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Early Industry

Union Furniture.jpg

Photo above shows factory building number 2 with a large group of employees in 1910.  This was the Union Furniture and Manufacturing Company of McClure.  At its peak of operation 80 men were employed.

The virgin forest with its giant stand of conifers and hardwoods would naturally make lumbering the first industry. The Jacob Smith sawmill, which antedates the town, was located in the general area of west Specht street, where it is intersected by Helfrick Street. The Joseph Johnson Steam Stave mill was also located here. Both these mills were later owned and operated by Jacob Howell, an old Dutchman. Mr. Howell was an enterprising person who also kept bees. He had as many as 75 hives at one time. In the spring, he tapped the maple trees on the ridge to make syrup. The sawmill was operated by water power and had an up-and-down saw, as opposed to the conventional circular kind, and in appearance was like a cross cut saw set on end, The mill dam impounded a sizable amount of water on which the boys of early McClure floated rafts and fished for perch, sunfish, and eels. There was a grove of large trees adjacent to the mill and this was the place where Gypsies camped when they came to McClure. Lumbering and the Railroad – Until 1890, the virgin timber – mammoth white pines, three and four feet in diameter, yellow pines a hundred feet high – covering Shade Mountain back of McClure had been untouched by the axe of man, the inaccessibility to markets having been the cause of its sparing. When the railroad came through town, it brought the doom of the forests. In 1890, Marcy and Burtle of Shamokin started operations n which the large trees were cut and removed from Shade Mountain, south of town. They used McClure as a base and shipping point, and continued the lumbering business for the next ten years; the logs were not milled here, but were shipped as they came from the mountain to other points. To speed up production a chute was made of hewn logs. It reached from the top of Shade Mountain down the North side of the mountain and all the way to a wharf located south of West Walker Street and West of the small stream. For one year this method was used and then discontinued because practically all the logs "jumped the chute" and were damaged. One log that jumped out of the chute plunged through the cellar of the Henry Wagner home, located in the area of the present day reservoir, No one was injured and the house has since been removed, Abe Holshue said that he would eat the first log to mail the complete run. It is said that only one made the run from the top of the mountain to the wharf. It is not known whether Abe gnawed on the log like a beaver, or cooked in into a pulp and ate it like soup. For many years, the long narrow chute could easily be seen on the mountain, especially when outlined by the winter snow. Short sections of it can still be seen. At the turn of the century John E. Wagner, in 1967 was 41 years of age, built a stove mill and a sawmill on the same site where the wharf was located. In 1905, John I. Gill purchased the Wagner mill and continued removing trees from the mountain until 1915. Mr. Gill was also a coal dealer and a large coal storage shed was located in his mill yard. Others engaged in the sawmill business were: Dr. Smith, Isaac Middleswarth, George Wagner, Aaron Howel1, Jackson Baker, Amos Howell and Charles A. Wagner. None of these mills are in existence today. With all abundance of raw materials on hand, the manufacturer of furniture became a thriving industry. This industry originated soon after the turn of the century when Henry W. Knepp began manufacturing furniture. His plant, at first a stable, was located on the East side of Stuck Street a short distance north of its intersection with Specht Street, Pal Huffnaugle was general foreman, Jacob Heeter assistant, and W. A. McGlaughlin finished the furniture, which consisted of kitchen cabinets, dry sinks, cupboards, hat racks and dressers. Thomas H. Spigelmyer later became associated with Mr. Knepp. On August 24, 1907, this plant was destroyed by fire. Caskets were also manufactured for a time in McClure. During World War I the Fold Easy Manufacturing Company made thousands of cots and folding chairs. A picture, too laded to be used, contained these employees Cloyd Olt, Pal Huffnaugle, J. Kerns, Beulah Huffnaugle, Thomas Spigelmyer (Manager), and Mr. Corbit. A company to construct automobile and truck bodies was begun by A. C. Weader and Charles F. Gilbert; Herbert Weader became part of the company, and in 1924 assumed full responsibility. The truck making business did not work out and lasted only a short time, Park, his son, then look over and operated a planning mill, coal and cement business for awhile, until 1926 when he accepted the position of rural mail carrier. Herbert Weader again took over and had a hatchery and feed business on the first floor of what was known as the Playhouse. The hatchery was in the front and the feed store in the rear. He carried on this business until he lost his life in a tragic explosion in 1938.

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