Among the main attractions for settlers in northwestern Pennsylvania, as elsewhere in the Commonwealth, was the abundance of pine, hemlock, and hardwoods, particularly maple, beech, ash, and oak. Deciduous forests covered much or the western part of the county. and evergreens were concentrated mainly in the stream valleys and southeast of the Allegheny River. (Seventy percent of Warren County is still forested.) The river and its three main tributaries, the Conewango, Brokenstraw, and Kinzua creeks, were natural waterways for lumber rafting, the county’s main industry for 100 years. Sawmills sprang up on even the smallest streams, and logs and lumber were transported out of the forest by horse-drawn wagons and later by a vast network of logging railroads.

Rafters, hardened to the difficulties of navigating the river during high water, sold millions of boards of lumber down the rivers, some as far away as New Orleans. Their journeys home, sometimes just as arduous, were made by steamboat and stage, and often on foot – for years these hardy men returned home to the riverbanks. It was not unusual for them to have to walk back to Warren from Pittsburgh, as steamboat traffic upriver was erratic and largely limited to the years between 1830 and 1870. Most river transport, both freight and passenger, was usually carried by keelboats or flatboats, the long workhorses of the inland rivers.

Among the major spin-offs created by the timber industry was the establishment of a number of tanneries in the county, particularly in and around Sheffield, and the parallel development of furniture and other wood products. The Central Pennsylvania Lumber Company in Sheffield, the last major mill in the county, sawed its last board in 1941. One of the specialized remnants of the once vast and complex lumber industry is a “ball-bat factory.” The Larimer & Norton Company, which produces on a large scale the spindles of ash from which the famous Louisville Slugger is made.

Logging will never be a thing of the past in Warren County, as second and third growth forests are available for regular logging. Many logging companies are involved in the forests of northwestern Pennsylvania, from small family-owned concerns to large ones such as Hammermill and Collins Pine Company, the latter being two of the largest private landowners in the state. The Allegheny National Forest is the place to continue modern Limber management practices. The Northeast Forest Experiment Station is located in Irwin, where research on the native black cherry is mainly conducted.

Soon after the discovery of the Al Titusville oil fields in late August 1859, the world’s second oil well was drilled at Tidiut in Warren County, and the Tidiut area quickly became the center of an oil boom with excellent wells. Sensational oil finds occurred in many places in the county, and operations at Al Clarendon, Cherry Grove, and the Glade gained national prominence. By the early 1900s, oil was a major industry with thirteen refineries within a six-mile radius of Warren. Oil production and refining still feature prominently in the county, with United Refining Company now producing 45,000 barrels per day.

Over the years, Warren County has been noted for its diversified industry and history of good labor relations; it suffered less than many other locales during the depression. Those businesses in the county that did decline were replaced by others that were more modern and complex, and over the years the trend has been toward light industry.

In addition to oil and lumber related businesses, metal fabrication has long been an important part of the industry since the beginning of the industry in a few early foundries. Today, iron and steel products are still manufactured in Warren; equally important are firms that produce plastic, wire, and electrical products. Warren’s products included pianos, tools, automobile engines and parts, railroad cars, cigars, bricks, and concrete products.

The New Process Company, one of the world’s largest mail-order clothing companies, began in Warren in 1910 under the clear direction of its president, the late John L. Blair. This extraordinary company continues to grow even today; its customers number in the millions.