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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Standing in the doorway to his shop at Frye's Measure Mill, Harland Savage grew up on a farm in northern New Hampshire. Not fond of farm work, the millwright began working at Whitney Frye's Mill in Wilton after World War II.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom^^Harland Savage peers out the doorway of Frye's Measure Mill where the millwright has made thousands of Shaker-style boxes.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Standing in the doorway to his shop at Frye's Measure Mill, Harland Savage grew up on a farm in northern New Hampshire. Not fond of farm work, the millwright began working at Whitney Frye's Mill in Wilton after World War II.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph


    Taken in 2006, Harland Savage takes a break in his office from making shaker boxes at Frye's Measure Mill in Wilton.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Former Frye’s Measure Mill owner Savage dies at age of 89

WILTON – Harland Savage was many things in his long life, but he is probably best known for making beautiful Shaker boxes, telling stories and having an unshakable sense of humor.

Savage, 89, passed away July 13. On Sunday, friends and relatives gathered at the Michaud Funeral Home to remember and honor that long life.

His son Harland “Harley” Jr. recalled his father, who he worked beside all his life, and the lessons he had been taught.

“I learned the importance of sharing knowledge,” Harley said. “And not to be embarrassed by a mistake. He always said, ‘Just try not to make the same mistake over and over.’ ”

Harland Savage was born in Lancaster on June 22, 1922. “Or maybe not,” Harley said, who noted that one family record says June 23.

“I asked him about that and he said, ‘That will give the scholars of the world something to think about.’ ”

Savage grew up on a dairy farm with all of the related chores, including driving the tractors and then graduating to trucks used to deliver milk to the creamery, all before he was 16. When he went to get his license, the inspector said, “I’ve been watching you drive since you were 12.”

“He approached everything in life with integrity,” Harley said, noting that his father once quit a job because he was expected to do work he was not qualified to do, which could have endangered others.

In 1942, Savage entered the military and served in England during World War II as an engineer with the Army Air Corps, moving to Europe after D-Day.

“A bomb that didn’t explode came down through the roof of the barracks and through his bunk,” Harley said. “I asked him what he felt about that. He said, ‘We prayed it wouldn’t rain until the roof was fixed.’”

The same year he entered the military, Savage met and married Thelma Gray with whom he had recently celebrated 69 years of marriage.

When Savage returned from the war in 1945, he thought about taking some time off, he said on the occasion of his 85th birthday in 2007, “but it didn’t work that way. I got so bored.”

He started work at the Measure Mill in 1946 and never stopped.

He worked for many years with Whitney Frye, eventually purchased Frye’s Measure Mill and later passed it on to Harley and his wife Pam.

In 1946, the company made many types of wool cards, one- and two-quart dippers, lettuce and apple boxes, “even made some pine plywood for cabinet makers,” he recalled, in 2007.

They eventually specialized in fancier boxes, including Shaker reproductions, begun at the request of the remaining Shakers in Canterbury in 1961. In 1972, he was asked by the Smithsonian Institute to demonstrate box making at the Montreal Expo.

The measure mill is now on the National Register of Historic Places, one of the last water-powered mills in the country with machinery that still operates, using molds created in 1860 by the mill’s founder, Daniel Cragin.

Savage was a long time member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen.

Sunday’s farewell included the conferring of “the last degree” of the International Order of Odd Fellows. Savage was a Past Grand Master, of Laurel Lodge 78 in Wilton and the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire. He held many positions in the order during his years of membership, including State Grand Herald, which took him to lodges all over the state.

He was a member for 64 years, and a member of Mayflower Rebekah Lodge since 1956.

He was also interested in town affairs and had served on the Budget Committee and led a 4-H club.

In 2007, he described his typical day: working in the shop all morning, doing all of the mowing and the upkeep “and that takes up the rest of the day. Doesn’t seem to be a dull moment.”

But he took time to play.

“I learned that recreation is more than just relaxing,” Harley said. “He loved to play golf, but more important than the game was the friends he made as he played around the state.”

Savage claimed he did it for the exercise, but he won the Monadnock Country Club trophy in 1995.

As long as he was able, Savage led the tours of the mill on summer weekends. “He loved talking to people,” Harley said.

Several of those present Sunday recalled those tours and Harland’s stories. “He never repeated them,” one man said, “except one. Invariably someone on the tour would ask how many people worked at the mill. He would look thoughtful a moment and then say, ‘Oh, about half.’”

Services were conducted by the Rev. Cassie Emmanuel of the Second Congregational Church. She described Savage as one of those “hardworking members of the Greatest Generation.”

Two of his granddaughters read moving tributes to him. Military graveside services were held at the Johnson’s Corner Cemetery in Lyndeborough with member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars officiating.

Savage is survived by three children, six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Jessie Salisbury can be reached at jessies@tellink.net.