The Things We Save - Lumber Edition

Be sure to check last week's post for events coming up between today and July 19 or the July program page if you're planning further ahead.

To see additional photos from the Bark Peelers' Festival, I've saved some on a separate page or visit the PA Lumber Museum's Facebook page.

Steam engine used to power the sawmill equipment
One of the steam engines that powers the PA Lumber Museum's sawmill (photo AKF - I thought it looked cool as a black and white photo so I converted it)
I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that my visit to the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum's Bark Peelers' Festival last weekend was my first time at this long-standing annual event. It won't be my last, I hope. I am always inspired by the work of my colleagues at PHMC's historic sites and museums, staff and volunteers. These major public events, however, are a reminder of the tremendous effort that goes into welcoming visitors and showcasing the gems that make up the PA Trails of History. Gorgeous weather aside, it was a treat to see all the activity on site and to experience the sawmill in operation. I had seen video and photos but to be there in person and feel the rumble of all the machinery (steam engines below and various saws on the main floor) was something new.

Sawmill crew operating equipment for visitors
Sawmill equipment in operation for Bark Peelers' Festival visitors (photo AKF)

The festival is inspired by the bark peelers' "conventions" of the late 19th and early 20th centuries where loggers and others got together to celebrate the Fourth of July and compete in tests of skill. Among the many activities are blacksmithing demonstrations and displays of "woodhick" skills by Bill Simcox and family. The full program from the festival is available online and I highly recommend it for reading more about the event, the museum, and the history of logging and forest management.

Demo of 2-man crosscut saw at PA Lumber Museum
Demonstration of a two-man crosscut saw (photo AKF)
A special part of this year's Bark Peelers' Festival was the dedication of the Bob and Dotty Webber Cabin, built in 1961 overlooking Pine Creek (near Slate Run). The Webbers lived "off the grid" in this cabin, but as one of the museum board members who knew them told me, they were far from isolated. Bob Webber was instrumental in building forest and hiking trails throughout the region and inspired many current and former staff of the PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). (You can read more about this project of the museum's website.) The Webbers received lots of visitors at their 500-square foot cabin and are fondly remembered by family and friends. Bob Webber passed away in 2015, and there was considerable concern about what would happen to the now-uninhabited cabin. A joint venture between DCNR and the PA Lumber Museum, the PA Lumber Museum Associates (PALMA), and PHMC resulted in the cabin's disassembly at its original location and reconstruction on the grounds of the Lumber Museum.

Josh Roth and Andrea Lowery at Webber Cabin dedication
Speakers at the cabin dedication included PA Lumber Museum site administrator Josh Roth (left) and PHMC executive director Andrea Lowery (center) (photo AKF)
Speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony spoke movingly about the Webbers and their impact on Pennsylvania's forests and the people who spend time in them. Plans for the cabin include the installation of exhibit panels to tell more of the story of forest stewardship, forest recreation, and ways all of us can help save the forests (and other parts of our environment) for future generations. During his remarks, Jim Hyland, a forest program specialist with DCNR who was one of the guiding forces behind this project, talked about the process of moving the cabin. As part of clearing the cabin from its original site, the team sorted through items that had been left in a shed. Among the finds were two pairs of well-worn boots that had belonged to Bob and Dotty Webber. Placed in the cabin after the ribbon was cut and visitors were allowed in, these boots were tangible reminders of the people who built the cabin with their own hands and lived in it for decades. And, for me, they were also a reminder of the power of objects to help us tell stories about the past, the present, and the future. I'd like to thank everyone who made this project possible and all the people who came out to show their support. It was an inspiring moment that I hope will continue to resonant for others as it does for me.

And with that, I'll leave you with Bob and Dotty's boots...

Bob Webber's boots displayed in Webber Cabin
Dotty Webber's boots displayed in Webber Cabin


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