The waterpower system of the Ledyard mill consists of the 800-acre watershed of Lee’s Brook, the millpond, a headgate controlling flow through the dam into the mill water tank, and a horizontally mounted cast iron the turbine in the mill lower level. The control gate into the turbine is adjusted by a handwheel on the upper level next to the up-down saw.
The flow in Lee’s Brook is highly variable across seasons. Dry spells and winter ice limit the power that can be generated and therefore also limit the periods during the year when the mill can be operated. In 1880, the sawmill ran full-time for six months and part-time for two months (1880 US Federal Industrial Census for Ledyard, Connecticut).
The Ledyard Up-Down Sawmill is powered by a John Tyler Water Turbine.
During the restoration of the mill in the 1970s, the turbine was excavated from the accumulated mud and debris of 30-plus years of freshets and dam breaches. The turbine was totally removed and re-set, and has been the power source of the sawmill since 1975 when the mill reopened.
Although there aren’t any marks or castings that might indicate the manufacturer, we now know that this turbine was made by John Tyler of Claremont, New Hampshire; his turbines were made from the late 1850s-1880s with the type of turbine in the Ledyard mill probably dating from the 1860s or early 1870s. The 1880 Industrial Census listing for the Ledyard sawmill (then owned by Israel W. Brown) indicates that the mill was powered by a Tyler turbine.
The turbine is visible in the lower level of the mill. The domed top of the turbine case is just out of the water or submerged depending upon water levels, and the vertical runner shaft rises straight up to engage a bevel gear that powers the up-down saw.
A Salesman's model of an 1874 Tyler Water Wheel Turbine
The town of Ledyard was very fortunate to receive a generous donation of a vintage Tyler Turbine salesman's model in 2017.
The finely cast and machined 19th century model is about four inches wide and has an operating gate and rotating runner.