Living in a Lumber Camp as a Child- Elsie Yeagle (2005)

Elsie Elizabeth Seaquist was born on December 30, 1914 in Guffey, PA, which is now a virtually unknown community. The family lived and worked in lumber camps in the area which necessitated frequent moves. All the children were born in a lumber camp, including Big Run in the Kane area, Mayburg in the Sheffield area, and Guffey near Mr. Jewett. The Seaquist family, which consisted of six children, lived and worked in the lumber camp on Brown Run Rd. in Warren County. The house they lived in on Brown Run was made from plank boards. It housed the family on the first floor with an open sleeping room for the workers on the second floor.

Elsie’s father worked in the woods. He worked as a bark peeler and helped cut down trees with the use of a two-man saw. A bark peeler removes the bark from trees in sections using a special tool called a spud. The bark from hemlock and oak trees was used in the leather tanning process. There were many tanneries in Warren County at this time.

Elsie’s mother cooked for the men in the camp. A peddler would frequently make stops at the camp so her mother could purchase the necessary staples. A horse and wagon were used for transportation to buy groceries at the store in Glade across from the Allegheny Hotel. Elsie also remembers pigs and cows being butchered. The family ate the same meals that were prepared for the men to eat in the mess hall.

When asked if there were any things that stand out about these early years, Elsie laughed and related why she never goes barefoot. When the weather was warm enough, the children would not wear shoes. There were always chickens that had free run of the camp. Consequently, Elsie’s mother would fill a bucket with water each night, and the children were admonished to wash their feet thoroughly before going to bed, especially between the toes. That certainly explains not wanting to go barefoot if you don’t have to!

Elsie remembers that the first school she attended was a one-room school called River Road School. It was located near where Keenan Street and Kinzua Road are today. She and her siblings would walk the three miles to school each day. Because Swedish was the language spoken at home, much of Elsie’s English was learned during these first school years.

A traumatic event happened when Elsie’s younger brother was playing with matches. He set fire to his clothes. An older brother put the fire out by dumping the young boy into the water reservoir kept on the front porch. The water reservoir was a large trough that contained all the water for the household use. The younger brother suffered severe burns on his face and body.

There were other children to play with in the few houses that were near the Seaquist house. Most Sundays, relatives made the trip up Brown Run Road providing a lot of company for the family.

Mrs. Walters came to the Seaquist home on Sunday afternoons to conduct Sunday school. Other children in the neighborhood came, too. The very first hymn Elsie learned was “What A Friend We Have in Jesus.” In the following years, the family would attend Sunday school and church in town. This involved walking down the hill to catch the streetcar on the other side of Glade Bridge.

When Elsie was six years old, the family moved to Warren. Her brothers drove a wagon into town loaded with household goods. They laughingly recalled the parrot that was on the porch when they arrived at their new home. When the boys yelled “Whoa” to the horses, the parrot replied “Whoa,” also.

Father continued to work for the lumber company for a short time then found employment elsewhere. Loggers, commonly referred to as “wood hicks,” would frequently stop by the Seaquist home in Warren. Elsie’s mother would usually give them coffee and something to eat. The family also took in boarders to supplement their income. At one time, Mrs. Seaquist cooked evening meals for nineteen people including the family. This was not an easy life!


Courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society