The President’s Message
October holds, for me, many pleasant childhood memories, triggered by sights and smells of autumn, trees showing off their splendor in a display of colors before they lie dormant through the cold, wet winter. The lingering fruit yet to be harvested is at its peak of ripeness and pungent on the limb and vine.
October also brings with it our final public steam-up demonstration of the year. A very successful year it was, too! Lots of new faces from near and far planning to return to future events and we are always so happy to see the familiar faces of friends and neighbors who eagerly return to see what new displays of 19th and early 20th century logging and lumber milling history we have to offer.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do not mean to imply that I am glad the year’s long season of planning, organizing and staging the open house steam-ups has come to a close, but….just maybe a bit relieved and ready for a break to eagerly plan for next year’s schedule of events.
Sturgeons Mill is what it is today because of eager and energetic volunteers. People of varied backgrounds bringing with them volumes of knowledge, skills and years of life experiences that have helped make us who we are. The average age of our crew of 40 men is about 66 - lots of combined history there! Then I polled the ladies of the crew on their age and well, 39 years of age seemed to be average! Math is very strange at times. My point is that having an experienced crew of men and women is most beneficial to the organization in many ways. They have the ability to think through problems, plan and execute projects, work safely around machinery and present lots of ideas for future projects.
We all work together toward a common goal, and that goal is to present to the public a unique view to the past, a glimpse into the history of lumber making in the redwood empire using state of the art machinery of the 1880’s thru 1930’s. No one realizes how hard our forefathers Blacksmithing History Lesson had to work more than our mill crew. Sawmill dollars were hard earned to be sure.
I am sure I speak for the entire Sturgeons Mill “family” of volunteers as I thank-you for choosing to visit our mill amid the many venues available in beautiful Sonoma County. Thank you for supporting our 100% volunteer 501- (C)–(3) non-profit by making donations, buying raffle tickets, apparel, lumber, and lunch while visiting. Thank you for returning year after year with family and friends. Thank you for booking a private party for your own group or company and having the entire mill and grounds to yourselves for the day!
And a final heartfelt thank-you for believing that Sturgeons Mill Restoration Project and Woodland Gardens is an endeavor worthy of not only preserving, but expanding its potential as an educational opportunity for thousands of students of California history. I am happy to say we just completed our 14th year on steam power. I look forward to seeing all of you again next season. I am sure we will be well rested and eager as ever after a long winter break.
By Tom Schaeffer - Winter 2019/2020
The Woodland Gardens
The garden is beautiful in the fall. Many shrubs and trees are turning color and soon will lose their leaves. My dear friend Anne Campbell is tireless, it seems. When she and her husband are not off seeing the world she is here making sure things are growing as they should.
I want to thank the helpers, who labor to keep things under control each work day. They are: Tom Charleston, Tracy Dorris, Tom Ford, Mary Jo Geitner, Rich Steiner and Marc Woodworth. The garden always looks neat and clean after a work day. We are blessed with this crew.
I would also like to acknowledge the ladies who help with greeting and directing visitors to the docent tours. There are several ladies selling tee shirts, caps, vests and many other items. Also, selling raffle tickets for the bench made by Tom Schaeffer each run day and (can you believe it?) a redwood log!
The raffles and the profit from the sales, all go to keep the mill running. We are constantly having to upgrade something. Those profits are truly needed.
We are, as always, looking for people who would like to volunteer as docents, greeters, salespersons and generally being a part of this wonderful undertaking. The mill is the reason folks come to visit but what the volunteers do makes it possible. Volunteers are special people.
By Essie Doty - Winter 2019/2020
Nuts & bolts, Sawdust & Steam
Every one of our volunteer crew members & I enjoy the same hypnotic rhythm of our old sawmill. Center stage for our visitors seems to be the head rig where the logs are milled to lumber. There is a cadence of sounds and movements that repeat themselves as our visitors watch. One can meander around the sawmill’s grounds where there’s a steam-engine or old time hit & miss engine powering early 1900’s milling equipment at every turn & corner of our sawmill. Visitors wanting a quieter experience often retreat to the Redwood Gardens, the horse-logging arena, or our beautiful redwood shaded picnic grounds where one can get a cup of coffee or a cold soda, or lunch with quiet conversation.
If you were to travel the world looking for sawmills and working museums Sturgeon’s Mill will stand out as a gem. Our steam-powered sawmill enables our wandering guests to view 6 individual live-steam engines powering a milling or logging equipment demonstrating the basic concepts of milling machines of the industrial revolution. Our guests get it all in a magical redwood forested canyon where time has stood still. It looks the same today as it did in my first memories of the mill, as a 10 year old in 1955 when this mill was under full steam and production.
Our loyal volunteer crew has showed up for over 20 years restoring this magical sawmill/working museum. In order to qualify to be a crew member that works for free for 4 weekends a year + 3 student education days our crew members show up on the first Saturday of the month to fine-tune the mill and create easier paths for our visitors to “Step-Back-Into-History” with us. These Saturday work days are fun & warm 8 months out of the year and plain downright damp & cold the other 4 months. No matter the weather our crew shows up to work.
Our friends that visit us often notice improvements every year as we continue to restore this museum. In the accompanying photos you’ll see some of the projects that happened this past year on these work days.
Our crew members are true historians in action. The next time you visit our sawmill if you get a chance to say hello to a crew member feel free to ask them a question, they will be happy to help you.
We have a new vertical steam engine on line powering a mechanical hammer-mill in our working blacksmith shop and a new steam engine on line powering a wood splitter which makes firewood for the Willamette boiler which in turn pipes steam back to the engine powering the wood splitter.
Visiting this working steam powered sawmill is a world class experience in authenticity & action. You can help us keep steaming up with a donation to The Sturgeon’s Mill Restoration Project general fund or our separate education account which funds student transportation to our museum on student education tour days.
Sturgeon’s mill student education continues to expand and reach out to more schools and students. We have had another great year of sharing local Sonoma County history with students from the Sonoma, Napa and Lake County schools.
The first couple years that we launched this student education program we had to go out and beat the bushes to find teachers who might be interested in teaching local Sonoma County history to their students with a field trip to our sawmill by letting them step back into history with help from our knowledgeable and friendly volunteer crew.
This past year we have been blessed by previous visiting teachers sharing their class’s learning experiences here at our working museum sawmill with their education peers resulting in 21 schools sending their students here to study local Sonoma County history and the industrial revolution.
I appreciate fellow board member Tom Ford for agreeing to co-chair the student education program with me. He brings his enthusiasm for working with youth, interest in education and organization to this important program. With this increased interest and attendance the student education program has doubled—creating the need for additional student education days in our 2020 scheduling.
Some school districts have limited money to spend on bus transportation. Transportation costs work out to $40 per student for a round trip passage to and from the sawmill and back to school. Our working museum has a separate student education account that helps schools fund these field trips. If you would like to buy some seats for students on a bus to visit Sturgeon’s Mill your donation can go directly to our working museum’s student education account.
Our goal here at Sturgeon’s Mill is for students to explore history in action and play games that have these young visitors laughing, shouting, smiling & having the times of their lives—without ever looking at their cell phones. They learn history, games of skill and concentration and games that require group cooperation—and its all fun!
For information about student education tours please go to our student education section. You can contact us through a link in this section. Teachers and parents may also contact Tom & me directly via email at: Tom Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org or Harvey Henningsen at email@example.com.
By Harvey Henningsen - Winter 2019/2020