Delaware Raftmen - G.D. Wheeler, Simon Ennis, Ellis Carhuff


"Before the railroad came, said Colonel [George D.] Wheeler, we lived just about as our ancestors had lived for two hundred years before us. Now we are within five hours of New York. Then no road had been broken through to New York, even for wagons. Our highway to the outside world was overland a hundred miles to Catskill and then down the Hudson by sailing sloops. My father settled on the East Branch of the Delaware in 1798 and built him a log hut there where his married life began. My mother thought nothing of riding horseback thirty miles with one of her children in her arms and when my brother was born in 1807 mother being then in her old home in Connecticut took him when he was six weeks old and rode a horse two hundred miles to Hancock [NY].

Our few neighbors were all in the lumbering business. For seventy five years this was entirely a timber country and Deposit [NY] was a gathering place for the rough and hardy raftsmen who made up their rafts at this point and floated down to the market at Philadelphia. Because better prices could always be obtained at Philadelphia than Baltimore, the timber cut on the Susquehanna eighteen miles across country was hauled to Deposit and here made into rafts. A hundred teams used to trail through the village streets in one procession from the valleys and hills and the saw mills clattering on the bank of every creek within twenty miles.

It cost eighteen and a half cents to send a letter to New York and the mail was carried once a week. Lumbermen don't make good farmers and sometimes food ran short. At such times I have known my father to strap his knapsack on his back and walk over to the Susquehanna and bring back a load of salt pork on his shoulders, a round trip of nearly forty miles in a day. I used to hear the wolves howling in the hills back of our home and the charcoal burners in these woods would throw chunks of fire around them at night to drive the wolves away.

The rafts were taken down to tide water in four days and then their crews walked home on foot. To show that they were a hardy race it is worth mention that their employers paid them as a rule five days wages for the time taken in coming home. This meant that they must foot it up the valley at the rate of forty miles a day to cover the two hundred mile journey and come out even. I have known raftsmen to come back from Philadelphia in three days walking better than sixty miles a day along a trail that could hardly be called a road.

An excerpt from: "Before the Railroad Came" by David Lansing, The Outing Magazine:  The Outdoor Magazine of Human Interest, edited by Caspar Whitney, Volume XLVI, April-Sept, 1905, p747.

Raftmen Agreement ~ Mouth of the Lackawac to Trenton, 1831.

Copy of the original ledger entry, Pike Co. Historical Society, Ennis Family file.
Simon Cortright Ennes [Ennis], son of John Ennes & Maria Seely, was 18 years old in 1831.  Simon and his wife, Minerva Ridgway, would live in Rowland on the Lackawaxen River for over 30 years.

Jacob S. Davis, Esq., Sketches of Wayne County, The Register of Pennsylvania, Feb. 28, 1829., p138.
 

The Pennsylvania Register, Vol 1, 1828, p 188.