Taylor Mill State Historic Site

Derry, New Hampshire
The Taylor Mill State Historic Site, nestled within the serene confines of Derry, New Hampshire, is a treasure trove of history and craftsmanship.
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About This Location

The Taylor Mill State Historic Site, nestled within the serene confines of Derry, New Hampshire, is a treasure trove of history and craftsmanship. Situated within the picturesque 71-acre expanse of the Ballard State Forest, this site is a living testament to a bygone era.

At its heart stands the venerable “Taylor Up and Down Sawmill,” a structure that has withstood the test of time for over two centuries. The mill, named after Robert Taylor, the original owner who acquired the property in 1799, commenced its journey as an “up and down” sawmill around 1805. While the precise date of its cessation of operations remains elusive, its legacy lives on.

Remarkably, the current incarnation of the sawmill owes its existence to the dedication of Ernest R. Ballard, who purchased the property in 1939 after it had been abandoned and stripped of parts. In his quest to preserve this historical gem, Ballard embarked on an arduous journey across New England to find a suitable “up and down” sawmill to replace the missing original sawmill. His perseverance bore fruit when he chanced upon a disassembled mill in Sandown, New Hampshire, owned by Dan Hoit. This dormant relic, stored under a barn for half a century, became the nucleus of the rejuvenated Taylor Mill.

Another crucial piece of the puzzle was the acquisition of a water wheel, a task fraught with challenges. Recognizing the impracticality of crafting one by hand, Ballard procured a 6-foot wide, 12-foot in diameter wheel weighing approximately 1,000 pounds from the Fitz Water Company in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Sporting 40 buckets, this wheel breathed life into the mill.

The Taylor Mill’s capacity, although modest by contemporary standards, is a testament to its enduring charm. It can efficiently handle logs up to 12 feet in length and 32 inches in diameter. Operating at a steady rhythm of 60 strokes per minute, the mill’s log carriage feeds the saw at a rate of about 3/8 inch per stroke. While other up and down sawmills from the same era could tackle larger logs, the Taylor Mill remains a cherished relic of a simpler time.

This historic site, along with the adjacent house and the surrounding 71 acres of woodland, was generously donated to the State of New Hampshire by Mr. Ernest R. Ballard in 1953. Today, it stands as a living museum, welcoming visitors year-round to explore its rich heritage. Though guided tours are sporadic, the mill’s open presence allows visitors to step back in time and envision the artistry of early sawmills.

Nestled within the Ballard State Forest, the Taylor Mill State Historic Site offers not only a glimpse into history but also a chance to explore the beautiful trails that wind along the mill pond. A convenient dirt parking lot for visitors is located on Island Pond Road, a short distance west of the mill. Parking is free and readily available, but visitors are kindly reminded to avoid parking adjacent to the mill, respecting the boundaries of private property.

In essence, the Taylor Mill State Historic Site is a living testament to the industrious spirit and craftsmanship of a bygone era, offering a unique window into the past for all who venture to explore its historic grounds.

Location

Address: 242 Island Pond Road, Derry, New Hampshire
Place GPS Coordinates: 42.875622, -71.239267
Parking GPS Coordinates: 42.875622, -71.239267
Parking Notes: There is a dirt parking lot for the mill located on Island Pond Road about 100 yards to the west of the mill, just up the road. Parking is free and typically always available. Be sure not to park adjacent to the mill because that is private property.

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