The Northern Indiana Historic Power Association converts storm-downed
tree into fine lumber with sawmill powered from a LaPorte-built 101-year old
tractor: At top left, the sectioned tree is piled on site near the sawmill
shelter at Sunset Hill Farm Park, prior to milling. Below: a 1912 Rumley
diesel powered tractor, operated by Justin Click, a restoration mechanic
from Hobart, provides the power for the saw through a revolving leather
belt. At center top, (l to r) Mike Yudt, Jr., ‘Sawyer’ Jon Ross and Mike
Yudt, Sr., are shown as one of the huge logs is trimmed to square for
cutting into planks. Above: Yudt, Jr., furniture maker Keith Troyer, Ross
and Yudt, Sr. ‘’jack’ the log into place for trimming.
(Tribune photos by Margaret L. Willis)
By Margaret L. Willis
Where does a tall, straight, beautiful black cherry tree go when it dies?
When this decades old black cherry tree was downed by a severe storm in late
June of 2013 in the yard of David Canright and Margaret Willis, the search
began for the best way to use the wood. The tree was long, straight and
undamaged, a high quality candidate for milling. However no area mill would
commit to taking the tree, even if it was donated.
The couple was adamantly opposed to allowing the tree to be cut for burning
or chipped for mulch.
Friends helped cut side branches from the cherry and another tree, a large
oak, downed during the same storm. The main section of the cherry tree
awaited it’s fate over a long summer.
Luckily, Canright serves on the Board of the Porter County Parks and Sunset
Hill Farm Park plays host to the Northern Indiana Historic Power
Association, which is always on the lookout for suitable logs to mill in the
group’s historic sawmill. So the information of the downed tree was passed
NIHPA members happily agreed to section the tree and transport the large
logs, with the plan to use it for demonstration at this year’s NIHPA
Festival, held Sept. 28 and 29 this year.
On Saturday, as preparations were being made to start milling the logs, a
furniture maker from Wakarusa, Ind., Keith Troyer, happened to ask what
would become of the wood once it was milled and, when told there were no
plans as yet, offered to purchase the milled wood. Troyer makes individually
handcrafted rocking chairs.
Canright and Willis opted to have a donation made to NIHPA in lieu of
Troyer agreed and also assisted in maneuvering and setting up the logs for
The milling of the nearly 70 feet of tree took most of the day Saturday,
plus about two hours on Sunday.
‘Sawyer’ for the wood was Jon Ross, a longtime NIHPA member with lifelong
sawmill experience. Assisting were Mike Yudt and Mike Yudt, Jr., along with
many other NIHPA members who helped cut and stack the milled boards.
On Saturday the sawmill was powered by an 18 horsepower Avery undermount
steam engine, operated by Jerry LaCount of Nappanee, Ill.
On Sunday the sawmill power was provided by a Rumley diesel power tractor,
operated by Justin Click, a restoration mechanic, of Hobart, Ind. The Rumley
was built in 1912 in LaPorte, Indiana.