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Manufacturers Index - Stearns Manufacturing Co.

Stearns Manufacturing Co.
Erie, PA, U.S.A.
Manufacturer Class: Wood Working Machinery & Steam and Gas Engines

History
Last Modified: Feb 28 2012 7:23PM by joelr4
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This firm was one of a series that operated sawmill machinery manufactory Presque Isle Iron Works in Erie, Pa. The first known operator was Stearns, Clark & Co., who ran it from 1868 (and probably earlier). The partners were Edward H. Stearns and (perhaps) Joseph D. Clark. In 1871, the head of their sales department, William E. Hill, became a partner and the name changed to Stearns, Hill & Co.. In 1874, Mr. Hill was bought out and the name changed to Stearns Manufacturing Co. Hill moved to Big Rapids, Michigan, and established sawmill machinery maker William E. Hill & Co..

Besides sawmill machinery , this company made stationary steam engines and boilers.


Ad from May, 1889 issue of "The Woodworker"

Information Sources

  • April 1868 Scientific American carried ads from Stearns, Clark & Company looking for a millwright who could "sell and set up circular sawmills". A May 1868 ad says, "Foreman and molder wanted".
  • The eponymous Stearns was Edward H. Stearns. Patent records show him in Cincinnati in 1860, and in Erie, PA by 1866. The man behind the "Clark" part of Hill, Clark & Co. is not confirmed, but in 1870 a sawmill head-block was patented by Perley M. Cummings of Cincinnati and assigned to a Joseph D. Clark of Erie, PA.
  • From an advertisement in an 1873 "Evening Journal" of Erie, PA:
    STEARNS, HILL & Co. Manufacturers of E.H. Stearns' Patent Improved Circular Saw Mills, gang & muley mills, patent rossers for removing bark and grit before the saw; anti-vibrating carriage wheels & track, head blocks for saw mills. Log turners, gang edgers, jackers & lath mills.
  • Listed in the 1874 work, Wiley's American iron trade manual of the leading iron industries of the United States: "Presque Isle Iron Works. Stearns, Clark & Co., proprietors. Steam saw mills, machinery, and iron foundry. 100 hands employed."
  • From Reports and awards for the Centennial Exhibition, 1876: "Stearns Manufacturing Co., Erie, Pa., U. S. CIRCULAR SAW MILLS. Circular saw mills of great excellence of construction and of first-class workmanship. Very convenient in arrangement and well fitted for rapid and economical execution."
  • From History of Erie County, Pennsylvania 1884, by Samuel P. Bates:
    "The Stearns Manufacturing Company, on Tenth street, between Holland and German, familiarly known as the "Presque Isle Iron Works," was established in the year 1866, but was not marked by any particular degree of prominence until some years later, when, under patents of Mr. E. H. Stearns, the company secured several valuable points applying to their machinery, the adoption of which has given it a national reputation. The plant of the works covers an area of two and one-half acres of ground, all utilized by them, and improved with the different buildings necessitated by their work. Partially quoted, they are as follows: Foundry, 60x100 feet; boiler ship, 50x150 feet; four machine shops, each 50x100 feet; millwright shop, 40x100 feet; blacksmith shop, 35x80 feet, besides others devoted to the general uses of the company. Employment is given to 325 men, and a vast amount of work turned out which reaches every State and Territory in the Union, and probably every section of manufacturing industry. This consists of engines and boilers of all lines and grades, and saw-mill machinery, the extent of which, in its great variety, would require too much space for particular enumeration by us. But, as a simple matter of justice, we should mention their improved circular saw mills, gang and muley mills, patent rossers, for removing bark and grit before the saw, off-setting and anti-vibrating carriage wheels and track, head blocks, etc., for saw mills, log turners, gang edgers, jackers, lath mills, etc. These productions, which are known in every lumber camp and saw mill in the United States, have maintained their excellence of construction during the entire period of their manufacture, and whether the works are crowded with orders, or to the contrary, the same carefulness of details, harmony of arrangement and uniformity of construction, is observable. To the combination of these three essentials of successful manufacture, the valuable patents owned by them, and the marked ability of its management, do they owe their present position. The officers of the Stearns Manufacturing Company are: George Burnham, President; William M. Davids, Vice President; William Burnham, Secretary, and H. R. Barnhurst, Treasurer and General Manager."
  • Mentioned in 1885 issue of Manufacturer & Builder.
  • The 1892 book, Portrait and Biographical Record of Kalamazoo, Allegheny and Van Buren Counties, has the following biography:

    HON. WILLIAM E. HILL, manufacturer of saw and shingle mill machinery at Kalamazoo, was born in Owego, N. Y., January 31, 1835. His ancestors emigrated at an early age from England to Massachusetts, where Harvey Hill, grandfather of our subject, was born and reared. He served in the War of 1812 and removed afterward to the Empire State, where his son, Orin D., was born in Owego.

    ...The only surviving son, our subject, was born in Owego, N. Y., January 31, 1835, and passed his youthful days uneventfully in his father's home, pursuing the usual course of study in the village schools and aiding his father in the intervals of study.

    In 1862, Mr. Hill was married to Miss Sarah, daughter of Anthony Saltsman, of Farrandsville, Pa., and they are the parents of two children: Anthony S., who assists his father, and Eva, the wife of D. A. Sheppardson, of Kalamazoo. Prior to his marriage, Mr. Hill engaged in building mills (having had charge of the construction of a sawmill when but fourteen), railroading and the lumber business. It was while he was located in Whetham, Pa., engaged in milling, that he built the first "nigger," and he is now famous as the inventor of that invaluable apparatus for turning logs. The occasion which called it into existence was the difficulty in handling logs from which gun boat decking for the Government was being sawed.

    This "nigger" was used continuously until St. Patrick's Day, 1865, when Mr. Hill lost everything he had by a flood, $65,000 worth of lumber, dams, etc., going down stream. In 1868, he closed up his Pennsylvania lumber business and about the same time built an inclined plane for taking coal cars up and down the mountains near Renovo. For three years thereafter he was employed with Stearns, Clark & Co., of Erie, Pa., sawmill machinery manufacturers, having charge of the sales department. In 1871, the firm was changed to Stearns, Hill & Co., our subject becoming a partner. Three years afterward, the present title of the Stearns Manufacturing Co. was adopted, the members of the old firm taking all the stock.

    In 1875, Mr .Hill sold his stock in the Erie establishment, and, coming to Michigan, commenced the manufacture of sawmill machinery at Big Rapids. During that year and in that city the first steam "nigger" was invented, which was put on the market as "Hill's steam log turner." However, it is usually known as a "nigger," perhaps from the fact that in the South it is the work of the negroes to turn the logs. At the present day, the necessity of the "nigger" everywhere admitted and constant improvements are being made at every possible point in its mechanism.

    William E. Hill & Co. manufacture a great variety of steam contrivances, sending out thirty specialties and constantly increasing the capacity of the works. A large building has recently been erected and soon an extensive foundry will be added, so that the enterprise, in which the citizens of Kalamazoo take great pride, shows every indication of prosperity.

  • A recent (2004) ad for a property with a sawmill includes a circular sawmill and double edger from Hill, Clark & Co.
  • American Steam Engine Builders: 1800-1900 by Kenneth L. Cope, 2006 pages 195 & 227