Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Westmoreland and Fayette State Parks


These are State Parks, (not to be confused with National Parks), in the confines of the beautiful rural wilderness of the southwestern area of the great state of Pennsylvania and a summary of their regional history. If you haven't noticed, I am ever so partial to the land I come from! Nah, no apologies now, it would hardly conform to a side of my paternal Scotch-Irish ancestral heritage! I'm not so sure about the German ancestry, either. I love other states and even some other countries, so I'm not that prejudiced, really. Whether we're discussing Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, there are great state and national parks all through this marvelous country and we surely share this between us, but these are very special too, part and parcel of our local area.

  According to Wikipedia, which appears accurate, (for those that distrust the source of the online encyclopedia):

"Conservationists like Dr. Joseph Rothrock became concerned that the forests would not regrow if they were not managed properly. Lumber and iron companies had harvested the old-growth forests for various reasons. They clear cut the forests and left behind nothing but dried tree tops and rotting stumps. The sparks of passing steam locomotives of the Pittsburgh, Westmoreland and Somerset Railroad ignited wildfires that prevented the formation of second growth forests. The conservationists feared that the forest would never regrow if there was not a change in the philosophy of forest management. They called for the state to purchase land from the lumber and iron companies and the lumber and iron companies were more than willing to sell their land since that had depleted the natural resources of the forests. The changes began to take place in 1895 when Dr. Rothrock was appointed the first commissioner of the Pennsylvania Department of Forests and Waters, the forerunner of today's Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a piece of legislation in 1897 that authorized the purchase of "unseated lands for forest reservations." This was the beginning of the State Forest system.

 There are two million acres of state park land in Pennsylvania.

  Minor Disclaimer:
  Do keep in mind the rules and regulations concerning the individual parks. They are usually posted near the entrances. Also, the size of the descriptions here given do not relate to the importance of the parks in question. That is merely the result of the amount of data collected. Finally, much more material could be included regarding various other subject matter that come within the confines of these large forest areas. This is, unfortunately, beyond the scope of our post and other historical info is available in my other posts on the site.


Forbes State Forest

  Located in Westmoreland, Fayette and Somerset counties, it was named appropriately in honor of General John Forbes, of the French and Indian War, Forbes State Park is contained within Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry Disrtrict #4. With offices in Laughlintown in Westmoreland County. The main attraction is probably the Mount Davis Natural Area, having the highest peak in Pennsylvania. With over 20 tracts of land it covers a large area of 50,000 acres. District #4 also has land in Greene, Washington and Allegheny counties. When I gather more info I'll try to incorporate it in here.

Keystone State Park

  This is a large park of 1,200 acreage established in 1945. It is contained within Derry Township, which has the historic Samuel Patterson 'Drum' House of 1846 in Westmoreland County. It has part of the 70 mile-long nearby Conemaugh River shed, ('otter creek' in Algonquian Indian dialect), which contained the town of Livermore, of 1827 and a part of the western Pa Canal System, flooded out by the dam in the 1950's.

USACE Conemaugh River Lake Dam 2.jpg

Kooser State Park

  Named for one John Kooser, an early settler who lived the spring of his life in the western part. Here is a small 250 acre park in Jefferson Township of Somerset County, surrounded on all sides by Forbes State Forest. The land was purchased in 1922.

  The Lake was made through the damming of Kooser Run by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's, referenced at the Forbes Park area of the article. There has been an algae problem for a few years. so swimming is not permitted, but the 4 acre lake allows fishing. The Park can easily be reached by way of Rt. 31. Interestingly, here there were consistent rumors and legends, of Indian battles near Kooser Run near or before the times of the frontier settlements. The State Park Family Cabin District is on the National Register Of Historic Places with 13 contributing buildings from 1987. Some of the cabins and campsites are furnished and have electric hook ups.

Laurel Ridge State Park

   Nestled among the scenic Laurel Mountains of the broad Appalachians, here is a large state park indeed, the granddaddy of PA state parks. Circumferencing over 13,000 acres and located within Fayette and Westmoreland, as well as Cambria and Somerset counties, this is a great place to come for a variety of outdoor enjoyments.

  Originating by a governor's pen stroke in 1967, most of the park is open to hunting from the fall to spring and this includes, grouse, turkey, deer and bear, but not groundhogs, understood? Dog training is a big thing here too, in designated areas only. In the southern perimeters are most of the picnic tables and pavilions which require a reservation for rent. Reservations can be made by calling 888-727-2757 (888-PA-PARKS). Many of these parks are kept up through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and policing by the PA Game Commission. According to a tantalizing statement on the associated Pa State Agency website, "One of the most exciting reasons to visit the park is for its scenery. Spring wildflowers dot the forest floor in early April followed by a vibrant green forest as leaf-out begins in late April. Mountain laurel blooms in June and rhododendron blooms in late June and early July. Come to the park in mid-October and witness fall color in all its glory. Winter is spectacular when the park is covered in a deep blanket of snow and the occasional great horned owl calls through the moon-lit forest."

  There is a recommendation for you, and they should know. You should check for more detailed rules there, if needed. There is an amazing 70 miles of hiking and backpacking trail running through there. Skiing and snowmobiling are also very popular, with a 120 mile, yes you read that right, 120 mile Snowmobile Trial System. So get out your gasoline and parkas and winter boots folks for a run from December on from Ohiopyle nearly to Johnstown!
There are signs at major highway crossings and six parking lots at the starting points, with shelter areas every six miles. Some disagree with the format, as with many things, you do have to pay a fee for their usage. The trail runs basically east from Stewart Township and ends at Lower Yoder in Cambria County. There a few photos here at

Laurel Hill State Park

   Residing within Jefferson and Middlecreek Townships of Somerset County, much of Laurel State Park involved FDR's CCC program during the great Depression. The park includes within its premises 4,072 acres of forest, stream and hills. A main focus of interest is the Laurel Hill Lake, consisting of 63 acres in itself.

   It has 500 picnic tables available and a 1, 200 foot beach with boat mooring, an ADA accessible ramping and a playground. Free tables are there to be had too! Fishing is good here with bass, trout, catfish and perch and the hunting and trapping of most kinds is to be had on 1,200 acres, so get out your license, load up and enjoy. Don't forget the Laurel Hill Creek too, it is a favorite of my family. Watch it, those rocks are slippery.There are paddleboats, kayaks and canoes available, (these you must rent). There is goose and waterfowl hunting too.

   There are 12 miles of different named trails: the largest is the Lake Trail, the Ridge, Bobcat, Pumphouse, with the Jones Mill Run Dam, and the Tram Road, which covers much of the railroad logging area of Jones Mill of the early 1900's, being some of them. Much in the way of tenting and cabin camps are here too for the spring thru fall seasons. You name it, this is a wonderful place for it when it comes to outdoor activities.

Laurel Mountain State Park

   At the rolling hilled top of the dizzying Laurel Ridge area is a family-oriented park. It has fantastic views of the Ligonier Valley, near to Latrobe in Westmoreland County.

   There a lot of 'Laurels' hereabouts, and it could be confusing. This state park was initially begun back in 1939. It contains 493 acres and stretches into Jenner Township of Somerset County, south of U. S. Route 30. It started out as a private ski area of Richard K. Mellon, (1899-1970), an heir of Mellon Bank, Alcoa and Gulf Oil companies and benefactor of the University of Pittsburgh. He also served in the two world wars and rose to the rank of Lieutenant General. He is remembered for his popular urban renewal efforts.

Laurel Mountain entrance creative commons
 It was purchased by Seven Springs Mountain Resort in 2008.

Laurel Summit State Park

  I haven't seen much of it myself, but this small six acre are of the state park has great surrounding views of the Laurel Ridge of Westmoreland County. It was purchased from the Byers and Allen Lumber Company and acquired In 1909. There are still scars than remain from the lumbering and forest burning that went on here and it is slowly being rehabilitated and restocked with deer.You can talk a nice walk to the 28 acre Spruce Flat Bog which is also partly within the magnificent 50,000 acre Forbes State Forest with 50 miles of marked and maintained trailing. There is some unusual plant life like pitcher, large cranberry and cotton grass, and many varieties of birds, including the ruby-throated hummingbird, golden-winged warbler and the eastern bluebird, always a happy sight. It is really said to be misnamed as there is more hemlock than spruce here. Altogether, the whole Wildlife Area covers 300 acres.

  Here the Audubon Society is in cooperation with the Bureau of Forestry to keep  practiced and experienced eye on everything. Here is where the PW&S, (Pittsburgh, Westmorleand and Somerset), Railroad once ran, especially along the Fish Run Trail. Bogs are usually formed from glacial deposits, but they were not believed to travel this far south, and the original depths of this unique one or the type of past geological activity involved are unknown. There is a 2.7 mile trailhead to the Wolf Rock Vista toward the Linn Run Gorge.

Ohiopyle State Park

courtesy Dancytron and Wiki Creative Commons

   Incorporated in 1891, the borough of Ohiopyle is located on State Route 381 within Dunbar, Stewart, Henry Clay townships in good old Fayette County. It is divided by 14 miles of the Youghiogheny River Gorge. When teenagers we use to visit here often and enjoy the beauty and have fun at nearby Meadow Run with nature's own waterslides. We didn't neglect the swimming, or the fishing, either, and that still holds true. It is rightly famed for its enthusiastic whitewater boating and good campsites.

  Ohiopyle State Park was officially dedicated in 1971. It has the honor of being one of 'Twenty Must See Pennsylvania State Parks'. 1963 was the year for the transfer of 2, 800 acres from the Western Pennsylvania Concervancy to the Department of Forests and Waters of spectacular mountain land of Frencliff Park and Sugar Loaf mountain, famed Cucumber Falls and Keister Park. Traversed by PA Rt. 381, roughly from the southwest to the northeast. On the southern side of the Youghiogheny River, oddly flowing north and northwest, here began the creation of Ohiopyle.

   Ferncliff Peninsula has an interesting microclimate all its own. Justly conferred as a National Natural Landmark. The earliest known people here were the mysterious Monongahela Culture, as much because their fate and the factors involved remain unknown. Other tribes, like the Shawnee and Seneca, inhabited the area. The name comes from the Lenape od the Delaware, meaning ' it turns very white', or 'white frothy river', depending on who is doing the translating. George Washington passed through here in 1753, and again in 1784 searching in vain for a strategic water route through the Chestnut Ridge and to the forks of the Ohio. Later came the hunters and farmers. In the 1800's came many minor industries and mills. The tourist of early modern times came along with the railroads, starting in 1871 with boardwalks, dances, hotels and bowling alleys.

   There was quite a community here before the Project 70 Land Acquisition and Borrowing Act, which were displaced with serious protest in those days. Though a difficult situation, maybe in the long run it is for the best, in the sense of what has been preserved here, the control of the pollution. The place continues to be upgraded, which is needed in a lot of areas.

    Hiking and biking, fishing and camping, are all very popular here and connected with the Youghiogheny and Great Allegheny Passage river trails. Hunting is allowed on 18,000 acres and the scenic overlooks of the rugged Baughman's Rocks, Sugarloaf Knob and Paradise are sure to please the observer. You can book rafting tours of the Lower, majestic Middle, and even the cautious excitement of the Upper Yough, at the Laurel Highlands website.
Linn Run State Park

   One of the smaller parks, it lies within Cook and Ligonier Townships on the eastern side of Westmoreland County, off PA Rt. 381 which traverses from West Virginia at Wharton Township of Fayette and through Ohiopyle on to Westmoreland County with 711 at Donegal and for a while joining with Rt. 31 then on to Cook and Ligonier proper.

Linn Run State Park Waterhole.jpg
Courtesy of Creative Commons

  Bordered by Forbes State Forest, it is joined and fed by Rock and Grove Run and used for picnicking, and fishing, particularly trout, and is provided with 10 cabins for usage. There are four hiking trails. A 612 acre park, the Adams Falls is a scenic attraction. Hunting and trapping is also allowed on the second growth 400 acres of woodland and the usual rules applicable to state parks do apply. To learn more it is a good idea to check out the PA Game Commission Portal that has lots of info with the various rules and regulations to help keep you informed. You can still see the burned scarring from passing locomotives in the logging days.

   I called the list, 'the nine' because that was the broadest amount I decided to include AND, it's my favorite number! When I can get to more of these parks, I would like to try to supplement the post with more of my own photos. We'll see what the foreseeable future has in store.

   If YOU can find the time, a comment will always be appreciated.

  PLEASE, help preserve and protect OUR State Parks!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Exclusive Question And Answer Interview

   Lannie Dietle lived his early years in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, eventually moving to Texas, and has written a book entitled "In Search Of The Turkey Foot Road." A fourth and final edition was released in August 2014, with an amazing 70% more material and an accompanying CD, with many appendices. Click here for a summary. The book is available from the Mount Savage Historical Society, and describes an early road that helped to populate several counties along the Mason Dixon line, including Fayette County. The road played a critical role in supplying Fort Pitt during the Revolutionary War, and was a key factor enabling Brodhead’s successful 1779 military expedition against the Indian allies of Great Britain. 

  Mr. Dietle collaborated on the Iron Bridge article I uploaded in February, and originally suggested the topic. He also wrote a guest blog post on the Turkey Foot Road in early February and has kindly agreed to make himself available to answer a few questions in a written interview segment and, personally, I can't wait to see his responses. Congratulations on the final edition of the book are in order and it is a real honor for us to have him available for comments on the blog, "Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History."

Lannie Dietle

Ten Questions and Answers Interview Segment with Lannie Dietle

Welcome, Lannie and I trust you are doing fine:

Hi Al, thanks for giving me an opportunity to talk about my favorite subject.

  Can I start by asking, when did you first become interested in the Turkey Foot Road, and when, and in what way, did you begin taking action in starting your own investigations of pertinent areas and places?

The internet is a great way for people with similar interests to connect. Several years before we ever met in person, Mike McKenzie and I began a long distance collaborative effort to discover and promote the history of Southampton Township, Somerset County, where both of us lived as youngsters. Each of us felt that the region was under-represented in the published literature.

Eventually, Mike suggested that we devote some of our effort to promoting the history of the adjacent border region in Allegany County, Maryland. Even though I had little knowledge of that area, I agreed to participate if Mike led the way, in view of all he had done to facilitate the Southampton Township studies. This change in direction eventually led us to the Turkey Foot Road–which we knew nothing about, apart from a few old traditions.

Our investigation started with a chance encounter with a 1797 reference to the Turkey Foot Road in an old Maryland law book. We had a friendly disagreement over where the road went in Pennsylvania. We ended up devoting more and more time to the subject, learning as we went. Mike’s interest was fueled by the old Mount Savage area traditions in Maryland, and mine was fueled by the old Elk Lick Township traditions in Pennsylvania.

The current alignment of the 1794 route of the "TFR"
on Quail Road southeast of Wooddale

  Was there a specific event that lead to your decision to write an historical book, and, if so, to what extent, do you feel your family and Korn ancestry played a part?

Mike was the first to suggest that our findings should be published, back when we only had enough material for a journal-length article. As part of my interest in the Korns family, I purchased Rod Korns’ book “West from Fort Bridger”, which is a study of western pioneer trails. That book led to the realization that the Turkey Foot Road was a worthy subject for a book length project.

Eventually, we came to realize that the Turkey Foot Road was part of where we came from, in both a transportive and a genetic sense. We, and quite possibly you, would simply not exist had the Turkey Foot Road not been there. The road, and the antecedent Indian and packer’s path, allowed our ancestors to settle when and where they did, and allowed their children to meet. If great-great-great grandpa had never met great-great-great grandma, things might be a tad different today! Families scattered across America can trace their roots back to ancestors who used the Turkey Foot Road in day-to-day life, or westward migration. I hope this book helps them understand their heritage.

McKenzie and Dietle recording a
GPS coordinate

  How did your 'team' of researchers come about, and how did you first meet up with Mike McKenzie and Francis Bridges?

As a lifelong resident of the area, Mike was instrumental in developing our local contacts. During his boots on the ground research in the Mount Savage area, Mike interviewed Barrelville resident Donald Bartgis, who advised him to contact Francis Bridges. Francis had been attempting to puzzle out the Mount Savage area route several years before we began our study. Through his involvement in the Western Maryland Chapter of the Archeological Society of Maryland, Francis knew that Harry Ringler, Sr. had been collecting information on the various route traditions in Greenville and Elk Lick Townships in Pennsylvania. After talking to Harry several times by telephone, I knew that I had to fly up and finally meet these guys, and go over the ground with them. That little expedition is when I first met Mike, Francis, and Harry in person.

While we were chatting in Harry’s living room, his son Harry “Cork” Ringler, Jr. stopped by for a brief visit, and ended up contributing to the internet collaboration in various ways. Cork is a cartographer for Somerset County, and made a major contribution by sharing copies of the rare warrant survey maps of the county. These maps served as a valuable index to the original property surveys, enabling me to perform a detailed study of the route through review of the relevant surveys, and comparison to depression era aerial photographs.

Nancy E. Thoerig of Mount Savage was the final member of the team, and committed a huge amount of time to the project. We began corresponding after I asked her a question about a topic covered by her book “History of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Mount Savage, Maryland”. My initial inquiry led to occasional e-mail exchanges regarding Arnold’s Settlement. Through this correspondence, she became aware of the book effort. As a courtesy, she sent an e-mail concerning earlier research by the late Alice Carney. This led to a telephone call, and an offer for her to review the draft. As a result of this exposure, she agreed to serve as editor.

The title “editor” doesn’t begin to capture the scope of Nancy’s involvement. Although she spent countless hours trying to improve my convoluted writing, her most important contributions were in the realm of challenging conclusions and assumptions, and pushing and prodding and making suggestions where information was unclear, incomplete, or disorganized. After the initial edition of the book was published, she also tackled promotion, and was able to secure a surprising number of newspaper reviews of the book in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Our collaboration has now extended beyond volunteer work, and I rely on her for reviewing various technical writing projects, where she can be paid appropriately for her expertise.

  Would you elaborate, however briefly, on just what steps were involved with the most important elements of writing your book, (development, publishing, distribution, advertisement, concept, design, etc.), and how did you end up making your final decisions?

The most important aspect of writing this particular book was a supportive wife, who tolerated my daily obsession with an obscure eighteenth century road over the course of five long years. Thank you, Cheryl, for the gift of time and understanding.

The research would not have been possible without the availability of searchable internet archives of eighteenth and nineteenth century books, magazines, maps, surveys, aerial photographs, and satellite imagery, and cooperative librarians, archivists, and various interested parties across the United States. Foremost among those interested parties are Mike, Francis, Harry, Cork, and Nancy, but dozens of other people also shared their knowledge.

The bulk of the research was performed remotely, piecing bits of evidence together from a wide range of sources. A number of research trips were conducted independently by Mike, Francis, and myself. In my case, traveling from Texas, a critical aspect was developing a detailed itinerary of places to visit, organized by GPS coordinates. This allowed me to maximize the value of my limited time in the area, visiting the maximum possible number of relevant sites, libraries, and local residents.

Publication at an economically viable price is made possible by the hearty cooperation of the printing department of Frostburg State University. Distribution is handled by the Mount Savage Historical Society. All proceeds benefit the society, and are being used to help to maintain the museum. Speaking of the museum, they now have a full scale reproduction of the first map to show the post-Revolutionary War route of the Turkey Foot Road—the 1792 Howell map.

  Could you tell us a little about your background and career field, and if it is pertinent, in what way did this help influence your research of historical areas?

My career for the past 31 years has focused on developing specialty seals that are used primarily in oilfield drilling equipment. My key contributions are developing geometry improvements to the sealing elements, providing written engineering advice on how to best implement the seals in customer equipment, and managing intellectual property.

We take a rigorous approach to developing, testing, and implementing our products, and for better or worse, some of that habitual meticulousness manifests itself in the book. This doesn’t make it a light and easy read, but I hope it makes it a worthy read as the first book length study of a historically important route.

A surviving section of the 1780's route of the Turkey Foot
Road of western Somerset County

  How much did any Historical Societies such as Mount Savage help with the presentation of your material?

 Several of the regional historical societies have excellent publications that facilitated the understanding of people and places along the route. Foremost among these publications are the “Casselman Chronicle” and the “Laurel Messenger”, which are produced by the Springs Historical Society, and the Somerset Historical Center, respectively. Several of the local historical societies and communities also maintain libraries and archives of regional materials. For example, the Somerset Historical Center has a library, an archive of loose materials, and an extensive map collection. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is the go-to place for the study of early Pennsylvania surveys, and the Archives of Maryland were indispensable to the study of early Maryland history. Much to my surprise, I also found a significant amount of pertinent information in Houston area university libraries, and some of the most significant finds were located in the historical archives of a university in Illinois.

  Could you enumerate something for the readers here, (without giving away too much from the upcoming fourth edition), what you would consider the most important or more fascinating local regions and, possibly, any specific remnants near the old path that stood out the most, and also what are so memorable about them to you?

The most striking landscape scars from the old road are on private property in the Barrelville, Maryland and Salisbury, Pennsylvania areas. These mostly inaccessible locations are documented with photographs and GPS coordinates in the book. The GPS coordinates allow the reader to study the route using leaf-off satellite imagery. One important landscape scar is, however, visible directly from Ord Street, in the town of Salisbury. This surviving remnant was used to reach the Casselman River fording site.

There are several locations in Maryland and Pennsylvania where one can drive directly on surviving portions of eighteenth and nineteenth century route variations. One such location is in the historic Arnold’s Settlement region near Mount Savage, Maryland. Other surviving segments are located in the environs of Pocahontas, Salisbury, Harnedsville, and Ursina in Somerset County, and Nicolay and Wooddale in Fayette County. I hope that someday, a few of these locations can be documented with historical markers.

My personal favorite can only be seen in the springtime. An otherwise invisible 1804 route variation temporarily appears as a dark green crop mark across a field on the eastern flank of Savage Mountain. The old roadbed alters the moisture content of the ground, compared to the rest of the field, creating darker vegetation.

The path of the abandoned 1804 portion of the Maryland
route of the "TFR" here visible as a crop mark

  Is there anything particularly insightful you would like to mention that would be enlightening to other people interested in the old history of the surrounding counties of PA, Maryland, W. VA and VA?

As a descendent of the early pioneers, the contribution of the Turkey Foot Road to the success of Brodhead’s 1779 military campaign resonates deeply with me, so bear with me as I quote from the book: Difficult as the ways of war may be to digest, Brodhead’s operation was a success, and we are here today to talk about it. Even though war is incomprehensibly cruel, the descendants of the pioneers of western Pennsylvania owe a certain debt of gratitude to Brodhead and his army for protecting the lives of their ancestors. This debt extends to the men who cut the road that made Brodhead’s campaign possible, to the packhorse drivers who risked their lives to deliver the precious supplies, and to the settlers along the road who provided forage and other assistance to the packhorse trains.

  Are there any plans in the pipeline for another book or articles down the road?

Apart from my career, this book is the most intense commitment I have ever made to a single subject, consuming many thousands of hours over the course of five years. Although it has been an honor and a privilege to lead the investigation of what turned out to be a historically significant subject, right now I can’t imagine committing a similar amount of time to researching another book length historical topic! I tell myself‒and my wife‒that from here on out I will stick to just writing occasional articles. 

   What are the most important things in your life that you feel you would most like to be remembered for?

I don’t fancy that I will be remembered for anything, but I do like to think that several of my inventions relating to floating seal mechanisms and hydrodynamic lubrication will survive past my inevitable expiration date. At the end of the day, the thing that gives me the most personal satisfaction is simply knowing that my career, coupled with the intertwined careers of my admittedly more talented colleagues, benefits other families by helping to produce some US jobs in manufacturing and related fields. We won’t ever be remembered for this small and admittedly mundane contribution to society, but there it is. Just like every other productive citizen, we simply went to work each day and performed our small part in helping to make this eighteenth century idea called America a functioning reality. 

If I am remembered for anything in the field of historical research, I hope it will be the discovery that the Turkey Foot Road was cut to support Brodhead’s 1779 military campaign, and was routed through the environs of present-day Salisbury and Ursina to take advantage of the forage that was available from the early settlements. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to unravel the mystery surrounding the Turkey Foot Road, document some previously unknown regional and national history, and plot the route. Although I led the endeavor, the research could not have been accomplished without the help of Mike, Francis, Harry, Cork, and Nancy, and various other individuals. I am very thankful for their assistance in turning the idea of a book on the Turkey Foot Road into a reality.

  Well, Mr. Dietle, this was enlightening. I would like to thank you personally, on behalf of my website visitors, for sharing your thoughts, observations and photos, and being so open to give us such a fascinating glimpse into your research and experiences!

  On a personal note, having early ancestors that spent much of their lives very near to areas of the Turkey Foot Road, for example in Wooddale, I find it all the more fascinating concerning this richly detailed book. This makes one appreciative of these  significant discoveries and indebted to you and your fellow researchers.

Thank you for your efforts in promoting regional history, and thank you for a chance to talk about the new book. Take care.

We would like to add a postscript in the form of a brochure Lannie was thoughtful enough to include with a brief, but succinct explanation of this unique book:

  In Search of the Turkey Foot Road 

To order, visit

The book "In Search of the Turkey Foot Road" traces a historic and nearly forgotten route that helped to populate several counties along the Mason Dixon line, including Somerset and Fayette counties, Pa. and Allegany County, Md. The road was cut in 1779 as a military supply road from Fort Cumberland to Fort Pitt, at a time when Fort Pitt was desperately under-supplied. The original purpose of the road was to bring supplies to Fort Pitt in support of an attack on the food supplies of British-allied Indians. The attack, which was planned by George Washington, was intended to help protect Pennsylvania and New York settlers from Indian raids, and to chastise the Indians for deadly raids that occurred in 1778.

At one point, Washington cancelled the attack because of the dire supply situation. Eventually, he changed his mind when the new road was completed, and was used to bring in ample supplies. The ensuing military campaign was successful, leaving the Indians without their annual crop of corn. The following winter was especially harsh, killing off many of the game animals the Indians might have used to subsist on. As a result, many of the Indians had to retreat to Fort Niagara, where they could survive on British food supplies. Most never returned to western Pennsylvania, and settlers were able to plant crops the following spring with a new degree of safety.

"In Search of the Turkey Foot Road" is a fascinating read through history in our own backyards. Meticulously researched and abundantly documented, and flavored with bits of interest in anecdotes and footnotes, the book is a critical analysis of primary sources that will cause you to marvel at the magnitude of information processed by the authors. With 562 print pages and over 1,000 figures and appendices on a companion disk, the book is sure to satisfy any reader’s curiosity about the people, places and events that transpired along the Turkey Foot Road.

The serious reader soon finds that this book is more than a story about a road. Parts of the Turkey Foot Road, disguised by different names, still take us where we need to go; and this historic transportation corridor continues to define us today as descendants of those who braved the elements and events of the early American wilderness to make homes, and leave legacies, in a boundless new land of opportunity.

Thanks to the authors, the elusive, and perhaps otherwise lost Turkey Foot Road now can be known to all. The route has been identified in considerable detail using maps, property surveys, depression era high resolution aerial photography, crop marks, surviving landscape scars, local guides, and oral traditions. Using GPS coordinates from the book, a dedicated reader can explore much of the eighteenth century route between Cumberland, Maryland and Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania using internet satellite imagery services, such as the Google mapping service.  

Monday, September 1, 2014

Entering Everson

  Without further ado, we start out fresh this first of September honing in on a place that, sadly has seen it's better days. This is about the old times in Everson borough in Upper Tyrone Township of Fayette County, bordering to the west on Westmoreland County and Scottdale of East Huntingdon.

   Among the information gathered is that the borough was established in 1903, or, possibly 1905, although there are a few traces of a somewhat tantalizing earlier history. The Main Street here is given the name of Brown Street and heads toward the southwest and to Pennsville. They say, 'you're never a stranger here'. Everson is not too surprisingly named after William Everson, the father of industrialist and tycoon B. M. Everson, (Barclay Mozart), who died in 1915. At one time he was closely affiliated with some of the  movers and shakers hereabouts, particularly the Charlotte Furnace on the bank of Jacob's Creek to the far west of town.

   Well, as can be seen, a few of these photos were originally taken in the winter, giving an indication of how long ago this post was planned!


Brown Street from Everson Bridge in the summer

   I feel the need to touch on a few lesser known and neglected items in this post. According to LaVonne R. Hanlon, When Christopher Gist led the first white settlers over the Allegheny Mountains and into what is now Fayette County, Pennsylvania, (though then believed to be a part of West Augusta, Virginia), they found the land that later became Everson and South Everson occupied by an Indian tribe under the leadership of an Indian who the settlers dubbed Chief Jacob. Well, to muddy the waters a bit, he has been referred to as a Shawnee and sometimes as a Delaware of Native American ancestry. Hanlon goes on to state, a stream of water ran through his reservation and that stream became Jacob's Creek. Thus, it is curious his well known historical and earlier whereabouts are quite a few miles from here near to Kittanning, where he was killed by Colonel Armstrong. This leads me to speculate on the actual identity of  'Jacob', Jacob's, or Jacobs, as I suspect the latter spelling is the proper moniker of the historical Indian chief that was most often referred to as Captain Jacobs. There is some curiosity in that he was said to of had a hunting cabin far to the south, although he was claimed to of had his base near this vicinity in the swamp named after him near Tarrs, and also supposedly a place at Iron Bridge in connection with Hammondville. I suspect the last could be a dubious allocation, allowing only for a remote basis in reality This would appear to derive from the confusion over the travel mileage of Braddock's army from Stewart's Crossings to Greenlick Run and on to the Jacobs Cabin location outside Mt. Pleasant.

   I will have more about this fascinating, shadowy character in a future article. Here you can check out more of what is being planned on "Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History." By the way, tradition has a long memory, and claims those first white settlers came here as early as 1755, which makes much sense as they would likely of traveled Braddock's Road.

   Furthering the debate concerning the exact identity of Captain or Chief Jacobs, this was claimed to be the same man Jacob's Creek was named for, (that meanders through the dividing line of Fayette and Westmoreland counties), and associated with Jacobs Cabin(s) outside of Mt. Pleasant, near the old Sony complex near the new and old routes of 119. Thus, this is the basic area his activity centers upon. These particular roads seem to follow old storied places like a dog chasing it's master around a kennel. We do know for a fact Captain Jacobs was considered a terror to colonists during the French and Indian War and he found his fate sealed at Kittanning by Colonel Armstrong, where he was finally listed as having this later home burned and himself  killed in reprisal for depredations to the Pennsylvania settlers. In attempts to establish the fact this was the same name as the Delaware Indian,  this has not been conclusively accomplished. I would add the tradition is strongly in its favor.

   Time certainly has a way of leaving most things in the past, doesn't it?

Everson clock in winter

   Now I fully realize the usual custom with websites such as this, which is understandable, is to enumerate the various old businesses that used to be in the area, like the Barber shop and Gino's Pizzeria, (where a rumor was heard locally that rats were found in the storage area, possibly leading to it's demise!), and some of the more prominent people and a few happenings. The laundromat was of service to the community for many years, though it has gone the way of other businesses. They still have the Fire hall and VFW.

   No offense to recent historical trends, and not to disappoint anyone, but I made a decision to fore go some attempt at a labored elaboration developing on the depressing loss of jobs here in favor of the places I feel are even older and, at least to myself, still of lasting interest.

not positive of where this came from

This being a borough where many just seem to pass through to other destinations, and the fact that I'm not writing a travel brochure, I honestly couldn't find much recent activity near the Brown Street vicinity worthy of mention, (once called old Rt. 119). There are a few things, like the Laurel Steel Products on Hill St. working with steel bar grating  and next door, a bit south is Fayette Steel, dealing with the manufacture of all kinds of wire, which I'm led to believe are probably the same company. But I do not know very much about them. Apparently they are subsidiaries of MLP Steel, listed as a division of Marwas. By checking their website it appears they have been in the area 19 years. Jeff Pfeiffer is the President. Whether this reflects on my investigative skills, I will leave to your discretion, but I haven't been able to contact them by phone as of yet and received no response from e-mail. I will add anything of interest as it is discovered, OK?

   Taking into consideration the fact that since the 'shop and store tour' has been done heavily in a few fairly expensive books and pamphlets, it would be just as well not to infringe on others' research without specific permission, and that's alright by me.

    Brown Street was named after one W. H. Brown a land agent near Scottdale. The Home Works were said to be of been owned by J. R. Stauffer of the Kingview area. I suspect this is factually accurate.

   Those of you with fond memories of these times can post a comment, or even start a discussion right below. If you so wish, be my guest.


   St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery in conjunction with the old church on the other side of the borough, was begun near to the year 1913. I want to highlight the old Alte Menist Cemetery sometimes referred to as the Sherrick Cemetery.which technically lies close to the Upper Tyrone and Bullskin Township line.  I will be soon address this place in another post connected with the passing of the Braddock Road through South Everson..

Abraham Stouffer's newer grave marker

    It appears to me the cemetery is partly in Upper Tyrone by a few maps I've examined, but I wouldn't swear by it. It is now looked after by the Scottdale Mennonite organization. Abraham Stauffer is buried here, the patriarchal Reverend who owned much of local land and lived much of his life at Kingview where he had a grist mill, and most likely, a distillery. It has been claimed, or more to the point, rumored, there was an Indian burial ground very near to Alte Menist, (old Mennonite), where there was a meeting house near the northwest side. Many of these old traditions have a ring of truth to them. More on that in another month.

   Maybe it's just me, but you use to able to see the old Spring House, though I speculate it might of been dismantled, as it has been hard to locate (?) I probably just haven't noticed it lately.

heading down Jones St. toward old Everson Station

                     Valley Works and Summit Mines

Broadford Road, going south toward Owensdale

    Going south of the streets of Everson,  past the railroad tracks and further along on the Broadford Road there was once the fairly large operation of the Summit Mines stretching away and on the other side of Jacobs Creek is Chaintown and the Scottdale-Dawson Road. Jackson Shallenberger started up the Summit Mines project back in 1872. Originally called the Owensdale Mines, (at one time,  Owensville), the name was changed in the early 1890's; in 1892, to be precise.

                   You can see some of the mining work that was done here:

1939 overhead photo courtesy of Penn Pilot

     There was a post office, stores and two schoolhouses in Owensdale as well as a Union Supply Company store for the miners families. More historical information would be appropriate when it can be obtained. The mine was based on a room and pillar system and the two main areas were operated for some time by James Cochran's company out of Dawson with one drift opening in and one out.

     The Valley Mine and Coke Works from 1869 to 1918, were across from the defunct Valley Service Station. A main site once served by the Southwestern branch of the PA Railroad. Originally it was owned by Willson, Boyle and Playford. Valley Mines had one hundred and two beehive coke ovens according to 'The Second Geological Survey of Pennsylvania' for 1875. They had 80 employees at one time and again, the Union Supply Company Store was said to be where the old gas station is today. Since I am not a fan of snakes, now that it is in the heat of summer, finding a few of the coke ovens rumored to be nearby, is a challenge that may have to wait, at least until better and higher thick shoes or boots are obtained. On site research is best performed from late autumn to early to mid spring. This might be a good time to heed my own advice.

    Luckily, I have generously acquired some good photos of these coke ovens from 2006, courtesy of author LaVonne R. Hanlon:


     In early times Everson also had the Clinton Mine and the Valley Works around the Tank Hill area, which we are now concerned with. This was a drift open mine at the coal patch of Valley Station. There were some coke ovens near the Mt. View intersection in the late 1900's and early twentieth century, (1869-1918), they had a small operation for a while with 20 or so beehive ovens by the mid-1870's, expanding to more than one hundred. This operation, along with Allied Mills and the 'Summit' Mine in Owensdale near to Jacob's Creek on the south and on the north stretching east, comprising much hustle and bustle for the community. Eventually the works were taken over by good ol' H. C. Frick, (of course, who else?). This is taken partly from the 'Second Geological Survey of Pennsylvania,' 1976.

    It must of been exciting at Christmas at the Union Co. Supply Store at Valley Station when Santa Claus came to visit the miner's children with some toys and maybe a ride on the sleigh!

  More Off the Beaten Path

   This spring, as previously alluded to, I took an excursion south of Everson to the Mennonite, or  Alte Menist, Cemetery. I felt this an important subject matter and it will soon be documented on here, so please check back.

    Every other year on All Saints Day, it is said they have a picnicking celebration. The Scottdale Mennonites apparently have taken over the upkeep. This is the statement according to this informative Daily Courier article which I found long after writing up on this area. I've heard this takes place less frequently now a days.

   So, see for yourself, when any of you find the time or inclination, the cemetery may not be so 'lost', after all.

   I've also interviewed a resident who lives nearby with the tradition that his yard had the foundations of a possible stagecoach or tavern site which might be connected to the old Braddock route. The evidence is scanty and, though the stones were used for the drive way some years ago and the elevation is fairly prominent, I won't publish the name or address as to discourage people from trespassing on the land. Still, this is more fodder in relation to the past with the British army that once passed through our region and the opening of the road eventually gaining a foothold for future settlement.

   Pennsville, (not Everson), was said to be owned by prosperous farmer, John Shallenberger, who bought 426 acres in 1791 near the time when Bullskin was a part of Tyrone Township. I would personally have some doubt as to whether he actually possessed all of the hamlet but this is mere speculation as I haven't had the time and hardly the inclination to look into this further; regardless of that, his farm was also said to stand near the cemetery here, as does the Sherrick farm. (Information courtesy of Rachel Basinger of the Tribune Review).

south of Everson, overlooking Pennsville to the east

     Leaving Everson...

     Further into South Everson, heading toward Rt. 119, were the Valley Works as mentioned above. It is from north of Mt. East Street heading south past where the coke ovens were located. Now, the Mennonite Cemetery is very old, just how old, it is difficult to be certain, but is known to date back to the 1700's. This may well be the area of an old Indian fort mentioned by Judge Veech as roughly half a mile from Pennsville. I would like to examine this more deeply 'down the road'. I recall the statement of a mile and a half in another report, again unconfirmed and possibly a garbled account. Yet this is clearly accepted to be a corner of old Pennsville from an old survey, so let's leave it at that for now.

old residence once used as a boy scout cabin near South Everson

    To top things off, in a somewhat more steady historical vein, I'm obviously kind of obsessed with the idea that this was the route rumored to be part of a minor Indian trail of the Catawba Path. We are on very good historical footing that Braddock's British army and the Virginia militia passed through here near the township lione on their way to Braddock's Field. This is also the route taken by a dashing, young Colonel Washington, himself recovering from sickness, and the famous frontiersman, Daniel Boone, among other key players of those times. The route was from the Narrow's Road area to Mt. East, deviating toward the Valley View Road and toward Walnut Hill, and on toward Prittstown and Mt. Pleasant, to the north.

 The old Turkey Foot Road ran not far from Iron Bridge, exactly where is the question. I feel some claims are likely correct this ran very near to Dexter according to some reports with a crossing of Jacob's Creek once, or possibly twice. This might of included a crossing of Sherrick Run close to the old Emma coke ovens. Then the "TFR" met up with and conjoined to Braddock's Road for most of the rest of its excursion to the west. The theory has nary a high percentage to be proven in this late date of a close connection and maybe a possible crossing of these historically impressive ancient road systems which were based on old packer roads near these small hamlets, beyond what has already been done in painstaking investigation. Does anyone else agree? It is yet to be discovered through what little remains, the conjecture that they well could of originated in minor Indian paths that deviated between Crossroads, Woodale, Pennsville, Kifertown, Everson and Prittstown; not in that order.There may, perhaps, be more indirect, yet tantalizing newer evidence to be located, one can never completely count this out. I just feel this makes an innocuous place become alive with the wisps of lost, undetected meaning right under the surface. All in all, a fascinating glimmer of something more, beyond the usual interest of recent history. For now, we do well to look into what is known here and that will have to be sufficient. You can rest assured there will be more articles on this, as I've stated repeatedly!

    I'm going to leave you all with that thought, to ponder this bunch of assorted, but not completely forgotten stories, only adding these insights and supplemental material, amd trust a fair gesture well at home in a blog with a name as appropriate as this one.

   I've upgraded, if not updated, this hastily put together post, as some typos and incorrect grammar were clearly pointed out to me by a well meaning and well known collaborator! Thank you for giving this some needed attention.

  See you soon with a new post!

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