In celebration of the Clarion River’s status as Pennsylvania’s 2019 River of the Year, the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau will share one excerpt each month this year from the book “True Tales of Clarion River,” published in 1933 by George P. Sheffer and the Northwestern Pennsylvania Raftsmen’s Association.
The story below was written by Mrs. Marsh Himes of Endeavor, PA.
I am going to tell of my first trip down the river, which I think will interest the ladies. I think I am about the only one of my sex left to tell the ladies part.
In the spring of 1904, about the last of April or the first of May, Mr. Dan Jones, living near Brookville, was running and jobbing timber for a man in Pittsburgh. He had a shanty to keep his men in when he started his rafts. He came to me and asked me to go down the river as cook. I agreed and got another lady to go along. We were paid a dollar a day. The crew consisted of Rube Himes, Marsh Himes and Vern Himes and I don’t remember the other two men’s names.
We had only to get the meals and so we stayed outside of the shanty most of the time. It was a sight to see the men handle that large raft. Sometimes you would think you were going to run into big rocks and tear the raft up, but the men knew what to do every time. As soon as the pilot would call every man would be at his place and would pull on those big oars till the pilot told them to stop. There were some beautiful sights to see along the river and I wish I could go down again. I made four trips to Pittsburgh and will tell you a few of the things I recall that happened.
The first thing I remember was on my first trip. We were running along nicely, and I and the girl were in the shanty. We were in shallow water when the timber bumped the bottom. The first things we knew over went the table along with the dishes, mostly tin, the stove began to rattle and down came the stove pipe. We thought the bottom was going to fall out and were really scared. We got along fine that day and when we came running out of the shanty the men just laughed and said that if things got bad, we were to get in the boat. Not all the rafts had a boat though.
When we landed it was a sight to see the men handle those big cables. They were long ropes and one man would take an end and go toward the front end and go toward the front end of the raft and one man would jump off on the shore and wrap that around a tree and it was up to the pilot to stop the raft. They had a long pin in one stick of timber which the pilot would wrap the rope around then he would hold back on his end and the line would go around the post which was called a snubbing post. Everyone knew what to do just like a lot of trained soldiers.
The next day our raft caught up to another and I could not see how to get past it but there was nothing to it and we got around fine. They pulled on the rope and walked to the end of the raft then came back and did the same thing over and soon we were past safely. The men after while started putting two rafts together side by side for going down the Allegheny.
We got along fine till the wind began to blow and it sure kept those fellows busy and I don’t see how the men did it for they were pulling most of the time. When I saw them, all running for the front end I didn’t know what was happening, but I discover a bridge across the river, and we were going straight for the pier. They sure did hustle. The wind seemed to hold them, and they couldn’t turn the raft. The wind left us a minute and they got the front where it was safe, so they started the hind end right and just missed the pier and then the wind started them another way.
At Kittanning they started pulling the fleet the other way. They had to pull for about four miles and one old man by the name of Ham Silvis played out and there were only three left to do the work. The wind dropped and we got into the big dam O.K. and it was a wonderful sight to see them getting the fleets through the big locks.
Hope I see some of the old fellow at Cook Forest this summer. This is written by a friend of the old rafts men who knows the hardships they went through.
Learn more about the Clarion River and find other interesting places to visit in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region by going to VisitPAGO.com or calling (814) 849-5197.