Guide to the Tonkin Family Papers, 1834-1963 AIS.1963.03

ULS Archives & Special Collections

Summary Information

ULS Archives & Special Collections
Tonkin Family Papers
Collection Number
2.25 linear feet (3 boxes)
The Tonkin family was involved in the logging industry in Cherry Tree, Pennsylvania during the late 1800s. The Tonkin Family papers consist mostly of business papers pertaining to Vincent Tonkin's lumber business and family material such as book manuscript material and research notes of R. Dudley Tonkin and John D. Tonkin, family photographs, and newspaper clippings about local news.

Preferred Citation

Tonkin Family Papers, 1834-1963, AIS.1963.03, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

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The Tonkin family of Cherry Tree, Pennsylvania, ran a lumber business in Clearfield, Cambria and Indiana counties in western Pennsylvania during the late 1800s. Cherry Tree was originally called Canoe Place or Newman Mill, and from 1867 to 1907 was sometimes also called Grant. Vincent Tonkin's family moved to the Cherry Tree area when he was a young boy, and he spent his entire life working in the lumber business. Tonkin's father-in-law, Robert Hughes, also worked in lumber and served as the Justice of the Peace in Cherry Tree for many years. In 1938, Vincent Tonkin's sons R. Dudley and V. Ord Tonkin organized the construction of a last raft of large spar logs for a trip down the Susquehanna River. The local community, including many former lumber industry workers, participated in making, piloting, and riding the raft. Near the end of its journey, the raft ran into a bridge, sending many passengers overboard - seven to their death. R.D. Tonkin's son Joseph Dudley Tonkin gives a detailed account of the journey in his book The Last Raft. R. Dudley Tonkin worked in the lumber industry for most of his life. He was also involved in conservation efforts regarding reforestation. After he retired, he researched the history of Cherry Tree and of the local lumber industry, often giving lectures about these topics to local groups. In 1958, the University of Pittsburgh Press published his book about the history of logging in western Pennsylvania entitled  My Partner, the River.

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Scope and Content Notes

The Tonkin family papers are divided into two series: lumber business records relating to the family logging business, and family papers. The business papers contain mostly business correspondence, receipts, and account books. The family papers include a small scrapbook of newspaper clippings, photographs, research notes, some of R.D. Tonkin's correspondence, and a book manuscript. A more detailed description of each series is provided at the series level description below.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

ULS Archives & Special Collections, 1963

University of Pittsburgh Library System
Archives & Special Collections
412-648-3232 (ASC) | 412-648-8190 (Hillman)
Contact Us:

Revision Description

 Description of oversize material added to the finding aid. November 2010

Access Restrictions

No restrictions.


Permission for publication is given on behalf of the University of Pittsburgh as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Acquisition Information

Gift of R. Dudley Tonkin on October 15, 1963.

Processing Information

This collection was processed in 1963.

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Controlled Access Headings

Family Name(s)

  • Tonkin family

Personal Name(s)

  • Tonkin, Joseph Dudley. Last raft


  • Business and Industry
  • Industries -- Pennsylvania -- Cambria County
  • Industries -- Pennsylvania -- Clearfield County
  • Industries -- Pennsylvania -- Indiana County
  • Logging -- Pennsylvania -- Cambria County
  • Logging -- Pennsylvania -- Clearfield County
  • Logging -- Pennsylvania -- Indiana County
  • Lumbering -- Pennsylvania -- Cambria County
  • Lumbering -- Pennsylvania -- Clearfield County
  • Lumbering -- Pennsylvania -- Indiana County
  • Personal papers

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Previous Citation

Tonkin Family Papers, 1834-1963, AIS.1963.03, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

Tonkin Family. Papers, 1828-1963, ais 63:3, Archives of Industrial Society, University Library System, University of Pittsburgh

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Collection Inventory

Series  I. Lumber Business Records 1847-1907 

Scope and Content Notes

The lumber business records contain a few receipts and at least one account book that belonged to Robert Hughes. The majority of the Tonkin business papers belonged to Vincent Tonkin. They include receipts and business correspondence relating to his lumber business, raft measurements and scaler's bills, and deeds to tracts of land in the Cherry Tree area. Complementing the receipts are account books in which Tonkin recorded wages and other expenses.

Hughes Business Papers and Justice of the Peace Certificates, 1847-1865 11
Tonkin Family Business Papers, 1866-1869 2
Vincent Tonkin Business Papers, 1870-1907 3-10
Raft Measurements and Scaler's Bills, 1864-1907 11
Deeds, 1839-1891 12-14
Vincent Tonkin, Two Small Account Books and a Notebook, 1857-1882 15
Hughes Account Book and V. Tonkin Account Book, 1867-1883, 1873-1874 16
Account Book with Index, 1856-1869 21
Account Book for Cherry Tree and Grant, 1864-1869 2
Account Book with Index, 1867-1868 3
Account Book for Cherry Tree and Grant, 1867-1878 4
Vincent Tonkin Account Book with Index, 1868-1871 5
Vincent Tonkin Account Book for Cherry Tree, 1868-1871 6

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Series  II. Family Papers and Manuscripts 1885-1963 

Scope and Content Notes

The family papers and manuscripts contains a scrapbook, book manuscript material, research notes and correspondence produced by family members as well as some photographs and newspaper clippings. The scrapbook begun by Vivian Tonkin in 1895 includes about 20 pages of newspaper clippings and decorative colored cards pasted in a published book. Additional loose clippings placed in the book were removed and stored separately. The clippings feature wedding announcements, obituaries, stories featuring local people or local history, and miscellaneous poetry, household advice, and travel columns. Some clippings may have been placed in the book at a later date, as they are from the 1950s and feature R. Dudley Tonkin. Photographs include three large circa-1900 mounted photographs showing men by a threshing machine, men at a saw mill on a river, and the Tonkin family in front of their large frame house in Cherry Tree, and newer images of a raft on the river, lumber, monuments and gravestones.

The family material also includes the typed manuscript pages for Joseph Dudley Tonkin's self-published 1940 book The Last Raft, a typed copy of the raft's time point log book, notes about lumber markings, and a book review. Book illustrations used in both  The Last Raft and  My Partner, the River consist of original and copy photographs and original Vincent Tonkin business documents pasted to papers with typed captions. Some of the illustrations were used in both books and are filed with  My Partner, the River material. The R. Dudley Tonkin correspondence mostly concerns the voyage of the last raft, the publication of  The Last Raft and inquiries about logging history. His papers also include research notes, book reviews, and material about Cherry Tree. Filed with the Cherry Tree information is an 1842 manuscript survey map of the town with two sets of property lines and notes about property ownership, with one set of plots based on the 1794 Nicholson survey of the land. There are also newspaper clippings about the history of Cherry Tree, logging, and the voyage of the last raft.

Vivian Tonkin Scrapbook and Newspaper Clippings, 1895-1955 31-2
Tonkin Family Photographs, 1890s 3
Photographs of Rafts, Logs, and Monuments, ca. 1885-1930 4
Joseph D. Tonkin The Last Raft Manuscript, ca. 1930 5-13
Joseph D. Tonkin, Book Review of The Last Raft, 1941 14
R. Dudley Tonkin, Correspondence, 1938-1963 15
R. Dudley Tonkin, Biography and Typed Manuscript Material, ca. 1950 16
R. Dudley Tonkin, Photographs and Documents Used in My Partner, the River, ca. 1957 17-18
R. Dudley Tonkin, Printed Material About My Partner, the River and Cherry Tree, PA, 1922-1958 19
Manuscript Notes about Cherry Tree, Pa., undated 20
Newspaper Clippings, 1922-1960 21

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Series  III. Oversize Material 

Scope and Content Notes

This material was added to the finding aid in November 2010.

 1. Drawing Captioned-Plan of the Last Raft Drawn by H.P. Dowler of Clearfield 71
 2. Diagram of a Timber Sled, by V. Columbo 
 3. Diagram of a Spar Sled, by V. Columbo 
 4. Picture of Vincent Tonkin, labeled with short bio. 
 5. Group picture of farmers in front of log building 

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