Sawmill Day 1990

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3251 S. Pine Barren Road McDavid, Florida 32568.

May 5, 1990 brought the first annual Sawmill Day in Century, Florida. The festival was created to bring attention to this town's sawmill heritage and to raise money for the Alger-Sullivan Historical Society's restoration projects. We wanted a wide variety of exhibits and my preoccupation with old machines led to the gas engine exhibit. It seems there was plenty working against us since this was a first year show, bad weather threatened, and we scheduled for the same day as the Houston, Mississippi show. Still, we had about 15 engines on display, some from 200 miles away. Free camping was offered to exhibitors and vendors. Admission to the public was free, too.

The weather in Century turned out fine and the thousands of people who showed up had a great time. I prefer public shows to the ones frequented only by fellow collectors, because of the fun of watching the young folks discovering these old putt-putts, and of listening to the old-timers tell of engines they used to have.

In addition to the stand-alone engines, we had Vaughan and Ottawa drag saws, a pumpjack, and a gristmill to give folks an idea of how these machines were used. An Economy (Stover CT-2K variant) was shown partially restored, to contrast the way an engine can look when restored, and the way it was found in a farmer's front yard.

Steam fans take note that the Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company mill was once operated by a huge Corliss engine. Company records reported the hundreds of cowhides required to make the belt. After electrification, steam turbines provided power for mill and town. The mill also operated a steam railroad until the late 50's.

We now own an original wooden Alger box car, which should be on display next year. All we have to do is lay some track, pick up the car and haul it 60 miles, and put it on our track! Simple! We managed to get a hold of an original Alger R.R. whistle (a Buckeye), and were able to get off an occasional blast using an electric air compressor and a big tank. We have since acquired an old Wisconsin V-4 powered Schramm compressor to do a better job. The mill's whistle left town before the Historical Society was formed and the trail for the original has grown cold. We hope to find someone who will loan or donate a large whistle for our festivities.

Other activities included a parade, singing, clogging, tours of historic homes and buildings, and donkey rides. Displays included antique cars (including the Florida Highway Patrol's 1940 cruiser), mules, engines, tools, relics, and local art. There was plenty of good food and a variety of craft items for sale.

A focal point was our new museum housed in the town's original post office. We raised enough money to buy land for a park in the historical district and the post office was donated by a former mill employee who had saved it from destruction. In keeping with its past history, we combined speed, guile, and luck to relocate the building to our park and got water and electricity hookups ... all without permits.

We were quite pleased with attendance and the mix of activities. Although the festival did raise a tidy sum of money, the biggest benefits were seeing the way people pulled together, and having a flood of artifacts being donated to the museum.

We have moved the 1991 date to Saturday, April 27, to avoid conflicts with other festivals. We hope to have many more engines in 1991, along with an outstanding local collection of JD tractors. We are also hoping to find someone with a shingle mill to produce a new roof for the museum while entertaining the crowds.

Century is located along U.S. 29, on the Florida state line, about 45 miles north of Pensacola.