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Family sawmill shores up mines

Posted on 2/5/2015, 9:54 AM

If you are in a coal mine in Southeastern Illinois, chances are the timbers holding up the ceiling were milled by Stacy and Pam Wenzel at their farm in Junction.

“Mining timbers are 65 percent of our business,” said Stacy. “The cribbing, props and timbers are what the bigger pieces of lumber are used for. Smaller pieces go for other construction work in the mines.”

The Wenzel sawmill does not advertise, everything is word of mouth and referral in the coal business locally. Finding the mill for the first time is a challenge if you left your GPS at home. Let’s say it is in rural Junction, south of state Route 13. Look for the road sign for, appropriately, Sawmill Road.

The largest saw blade, made in North Carolina, is 56 inches in diameter. The next largest is 30 inches and is used with the larger blade to cut really big timbers. The two together can cut 86 inches.

The sawmills that Stacy’s grandfather and father owned and worked provided Stacy with more than just a family tradition. He had hands-on experience working for his father when he was young.

Stacy met his wife, Pam, while working a job for his dad.

The couple was married 35 years ago and work together at the mill each day.

“Pam is an important part of the business,” he said.

They have two sons. Jerome, 34, is an SIUC graduate and manages a steak house in Carbondale. Colt, 32, is a partner in the mill and will take over the operation when his parents retire.

“Mining and milling get in your blood. It’s all I have ever known,” said Stacy.

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