Reynolds Brothers Mill Operations

Reynolds Brothers Mill Operations

Dan Whitcomb in Reynolds Mill Yard ca. 1910


The Reynolds Mill

The Reynolds Mill, established c. 1870 by Orson L. Reynolds, became one of the largest, most diversified mill and logging operations in Franklin County. “Of course there we mills around in Duane and St Regis Falls, because that was the section for mills” Beatrice Beaman Tape 1 p.1    The Mill and related businesses included logging, and also a Company Store, mail service, telephone and telegraph lines, housing rentals, farming and blacksmithing.

The Mill

The sawmill itself grew slowly at first, suffering a temporary setback in 1887 with the death of its founder 0. L. Reynolds. Under Orson’s wife and his four sons, Frank, James Newton, Herbert, and Berton, the mill not only regained its earlier vigor, but increased in size and activity. As the Reynolds Mill surged ahead the population of Reynoldston grew rapidly until about 1910 when the population leveled off at 300 to 350 for the next fifteen years, and then when the mill and logging ended started a rapid decline. During it hey day, the Reynolds Mill and logging camps employed up to 150 men and involved a number of members of their extended family.

The Reynolds Business 

The Reynolds family might be accused of profiting at the expense of their laborers, but without their know how and capital the workers would not have had the jobs they did. Both Newton and Berton Reynolds spent long, trying days at the mill and in the logging woods. The Reynolds Brothers Company was a broadly extended operation involving almost everybody and every aspect of life in Reynoldston. Profit was not the only motive for the Reynolds’s diversity. The real and perceived isolation of the community demanded that the business and the residents be as self sufficient as possible. Transportation over muddy rutted roads in the summer combined with heavy snowfalls in the winter was expensive and hard.

Solid Business

Although Reynolds Bros. and Co. was always a solid business, it only made sustantial profits during The Brooklyn Cooperage and Malone Paper Mill contracts from 1908-1925. The relative early and untimely deaths of three of the four brothers also had a definite limiting factor on the long-term survival of the businesses in Reynoldston and othe communities they bought into. Frank Reynolds died in 1915, Newton in 1922 and Berton in 1926 leaving only Herbert who lived until 1945. 

The Reynolds Family Business Interests and Operations: 

A Complex Business 

This section details the various enterprises carried on by O.L. Reynolds and Sons and later by Reynolds Bros. & Co. from at least 1876 until the dissolution of operations in the 1920’s. Their scope included everything from the central logging and mill functions to the company store, the Malone Lumber Company, and such minor sources of income as catering to boarders and selling candy and cigarettes to loggers in their logging camps. This range of activity also helps to explain how dominant the Reynolds family and operations were to everyone who lived in the community.

A Family Business

All members of the family were involved in the business – from the wives to the sons and in-laws. The complex business kept this large extended family busy and provided them a good income that allowed them to have a better lifestyle than any other family in the community.  Thus the business was a true family operation and all aspects of the business were used to make money and to maximize resources. Initially it is clear that the business, like many new businesses, did not have a lot of cash and thus resorted to issuing their own currency script money or(shinplasters) that also guaranteed business for the company store.

Business Didn’t Last

Ultimately the Reynolds firms did not last: hardwood and pulpwood were depleted and between 1915 and 1922 three of the four Reynolds Brothers died. The Reynolds widows were bought out, and they and many other residents moved elsewhere. 

The following is a list of the business activities:

1. The Mills and Logging – Camps: At the height of the Brooklyn Cooperage contract (1908 to 1918) well over a hundred and twenty men were employed in the logging camps and the mill. In addition farmers and their teams were contracted to help draw the logs out of the woods and to Malone. Also firewood was sold to farmers and others. The firm advertised and sold milled siding and wood products to builders in Northern New York. Also the mill operated a blacksmith shop for its own requirements and the needs of the larger community.

2. The Company Store –

The store served Reynoldston and the larger community and was the largest store available to residents in the area until one reached West Bangor. It also provided the bulk purchases of supplies for the logging camps which also sold the loggers supplies. It was the post office for the community and all mail was distributed through it. 

3. Telephone and Telegraph and Post Office – Businesses One of the more interesting aspects of the business was the investments made in creating a rather extensive telephone system for a number of small communities serving a wide area from Dickenson in the Town of Brandon to Owls Head in the Town of Belmont. The Store was the location of the switchboard for the system and was staffed by an operator. Eventually this operation was sold to New York Telephone Company. 

In addition the Store was the post office for all residents of Reynoldston with mail delivered to the store and put in individual mail slots.

4. Interest in other mill and lumber operations. Berton Reynolds bought an interest in the Malone Lumber Company in 1906 and sold it in 1918. Also the Reynolds bought the Bowen Mill in 1920 and twenty five acres of land in Skerry and operated it until the dam washed out in 1926.

5. Other Financial Interests

The business also made money by selling gravel from the Reynoldston Gravel Pit and the leasing of a sugar bush. Additional revenue was generated from the rental of company houses that the mill had built for workers. Also it was not unusual for the Reynolds family to provide room and board for workers and teachers.  

6.  Berton Reynolds Buys  into Malone Lumber Co and then the Bowen Mill in Skerry

In addition in 1906 Berton Reynolds bought 1/2 interest in the Malone Lumber Company which they sold to L. Cass Bowen when they bought the Bowen Mill in 1919.In 1919 Herbert, Newton and Frank buy out Bowen’s Lumber Company in Skerry. They bought just the buildings, not the land. Reynolds Brothers used Bowen’s buildings for only a few years. A flash flood took down part of the Bowen buildings, and the other parts were town down. 

7.   Lumber Contracts

Before Brooklyn Cooperage contract (1910) Reynolds chief customer was the Plumkett-Webster Lumber Company in Vermont. Lumber was shipped to Plunkett-Webster from the North Bangor Railroad Station. Cut lumber (planks and flooring) was all that was sent from Reynoldses to Malone Lumber Company.


 Discovering the exact feeling between the Reynolds and their employees is extremely difficult even at this late date. Various workers liked some of the Reynolds brothers, but others liked none of them.

Some of the feelings that were felt in the community are highlighted in the :


Tom Campbell

(The Jendreaus) They went on the town after the old man died…they were old. They were good workers when they were younger. They always worked here to the mill you know. Now the Reynolds’ would put the red card on to some of them fellows and they wouldn’t put them on to the Jendreau, because he knew they were going to have them to work for them. (Reynolds’ good to some poor) Some people yes sir…they give them work those that wanted to work.

Tom Campbell tape 3 p.2 oral history interview, March 31,1970


Mrs. Delia Moquin

Mr. McGowan:  Did he ever complain about the Reynolds’?

Mrs. Moquin: No I don’t think he did. Newton was a good man to work for. He was the one who worked in the woods with the men. And he was a nice man to work for. Frank, he did not work outside. He worked in the store and post office. Oh Berton, I don’t know what he did. He was the one man, I don’t remember. He was quiet or what. He was supervisor, that is all I can remember of him. Herbert used to go to New York. He lived up there a long time and had some kind of work there.

 Mr. McGowan: Did any of the men have a grudge against the Reynolds?

 Mrs. Moquin: Oh I don’t think so. We never knew that. You never hear anybody talk about it. I never knew that. You never hear anybody talk about it.

Mrs. Delia Moquin, oral history interview 1970 tape 1 p. 17

But Mrs. Moquin has remembered that when her husband Philias (Philip) was living and supporting his mother in Reynoldston, before they were marrried, he worked in the planing mill at the Reynolds Mill. He cut his hand there, and lost a little finger. Out of work, he went to the Reynolds Company Store , but they wouldn’t give him credit for even a sack of flour. He to go to Bangor for food*

* From notes taken by RH. McGowan in August 27, 1978 following interview with Mrs. Delia Moquin.


Dan Whitcomb –Talks About the Mill

  1. The Main Mill:  Cut slabs on a button saw….for a long time we had a trimmer with the bandsaw cut the slabs up… sometimes you had to pull and sometimes you had to push it … 
  2. Lumber sold to:  McGoon lumber company – hardwood…I think they were from Vermont I think. Cooperage Company they leased it for thirty years I think (railroad) the right of way…
  3.  Planing Mill:  after cut it plane it…..It made a side of it smooth you know….then they had to run a good lathe, cut thin…use it to plaster…
  4. Supervisor:  was one job, engineer, help run the mill, kept the boiler streamed up,
  5. Planing mill:  run by water wheel….two big waterwheels….and sometimes they used the steam (for saws…to make steam burned sawdust) mostly I worked for a dollar a day….
  6. Blacksmith  Shop:  Jeff Sherman was one Joe Larsen was another one…Carpenters …they did anything.
  7. The Reynolds Farm: Oh yes they [Reynolds] had a farm , a large one… Mostly hay they they had to have hay for all the horses, a lot of horses. Superintendent to run the farm. 150 to 160 ft barn by the Reynolds House…twenty some horses.  
  8. Workers in the mill:  man on the trimmer, one on the button saw, run the carriage and run the tailing saw, cut the board just over so many feet and then the put it on the trimmer…. 
  9. Reynolds Company Houses:a majority of houses around the mill…they had all of them…if you want to work there, if you want one then they built you a house if you wanted to work there or were working there..out of timber

Dan Whitcomb, oral history interview 1970, Tape 3 p.2-3

 An Interesting Article in the local paper about the Reynolds Operation From:

Adirondack News,  St. Regis Falls, NY,  December 16, 1905 

“By recent purchases of lands in the town of Brandon, Reynolds Bros, it Co., lumbermen, at Reynoldston, NY., have added materially to their holdings and are now among the largest wild land owners in this immediate section. Home years ago, pursuing a far sighted policy for the protection and perpetuation of their business, they added large tracts to their holdings, and recent purchases have brought the aggregate up to about 10,000 acres, all in the town of Brandon, stretching across the entire southern portion of the town and near-by aua tributary to their mill. They are conservative lumbermen, who have preserved their for sets by cutting only the mature timber there from, and In accord with this, policy are growing, as fast as they cut, a continuous supply of merchantable soft timber. That assures the permanncy of their business as loug as they live, and will make their plan more and more valuable to themselves and their children to come alter them. Their recent purchases include the Andrus-Roblinton tract of about 460 acre*, and that part of the  Walker tract, so called, which is located in the town of Brandon, comprising some 850 acres more. The laud was lumbered 20 years ago, but only a corner of it but the fire of 1908 touched only a corner of it and it is covered with young timber, which long before the supply of mature soft timberis exhausted on their former holdiugs will becomemature. There is much merchantable hard wood on the new tract, but uoue of it will -be cut atpresent except from the corner whichwas touched by fire. In the fatal year they were most fortunate and their careful lumbering saved their lands from desolation by the fire Head. At their Reynoldston mill they have lately completed a new stone and concrete dam, which gives them more head, more water and more power, and In the spring they will erect a mill for the manufact ure of hardwood flooring. As they are conducting their lumbering, their lands will be worth more In 20 years than they are to day. The Messrs. Reynolds are young men of high Integrity and first-class business qualifications, who, by their painstaking care In filling orders and giving purchasers Just What they buy. have won a large portion of the local retail lumber trade. Their policy In lumbering not only preserves their own Investment but also preserving the value of their town and of Its various business interests They deserve to succeed handsomely”

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