Sep 10, 2008 | Posted in Essays, Places

David L. Weber, 2008

Emlenton, Venango County, PA, long associated with the petroleum and natural gas industries, also has had connections to logging and lumbering. Some of the town’s noted oil industry figures also owned lumber mills. Here are some of their histories:

George Morgan (1815 - 1882), born near Callensburg, Clarion County, settled in Emlenton, 1848. Morgan was known to have been a sawmill operator, carpenter, barge builder, farmer and hotel keeper.

Mody Boatwright, Texas folklorist, wrote the following, 1945:

“George Morgan’s object in moving to Emlenton in 1848 was not, however, to build houses. He erected a barge works on the Allegheny River at the mouth of Ritchey Run, and there built the hulks from native timber and floated them downstream to Pittsburgh, where sides and other necessary fittings were added. The barges were then put into service transporting an increasing traffic in [iron] ore, coal and lumber.”

George Morgan also operated the Valley House, an Emlenton hotel built in 1837 by Andrew Truby, c. 1855 - 1860. This hotel, once considered “the leading hostelry of the town,” still stands today (Otto’s Tavern).

George Morgan left Emlenton in 1868, according to Boatwright:

“Emlenton was [Morgan’s] residence for twenty years. In 1868 he established a barge works at Tionesta, in Forest county. This move was probably the result of a shift in the river traffic…. Barges were more urgently needed than ever before, and Tionesta, near Tidioute and above the mouth of Oil creek [at Oil City], was a favorable location in which to build them.

“George Morgan was soon to make another business venture. The first announcement of the new location of his barge works appears in the Forest Press, Tionesta, for March 6, 1868. On June 3 he announces that he ‘has leased the Greene & Gordon Mill on Tionesta {creek} and removed his family to that place, where he will begin the manufacture of lumber. The old dam is gone {the announcement continues} but a temporary one has been erected and when the water falls sufficiently a permanent dam will be built.’

“The mill was at the mouth of Bear creek, and George and Elizabeth Morgan lived in the community by that name for six years. They then moved back to Tionesta…. A newspaper account of 1872 tells of Harrison Morgan’s losing a finger in the sawmill, indicating that members of the family worked at the mill.”

One of George and Elizabeth Morgan’s children, Gilbert “Gib” Morgan (1842 - 1909), linked the oil and lumber industries in a different way. Gib Morgan, a veteran of the Tenth Pennsylvania Infantry during the Civil War, went to work as a tool dresser in the Venango County oil fields (Petroleum Centre), c. 1864 - 1865.

Morgan worked as a tool dresser, driller, roustabout and pipe line laborer in numerous Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana oil fields, 1860s - 1890s. He was best known for his way of telling tall tales about oil drilling (in a manner reminiscent of Davy Crockett).

Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio oil field workers picked up Morgan’s stories and retold them in the Texas, Oklahoma, California and Illinois oil fields after 1900. Salesmen for the Red River Lumber Company (which probably supplied rig timbers to the California and Illinois oil fields) heard Morgan’s tall tales.

Some oil field workers who knew the Morgan stories went to work for the Red River Lumber Company’s logging camps and sawmills (in California and Minnesota) following World War I military service.

William B. Laughead, Red River Lumber advertising manager in Bemidji, Minnesota, transformed the Gib Morgan oilfield “ripsnorters” into the Paul Bunyan lumber “tall tales”, 1914 - 1930. Some Gib Morgan oil stories also became attributed to Bunyan (especially in Texas and Oklahoma)!

Harry J. Crawford (1867 - 1953); Emlenton native long associated with oil production / refining, natural gas and banking interests; was also a lumberman. Crawford became connected with a partnership founded by John H. Young (1881 - 1956).

John Young, a former sawmill contractor for Wyman & Landers, Tionesta, PA lumbermen, purchased timber land near Emlenton, 1905. Young then joined forces with lumbermen Erland Norton, of Titusville; and Ralph Meabon, of Grand Valley, Warren County.

Harry Crawford and Thomas Gregory purchased interests in the J.H. Young Lumber Company, 1906. The Crawford - Gregory - Young - Norton - Meabon firm then became known as the Hardwood Lumber Company. Sawmills were operated near Emlenton until 1912.

John Young then returned to independent lumbering in the Emlenton area. Joseph Riesenman recounted Young’s subsequent business career, 1943:

“After two years of independent business activity in Emlenton, Mr. Young removed in 1914 to Warren, where he carried on the J.H. Young Lumber Company until April, 1919. It was in that month that the Commercial Lumber Company was formed in Warren and Mr. Young was named its president and general manager …. Until 1925 the Commercial Lumber Company operated small portable mills in Warren, Venango, Clarion and Forest counties, but in 1925 they erected the present stationary plant and installed a dry kiln with capacity for drying seventy - five thousand feet of lumber.”

Wilbert F. Young (1889 - 1966), John Young’s brother, was a Hardwood Lumber Company portable sawmill operator and lumber inspector. “Bill” Young left Emlenton after 1912 and operated lumber mills in Venango and Mercer counties. He then formed a partnership with lumberman Thomas Fisher (a Spartansburg, Crawford County, PA) native, 1916. Fisher & Young’s base of operations was near Titusville after 1923. The partnership opened a large band saw mill at East Titusville, 1929 (which became the largest in Pennsylvania during the 1950s and 1960s).

SubsequentW.F. Young lumber interests included Fisher & Young Lumber, Inc. / Fisher & Young Builders Supply (Reliable Builders Supply Company), Endeavor Lumber Company and Ashepoo River Lumber Company.

John Young married Pleasantville (Allegheny Township), Venango County native Myrtle Bunting. Ralph Bunting (1890 - 1966), Myrtle’s brother, also worked for the Hardwood Lumber Company. Ralph later worked as an independent logger and sawmill operator, and as a log buyer / timber cruiser for Fisher & Young, Inc., Pearl City Plywood (Jamestown / Falconer, NY), and other wood products companies.

Ralph Bunting married Marie Hughes (1892 - 1959), a daughter of Emlenton banker - oil and natural gas producer Gordon I. Hughes (Farmers National Bank of Emlenton).

Erland Norton moved his base of lumber manufacturing, cutlery manufacturing and oil / natural gasoline production to Tidioute, Warren County, c. 1910. He was long renowned as a supplier of ash billets used in manufacturing “Louisville Slugger” baseball bats. Larimer & Norton, a Warren County plant founded by Erland Norton’s family, still makes hardwood billets as a division of Hillerich & Bradsby Company (“Louisville Slugger”), Louisville, KY.

Harry Crawford’s other business interests included: Quaker State Oil Refining Corporation / Sterling Oil Company / Appaline Oil Company, Columbia Gas Corporation, Manufacturers Light & Heat Company, Pennsylvania Fuel & Supply Company, Union Heat & Light Company, Slippery Rock Heat & Light Company, Mountain Fuel Supply Company, Casing Head Gas Company / Hopewell Oil & Gas Company, President Oil Company (Crawford & Gregory), Reno Oil Company, Devonian Oil Company, Dental Oil Company, Talon Hookless Fastener Company, Lightning Hookless Fastener Company, Cooper - Bessemer Gas Engine Corporation, Citizens Banking Company (Oil City), Oil City National Bank, and First National Bank of Emlenton.

Crawford, despite his oil, natural gas and manufacturing interests, always thought of himself as just a “country banker’!

Thomas Gregory was also Harry Crawford’s associate in Quaker State Oil Refining Corporation / Sterling Oil Company, Pennsylvania Fuel & Supply, Casing Head Gas Company / Hopewell Oil & Gas Company, Reno Oil Company, Devonian Oil Company, etc.

Emlenton’s longest lived lumber business was founded by Sloan, Camp & Allebach, 1866 - 1867. Emlenton Planing Mills (Uriah Sloan) subsequently purchased and utilized the former Presbyterian Church edifice, 1875.

Herbert C. Bell wrote the following about the Emlenton Presbyterian Church, 1875:

“The first place of worship was the old town hall. A frame church edifice, still standing on Water street, was erected in 1859 and dedicated January 13, 1860. The opening of the railroad having deprived this location of its former eligibility, the present site was secured and the brick structure erected thereon in 1874. It was dedicated August 27, 1875.”

The same 1875 history also listed the following biographical data concerning Emlenton Planing Mills owner / operator Uriah Sloan.

In the words of Herbert Bell:

“URIAH SLOAN, lumber dealer and manager of planing mill, was born in Venango township, Butler county, Pennsylvania, September 27, 1840.… In 1859 he began to drill for oil, and continued in the business until the breaking out of the Rebellion. He entered the Union service September 24, 1861 as a member of Company B, One Hundred and Third Pennsylvania Volunteers…. April 20, 1864 his entire regiment was captured at Plymouth, North Carolina, and suffered a loathsome imprisonment at Andersonville, Georgia and Florence, South Carolina, until February, 1865.

“…. He was married May 6, 1868 to Miss Sarah, daughter of David E. Perry, of Scrubgrass township…. In 1867 he began [lumber] milling in Emlenton, and in 1875 he bought the old Presbyterian church and converted it into the factory which he has since operated.”

Uriah Sloan continued to own the planing mill building, 1898. The lumber business itself was operated by his sons, Frank and Norman Sloan.

The elder Sloan, in addition to owning the mill building, also worked for his sons in the Sloan Brothers lumber and planing mill business!

Two other Emlenton area residents were engaged in logging and lumbering during the 1890s - and probably supplied rough wood to the Sloan planing mill. McIntyre Brothers (Archibald and Fred) operated a saw mill at the Emlenton Bridge’s south west end, 1898.

Joseph Riesenman recalled the McIntyre’s lumbering activities, 1943: “[Archibald McIntyre], a lumberman, started work in the lumber business in Venango County in 1875. In 1896 he returned to Emlenton after being engaged in lumbering and rafting in the Pittsburgh area as one of the last of the old - time river pilots. Archibald McIntyre and his brother, Fred McIntyre, built the mill at the south end of the Emlenton Bridge, continuing in business together until 1905.…”

Archibald McIntyre bought the Uriah Sloan family lumber yard - planing mill business, 1915. The plant then became known as the Emlenton Planing Mills, and subsequently the Emlenton Lumber & Planing Mill, 1918.

Lawrence E. McIntyre, prior to World War I U.S. Army service, became part owner of the Emlenton Lumber & Planing Mill. Joseph Riesenman highlighted later changes in the business:

“In 1935, at his father’s death, Lawrence Edwin McIntyre became sole owner and manager of the business. He employs four men regularly and more at certain seasons of the year, and has two modern delivery trucks to aid in the distribution of the firm’s products.”

The Emlenton Lumber & Planing Mill covered nearly five city lots - on both sides of the railroad tracks - during the 1940s.

Fire destroyed the Emlenton Lumber & Planing Mill complex, August 14, 1949. The Titusville Herald carried the following account:

“Damage estimated at $150,000 was caused by a spectacular fire which leveled a warehouse and planing mill here [in Emlenton]. Eighteen pieces of fire - fighting equipment from nearby and distant communities fought the blaze. Railroad and telephone service were interrupted and five firemen were injured by debris and overcome by smoke. Cause of the fire is not known.

“Flames were seen in the warehouse of the Emlenton planing mill, then in the mill itself. All these structures were leveled and one house was gutted.

“…. The planing mill had been modernized seven or eight years ago. Part of it was formerly Emlenton’s old Presbyterian church.”

The McIntyre Planing Mill - Emlenton Lumber & Planing - was completely rebuilt in the same location. It later changed ownership, and became McNany Lumber Company.

Rig timbers and power house lumber for many southern Venango County oil leases probably came from the Sloan and McIntyre mills

Hickman Lumber Company, operators of a Scrubgrass Township sawmill, currently utilizes the former Emlenton First National Bank Building for office space. The story continues….