of this period the type of mill is unspecified. In 1858 Albert was taxed for only one mill which is specified as a grain mill.

1887. WL Main mortgage to Israel Brown, 1887 (Ledyard Land Records 5, 629)

The mortgage was for the farm property and “also standing on the premises a sawmill and shingle mill with buzz saw and gearing belonging thereto”. It is not known whether the shingle mill listed in the 1887 mortgage was the same as listed in Albert Brown’s earlier tax records. However, almost 30 years later a shingle mill from the Ledyard mill was sold to William Welles of Mystic—it seems unlikely that an 1848-era shingle mill would still be used in 1915.

1890. $500 mortgage from Lucius Brown to Israel Brown (October 10, 1890) used similar language as the 1887 mortgage for the mill; it included a “saw mill, shingle mill, buzz saw & gearing, water privileges” (Ledyard Land Records book 5, 697).

1902. In 1902 Horace H. Main (1859-1935) received from his father William Leeds Main’s estate “All interest etc acquired by foreclosure of the mortgage of Israel W Brown to said WL Main dated the 3rd day of March 1887…65 acres with dwelling house and other buildings thereon including sawmill and shingle mill” (Ledyard Land Records book 9, 225).

Learn more about the history of the Ledyard Sawmill.

1914-1915. Edward Welles recalled that Horace Main sold the shingle mill that had been part of the equipment in the mill to his grandfather William P. Welles of Mystic about 1914. It is not clear in Welles’ Recollections which specific year that Horace Main sold the shingle mill, but it seems to be when Welles was a young teenager in 1914 or 1915. In any case, the shingle mill purchased from Horace Main was only in use in Welles’ mill for few years. The Welles sawmill was destroyed by fire on December 21, 1916. (New London Day, Dec 21, 1916, p 12.) The Lane shingle mill currently in the Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill building was donated when the building was restored in the 1970s.

Welles, Edward R. Recollections of a small-town Yankee mechanic. Groton, Connecticut: Groton Public Library and Information Center, 1987. Information on shingle mill on p. 15.
Welles sawmill fire