Historic sawmill in Abbotsford to be fired up for fundraiser

Event takes place Saturday, June 11 at Pioneer Barn at Exhibition Park

This 1932 D342 diesel-powered sawmill will be fired up on Saturday during a special event at the Pioneer Barn at Abbotsford Exhibition Park.

This 1932 D342 diesel-powered sawmill will be fired up on Saturday during a special event at the Pioneer Barn at Abbotsford Exhibition Park.

The MSA Museum Society and the Fraser Valley Antique Farm Machinery Association (FVAFMA) are teaming up to preserve a part of Abbotsford history.

Starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 11, the association will fire up its D342 diesel-powered sawmill manufactured in 1932 and stored at the Pioneer Barn at Abbotsford Exhibition Park (32470 Haida Drive).

This mill, with its large circular blade, is one of the oldest running such mills in western Canada.

The event kicks off a unique project that will see Douglas fir trees that once towered over Trethewey House Heritage Site milled into lumber that can find another life as furniture and household decor.

The trees originate from the property – now the Trethewey House heritage site at 2313 Ware St. – once owned by J. O. Trethewey, head of the Abbotsford Lumber Company.

Ken Snowden, urban forester with the City of Abbotsford, estimates the age of the trees to be at least 145 years old.

In 2014, due to disease concerns, two of the trees were cut and two others topped in close consultation with an arborist.

The city has saved the portions of the trees that have been felled and they have worked closely with the MSA Museum Society to find a way to give the logs new life.

In fall 2014, Kelly Railton, executive director of the museum society, met with members of the FVAFMA about the possibility of using the antique sawmill to cut the smaller of the logs into lumber and rounds.

Railton said these milled pieces are ideal for the creation of furniture, possessing a unique historic twist that will be never be able to be replicated.

Proceeds from the sale of these initial milled pieces will support the two not-for-profit groups.

“No one wants to see trees come down, but when it is necessary, it calls to us to find a way to tell their story and to ensure that their majesty is respected and remembered,” Railton said.

FVAFMA president Ed Steinke said the association is excited about getting the sawmill in perfect running order.

“To have the opportunity to give these trees a second life and preserve such a significant part of Abbotsford’s history is very special to our club,” he said.

This fall, the MSA Museum Society will invite sealed bids from those interested in larger planks, some potentially measuring up to feet or more in diameter. Railton said more details on this initiative will be available in the summer.

The initial milled logs can be purchased at Saturday’s event or ordered through the FVAFMA. For more information, call the MSA Museum Society at 604-853-0313.

(Photo below, courtesy of The Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford, shows the towering Douglas firs on the Trethewey property in the 1950s.)