To read more about the history documented in this film, visit: https://muncyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/last-raft-tragedy/
This rare silent film shows the tragic story of "The Last Raft". The
story was recently re-told in an excellent documentary film (see link above) by Karen L. Frock of Creekside Creative Media.
The Last Raft story begins in 1938 with Pennsylvania brothers R. Dudley and V. Ord Tonkin whose family came to the town of Cherry Tree in 1838. Vince Tonkin, Dudley and Ord’s father, had left timber standing with the request that the two brothers occasionally build a raft to float as a living history lesson. Rafting reunions were held every so often, but by 1938, the rafters were getting older, and they decided on one final event.
The 1938 trip was a reenactment of log rafting. In the Northeast United States particularly North Eastern, Central Pennsylvania where the logging boom was strongest. Multiple local men decided to hold a memorial rafting trip from Clearfield County to Harrisburg. The men who had done the trip twice before in years past to honor the logging industry in the area agreed on a 1935 trip being their last, however some of the group decided to do it one last time in 1938. Thus why it is also known as The Last Raft Tragedy. The Raft was launched on March 14 at McGee's Mill in western Clearfield County. The 200 mile trip was expected to take a week and a half to complete. In the beginning there were six experienced rafters on board. They tied off multiple times for food, rest and to meet the crowd which began forming along the river-side. The 112 x 25 foot Raft picked up dozens at Lock Haven and Williamsport.
The Raft crashed about six days into its trip on March 20. It entered Muncy with 45 people on board. The Raft which was over 100 feet long was very hard to maneuver. It was approaching the Reading-Halls Station Bridge when people who were standing on the bridge began yelling and shouting at the rafters to try an avoid the pier. The Raft struck one of the pillars and all but two of the 45 people on board were thrown into the river. Hundreds of people were on the bridge watching the Raft when it struck it, many jumped into the river to try and save the rafters. The water was a temperature 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Many of the deaths drowned as most on board couldn't swim very well. Two of the seven bodies were never found. The raft later continued on to Harrisburg, but a different atmosphere surrounded the experience -- a somber salute to the fallen.
The event garnered worldwide publicity as newspaper journalists, photographers, and radio and newsreel crews tagged along. The raft was seen by many thousands of Cambria, Indiana, Clearfield, Centre, Clinton, and Lycoming County residents as it floated the river, tying up at cities along the West Branch route.
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This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD, 2k and 4k. For more information visit http://www.PeriscopeFilm.com