By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — It’s a property known to many as a popular fishing spot or the perfect place to paddle a kayak.
It’s also a spot to enjoy history.
Taylor Mill on Island Pond Road offers a look into the state’s past and offers a glimpse of how the forestry industry operated generations ago.
The mill sits on the 71-acre Ballard State Forest, close to passing traffic traveling Island Pond Road, but still set apart by the calming waters and surrounding greenery.
Mill caretaker Robert Spoerl has tended the saw and its property for several years, maintaining the mill and its operation, and helping the site continue as a lesson in New Hampshire history.
“This is a hidden jewel,” Spoerl said as he looked out over the mill’s landscape. “Many of our lands are.”
Derry resident Robert Taylor bought the property around 1799 and began operating an up-and-down sawmill a few years later.
When Ernest Ballard bought the property in 1930, the only remnant of the original operation was the stone foundation. Ballard began the task of rebuilding and restoring the mill, and searched for another up and down-style saw to put on his property.
For about $180, he bought a truckload of parts from a man in Sandown. He also purchased a $3,000 water wheel from a firm in Hanover, Pa.
The rebuilt mill and nearby dam were donated to the state after Ballard’s death in 1953.
The dam recently got some much-needed repairs through the Department of Environmental Services’ dam bureau.
Beyond the mill, there’s the view. People come to fish, kayak and just enjoy nature. In colder months, the hardy come to ice fish.
“It’s kind of relaxing,” Spoerl said.
The mill building is still under repair, including roof work and interior upgrades.
Spoerl likes to show off the saw to visitors on days when the mill is open.
The aroma of fresh cut wood was evident one recent Saturday. Water rushing over nearby rocks could be heard through the mill window as Spoerl demonstrated the saw.
The caretaker’s job is a lot of work, but fun, Spoerl said. There’s always something to learn along the way.
“And even if we’re not cutting, we are working on other things,” he said.
Taylor Mill is scheduled to be open on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month through September. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Restoration projects may still be ongoing, but the mill and property will be accessible for visitors.
For information about Taylor Mill, call the Urban Forestry Center at 431-6774 or visit nhdfl.org.