In that hollow on East Irvine Street through which the Town Branch runs, there was a tannery in pioneer days. It made use of the water in the creek for the curing of hides, and later, a small mill which stood at that place for many years also drew water from that source for the processing of grains.

But the biggest business at that place was the Stafford Planing Mill. In 1879, Frank Stafford built a two-story building that was 85 feet long and 47 feet wide. He installed an asbestos roof over the entire building — in those days when nobody knew anything about the health hazards of that material.

With some $15,000 worth of machinery installed, a work force of several men and boys operated a number of machines which turned out window sashes, shutters, moldings, facings, doors, weatherboarding and other such products.

The power for the mill was furnished by a steam engine with a 12-inch bore and a 42-inch stroke! (If you don’t know what that means, ask any old auto mechanic.) The boiler was about 42 inches in diameter and 28 feet long. Mostly wood scraps from the milling machines were burned in the firebox to produce steam. Smoke went up a 75-foot iron smokepipe, and water came from two wells, one of which was some 300 feet away.

On the first floor was a large ripsaw which cut rough lumber into thinner slabs that could be managed by the machine operators. A newspaper writer described it as “a voracious bird that can cut planks as fast as you can walk.” It was reported that during its first year, it also severed fingers from the right hands of two of the workers.

A large planing machine could turn out 10,000 feet of flooring a day, and a siding machine was able to produce 8,000 feet of weatherboarding in that same time.

The second floor of Stafford’s Planing Mill had many small machines which could confuse a visitor with all the men and boys moving about, running noisy rippers, cutters, shapers, drills and punches powered by belts attached to an overhead shaft turned by the steam engine.

A sizable molding machine could turn out several kinds of moldings at the rate of 50 feet a minute. Window shutters were made on a Bucks Patented Blind Borer and Mortiser, and the sash pieces were all joined together on a Greenleaf’s Patented Sash Holder.

When the end of Stafford’s Mill came it was not because of complaints about noise or air pollution. Several fires during the next quarter century burned their stock and their building.

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