Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tripp Saw Mill (formerly known as Tripp Up & Down Saw Mill)

Early settlers in Michigan needed homes, barns, and shops. As farmers cleared the forests for more farm land, the trees provided a plentiful supply of wood. Sawmills were among the first mills established in towns and farming communities, and it was at these sawmills that the wood was cut into lumber to build the homes, barns, and shops.
Sawmills were not only important to the setting in Greenfield Village, but they were also used extensively by architect Ed Cutler's crew to provide lumber for numerous construction and re-erecting projects.

The 1855 Tripp Sawmill was originally from Franklin Center (now Tipton), Michigan, near Tecumseh in Lenauwee County and built by British immigrant Henry Tripp. (For years, Henry Tripp's son, J.D., was listed as the original builder, but recent information proves this to be false.)
The sawmill featured an up and down saw similar to the one Henry Ford operated in his youth. Powered by a steam engine on the bottom floor, the vertical blade flashes up and down while suspended between the two floors of the building, hence, the name "up and down" saw mill. The original machinery in this mill cuts lumber in the 19th century style, by emulating the same motion of cutting lumber by hand with a pit saw, which was invaluable for accurate restorations in the Village.

(The following in italics is a brief excerpt written by Marc Greuther from Technology and Culture
Volume 45, Number 4, October 2004):

In the fall of 1926 Henry Ford paid a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Willis Tripp of Tipton, Michigan, sixty miles or so southwest of Dearborn by the Detroit-Chicago road. Ford dropped by the farm with a group of friends and associates to look over a steam-driven sawmill built about seventy-five years previously by Mr. Tripp's grandfather, the Reverend Henry Tripp. According to a brief report in the Adrian Daily Telegraph, Ford was intrigued by a number of items in the family's possession—a Howe sewing machine, the reverend's hickory cane, a pair of ice skates—but it was the mill, built by a man who had died eleven days before Ford's own birthday, that really interested him.
Much Michigan timber went through this mill when the Tripps owned and operated it from 1855 until 1916.
The Tripps did no logging themselves, and the mill operated just four months out of the year—probably during the winter with just three or four workers when farming was less demanding and logs could be sledded or hauled over hard-frozen roads to the mill.  
During those few months, the workers cut all the lumber that the surrounding community needed.  
The operation was quite self-sufficient: the boiler was fed with waste wood and sawdust, while water came from a well on site, supplemented by rain guttered in from the roof. This economy of means extended to the mill's construction. Part of the boiler setting was built up from field stone, and waste wood—with the bark still on—was used for siding and interior partitions. All in all it was a lean affair, slotted as seamlessly into the Michigan countryside as a steam-powered installation could be.
The mill was closed in 1916 when competition from the railroads made it easy to move lumber throughout the region from large scale logging operations.
Henry Ford had it moved to Greenfield Village in 1932.
Please click HERE to see information on the Village's other up and down saw mill, the Spofford Mill)



Marilyn said...

I notice in the 2nd paragraph of the original post it says J.D. Tripp built the Tripp Saw Mill. My understanding was that his father, Rev. Henry Tripp built it. Could you clarify that information for me and others who are interested in this bit of history? Thank you. From a Tripp offspring in Washington state. J.D. Tripp is my great great grandfather. Marilyn Tripp Kyle.

Historical Ken said...

It is a pleasure to "meet" a descendant of one who built a structure now located in Greenfield Village - what a fine tribute to your ancestors!
I got the information of the Tripp Sawmill from the 1968 "Guidebook of Greenfield Village." It states, on page 48, that it was built by J.D. Tripp in 1855.
The earlier guidebooks state the same. So, I checked the guidebooks from later periods and they seemed to have stopped listing the builder's name at that point - only the structure's name and the year built.
If you have information to the contrary, I would love to include it (with you as the source, of course). Also, I look for stories of a personal nature to bring these buildings to life (see what I wrote for Eagle Tavern for an example), so if you have any family history stories of J.D. or Henry that you would like to share, that would be great.
Thank you for your interest as well as a possible mix up.
PS By the way, if what you say is true, I can take your information, if you'd like, to the Village office so they can make the necessary corrections.

Historical Ken said...

I went over the photos I have and noticed one that I took of a placard on the inside of the building - it states that the builder of the Tripp sawmill was your Henry Tripp.
If I am able to, I plan on going to the Benson Ford Research Center later this winter to see what more I can find on this.

Unknown said...

Hi to you again Ken. I was going over my notes looking for info on the mill. Finally, my cousin and I are making a genealogy hunt to MI and OH. Will be doing research in Manistee Co. first then on southeast. Will be leaving WA by car on May 22. Planning to see the museum and especially the mill when back there.

I found a reference to the mill that you might be intersted in if you have not seen it. It is written by Marc Greuther, entitled "Tripp's Sawmill 1926". It comes from Project MUSE - Technology and Culture Vol.45, No. 4, Oct 2004. It indicates that Rev. Henry Tripp was the original builder. That would be John Daniel's father. See what you think. Let me know. Also, I can give you more info on Henry if you want and maybe a picture.

Looking forward to seeing the Museum and maybe connecting with you.......Marilyn Tripp Kyle, GGG Granddaughter of Henry.

Historical Ken said...

Marylin -
I will be at the Village from May 23 through may 26 for the Civil War Remembrance.
If you make it there that weekend, just ask for me - Ken Giorlando from the 21st Michigan - most reenactors, especially in the civilian area, know me.
I look forward to meeting you!
And I would be honored if you would allow me to have a photo taken with you at the Tripp building.

Unknown said...

Ken....sorry to miss the reenactment and you. Will take at least 4 days to drive back there and time to research in Manistee Co., then on to the museum. However, I would appreciate your thoughts on the article I told you about and if authentic, can the correction be made on the name? Whatever happens, I am still thrilled to be able to come there and see the mill and take pictures. Probably will be there around the 30th or 31st. Marilyn

Historical Ken said...

I checked out the article, which looks legit to me.
From there I went to the more recent photos that I had taken over the past few years, including the newer placards in front of the building.
Low and behold, the placard in front of the sawmill states:
"British immigrant Reverend Henry Tripp built this sawmill in the 1850's..."
So, I will change the information on my posting here.
I do plan to look it up at the Benson Ford Research Center to find out when the researchers had realized they had made a mistake between the two men.
And I do appreciate you bringing this to my attention.
I can possibly make it up to the Village on May 31st. Keep me posted.
Thanks again Marylin - I do strive for accuracy.

Roger Cook said...

Hello -

My Great Grandmother (Matilda Tripp Cook) was a Grand-daughter of Rev Henry Tripp, which makes me a GGG Grandson of Rev Henry Tripp. I grew up in Tipton, leaving there after graduating from college and moving to Ypsilanti. It is great to see the Saw Mill restored to operating condition! For years the building seemed to be used only as buggy storage and was closed to Greenfield Village visitors.

Our oldest son proposed to his wife in this sawmill 9 years ago. She was so interested in the Mill that she didn't immediately notice that he was kneeling with an open ring box in his hands.

Rachael said...

I recently just purchased a home on Tripp rd. that the previous owners told me was built in 1880 and owned by Henry Tripp. I just learned about this but I am definitely going to start researching the house and the Tripps more. Any tips on where I can find out more about the house?

Historical Ken said...

Try here for a start:
Good luck!

Candy Holly said...

it was my understanding that the house my parnets lived in on paragon road was where the tripp up and down saw mill use to be could you clearify this information it is on paragon rd in tipton and the mill was behind the house i have old pictures of the house

Historical Ken said...

No I can't, for I do not have that information at hand, but here is where you might find your answer:

Rachael said...

It was my understanding that the house that he lived in was on Tripp road and was not where that saw mill was. What I was told is that he built the saw mill but did not operate it

Rachael said...

Also, my house was built in 1880 and I believe the mill was built in 1850.

steamedup2 said...

This i the 3rd swmill on your list. Amazing ! You mentioned henry used these to build the village ? Very cool !!

Unknown said...

Hi Rachael. I am a decent of Henry Tripp. My brother and I were raised in Clinton. We both still live in the area. We would go to the Tripp homestead several times a year. Uncle Lloyd lived in the house. Uncle Floyd & Uncle Henry lived in the area. We have some wonderful memories of the homestead. It would be nice to see it again and share some of our stories if you are interested. Georgia