"The Barclay Brothers and their Lumber Mill "
by Pete Bennett
The Barclay Brothers Lumber Mill of Sinnemahoning was located near the mouth of Wykoff Run 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 the loading of dynamite produced by the Cameron Powder Company which was located on Wykoff Run in the early 1900's. I have always been very interested in the history of the big town(Sinnemahoning) and several years ago I wrote an article in another paper about the mill. This article will include portions of the previous one and hopefully expand on it a bit. I also am interested in genealogy and found many relatives had worked for the Barclays's.
The Barclay Brothers, George Austin Barclay and his brother James Lawrence Barclay, came to picturesque Cameron County from Oswego, NY, in the mid 1840's or early 1850's. At this time the mountains were covered with much virgin pine, hemlock and the giant white pine trees that were harvested to make spars (or masts) for the great sailing vessels of that 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 then relocated to Sinnemahoning where he later became superintendent of his uncle George's mill . Although they conducted logging operations here in 1870's, mainly the harvesting of the wite pine spars which were rafted down the river, the mill was not built until 1881.
George A. Barclay who was known locally as "G.A.", was the superintendent of the mill while his two sons, George B. and Charles F. Barclay and nephew James Arthur ran the day to day operations . The mill was located on the 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 lumbering operations in the state of Pennsylvania and perhaps even 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. 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 through 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 as wide as twenty four inches. 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 the book "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 all surnames in it are indexed. Copies are still available by contacting the Society in Emporium. The book does not mention the mill, because it covers the earlier lumbering period(1860-1870), but 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 arks were boats made of logs lashed together similar to rafts and were sometimes 8 feet wide and up to 30 feet long. There were three of these arks in most of 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 an item in the Cameron County Echo's "100 Years Ago" column by Sandra Hornung taken from the Historical Societies microfilm, I found a story about Amos Bennett and his crew, while working in Wykoff Run had killed 50 rattlesnakes in a two day period. I wonder if there are fifty left in Wykoff Run today?
George Washington Gore was the engineer on Barclays' Shaw logging engine, while Garrett Wykoff a distant uncle of mine was engineer on the saddle tank locomotive, a 2-4-2 which was named "Miraldi". The Shay was named, "Old John". Theodore Kephart, another 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! By the way Wykoff Run was named for named for William Auke Wykoff my ggggrandfather who settled there in the year of the great drought, 1813.
The last log was sawed at Barclays\'92 mill in September or early October 1907. Many men were employed annually in their 26 years of operation. The Barclays' also owned and operated a "company store" in Sinnemahoning, where their employees could purchase items at cut rate prices. The store building later became the Crum Brothers Store and the building is still in use today as the Sinnemahoning Fire Hall. An item from the Cameron County History Book mentions Joseph Brooks, a distant uncle of mine, planting an apple tree on a site which John Brooks, also a distant uncle was surveying the town of Sinnemahoning in 1811. The same apple tree was cut down in 1889 to make way for the building of the Barclay Store. The site had been owned in the meantime by Buckman Claflin, the father of Victoria Claflin Woodhull who was the first woman to run for President of the United States in 1872. That's another story. The Barclays' also printed and issued their own trade money with which they paid their employees. This money could be used for purchases at the Company store.
My brother Robert Bennett now deceased, was an avid coin collector and had several bills of this trade money in his collection. Thanks to my sister-in-law Lois who gave them to me, I have asked our editor to print pictures of several of them so that you can see this part of Cameron County's history. I find it very interesting and I'm sure you will too.
"G.B." Barclays' son, George B. relocated to the State of Washington in the early 1900's while James Arthur remained in Sinnemahoning and became involved with the dynamite plants. Charles F. was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and became the only person to ever serve 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 states 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. While working in the west, 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 called him "Big Knife". He was 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 the 1910 International Harvester truck that is a copy of the one used to deliver items at the Barclay store. It was built and donated to the museum by Kenneth B. Barclay in 1989.
I hope you have enjoyed this tour of the past and Barclays Mill.
Thanks and have a wonderful September!
Pictured below is the "Company money" or "Trade money" paid to employees and used by them for the purchase of merchandise at the Barclay Bros. Store at Sinnemahoning.
The One is dated 189_. The five is dated 188_. The blank allowed for the date to be written in at the time of issue.
BILLS NOT SHOWN ACTUAL SIZE.
The above is a blow-up of the picture on the left side of the five.
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