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Publication Details

Raftsman's journal.

More information about this newspaper title may be available on the source website.

Source: Chronicling America [US Library of Congress]

Country: United States

State: Pennsylvania

City: Clearfield, Pa.

Issues of this title available in Elephind: 866

Items (articles and/or pages) from this title available in Elephind: 3,569

Earliest Date: 15 June 1854

Latest Date: 23 August 1871


Raftsman’s Journal

Clearfield Creek in Pennsylvania subsequently gave its name to both the county and the county seat. The 18th-century journal of the missionary Rev. John Ettwein noted that the creek was so called because nearby “the buffaloes formerly cleared large tracts of undergrowth, so as to give them the appearance of cleared fields.” Clearfield County was formed and named in 1804, and the county seat laid out in the following year by Abraham Witmer became Clearfield rather than taking the name of Chinklacamoose, the Indian village originally located on the site.

The West Branch of the Susquehanna River traverses Clearfield County from the southwest to the northeast, and the river was the industrial lifeblood of the region in the 19th century. Bituminous coal mined in the area was transported to market on river arks, but above all, the river enabled lumbering to become one of the biggest industries in the state. Timber felled in fall and winter would be rolled into the river and creeks swollen by the high waters of spring, fastened together to make huge rafts, then piloted downstream by a crew with oars. “The occupation of a raftsman has just enough of excitement and danger in it to make it attractive, and begun in boyhood is generally adhered to through life,” wrote William H. Egle in his 1883 history of Pennsylvania.

The Raftsman’s Journal was the creation of H. Bucher Swoope (occasionally spelled Swope), a young lawyer from Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, and began when the Whig Party was dissolving and the new American Party, or Know-Nothing movement, was beginning.  The first issue of the newspaper, on June 15, 1854, editorialized the virtues of the Whigs and announced its intentions:“We shall labor to make our paper what its name signifies, a true ‘Raftsman’s Journal’ – one that shall be to him a source, not only of pleasure, but of information and instruction where he can always look, not only for the state of the markets, and the price of lumber, but for news, morals and literature. A paper that shall be to him a companion, not alone on his tedious voyage through the crooks and bends of our Susquehanna but in his family circle, his shop, his cabin, his store, and his counting room.”

The Know-Nothing movement was a political faction of the 1850s characterized by nativisim and political xenophobia, based on fears that the United States was being overtaken by immigrants.  During his two years as editor, Swoope came to espouse the cause of the American Party cause, adopting the motto “Free as the Wind, and American to the Core” and exhorting readers with comments such as these that appeared in the October 3, 1855, issue: “Americans, On Guard! Make every foreigner exhibit his naturalization papers!” Swoope sold the Journal to Simon Bolivar Row in January 1856, and initially it remained an American Party organ.  During the Civil War, the Journal supported the Republican (or so-called Union) Party, in fierce opposition to the Clearfield Republican a Copperhead Democrat newspaper, and both newspapers provide vivid reading.  The Raftsman’s Journal continued in operation until 1948.

Provided by: Penn State University Libraries; University Park, PA