A new historic plaque at the Pioneers of Alaska Museum pays tribute to Woodsaw Bill, a man who cut wood in Fairbanks for more than 40 years. His unique wood cutting device is also on display.
The saws, loaded on the back of his truck, had a driveline that made it possible to disconnect the drive chain and use the truck engine to power the saw.
Woodsaw Bill’s real name was Bill Sherwin. He was born in Ontario, Canada, on Aug. 13, 1877. He came to Skagway in June 1898, hiked over White Pass, and then went to Lake Bennett and on to the Klondike, where he mined for a number of years around Dawson City. He arrived in Fairbanks in 1905.
In a 1977 Fairbanks Daily News-Miner column, longtime Fairbanks resident Jo Anne Wold described her neighbor Woodsaw Bill this way:
“He dressed like a woodcutter (dark, bulky clothes), he looked like a woodcutter (on the skinny side with a narrow face and blade-sharp nose) and he smelled like a woodcutter (all that sawdust and no indoor plumbing).
“That was old Bill Sherwin, or ‘Woodsaw Bill’ as he was known. He earned that name fair and square and after 40 years of cutting wood in Fairbanks.”
Both the saw and the house and garage were eventually moved to what was then known as Alaskaland — now Pioneer Park.
Wold wrote that “The house is the most delightful it has ever been, painted a fair shade of green and turned into the old ice cream shoppe. Imagine that. Never before had the house been so open and light and welcoming of visitors, for Blanche and Bill were known to keep to themselves.
“They were solemn figures in somber clothes, and for all the years Bill Sherwin passed our house (we lived three doors away), never once did he say a word. Not a single one.
“And it wasn’t that he didn’t have tales to tell, coming to this country in 1898 the way he did from his home in Ontario, Canada; and joining up with a party of people headed for the riches of Dawson. Bill was 21 years old at the time. (Why is it hard to imagine that some people were every young?) Bill was among the thousands who took the White Pass route into the “City of Gold.”
This display at the Pioneers of Alaska Museum brings Woodsaw Bill’s story to life.
The plaque was donated by the Pioneers of Alaska Museum and the metal stand was fabricated by Pipefitters and Plumbers Local 375 training center.
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris.