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Sawdust by Day; Stardust by Night!
Seven generations of Vermonters have owned, operated and managed Bills Lumber Mill, and the land that surrounds it since 1936. Could you be the next owner?
Date Posted: 2/1/2011
††††††††††† Seven generations of Vermonters have owned, operated and managed Bills Lumber Mill, and the land that surrounds it since the mills initial conception back in 1936. Built from the ground up by the hands of Melbourne Bills, this mill first operated with a good old 1933 Buick engine and lots of heavy hands. The Bills family past and present have collectively owned over 8,000 acres of land here in Southern Vermont. As later generations would soon discover, the hard work and investment of land and opportunity would keep them busy for many years and generations to come.
††††††††††† Countless changes over the years have occurred. As we all know, time does not stand still for anyone. The mill was altered over the years to keep up with the supply and demand of the ever changing lumber market. In the early years the good old 1933 Buick engine kept everything moving. With a need for more power and higher production, the Buick engine was replaced with a more powerful steam engine. The steam engine was great and was very economical at that time; they could utilize the scraps from their sawing to produce more power. Around 1941 Melbourne reverted back to the 1933 Buick engine as the steam boiler was condemned for use. It wasnít until 1952 that Melbourne decided the mill just needed more power. The Buick engine was out and the superior diesel engine took its place. Since 1952 the CAT Diesel 13,000 engine has been in use and is still utilized even today at the mill! Bills Lumber Mill has not only continued to stay in operation but has also played an active role in contributing to the local economy.
††††††††††† The trials and tribulations at the mill were that of many. In 1941 the mill caught fire and burnt down. Melbourne quickly rebuilt the mill to keep the families and workers at the mill from going hungry. As Everett, Alan and Kathy reflect on their fatherís years of dedication to the mill, they remember as children sometimes as many as six trucks running simultaneously delivering lumber and materials to and from Massachusetts and Connecticut, day in and day out. The mill employed many local young men, some of whom were deferred from World War II (thanks to Melbourne) in order to keep the mill deliveries obtainable. Sawing six days a week was not uncommon for anyone who knew the Bills family past or present. As hard luck would have it, the fire in 1941 wouldnít be the last that the Billsí experienced. In 1960 the mill, now located up on the hill, burnt again! As determined as they are, the Bills Family rebuilt again only to have a run in with Mother Nature in 1972 when a flood swept a portion of the mill down the road!
††††††††††† The Bills Family did expand their horizons and business as the children recall; their father also had dealings in some cattle (both buying and selling) and was one of the first in the area to own a crusher, shovel and grader that were rented to nearby neighboring towns to assist in building better local roads. Melbourne Bills left the mill to his three sons Milton, Alan and Everett Bills. Milton being the recognized sawyer of the bunch handled most of the sawing right up until his final days. This mill holds a great deal of history, many untold stories and has survived many hurdles, especially the rollercoaster economy, and yet the Billís family still has a sustainable business that is ready for the next motivated family or individual(s) to take over the reins!†††††
††††††††††† Bills Lumber continues to supply custom beams to local businesses; you may find much of their work in just about any home around southern Vermont. Just ask our owners here at A Place in Vermont Real Estate, who have Bills milled beams in their homes. Bills Lumber is currently owned and operated by Alan Bills and son Tim Bills. Many additional family members and friends think nothing of stopping by and lending a helping hand when their schedules allow. For their efforts they are paid greatly with the distinguished company of the Bills clan and tall stories from both Alan and Tim!
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