Frankstown Path, Pennsylvania

 

John Harris Homestead, 1720

John Harris Homestead, 1720

Frankstown Path, also called the Kittanning Trail, followed an old Indian Trail that connected Harris’ Ferry in present-day Harrisburg and Shannopin’s Town in present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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, Peshtank, 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 Peshtank 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.

Lenape Indian Encampment

Lenape Indian Encampment

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 Indians 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 1780s and was abandoned. Today, a section of the original route is preserved in northwestern Cambria County near Eckenrode Mill east of Carrolltown.

By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, December 2018.

Also See:

Byways & Historic Trails

Native American Tribes

Pennsylvania Trails

Tales & Trails of the American Frontier

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