Oakland Township’s historic big red logging wheels have been restored.

Oakland Township’s historic big red logging wheels have been restored.

Photo by Frank Ferriolo

Oakland Township’s ‘big red logging wheels’ return after complete rebuild

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published December 18, 2023

 The logging wheels were completely rebuilt in white oak by Hansen Wheel & Wagon, in South Dakota.

The logging wheels were completely rebuilt in white oak by Hansen Wheel & Wagon, in South Dakota.

Photo provided by Oakland Township


OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — The big red logging wheels that have been a fixture in front of the Paint Creek Cider Mill for decades have returned following a complete rebuild.

The Oakland Township Historic District Commission, with support from the Oakland Township Historical Society, dedicated funds for the big wheels’ restoration.

The historical society gave over $10,0000 — $5,000 in fundraising from donors, with a $5,000 historical society match — toward the restoration project, which cost around $30,000. The remainder of the funding came from the township’s Historic Preservation Millage Fund, which is overseen by the Oakland Township Historic District Commission.

“Our HDC’s mission is to preserve our rich heritage in our township through preservation millage money,” Chair David Phillips explained.

The wheels’ history dates back to 1875, when Silas C. Overpack, from Manistee, invented them at the request of local farmers to help transport timbers.

“In about 1875, Silas and a local farmer came up with an idea to invent the logging wheels so that they could move the fallen logs out of the fields so that the farmers could plant crops,” Phillips said.

Oakland Township Historic Preservation Planner Barbara Barber said the wheels were part of Michigan’s logging history until the late 1920s, when gas-powered heavy equipment took over.

Locally, the logging wheels have served as an iconic symbol of Michigan’s great lumber era at the Paint Creek Cider Mill since the 1960s, after being rebuilt by Bud Shaar, of Lake Orion. Township officials believe Dale O. Miller Sr., who owned Rochester Gear, purchased the wheels from Shaar and moved them to the building off of Orion Road at that time.

“They have become this iconic symbol for people in this area and for travelers who go by the cider mill building,” said Barber.

After being exposed to Michigan’s elements over the years, the wheels had to be restored in 2006 by members of the historical society, but continued weather exposure led to wood rot patches, a broken tongue in 2019 and a rotten axel in 2021 that required repair.

“The wheels had fallen into disrepair and were rotten and spongy and could no longer support themselves,” Phillips explained.

Barber said the continuous decay and wood rot would have eventually resulted in the community’s loss of the logging wheels if action had not been taken to completely rebuild them with white oak, which she said can better withstand Michigan weather.

“White oak is the same wood used to make boats to sit in water because it’s a water-repellent wood. It’s a little more expensive, but we were going for longevity,” she said. “We want the wheels to last 50-100 years.”

The HDC received two bids from professional wheelwrights in the United States, both having over 40 years’ experience. Hansen Wheel & Wagon, located in South Dakota, was selected, and the project took about 10 months to complete.

Last month, the iconic wheels were returned to the Paint Creek Cider Mill building, and Phillips said they should last for another 100 years.

Many organizations helped with the wheels’ travels across the country, including the Oakland Township Parks and Recreation Department, Lyon Gear Works for loading, and Byers Wrecker Service for unloading the over 1,500-pound wheels.

“I’m just glad that the Board of Trustees and the Historic District Commission could get this thing fixed back up, because it’s been a fixture in front of the cider mill there,” Phillips said.

The Paint Creek Cider Mill building is located at 4480 Orion Road in Oakland Township.