A Steam Engine and a Sawmill: Memories of Yesterday
1382 Kentucky 798 Calhoun, Kentucky 42327
Weeds, briars, honeysuckles, and second growth stuff choked the
rusted skeleton of the old sawmill. There in front of me lay the
sawdust hole, now filled with dirt and rotten timbers that had
collected the sawdust as the large circular saw cut a quarter inch
swath through a seemingly unending procession of oaks, poplars,
sycamores and countless other varieties of Kentucky timber. The
aged carriage still rested on its tracks, part of which bent and
twisted in directions no self respecting carriage would travel.
The heart and soul of the old sawmill, the big, black, grimy,
noisy steam engine, no longer graced the field wherein the mill
rested. Only the ghost of the powerful Advance Rumely remained to
complete the picture.
The history of this sawmill, owned by my dad, Elza Lee
'Dodge' Taylor, of Calhoun, Kentucky began many, many years
ago. Dad started sawing during the dark days of the Depression,
about 1932 or '33, when he bought the Keck Gonnerman Pony mill
from Mr. Thornton Coke for $50.00.
He first used a 12 HP Case, then a 15 HP Case to power the mill.
Then, in 1939, he bought a 20 HP Advance Rumely, serial number
15308, from the old Keck Gonnerman factory in Mount Vernon,
Indiana, to power the mill and to use, as he had the others, in
steaming plant beds.
World War II brought a temporary halt to Dad's sawmill and
plant bed steaming business, while he served a hitch in the army.
After returning from the service in 1943, he set up the Advance
Rumely engine and Keck Gonnerman mill on a neighboring farm owned
by Mr. Tommy Ayer. He operated the mill there until 1946 when he
moved it to its permanent site, a section of land in the Buel
community which the Taylor family has owned for over 200 years.
Buel is located near Calhoun, the county seat of McLean County, in
The 20 HP Advance Rumely and Keck Gonnerman Pony Mill in
operation, 1947. Left to right: Wayland Layton in sawdust hole;
Charlie Coin and Rollie Tichenor off bearing; Charles Ed Clark on
carriage setting blocks; Clarence White at the lever.
Dad sold the engine in the early 1960's, but the old Keck
Gonnerman mill remains there to this day. This became the steam
engine and sawmill of my childhood memories.
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