Monday, October 20, 2014

The Braddock and Turkey Foot Roads Near Walnut Hill with added Information

  I'm back with you here folks, to present an in depth post on the little known Walnut Hill area of Upper Tyrone and Bullskin townships and the historic connections it has to the Braddock Road and, possible associations to the Turkey Foot Road.

  Please read on for some interesting observations and surprising conclusions.

 School, Church and old Cabin

 Part of the Walnut Hill area is in Pennsville of Bullskin Township, the other part in Upper Tyrone Township, and both are in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. This is above where George's Trading Post is near Crossroads. To help give directions for more distant travelers, from the south is the next one to the left past the Rt. 119 Everson exit. From the north, the second turn off to the right, past the Mt. Pleasant exit.

 As the Pennsville area was settled very early, the only place around the region this ancient is probably the borough of Mount Pleasant. Accordingly, Franklin Ellis' book, "The History Of Fayette County" on page 497, claims the Pennsville settlement once had twenty-one families, (at least as many, and maybe more than now). In May of 1837, it was voted on to build the octagon schoolhouse, so this was, apparently considered as coming into their jurisdiction. I don't know just when this school was replaced by others to the west in Kingview and Kifertown and how this was used in conjunction with the school houses round about Pennsville.

 In what was termed the 'First Half District', was the somewhat mysterious 'octagon' schoolhouse and an old United Brethren church where Isaiah Potter and sometimes, Rev. Powers preached. Dr. John R. King, born in Normalville in 1866, (according to the "History Of The Allegheny Conference of the United Brethren Of Christ", by J. S. Fulton), attended the Mt. Pleasant Institute and was converted at the old Walnut Hill church and was united in service for that church. The Everson Evangelical church was said to be an out growth of the Walnut church in the late 1890's.

  Both the old school and church  have long since vanished.

  Here is a schematic cropped photo to delineate the general location of these two buildings:

   On the same page of Ellis' book about the population, we have "This house was on the Tyrone line, west of Pennsville and was a prominent landmark in its day." Which makes it even more interesting as so very precious little information is known concerning it. Sarah Ullery and Henry Ullery, a family name that has lived nearby, may well of been a teacher there, the same might be said of Elijah Yunkin, and possibly even Lulu Longanecker, as she taught for some time at the hamlet of Kingview. In 1900, as well as South Everson and McClure. Francis Hill was a teacher listed at the school.

  According to the Daily Courier, Sept. 26, 1905 pg. 5, the First Institute of the Upper Tyrone Teachers was to be held in October at the Walnut Hill school house with teachers, patrons, and other friends of education invited to attend. This would allow for some evidence of it's prominence.

   Here is the old cabin down in the woods approximately 40 to 50 yards, (at a posted location), near the top of Walnut just to the northeast of the Kingview Rd. There is still a ruin there, but may not be much left of it nowadays. My family knew the old Rhodes man and woman who use to live here in the 1950's and into the 1960's. My father, Wayne Wilson, wassaid to be personally acquainted with her son, and there was talk of stray Indian and military relics found near there:

Old cabin near the gas line. GPS coordinates are 40.094355, -79.570578

             My research of these places really began with this old map. You can see here evidence of the old church and octagon school house and the residences of a few, very probable, though distant, relatives:

  Here is an old photo of the schoolhouse generously provided by Kim Brown, President of the Bullskin Historical Society that was thoughtfully bought, and therefore salvaged, from the old offices of The Independent Observer by her son, Tom. The contract was voted to build it in 1837:

old Octagon school house on Walnut Hill at the border of Upper Tyrone

 The Basic Route of Braddock's Road 


    After the fording of the Youghiogheny River at Stewart's Crossing the Braddock Road headed over the hills through the Narrows along the border of the two township lines through an old road that is broken up for the railroad. It soon travels right past on the west of the Mennonite graveyard, (coordinates, 40.073882, -79.579090), on a branch of the Catawba Path at the intersection of Sherrick and Bradish Roads where once was the Mennonite Meeting house. Here one will have arrived at the location of the old Mennonite Cemetery, a place covered in my last post. From here the Braddock Road segment veered away from Mount East north toward Valley View Drive. You can see on the cropped colored map above, the 'coal lands' might of endangered traces of the BR east of Valley View. What remains is covered as a projected heading for the route to Walnut Hill on what is known as the Kingview Road or the A1035 road, which runs easterly to Pennsville and west to Scottdale.

 Some Orientation

   The Crossroads, to the north of Pennsville, strictly speaking, are to the east of Walnut Hill as well, where the road turns left before turning right, but this relation does not factor into the directional equation because of a more modern origin. The point I'm making here, is the Kingview Road clearly ran unimpeded to the Country Club Road. So, the older road, which I will point out soon, traveled straight down what isWalnut Hill, to where today, is that same road entrance. These beelines can be significant, as when farmland and trees join as a part of a trace linking an old tract. For there, the Braddock Road was plotted by some researchers to turned north, running somewhat close to the Rice School Road and on the northerly part for a way, where there are possible scars still to be observed, but nothing definitive is known. Then it adhered to a rough extent to Rose Road as it traveled more northerly still to Gimlet Hill and the Green Lick Dam. This is my understanding of it. For more information on the 'New Dam', click the underlined link.

 Brief Information on the Turkey Foot Road Route

   Now, what is also interesting, the Turkey Foot Road appears to of followed the Braddock Road from Wooddale in the other direction toward the Rice School Road from the south in an effort to avoid Iron Bridge and the 'Great Swamp' located there. As it may of followed the Braddock Road route, it would then of ascended Walnut Hill and diverting up to the top of the hill where there is an old road trace from a 1939 overhead photo. This is as much as it can be enlarged for the supplied Blog format, so please click on it for a better view.

candidate for a branch of the Turkey Foot Road on Walnut Hill

  Tell me, do you spot the old road trace? Any feedback you can provide will be appreciated! More on this train of thought in a moment.

 As a secondary alternative, I speculate the 'TFR' could of crossed through the small Rankin Creek valley, as it came westerly up what became the Prittstown Road. This would calculate to the advantage of a more direct route, circling on lower ground around the steep elevation of what is locally called Penny Hill, which would necessitate being skirted. For another reason which I will get to in a minute, I favor the plausibility of the Walnut Hill route.

 Here is a schematic that lends a rough estimate of the Braddock Road in blue and the abandoned road, possibly a branch of the Turkey Foot, in green, with a red dotted circle delineating the small area directly across from Valley View Drive to the north with the old United Brethren church and the Octagon schoolhouse. Very little remains:

  I would issue a small word of caution that some of my article is still on the order of estimation, with some proof from map reading, as quite possibly, a part of the Turkey Foot Road used the extension of the Braddock Road. With the route of the Braddock Road near Kingview, we are, admittedly on firmer ground. Consequently, I feel a near surety these two famous routes simply crossed over and through there, navigating around this hill, one down and one up.

  Kingview and Dexter are places I am still looking at and investigating more thoroughly as of this moment, as I find the quality time. I will keep be sure to keep you all posted. Please be patient with research works that are in progress.

  Any discovery of this type is made more difficult as anyone who is familiar with the area knows, with the complications of farming, mining and logging roads that were continually laid in here in their hey day and left their marks and scars to blend with the modern era changes. Even more so, the strip mining that took place from the large Connellsville Coal Bed that under ran the whole region and has done much to deface these historic traces.

  Since the Turkey Foot Road was said to of crossed Jacobs Creek near Dexter and onward toward Mt. Pleasant, possibly using as a part of the old Turkey Path, this needs to be checked out as much as humanly possible in the near future. To further this theory, we have some maps of various ages to help with orientation.

The Backing of an Old Researcher:

  According to my calculations, between the Rice School Road and Walnut Hill, the 'BR' and the 'TFR' would of crossed each other. Though, this statement only holds feasible if the projected research is in the main, correct. This is well within the realm of probability. (As mentioned elsewhere, part of the supposition is not without another, though less likely, alternate route of the Turkey Foot Road, south of McClure).

  Below, you will note what I present as the major factor to favor this route of the Turkey Foot Road.

  I am not privy to the origin of this statement, but, in a dissertation on the main Indian Paths in Fayette County, Pa, a rare distinct claim was made by Rodney D. Mosier, the High School Principal for Uniontown in the 1960's in an article in the Evening Standard for April, 1969. there he is referred to as "one of the district's leading historians":

   Mr. Mosier, a Waynesburg college professor, was a Vice Principal of a Syracuse school in New York and a Supervisor of the schools in the Uniontown area. Also, he was the one time President of the Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society and his claims should not be taken too lightly.

   Furthermore, if said Turkey Foot Road met with the Braddock Road, a temporary convenience for those that were responsible for it's continuance in Fayette County, as was Providence Mounts, would be to put to good use part of this roadbed already cleared and cut, however the decayed condition years later.  So it stands to reason for them to follow Braddock Road  some distance in the opposite direction around Walnut Hill, steep Penny Hill and Iron Bridge further to the north to the northwest of the old chain bridge. This lends some collaboration toward the Turkey Foot Road in the Kingview and Dexter area. And, again, here appears to be a remnant of the Braddock Road on the 1939 aerial photo as it appears to deviate from roughly one half of the way up Walnut Hill heading east:

Here, from the 1939 photo, is noted the course of the Braddock Road antecedent before modern realignment.

  Above is the old road, probably a part of Braddock's Road, I located from the 1939 black and white photo with locational coordinates where the modern road changes course at 40.090291, -79.560148. Approximately, thirty to forty yards below here is where the newer version of Route 119 bisects the township line north and south. Therefore the new Rt. 119 parallels old 119 of the Pennsville, or Richey Road.

  Again, the only other likelihood to this route or alternative at hand, would be for the TFR heading through an area near Prittstown and subsequently to of entered the hollow of Rankin's Creek just south of Penny Hill and thereby heading to a segment of what would become Dexter Road. This was in the pre-industrial days, before Stauffer's saw and grist mills built on what became their farmland, bought from the original warranty and patent holders. There would still be the required crossing or fording of Jacob's Creek at Dexter which could not be avoided, as pointed out in Veech's book as a mile below the chain bridge, ( at modern Iron Bridge). As Lannie Dietle has calculated, this area is south of West Overton near the Stauffer or Overton Station and saw mill area of the Stauffer coke ovens and part of the Dexter Mine Works near the turn of the last century. Here we find the Jacob Creek Bridge. I would prefer to highlight that place in the future even more clearly.

   Providence Mounts, a captain and major of the militia, was prominent in clearing the TFR in Fayette County, and lived for some years near Connellsville. He was elected a justice of the peace for the area of Westmoreland County, Sept. 15, 1780, per George Dallas Albert, in his book on page 453. This was three years before the separating of Fayette County from Westmoreland after the  Pennsylvania and Virginia land controversy and the resolution of the Mason Dixon Line. He was, of course, a major figurehead here too, along with men like Isaac Meason, the largest landowner around, and George Hogg.

  I could, tentatively speculate toward the inclusion of some relatives of mine, such as Adam Hatfield, John Miner and possibly Adam Flick, (also a Revolutionary War soldier), in capacities as Justice of the Peace, and Overseers of the Poor, and Supervisors of the roads, etc., with the instructions given from General to Colonel, passed on down the chain of command to lay out roads in these areas. This is documented in Washington's journals. I must draw the line right there, having at hand no real evidence of ancestral involvement beyond the efforts of Providence Mounts to sustain such a theory than my conjectures and speculation.

  Thus, in what became Fayette, in the, then, larger township of Bullskin, and once large township of Upper Tyrone and in Dunbar, Isaac Meason, a principal landowner, held offices toward Uniontown, and all these type of men were heavily and directly involved in shaping the region. Much responsibility and territory was associated with his jurisdiction. Notice must be given that Fayette did not become a separate county until 1783.

 Both Old Routes Straddling The Townships

   Finally, to give a clearer understanding of this situation, here is an illustration of what could be the routes taken by the only two ancient roadways near this area:

   For more detailed information of most other regions beyond this, of the Turkey Foot Road route itself, please check with the well documented book, "In Search Of The Turkey Foot Road", by Lannie Dietle and Mike McKenzie, and you will find much detailed research to ponder over and learn of. May I add, the learned gentleman also has expressed a degree of approval, with some added support toward the possibility of these famous roads intersecting each other. It is likely, he will deliver some weight on the issue. As of right now, he may have much on his plate with a letter I forwarded to him of a man with, apparently, convincing evidence of remnants of the Turkey Foot Road near to Quail Road in Bullskin township.



   I give this research material out to the public rather tentatively, and in between collecting, photographing, and gathering material for other concentrated posts I am deeply concerned with at this time. I will want to consider including more indirect, though meaningful evidence and/or documentation up 'around the bend'. This will be when I can get a breather!

  So, theoretically, with some fairly substantial documentation, we are confronted with what appear important remnants adjoining the Country Club Road from Walnut Hill, traveling the very area the Braddock Road traversed and quite near to where the Turkey Foot Road of a few years later, would of extended close to. Here I have located an abandoned road on the side of that hill following the contoured incline.This is what I call fascinating stuff, folks. Where am I going with this, you may inquire? Well, we'll see, but I feel as the website gains steam, more perceptive observations ride on it's coattails.

  These signposts of historical relevance need to be noticed and addressed as they light the dim reaches of our forgotten days, finding a serious purpose in your readership to enlighten our path forward and what treasures has been lying right behind us all along.

  In my eagerness to provide some tantalizing clues toward the further discovery of these famous roads of antiquity, I consider this a sister post to the last one on a lost or abandoned road near the Mt. East region of South Everson where Braddock's army crossed through. Please have a look at it too. Coincidentally, this was about an area only a relatively small distance south of the location referred to in this, my most recent post. These articles and their content, literally and figuratively, need to be followed up on soon with more exciting revelations of our past.

  So stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Lost Cemetery on the Braddock Road

   I want to welcome everyone back to the blog with a post about a mostly forgotten cemetery and an old historic road, including a famous stretch of lost road, to boot.

  There is a tendency here at Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History, to leave the more beaten path and some of the mundane concerns of modern industry and packed up businesses for the elevation of older material. I hope this is not detrimental for most visitors. The blog does also cover recent history when required, and it is very interesting as well. This older habit is more intended to bring out the 'origins of things' and to grant a unique niche some added flavor for a larger recipe.

  Although, St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery was begun near 1913, this article is endeavoring to highlight one much, much older. The Alte Menist Cemetery east of  Owensdale toward the southeast of Everson or to be more formal, South Everson as a more exact description. Technically, it is in Bullskin Township, and very  near the border with Upper Tyrone. Right on the township line. So, by all means, please keep reading and to discover for yourself what I've learned while not sleeping much thinking about all the possibilities. This place is historically significant in triplicate, as you will see for yourself!

   It does appear the cemetery is mostly in Upper Tyrone by a few maps I've looked at, though the township line has seen adjustments. As reported in the "Entering Everson" article, it is looked after by the Scottdale Mennonite organization. Abraham Stauffer, the patriarchal reverend, owned much local land and lived in Kingview, but he bought a large parcel of the region that became Everson very early on. Stauffer kept a grist mill and possibly a distillery, and is prominently buried here. It has been claimed, or more to the point, rumored, there was an Indian burial ground very near here. This wouldn't be a real surprise. Many of these old traditions have a ring of truth to them. More on that further in a minute.

   On a personal note, I am continually learning all the time in continuing investigative research for these posts.

   This is a good place to add a word about Daniel Boone, who occasionally made return visits to his family on trips from the south. He was related to the Sterretts of Fayette County, especially in Owensdale, south of Scottdale. Of course Boone also traversed the Braddock Road with the British army, and was said to of passed through here when he lived in the Carolina's. He first visited some members of his extended family in Pennsylvania in October of 1781. Once again in the winter of 1787, and possibly in later years, although this may not be confirmed. This according to "Daniel Boone: The Life And Legend Of An American Pioneer", by John Mack Faragher. 

   I would like to relate there is a theory and a sort of tradition the colonial militia crossed at Broadford and met up with the Virginia Regulars at either Mt. Pleasant or Sewickley. It appears there is a mystery here. This idea might take on significance on this site as I add further material in blog posts yet to come.

   The story that in the summer of 1755 George Washington, on returning from his sickness in trying to catch up to the main military body under Braddock's command, had a small contingent that supposedly did cross as Broadford instead of Stewart's Crossing. And while this is an intriguing suggestion, it is unsubstantiated to my knowledge. Again, this concerns the report of a division of Braddock's army near New Haven. On the old surveys and maps, the area is listed as Stewart's Crossing only, leaving us much in the dark to the other claims. The mix up could of come from a road on one map that traversed from the traditional crossing location toward Broadford. There is also the fact that later, before the battle at Braddock's Fields, they did cross the Monongahela twiceand, of course, the Yough river was also twice forded. It would be appreciated if a scholar or member of an historical organization will be able to shine more light on this, or point out a topical reference.

   The Mennonite Cemetery and Braddock's Crossing

    Earlier this spring, I took a trip to South Everson to the old Alte Menist Cemetery by way of Mt. East, which I thought was an important subject matter documented here with photos included.

     Every other year on All Saints Day, it was said they have a picnicking celebration, though it is uncertain that is still the situation. It appears this is only done every so many years as of late, according to an informative South Everson resident, Scott Noss. The Scottdale Mennonites have taken over the upkeep. This is the statement according to this informative Daily Courier article which I found long after starting this one.

    So, see for yourself, the cemetery may not be quite so lost, but, in many ways, it is forgotten. There is some interest in the name of the 'Pennsville' Cemetery', the first I actually noticed the description, which could be confusing as to the relation of the Baptist Cemetery and old parsonage in Pennsville proper, across Rt. 119 to the east.

   Braddock's Road crossed smack through this place, this according to many reseachers, including Professor Laycock in the early 1900's. This was further said to be on a branch of the Catawba Path. There is no sign of the old Mennonite meeting house any longer and the story of a possible Indian burial ground on the north side, if there is any substance to that, has long passed away, possibly from any living remembrance. An old map clearly demonstrates the Mennonite Church was on the northwest of the cemetery in question, which does appear plausibe. I haven't located this map for some time and it is not included here.

   As to the legendary Indian fort or burial grounds I've mentioned briefly on other posts, little in the way of evidence is apparently known or the exact place where the small Indian community was, only a few stray clues so far. For now, I won't be quoting information that I am not sure of, or is copyrighted. One idea in particular, is the intriguing old stones without any perceptible inscriptions on the northwest side of the cemetery intersection. There may well be another simple explanation for the stones. Could it be just wishful thinking that these are old Indian grave markers of some kind? A conjecture worth something, although maybe nothing beyond speculation.You can find some general information about the Indians in Fayette and Westmoreland counties here on the subject of 'Sacred Ground'. A plan is in the works to have a good post on Native American places near the borders of Westmoreland and Fayette and at this time in the form of an embyonic kernel of an outline to hopefully grow to fair sized proportions. I want to bring together what basic information there is available and hope that will be helpful. The cemetery is a fairly peaceful place, yet it holds an air of mystery. I decided to highlight it for the article as to its surprising interest, and that will continue to unfold.

   Here are some views of the old cemetery and further down you will find photos of the surrounding directions:

Braddock's route, Mt. East street, or road, going south

Mt. East Rd. facing toward Owensdale

Tombstones in the Alte Menist or Sherrick Cemetery

  General Braddock, according to Captain Orme's journal and other sources, passed right through here with the large army of Virginia Regulars, volunteers, Indians, women and children, baggage handlers, cooks and guides.

Bradish-Sherrick intersection looking west, Here, tradition
says the Meeting House was located

Abraham Stauffer's newer grave marker

A view toward the south

   Pennsville, (and 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. This was referred to before, so please excuse the repetition. I would personally have some doubt as to whether he actually possessed all of the hamlet in question. That is not so important here, but his farm took in much of the core of Pennsville, also it was claimed to originated near the cemetery here. (Information courtesy of Rachel Basinger of the Tribune Review).

south of Everson proper, overlooking Pennsville to the east

Pennsville Baptist Cemetery looking east not too far from where
another Indian site may of existed

     Location of the Mennonite Cemetery

    Further into South Everson, the main borough of which I recently did a post about, heading east toward Rt. 119 and across from the old Valley service station were the Valley Works. I am not that familiar with everything concerning this particular location, but from Mt. East Road going south past where the coke ovens were said to be, about a mile and a half is where we find the the quiet place referenced above. The Mennonite Cemetery, 'Alte Menist', is very old, just how old, it is difficult to be completely sure of. It is known to date back to the 1700's. This may well be the area of an old Indian fort mentioned by Veech, east of Pennsville. Then again, maybe it is not. I recall the statement of a mile in another report, again unconfirmed, and possibly a garbled account. Braddock's Road is also described as starting its descent through the Everson Valley about half a mile from the Valley Works. This is clearly accepted to be a corner near old Pennsville, a very old village indeed, perhaps only surpassed by Mount Pleasant. So, we'll just leave it at that for now.

Washington's Importance and his Famed Associates of the Braddock Road March

   To top things off, in a somewhat more steady historical vein,  this was rumored to be, and very likely was, a traditional route traveled by part of the old Catawba Indian Path. A branch was claimed to go toward Laurelville and a small branch may of traveled past Walnut Hill toward Kingview and the Dexter area crossing Jacobs Creek there. This could also coincide with claims made of the old Turkey Foot Road. This leads to some heady speculation. Washington, although of a robust constitution, suffered much from maladies like diphtheria, malaria, smallpox and pneumonia. We know Braddock's Army certainly bustled through here on their way to Braddock's Field with a young Major George Washington at 23 years of age following up the rear, so to speak, because of sickness amid a destiny of bullet holes in his clothing and death surrounding him, where he barely escaped,  except for God's good graces with horses shot out from under him. After the brazen defeat by the French and northern Indians to undertake the ceremony of the General's eulogy near Fort Necessity and to fight another day, entering the realm of our greatest heroes. As mentioned above, Daniel Boone and other men soon to gain fame, was a part of this journey as a wagoner. He ived through it as well to assume a place in the backwoods canon of historical tales and truths. The great army arrived here, and those left after the bloody and confused massacre retreated back the same way of the Narrow's Road area to Mt. East Road, which later cut off the through road by a railroad, roughly half the distance from Stewat's Crossing. The  road deviated toward the Valley View Road near Walnut Hill and then on toward Prittstown to the north.

    This is undertaking an exciting endeavor when we are considering George Washington received so many of his impressions of the countryside of old Bedford County through his travels at various times, conoeing the rivers, fording streams, riding the ridges of Chestnut and Laurel, and in congenial and inclement weather, journeying much of what became the Braddock Road at least four times. His first two war experiences in battle, we might add, came from Fayette County, regardless that the area was connected, indirectly to a part of his homeland, then considered by Virginia as the District of West Augusta, and maybe parts of Maryland. This was the pivotal early history of Pennsylvania, comparing favorably well, especially to most events happening in other states of the Union. This should give us some pause in our daily rounds and toils, a foundational source of great remaining  heritage, locally, statewide and nationally. A boost of well deserved civic and patriotic pride is due.

   Indeed, it must be remembered, he was a loyal Virginian in all matters. Washington was one of the main protagonists of our finely threaded, multi-layered culture and an intelligent strategist, commander, and our first President and the first in many things in so boldly paving the way, when stories of the same ilk are now more scarce. He developed many of his early ideas and received much of his education on the governing of the Army, the state of American affairs. most importantly, much of his own life and attitudes were formed in the region round about this territory in what was Cumberland and Bedford and soon to become Westmoreland and Fayette County, (not to leave the original counties completely out of the equation), and to a lesser extent, with Greene and Allegheny counties.

   From his surveying days, with a keen eye to the land here, certainly in what became Perryopolis. The man passed through the Indian paths and small and large villages, meeting some of the pioneers on the frontier. Scouting with Christopher Gist and George Croghan, gathering land grants, delivering orders, seeing the same views and vistas as we do every day, with less of the trappings of industry and civilization and so much more of the old wilderness. Here, where our mothers gave birth and grandfathers lived, worked, fought and died; sleeping and eating his breakfast and dinner, telling tales, listening to the stories of the Indians, staying at the frontiersman's cabins and eventually plotting courses and events around the fires long into the night. He was experienced at dealing with the traders, like Henry Steward and William Jenkins, Colonel Crawford, Zachariah Connell. His family. His brothers, Valentine and Augustine, and their interests and letters; the wagoners and their craft, meeting with Trent and Dunbar; slowly gaining the trust and confidence of the militia as envoy to the French to the north and as a colonel, major and on up the ranks.

  George Washington truly endured and survived everything in his path; the inglorious defeat of Fort Necessity and retreat at Braddock's Field, sickness and attempts on his life, minor, and major battles of the Revolution. Intrigues and conspiracies were no stranger to his life. He also did not succumb in relations with his Congress. He held his reputation high and with every aspect of the places we have grown so accustom to, steeped in such unique history, the future Commander-In-Chief was an originator so very familiar in many ways, and yet keeping an aloofness and professional quality that was all his own.

   When crossing the Allegheny, he met in councils with King Shingas, the Delaware Chief; Monacatootha ; his half-king friend Tanacharison and Queen Alliquippa There were meetings in the tents with the guides, Jeskakake and White Thunder. (as you read in the 'History of Bedford, Somerset and Futon Counties, Pennsylvania", by Waterman, Watkins and Company in 1884 on page 28, for instance). With dangerous defiles, weak horses, facing hostility and frequent hunger and mired in swamps, wading through the cold and snow, our first president, the victor of the Revolutionary War, explored our region up and down. His story can almost take your breath away.

    The region is clearly lacking in some major areas. In spite of this, our home region is particularly fascinating. Does anyone else agree?

  Abraham Stauffer, the Reverend of the Mennonite Church, (and surely, it is no coincidence, there is a church of that affiliation in Kingview), once owned land here, as did others, through Everson and most all of what became Kifertown and Kingview. He was the patriarch of a clan of distinguished gentlemen and gentle ladies. Apparently, he purchased much of his early tracts from Isaac Meason, who is listed as owning large parcels early on from the 1700's, as did his family members.The original survey for the cemetery property appears to be for Thomas Meason and the warrant  from 1785.

   I also want to add a link to a Tribune article of a local man with knowledge of Indian artifacts around the region, here. I recently was fortunate enough to arrange an interview with him which, when I can get to it, I do have plans to turn into two segments for the sake of the interest it holds. He made the statement to me of his strong belief that the Owensdale area had a number of Native American sites at one time. With his past discoveries, and local knowledge of traditions, this does hold some water. We can also read this in "The History Of Fayette County" and a few other books. I will address the quotes directly when I publish a post more concerned with the Native Americans of this region.

  We need to keep in mind that the Braddock Road did run from the Narrow's further south from Connellsville and came down near the Bullskin and Upper Tyrone township line to Mt. East. Whether this is a slice of the Braddock Road or, simply an antecedent or alternate road of disputable age, here is a 1939 Geo survey black and white photo taken from the Penn Pilot website. The area experienced much mine activity, and some farming, yet this photo appears to clearly show a road veering off from Mt. East north, crossing the modern roadway and railroad to the Valley View Road:

courtesy of Penn Pilot, GPS coordinates 40.081527, -79.57863
   The evidence from the Geo Survey photo of 1939 appears substantial, but is this really a likely place for an abandoned road trace? Well, it may not be a meaningful issue for this subject, but I've been looking into it. Let's check one older map here, which, as antique as it is, that depends on whether I am reading it properly. I trust that is so, and with the noticeable connection between Mt. East and Valley View Drive, this just might be some proverbial icing on the cake!

 A Local Mennonite, Ivan Moon

  Lastly, I don't think it at all out of range to add a small tribute to a great artist and a kind, sensitive and religious man, Ivan Moon, past President of the Laurel Art Club, who sadly passed on in 2011. He is interred here. Some of you will recognize the name.

  Back in the early 1990's, (when I somehow became Vice President), there was a real feeling of camaraderie with artists like Helen Alt, Dolores Malik and another past President, Don Randolph of Scottdale, among others. While I knew him, Ivan was a good adviser and friend, and I send a greeting to his family and any and all of the members out there that might read this. He was the best artist I knew personally, considering my somewhat limited abilities and all faucets of the hobby and trade; his use of oils on a large canvas, or delicate watercolors of a quality palette were really something wonderful to observe first hand. He was also a great person to all that knew him. This is where I learned the exactness of hanging a framed canvas to the point  that I still do it automatically. I fondly recall the years with exhibits in places as the Carnegie Library in Connellsville and the Fall Foliage festivals in Scottdale. Then, what eventually led to a lessening involvement, working 12 hour shifts, only being capable of attendance once every two weeks. It wore on me and the practice of painting slowed quite a lot from the late 90's onwards. Some day soon, I hope to rectify the situation. And when and if I do manage to find more time and lift a brush more frequently, it will be in his honor and in his remembrance.

  I am going to leave you for now to ponder this bunch of old assorted, if not mostly  forgotten stories of our exciting regional history. This should be very appropriate in a blog with a name like this one!


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Forgotten Toll Houses Of Westmoreland County


  The Toll Gates Of Route 31


 Come on in and make a pit stop on Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History and let life slow down for a couple of minutes. Go ahead, sit back, relax a moment with your favorite brew and join us here at my homey site for a scenic discussion where you're always welcome.

Improvements in Historical Awareness and Signs of Neglect

    I feel the need to try do a part, however small, toward bringing attention to these more unique areas enveloped in our local places, hamlets and boroughs. I admit it is limited, yet I have experienced some success. Here our interest is with the townships of Mt. Pleasant and East Huntingdon. There are parts of the southwestern counties that might seem neglected here and I apologize and will try to rectify this oversight as I learn of more distant things.

    Happily, in recent years we have seen improvements in the "coal and coke" walking trails. An example would be the Allegheny Passage; bicycle paths and picnic areas are greatly improved. In many locations signs and routes are easily discoverable and it is a smooth transition to get a hold of good information and keep it at hand. Dunbar has its own reconstructed coke oven for all to observe and admire. Look at some of the developments at West Overton Village. Connellsville has seen the return of the Canteen and railroad museum pieces to their proper place. That reminds me, these two wonderful places and projects will certainly garner a future post! Mount Pleasant has much going for it as well. The website alone of the Society at Bullskin has links to many interesting topics as the Ore Mines, old soldiers, lots of b & w photos, the list of township schools, churches and much more.Though we are hardly in a position to assess their historical society by any means, Scottdale, itself is, well, doing some kind of flower pot arrangements on Pittsburgh Street with brick paved walkways. I confess to being ignorant of the meaning, beyond beautifying the town and an immediate result is restrictive in the sense of a few less places to park a vehicle. So, maybe judgment should be reserved, at least for the time being. We can hope, folks. The historical society is quite partial to house tours, painting and the occasional geocache. There are likely constructive projects in other areas and they have a fairly decent Facebook page.

   These enhancements are only seen and earned through hard work and genuine effort, of which everyone that takes part should be proud. Accolades go to those that put in the extra time and there is an intrinsic trust of the newspapers that do their part in acknowledging them. So, I might add, shouldn't those less inclined to be informed, grab a moment to reminisce on their personal memory lane? If you visit the posts regularly, you probably knew that was coming!

    Preachiness does have its limits and much indeed has been accomplished. So, on the lighter side we have in our midst an impressive renewal of historical societies and organizations. Nobody knows our towns and villages as well as those that live there. Sometimes it seems so much of our cultures and communities are left in the unsure, and sometimes tainted hands of others with differing goals. Though shamefully, funds have been threatened to be "turned off" to many important places of great historical intrigue and import in our state in exchange for more government buildings, offices, raises and what not. Much of the slack is taken up by grassroots movements, charity and books and newsletters. Thankfully, there is the 'little 'guy'...and maybe more frequently, the 'little woman,' as well, and here's to them!

  Yes, it is to be admitted there are regions and cities more prominently displayed and economically sound that might give the onlooker an idea of a more pivotal standing in history than this article addresses, and sometimes, deservedly so. Such appearances do not by any means belie the only reality. The toll houses of Route 31 is a peculiar situation where someone 'out there' may well have photos with more detailed stories to relate, because, frankly the impoverishment has me stumped. The website could certainly use your input here, so, if possible, point in me in the right direction.
  We know the toll houses and gates were authorized to the states in 1831. There is a rather remote  chance a few were once rebuilt and renovated, but I doubt that. Near the southern Fayette area there are old descriptions and photos to still document their existence and to an extent in other regions of southwestern Pennsylvania, yet this is a case of those that appear lost to us and apparently forgotten and even unmourned. Some might say, 'well, they were just old buildings'. E gads.To this I would indeed ask, when should one actually mourn and grieve over such keen losses to our regional heritage? Here, I confess to doing just that in a whirl of frustration. (Do an advanced Google search and see what you find for yourselves!) The attachment of any blame clearly refers more to the larger county and state societies. That's the way I see things, anyway. Although these large establishments  share more responsibilities, there is usually better funding and recognition and so better capabilities and resources. Some can breathe a little easier after reading this, but should still be careful guardians of their own backyard treasures.

Brief Description of Historic Toll Houses

  The collection of tolls was discontinued in 1906. It is an interesting observation that many of the toll keepers were known to live at the gates, passing their years and siring children on the premises.

  For instance, in Greensburg, a city where one would consider they would be kept better record of, there were suppose to be five toll gates. Maybe three I have gotten wind of; one on East Pittsburgh St. east of Stark St; another was at the strange name of Mt. Odin Park on Toll Gate Hill Road near Rt. 30. Those from the region should probably recognize the reference. There was one near the northeast corner of the Courthouse. These were a part of the Greensburg-Pittsburgh Turnpike Road Co. and one off Rt. 30 to the west of McDonalds. Oddly enough, I notice some of the GPS coordinates from Wikipedia send me willy nilly to other locations. According to 'The History Of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Volume 1', on page 240, "The name turnpike, as applied to a road, originated from the fact that a pike or pole was placed across the road at a toll house, which prevented the traveler from passing until he paid his toll, when the pike or pole was turned around, and he was allowed to pass through."

   A Few Toll Houses In Pittsburgh

   The very first toll gate was said to be on Federal Street, another was a half mile east of Charles Street and one was past Jake Born's tavern centered at East Street. The famous Joe Keating Tavern was at West View, a popular rendezvous for passengers, sleigh parties and wagoners alike. Others were briefly stated as on the Allegheny and Franklin road, the Butler Plank Road of 1849. There were also tolls on Center Avenue and Brady Street. And then the Pittsburgh and Braddock's Field road came into being, the Temperanceville, Noblesville and Manchester roadways were made, and soon traversed. As many of them lost the toll privilege, things changed again. I don't have access to photos for these places, sorry about that.

Below you see the location of the quaint toll house above Mt. Pleasant.

Limited Information

    So far as I've been able to ascertain, very little information is available to historians or to the public, unless in some library on a musty shelf, rarely visited. Why is this, and just who and what is responsible for such a condition? Is it just the shedding of what was becoming old and rundown in years of progress? That might well be the situation. I will try to address this issue. Whatever the cause, sadly, we might be capable of doing little here to rectify it.

    Well, back when I wrote to the Westmoreland Historical Society, they were very cooperative as far as it goes. Their historian kindly informed me, though there may of been some write up in the past in a newsletter (?) I am welcome to  come up to search the library at Sand Hill, but they have no knowledge of any old photos. Some small good news mingled with the bad. I don't personally blame these people, yet it is a disappointing setback. In fact, they may not be aware of, or have no conception of where this material might be located, or even if it exists. Things do get lost and relegated. Ultimately, someone should take some responsibility. It may lie in the keeping of those that are no longer among us. As this post goes out to the public on the internet, I may be partly at fault as well for NOT discovering more, or maybe not digging deep enough.

   On top of this, I once saw info on the Laurelville toll gate, but, as of late, have not been successful in finding it. When, and if I do, I will be sure to swiftly slide it in as much needed corroboration.

   Journeying up and down the old Glade Pike, (basically, Route 31),  so frequently traveled to New Stanton and on to West Newton from the east and toward Donegal township and Somerset and Bedford counties from the west. There are still one, here or there, to be seen and appreciated, and that's fantastic that they have been preserved and restored.

    At these favored places, we can get a real old fashioned picture postcard. The careful jingling of the shillings or pennies, the impervious attitude of the toll keeper magnates in charge of halting the local traffic, the panorama of bellowing dusty cows and sheep, even turkeys and chickens; the wagon loads of goods and produce; the whinny of impatient horses. The rumbling, romantic stagecoaches of all types and the cowled dashing, long whipped driver and his yells and whistles, amid a constantly renewed day to day trample onward to and from those neighborhood farms and mills. Kids and families would of been closely recognized that were permitted entrance with no fuss or bother, as the law required. Then the welcome sight of the inn or tavern to which many travelers retired for well needed refreshment and sustenance on the long journeys, clearly marked and well known for their quality for miles around through local gossip. Addison, Searight's, these fabulous toll houses have been cared for for future generations to visit and wonder at the historical interest they justly deserve.

   As mentioned elsewhere, these little authoritative buildings shut down in the early 1900's, never to reopen. Of course, in a broader scope, the canals disappeared to the railroads and the toll roads gave way grudgingly and temporarily. The modern effects of the trailer trucks resulted in a usage for the toll roads of today. The same feeling could be evoked concerning those to the southeast of Westmoreland and Fayette Counties as I am to reference on an article about the National Road some day 'around the bend' and in the not too distant future. To be frank, the problem was in not having much of anything to work with for this article. Here along a large parcel of this road, among the grass and gravel, there is not even a hint of a beat up historical marker to remotely show to anyone these places existed at all. What a shame.

  SO, this is clearly a failure to be able to deliver the goods. Yes, I have discovered their basic whereabouts. In this there is small consolation since the maps are easily available. No, I have not located much else to, in any meaningful way, share a good description of their specific historical underpinnings.

 Other References to Toll Houses

  One point of interest comes from the DAR. At this site you see the story and old photos of the Fort Pitt blockhouse. This would be from The Fort Pitt Society of the Pittsburgh Chapter. Though many are aware of this organization, fine tuned toward historic preservation, restoration and educating others for 120 years, with great archives of pivotal American material, I would also direct you to the National Society of the Sons Of The Revolution, descendants of the male line and the requirements of membership, also referring here to the honorable purposes of the Pennsylvania Chapter.  I am slowly approaching the process of pursuing this line of genealogical recognition when time permits.I will keep FWFH, (Fayete/Westmoreland Forgotten History), informed.

Now I do want to point out something about one of the websites connected with the Great Crossings Chapter of the DAR in our region who were responsible for restoring the Addison toll house in Petersburg, which began in 1835. The Iron Toll Gate was made by William Hatfield of Brownsville in 1836. The restoration was done in 1997.

  Apparently, when they innocently list the toll houses and title this as "The Pennsylvania Toll Houses Were:" well, let's say it is a bit deceptive, in the sense this only includes those that were on the National Road, which I do plan to document further in the near future, rest assured. What of the toll houses of the Glade Pike? Are these not surely "Pennsylvania toll houses" as well? Certainly. You tell me what is wrong with this picture. It should be obvious. One would do well to advice specificity guidelines with a proper explanation of region as more helpful, and this would keep those like myself from avoiding unnecessary searches with many of the same results. Otherwise, with the research and restorations, they can hardly be faulted, but, instead are to be congratulated.

   To enumerate, they list Addison, Mt. Washington Tavern, Searight, Bealsville, near Washington, and the one near West Alexander. That is all from the website of the DAR chapter. They do a good service with listing the usage, prices and toll keepers. For instance, you see sheep and hogs at 10 cents each and a coach or chaise with 2 horses and 4 wheels up to 12 cents. Exciting that people kept track of this info. A refusal to pay was the whopping amount of $3.00! That could really break someone, (if they had access to those finances at all). The earliest mentioned is William Condon for 1840. What are we to make of the lack of available material for this region in Westmoreland County? All I can conclude is the fact the National Road grew in popularity and the Pike may of been traveled less frequently, thus the lack of acknowledgement. This is pure speculation on my part.

  Basic Locations

   So these three toll houses once existed on this stretch of a once greatly acclaimed roadway. In general, many of these were removed, or occasionally turned into houses, rarely there was a restoration as far as can be assessed. Most were simply tore down after languishing as an eyesore, probably standing awkwardly in the way of industry and progress in the late nineteenth century to the teens or 1920's of the last century as the trains whizzed past, soon to be replaced for shoppers and visitors, by the trolleys and street cars, and finally, the automobile. You might suppose this was then somewhat more understandable, that these historical buildings had seen their usage and were found wanting as many were given over to another purpose or derelict, abandoned or just plain unwanted and unneeded any longer. Well, there should a limit on how much one can be expected to have a philosophical outlook toward the value of your own history.

  In Laurelville, Pa, the Glade Road led east to the Plank Pike of the Somerset and Mt. Pleasant Road, (or maybe the other way around), said to be one of the finest roads in the whole country.

  Here is a photo of an original piece of old road, much more than a trace or any scar, southeast of Mt. Pleasant near Laurelville and north of Cherry's Mill of what became Route 31:

a glimpse of the original Route 31 Glade Pike Road

   As near as can be ascertained, this toll house was on Rt. 31 close to the bottom of the Three Mile Hill which heads toward Donegal. Possibly, the early location was slightly farther uphill than the place projected here, as I only have a rough estimation. In the environs of Laurelville, on the outskirts of Mount Pleasant and Bullskin Townships, lies a conspicuous intersection by the old feed mill. Technically, I am  unsure if this did not have a somewhat different position. Regardless, this is a reasonable candidate for the vicinity of the old toll house just to the east of the old mill places on Jacob's Creek. In its favor, you can clearly see the closeness of the road between the buildings here on old Route 982 where it may have once been:

The rear of buildings at Laurelville, on the remnant of Old Route 982.
Coordinates, 40.143440, -79.483509

Lobingier's, or Cherry's Mills Toll House on Barker's Westmoreland County Map

On Route 31 at the overpass of Route 119 northwest of Mt. Pleasant, was a quite prominent toll house:

Possible location of the Mt. Pleasant toll house
GPS coordinates are 40.154732, -79.564779

another view of a projected location of
the Mount Pleasant toll house to the south of Rt 31
Route 31 toward the 119 overpass and Mt. Pleasant

Roughly about 5 miles away at Ruffsdale,  close to the old Market area and Post Office, another toll house appears to of been placed right past the little stream called Buffalo Run near the treeline on the next photo:

Probable area of the Ruffsdale Toll House
GPS coordinates approximately 40.171761, -79.608228

  A few sentences and occasional anecdotes are sometimes related off hand in old articles or regional books. Such mentions appear inclined to give a high profile to some prominent person or family in the community of the past, and their industrial, financial standing, religious persuasion and political affiliations as all important at the time. Of course, this is natural to some degree, not only were they always, 'steady and forthright', an absolutely required position to be touted, even for bankers, many times including the amount of children, their grandparents and whether they were masons or Methodists! But, not necessarily the exact location where they resided or the local school they attended. Rarely, does it appear to of been fashionable to be at all considerate, or far sighted enough, to keep a record of many of the old school houses, taverns, wagon stands, stage coaching places, or these toll gates and houses.

  Another area with more information yet available are those railroad stations that lined the little hamlets and groups of town and city tracks, and the rail yards remembered by many today. This is more true of the railroads themselves, and are fairly represented by some well researched websites and books, well beyond the research of this post. The railroads experienced such amazing booms in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it is difficult for us to conceive of it. By the way, the stations themselves are not properly signed or well known either. Nope. Many people, is spite of much enthusiasm, have hardly a clue where the old stations were with the exception of some of the larger ones, a handful of which are still in existence.

  Back to our subject matter. The toll houses all saw the life blood of the people passing through every day...from cattle drives and wagon trains, to those same prominent citizens passing through to stump somewhere on a soap box, parade or banquet, to the normal flow of travelers and visitors from one place to another. Easily taken for granted and naturally neglected through time in various places in these southwestern counties and townships. That is particularly and oddly apparent if one just does a search. Left to the local hamlet alone in a bit of gossip and stray tradition, and just possibly to be found in a dusty newspaper archive or a library somewhere. Otherwise, zilch.

Old Toll Gate in Ruffsdale past 117 on Rt. 31
with No. 5 schoolhouse to the side

   Above is a small portion of East Huntingdon township on Route 31, from the 1867 Beers Westmoreland Atlas marked with the toll house of  Ruffsdale clearly noted. Does anyone recall the schoolhouse shown next to it? I don't suppose it would pay to make the inquiry if anyone remembers the toll house. Unfortunately, this is the lone reference.

   In "The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, Volumes 1-3" of 1918, courtesy of Google Books, is an excellent start for material bringing good descriptions of how the tiny, powerful toll houses operated and worth checking out. The toll houses on the National Road can be searched as to the prices for how many horses or oxen, and some record of who worked them is available. These were very important landmarks in the 19th century and saw tons of activity. Please to the powers that be, consider the efficiency of those dated places which our trade and commerce depended so highly upon. These are marvelous links to our past. Not to be too harsh or judgmental, but really folks, from this latter day vantage point, the result of this situation over years and decades seems nothing less than deplorable and inexcusable.  The sight of our modern tolls on the Interstate and U. S. routes surely are less attractive and meaningful, only unless you are desperately searching for the right directional lane on a busy day!

   Mapped below is the marked area of the Ruffsdale toll house from an 1858 map:

East Huntingdon Map of 1857 showing Ruffsdale Toll House

   We have an unusual reference in the 'Biographical and Cyclopedia of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania' in a rare mention of the accomplishment of one of the 'fairer sex', by John F. Grisham on page 300, to a "rather remarkable woman", Mrs. Elizabeth Mellender-"...She was left at fifteen years of age without a home; she began earning a livelihood by sewing and spinning by the week at Mount Pleasant and afterwards worked for some time at Greensburg. By economy, when soon accumulated sufficient money to purchase a farm of one hundred acres at the foot of Chestnut Ridge, for which she paid $500. After living on it for several years, she, on April 1, 1848, moved to the Mount Pleasant toll-gate and became tollkeeper on the turnpike, and afterwards at the bridge across the Youghiogheny river at West Newton from October 1, 1862, to 1884." She was indeed remarkable and gained a living worth $20,000, in those days a huge sum, and even built a parsonage!

 Small Editorial

   This lack of serious attention might be considered all the more unfortunate and disarming, even as much of the time the historical societies feel the intent need to be more often involved with fundraising, membership drives, costumes, tickets and bake sales, however practical and useful. It may appear a cruel endeavor to pass criticism toward this loss and apparent neglect to some extent, as those things, though necessary, do help maintain a proper function in the scheme of various needs of the community. Yet, we should face the truth in this situation that a problem still exists and may be compounded, if much of the 'meat' of our history gets slowly, steadily, pushed aside in the bustle of our times for the 'milk' and those of milder presumptions or delicate, refined dispositions. Not having the time or inclination to search out these pivotal and meaningful places for the benefit of those that still retain some tradition or memory is not an all encompassing excuse. Let's hope research can shine stronger light on the lost toll houses some better day for those younger and impressionable ones we hold dear that would latch on to a slice of the past over our upcoming generations.

   As always, if errors appear, or adjustments should be made, please be so helpful as to point these out with evidence or verification and they will be promptly corrected as much as is possible.

   In this excursion to these old places of great activity, there is a feeling of a small, but substantial piece of the puzzle to a better understanding of this region and one key aspect of our heritage. I enjoyed taking the photos in better weather. Thanks for being an integral part of the website, see you for the next post!

    ~  Histbuffer

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