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Clearfield County

 

Clearfield County Pennsylvania

Present and Past

 

by

Thomas Lincoln Wall

 

Chapter 12

 

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Clearfield County Pennsylvania

Present and Past

 

by

Thomas Lincoln Wall

Ex-Supervising Principal

Boggs Township Schools

 

Library Edition

Published by Author

 

Copyright 1925

by

T. L. Wall

 


 

Transcribed for the Clearfield County PAGenWeb Project by

Ellis Michaels

 

 Chapter 12

Pages

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hauling a spar

3 mile log jam

Lick Run Splash Dam

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CHAPTER XII


Lumbering


     The lumbering industry as a great business passed with the cutting of the last of the original or virgin timber. It was at its peak in the 70's of the last century. There is still a small amount of lumber from trees of later growth manufactured on small saw mills, and there are mine props and ties, paper wood, chemical wood and railroad ties cut and sold. Some fire wood is cut, mainly for home use. Christmas trees are sold in season in most of the towns.


     The Great Lumber Industry. We can hardly realize that from 1840 to 1890 the lumbering business was the great industry of the county. During that period, on the authority of James Mitchell, who has been one of the most prominent lumbermen in the county, there was an average of 2,000 rafts per year floated down the river. An old raftsman said of his going down the river that he "was touching oars with other rafts every five minutes, while the river ran full of logs for the whole trip to Lock Haven."


     Amount of Timber That Has Been Cut. Mr. Mitchell estimates that there have been twelve and a half billion board feet of lumber cut between 1840 and 1890. Of this one and one-half billion board feet worth four and one-half million

 

 

 

 

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dollars was destroyed in clearing land. A billion feet worth six million dollars was wasted in making square timber, and in sawing logs into boards two million dollars worth of timber was lost, making a total loss and waste of timber worth twelve and one-half million dollars.


     The amount of timber actually cut into lumber from 1840 to 1905 was about ten billion feet, board measure, worth as timber seventy-five million dollars, and when manufactured, one hundred seventy-five million dollars.


     Rafting. David Litz is said to have run a small log raft down Clearfield Creek in 1805. This was used by him to build a house. Rafting as a way of marketing timber began about 1835 to 1840. The upper limit of navigation for rafts on the river was about three miles above The Cherry Tree, in Cambria county; on Clearfield Creek it was near the county line above Irvona. On Chest Creek, it was also near the Cambria county line. Rafting was only possible during high water.


     Rafting In. Rafting In, was done by fastening timber sticks or logs together side by side with bows of white oak pinned over "lash poles" into auger holes bored in the timber sticks or logs. The pins were made of ash and were driven in very tight. Rafts were made in "platforms" of timber sticks, all the sticks of a platfrorn being of the same length except the "couplers" which reached into the next platform and were lashed to it. Rafts made above Lumber City had to be run in two sections. These were called "pup" rafts. These were coupled together there, making a full or long raft, 250 to 300 feet long. Six men were required to run a raft. After making a trip, the men walked back up the river, where the distance was only a few miles or where there was no means of transportation.


     Guiding the Raft. The raft was guided with an oar on each end. The oar consisted of an oar stem 50 feet long and about nine inches through at the balancing point where it was

 

 

 

 

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set on a large oak pin in the head block, so it could swing back and forth and was two or three inches in diameter at the tip end, where it was handled on the raft by the pilot or the steersman. A sixteen foot blade, sixteen to twenty inches broad was set into the stem and pinned so that the blade swept the water when the stem was raised by the men on the raft. The oar stem and blade were made of good pine. In later times a one and one-fourth inch rope was used for snubbing and landing the raft. One end of the rope was tied to a lash pole. The price for a trip as pilot to Marietta was $110.00. Coming home from there was by way of Harrisburg then to Tyrone by train and walk home. An old river man told the writer he had started home from Tyrone at seven in the morning, walked to Mahaffey and then on to vote two or three miles below the present town.


     It took hard, quick work to "land" a raft. The man undertaking it held the heavy coil of rope until the corner of the raft was made to touch shore when he ran and gave the rope a "half hitch" around a tree, paying out the rope till the raft stopped. But in earlier times a grouser was stuck down to the river bottom through a hole in the raft to check its headway and then it was "snubbed" and tied to a tree with a hickory withe.


     Wages and Value of Spars and Square Timber. The very largest and finest pine trees were cut for spars, that is ship masts. They were 80 to 100 feet long and required 8 to 14 horses to haul them to the river. They were peeled but left round. A great deal of care had to be used in the cutting and hauling. They were rafted in a different way from square timber. Each spar raft of 20 to 22 sticks was worth from $2000.00 to $3500.00. Some board rafts were run down the river. In making a board raft, three heavy planks each as long as the section was to be, were put down a ways apart and holes bored in the end of each. The boards were piled criss [sic]

 

 

 

 

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Getting Ready to Haul a Spar

 

 

 

 

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cross in this frame and planks pinned on top of them. This was a "platform". These were coupled together and formed the raft.


     Pay of Raftsmen. From Clearfield to the foot of Buttermilk Falls (Cataract) was a days run. Mr Mitchell estimates that 30,000 men were often employed in a season. In early times as low as 50 cents a day was paid raftsmen, but men were usually paid by the trip and earned much more than this.


     In the early days timber hardly brought more than the cost of labor. At times however, pine timber brought from 6c to 20c per cubic foot and the best oak 35c.


     Pine never sold higher than 30c. The last raft went down the river about 1914.


     The Log Driver. What was known as the river drive of logs occurred in the spring after all the logs had been"splashed" into the river from the small streams, and at the last high water. It consisted in loosening up and putting in midstream , all the stranded logs. The drivers, carrying cant hooks called "peevies", like the horses had to wade in the icy water often up to the men's waists, yet they seldom took cold.
An "ark" in which the men ate and slept and one in which the horses were stabled were kept with the drive. The days were long, but the men were well fed and well paid. They were a jolly crowd too, and had many a lark together. The cost of driving logs to the booms was 40 to 50 cents per thousand feet. The logs were cut along the runs and creeks and hauled to the slides. They were peeled when cut (in spring if hemlock) and were slid by gravity or propelled by a horse or team from the rear end of the trail. The floating of loose logs began on Clearfield Creek in 1854 and a little later on Chest Creek and the river.


     The slide was made of two logs, one side of each having been flattened and the two laid and fastened together so as to form a V shaped trough. These were laid end to end so as to

 

 

 

 

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PART OF A LOG JAM 3 MILES LONG
Between Curwensville and Lumber City. About 1885.


 

form a continuous slide, sometimes for miles, to the bank of the stream or "landing."


     The men cutting logs lived in camps. When hemlock and rock oak came to be marketed, the bark was sold to tanneries and used for tanning leather.


     "Splash dams" were built on the streams and upper river to hold the water when the gates were closed in the spring as the logs were ready to float. When the dams were full, the gates were opened and the flood of water let out floated the logs down into the river ready for the river drive.


     Saw Mills. Besides the timber floated down stream, millions of feet have been cut and sawed in large operations conducted at Curwensville, DuBois and in other sections of the county since about 1872. The mills were equipped with

 

 

 

 

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the latest appliances and the logs were brought-to the mills on tram roads equipped with small locomotives.


     The number of carloads of lumber manufactured in the DuBois mills in 1886 was enormous as follows: Shook, 545 carloads, Shingles and lath 199 carloads, lumber 1848 car loads. Total for the year 1886, 2592 car loads.


     The Big Mill at Curwensville cut a good deal of lumber, though the mill was not a financial success. Lee & Wrigley had large and efficient mills in different sections of the county in the 90's.


     "The first saw mill in the county was built at the mouth of Montgomery Creek by Jacob Henney in 1798." The Ogdens soon after built one onMoose Creek, and before long these little mills were scattered all over the county on the various small streams and the river, all run by water power. Of course most of them could not run in the dry season, but only in spring and fall. When farming time came, people were too busy to run the mills.


     It is a mistake however, to think that these old-fashioned little water mills were inefficient or not economical. Their cost was mainly labor, their upkeep was small and most of them were really one-man propositions.


     A man who ran one of these old sash saw mills told the writer that on his mill he had cut 2000 feet of lumber in a day, doing all the work himself, whereas on the newer circular saw mills, 1000 feet per man was considered a good day's average sawing.


     Most of the lumber manufactured in the county today is sawed on small portable mills, run by steam or gasoline engines, or by electric power.


     The Labor of Timber Making, Rafting and Logging. An old timber maker, raftsman and logger told me of his work.

 

 

 

 

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Building Lick Run Splash Dam.  1895 - 1896

 

 

 

 

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     Rafting on The River. Rafting was the most exciting time of the year. He began when 15 and kept it up for 22 years, never missing a year. He has gone down the river every month in the year, and piloted every raft after the third trip, piloting one through Chest Falls when 17 years old. Once he ran a 230 feet raft around Spencer's to Lumber City after older hands declined to try it. He has run most of the river after night. He once got thrown off of a raft at the head of Cucumber Falls in the mountain, floated and swam through the falls one-half mile and then swam a mile further, catching up to the raft in dead water below. Never drank anything but river water when rafting (an exception). Rafting and going down the river gave an opportunity to see something of the world and to get acquainted. For a trip from Lumber City to Curwensville a pilot got $2.00, common hand $1.00. Lumber City to Lock Haven, pilot $20.00, hand $12 to $15. He sometimes got $5.00 for trips from Bower to Lumber City as pilot. After spring rafting he drove logs.


     Timber Making. After work on the river was over, he farmed until September, then went to making timber.


     Trees two to four feet through were chopped down, no saws in use yet. The men worked hard from daylight until dark chopping, "scoring" and hewing timber into "sticks" ready for rafting. They cut down enough trees for next day's making, after it was too dark to "score" or hew, all for fifty cents to one dollar per day.


     Learned to Work at Anything. This man learned to do all kinds of common work, as timber making, teaming, rafting, logging, farming, etc. He says he worked all his life, was never turned off a job and never left a job.


     A Car Load of Mince Pies. Some years ago, there were several rafts of timber made around Pennville and hauled to the river and rafted. Parties in Clearfield owned the timber

 

 

 

 

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and hired men in the Grampian Hills to make and haul it.


     One day one of the timber makers suggested to one of the owners in a joking way apparently, that they should give the men who were doing the work, Christmas presents, and the owner as matter of carrying on the joke said "Oh yes, we have a car load of mince pies coming for you fellows." Then the other man asked "How are you going to get them sent up to us?" "Oh", said the other, "W. is hauling timber every day, we will send them up with him."


     Time went on, but the pies did not come up.


     In the meantime the children of all these people were going to school together,but the teamster's children, who were every day taking mince pies their mother had made, to school, began to complain at home that certain other children were looking in their dinner pails and making remarks about their having mince pie every day, and even intimating that there was something wrong about it, and that they ought to divide up with them.


     So one day this teamster inquired of the timber owner what it was all about any way.


     He thought over the matter a little and then burst out laughing. "Why," says he "That is a joke; I told those people we had ordered a carload of mince pies and would send them up with you to divide 'round." "But," he says, "I had no idea they would believe me," and then he doubled up and laughed, and laughed, until the tears ran down his cheeks ! This was too good to keep and soon that car load of mince pies was on everybody's tongue in the timber woods, but nothing more was said at school about the children's pies.


     Sleeping in the Shote's Bed. The following story was told me by an old riverman of the days of rafting on the West Branch of the Susquehanna. The raft had to be taken down

 

 

 

 

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the river when the flood came no matter what the weather might be.


     On this occasion the weather had been mild. Then it came on to rain, then turned cold and freezing. Soon the men's clothes wet from rain, were frozen stiff. Their shoes were full of water, for everytime the raft went out of a dam, through the chute, it went more or less under water. This was the middle of the afternoon, and they must keep on until night, for it was necessary to take advantage of the high water while it lasted.


     Late in the evening they came to a landing at Mother Moore's, where they tied up for the night. Mother Moore may not have been able to pass muster in polite society, for on occasion, she could swear like a trooper, but she was kind hearted, a good cook, and had a row of posts set in the river bank to tie up to, for she had an eye to business, too. Besides, the river men were not an overly finicky lot of fellows, just so they could get a good hot supper and a place to lie down where they would be warm. After their hard day on the river Nature would take care of the sleeping. After making fast the raft, these men went in the house and found it already full of other raftsmen. However, Mother Moore told them she could feed them all, but had no place in the house for them to sleep; but they might sleep in a bay of straw in the barn if that would do. After eating a hearty supper and drying their clothes by the fire for a while, they decided to go to bed, and Mother Moore said to them "You will find a lot of shotes sleeping in the straw, but just kick them out and let them find another bed." Sure enough the shotes were sleeping quietly in the bay. They were unceremoniously kicked out, and the men lay down in their warm beds and were soon resting very comfortably. However, the night grew cold and the wind blew in sharply through the open spaces between the logs of the barn, so when the shotes crept back and lay down among the men, it helped to keep them warm and shotes and men slept cosily together until morning!

 

 

 

   

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