Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Little Steam Saw Mill Trivia

Steam Saw Mills were often encounter in the "horse and Buggy" Days on Delmarva.  They were handy because the saw mill generated it's own scrap wood to burn in the boiler to make steam.  They did however often blow up.  One reason for the explosion was Sawyers used to use water out of a branch or creek that wasn't clean and it would stop up a valve and when it broke loose and cold water came into a hot boiler, she blow.

In 1868 W L Sirman (Sirmon) erected a steam driven sawmill on the west side of Delmar. In 1883 he moved the mill to the East side of Delmar, more specifically between First and Second Street on Grove Street. In addition to the saw mill he also had W. L. Sirmon Basket And Crate Company next to the saw mill. The saw mill was steam driven and the steam was produced by burning the waste produced from the saw mill it self. The saw mill could produce 5,000 feet per day and operated 11 months out of the year. It employed ten men plus the men in the Basket plant

From Marylander and Herald - February 15, 1916


The boiler of the saw mill of Graham and Hurley, near Mardella Springs, exploded at 11:45 last Thursday morning, killing four persons and seriously injuring three more, who are in the Peninsula General hospital at Salisbury. The dead are William Phillips, Webb Robinson and Charles Seabreeze and a negro named Emory Coulbourn. The injured are: Bradley Seabreeze, cut and bruised on the face and body; Staton Evans, both legs and arms broken, and John Seabreeze, arm broken. A man named Lloyd, who was working within a few feet of the boiler, was unhurt. Phillips, Robinson and Coulbourn were killed instantly and Charles Seabreeze who was a young son of John Seabreeze and who had taken his father’s lunch to him, died en route to the hospital in an automobile which contained his injured father.

Webb Robinson leaves a widow and six children, while Emory Coulbourn leaves a widow and five children. William Phillips was single and resided with his father, Thomas Phillips.

The boiler, which weighted several tons, was blown a distance of 150 feet from the mill. Pieces of the men’s clothing and their coats, which hung in the mill, were found in the tops of trees 100 yards from the explosion. Experienced millmen who examined the boiler after the explosion stated the boiler showed evidence that it was dry from lack of water, the supposition being that the water gauge was stopped up and that the fireman unaware, had let in cold water.

Mr. Hurley, one of the owners of the mill, just a few minutes before had gone in the woods to see about some timber and thereby escaped injury. The explosion was heard for several miles

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