Bourbon Sesquicentennial


The men of the Peabody Sawmill.
Peabody was one of the last big sawmills in Bourbon.
It was located on Harris Street just south of the railroad track on the east side of the street.

When the first pioneers reached Bourbon Township in Marshall County dense forests covered much of the land. Those first pioneers and the settlers that followed cleared the land to plant their crops. While trees did provide cheap fuel and shelter, they also stood in the way of progressive farming. Cleared land also held more value. Those early pioneers worked tirelessly felling and burning trees to improve the land.

Along with pioneers and progress, sawmills came to new western territories as the frontier was opened to settlers. Sawmills were needed in every town to produce local lumber for buildings and goods. The 1859 arrival of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago railroad opened up a host of new markets for the products and raw materials of this area. It even spurred the founding of little towns all along the line.

Enterprising men saw the opportunity to make fortunes from one of Indianaís greatest natural resources. Sawmills began to multiply. Local sawyer Noah Lemler recounts that this area was considered to be one of the best natural resources for hardwoods, anywhere. He also says that the early lumbering sent trainloads of white oak to the east coast shipyards for building ships.

From the History of Marshall County pages 292 and 293. "The first sawmill in Bourbon was put up by Samuel Thomas and Nidig (sic) on the spot where W. J. Ackerís mills and manufactories now occupy. J. W. Davis & Bros. operated extensive mills about this time. This was about 1850, but this first mill and several others that were erected on the same place were destroyed by fire. Samuel Carl and Coxen built a large sawmill just northwest of Bourbon in the early 1850ís. Daniel Shively about that time built a large sawmill at Panama, which he ran for a time, disposing of it after a few years to David Klingermann, and he, after making a mint of money with it, to Pritsch and Moneysmith, in 1870, who operated it for a half dozen years or longer, making a snug fortune for them before disposing of it to J. J. Shively, who still owns it. Thomas Lee, in 1864, erected large sawmills near Panama, making a fortune there, as his industry and honesty surely entitled him to do. Within a very short time after the railroad was completed through Bourbon, over 25 sawmills were in operation within marketing distance of Bourbon and thus rendered it one of the best lumber markets in the state."

Adam Monesmith and Jacob Pritsch learned the sawmill trade together as young men in Ohio. Of their success Jacob said, "Adam does the figuring and I do the milling."

A 1931 letter to the News-Mirror from George Schrom recounts the Bourbon businesses of 1865. He identified a sawmill owned by Omar Davis near the railroad on the present site of A and L Foundry. Schrom said the Davis mill burned that winter. Schrom reported a mill was built in 1862 or 1864 by Nicholas Galentine and N.D. Hellar to "supply the eastern trade". This location would be north across the tracks from the foundry. An editorís note shows the structure was being torn down in 1931.

Schrom also mentions a sawmill operated on the north side of the tracks "near that old empty house" that was used in the Civil War for the manufacture of gun stock for the government. After the war two men by the name of Murray and Clark turned it into a stave mill.

By 1872 the Bourbon Mirror, which was in its infancy, was recording regular news of local sawmills. These are some excerpts of the paper from that spring.

"Never was our mill yards so perfectly jamed (sic) with logs as is the case at this time, and the logging has only fairly commenced with our mill-men. Over 30 sawmills can market their lumber at Bourbon." Feb. 2, 1872.

"We took a sleigh ride the other day and while passing E. Klingermanís sawmill, three miles north of Bourbon, and were highly pleased to see such a large and elegant stock of logs in his mill yard. If all the thirty mills in the township are as well supplied with logs as Mr. K. more lumber will be shipped from this place during the year than any previous one." Feb. 9, 1872.

"Mr. Joseph Davis, has made arrangements to attach a sawmill and wagon manufactory to his flouring mill. The intention is, we understand, to manufacture wagons extensively. This is a move in the right direction." Feb. 9, 1872.

"There are a great many tracts of unimproved land for sale in this region, the timber on which in most instances, will more than pay for the clearing, at the prices which are now paid by the railroad for firewood." Mar. 22, 1872.

The tragic dangers of working at the industry were also documented.

"Mr. Nelson Campbell, an employee at Stiverís saw mill met with a serious accident last Wednesday. He was engaged in trying to load a saw log, when the chain broke and let the log roll back against his leg, crushing his limb badly." Mar. 8, 1872.

Owners were not removed from the dangers. Jacob Slough, a partner with W.J. Acker in Acker and Slough, was fatally crushed between railcars in 1871. W. J. Acker went on to operate sawmills and lumber manufacturing businesses in Bourbon until a fourth fire in November 1905 permanently put him and twenty-five workers out of business here. The loss put Bourbon without a sawmill, according to the editor, who said the factory fires cost Acker a personal fortune over the years.

In addition to the above named sawmill owners a list of operators has been gleaned from a variety of sources.

William Bates and Thomas Banks owned a sawmill northwest of town; Isaac B. Arnold, Howard Barnaby, and John W. Fawcett incorporated the Northern Indiana Manufacturing and Lumbering Company in 1871; J.B. Shively had a sawmill northwest of Bourbon, D.S. Klingerman ran a sawmill in 1901 about three miles north of Bourbon; a new sawmill was delivered through Metheny and Harris Hardware to saw lumber for Charles Hilles (22 December 1904 News-Mirror); Jacob Beltz had a sawmill southwest of town; Joseph Gaskill had a lumber office at the railroad; John and Alva Faulkner; the Varier Brothers; and Zackaria Senour.

More recent names would include Paul Trowbridge who had the last sawmill in Bourbon located in the southwest part of town and Peabody Lumber which was located on Harris Street just south of the railroad.

The sawmill industry is not dead locally, just greatly reduced in the number of men plying the trade. Current local sawyers are Chris and Terry Lemler who cut and sell lumber products on Apple Road. Nearby is sawyer Robert Banic of Custom Cuts and Crafts on Chestnut Rd. He offers custom log cutting and other woodworking skills. both businesses are located northeast of Bourbon.

Bourbon Sesquicentennial Page