"In 1854 the lumber trade of the Red Bank Valley was estimated at over twenty million feet; on the North Fork there were twenty-two saws cutting ten million feet; on the Sandy Lick and its branches, twenty saws were cutting another ten million; while on Red Bank and Little Sandy, fifteen saws, cutting 3,500,000 raised the total estimate to 23,500,000 feet. To this can be added at least five million shingles and about 1,200,000 feet linear, or square feet of timber, or about three million cubic feet." -Kate M. Scott
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Litch Mill on North Fork Creek


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Bracket Dam at Litch Mill

"It took 12 hours to run a raft raft from the neighborhood of Brookville to the mouth of the Allegheny River, and ordinarily it required hard walking to reach home the next day." -Dr. W. J. McKnight


"Lumbering was in 1840 one of our principal industries. We had no eastern outlet, and everything had to be rafted to Pittsburgh. The sawmills were nearly all "up and down" mills. The "thundergust" mills were those on small streams. All were driven by flutter-wheels and water. It required usually but one man to run one of these mills. He could do all the work and saw from one to two thousand feet of boards in twelve hours. Pine boards sold in the Pittsburgh market then at three to four dollars per thousand; clear pine at ten dollars per thousand. Of course, these sales were on credit. The boards were rafted in the creek in "seven-platform" pieces by means of grubs. The oars were hung on what they were called tholepins. The front of each raft had a bumper and splashboard as a protection in going over dams. The creeks then were full of short bends, rocks and drift. Cables were unknown here, and a halyard made from hickory withes or water-beech was used as a cable to tie up with. "Grousers" were used to assist in tying up. A pilot then received four dollars to the mouth of the creek; forehands, two dollars and expenses. The logging in the woods was all done with oxen. The camp and mill boarding consisted of bread, flitch, beans, potatoes, Orleans molasses, sometimes a little butter, and coffee or tea without cream. Woodsmen were paid sixteen dollars a month and boarded, and generally paid in store orders or trade." -Dr. W. J. McKnight

On the rafts: "square timber sticks and built into rafts held together with oak lash poles across the ends of each platform, held in place with oak bows over the poles, placed in holes bored in the sticks and fastened with oak pins driven in beside the bows with a pole axe. The platforms of the raft were coupled together in the same way by using the lash poles, bows and pins on the outside sticks on each side of them." The high water seasons in the spring and fall saw them plying the waters between the still small town and the major lumber markets in Pittsburgh. Families whose fortunes were made in lumbering built many of the fine older homes and commercial buildings you see today in Brookville

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Rafts on the Redbank Creek



By 1864, steam engines had became common, small narrow-gauge railroads were built through the valleysincreasing efficency and reducing the dependence on water levels to bring logs to the mills.

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Sawmill and railroad on Mill Creek

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Brookville Railroad on the North Fork


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Last log cut at the Brookville Mill

Dr. McKnight noted in 1917 that "for the last 50 years a great army of woodsmen have been hacking down these monarchs of the forest and they are gone, all gone". The lumber trade of Jefferson County was once a great business, has now entirely disappeared.


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Today the forests have regrown and most lumbering firms practice responsible forest stewardship that helps manage a sustainable forest growth while protecting the envrioment, wildlife and watersheds.

This project was developed by the Jefferson County History Center, in partnership with Historic Brookville Inc. and the Brookville Area Chamber of Commerce. Funding for this project has been provided through grants made possible by the Jefferson County Hotel Tax Committee, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Lumber Heritage Region, and Pennsylvania Great Outdoors