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 Charles Hummel of Fisher, PA.
As I think I am one of the youngest rivermen on the Clarion River, I will tell you some of my experiences. On March 20, 1913, I worked my first day on the river for Sam Barr and Charley Bell at Steel Trap. That was rafting in squared timber. They had two rafts of hardwood and two of pine. My job was boring the holes for the bows that held the timber in place.
When we had the timber, all rafted in the next thing was to run it to Pittsburgh. Well, I was lucky enough to get a trip down on one of the pine rafts, and believe me, I was glad it was a pine raft before we got to Foxburg for those hardwood rafts were partly submerged. I would say that they were under water for about a third of the way to the mouth of the river. I will never forget what Ben Jones said when we landed at Foxburg. He said that it was the first time that he had ever waded down the Clarion River.
I must tell you my experience on that trip. Sam Barr put me on the rear end of the raft with the pilot who was Beezer Moore, and a fine fellow he was. After we pulled out I thought I had better tell him that I had never been down the river before, so I told him I had never been down before and I would like to learn as much about it as I could the first trip down.
I can just see the old boy yet as he picked up a nail keg and sat down on it. He looked up at me and said, “Young Man, you will learn before we get to Foxburg,” And I did. When we got to Foxburg he asked me if I thought I had learned anything, and I told him that I had learned enough to stay off the pilot end of a raft. That was the only trip I ever made on the rear end of a raft or boat.
My most thrilling experience on the rive was in July 1913. We had built five boats and we got a flood. We had part of them loaded at Steel Trap with bark and pit posts, but we had two empties that we loaded on the way out to Foxburg. We loaded them with pit posts that Barr had bought from different persons along the river. The boat I was on was partly loaded when we got to the head of what is called the Devils Race Grounds. There was a pile of posts just below the grounds that we wanted so we tied up at the head. Sam said to the boys, “Two of you will have to go over the Devils Race Ground with a John Boat and take a hitch when we come through with the boat, for we want to load this boat with those posts.”
I sure was scared but I knew I had to bail or swim, so bail I did, but we got through. I always said that Guy McNaughton knew his stuff when it came to John Boats.