The woodcutter and his life

By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ
Posted 10/14/21

REGION — Harry Treyz grew up in the acid factory business.

His father and his five brothers knew it well, he said in a talk at the Sullivan County Historical Society.

And the acid …

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The woodcutter and his life

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REGION — Harry Treyz grew up in the acid factory business.

His father and his five brothers knew it well, he said in a talk at the Sullivan County Historical Society.

And the acid factories, with their endless hunger for wood to turn into chemicals, were responsible for the massive logging in the area at the end of the 19th and in the early 20th centuries.

If the woodcutter had a family, they lived in a small village near the factory. Men and boys worked for the factory; women and girls worked at home. Gardens and the family pig sustained them all; the family cow gave milk. Little news got through into the forest, Treyz said. There was plenty of gossip to keep folks busy.

For fun, the kids played and the older people had dances. The band included an accordion and a fiddle and maybe a bass viol.

“Juvenile delinquency was unheard of,” Treyz said. “The parents saw to that. There was a woodshed at every house!”

Who were the unmarried woodcutters? Treyz quoted, tongue in cheek, from  a chemical company owner named J.R. Layman.

“Mr. Average Woodcutter is a single man of middle age, who in sober moments loves peace and solitude. He lives alone, cooks his own meals, goes to bed at darkness, gets up with the light.

“He accepts companionship but does not seek it. He is content with life and desires nothing better. He is strong, healthy, self-reliant and capable. He desires a limited amount of money for food, clothing, snuff and drinks… he loves freedom, independence, liberty of action—detests  supervision, interference, restrictions and meddling in his affairs...

“He gets his check on Saturday morning and spends it all before the day is over. He loiters away the day about town, drinking, talking and occasionally fighting. If he does not land in jail he is home by Sunday morning...

“He works when and where it suits him... if the cutting price advances, he produces less wood as his love of leisure is greater than his need for money. He hunts, fishes and traps game. He may work from Vermont to Wisconsin but sooner or later he is back in the hills of Pennsylvania where he will alternate cutting paper wood, chemical wood and bark peeling….

“When he works, he works hard, but his best ingenuity is always directed toward making the least possible amount of wood occupy the most possible amount of space…

“Wood cutting is a trade, wood piling an art.”

Layman ran the Gray Chemical Company in Roulette, PA, and wrote this in 1941. Treyz’s speech, which is not dated, was reprinted in the spring 1982 issue of The Echo, the newsletter of the Basket Historical Society. 

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