CLINTON — Donors and friends of the Sawmill Museum were offered a chance to get a first look at the museum’s latest exhibit, which will be open to the public starting today. 

Through portraits, Earnest Struve, Chancy Lamb, David Joyce and William Young, Clinton’s four most famous lumbermen, are used tell the story of how they founded their empires in the 1800s. Sawmill Museum Director Matt Parbs said it all started with a text asking Parbs and the musuem for ideas for new projects. After sending a few ideas, the lumber exhibit got approval and work started to get the exhibit ready for this weekend. 

“It all started with a text from a board member asking if I had any out-of-the box ideas,” Parbs said. “I threw some ideas back at them and they thought this idea was pretty neat and we stepped forward from there.” 

A press release states that visitors will see elements of the lumber baron houses throughout both the interior and exterior of the exhibit. It continues that the interior has hints of the Joyce Mansion, the Lamb Mansion, the Curtis Mansion and many other smaller mansions. The interior is based off the Eastlake style of design. 

 One aspect of the project Parbs thinks was crucial was the work of the volunteers. Over the past few months, about four volunteers worked on the project. He says the staff did some painting for the project but all the nailing for the project was done by the volunteers. This included periods of time that the museum was open, which forced them to coordinate the timing of the project. 

“We wanted to work on the exhibit without while still being open for business,” Parbs said. “We had to work around wanting to work on the exhibit while still having people enjoy coming to the museum, especially with our attendance continuing to increase.” 

Parbs estimates it took about three to four months to prepare the exhibit for the grand opening, and he admits there are times he was not sure the project would be completed in time for the unveiling of the exhibit Friday night. He expressed appreciation for the volunteers, whom he estimated put in about 1,500 hours between the four of them. The exhibit will be open to the public for the first time today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

The exhibit is sponsored by the Clinton County Development Association, Struve family, The Joyce Foundation, The Alliant Foundation and the A.E. Pearson Foundation. 

Herald Staff Writer John Rohlf can be reached at

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