news & Stories

The President’s Message


The sweet smell of wood smoke is carried on the breeze, plumes of steam are hurled skyward as white billowing clouds and sounds radiate in all directions from a central building in a secluded redwood canyon. This can only mean one thing: the 2016 Sturgeon’s Mill season is upon us once again!  Welcome back to those of you who are repeat guests.

First time visitors prepare yourselves for sights, sounds and smells unique to 19th century saw milling and machinery. All your senses are filled here. This is not a sanitized museum setting, but a living history working museum. At Sturgeon's Mill you will experience close-up, an 1890’s Atlas steam engine driving a 60” diameter saw blade as it cuts through giant redwood and fir logs. A four saw gang edger making dimensional lumber out of the large slabs. A 42” circular saw blade pulled by hand to trim the boards to length. This is real work done in the old way, and you can see it all, not from behind a safety glass panel, but from visitor viewing areas that put you up front near the action! Every step of the progress is explained by our crew and docents. Does this sound like an experience you would like to be a part of? Come on out and experience it for yourself.


We are especially proud of our 100% volunteer staff. Over 60 men and women are trained to guide you through the experiences going on: the restorations, the lumber milling, the woodland gardens and blacksmithing. Our main focus, of course, is the history of Sturgeon's Mill and the impact that redwood had on California’s economy.


Sturgeon's Mill is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. There are many ways your tax deductible donation can help us improve our educational programs and preservation efforts. While visiting us during one of our four open house steam-up weekends, you have many choices in which to help. A direct donation of cash, check, or credit card is always welcome. The purchase of merchandise, hats, t-shirts, videos lets you take home a souvenir. Full dimension lumber, large timbers and unique slabs are for sale for those with a project in mind. Feeling lucky? There is usually a raffle taking place; you may win a handcrafted bench or table. Last season you even had the opportunity to win your very own redwood log to be milled into whatever you could dream up! Donations of logging or mill related items, large or small, are also welcome.  From hand tools to well……?  We have received steam engines, boilers, forklifts and trucks.  In the past, local construction companies and farmers have donated fuel to run the boiler. Beginning this year, if you provide fuel for the day or weekend, we will acknowledge your donation with a sign thanking you during the steam-up! If you have stocks you wish to donate, Sturgeon's Mill has an accountant set up so you may directly transfer them to us. For those who are thinking of us in the future, a legacy program is in place if you would like to include Sturgeon's Mill in your Will or Trust.

An antique saw blade stands in a quiet spot near the gardens. The saw is adorned with brass plaques inscribed with the name of loved ones now passed. If you have a friend or family member you wish to honor, we can add their name to the old saw blade.


Sturgeon's Mill is a unique, vibrant, and historical setting, in one of the most beautiful areas of Sonoma County. Come visit and see what everyone has been talking about.  Come again and see what is new!

By Tom Schaeffer - Spring 2016

Essie’s Corner

The Woodland Gardens


The Woodland Garden that Wade and Esther Sturgeon planted so many years ago is slowly coming back to life.  Last year's drought slowed the progress but this year is a different story. We have new Azaleas and Hydrangeas planted which will bring much needed color to the gardens. Anne Campbell and Jocelyn Gardner, along with Steve Beck, Tim Talamantes, Stef Schaeffer and Diane Williams have been so helpful getting things done. Anne has suggested that since we only have 12 scheduled workdays out of a year we try to have more scheduled garden work days in the spring and summer to help clear weeds and ivy, pick up downed limbs and debris. There is certainly always something that needs to be done. We wish we could produce more color in the garden especially during our mill runs. The soil is very acidic which has limited the choice as to what to plant.


It is going to take time and work for this garden to grow and be a statement. Wade and Esther’s garden became one that people came from miles around to see, but it didn’t happen overnight. A woodland garden generally has several levels to it. There are the tall trees (our redwoods) and under them an assortment of large shrubs and small trees. Then there are smaller shrubs, ferns, perennials and ground cover. It is a quiet area through which to stroll and notice the many little surprises that need a close-up inspection.


We will never be able to replicate their garden but we hope to create an attractive area where people can sit and hopefully enjoy the space. To quote a Lindenland blog- “the woodland garden is subtle and delicate and not riotous in color, but if it is crafted well it has more mystery and drama than a garden in the sun.”


The lily ponds have been dug out and lined with plastic to avoid having to use so much water to keep them flourishing with water lilies. The ponds are edged with attractive quartz from a gold mine located at the head of Willow Creek in west Sonoma County.


We have received a gift of another Dawn Redwood from Carl and Charlotte Langeborg. This gives us three of these special trees. The first two were a gift from Ralph W. Chaney, a life member of the Save the Redwood League and the 5” trees were planted in our garden in January 1950. The history of these deciduous trees goes back to a remote valley in China, discovered by T. Wang, employed by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Chinese government. Mr. Wang came upon a large tree near the village of Motqo-chi. He had never before seen one like it and took specimens of its needles and cones. The result resulted in the amazing discovery that the foliage and cones of the tree were identical to the fossil specimens of the meta Sequoia. Here was a fossil come to life, a tree thought to have become extinct twenty million years before.

By Essie Doty - Spring 2016

Tom's Corner


Our monthly workdays seem to come around faster each month. I don’t know if time is going by faster or is it me going slower! Does anyone else have this problem? On average of 30-35 crew members show up each workday ready to take on the day's assignments.


The large storage building that houses our wagons, excess equipment, supplies, and seasonal items had a roof needing replacement for some time. A new powder coated steel roof replaced the old rolled comp roof. We also elevated the floor with rock so now our contents are protected from above and below.


We added 12-15 handicapped parking places near the entrance and registration booth to accommodate our many seniors and all who may need it.


Now that the Willamette Road Engine has come back to life, we need to extend the spring water line to service the fireman’s needs; a new one-inch line and couple of new faucets will fill the need.


The nearly century old timbers that support the log deck have rotted and were replaced with new redwood timbers and a concrete footing. Hundreds of logs weighing several tons each have rolled over that deck and the future looks good for many hundreds more to pass through the mill.


Communication between the saw crew upstairs and the lineman and engineers below decks is done by signal whistle or bells. At the trim saw a small shrill steam whistle was installed in place of a bell that was not adequately heard and often confused with the edger bell that controls the edger engine.  It is very loud and no longer confusing.


Our November workday was spent in part getting ready for the winter rains and all around dampness that fills our canyon from now until May. Sunlight is a rare commodity here! Tables and benches get covered; audio equipment and the television get put in the history center with the heater and dehumidifier running to combat moisture and mildew.


Our P.A. system has been totally updated with new amplifiers and more speakers. Passing along information to our visitors and explaining milling operations as they unfold will be much better with this new system.


With this season's dates coming upon us quickly, our crew is feeling the crunch, but will meet it head-on with enthusiasm. There is no slowing this bunch down, especially when we all have so much fun!

By Tom Schaeffer - Spring 2016

Editor’s Corner

Nuts & bolts, Sawdust & Steam


Imagine a cold wet Saturday morning. It’s just the kind of weekend morning that you’d like to relax and sleep in, if it’s the first Saturday of the month and you are a member of our Volunteer crew that’s not an option. To qualify to be on our volunteer crew and work for nothing you must participate in our “First Saturday of the month work day,” at which you will also be paid $.00 but you will get a wonderful lunch with good stuff that you no longer are allowed to eat at home. Let’s keep imagining. It is the first Saturday of the month and it’s cold and raining. Our typical Volunteer crew member is up before dawn to slam down a breakfast, pack up their hand & power tools and off to the sawmill they go, just like the crew did back in the 1950’s.


The first Saturday of the month work days begin with a safety meeting at 9am. I arrive 15-20 minutes early and the coffee & donut line and the chairs around the fire pit are already full with our crew. Some crew members arrive at 7:30-8am to tell stories around the fire.

Why would crew members turn out in nasty weather to work at our sawmill on their day off? They come because this sawmill offers them the opportunity to participate in projects that have a direct connection with improving and restoring this working museum. Work days are a less intense environment than the run dates, this allows the crew to learn new skills, form new friendships and build trust in working together.


We are looking for more crew members who can help us with the most important position at this sawmill: helping our visitors understand what’s going on at our working museum and sharing the history of sawmilling. If you’re a gear-head or steam-head and like history we have a place for you on our crew. We need more docents to guide our guests & visitors through history. If this crew opening opportunity appeals to you please stop by our saw mill on the 1st Saturday of the month 9-12pm. Come see what our crew members are doing, talk to them and please consider being a docent at our sawmill.


Our museum board has set aside four Fridays for “Students-only” demonstration runs and history days. We currently have 200 students coming to our first demonstration run. We allow a maximum of 300 students at each demonstration run.  If you have a child or grandchild that would benefit from this type of school field trip please contact our student tours coordinator Harvey Henningsen by calling 707-322-5126 or email at


We need a new boiler…We are running out of steam! We need a 150 hp. steam boiler that creates 150 lbs. of steam pressure to power three more donated steam engines. If you know of anyone who has a boiler or could give us leads please contacts us at the above phone number or email address.  Come “step back into history” with us in 2016.

By Harvey Henningsen - Spring 2016






2150 Green hill rd.

sebastopol, ca 95472