Thrill of Riding Lumber Raft Down Allegheny River 65 Years Ago Recalled by Former Pastor

[From the Bolivar Breeze, September 9, 1937. Contributed by Richard Palmer].

“Youngsters of today have their fun, but none of them know the thrill of riding raft of lumber down the Allegheny river from Portville and over Weston’s dam,” writes the Rev. D.O. Chamberllayne of 1380 Raymond avenue, St. Paul, Minn., to old friends in Portville. The Rev. Chamberlayne, now retired, was pastor of the Portville Methodist Church 65 years ago.

“Few towns of its size had a finer population of boys than Portville supported 65 years ago,” he said. “The old town seemed to have been made especially for boys. We had the Allegheny river, the Genesee Valley Canal and Bedford’s Creek which came west through the town, making a large pond with islands where it ran into the canal and over the waste weir to empty into the river.

“Smith Parish, the elder, still living, used to tell how he helped put over the digging of the canal by burning Pennsylvania coal in his fireplace while he was representing his county in the legislature at Albany, telling his legislative brethren how the proposed canal would help supply the state with cheap coal.

“But what it really did carry was lumber. The banks were lined with piles of lumber and there were plenty of scratches boards for a boy to build everything from a box trap to a shanty.

“In winter time we coasted on sleds and “schooners” made of barrel staves, skated and trapped muskrats and minks. In spring we caught sucker and mullet and in summer we went swimming, built rafts to navigate our waterways and picked raspberries and huckleberries the hills.

“And what a school we had. To a boy just escaped from the machine-like monotony of city public schools it was a paradise of learning. Teacher Phillips was a genius. I can see him with his keen blue eyes going about the school with his one crutch. There were contests and races in learning. Bi-weekly rhetorical and a school paper to which anyone might contribute. His must have been a thwarted life, shut into the narrow confines of a country school, but he awakened and train the dormant intellects and sent out many boys and girls to lives of greater usefulness. Peace to his memory.

“I remember especially the time when Teacher Phillips took us on a canal boat to Olean to hear the famous Senator Charles Sumner deliver a great speech. We saw the Senator with his famous curl and I know to tis day that the negroes voted first in ’72 because he said they were going to.”