The Klondike Saw Mill mural can be found on one side of the Landmark Woods building on State Road 5 in Shipshewana. It is the southernmost of the sixteen murals painted in Shipshewana in the summer of 2014 by a group known as the Walldogs.
The mural says the sawmill was founded in 1864 and at some point, the proprietor was Abraham Farver. A little googling told me that the mural was painted by Astoria Design Studio of Portland Oregon. Their website said that “The original Klondike Sawmill was steam-powered and looked something like an old locomotive.” I wanted to find out more.
The Shipshewana Area Historical Society website has an old photo of half a dozen men standing on an enormous cut log. The caption says it was taken at “the original Klondike saw mill near Abraham Farver’s homestead.”
The Shipshewana town website tells us more. The town history page says that the sawmill was first located south of where Shipshewana now stands, but the Farver brothers (Jonathan and William) moved their business into town when the railroad came (in the 1880s), and the new railroad built a switch line back to the mill. Their lumberyard and sawmill were located on the east side of town (the section founded by Hezekiah Davis), where the town park is today.
I next looked at a book called The History of Northeast Indiana, written by Ira Ford in 1920. It contained a long biography of the Farver family. By 1920, Abraham’s son Jonathan was the head of the Farver Lumber Company. According to the book, Jonathan’s parents, Abraham and Harriet Snyder Farver, had moved the family from Holmes County, Ohio to Lagrange County, Indiana in 1863. They purchased a farm about four miles south of what later became Shipshewana. Abraham was a millwright by trade (one who designs or builds mills), but now he spent part of his time working as a cabinet maker as well, and from the information on the mural, he must have started the Klondike Sawmill soon after arriving in Indiana. The book says that Jonathan learned cabinet making from his father. After spending 27 years as a building contractor, Jonathan and his brother William opened a sawmill in the developing town of Shipshewana in 1889.
I wanted to know more about Abraham Farver. For that, I turned to ancestry.com.
Abraham and Harriet were married in Ohio in 1855. The 1860 census shows them living on a farm with their three young children (and Harriet’s unmarried sister) in Holmes County, Ohio. The agricultural schedule shows that they own 40 acres of land valued at $1400, where they are growing wheat, Indian corn, and oats, and raising livestock.
By the 1870 census they are settled in Indiana, and Abraham is listed as a farmer with land valued at $2800. They have six children, ages 3 to 14. Sadly, Harriet died the next year at age 43.
1880 finds Abraham a widower and still listed with farming as his occupation. All six children still live at home, now aged 13 to 24. The oldest son, the aforementioned Jonathan, is listed as a carpenter.
Abraham died in 1893 at age sixty, surviving his wife by 22 years. They are buried at Miller Cemetery in Shipshewana.