(Condensed and adapted from “Rafting Adventures on Ohio and Allegheny Related by Well-Known Woman Resident of this County," Warren Times-Mirror, l955)


Hattie White was born in 1880 in Garland and died in 1972, at the age of 92, in Canfield, Ohio.  Her parents were Alfred and Mary White.  She grew up in the village of Saybrook in Warren County.  Her father, Alfred White, had a small sawmill and shingle mill a mile or two below Henry's Mills.  Shingles at Alfred White's mill were made from the best hemlock logs, cut into 16 or 18 inch lengths, squared, and made into shingles thicker on one end than the other, which allowed them to overlap on a roof.  They were bundled by hand, and four bundles made a "square." Alfred White would take his lumber and shingles down the Allegheny and the Ohio Rivers each spring in order to sell them.

“In the Spring of 1894 he took me with him," said Hattie. “There had been a death from diphtheria at Saybrook and those of us from Saybrook who attended school in Sheffield were not allowed to come to school for several weeks.  My father felt that as it was so near the end of the school year l would not miss much if I went down the river with him and his raft of lumber and shingles.

“Before rafting time, my father would send men into the woods to cut small trees about two or three inches wide. These trees were used to tie the boards of the raft together. Rafts were built on the Tionesta Creek and then floated down to the town of Tionesta and into the Allegheny River.  It was during the spring rains that the river was deep enough to float these rafts.  In the Spring of 1894, another company, Flynn and Weller, joined their raft with ours, so we had a fair-sized raft.

“When the raft was ready, my father and I went from Saybrook to Tionesta by train.  We stayed overnight at a small hotel and started on the river journey early the next morning.  We had a board shanty on the raft in which we ate and slept.  A daughter of our pilot went along on the trip and we girls had a separate room. The men from Flynn and Weller had a shanty of their own.  The main shanty was one large room. The men slept in one large bunk the size of the shanty. Their beds and ours were straw ticks on boards, no springs, sort of like sleeping on the floor.

“As a raft cannot be left to just drift with the tides, we had to have a pilot who knew the river.  We had two very large oars, both in front and at the rear of the raft. The pilot would stand and call to the oarsmen whether to pull toward the left or the right. We always tied up at night, usually where my father had his regular customers.

“What an adventure for two girls from the country! I had probably never been farther from home than Corry. My father made it a point to take us to see things of interest at all places where we stopped. My clearest remembrance of our stop in Pittsburgh is the horse-drawn streetcars, the first streetcars I had ever seen because that was years before we had electric streetcars from Warren to Sheffield.

“The weather was mostly sunny and the trip down the Ohio was ideal, although I remember at least one time when rains raised the river. Towboats with their heavily laden barges went up and down the river at night. We were rocked to sleep at night by the motion of the boat, but I liked that.

“It had been decided that we would go as far as Williamstown, West Virginia, a small town across the Ohio River from Marietta, Ohio. There was an island between Marietta and Williamstown.  My father had taken his raft over this dam before, but the dam had been raised since the year before.  I believe it was 20 feet high.  We got into the current where it was impossible to pull the raft over the bank, Ohio-side of the river.  Just then, people living on the bank came out and started waving their arms and shouting that we could drown if we went over the new dam.  My father wanted us girls to be taken ashore in our skiff, but since the men were determined to stay with the raft, Mary and I stayed too.

“We went over and the pieces of the raft tied together broke apart.  The raft was covered with water as we went over the dam. However, we did not even lose our shingles. The men had placed themselves on different parts of the raft, and with heavy ropes they soon had us all in one piece again.

“This was the end of my journey as I was not feeling well and my father was worried.  I took a river steamer on my trip back from Marietta, Ohio to Pittsburgh.  When I finally returned to Saybrook, the doctors found that I had typhoid fever!”

Still, it had been a wonderful adventure.


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    Courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society