The following interview excerpt of Tom Brown (born c.1909) was conducted at Fort Gay in Wayne County, WV, on December 15, 1979.
It was probably hard to get around back then, to go to church.
Well the only way you could get around through this country was up and down creeks or on horseback or wagon. And roads were in the creek most of the way. And where they cut timber and logs they had tram roads built back in the heads of the hollows and they had tracks–they built their track out of 2″ X 4″s–and they hauled these logs or ties from the mills back to the heads of the hollows back to the railroads. And they logged out of the mountains and they ran lots of rafts down Tug River. I’ve see high as four to five. They started the rafts running in the spring. They run them out of Mingo County and generally a lot of them was set out in Naugatuck.
That’s how they got them, they used rafts and boats?
Yes, they used rafts. Logs. They’d put these logs together… Sometimes a raft would be maybe 200 or 300 feet long.
200 or 300 feet long?
Almost as wide as the river. The man would stay on that and they’d pull the men to, I guess, Kenova and the Ohio River down here. And they would log them through the winter. The spring waters came and they started down the rivers with the rafts. The river banks were all cut clean.
That’s what I was going to ask you about. They had to be cut clean, didn’t they?
Yes, they was all cut clean. But the rafts… Well they ran logs down Twelve Pole Creek to… Back then people used to put their logs in the creek when it would raise and run them plumb out down Twelve Pole to Kenova. Heads of these creeks… And sometimes I can remember Bragg Creek and Horse Creek… They was a sawmill. There was locks in at Saltpeter and they pushed just like water to Bragg Creek. I’d say along 1916-1917. And almost the travel was boats. It went down on a little showboat. It used to come up an old paddle wheel boat.
That was in about 1917?
About 1917, ’18, ’19, along that.
Could you get a ride on that showboat if you wanted to?
No, they just pulled in and parked and had a show every night, like the picture show, the movie picture show had.
How long did that showboat go up and down the river? How many years did that last?
Well, I don’t know. It would just come up every once in a while maybe, and just stopped at certain places maybe. Places you know at that time… That was about as far as it could get up. And then things was brought up on pushboat. They loaded ties and stuff like that. I remember them loading them on the boat at the river at the mouth of Horse Creek. It was about as far as boats could come up the river.