History- Mystery of the Postcard – Conewango Creek

History means a lot to me and particularly if it somehow connects back my neighborhood or to the land I own. One day I found a post card that had a unique connection to the land.

A friend called me and asked if I would help them clean out their antique and craft business they had. They knew I used found objects for art and garden art and offered a trade of items for cleaning. I knew it would take time but the idea sounded interesting so I agreed. It turned into a weeklong project and more work than I had anticipated. But I did inherit some very interesting pieces.

On my last trip just before we closed the store door for good Anne handed me a small bag filled with old postcards. Most of the post cards were very old photos and hand colored. Being a photographer this interested me immensely!

Later that night I sat down with some tea and began sorting through the postcards. There was a very interesting set of 30 or more cards that followed two sisters’ lives. One remained in Warren Pa and the other traveled the world sending home images from Greece, Egypt, Africa and other countries. It was taking a peek into their lives. The cards covered over twenty years time: college, marriage, careers and more.

But one of the most fascinating cards was an old black and white photo postcard from the 1920’s. It was a very large ferryboat that could hold around 25 to 30 people pulling up to dock on a large creek or river. The boat had seven men dressed in white pin striped outfits and the women all had parasol umbrellas and dresses from the twenties.

I noticed it said Conewango Creek, Ackley, in the lower right hand corner. This caught my attention and I looked at the card very well. This could only be one of two places with an open field near the creek. My back yard or just down the road where they use the site as a public boat launch.

I jumped in the car and drove to look at the boat launch. The curve at the left side of the photo was way too wide to be this location. I went back to the property trying not to get to excited about a unique piece of possible history. As I walked to the creek bank I looked at the curve. It matched.

Then I looked at the trees. The trees in the photos were much smaller but they were the same oak trees. What sealed the identification was a small inlet. In the photo it was there, only smaller in size by the larger tree. To verify one more time, I called my brother and made him come to check the card. He agreed that it was the location.

The Conewango behind our house is around 100 wide and over 35 foot deep. It could handle a larger ferryboat but I had never heard of such a boat. It’s a rural area so I wasn’t sure why a boat would dock here of all places. It could have carried people up to the larger town in New York or to Chautauqua. Or maybe it ferried people to Warren or the booming town of Oil City, Pa.

I called one of our local historians and they were excited to hear about the postcard. I was told yes, there was a large ferryboat that traveled the Conewango. It was a very popular excursion boat used for travel and entertainment. It ran until one year when a sudden storm whipped up and the boat, which was full of passengers crashed into a small dam and was damaged beyond repair. Unfortunately there were casualties that day.

There were no known photos of the ferry so this card was of interest to the local historians.

One other odd co-incidence was that the day it crashed and sank was the same date as my birthday.

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Denise

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