In 1808 E. L. Hartshorn and his relatives and neighbors started a sawmill on what is now known as Hartshorn Brook, which was powered by the dammed-up water of the brook.
Hartshorn turned the sawmill and his farm over to his son, Jotham Hartshorn, who operated the mill during the seasons which didn’t require much farming activity.
Jotham turned the property over to his son, Frank Hartshorn, who expanded both the farm and the sawmill and acquired considerable additional land, both tillage and woodland, up to 1000 acres.
The brook didn’t provide sufficient water power in the summer months to both saw and plane lumber, so a steam plant was installed. The tall brick chimney now standing between the brook and Route 13 was erected in 1891, replacing a steel pipe that was dragged up into the woods and eventually taken in during the scrap metal collection in WWII.
Aaron M. Wilkins died at the age of 56 and his sons Harold Hartshorn Wilkins and Aaron Wallace Wilkins came back from college to help their grandfather, Frank Hartshorn, run the company which was incorporated as the Frank Hartshorn Company in 1910.
They continued the business through the Great Depression and barely survived. Then the hurricane of 1938 blew down 90% of the family’s standing timber; which was salvaged, sold, and stored by the government in various ponds.
The mill continued to supply lumber for much of the building in the local area, and for the granite sheds in Milford. Wooden egg cases and poultry feeders and bed slats for a furniture company in Milford provided additional outlets for the output of the saw mill.
On Memorial Day in 1949 the mill was struck by lightning and totally destroyed. It was replaced with another, smaller saw mill.
The Frank Hartshorn Company was liquidated in 1957, with Harold H. Wilkins and his son, Harold Hartshorn Wilkins, Jr. acquiring all interests. They continued the business as Wilkins & Son.
Harold Wilkins was killed in 1963. His son continued the business and was joined in 1970 by a nephew, Robert Wilkins. The business was incorporated as Wilkins Lumber Company in 1973.
In 1980, a new sawmill was built across the street from the pond, and in 1981 a grandson of Harold Wilkins Jr., Thomas A. Wilkins joined the business. Eventually Tom bought out Robert’s interest in the company, and now continues as sole owner and the eighth generation to run the sawmill by Hartshorn Brook.
This short history was written by Harold, Jr. in 1996. Harold continued to work at the mill to the very end of his life — his last day at the mill was Saturday August 2, 2003. He went in hospital the next day and died Wednesday, August 6, but his spirit lives on and we know he’s still keeping an eye on things at the mill.