Susquehanna River Disaster Part 2

Submitted by Tim Chase

From Flora Burrows scrapbook, dated 1938


The Susquehanna river's disaster hit "last raft" bumped to a final stop last Friday at the mouth of little Fishing Creek, carryingout an old river tradition that the logs must reach their desyination regardless of death on the way. 

A 200 mile sentimental cruise that was started out "in fun" as a reminder of pioneer lumbering days left in it's log a record of seven dead in a crash of the cumbersome crash into a bridge pier at Muncy on Sunday. 

"I'm glad we could see the raft through, but I'm awfully sorry about the trouble we had" said R. D. Tonkin of Tyrone, who sponsored the "last raft" voyage from the Susquehanna's headwaters to "have some fun" 

As the cruise came to a commonplace end with plans for a welcoming celebration abandoned because of the tragedy searchers at Muncy recovered the camera of Thomas Proffit, of Chester, Universal newsreel cameraman who "went down cranking" when the raft came to grief. 

The searcers immediately redoubled their efforts to locate Proffit's body and those of the other five victims who went overboard in the crash. 

Tonkin sold the raft to J. D. Bogar Jr., Harrisburg lumber dealer who said he would cut the logs for general lumber yard use. 

Thirty persons were on board when the lumbering craft pulled in at Fort Hunter and tied up in the creek but only three of them started out with it at McGees Mills last week. They were Levi Connor of Glen Campbell a relative of Harry C. Connor, missing chief pilot, and John Meyers and Edwin Winner of Lock Haven. The three took over the piloting duties after Connor went overboard at Muncy. 

Connor said he was "mighty proud" to have aided in piloting the craft on its last leg. 

The raft tied upat the "old buttonwood tree" after an uneventful trip from Clarks Ferry where the crew moored Thursday night. 

Mrs. M. J. McCants, curator of the Fort Hunter museum said many treaties were negotiated under the old tree by pioneers with the fierce Susquehanna Indians. 

The muddy Susquehanna river gave up the body Monday of Malcom McFarland of Indiana, Pa., one of seven victims of the "last raft" disaster a week ago. 

The body of W. C VanScoyce of Philadelphia was recovered shortly after the craft cracked up near Muncy. 

McFarland's body was recovered shortly before two divers dropped to the bottom seeking bodies of five other men who perished when the log raft hit a bridge pier on a sentimental cruise as a reminder of pioneer lumbering days. 

McFarland's body was brought to the surface about 200 feet north of River Island below the Montgomery dam by a volunteer rescue worker. He took the body showing little effects of a week in the water to Montgomery. Relatives were notified and arranged to send it to Towanda. 


Bradford Man Among Missing, Raft Continued Trip After Inquest

Much concern was felt here Sunday for the safety of Misses Nena and Etoile Rice, when news, by radio was received here that the "last raft" on its way down the Susquehanna river, upon which they were known to be aboard, crashed against a bridge pier at Muncy, Pa. 13 miles below Williamsport. 

Luckily Nena and Etoile Rice were among those rescued and telephoned their mother Mrs. Florence Rice before she was aware of the mishap. 

The raft on the last leg of its 200 mile journey from Clearfield to Harrisburg, bumped into a bridge pier, swung around and tipped. Most of the 48 passengers and crewmen celebrating a revival of old lumbering days were tossed into the stream. The accident occurred at noon Sunday after the 112 foot raft had ridden safely over dams and past sawtooth rocks in more dangerous parts of the projected 200 mile trip. 

Six were injured and others treated for exposure after they swam to safety or were pulled from the river by spectators. 

The body of one man was recovered. 

Among the missing are: W.W. Holly, age 80, of Bradford, a native of Myrtle near Shinglehouse. Mr. Holly is the son of William Holly, pioneer lumberman who operated at Myrtle and Ceres and then settled in this county more than 100 years ago. After following the lumbering industry for years Mr. Holly became a carpenter. His wife, Mrs. Uphema Holly was fatally injured in an automobile accident nine years ago. Others reported missing are: Thomas Proffitt, Chester newsreel cameraman who a survivor said "went down cranking" his camera; Dr. C.F. Taylor, a dentist of Montgomery borough, Lycoming county; Harry C. Connor, chief pilot of the raft, Burnside, Clearfield county; Harry Berringer; Tyrone; Malcom McFarland, New York. 

Hundreds of citizens, Boy Scouts and firemen from the section around Muncy grappled in the swirling waters Sunday for more than ten hours without success. 


The end of a proud industry-once one of the greatest in Pennsylvania-was written as the huge log raft above floated down the west branch of the Susquehanna river toward the state capital at Harrisburg. The rafting industry-tying white pine "sticks" together to bring them down from the once-rich Clearfield county forests-was first begun 110 years ago. No rafts have been built for 26 years until old-timers constructed the one pictured here as a final gesture of farewell to the dead industry. Note the huge sweep oar used as a rudder. Another is at the other end of the raft. The crew shelter is almost hidden by the ? of passengers and observers who made the trip. 

Back To Page 1

Back To The Main Disasters Page

If you have anything of genealogical or historical interest to add to this site, or if you are interested in becoming a member of the Painted Hills Genealogy Society, please contact me at:

Painted Hills

 This page is maintained by the PHGS
 Last Update November 20, 2003

©2002 by The Painted Hills Genealogy Society
Main | Email Us | Look-Ups | Members Family Pages
Chat and Meeting Room | Disclaimer