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PENNSYLVANIA LEGENDS

Historic Trails Through the Keystone State

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Braddock's Road

Catawba Trail

Forbes Road

Frankstown Path/Kittanning Trail

Great Indian Warpath

Great Shamokin Path

Monocacy Trail

National Road

Nemacolin's Trail

Perkiomen Path

Raystown Path

Telpehocken Path

Tuscarora Path
Venango Path

 

 

A Pennsylvania Trail

A Pennsylvania Trail

 

Braddock's Road - A military road built in 1755 in what was then British America, it was the first improved road to cross the ridgelines of the Appalachian Mountains. It was constructed by troops of the Virginia Militia and British soldiers commanded by General Edward Braddock. In 1755, Braddock was sent to on an expedition to conquer the Ohio Country from the French at the beginning of the French and Indian War.  At that time, George Washington was an aid-de-camp to General Braddock and the expedition gave him his first field military experience

 

Starting from Fort Cumberland, Maryland, Braddock's army cut a military trail through the wilderness, roughly following Nemacolin's Trail, an improved, prehistoric Native American trail. While attempting to remove the French from Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) on July 9, 1755, he was met with defeat and was fatally wounded. He was carried off the field by George Washington and another officer. Four days after the battle, he died on July 13th. He left Washington his ceremonial sash that he wore with his battle uniform, which reportedly, Washington carried with him everywhere for the rest of his life. It is on display today at Washington's home, Mount Vernon, Virginia.

General Braddock was buried just west of Great Meadows, where the remnants of the column halted on its retreat to reorganize. George Washington presided at the burial service, as the chaplain had been severely wounded. The grave was found years later by road workers and the grave was moved. It is now marked by a marble monument erected in 1913.
 

The Braddock Road was later utilized by numerous settlers moving westward, so much so, that in 1806, the Federal Government constructed the first totally federally funded highway. This highway, first called the National Road, eventually stretched from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois. Closely paralleling Braddock's route, the National Road carried thousands westward and later figured prominently in the Underground Railroad helping slaves escape before the Civil War. Today, the path is closely followed by U.S. Route 40.

 

Catawba Trail - An important north-south Native American trail that extended from New York to Tennessee, through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina and South Carolina. Several other branches also passed through Kentucky and western Virginia. It is a part of the Great Indian Warpath. The Indians first used the trail for trade exchange and raiding at various times. The path was also used during the Revolutionary War.  In the 19th century the trail became locally known as the Morgantown Road. It now closely follows Old U.S. Route 119.

 

Forbes Road - Stretching about 200 miles from Carlisle to the Forks of the Ohio River at present day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the road was built under orders of Brigadier General John Forbes, a British commander during the French and Indian War. Like General Edward Braddock before him, Forbes faced an almost impossible task -- that of transporting an army and artillery to the Forks of the Ohio River through a wilderness previously traveled only by Indians, fur traders, and packhorses. Fortunately for Forbes, he had Braddock's experience to guide him. He realized the importance of supply lines and fortifications, and so built the road at a slow, deliberate pace, constructing forts at regular intervals. He also refrained from engaging the enemy prematurely, lest his army be destroyed before it reached to Fort Duquesne.

 

In determining his route west, Forbes decided not to make use of Braddock's Road, a controversial decision that angered Virginians, including George Washington, who accompanied his army. However, Forbes rightly suspected that the Virginians had ulterior motives for advocating Braddock's route. Virginia and Pennsylvania still contested the ownership of the Ohio Country, and a route cut directly through Pennsylvania would favor that colony's traders and settlers once the war was over.

 

 

Appalachian Mountains

Instead, General John Forbes ordered that Raystown Path be utilized as the military road. The path, which had first been cut by Delaware and Shawnee Indians, and later used by fur traders, had been earlier been partially cleared by Colonel James Burd in 1755. The route of Forbes's army from Carlisle to Raystown (modern Bedford) was relatively easy, thanks to Burd's improvements. However, west of Raystown, there were no provincial posts to house British troops and the Raystown Traders Path had not been widened for military use.

 

Called Forbes Road, the new trail was blazed between June and November, 1758. Colonel Henry Bouquet, Forbes' second-in-command, worked ahead of the advancing army to make the improvements and widen the old bridle path. Surmounting rough terrain including the Allegheny Mountains and Laurel Ridge, it took so long to complete that the British did not approach Fort Duquesne until November 24th, when an army would typically suspend operations and move into winter quarters.

 

Along with Braddock's Road, the Forbes Road was one of the two great western land routes that the British cut through the mid-Atlantic backcountry during the French and Indian War. It made communication and trade easier between the eastern and western portions of the colony and provided an important route west for settlers going to the Ohio Country. Today, anyone who has traveled the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh has followed in the footsteps of Forbes's army.

 

Frankstown Path/Kittanning Trail - In the early 1700s, the fur trade transformed Indian communities along the Pennsylvania frontier. A number of communities sprang up in the area including Assunepachla, Paxtang, Kittanning, and others. The route, which was first blazed by Native Americans, connected Harris' Ferry in present-day Harrisburg and Shannopin's Town in present-day Pittsburgh, by way of Kittanning. The path was used by  traders as early as 1721. In about 1725, John Harris established a ferry across the Susquehanna River near the Indian village of Peixtan in present-day Harrisburg. A local trader named Frank Stevens was one of the first traders to have a post in the Indian village called Assunepachla on the Juniata River in 1734. Later, the village became known as Frankstown, and the route from Harrisburg, took on the name of Frankstown Path. The Kittanning Trail, extended beyond Frankstown through the Kittanning Gap and up to Clearfield Creek to Loretto. It then ran through Ashville and Chesh Springs, past Carroltown, to Canoe Place (Cherry Tree), and into then into Indiana and on to Kittanning on the Allegheny River. Another trail extended west to the Venango Path and Logstown Path and then into Ohio.

 

In 1744, trader John Hart was granted a license to trade with the Native Americans on western Pennsylvania lands that were closed at the time to white settlement. Hart established a way station campsite, called Hart's Sleeping Place, near the continental divide in Cambria County. The way station appeared on colonial maps and was used in 1752 by Governor James Hamilton, and in 1754 by John Harris, the founder of Harrisburg. The last Native American encampment was recorded at the site in 1781.

In the 1750s the Lenape tribe, unhappy with the treaty that had given away much of their land rights in western Pennsylvania
, raided white settlements in central Pennsylvania. In 1755, the Lenape chief Shingas used the trail to attack British settlements on the Juniata River, returning with prisoners to the village of Kittanning. In early August, 1756, the Delaware used the path to burn Fort Granville near present-day Lewistown and take prisoners. After the burning of the fort, the British dispatched Lieutenant Colonel John Armstrong, who pursued the Lenape along the path, camping at Canoe Place in early September before moving on to destroy the village of Kittanning. Armstrong earned the title "the Hero of Kittanning" for the raid, and later went on to serve as a Major General in the American Revolution and to serve in the Second Continental Congress.

 

In 1758, portions of the trail would be widened by the army led by British General John Forbes in his campaign against the French during the French and Indian War. The path fell into disuse in the 1780's and was abandoned. Today, a section of the original route is preserved in northwestern Cambria County near Eckenrode Mill east of Carrolltown.

 

 

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