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    1883 Tioga County PA History

    History of Tioga County, Pennsylvania

    History of Tioga County, Pennsylvania, (W. W. Munsell & Co., New York : 1883), 
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The lumbering business of Tioga county can be divided into two eras. The first extended from 1800 to 1865 and we shall denominate it the White Pine era. The first lumbering to any extend was carried on at or near Lawrenceville, on the Tioga, and on the Cowanesque at the same place, and at Beecher’s Island, Elkland, Knoxville and other points on the latter river. The first saw-mills were of course rude, and were intended only to supply the demand of the settlers in their erection of dwellings and barns. But only a few years elapsed before the enterprise of those owning pine lands along the banks of the Cowanesque and Tioga Rivers began to extend their trade. The Tioga was navigable for rafts as far south as the mouth of Mill Creek, and small rafts were even run as far south as Mansfield. The navigation of the Cowanesque enabled the lumbermen to gather into the stream the timber as far west as Knoxville. The lumber thus manufactured up to the year 1840 found an outlet by the way of the Tioga, Chemung and Susquehanna to market at Harrisburg, Middletown, Marietta, Columbia and Baltimore. Lumbering gradually extended up the valley of Crooked Creek to Middlebury, and in time to Delmar and on to Pine Creek. A large force of men was required in the fall and winter in felling trees and cutting saw-logs for the mills; and when the spring rains swelled the streams the lumber was rafted in and floated to market. A hardy and jolly set of men were engaged in this work, and when they arrived in towns in central and southern Pennsylvania they were looked upon with awe and suspicion by the Pennsylvania Dutch, who termed them "wild Yankees," from the "Wildcat district of Tioga." But the Tioga lumbermen were not daunted by these epithets, and found equally significant names for their down-the-river friends.

Those from the western and southwestern portion of the county who descend Pine Creek reached the west

Branch of the Susquehanna near Jersey Shore, and met their friends from the Tioga and Cowanesque at Northumberland; also hosts of rivermen from the Canisteo, Conhocton and east branch of the Susquehanna, as well as those from the Lycoming, Loyalsock, Bald Eagle, Kettle Creek, Clearfield and Sinnamahoning. A thousand raftmen were frequently seen distributed among the various towns of the lower Susquehanna during rafting season, and then, in common parlance, "the Dutch had to stand down the hall." Many young men would take a "trip down the river" then with the idea first of replenishing their stock of pocket money, and second to see the "shows" and have a good time generally. In these days to ride two or three hundred miles and have to walk back savors too much of the play of boys who draw their sleds to the top of a high hill in order to ride down. However, there were many pleasant incidents connected with such a trip.

As time advanced improvements were made in the character of the saw-mills. Steam took the place of water as the motive power, and mulay, gang and circular saws were invented and more capital invested in the manufacture of lumber. The pine forests in the township of Jackson, along the valley of Seeley Creek, were invaded by a class of lumbermen who made sad havoc among the evergreens of that region. The lumber manufactured in that vicinity generally found a market at Elmira, and was hauled on wagons to that point, there shipped by canal for Albany, and thence to New York by the Hudson River.

Up to the year 1845 the battle against the pine of Tioga county had been confined to a few localities, but from that year the war was waged with unceasing energy all long the line in every portion of the county until the year 1865, when after a twenty years siege, the pines had succumbed, with only here and there an exception, where they were preserved by strong land owners like Phelps & Dodge, and the Bingham estate and a few others. In the sixty-five years crusade, according to the most reliable estimates of old lumbermen, there must have been manufactured and taken to market one thousand million feet of white pine lumber, besides the millions of feet used for building purposes. Then there were millions of feet which were allowed to go to waste, or burned to clear the land of the pioneer who desired to cultivate the soil. It is safe, therefore, to estimate that in the year 1800 there stood within the limits of Tioga county 1,500,000,000 feet of white pine lumber, about two thirds of which was sent to market. The average price obtained for the lumber during the sixty-five years would not reach more than eight dollars in market, for there was a period of forty-five years when five dollars was esteemed a round price per thousand for clear stuff, and it was only in the last fifteen years of the crusade that the price began to reach beyond ten dollars, though in the closing years of the war, when there was not much to sell, the price ranged beyond that. Here then was a product of the forest which brought our fathers seven or eight millions of dollars, which had it been properly husbanded would have brought twenty millions. But perhaps it was better for our fathers to thus dispose of their lumber than to have left it to their posterity, who might not have appreciated their generosity and foresight. A few scattering groves of pine still remain; with here and there a patriarch, whose evergreen boughs chant a sad requiem over his departed companions.


We have said that the era of the white pine extended from 1800 to 1865. The time since the latter date we shall denominate the era of Hemlock. Although hemlock lumber had been used to a considerable extent in various portions of the county, and had been shipped to market, bringing unremunerative prices, before the year 1865, it was about that year that it began to grow in favor with builders and those who desired a cheap class of lumber. It was also about that year that in commercial circles it was learned that the white-grained hemlock of Tioga county was equal and in many cases superior to white pine lumber for building purposes; and we recollect distinctly what credulity and old lumber merchant of New York manifested when in the year 1863 we informed him that a large proportion of the hemlock of Tioga county, and especially that in the southern portion, was so straight-grained that shingles could be rived and made from it. "If such is the case," said he, "it will go up in the market, and I desire to purchase hemlock lands." He did purchase some and has since regretted that he did not purchase more.

Tanning was to some extent carried on in the county before 1865, and very much of the hemlock from which the bark was obtained was allowed to remain in the forest and decay. The increased demand for hemlock leather both in this country and Europe has had a tendency to stimulate the tanning business. Luckily the demand for hemlock lumber has kept pace with the demand for hemlock-tanned leather. The hemlock belt of the United States was narrowing down to the Pennsylvania counties of Sullivan, southern Bradford, northern Lycoming, southern and western Tioga, southern Potter, McKean, Elk and Forest, and tanners from the eastern sections of the United States were looking for desirable locations for the establishment of tanneries. Happily for the citizens of Tioga county, at a period when they had nearly exhausted their supply of white pine timber an opportunity was presented for rendering valuable a timber which they had hitherto looked upon with indifference. So great is the present demand for hemlock lumber and bark that there are about seventy saw-mills in the county, two-thirds of which are manufacturing hemlock lumber exclusively; and the production of hemlock lumber for the year ending July 31st 1882 will reach the enormous amount of one hundred and fifty million feet. This vast amount of lumber only represents the timber cut to keep the tanneries of Tioga supplied with bark for tanning purposes. It remains to be seen whether our people will become as prodigal of


Their hemlock lumber as their fathers were of pine. At the present rate of consumption in fifteen years the era of hemlock will practically close in Tioga county.


Tioga county originally possessed some very excellent hard wood timber, especially on the ridges and highlands. Much of the beech and maple has been cut down and destroyed in various portions of the county, and yet a large amount remains. In the mining regions these woods have been used for props and other purposes about and in the mines. No great demand has been made for the timber, and hence it has been cut down by farmers, who desired to clear the land. There is quite an amount of black and yellow birch, black cherry, white ash and chestnut still standing in the county, and a limited quantity of white and black oak. There were originally some very fine tracts of white oak in the northern portion of the county, also of hickory and walnut; but they have principally been cut down.

It will be seen from the reading of the preceding pages that the white pine of the county is nearly exhausted; while the great forests of hemlock are being swept away at the rate of one hundred and fifty million feet per annum, which in the estimation of the writer will close the trade in that kind of lumber in fifteen years. There is but a small portion of yellow pine left, and while there is a moderate supply of hard wood which has escaped the farmer and the coal operation there is no very great demand for that class of timber. There is room to hope that the portion remaining will be utilized in the manufacture of articles at home which we now import. But it only fair to state that a very large proportion of the whole amount of timber in the county is held by coal companies, tanning firms, etc., which exercise control over one-fifth of the whole area of the county. The lumber interest therefore will hereafter be confined to sawing and shipping hemlock, unless we go into the manufacture of agricultural implements, carriages and wagons and small articles, for which not much timber is required.


We have incidentally alluded to the subject of tanning in connection with the hemlock lumber trade. The annual production of sole leather in the county for several years has amounted to between 500,000 and 600,000 sides. A huge tannery, the largest in the world, has just been completed at Babb's Creek, in Morris township, by Hoyt Bros., of No. 72 Gold street, New York. Its capacity is said to be one thousand sides per day. Here then is added to the already large production the sum of 313,000 sides, swelling the aggregate production for the year 1882 to the enormous number of 900,000 sides of hemlock-tanned sole leather. This will require the use of bark from 190,000,000 feet of hemlock, to say nothing of the amount required to tan 25,000 sides of harness and tough upper leather.

There are now of every grade and description nineteen tanneries in operation in the county. Some are small, however (but a few years ago they were thought to be large), while the bulk of the tanning is confined to establishments tanning from 25,000 to 300,000 sides annually.

The business of tanning gives employment directly in the several tanneries the county to one thousand men, at an average of $1.50 per day, including foremen and bosses, the total wages amounting to $450,000 per year. During the time of bark-peeling (seventy days - there are a thousand men more employed, at the average rate of $1.75 per day, making $122,500 more. The bark is worth on the tree, less the cost of peeling and hauling, $250,000 or $300,000 more, say the latter figures; the cost of hauling, at a low figure, is $75,000 – for some of it is drawn six or eight miles – and the tanneries have already paid out for labor and bark the handsome sum of $947,500. The lumberman then takes the work in hand to get rid of the trunks of the hemlock trees, and by the time he has them sawed into logs, skidded, hauled to the saw-mill and manufactured into lumber ready for market $450,000 more has been expended in labor, on the basis of 150,000,000 feet, and on the basis of 190,000,000 feet the sum of $570,000; making a total for labor in these two industries of $1,517,500. The greater part of this money remains in the county. After allowing the laborer and manufacturer $570,000 for their labor the owner of the timber has for his share an amount a little in excess of these figures, providing he makes a sale of his lumber advantageously. If he sells it at $7 per thousand he has $760,000 to pay him for the use of his mill, breakage, interest on the money invested, etc. Putting these aggregates together our figures reach $2,277,500. Finally add the amount received for the 900,000 sides of sole leather, less the cost of bark and other materials used, and the reader can comprehend the vast business directly and indirectly growing out of the tanneries of Tioga county.

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