Pete's June 1997 Article.


"The Barclay Brothers Lumber Mill of Sinnemahoning, PA"(1881-1907)PeteBennett

In my first article for the Gazette, a year ago, I highlighted the history of the Village of Sinnemahoning in southern Cameron County, PA. This month I return for another look at my historical hometown.

The Barclay Brothers lumber mill was located near the mouth of WykoffRun(named for William Auke Wykoff my ggggrandfather) in the section of Sinnemahoning called Wyside. The place was called that because the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad (later the Pennsylvania Railroad) put in a “Y” type siding there for loading the lumber from the mill on to trains. This siding was later used for loading dynamite produced by the Cameron Powder Company which was manufactured there in the early 1900’s. George Austin Barclay and his brother James Lawrence Barclay came to picturesque Cameron County from Oswego, NY, in the mid 1840’s. At this time the mountains were covered with virgin pine, hemlock and the giant white pine trees that were harvested to make spars (or masts) for the sailing vessels of the time. James L. located on Bailey Run north of Sinnemahoning where he and his son James Arthur began a lumbering operation. James L. died at an early age and son James Arthur, relocated to Sinnemahoning and later became superintendent of his uncle George’s mill.

Although they conducted logging operations here in the 1870’s, the mill was not built until 1881 by George A., known locally as “G.A.”. His two sons, George B. and Charles F. Barclay and nephew James Arthur ran the day to day operation with “G.A.” as the first superintendent. The mill was located on a flat between the railroad tracks and Sinnemahoning Creek on the west bank of Wykoff Run just east of the Wyside grade crossing. The whole project became one of the largest lumber operations in the state of Pennsylvania and perhaps the world. Railroad spurs were built up the many “Runs” in the area to bring logs to the mill in addition to those which were floated down the streams during periods of high water. The mill had two boilers and a steam engine at the ground level while the sawing was done on the upper level, twenty or more feet above the ground level. A large “Band Saw” operated with a carriage which carried the logs “to and fro” as the board were sawed off. In addition there was a vertical “gang” saw in to which logs were fed to come out as one inch boards on the other side. When in operation the mill produced lumber at a very high rate. Much of the lumber was transported by tram cars on elevated tracks to a large planing mill where the boards were planed to proper thickness. Many boards were twenty four inches wide. In addition to the planing mill there was an adjacent mill where pickets” for picket fences were made, also porch posts, railings and shingles were produced. Left over scraps were sold as kindling wood. Hard wood of oak and maple were turned into flooring. The operation employed several hundred men at the mill in addition to hundreds more in the woods, cutting down trees and operating the trains. Good reading, for those interested, is a book entitled “The Story of the Sinnemahone” by local Author George W. Huntley Jr. The book which was originally published in 1936 was re-issued by the Cameron County Historical Society in 1994 and was indexed by them. Copies are still available by contacting them in Emporium. Although the book does not mention the mill, because it covers the earlier lumbering period (1860-1870), it is still a great historical reference book.

Amos A. Bennett (my paternal grandfather) was superintendent of Barclays’ Woods Operation and it was unique in the fact that they used arks in their log drives. These were boats made of logs tied together similar to rafts and were 8 feet wide and up to 30 feet long. There were three of these arks in their log drives. One was used for feeding the men in, one for quartering the men (for sleeping) and the other was for stabling the horses on the long log drives. In a recent item in the Cameron County Echo’s “100 Years Ago” column by Sandy Hornung from the Historical Societies microfilm I found a story about Amos Bennett and his crew, while working in Wykoff Run killed 50 rattlesnakes in a two day period. I wonder if there are fifty left in Wykoff Run today?

George Washington Gore (not related) was the engineer on Barclays’ Shaw logging engine, while Garrett Wykoff(not related)was engineer on the saddle tank locomotive. Theodore Kephart(a distant uncle) and Edward H. Snyder (my maternal grandfather) were major jobbers for the Barclays. And now you know why I have such a great interest in the mill.

The last log was sawed at Barclays mill in September or early October of 1907. The Barclays employed hundreds of men annually in their years of operation. They owned and operated a “company store” also at Sinnemahoning, where their employees could purchase items at cut rate prices. The store building later became the Crum Store and is still in use today as the Sinnemahoning Fire Hall. The Barclays’ also printed and issued their own trade money which could be used for purchases at this Company store. Son, George B. Barclay relocated to the State of Washington in the early 1900’s while James Arthur remained in Sinnemahoning and became involved with the dynamite plants in the early 1900’s. Charles F. was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, the only person who ever served in the U.S. Congress from Cameron County.

George A. Barclay died in Sinnemahoning on November 25, 1900 at age 83. His obituary states he also had lumbering interests in Potter County as well as in the State of Michigan and Illinois. Prior to coming to Cameron County he had worked for the Northwest Fur Company in Michigan, which was controlled by John Jacob Astor. He became closely identified and familiarized himself with the language and traits of the American Indian speaking their language fluently and he became very popular with them. They named him “Big Knife”. He was also a very popular figure in the History of Cameron County and a man to be remembered.

For those who visit the Cameron County “Little Museum” located at Sterling Run, PA they have on display a, hand built, 1/4 scale model of a 1910 International Harvester truck that was donated to the museum by the Barclay family in 1989.

A related story on the Barclay Brothers Lumber Co. :Today, the mill site is completely grown over with trees and brush. Watson Gore, whose grandfather, George Gore, was the engineer on Barclay's Shay locomotives, visited the site with me and pointed out the physical layout. Mr. Gore briefly described their train operation when logging with a railroad on First Fork. "They had a log railroad off First Fork up Muley and Rattlesnake Runs. Also a few other locations. His grandfather could run his train over the Buffalo and Susquehanna Railroad down to Sinnemahoning. To cross the river and come into the mill meant using the Pennsylvania's tracks. This amounted to less than a mile, but the Pennsylvania would not allow him to run his log train over their track without a pilot (a man who is qualified to run trains on the Pennsylvania). Everyday he had to wait until a pilot showed up in the morning when going out and in the afternoon when returning." Later in the article he says.... Few of the employees are remembered. Beside George Gore, some of the others were Frank DeShetler, band saw operator, with Frank Tice on the carriage. Garrett Wykoff was the engineer of the saddle tank locomotive, a 2-4-2 which was named "Miraldi". The Shay was named, "Old John".

Below find pictures of "Company money" paid to employees and used by them for trading at the Barclay Bros. Store. The one is dated 189_. The five is dated 188_. The blank allows for the date to be written in.

                                                              NOT SHOWN ACTUAL SIZE


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