Pete's September 1997 Article.


"Driftwood, PA"- By Pete Bennett

Have you ever been to Second Fork? Well you may have been, that is, if you have ever been to the borough of Driftwood, PA. It’s located just three miles northeast of the First Fork which is at Sinnemahoning, PA. Second Fork is the name by which it was known in 1804, when John Jordan and his sons settled there, where the then, unnamed Bennett’s Branch of the Sinnemahoning Creek, flowed into the present Driftwood Branch. It would be 68 more years before it would be declared a borough on January 17, 1872, the second and only other borough in Cameron County. Emporium, is the other. By then it was an important stop on the new Philadelphia & Erie Railroad, the tracks being laid through here in 1863. A Y junction in the tracks here sent trains in two directions, north to Emporium and on to Buffalo, NY and west on the famous “low grade” via the Allegheny Valley Railroad to Weedville then on to Redbank Furnace. Near the turn of the century it was said that as many as thirty trains passed through or stopped in Driftwood.

The new name of Driftwood was said to have been taken from the fact that much driftwood (unclaimed timber) hung up on the point at the juncture of the two streams near where the famous Bucktail Volunteer Regiment departed for induction into this County’s support of the Union’s cause, in the Civil War. A newly restored monument stands today in honor of those who so valiantly gave their all on behalf of the preservation of the Union. The year 1872, was probably the peek of the timbering era when woodsmen cut the mighty white oak spars throughout Cameron County and floated them down the Sinnemahoning Creek to Keating, then on down the Susquehanna River to Lumbertown, now known as Williamsport, PA. Driftwood, in those days was literally a boomtown, having three hotels, two banks, two churches and numerous places of business, including a weekly newspaper, the Driftwood Gazette, owned by John T. Earl who was also the editor.

The three Hotels were: the Curtain House; owned by Patrick Kane, the Lafayette; owned by Fred McVickers and the Commercial; owned by T. J. Riley. The Curtain House stood just a few feet from the site where the monument is located. It was named for Governor Andrew Curtain, Pennsylvania’s patriotic Governor during the Civil War. It burned down in the early 1900’s. Once while metal detecting on the site, which is now a playground/park, I found a door number from the hotel, made of brass in the shape of a star. It was a great find which I later presented to the Cameron County Historical Society for their “Little Museum” at Sterling Run, where it is now on display.

The two churches were the Union Methodist Church, built in 1874. It was destroyed by fire in 1936 and was rebuilt and rededicated in January 1937. The Church is no longer used today and the building is used as a hunting camp. The other Church is the St. James Roman Catholic Church, founded as a mission church to the Irish immigrant of Driftwood who settled here at the time of the building of the railroad in the 1860’s. St. Marys Church of St. Marys, PA established this mission church and it still has an active congregation today. Prior to the building of the church, the first Mass was said in the borough at the home of Mr. John Mahoney, at “Goosetown” during the Civil War. Goosetown is a section at the west end of town and was called that, because many of the Irish immigrants who settled there had lots of geese that they raised for meat and feathers. Ira Collins, in his book “Royally Rugged Cameron County.“ says that the Gleason family who owned the tannery once tried to change the name of Goosetown to Crescent for the curve in the tracks near there, but it just didn’t stick. Today, you still occasionally hear someone call it Goosetown.

I also have a connection to Driftwood and I guess I qualify to be called a “Driftwood Kid”. I met my wife Doris there in September of 1959. She and a group of friends were hanging out near the bridge, in front of the Commercial Hotel, when we first met. We were married in June 1961 and that adds up to 36 years, no matter how you figure it! Speaking of the Driftwood kids a group of us kids who grew up there in the 1950’s got together and organized the first “Driftwood 1950’s Reunion” there in the Park, near the monument, on July 5th 1986. At that time it was decided to continue the get together every two years around July 4th, and we have. We’re all looking forward to 1998 which will be the 7th Reunion of the group. The Cameron County Tourist Promotion Agency’s president, Bob Lapsley, lives in Driftwood and they are presently researching the history of some of the local historic sites and buildings there in the hopes of conducting walking tours there in the future. Good idea Bob and keep up your good work! 

Click below to see some historical pictures of Driftwood by visiting Steve Miller's

North Central Pennsylvania site.

 


COPYRIGHT 2018 Pete Bennett

All rights Reserved.

 Comments: petebennett@hotmail.com  or Return to Pete's "All American" Home Page. or sign my Guest Book.