Warren County Lumber History | Lumber Heritage Region

Warren County Lumber History

Story Credit: http://www.warrenhistory.org/Lumber/2Logging%20Camps%20and%20Sawmills.html




Stepping Stones Vol. 13 #2

Lumber camps of Warren and Forest Counties during the heyday of the industry, whether company owned such as those of the Wheeler and Dusenbury or jobber operated as were most of the camps of T.D. Collins, followed a standard pattern: A kitchen-dining room to accommodate fifty or more men; a separate building with lobby and sleeping quarters; a stable for company and hired teams; a blacksmith shop; an office and store.

Camps were always located along a stream or near a good spring.

The lumber camp boss was an exceptional man with many skills; not the least of which was the ability to keep order; by fists and main strength if necessary. All details of the camp from cooking to logging were supervised by the camp boss.

Chow in a lumber camp was very important; morale of the men and their production could not be maintained with poor food or lazy cooks.

The sleeping quarters and lobby were presided over by the lobby-hog, a minion of the camp boss. The lobby hog made the bunks of coarse blankets and straw ticks, swept the floor, toted water, and kept the stove in a lobby supplied with wood. It up was to the cooks to take care of their own quarters.

Each camp had a character, usually the lobby-hog, who provided entertainment for the crew; the butt for jokes and tricks; the teller of tall tales; the fiddler and singer of sad songs. In the days before radio and television, woods’ camp crews had to rely on their own inventions or games for amusement.

With the disappearance of good skidding weather in spring and bark-peeling season over, usually in June, there would be a great exodus from the camps to town where there would be a hot time while the winter’s pay lasted. Then it was back to the woods, the mills or farms to await another round of camp life.

A majority of the farms in northwestern Pennsylvania were carved from the forest and made fit for cultivation by men who worked in the lumber woods during winter and in summer labored on their own domain.



Stepping Stones Vol. 15 #3

Lumber was a fabulous business in Warren and neighboring counties and in other forested regions of Pennsylvania in the 20th century. A large portion of the logs cut on the mountain sides of Warren County were floated to the river in spring by means of splash dams or were hauled to the Allegheny by horses. There the logs were formed into rafts, often more than 200 feet long, and floated down the river to large saw mills.

The Wheeler and Dusenbury Lumber Company of Forest and Warren Counties was located at Endeavor, approximately ten miles from Tidioute. The company functioned from 1837 to 1939, more than a century, almost within the shadow of Tidioute. William F. Wheeler rode into this region on horseback in 1837. His son, Nelson Platt, operated the lumber business after 1871 and represented Tidioute, and other towns, in the United States Congress March 3, 1907 – March 3, 1911.

The Wheeler and Dusenbury Lumber Company owned 40,000 acres of timber. Nelson Platt Wheeler became ill in 1916 and died in 1920. One of his three sons, N.P. Jr., became the managing partner of the company. In 1922, the company sold approximately two-thirds of its land to the Federal Government to become part of the Allegheny National Forest. In 1930, the company’s remaining lands were known as “Wheeler’s Woods.”

“I (Dr. Homer T. Rosenburger) spent a Saturday at a lumber camp in those woods, watching pairs of lumberjacks cut large trees. With an axe one man cleared brush for a distance of approximately ten feet in all directions from the trunk of a large tree. The other man then notched the tree about a foot from the ground, and on the side toward the direction in which the tree could fall with least interference from other trees. Then both men pulled a two-man saw nearly six feet in length, scarcely stopping until the shout of “tim-ber” warned anyone in the immediate locality that a large tree was about to fall. With axes, both men cut the limbs from the tree top point where the trunk tapered to about eight inches. There they cut the top off and proceeded to the next tree.

Teamsters snaked the logs, with horses and log chains, to a log pile and rolled the logs into place with a cant hook, or rolled them into the pond at the saw mill. There the water washed off the ground that the bark had picked up when the logs were snaked. Men with long poles steered the floating logs to a conveyor belt which carried the logs from the water to the whirling saw that cut the logs into wide boards.

In Wheeler’s Woods in 1930 – 1931 and in other lumbering operations in the Tidioute vicinity at that time, axes, two-man saws, and horses were used in the woods. The portable power saw and the tractor came later and lightened the work of lumber crews.

At noon I had lunch (an enormous meal) at the Wheeler and Dusenbury camp. There may have been forty lumberjacks in the cook shanty, a healthy-looking group of muscular men. They lived in the bunkhouse adjacent to the cook shanty. Also there were stables for the horses and a blacksmith shop for the community by itself in the forest, and it was almost self-sustaining, except that food was carried on wagons to it from the outside world and the men brought their clothing with them.”


Cut and Run- Loggin Off the Big Woods– page 11

“A crew was gathered up and the cutting and skidding of logs could begin in the fall before the freeze-up. Sleigh roads were started by “swampers” who worked with axe and grub hoe. Logs were decked with a team of horses and a “jammer,” usually an a-frame jammer with a double line, but sometimes with a more dangerous and less efficient single line. Men worked with a crosscut saw and axes, felling timber and bucking or cutting the logs to length. Sometimes, there were three men working together, with two men sawing and the third limbing with an axe. These were considered top men in the logging camp pecking order. It took skill and muscle to be a good sawyer. Skill in being able to fall timber efficiently and put trees where you wanted them and skill in staying alive. There are plenty of unskilled woodsmen in unmarked graves who didn’t pay attention to falling limbs that plummet from the sky, heavy end down like a dart, and with enough force to cave in the thickest skull. Men who pulled crosscut saws six days a week built up huge muscles in their shoulders.”


Courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society