School groups and families have been coming to events at the Leonard’s Mills property for 35 years. After many years of planning a static museum, early members decided to create a hands-on living history village on Blackman Stream. It was a great choice of location–at one time there were six sawmills operating on the stream. The village centered around the first project–the water-powered sawmill. The covered bridge, blacksmith shop, sawyer’s house and more structures followed during the 1980s and 90s. Maintenance on those original buildings continues with volunteer labor.
Exciting developments over the last decade or so have included restoring and operating rotary and shingle mills, a steam Lombard loghauler and a belt-driven machine shop. New structures to house these artifacts of days gone by have allowed volunteers to share machinery that is part of Maine’s woods-related heritage. The 1900s saw many small businesses in Maine flourish producing wood products. Sponsorship provides needed materials to allow volunteers to continue salvaging rapidly disappearing artifacts and do what the museum does best–get the items in working order.
Action really makes an impression on kids–the Lombard log hauler steaming around the grounds with whistle blowing, the water pouring over the waterwheel, the ring of metal on metal in the blacksmith shop. When school groups come for tours or families come for events, there is a great opportunity to excite them about history. Our hands-on, in-action way of doing things is a rare way to learn about the work that built Maine.