LUMBER RAFTING ON THE ALLEGHENY RIVER

Excerpts from The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine (Fall 1957) edited by Ernest C. Miller, pp. 150-151.

The relatively small population of northwestern Pennsylvania could only use a small fraction of the pine and hemlock timber available to the people, after satisfying their needs, making a lumbering the chief industry of the region, supplying great quantities of fine white pine and lowly hemlock boards to the rapidly growing towns and cities along the Ohio and beyond.

Rafts varied in size depending on where they were floated. The basic unit of construction was the "platform," a square varying from 29 to more than 30 alternating courses of 16 foot boards between a bottom and a top frame drawn together by "grubs," which were oak saplings with the roots.

On Conewango Creek in Warren County, for example, the standard raft was ten platforms long and one platform wide, approximately 170 feet by 17 feet with one oar at each end. Where the Conewango entered the Allegheny River at Warren, six of these ten platform "strings" would be coupled together to form an "Allegheny Raft" approximately 340 feet long and 51 feet wide, with three oars or sweeps at each end.

Rafts made up in the Allegheny at Warren or below, from lumber hauled to the river, were often longer and deeper than those made up of "Conewango rafts," often 360 feet long and having 30 or more courses of 1 1/2 inch boards. Three of these Alleghenies coupled together at Pittsburgh made an Ohio River Raft, about 540 feet long covering an acre or more of water.

The platform units were joined together by boards called "couplers" extending from one platform to the other over the adjoining grubs. The larger units, or "strings," were similarly joined together with half logs of small size.

A century ago Pennsylvania led the nation in lumber production and in 1859, of the six northwestern counties, Warren County was the biggest producer.

 

Courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society