What's Historic About Brookville, Pennsylvania?

Lumbering: Jefferson County's Pioneer Industry
By Beth Williams

In 1797 the first lumber company was started in Jefferson County, by a gentleman named Joe Barnett, who was from Brookville. The lumbering business was once very successful, now it has died off in the last couple of years. This sawmill was on Mill Creek, that employed nine Indians and five white men.

Sawmills noramally had two men running a hand saw known as the bronzed saw. 1822 was the first time they used indivdual power and water power. It was the first used in Germany. With the new water poweer mill it made everyting easier and faster. It is easier and faster beacause they did not have to cut logs by hand.

To get logs from one place to another they floated them down the river. Moses Knapp was the pioneer pilot on the Red Bank Creek. The pioneer board raft once carried 8,000 feet of boards. Most pilots, or better known as supervisors, received $20 per trip. A common hand, or better known as a laborer, was paid $1.50 for rafting on the Red Bank Creek in 1833. In 1866 a common hand was paid $10 per trip.

There were two or three gristmills in the county, but more than four times as many sawmills up to 1840. Two million feet of white pine boards were cut in 1830, and rafted down the Big Mahoning, Red Bank, or Sandy Lick Creek, and the Clarion River. From the Clarion River the boards then floated to the Allegheny River, thence to Pittsburgh and other towns in Ohio.

In the spring flood of 1869, there was a total of 150 timber rafts run out of Red Bank. Over 2,500,000 feet of boards and 600 of square timber were damaged by the high flood waters. The flood really wiped out the lumber supplies that spring.

The last great output of lumber was in 1903, 40 million feet of lumber was run to market. Of the great runs over 75 percent of 30 million feet was of white oak. This was the last run of the great oak.

Rafting from Brookville to the Alleghney River required less than two days and then usually a week was spent at the mouth of Pittsburgh.

If you have ever seen logs jammed when they were sending tehm down the river, it's quite a mess! Some were two to three rafts deep. Some are broken into several pieces and some even fall off the rafts. Most lumbermen say they can not describe what they have seen.


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