The Legacy of a Local Sawmill

February 1, 2021
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5 Min Read

World War II was drawing to a close in 1945. As this worldwide horror exited stage left, a young man in the hills of Charm Ohio was just beginning something that would do much good- albeit on a smaller scale.

His name was Noah Raber. He was 26 years old. He began his business as so many of the successful ones do- in humble fashion. Noah moved from farm to farm with his little sawmill cutting custom lumber for barns and buildings. After seventeen years of this, at age 49, Noah established his sawmill built into the side of a hill just outside of Charm. (Charm is affectionately called Putchtown by the locals.) Raber Lumber had a home.

Noah would end up working the mill from there for another 38 years. For many of these years his sons Ed and Ervin worked with him.

In the meantime, Noah’s nephew Dennis Raber was growing up on a farm south of town. His father, Noah’s brother, had a small dozer and would do small logging jobs in the winter. Dennis liked helping his father with this work. He also enjoyed spending time at his uncle Noah’s mill.

In 1972, Dennis began working for Noah and continued for 10 years. Noah did his best to teach his nephew the business. Dennis says, “Noah was a great teacher. I never regretted working for him. He was also extremely quick-witted and funny. One day Noah the sawyer quit sawing and everything shut down. We walked over to the sawmill to see what was the matter. He was drawing in the dust with a stick. When asked what he was doing he informed us, ‘ I am drawing out my Dawdy Haus.’ ”

Noah also enjoyed telling people how he mixed his summer sausage. “I make it 50/50 rabbit and deer. One rabbit and one deer.”

In 1982, Dennis left to pursue other fields of work for a while - but he would be back. Dennis became a contract logger and spent his days working the timber tracts in central Ohio. He built himself some dry kilns and a dimension mill in 1996.

Noah Raber, at the age of 86 in 2006, called his nephew Dennis on the phone. He told Dennis, “I want to sell my mill to you.”

Dennis’s reply? “I am not interested.”

Anyone that knew the local legend that was Noah Raber will appreciate Noah’s reply, “Wait till I tell you the deal.”

Suffice it to say, Dennis Raber was soon the new owner of Raber Lumber. With youthful energy, Dennis completely upgraded to a band headrig a few months later in 2006 and began processing hardwood logs. Dennis- and later his son Bobby- were blessed with superb employees and they enjoyed cutting lumber for 14 years from 2006 till 2020.

Noah continued working until the ripe old age of 92 and continued coming in to the office faithfully and daily until 2 weeks before his passing in 2011.

In the latter part of that decade and into the dawn of 2020, grade lumber markets were soft and it was hard for a hardwood mill to survive. Dennis and Bobby saw the necessity to adapt to survive. They elected to sell off their sawmill equipment and add more dry kilns.

How a Sawmill Auction Helped Them Survive

How to go about selling? Dennis knew that his friend Reuben Troyer of Air Works tool company often closely works with us at Bright Star Auctions. He also knew that we at Bright Star specialize in liquidating sawmill equipment. The phone call was made to Reuben, who called my partner Eugene of Bright Star. The three met in August of 2020, and the auction was planned for Thursday October 22nd 2020.

The team from Bright Star went to work. The cataloging crew hit Raber Lumber, took pictures, and recorded details such as makes, models, dimensions, and conditions of the equipment at Raber Lumber.
The sawmill equipment included a Mellot debarker, a Cleereman carriage, the Albany band headrig, a Crosby edger, and a sterling lineup of rollcases, decks, and conveyors.

In addition to the lineup of sawmill equipment, there was also a nice amount of rolling stock including a 2018 model Tigercat Skidder, a pretty John Deere 650H dozer and a knuckleboom also by Tigercat.

Myron Schwartz, who helps on the cataloging crew, also signed up some local sellers with good equipment who wanted to consign. These gentlemen added a Cat skidloader, a backhoe, a knuckleboom, and some metalworking equipment, among other things.

We at Bright Star were thankful to be able to schedule Stony Point Hardwoods a few miles away in Sugarcreek, Ohio the very next day on the 23rd of October- hoping that even more buyers would make the trip to attend the auctions.

We advertised via the Equipment Showcase magazine, Lumbermen’s Equipment Digest, American Lumber and Pallet, the Bargain Hunter and the Budget. We also had our tech people place the auction on our website, on our bidding site (bid.brightstarauctions.com), on Proxibid, and on EquipmentFacts’ site. We ran facebook and craigslist ads for the auction and for specific pieces of equipment as well. Then we sent out the Bid Book. This is a detailed catalog that allows bidders who can’t attend to bid over the phone. It contains pictures of each item as well as a detailed description. We also sent out an email blast to the people on our list who had registered for all our equipment auctions in the past.

Raber Lumber is well known in the Holmes County Ohio area, and interest in the equipment was good.

Our crew arrived with our bus that is also outfitted as an auction office on the day before the auction. We had the chance to get set up and to inspect the equipment again. Then we headed to Sleep Inn in Mount Hope to get a good night’s rest before the big day.

Auction day dawned sunny and clear. We headed from Mount Hope to Putchtown and pulled in to Raber Lumber to put the finishing touches on the setup.

Sawmill Equipment Brings the Money In

And then people begin showing up. What a crowd arrives to purchase equipment and to show support for Dennis and Bobby Raber! We fill the benches in the shop at Raber Lumber and it is soon standing room only.
Before the auction gets under way, we share a brief history of Raber Lumber with the attendees. We start off with some smalls that sell well. Reuben Troyer merchandises them while standing on the green chain so that everyone can see them.

A local mobile pizza outfit has set up shop in the next room over. They are cranking out some delicious product that- as promised- we at Bright Star are paying for. Maybe that has a little bit to do with the good crowd.
Then we get to the meat and potatoes. The Mellot debarker, a 1990 model with a broken shaft, sells for $10,000 to an onsite bidder. Once he does a bit of rebuilding, he will have a fine machine for the money.

The Patz barn sweep goes for $3,000, and the older 3-headblock Cleereman Carriage entirety fetches $17,000. A nice rollcase with a transfer deck goes for $4500, and the dandy Morbark Chip Pak system sells for a handsome $26,000. Later a pair of rollcases sell for $4800 each and the gorgeous 72’ green chain that Reuben was standing on rings the bell at $9,000.

Before long we get to the dandy lineup of rolling stock. The sweet little consigned Cat 247B skid steer sells for $21,000. Then the big Tigercat skidder explodes onto the scene for $132,000. There is some strong contending bidding from bidders on site, but it ends up selling to an online bidder. The dozer sells for $33,000 and the two Tigercat knucklebooms go for $25,000 and $30,000.

When the final hammer drops, we thank everyone and begin to pack up and get ready for the day at Stony Point the next day. Dennis and Bobby Raber are happy with their results and that means we are happy. We at Bright Star feel ever so blessed to have been a small part of the continuing saga of Raber Lumber.

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