Modern sash sawmill references

These reviews and histories published (mostly) after 1970 provide perspective on the development of sawmill technology and an economic/social context of small and large sawmills in the 19th century (with an emphasis on New England mills). A few of the articles focus on restoration or replication of 19th century sawmills. Some of the articles are available online; others may require access to an academic library. Many of the books listed are out of print, but can be purchased as used copies or found in libraries.

Ball, Norman. (1975). Circular saws and the history of technology. APT Bulletin, 7(3), 79-89.

From the Bulletin of the Association for Preservation Technology

Ball, Norman R. (1976). Notes on a Muley Saw. IA: The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology, 2 (1), 72-74.

from the Society for Industrial Archeology journal.

Ball, Norman R. (1977). Reciprocating frame saw at the O'Hara Mill. Society for Industrial Archeology Newsletter VI. 2:1.

from the Society for Industrial Archeology newsletter.

Candee, Richard M. (1970) Merchant and millwright: The water-powered sawmills of the Piscatauqua. Old-Time New England, 60 (no. 220), 131-149

This is the journal of Historic New England (formerly SPNEA).

Curtis, John O. (1973). The introduction of the circular saw in the early 19th century. APT Bulletin, 5(2), 162-183.

From the Bulletin of the Association for Preservation Technology.

Carroll, Charles F. (1973). The timber economy of puritan New England. Providence: Brown University Press

As the title suggests – an economic history focused on exploitation of forests in 17th century New England.

Dickey, John M. (1973). Restoration of the Bertolet Sawmill. APT Bulletin, 5(2), 155-161.

From the Bulletin of the Association for Preservation Technology.

Donnelly, Marian. (1971). Materials in early New England. Old-Time New England , 61, no. 224, 87-94

This is the journal of Historic New England (formerly SPNEA). Available online at

Ewan, N.R. (May 1941). Up-and-down saw mills.The Chronicle. 2(17). 137, 144.

from the Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association

Forman, Benno M. (1970). Mill sawing in seventeenth century Massachusetts. Old-Time New England, 60, no. 220, 110-130.

This is the journal of Historic New England (formerly SPNEA). Available online at

Greuther, Mark (2004). Tripp's Sawmill, 1926. Technology and Culture, 45(4), 808-811

HABS/HAER, The Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record

Highly recommended. Federal archive (part of which is available online) that has very high quality measured drawings, high resolution photographs, and some written history of American architecture and engineering.

The HABS/HAER records for the first four mills below are especially noteworthy for the quantity and detail of measured drawings.

Nichols Saw Mill, Merrimack County, NH. (Model for Old Sturbridge Village sawmill.) 20 drawings.

James Saw Mill, Rockingham County, NH. 26 drawings, 60 photos of mill wreckage.

Weare Saw & Grist Mill, Hampton Falls, NH. 20 drawings, 34 photos - several of intact mill building with one interior view; most of mill wreckage.

McMurtry's Saw Mill, Somerset County, NJ. 10 drawings, 4 photos.

Up-and-down Sawmill, Chester County, PA. Moved to Smithsonian Museum, 6 photos.

Grants Grist & Saw mill, Cumberland, RI. 1 sketch.

Guyn's Mill, Woodford County, KY.18 photos.

Sawmill, Sperryville, VA. 3 photos - 2 interior stereo view photos.

Hatch, M. (2017). Documented Sash Sawmills Surveyed in The United States 2011-2012. Old Mill News, 44(3), 19–23.

Highly Recommended. Sawmill enthusiast Marilyn Hatch has taken on the big project of locating and then visiting every extant sash sawmill in the U.S. Some, like the Ledyard mill, have been restored and are operating, some are reproductions (both good and "questionable"), and some are pieces of old mills in storage. An important survey that documents the tiny fraction of sash sawmills that survived into 21st century and the reproduction sawmills intended to share a glimpse into a key part of America's water-powered past.

Howard, Robert A. (1976). A primer on water turbines. APT Bulletin, 8(4), 45-67.

Hutslar, Donald A. (1975). Ohio Waterpowered Sawmills. Ohio History, 84, 5-56.

An oft-cited reference on waterpowered sawmill technology. Available at

Kebabian, John S. (1973). Sawmills-Early and Not So Early. The Chronicle, 26 (Sept), 41-45.

from the Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association

Knipping, Mark. (2002). Cutting Edge History: Reconstructing the Herrling Sawmill. Wisconsin Magazine of History, 85(4) Summer, 20–31.

Lance, Martha Blanchard. (1993). 'The fathers lived in the forests: Their children live off them'; rural New England sawmilling and the timber trade, 1730-1870. University of Pennsylvania.

Highly Recommended. Martha Lance's PhD dissertation done in collaboration with staff at Old Sturbridge Village. The research summarizes work on mill sites in southern Massachusetts and the changing economic context of small New England sawmills in the 18th and 19th centuries. Available in some academic libraries, and like other dissertations, available for purchase online from ProQuest.

Mackinac Island State Park Commission. (1984). Michigan archeology leads to reconstructed sawmill. Society for Industrial Archeology Newsletter XIII, 3-4: 11.

Mercer, Henry C. (1929). Ancient Carpenters' Tools. Doylestown, PA: Bucks County Historical Society.

Mercer's book is nearly a century old, but still important since he recognized early in the 20th century that American 16th-19th centruy tools and similar artifacts previously so common were fast disappearing. The Mercer Museum and this book were early and important contributions to preserving this legacy of American life. The book has several (poor quality) pictures of sash sawmill parts in the Bucks County, PA Mercer Museum. Contains a brief description of the parts and operation of sash sawmills. This is a modern reference in the sense of the 20th century publication date, but the book (and the Mercer museum in Doylestown PA) seems more Victorian than modern. The mill itself is not well displayed at the Doylestown museum: it is literally hanging from the rafters, so it's not easy to see.

Penn, Theodore Z. and Parks, Roger. (1975). Nichols-Colby Sawmill in Bow, New Hampshire. IA: The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology, 1 (1), 1-12.

"At the time of its accidental destruction in 1938, the Nichols-Colby sawmill in Bow, New Hampshire, was thought to be the oldest surviving sawmill in that state and one of the few up-and-down mills left in New England. Because of the recording work of the Historic American Buildings Survey a few years earlier, it was also well documented and is a prime source of information about sawmill technology in the first half of the nineteenth century."

The excellent drawings of the mill mechanism and building (see entry above for HABS HAER) enabled a reconstruction of this mill at Old Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts.

Peterson, Charles, E. (1973). Sawdust trail. APT Bulletin, 5(2), 84-183.

Richardson, A.J.H. (1974). Indications for Research in the History of Wood-Processing Technology Indications for Research in the History of Wood-Processing Technology. APT Bulletin, 6(3), 35-46.

Rivard, Paul E. (1990). Maine sawmills: a history. Maine State Museum.

Highly recommended. Concise and very useful overview of sash sawmill technology and sawmill/community economics in Maine from the original European colonization through the 19th century. Great pictures of sawmills in Maine - many from 19th century stereocards.

Riznik, Barnes. (1965). New England Village Sawmills, 1790-1840. Old Sturbridge Village research paper.

Available online on the Old Sturbridge Village web site.

Roberts, Robert W. (December 1970). The up and down sawmill. The Chronicle. 23(4). 49-51.

From the Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association

Robertson, Barbara Rose. (1986). Sawpower: Making lumber in the sawmills of Nova Scotia. Halifax, N.S.: Nimbus Pub. /Nova Scotia Museum.

Simmons. David A. (1980) Staley Farm illustrates Ohio farm industries. Society for Industrial Archeology Newsletter IX, 5-6: 10.

from the Society for Industrial Archeology newsletter.

Wilson, John S. (1977). Upper Factory Brook Sawmill: Middlefield, Massachusetts. IA: The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology, 3 (1), 43-52.

See also: Penn, Theodore Z. (1978). A Comment on the Upper Factory Brook Sawmill. IA, 4 (1), 61-63; and Wilson, John S. (1978) Reply to Comment on Upper Factory Brook Sawmill. IA, 4 (1), 63-64.

Wood, Richard G. (1971). A history of lumbering in Maine 1820-1861. Orono, ME: University of Maine Press.

First published in 1935 with a couple of more recent printings.

Woodbury, George. John Goffe's Mill. (1948). New York: Waterbury.

Personal account of the author and his wife moving back to the New Hampshire woods of his family of earlier generations after his inheritances of an old sawmill property. Written at a time when old-timers still had first hand knowledge of 19th century saw-milling. Woodbury relates what he learned and did with the old circular sawmill. He has a nice turn of phrase to summarize the dangers of a sash sawmill: "up-and-down mills ... may pound the unwary into the floor like a shingle nail,"