The Lumber Industry in Smethport
1895:  S.J. Gifford Saw Mill
Hamlin Mill Pond & Mechanic Streets

photo credit:  McKean County Historical Society
Seth J. Gifford, lumber manufacturer, Smethport, son of William and Fanney L. (Hackett) Gifford, was born in Keating township, two miles east of Smethport, in 1847.  His grandfather, Job Gifford, was a native of New Jersey, where he married Nancy Woodruff, and then removed to Norwich township, McKean Co., Penn.  Here they reared a family of twelve children, namely:  Jonathan, David, Sarah, William, Henry, Eliza, Job, Alexander, Rejoice, Leander, Jane and Alonzo.  The parents of these children died a few years ago, having lived to a ripe old age.  They were among the early settlers of the county, and endured all the privations and hardships of pioneer life.  William, father of Seth J., was born in Norwich township, McKean county, in 1820, and eventually married and located in Keating township, and became a farmer.  He has been a member of the Baptist Church for many years.  he was the father of six children:  Zavalia D., Seth J., Wasley, Leander D., Jennie E.  and Will S.  The father has sold the old homestead, and is now a resident of Smethport.

He began his business career in 1866, when he removed to Corry and became engaged in the construction of a railroad.  He next became a contractor and builder at Smethport, and among other buildings erected Wright's Hotel  and the first extracts works here.  He also purchased a saw-mill, and for a couple of years manufactured hemlock lumber.  He built a new mill, and entered into a contract with H.F. Goodyear, and in three years sawed 16,000,000 feet of lumber for him; he has since made and agreement with the Allegheny Lumber Company, sawing from twelve to fifteen million feet annually for them, and has now purchased a property of the Allegheny Lumber Company, which gives him the controlling interest in the plant at this point.  he received the appointment of inspector-general of the Pennsylvania Storage Company, but owing to his large interest was compelled to resign.  He was also urged by his friends to accept the nomination of State senator, but business cares prevented his acceptance.  He is identified with the Democratic party, has been burgess of the borough, school director, etc., and also a member of the fire department.  Mr. Gifford is one of the live business men of Smethport, and is one of the heavy operators in hemlock lumber in Northern Pennsylvania. to Water Street


The following is from Merle Dickinson's book "Tracks in the Snow"

The Mill whistle was quite a thing and it became very important in our young lives. It blew at 7:00a.m., when the mill started, It blew again at noon, and no matter where we were, we knew dinner was on the table. Dinner, by the way, was never the evening meal, dinner was the noontime meal. Then the whistle would blast out again at one o’clock when the mill started up again, and if we were in the right spots we could see the white plume of steam shoot into the air, sometimes before we could hear the whistle. Then it blew again at 6 o’clock, quitting time, and the mill hands would come walking by, some with their dinner pails and we knew supper was ready and we were ready for it.
We learned a lot of terms that stuck with us forever – The Sawyer was the guy who ran the carriage and manipulated the levers that moved the big logs into position for the proper cut, one inch think, two inches or thinker. The tail Sawyer was back of the saw and took the slabs over tot the cut off and the lumber over to the edger. This was a back breaking job as he was carrying all day. The Edger trimmed each board to certain widths, always in multiples of two – 4 inch, 6 – inch, 8-10-12 and sometimes wider and he did this by marking on his carriage, which he ran by hand and edged each side of the board. The Pond man tended to getting the logs out of the mill pond and into the mill on a big chain conveyor that was also run by the big steam engine. The Cut Off man cut up the slabs and poor boards in firewood lengths and he had a helper to throw the slabs onto a conveyor that took them out on a big pile and if they were cutting pine or hemlock if you had a good slab you cut it into four foot lengths for the lathe mill. The Fireman took care of the fire box and the steam engine, and conveyors carried the sawdust and bum pieces of lumber to the fire box, and he couldn’t burn all of it under the boiler, but he could shut off the flow of sawdust and it then rode the conveyor outside to a sawdust pile, which became enormous during the summer months, but everybody put up ice and the sawdust pile would steadily lower after the ice was think enough to cut and people started filling their ice houses. Find Merle Dickinsons book, CLICK HERE!