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Historical Society to hold program focused on river

Photo courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society River rafts for lumber transport were frequently assembled along the Allegheny River in Warren. The river will be the focus of the Warren County Historical Society’s first event of 2022 when Ellen Putnam Paquette presents “Old Warren & the Allegheny in Pictures.”

The Warren County Historical Society will be holding its first public evening of 2022 this week with a look at “Old Warren & the Allegheny in Pictures.”

Set for Thursday, Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. in the main courtroom at the Warren County Courthouse, Ellen Putnam Paquette will present a series of rare and vintage photos of the community.

“When people talk about what is memorable and special about Warren County, ‘nature’ tops the list,” Casey Ferry, the Society’s event coordinator, explained. “We have the mountains, trees, wildlife, and the water. People come from all over to enjoy our river.

“It’s beautiful and perfect for outdoor recreation, but a lot of people don’t realize the historic significance of the Allegheny and the role it has played in Warren’s location and early wealth.”

The presentation next week began as a slideshow put together by Paquette’s father, noted local historian Chase Putnam. Paquette has digitized that show and added to it.

The Allegheny along with the Conewango Creek greatly shaped the economy of early Warren County, especially by providing an avenue for vast timber resources to get to markets as far away as New Orleans.

Massive lumber rafts were a spring sight in the county for over a century.

“Dense forests in the area, including vast stands of virgin pine, led to lumber being one of the first major industries in Warren County,” Paquette said. “Lumbermen cut timber in fall and winter and skidded it to local mills where the logs were sawn into boards and made into rafts. Rafting season was in spring in high water after the snow melt.”

She explained that the rafts typically included a platform, made up of 16 fot boards and bound together by ‘grubs,’ or oak saplings with roots.

“A Conewango raft was 170 long by 17 feet wide, with one oar at each end,” Paquette said. “Six Conewango rafts were joined together to form an Allegheny raft at 340 long x 51 feet wide.” Three Alleghenies made an Ohio and would cover over one acre of water.

“Allegheny rafts were assembled for their journey downriver near the current location of the Hickory Street/Veterans’ Memorial Bridge in Warren,” she added. “This was an incredibly dangerous business with frequent injuries to lumbermen. Pilots had to know the river like the back of their hand.”

Thursday is the first of two river-centric events the Society has planned for this spring.

The second is a presentation set for Thursday, Apr. 21, by Piper VanOrd on current and future elements of the river.

“Our goal with this series is to show people all aspects of the river, from the historic importance, to the current advantages, and into the future,” Ferry said.

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