Primitive Pennsylvania.
Primitive Pennsylvania.


                                                 For Forest and Stream and Rod and Gun.


CLARION RIVER rises in the interior of the State of Pennsylvania, and runs in a westerly direction through a rough mountainous region, and connects with the Alleghany waters 60 or 70 miles above Pittsburgh. The P. and E. R. R. now passes over the head branches of this stream. The exports here are lumber, coal, tan bark, etc. Clarion River was first named Toby's Creek, and subsequently known as Stump Creek, and finally became Clarion River. This river valley is neither more nor less than a continuous succession of gorges from the mouth up to 70 or 80 miles, and was sparsely settled some more than sixty years ago, by a class of men whose occupations were somewhat different from most of pioneer settlers; men who had pushed their way into these isolated regions, moving their families and household goods in canoes (dug-outs) propelled by setting poles. Here was a generation born and raised of men who were known for their gigantic size and muscular strength, and also for honesty and integrity. They were ever ready to help a friend and equally ready to fight an enemy. Farming here was not to be thought of, the steep mountain sides reaching down to the water's edge leaving no river bottoms except some small patches which were few and far between. These small flats were nearly on a level with high water mark and contained from one-half to two acres each. These were called rubbing bottoms from the fact that elk and deer had used the places for rubbing and scraping since time immemorial. These flats were destitute of timber except small saplings which were girdled and killed as fast as they grew up, which accounted for the absence of large timber. These patches were mostly appropriated by the early settlers for building sites, raising potatoes, garden vegetables, etc., it being about all the land that could be used for such purposes. Their means of support, besides hunting, were supplied by their semi-annual trips down the river with small rafts of white pine logs, which they would cut on the mountain brink and slide into the river, and when securely rafted run into the Alleghany, thence to Pittsburgh where they found a ready market. These trips were made at the fall and spring floods. A Stump Creek raft consisted of 75 or 80 pine logs securely fastened together and loaded with a few thousand shingles more or less, a few bear skins and venison saddles, two large canoes attached and four men, presumed to be joint owners in the whole stock. All these Stump Creek fleets would arrive at Pittsburgh nearly at the same time, where the rafts and loading were exchanged for bacon, buckwheat flour, coffee and various other articles for family use. Here the canoes were brought into requisition. Each two being coupled together side by side and fastened by cross ties, thus fitting out a craft capable of carrying four or five thousand pounds weight, and with three or four men power attached would make good headway against any current, thus transporting their comodities back to their inland homes. The work of propelling these loaded crafts against the current was somewhat slow and laborious, and it required ten or fifteen days to complete the journey back into the interior. But they had no freight bills nor hotel expenses to pay, as they invariably boarded themselves and camped on shore nights. These freight canoes were carved out of the best quality of white pine trees, and were from fifty to sixty feet in length, while those that were used for light weight were of smaller dimensions, made light and thin, and showed much artistic skill in style and finish. They were evidently the most efficient craft that could be used in those inland waters. They were generally propelled by setting poles, and a skilled canoeman would take in two or three hundred pounds weight and make four or five miles an hour against a strong current.
    There was another class of men who frequented those primitive hunting grounds. They could not properly be called sporting men; they usually hunted large game and did not seem to have any permanent abiding place, but were generally at home when night came whether in cabin or camp. They were thoroughbred hunters, and invariably carried a Lancaster rifle, which in those days was claimed to be a very perfect rifle. And here let me confess a lingering partiality for the old Lancaster rifle.
    I recollect one man who had his residence here whose habits and calling seemed to have been different from most of those backwoods settlers. He was an educated German by the name of Wynecoop, whose family consisted of his wife and two small boys, aged eleven and thirteen years. Mr. Wynecoop was a man of large intellect, and was possessed of considerable historic knowledge and rare conversational powers. This man had pushed his way into the heart of the wilderness and located on a small tributary five miles distant from the river. His cabin door was open to every stray hunter, and many rich sirloins and choice bear steaks found the way to his table.
    Mr. W. was not a hunter either in theory or practice, and it was often a source of much wonder and speculation in the mind of the writer what the motive or inducements were that caused this man to isolate himself and family in the heart of those solitary wilds. The two boys, Sam and Joe, were special favorites among the hunters that usually congregated there. They had become experts in catching trout, and had caught some 'coons and hedgehogs, and were daily hearing discussions on the subject of hunting; and these young Nimrods were determined to hunt larger game. An opportunity was soon presented, not as good as they could wish, but they were bound to improve it. If I recollect aright this was in the month of October; the hunters generally returned on Saturday nights, and on Saturday morning Mr. W. and wife decided to visit the nearest neighbor, who lived at the mouth of the creek five miles distant. As a matter of course the trip was made in a canoe. The boys left at home immediately set about preparing for a hunt; but lo and behold! the father had for once taken the rifle and nothing remained but an old musket, which in those days was called Queen's arm, and had a powerful large bore. This had been thrown aside as useless, having a poor lock and generally missing fire. They rigged it up during the day, substituting a new flint and loading with a heavy charge of powder, and not having buckshot they put in a handful of small rifle bullets which the hunters had left. Thus armed they started out determined to watch a deer lick, that being the best they could do under the circumstances.


    Arrived at the lick, Sam carrying the gun, they concealed themselves behind an old blind, and waited some time, confidently expecting a deer; but instead of deer there came a large panther, and stopped not more than twelve rods distant from the boys. Sam said afterwards that he knew it was a painter, but "he had got a dead rest and he was bound to onhich on 'em." Sam did unhitch, the panther fell and rolled over, and so did Sam. The gun was so heavily charged that the recoil sent Sam tumbling down the hill, and Joe said "it 'peared like Sam didn't know nothing much till he got 'im sittin' up and he sort o' come tew; and then they went up to the lick and the painter just lay thar deader nor a stuck pig."     They succeeded in dragging the panther home, where they arrived about dark, at which time Mr. W. and wife had returned with two or three of the hunters. The skin was taken off by torch light; the body was found to be literally riddled and the skin showed some ten or twelve bullet holes. The next morning one of the hunters took this same old gun and filled the pan with powder, and after snapping nineteen times, the twentieth time the powder burnt. Sam and Joe, if living now, are old men, and perhaps may be relating some of their exploits to their grand-children.            ANTLER.


Antler, [E. L. Stratton of Piney Plains, Rhea County, Pa.], "Primitive Pennsylvania," Forest and Stream & Rod and Gun. The American Sportsman's Journal, New York, Volume 12, No. 10, (Thursday, June 19, 1879), pp. 384-385.

Notes & Acknowledgement:

    This article was first mentioned by Richard Wynkoop in his 1904 edition of the Wynkoop Genealogy in the United States of America, on pages 210-211:

    There was an other branch of the family, living, about the period 1830 to 1840, near the southwesterly corner of Elk County, Penn., on a tributary of Toby Run, which is a branch of the Clarion River, about five miles from the Run.
1782. ----- Wynkoop, the head of this branch, is described as a German, [Netherlander], from Philadelphia, and, before that, of some other place on the bank of the Delaware River. An account of that region, and, incidentally, of the Wynkoops there, was given by E. L. Stratton, of Piney Plains, Rhea County, Penn., in the Forest and Stream, June 19, 1879, in an article entitled, Primitive Pennsylvania. Mr. Stratton wrote, subsequently, to the compiler, as follows:
    "The steep mountain sides rushed down to the water's edge, leaving no river bottom, except in small patches, which were used for cabins and gardens, by the settlers, who had reached the region in dugouts. The men were noted for gigantic size, and muscular strength, as well as for honesty and integrity. They were ever ready to help a friend, and equally ready to fight an enemy. Twice a year, they cut white pine logs, upon the mountain side, and sliding them to the stream, they made them into rafts, which were floated to Pittsburg, where they found ready sale. . . . Wynecoop was a man of large intellect, with considerable historic knowledge, and rare conversational powers. His cabin door was open to every stray hunter. He was not himself a hunter; and it was often a subject of much wonder and speculation to the writer, what motive could have induced him to isolate himself and family, in the heart of such solitary wilds. His sons were special favorites among the hunters, who found their way to the cabin." His wife was living; and there were two sons:
1783. Samuel: then about 13 years old.
1784. Joseph: then about 11 years old.

    I'm happy to present it to you, now, in its full form. I also want to thank Richard for providing such specific information on where the article could be found. Once I had the microfilm in hand, it took me less than five minutes to make a copy for your reading pleasure. I love it when I get accurate information.

    So, Richard, thanks for reaching across the Great Divide and lending me another helping hand!

    All my best,


Created March 15, 2004; Revised March 17, 2004
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