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"Boys, It Sure Was Great"

by William Dolby, of Helen Furnace

Excerpt from True Tales of the Clarion River

I made my first trips on the Clarion River to Pittsburgh in 1864 and 1865 but don't remember much about those trips.  I was back on the river again in 1874 and have been at it ever since.

I remember making one particular trip with O. R. Meddock from Spring Creek.  It was on a timber raft, and we had to go down the river a ways to couple up.  We stopped to rest on the head of Black Fox Island.  Say, boys, you have no idea how fast the willows can grow when you stop in the middle of the river.  We had to cut the raft up to get it going again.

On another trip I made with John Sampson, we tied up above Mad Dog Island on account of fog and started before it all lifted, going to the left of Mad Dog.  This was the only fleet I ever heard of making it.

On another trip I made, I walked from my place (half-way between Helen Furnace and Scotch Hill) to near Black's Corners to go to work.  A man had been sent from Cooksburg to gather up men to run on the creek.  I then walked back to Cooksburg and went down the creek.  I think the walking amounted to about twenty miles.

On another trip, I went from Cooksburg to the mouth of the creek and walked back that night and was at Cooksburg in time to go to work the next morning.  That was a walk of about forty miles.

I also remember a trip I made with Perry Maze.  We struck the rocks on the Licking Point and took two strings of timber off the full length of the raft.  The creek looked like a log drive.

On another trip I made, I was the pilot.  We broke a front oar at the foot of Thompson's Eddy, so we took one from the hind end and put it on in front and ran to Wilson's Point.  The boys in front got tired and stopped pulling.  On account of running the point too close, we swung around, came off, and I never went around easier.  We changed oars again and went safely to the mouth.  The men who were with me this time were Charlie Dixon; Elmer Aites, of Oil City; and, I believe, big little Johnnie Waterson.  I believe Johnnie just about balanced the scales when we started, but he was all there when it came to a pull.

I once went with Bill Paup on a timber raft from Cooksburg. We went down the creek and were to land at Miller's Eddy to couple up.  Bill had never been there and said he did not know if he could get in.  I had been in and told him I could run it.  He said it was all right for me to go ahead, so I started the way I wanted to go.  When we got nearly there, he said, "You are going to hit those point rocks."

I said, "Not on your life.  You can't pull it on them."

He got uneasy and wanted me to pull off.  I told him if he ordered them to pull, he could take charge of the raft, that I would have nothing to do with it.  He told them to pull left, and you should have seen that raft go across the river.  You could not have put enough men on it to have stopped it.  They had to send men out with a boat and line, and we were then away down the river.  They had to drop some more, then, to couple up with it.

Well, you can see my memory is bad.  If I ever got out without any trouble, I have not told it yet.

Talk about walking back.  I have started quite a number of times with a crew of men from the mouth of the creek and have been the only one to reach home that night, never having to stop to fix a tire, either.  I have stopped a number of times to change my socks -- just turned them wrong side out to rest my feet.  I suppose that would amount to about the same as a flat tire.  There were no autos in those days, so there was no use trying to thumb a ride.

Boys, it sure was great, this running on the creek.  Every time there happened to be a black cloud, you could see me with my coat over my shoulder, looking for a chance to go.  I always got my share, too.  I think John Smith and I were about the last to run on the creek from Rocky Ripple to Mill Creek.  We could only get as far as Smithport on account of backwater from the Clarion dam.

There was no depression in those days, either.  There was work for everybody who wanted to work.

Lewis Dolby Lewis Dolby was born in Highland Township, Clarion Co., on 09 Mar 1858.  He died 25 Mar 1936 in Oil City, Venango Co.  Lewis, a farmer, lived most of his life in Clarion Co.  His father, Joseph Dolby, died in the Civil War.  Lewis ended up in an orphanage because his mother remarried and could not take care of all Joseph's children.

Photo and biography, sent by, and copyright to, Jackie Dolby.  Click here to visit her Dolby Family Web site.

Excerpt sent by Jackie Dolby, but it is copyright to the book's copyright holder.

True Tales of the Clarion River is an anthology of stories told by men who worked on the river in the 18th and early 19th Centuries.  A reprint edition is available from the Clarion County Historical Society.  See the bibliography available on this Web site.

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