The Taylor Sawmill on Island Pond Road is expected to open for the season in late June. A.J. Dupere, a staff member of the New Hampshire Department of Forests and Lands who oversees the site, said while the grounds are currently open to the public, the structure is undergoing renovations. The mill is usually open the second and fourth Saturday of the month, from September to October “or until we run out of water,” Dupere said.
The dam and mill have been administered by the Department of Forests and Lands since the early 1950s, Dupere said. The dam was recently repaired by the Department of Environmental Services, he said. There are actually two dams, one upper and one lower, and the upper one had all new concrete put in on the pond side, replacing the original stone and earth construction.
The mill building is being re-roofed, the gate is being updated and there will be some work done inside, Dupere said. He and caretaker Bob Spoerl are doing most of the renovations, with the exception of the roof. Dupere said an opening date of June 22 is planned, though he added that depends on the roofing contractor. Town Historian Rick Holmes said the original mill was built in the 1820s, on what was then the Taylor property. Logs were sawn in an up-and-down sawmill, also known as a “pit saw,” he said.
Holmes explained, “One man stood in the pit, one on the top.” The process was later mechanized, and was the way to saw logs until the circular saw was invented by the industrious Shakers. “It was faster,” he said of the circular saw. “Up and down was a minimum of 60 strokes per minute, while circular ripped right through it.” The original mill burned and was not replaced. In the 1940s Ernest K. Ballard, a retired farmer from Lexington, Mass., turned his fascination with the mill process into a passion and a project. He bought the equipment of the late Dan Hoyt of Sandown, whose sawmill had been stored in a barn, and Ballard built a replica of the old Taylor Mill with Hoyt’s equipment.
He completed the reconstruction in 1951, Holmes said. He put in a new water wheel, and the first log was sawn that year. But he didn’t operate it as a working sawmill, Holmes added. “It served no function but to educate us about the past.” Ballard enjoyed explaining his creation to the public for two years. He died in 1953, Holmes said, and Forests and Lands took over the property. For updated information on the opening date, call the Urban Forestry Center at 431-6774 or visit the Forests and Lands Web site at www.nhdfl.org .