The Lanphear bowling pin mill

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Lanphear Pin mill


The Mattison Machine Works NO.57-D milling machine.

The area has always had many small family owned & operated business’s. Many you have heard of, others probably not. One such small local operation was in a small cement block building on NYS RT58, in Edwards NY, where Max Lanphear milled bowling pins.

Lanphear Untitled

Lanphear started the mill in 1952, and sold the pins to AMF. He purchased hard maple billets locally, and only the best wood was used -the rest was culled, or bought as a second. These would be split out of the blocks of wood with a wedge & hammer. Today, you would never know by looking at the place (now a storage building) that anything like bowling pins were manufactured there. The machinery is still there, although it’s been out of operation for some time.

The lathe where maple bowling pins were once turned, one at a time. This lathe was powered by a Detroit diesel engine.
The business end of the milling machine- the head and tail stocks, and the knives.

I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the place from one of his grandsons. An older friend of mine told of cutting maple billets in the off season of farming, and whenever he and his pal “Cephas” could make time. This wasn’t always a full -time venture for the mill, or for the cutters supplying the wood. The mill was only two miles from the Adirondack park “blue line”, and much of the wood came from the parks extensive logging operations. Often the billets were taken from trees cut for firewood.  There was also a sawmill at this location, that he ran after the pin mill ceased operations in 1962. The building is still there, but the sawmill is gone. And Max is gone too (1918 – 2009), and probably most of the pins are as well. The cement block building still stands though, still in the family. Certainly, it was not the biggest industry around the area, (the mines and paper mills would have held that title) but still important to those it served as a means of livelihood.

The Gouverneur tribune-press., February 04, 1970

After I had finished this article, a reader told me that they were also a dealer for SNO-PRINCE snowmobiles. This was a short lived company out of Princeville Quebec. The sleds were manufactured between 1968 and 1973 , and were wholesaled by Border distributing in Malone NY. I didn’t find much information on Lanphear’s dealership, but  I did find an article on them attending a dealers convention in Lake Placid.

I also heard from the oldest son of Max, Stanley. He related how he used to work there weekends and after school painting the pins and also coating them to prevent splitting. The pins were coated with a tar like substance and later they changed to sealing them with wax. He also told of tailing the Caterpillar diesel powered sawmill that was purchased in nearby Russell NY.

Although I like to get as much information as possible before putting an article together, I love to hear from folks that have first hand knowledge and memories. These are the things that computers and electronics will never replace.

While today most everything is produced in massive factories around the other side of the world, it’s nice to reflect on the small operations that folks made a piece of their living at.

The sawmill building today.
The LEROI 4 cylinder gasoline power plant that used to cut the waste wood into firewood now powers a welder.


About the Author

William Hill


  I am a life-long resident of the north country, calling Edwards my home. I have always had a passion for the outdoors, and for local history.  I recently started this site to share places that have been part of our local history and heritage. I hope you get a chance to hike some of these trails for yourself, and reflect on the rich history of those that walked here before you. And if not, sit back and experience these from where ever you are right now.  Either way, enjoy!


4 thoughts on “The Lanphear bowling pin mill

  1. Thanks for telling folks about the bowling pin operation. I plan to spend more time on your site, now that I am aware of it.

    Ed Conan


  2. Wow what a surprise, I’mthe eldest son and spent many hours painting pins, usually after school and weekends. I would apply a coat of tar like substance to the heart and bark side of the pins to prevent them from splitting. Later we used wax for the same process. The old Leroy was used to cut waste wood into fire wood. The lathe was powered by a Detroit Diesel. The old sawmill was powered by a large catipiller engine, which was bought from a man in Russell, in fact the whole mill came from there. I spent time there also tailing the saw, the first slab off the log was waste and pulled to one side and cut for firewood


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