All photos and video: Natalie Menacho & Nik Schulz (click to enlarge)

This past September, Natalie and I went to visit Sturgeon’s Mill on the outskirts of nearby Occidental. The steam-powered mill, originally built in the 1880s, is open to the public about four weekends out of the year. We caught the last “steam up” and got some great footage of the mill in action.

The mill as it looked in 1914.

The mill as it looks today.

In 1914 the mill was purchased by the Sturgeon family and moved to Coleman Valley, west of Occidental. Today it’s located just off of Green Hill Road, east of Occidental, where it’s been since 1924.

An old-time lumber crew.

They used to skid logs out of the forest using teams of oxen.

This steam-powered winch was known as a “steam donkey.”

In the late 1800s the oxen were replaced by “steam donkeys,” steam-powered cable winches that could be dragged to the job site under their own power, anchored down, and used to pull logs out of the forest. Several steam donkeys in series could pull logs almost all the way to the mill.

Where logs enter the mill

Today the operation is run by an all-volunteer crew and processes donated logs. After the logs enter the mill, they are attached, via spiked dogs, to a rolling bed which shuttles them past two, stationary, twin circular saw blades.

The log enters the mill.

Here the squared timber is being repositioned on the rolling bed.

The twin blades make quick work of the logs.

The rolling bed and the ratcheting mechanism that pushes the logs towards the blades.

After milling, the boards are fed through an edger (the machine further back in this photo).

Vintage paperwork at the old office.

A beautiful 1955 Dodge Power Wagon resides behind the mill.

A local blacksmith demostrates his forging technique

Natalie shows off her red boots as the mill lets off steam.

The Surgeon’s Mill website currently lists demonstration days for 2012 in May, June, August, September.

Happy travels,