Spring-Summer 2021

Updated: Apr 23

Engine Shed Complete

Volunteers recently completed siding and doors for a new engine shed on the east side of Chamberlin Mill. The shed replaces an original structure designed to house a 1928 Studebaker engine that kept the water-powered sawmill running in its last decades after the Great Flood of 1936 destroyed its dam and penstock. Chamberlin family photographs from 1939 show the original structure under construction.



The 1939 date is interesting. This was not immediately after the devastating Great Flood, but not long after the 1938 Hurricane ravaged New England. At that time, local ponds, including Keach (or Lower Chamberlin) Pond, became repositories for felled trees as part of a federal program for the gradual release of lumber to the market. Chamberlin Mill will have been a busy place at this time.

After the mill stopped production in the late 1960s, the disused shed disappeared, either torn down or gradually deteriorated. When Chamberlin Mill, Inc. acquired the millsite in 2014, there was little evidence of the shed except in remaining foundation stones and nail marks indicating where its roof attached to the Mill.


Using the nail marks and old photographs, the Chamberlin Mill Building committee designed a replacement shed to house the Studebaker engine that it hopes will soon again provide power to the Mill. With the indefatigable support of its volunteer building crew, the shed is now complete. Using the footprint and roofline of the original, the new shed has been modified for greater protection from the elements and security. Large doors on the three exposed sides open when the Mill is in use to allow engine operation and visitor viewing.


Local ash logs, harvested in response to the Emerald Ash Borer invasion, were sawn into timbers at Andy Quigley’s sawmill, and used for shed siding.


Thanks to Leo Morissette, Andy Quigley, Nate Rosebrooks, and George French who participated in the shed construction, and additionally to Evelyn Cole Smith, Myron Stachiw, and Jean McClellan for work on the building committee.


Chamberlin Mill comes to life online!

This spring Quinebaug Valley Community College student, Daniel Xavier, completed an animated video of the waterpower machinery at Chamberlin Mill. Dan undertook the work as a Capstone project for his Technology Studies degree under the direction of Professor Jakob Spjut. The drawings are quite terrific, bringing the Mill’s historic gears and pulleys to life. They are definitely worth a look. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AjmmLbNnv4

Jeff Paul, a member of the Chamberlin Mill, Inc. board of Directors and a director also of the Quinebaug Valley Community College Foundation, Inc., arranged this project with Professor Spjut. Andy Quigley and Nate Rosebrooks, Chamberlin Mill, Inc. board members, provided technical consultation on the sawmill workings. The drawings built on earlier work by Peter Sumner’s engineering class at Woodstock Academy, as part of ongoing experiential learning opportunities connected with the Mill.


Millstone returns to Chamberlin site

A millstone, associated with an early gristmill at the Chamberlin site, came back home this year. ( See Fall 2015 News for prior story).


A stroke of luck connected Leo Morissette, head of the volunteer construction crew at the Mill, with Bill Hull, head of Hull Forest Products of Pomfret, CT, resulting in Bill Hull’s big rigs bringing the massive stone to the Mill where it was subsequently coaxed into final position by Leo and his machinery.


Huge thanks to Bill Hull, and as always, to Leo Morissette.


Exhibition Planning

In late August Chamberlin Mill volunteers met with several focus groups to gather ideas for further research, theme development, exhibition and program design for the Mill. These groups, comprising educators, museum professionals, and researchers, were extremely helpful in expanding the views of the Chamberlin Interpretation Group that has been meeting regularly for several years. Great thanks to participants Tom Kelleh er (Old Sturbridge Village), Alan Ganong (Ledyard Sawmill Park), Bev York (Windham Textile and History Museum), Jakob Spjut ( Quinebaug Valley Community College) ,Bob Olson and Kyra Litschauer (Woodstock Middle School), Kristen Keegan ( historical researcher) and Steven Long ( author of 1938: the hurricane that transformed New England). Thanks also to Myron Stachiw, Gail White Usher, Caroline Sloat, and Dan Coughlin of Chamberlin’s Interpretation Group, who led these discussions.



Connecting saw and engine

As the saw machinery comes together, it will be time to finally reconnect the Studebaker engine to the saw machinery. In the interest of safety, we have incorporated some modern drive components. Instead of the original Studebaker drive shaft and solid coupling, we have purchased a PTO shaft and a clutch/coupling to drive the machinery. In case of a jam or other problem in making a cut, this will protect the operator as well as the engine and drive components.