Frye’s Measure Mill owner remembered
WILTON – For Harley Savage, Frye’s Measure Mill was his life: keeping the traditions of making dry measures begun in 1876 by Daniel Cragin, continued by the Fryes and then his father, Harland Savage, beginning in 1948.
Harley purchased the mill in 1981 and developed it into the business it is today.
On June 4, close to 200 of his friends gathered at the mill on a sunny afternoon to celebrate Harley’s life, which ended in March after a 10-year battle with cancer.
His son, Matthew, called him "steadfast and determined. He had a passion for woodworking. He taught me life lessons without me knowing it."
Matthew said his father was "a natural teacher," and substituted as a shop teacher at the high school at one point. He recalled that Harley had enrolled both of them in a college accounting course "and dared me to get a better grade" – but he didn’t.
Matthew called his father as "accepting of everyone for who they were, and he said it takes all types. He truly believed that."
His daughter, Leah, said, "He loved the mill and felt honored to be its keeper. He was a great source of joy in my life, one of my dearest friends and mentors."
She called her father "deeply spiritual, self-sacrificing and humble," and noted his charity and support of his church.
Burton Reynolds, of Lyndeborough, called Savage his best friend.
"Beginning in junior high and especially after college," Reynolds said. "He was interested in what I was, and (his passing) has left a tremendous void no one can fill."
Harley "got to spend his life doing something he loved," Reynolds said. "He and his father were a great team."
Reynolds said he spent 35 consecutive years helping Harley set up his exhibit at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair in Sunapee. He recalled a trip they made to Washington, D.C., to call on Congressman James Cleveland, seeking help with the mill’s dam. It was also a sales trip to the Smithsonian and to Colonial Williamsburg, Va., which became one of the mill’s best customers.
Savage served on the board of the craftsmen’s league, Reynolds said, "and was a trustee of the library for a while."
He added, "He was a faithful friend, my go-to guy. He had a great sense of humor, and knew the value of hard work."
His sister-in-law Coni Porter, Pam Savage’s younger sister, said she had worked at the mill one summer.
"I learned to work the elephant’s foot and how to turn on the water power with all of its elaborate belts," Porter said. "That’s what we do. We have all of these bizarre machines."
Her first job experience was working with Harley, she said, "and enjoying the beauty of this place."
She called Harley "an amazing, creative person," one who "incorporated art in the process. It is visible here – the art of living well."
She also learned, she said, "that quality is more important than quantity," a truth she learned by producing "seconds," not the measures the shop sold.
Ralph Savage, who now lives in Florida, called his brother "friend-worthy. We’ve always kept in touch."
Many of those present agreed: "He was one of the nicest people I ever met."
Harland Savage Jr. grew up in Wilton. After graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 1971, he returned home, purchased the family business, restored it and opened it to the public. He continued to make the boxes and measures for which the mill is famous.
He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Pam Porter Savage, his son and daughter, and two grandsons.