RIVER NAVIGATION, ETC.
THE waters flowing through the Conewango branch of the Allegheny River
take their rise on the borders of Lake Erie at an average elevation of
about thirteen hundred feet above the sea, and nearly seven hundred feet above
the level of the lake. Hence a small boat can start within seven or eight miles
of Lake Erie, in sight of the large sailing vessels and steam propellers which
navigate the great lakes, and float down to the Gulf of Mexico, a distance of
about two thousand five hundred miles.
Before the beginning of the present century the Allegheny, Conewango,
and Brokenstraw were officially declared navigable waters of the Commonwealth,
but, as all well-informed readers know, they were only navigated by
canoes, keel-boats, and rafts, until about the year 1830. For years prior to
this date efforts had been made by the people's representatives, both at Harrisburg
and the national capital, to obtain appropriations for the improvement
of the streams named. The only response to these appeals, however, in any
degree satisfactory, was obtained in the year 1817, when the State Legislature
appropriated the munificent sum of one thousand dollars for the improvement
of the Allegheny River, and French and Conewango Creeks.
During subsequent years, after the steamboat Allegheny had made her historic
trip to Olean, the questions of slack-water navigation and the building of
a canal parallel with the Allegheny River were paramount for a time and vigorously
agitated. As a result of this agitation the river was surveyed from
Pittsburgh to Olean, and the distances between points, and altitudes, accurately
ascertained. This work was performed by Major Kearney and Major Hughes,
topographical engineers of the United States army. The first named surveyed
the river from Pittsburgh to Franklin, the latter from Franklin to Olean.
According to their report, the distance in miles, and the descent of the river in
feet between the towns mentioned, was found to be as follows: From Little
Valley, N. Y. (which is twenty-five miles by river below Olean), to State line,
twenty miles, and one hundred feet fall. From the State line to Warren, twenty-
two miles, and one hundred and five feet fall. From Warren to Franklin,
sixty-five miles, and two hundred and five feet fall. From Franklin to Pittsburgh,
one hundred and twenty-one and one-half miles, and two hundred and
fifty-six feet fall.
Prior to the inauguration of steam navigation between Pittsburgh and Warren,
keel-boats and large canoes were mainly relied upon for the transportation
of freight and passengers. The keel-boats would carry from ten to twelve
tons each, and among the favorite ones remembered by early residents were
the Transport, Mayflower, and Rover. During the very early years boats of this
class were poled up the river, a slow and very laborious method of navigation.
Afterwards they were towed by attaching a cable and two or three horses to
each. By this means the journey from Pittsburgh to Warren could be accomplished
it [sic] from ten to twelve days, which was considered quite expeditious.
The return down the river, however, could be made in three days. Even after
the advent of steam navigation keel-boats had to be depended upon in a great
measure, for quite frequently steamers could not ascend above Franklin, and
for many weeks in the year they could not navigate the river for any considerable
distance above Pittsburgh, from lack of depth of water over the shoals.
Indeed, the keel-boats continued to make their trips up and down the river
until the building of railroads rendered their further use unnecessary and
unprofitable. The freight charges between Pittsburgh and Warren during the
era of river navigation ranged from fifty cents to one dollar and a quarter per
In other pages of this work frequent allusions have been made regarding
the early lumbering operations in this county, and the running of the first rafts
to Pittsburgh. This business began here with the century, and was continued
unceasingly for more than fifty years, or until there were no more pine forests
of any considerable extent to destroy. Long before the organization of the
county Jacob Hook, up the Allegheny, Major Harriot and Colonel Hackney,
up the Conewango, and the Meads and McKinneys on the Brokenstraw, were
extensively engaged in the manufacture and rafting of lumber.
The product of their mills was mostly marketed at Pittsburgh; but there
were other markets where the unexcelled white pine lumber of Warren county
was more highly apprciated [sic]. To illustrate: "The first foreign traffic in pine
lumber from the Brokenstraw" said Judge Johnson in an address delivered
at the dedication of the cemetery at Youngsville, "of which I have any
authentic account, was a fleet of three boats got together at the mouth of the
creek, in the fall and winter of 1805-06, and started on its perilous voyage to
New Orleans on the 1st day of April, 1806. The lumber had been gathered
from the mills of Long, Andrews, Mead and others, of the best quality,
stubshotted and kiln-dried during the winter, while the boats were building. It
was owned by Colonel William McGaw and William B. Foster, and brought
in New Orleans $40 per 1000 feet. Daniel Horn and Daniel McQuay were
two of the hands on board, and walked back; "the first taking a sailing vessel
to Baltimore and thence walking home in time to do his summer's work,
the latter walking the entire distance from New Orleans.
"In the spring of 1807, another fleet of seven boats freighted with seasoned
lumber, owned by Joseph Mead, Abram Davis, and John Watt started to the
same destination — New Orleans; the owners returning by sailing vessels to
Philadelphia, and the pilots and hands finding their way back as best they
could. These ventures were several times repeated by the same and other
parties, and McQuay and others are said to have made several return trips on
foot, a feat that required more time and risk than a journey around the globe
at the present day.
"This was the morning twilight of the lumber trade, that for half a century
thereafter furnished so large a field for the enterprise and industry of the
of the county. Infant-like at first, boards crept cautiously down the
creeks in floats or single platforms, with the aid of halyards and Gregg's hickory
splint cables. Gradually the markets, mills, and rafts enlarged until they
absorbed nearly all the capital, the enterprise, and the energies of the county."
The county, as we have shown, was almost inaccessible except through its
natural water-ways. Pork, flour, whisky, etc., had to be brought in keel-boats
and canoes from Pittsburgh; salt, nails, glass, etc., from Mayville, by boats
passing through Chautauqua Lake and its outlet. Truly, nothing but industry,
economy, and indomitable perseverance insured success, or the attainment of
even the most common necessaries of life. The pine forests (never to be
replaced) were the main reliance of the early settlers, and their destruction
was brought about at first, more particularly for the purpose of supplying the
imperative demands of the pioneer stomach, than by any burning desire to
supply the demands of trade.
For fifteen or twenty years subsequent to 1830 a blank exists in the history
of Warren county, which can never be satisfactorily filled, by reason of the general
neglect of people to preserve newspapers, and the loss by fire, in 1849, of
quite complete files of The Voice of the People, Warren Bulletin, Democratic
Advocate, and Warren Standard, stored in the Standard office and there
burned. The Warren Mail, now the senior newspaper in the county, was established
in 1848, and from its complete files we have gleaned what little more
can be told regarding the river and its traffic. In the spring of 1848 the freight
charges by keel-boatmen, between Pittsburgh and Warren were noted as varying
from seventy-five cents to one dollar and a quarter per hundred weight.
On the 19th of December, 1848, the Mail chronicles the arrival of the
steamer Wave from Pittsburgh, loaded with flour, pig-iron, etc., also about fifty
passengers. The editor closes his remarks concerning her trip, etc., as follows:
"If she can run from Pittsburgh to the extent of steam navigation on the Allegheny,
by sleighing, she will deserve, as she will doubtless receive, a liberal
share of public patronage."
Early in 1849 the following announcement was printed in the newspapers
and placarded about the town
"REGULAR PITTSBURGH AND WARREN PACKET.
"THE STEAMBOAT WAVE NO. 2.
"Wm. H. Gordon, Master,
"HAVING been built expressly for the Pittsburgh and Warren trade will run regularly between
the above ports during the entire boating season. The Wave No. 2 being the only boat
built expressly for the trade referred to, will rely with confidence on the support of the citizens
of Warren and surrounding county.
"N. B.— Keel Boats will be furnished for the transportation of freight in low water."
On the 20th of March the Mail man was pleased to say: "Two steamers
in to-day; the Arena and the Wave. Oh, how we flourish. This is a great
town, notwithstanding one end is burned off. Think of it! Two steamers in
one day; two acres of rafts lying in the eddy, and others passing every
moment. Crowds of people thronging the streets and room for more. The
telegraph flashing intelligence from all points of the Union, and last, but not
least, the Allegheny Mail in full blast."
These boats made several round trips during the season mentioned, charging
fifty cents per hundred pounds for freight. During the month of April of
that year was noted the passage down the river of four boats built and owned
by Nathan Brown, of Jamestown, N. Y.; each being seventy feet long and
sixteen feet wide, and three of them handsomely painted and finished in a
manner superior to any thing before seen on the river. They were loaded
with scythe-snaths, grain-cradles, hoes, hay-rakes, pitch-forks, shovels, sash,
doors, etc., of the value of $15,000.
The steamer Clara Fisher made her first appearance at Warren in March,
1850; her dimensions being as follows: Length of keel 145 feet; breadth of
beam 25 feet, and depth of hull 4 feet 4 inches. She was built by that well-known
boat builder, Pringle, of West Brownsville, and cost $1,300. Many of
the citizens of Warren accepted an invitation from Captain William H. Gordon,
her master, and enjoyed a trip to the mouth of the Brokenstraw and return.
By the erection of bridges at Pittsburgh and Franklin, and the building of
the Freeport Aqueduct, the free navigation of the Allegheny was seriously
obstructed as early as 1851. In denouncing these obstructions the editor of
Mail, in February of that year, said: "We ought to have slack water
Either this will at no distant day be done, or a railroad will
be constructed along the valley of the Allegheny." In March of the same
year was noted the arrival of the Allegheny Belle. Her actual running time
from Pittsburgh to Warren was thirty-three hours, yet by reason of her detention
at the Freeport Aqueduct, it required five and one-half days to make the
trip. The Clara Fisher, also, made a trip about the same time and was
similarly delayed at the same point.
In January, 1852, the steamboats Cornplanter, Clara Fisher, and Belle
No. 2 were noted as arrivals at the port of Warren with freight and passengers
from Pittsburgh. The Fisher and Cornplanter also visited Warren in December
of the same year.
In the spring of 1853 the steamboats mentioned as arriving with freight,
etc., from Pittsburgh were the Clarion, Clara Fisher, Cornplanter, Belle, Sam
Snowden, and Justice.
The Clara Fisher seems to have had a monopoly of the carrying trade in
1855, as she was the only boat mentioned. The business of rafting, however,
was in the aggregate of enormous proportions. Many millions of feet were
floated past Warren, and one of its residents alone sent 7,000,000 feet to the
lower markets. It was noted also that Captain Hall, of Warren, owned a raft
which, when it passed Cincinnati, Ohio, contained 1,500,000 feet of boards.
It covered an area of nearly two acres, and, it was asserted, was the largest
raft ever seen upon the Ohio River.
The Cornplanter and several other boats already mentioned visited Warren
in the spring of 1856. In April of that year the editor of the Mail, who
had experienced its vicissitudes and rough pleasures, described life on a raft, as
follows : "Let any one stand at the wharf and see the process of 'snubbing'
an Allegheny raft on this water, and he will get an inkling of life on the Allegheny
and the labors of a raftsman.
"With what a steady, solemn, irresistible force comes the broad, rich fleet,
turned this way and that by the quick, nervous strokes of the creaking oar.
With what coolness and half-heroism the pilot heads to land, and marks the
spot to a foot, while half a mile above, where he will strike, if he is a good
pilot; and what a silly, laughable, fidgetty splutter if he is a novice. How the
boys 'crack 'er to the right' 'crack 'er to the left' and crack 'er up behind.'
Then comes the 'snubbing,'—look out for your legs. How the cable uncoils,
stretches, sizzles, snaps and jerks. How the cabler hangs like a puppy to a
root and bounds for a new hitch when it runs out like lightning, tearing the
nails from his fingers, and the slivers and bark from the post or tree. But a
big raft, like a big rogue, tires of pulling hemp and swings at the rope's end
surely at last. Then how the boys sweat and puff and blow. And what a
lusty supper they get in the 'shanty,' and how richly do they relish it, and
what a glorious sweet slumber is theirs on the soft side of a plank, or bundle
In December, 1856, great losses were sustained by many lumbermen on
the upper Allegheny, in their attempts to run rafts down the river so late in
the season. They were caught en route by a blizzard which suddenly closed
The steamers announced as carrying freight and passengers between Warren
and Pittsburgh in 1858-59, were the Venango and Echo. During the latter
year mention was made of a raft claimed to have been the largest ever
floated down the Allegheny river. It contained 600,000 feet of boards, of
which 400,000 feet were "clear stuff," and was rated to be worth not less than
$12,000. Captain James Martin was in charge. The lumber was manufactured
by Joseph Hall at his mills in Mead township, on the Tionesta Creek.
In May, 1860, the Mail informed its readers that "the steamboat which
has been in process of construction for some time past has been completed, and
will now ply regularly between this place and Tidioute. She is to be called
the J. D. James, after our distinguished townsman." For some reason, however,
the James proved to be a failure.
The steamer River Queen was built at the yard of C. F. Starkey, on the
Sill farm, just below Warren, in the spring of 1865. She was one hundred and
fifty feet long, light draught, thirty feet beam, and intended to ply between
Warren and Pittsburgh; but we find no other mention of her.
The steamer Annie Lavelle, from Pittsburgh, visited Warren in March, 1866.
During the same year Captain Gardner built a steamboat opposite Warren,
which was burned at Tidioute in March, 1867. It was the fate of Tidioute at
that time to be "burned up " about three times a year.
The last steamboat mentioned as navigating these waters was the W. A.
Eddy. Fifty-three feet long and ten feet breadth of beam, she passed Warren
en route from Randolph and Cold Spring, N. Y., to Parker's Landing April
In 1885 Nathan Brown, of Jamestown, N. Y., the most widely-known character
along the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers, closed his career as a boatman;
the last boat of his fleet making a total of one hundred and fifty-six. From
1843 his trips had been made annually, with the regularity of the seasons. Starting
at Jamestown he floated along the outlet of Chautauqua Lake, then through
Cassadaga Creek into the Conewango and Allegheny, jumping several milldams,
and thence down the Allegheny and Ohio, landing at all towns as far
as Evansville and Paducah. His boats usually were seventy-five feet long,
sixteen feet wide, and fitted up with separate rooms, pantries, etc. His stock
in trade generally consisted of sash, doors, blinds, nails and trimmings, also
hoes, rakes, scythes, snaths, axes, grain-cradles, furniture, etc. His wooden
wares were manufactured at Jamestown, N. Y.; his cast-steel articles by S. A.
Millard, of Clayville, N. Y. After disposing of his goods he generally sold
his boats at Louisville, Ky., or below, at a good profit for trading-boats.
It is probable that the first attempt at road-building in the county of Warren
was performed under the orders of agents of the Holland Land Company
during the years 1795-96; but as these avenues of travel, if so they could be
called, were simply for the convenience of employees of the company, and as
this region was then without the limits, so to speak, of judicial jurisdiction, the
rude highways cut out by the above-mentioned company were never made a
matter of record.
Under the jurisdiction of Crawford and Venango counties, and before the
organization of Warren, the following described roads were laid out by and for
the accommodation of Warren's pioneers. From "Marsh's Landing to the
Public Square in town of Warren," Daniel Jackson, Robert Miles, Hugh Marsh,
Joseph Goodwell, and James Justice, viewers, confirmed July 7, 1801. From
"Marsh's Landing to William McClean's," Robert Miles, James Shipman,
James Brown, John Marsh, Hugh Marsh, and Milford Marsh, viewers, confirmed
January 12, 1802. From "the town of Warren to Brokenstraw," Daniel
Jackson, Jeremiah Morrison, James Morrison, Joseph Gray, John McKinney,
and John Andrews, viewers, confirmed April 7, 1802. From "Marsh's Landing
to the State Line," Ethan Jackson, Stephen Ross, Jacob Goodwin, William
Eagan, Daniel Jackson, Michael McKinney, viewers, confirmed at March sessions
in 1807. From "McDowell's to Devoe's improvements," Ninian Irvine,
Eliel Farr, James Ricketts, Francis McClintock, and Richard Hamilton, viewers,
approved September 19, 1808. From "Giles White's to John Hinds',"
Charles McNair, John Watts, Hugh Wilson, Philip Huffman, and John Arthur,
viewers, confirmed December 8, 1808. From "the Crawford county line
through the western part of Brokenstraw township," confirmed November 8,
1810. From "the State road at Little Brokenstraw Creek to the place where
Conewango Path crosses the same"; confirmed February 7, 1811. From
"town of Warren to New York State line near the two hundred and fourth
mile-stone"; Samuel Dale, Alexander Clants, David Brown, Edward Jones,
Daniel Jackson, and James Rogers, viewers, confirmed November 6, 1811.
"Alteration in State road from Warren to Brokenstraw," Samuel Dale,
Daniel Jackson, Robert Arthur, Samuel Morrison, and John Watts, viewers,
confirmed November 4, 1812. From "Conewango Creek to Sackettsburgh,"
Daniel Horn, Charles McNair, Hugh Marsh, John Brown, William Davis, and
Isaiah Jones, viewers, confirmed November 7, 1815. From "Little Brokenstraw
to William C. White's," Abraham Strickland, Ephraim Miles, Charles
McNair, William C. White, Lansing Wetmore, and James Irvine, viewers, approved
November 9, 1815. From "Jacob Goodwin's to the two hundred and
fourth mile-stone on the New York State line," John Brown, Amos York,
Charles McNair, Jacob Goodwin, Richard B. Miller, and William Arthur, viewers,
confirmed December 6, 1816. From "Lottsville to meet a road laid out
from John Titus's to the State line, at an angle known by the name of Alexander
Watts' Cabin," Harmonius Lott and others, viewers, confirmed February
4, 1817. From "Fleming's Mill, in Venango county, to Shelletto's in Warren
county," Edward Fleming, James Miller, David Kidd, Daniel Fleming, and
Samuel Fleming, viewers, confirmed November 4, 1817. From "the State
line to the crossings of the roads," David Dalrymple, Thomas Green, John
Brown, Richard B. Miller, and John Tuthill, viewers, confirmed May sessions,
1818. From "Youngsville to intersect the road from Jacob Goodwin's to the
State line," John Mead, Henry Kinnear, Mathew Young, Hugh Wilson, and
William Mead, viewers, confirmed November 24, 1818. From "Culbertson's
Mill to Erie county line," James Culbertson, Alexander Watts, Daniel Horn,
Hugh Wilson, Jacob Goodwin, and James Bonner, viewers, confirmed February
22, 1819. From "two hundred and second mile-stone on State line to
John Barr's," William Stewart, Garret Burgett, John Marsh, and Hugh Marsh,
viewers, whose report was confirmed May 23, 1819.
Since the organization of the county scores of other roads have been laid
out and somewhat improved until to-day they are found leading in all directions.
They are, however, very, very ordinary dirt roads. Once a year the
farmers and others assessed for highway tax turn out and spoil the road here
and there within their beat for the ensuing twelvemonth, by throwing upon it
loose loam, sods and stones, and the next year the same operation is repeated
at other points. As a result of this yearly patch work, "a lick and a promise,"
highways which have been in use for fifty years are in no better condition than
when first opened, other than the disappearance of stumps, roots and some loose
The Sunbury and Erie, now known as the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad,
was chartered in 1837, mainly through the persistent efforts of Hon. Thomas
Struthers, of Warren. This was only eight years after railroads were first used
as public thoroughfares in America. Owing to the failure of the United States
Bank, the Sunbury and Erie Railroad enterprise, in which it was the principal
stockholder, lay dormant for many years. Its friends, however, were undismayed,
and one of them, Dr. G. A. Irvine, to save the charter, graded a portion
of the line near Irvine Station in 1840. In 1856, the towns and counties
along the route having subscribed very liberally to the capital stock, work was
commenced at the western terminus, and late in the fall of 1859 the western
division, from Erie to Warren, was completed.
The cars first came into Warren December 10, but did not commence running
regularly on schedule time until December 21, 1859. On the 15th of
that month occurred the celebration at Warren in honor of so great an event
in its history — railroad communication with Erie, and thence by other railroads
with the chief cities of the Union. Many visitors from Erie, Cleveland,
Philadelphia, New York and other places were present. Among the Erie
guests present were General Wilson and staff, escorted by the Wayne Guards
of Erie and a brass six pounder. They were appropriately received by General
R. Brown and staff, the Packer Rifles, and a uniformed body of fireman,
representing the citizens of Warren. After a street parade a banquet was enjoyed
at the Carver House, where Hons. S. P. Johnson, G. W. Scofield, C. B.
Curtis, Thos. Struthers, and Rev. C. L. Hequembourg, did the principal speaking
for Warren; G. J. Ball, M. B. Lowry, C. W. Kelso, W. A. Galbraith, and
ex-Mayor King for Erie, and Chief Engineer Farris for the railroad company.
At night a military ball, held at Odd Fellows Hall, closed the festivities of the
The first through passenger train from the eastern terminus reached Warren
August 12, 1864, but the formal opening of this avenue of travel and commerce
did not take place until October 4 of that year. From its inception,
twenty-seven years prior to that date, Thomas Struthers had been one of its
warmest and most active advocates, and during its building he, together with
C. B. Curtis and L. D. Wetmore as contractors, under the firm names of
Struthers, Curtis & Co., and Struthers & Wetmore, built thirty or forty miles
of the road from Irvineton eastward. At times they had as many as five hundred
men in their employ at the same moment. The name of the road was
changed from the Sunbury and Erie, to the Philadelphia and Erie, in 1861.
Other railroads were completed during the years mentioned as follows:
The Warren and Franklin from Irvineton to Oil City in 1866, carrying 65,000
passengers during the first five months after its completion. The Dunkirk and
Warren railroad, commenced in the fall of 1867, was finished in 1871, and in
1872 the Warren and Venango road, from Warren to Titusville, was opened
for business. In 1883 was completed another railroad, running up the Allegheny
River through Kinzua and Corydon to Salamanca and Olean, now
called the Buffalo, New York and Philadelphia Railroad, making Warren a
center, to and from which trains run in five different directions every day in
the week, Sundays excepted.