Long before the Town of Elma of formed, twenty three saw mills dotted the area. Lumber was in abundance and so were the streams and creeks to power the mills. Lumber was going at eight dollars per thousand feet, and that was a lot of money at that time. Instead of burning the lumber to obtain land for farming, settlers constructed sawmills to convert the timber into lumber and then sell it to lumberyards in the nearby City Of Buffalo NY, along with using it for building homes and erecting fencing.
In 1845 Clark W. Hurd, Joseph Briggs and Allen & Hiram Clark dug a mill race from Buffalo Creek (also known as Big Buffalo Creek on old maps) and they constructed a dam to divert water for the purpose of the operation of a sawmill. Two sawmills were eventually built, and they stayed in operation for many years.
The mill race still runs next to the Museum today as it did in 1846. History has no record of what might have happened to the Hurd & Briggs 1846 Sawmill. Excavations performed around the old Sawmill area have shown that the Sawmill may have been destroyed by fire. For many years all that remained were the foundations of the mill near the mill race.
In the spring of 2008 a conversation was started about the existing foundations and mill race. It was mentioned "How great it would be if we could rebuild the 1800's mill on the original foundations." The idea caught on, and Historical Society members Frank Maciejewski and Fred Streif, along with the late Donald Moeller, got to work. The project was fully supported by the Historical Society and constructed at no cost to the Town of Elma NY.
To learn more about the building of the restored Hurd & Briggs 1846 Sawmill, please watch the two videos below. Please "like" the videos if possible (must be done at YouTube).
Photos of Clark W. Hurd (left) and Joseph Briggs (right) circa 1846.
The only known photo showing the inside of the original Hurd and Briggs Sawmill; undated.
Here is "Apprentice Miller" Lorrie shown in front of the Sawmill in 1916. Could Lorrie's specialties have been: de-barking timber, ruff-cutting logs, and sawing woofing shingles?
The restored Sawmill cupola has a Sawyer Weathervane by Elma fabricator Louie Zimmerman.
Inspiration for the Sawmill Restoration Project is recognized with this bronze plaque on display inside the Sawmill.
This period sign hangs over the main door of the restored Sawmill.
Below is the first video: background on mills in Elma, and restoration of the Hurd & Briggs 1946 Sawmill.
Below is the second video: the May 28, 2011 Dedication Ceremony of the restored Hurd & Briggs 1846 Sawmill.
An overall view of the restored Sawmill from 2011.
A photo gallery showing the water wheel and Sawmill building being built is on the Sawmill Construction Project webpage. There are details and images about the foundation upgrade project there, also (completion in mid-2021).