High on the Allegheny Plateau, Potter County gives birth to three mighty rivers. Eleven miles northeast of Coudersport, on a hilltop near Raymond, their watersheds converge. Waters trickle from the hill's north side to form the Genesee River that flows north to the St. Lawrence River. Within shouting distance, a spring-fed stream tumbles west to Coudersport where it becomes the Allegheny River and flows on to the Gulf of Mexico. A short walk east, the headwaters of Pine Creek course down to the Susquehanna River and out to the Chesapeake Bay.
Because its rough terrain and scarcity of navigable rivers impeded travel, Potter County was one of the last areas of Pennsylvania to be settled. Coudersport, the county seat, didn't incorporate until 1848. Though many early settlers came to farm, the densely forested landscape and short growing season turned many into lumbermen.
Log Drives and RailwaysDelivering logs to market in this rugged country was a daunting feat in the mid-1800s. Here in Potter County, rivers were too narrow for log rafts. Coudersport-area lumbermen floated loose logs — mostly white pine — down the Allegheny River. Further south, Susquehanna River tributaries like Pine Creek and the Sinnemahoning Creek carried logs to Williamsport's many sawmills. Because logging depended upon waterways,
lumbermen mainly cut trees close to streams. The advent of railroads in the late 1800s allowed timber companies to access the region's vast, hemlock-dominated forests. Hundreds of miles of railroad stretched outward from immense sawmills at Galeton, Austin, and Cross Fork. The railroad also supplied hemlock bark to many local tanneries, including, at its time, the world's largest tannery at Costello.
(photo captions) · Most logging camps were temporary in nature. Once all the trees were cut, they moved to another block of forestland.
· The wheels of the Shay locomotive were geared which made it possible to haul heavy loads out of rugged terrain.