Student blog — Hope Mill, A Labour of Love

During the course of the field season, we will be featuring contributions from the crew. Today we have a post from one of our Advanced Field Methods students, Shannon, who would like to share her impressions and photographs of a field trip we took today to visit the Hope Mill, a historic sawmill on the Indian River.

The Hope Mill
The Hope Mill on a chilly rainy morning! Photo: Shannon Dwyer

Upon exiting my classmate’s car at the Hope Mill, my first thought was “man, this weather sucks”.  I then turned and looked at the ‘open’ work space and said “holy cow, these mill workers are hardcore”.  As I stood there freezing, in my thermal pants in the month of May, it hit me; “imagine this work space in a 19th century winter”.  Again, I’m tempted to think that this mill and its workers are hardcore.

Truth is, those currently running and maintaining the Hope Mill have it easy. They have sections of the mill upgraded with electricity and lights, and they even have a tiled floor in their ‘out house’.  All in all, the history of Hope Mill, although somewhat restored; bleeds through every aspect of this structure, and its founding families are honored in a variety of ways.

Nearly two hours go by, and I can no longer feel my left hand or my feet.

Literally frozen in my spot, the saw blade starts spinning and the entire mill starts to tremble. The crew of workers take their places and saw dust starts flying. Several minutes later, a wooden plank is sent up a roller belt and is ready for use.

This simple field trip changed my entire view of 2×4’s and I now hold a new appreciation for every picnic table I see. I have gained a new understanding of the historic value of such open workshops and the amount of work put into such structures to ensure production, and safety.

I can’t wait to see what will be uncovered and excavated during the Nassau Mills Project this year.

— Shannon

Crown gear at Hope Mill.
Turbine gates are open, and the crown gear is whirring away, turning the main drive shaft for the saw. Photo: Shannon Dwyer
Adjusting the saw carriage in order to cut the correct size plank.
Adjusting the saw carriage in order to cut the correct size plank. Photo: Shannon Dwyer
The sawing floor, and rollers to move the waste wood to the cut-off saw.
The sawing floor, and rollers to move the waste wood to the cut-off saw. Photo: Shannon Dwyer
Some members of the Hope family.
Some members of the Hope family. Photo: Shannon Dwyer
Not only a mill, this was also the Hope family's house.
Not only a mill, this was also the Hope family’s house. Photo: Shannon Dwyer
A volunteer is using a pike-pole to grab a log from the millpond to bring it up the jack-ladder via a chain and winch. From there it will be manoeuvered by cant hooks to the saw carriage.
A volunteer is using a pike-pole to grab a log from the millpond to bring it up the jack-ladder via a chain and winch. From there it will be maneuvered by cant hooks to the saw carriage. Photo: Shannon Dwyer
The sawdust is collected from under the saw blade and transported out via a conveyor system.
The sawdust is collected from under the saw blade and transported out via a conveyor system. Photo: Shannon Dwyer

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