Monday, December 8, 2014

The Forgotten Turkey Foot Road in Bullskin Township


  Jeff Hann of Bullskin township in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, excitedly contacted me a while back. He became aware of an old rutted path from Quail Road heading in the direction of Spruce Hollow and Breakneck intersection in Fayette County, Pa. Mr. Hann works for Upper Tyrone township and as an auditor for Bullskin. He and his friend, Mick Lilley have hunted deer in the area for 20 years. One day, sitting up in his tree stand, he suddenly realized what he was looking at was more than a logging road.

A photo south of the Breakneck Spruce Hollow intersection
appr. latitude 40.061183, -79.521361 longitude

  To give a quick taste of what is to be apprised in this post, the above photo is likely a part of the route shown on the James Smith survey. In describing this photo, Jeff Hann states, "This one is interesting, as the road makes a hard turn at the point, and the hard bend is deeper than the straight part."

   I was very intrigued with this story. Soon I was convinced he had made genuine and meaningful finds there and had much justification in getting excited. We soon got in touch and compared information. He said he hunted along the region for 20 years. When he happened to access the February guest post on my blog, he realized that this was right smack where a short cut route of the TFR could be located. There is always satisfaction in helping point others toward deeper research.

 Point Of Order

    This article mostly documents a somewhat shorter, yet more level road discovered by Mr. Hann connecting the roundabout 1700's route, portions which were originally documented by Mr. Dietle. Among much other material, his book uses original surveys. As to this route that came to the Chestnut flat/Vought survey area from what was the Turkey Foot Road or path, much of which traversed what is known as Hawk Road, Mr. Dietle's book uses the James Smith survey to substantiate the part of Quail Hill Road and Breakneck Road as the route would cut north to the intersection of Spruce Hollow Road and Breakneck Road. He also relates that the Hezekiah Lindsey survey shows the Turkey Foot Road. Anyone that has information or traditions to add to our knowledge of the region, please relate what you know! We would be most appreciative.

   When Jeff related this find to me, my immediate instinct was, of course, to contact Lannie Dietle, the author of "In Search Of The Turkey Foot Road." The book is in its fourth edition and he has now updated his addendum to include Jeff's ridge line route, and a description of my shared route theory toward Walnut Hill where Bullskin township borders on Upper Tyrone. As he stated it, he was "stoked' over this find.

    To share with you some added insight into our research, I later wrote in an e-mail to him:

"Well, Jeff and I, and Mick Lilley, the school teacher, walked the old road this
afternoon. I advised him it would be best if he sent his
pics and what coordinates that can be estimated with
whatever pertinent info he has, directly to you. Especially,
considering he knows the area so well and the people there
and his sense of direction is better and more acute than
mine. His and Mick's photos are good quality and we
walked the whole thing. There are a few puzzling deviations
and parallel roadbeds in there. Possibly, the route became
too deep and rough and alternated the main road; we're
not at all positive of the cause. You can examine those. My
point would be that it looks good and much of it appears
genuine. This remnant passes through there in an impressive
beeline to the Spruce and Breakneck intersection. They had
to of had good experience with a compass. We didn't get
to the area around South Spruce,
  And in another e-mail I wrote to him, "Well, I do appreciate
the statement that the bulk of the Walnut Hill post
research looks solid. Your assessment mirrors mine too and
it's good to hear you found it interesting. What I added
east toward Rice School Road was mostly an estimated
conjecture to give a basic outline for the projected
routing; and obviously, the routes were subsequently
traveled in both directions. And you are spot on, that much
of this hinges on Veech's, Baker's and the Uniontown
Principal's theories and to exactly where and how they is nice to be
able to block in anything with some degree of certainty that
will add a little to all your careful southeastern research
of the Turkey Foot Road and that of any of the Braddock Road
research. This intrigues me a lot with the appearance of
overlapping roads. It's odd too, that I didn't
previously expect to address much about the Braddock Road.
To be candid, I found this scenario surprising, enjoyable,
satisfying and addictive.

    The premise of this report is a combined determination from facts and observations of fresh research backed by Lannie Dietle's and his co-author, Mike McKenzie's original investigations. Some settlements along the route were made as early as the 1770's and others, for example, originating as late as 1804 and even more recent.

 Background of the Turkey Foot Road In Fayette County

  Early Days


    I made a promise in the last post not to continually repeat information for various and obvious reasons, at least in principle, so I will try to adhere to that to some extent. Do keep in mind, this historic, though largely unknown and forgotten road, was cut and cleared over quite a few years. This is already well documented with supplemental information from the early surveys as well as much local tradition. There were also different route variations, as there are with more modern roads. Let me be clear, this is not concerned with the Ohio Company routes that were connected to the Braddock Road.

     Ladies and gentlemen, boy and girls, the Glade Path or Pike from the east and what became Route 31, with Bouquet's route or Forbes' Road, the National Pike and Route 40, and the Ohio Company's and Braddock's roads, from the southeast; these were the first real roads in our historic region.

    With alternate routes and branches in key areas, there was what was called the Turkey Foot Road. The old route was most likely first cut and traveled by horse packers, and improved for wagons and coaches starting in the early days of the mid-1700's on through the 1780's, 1790's. When the Ohio Company got involved in intrepid pursuit of land and the control of trade with the Indians by road making in a parallel area, changes were made in the varying branches of the different roads. 

    The term originates from the appearance of a 'turkey foot' branching out from at Confluence, on the very border of Somerset County, basically from the south as the crow flies. The Laurel Hill Creek, Casselman river and the Youghiogheny river flow through this old place known for its Indians and the Sloane Ford. (You will find a few photos I provided in Mr. Dietle's DVD, included with his book).

   A northern route we are most concerned about here, was once cut and cleared in the 1790's by Colonel Providence Mounts and Colonel Clinton. This came by way of special orders of Nathaniel Greene on advice from the Commander In Chief, George Washington. Consequently, there are clear Revolutionary War era historical connections. Mounts lived at one time in the location that soon was to become Connellsville at White's Run, which was once a part of Bullskin Township.

   So, understand, this route was begun in Cumberland, Maryland by the militia and cut to Fort Pitt at what became the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Avoidance of the Youghiogheny crossings of the probably, deteriorating Braddock, (or we could say 'Washington's'), Road, would be a main advantage of the Turkey Foot Path and plus being shorter with better forage. It was used early by pack horses and by traders with some stretches used early by the Indians. Passing through and leaving Somerset and Turkey Foot and arriving near Fayette County at Confluence which was one of the earliest known settlements to the west, it crossed Laurel Hill to Mill Run, near Indian Creek and traversing the Chestnut Ridge, proceeded past Saltlick township into Bullskin. This is according to Dr. Paul Wallace in his 1965 book, "The Indian Paths Of Pennsylvania", with his association with guide Jack Pyle. By the way, I have that one and recently acquired the companion book, "The Indian Chiefs Of Pennsylvania."

    With more evidence we believe is herein provided, the Turkey Foot Road passed through this part of the  Bullskin area of Fayette County, with some minor variations, through Hawk Road to Quail Hill and past the Spruce Hollow area and on toward the Shenandoah Road. Keep in mind, road names are relatively new to the times we are discussing. There was a possible connecting route with bearings from the Chestnut Ridge area to Connellsville. It is referred to in the Cornelius Woodruff's 1788 survey, Zachariah Connell's 1794 survey, and Thomas Meason's 1795 property survey. This could be grounds for more fruitful future research.

   We do know Judge Veech claimed the road was said to cross Mount's Creek further north at the Kithcart/Hemminger/Spaugy Mill at Wooddale and on to "about a mile below the chain bridge" at what became the hamlet of Iron Bridge. There, at a location not far from what is today Dexter Road, the route crossed Jacob's Creek and on into Westmoreland County. From there north and west somewhere between Mt. Pleasant and Sewickley Creek the Turkey Foot route met up with the Braddock Road.

   As settlers began moving in along this path, there came local traffic through drovers, wagoners for the fur trade, supplies. farm goods, produce and various types of millers, and farmers. And soon came the mail coaches. Some parts of the route became associated with and used by the back roads we see today in our rural regions.

    Eventually, some routes were deviated from, abandoned and sometimes reused, by farmers and by  loggers and the mining industry, making it more difficult to sort out the genuine article. This brief outline should serve for a better appreciation of this specific find. Since I have previous articles referring to the route of the Turkey Foot Road, and am working on various articles at one time, for now, I must of necessity simply give proper links to those and other websites for more of the background material.

    As a brief relation, I have personally taken the supposition that it crossed at, or very near to the cut stone bridge I surprisingly located a while back. From there conjecturing that the road passed through where the Monongahela Railroad crossed into East Huntingdon to where the old Southwest and Scottdale Branch of the Pennsylvania tracks ran to the west of Iron Bridge and the Y pond. There is a distinct consideration the path was followed by these tracks on toward Morewood to the west of the Mt. Pleasant community. Possibly, a variation ran near to what is called old Route 119 and toward Central outside of Tarrs.Unfortunately, much of this evidence may be irrevocably lost to us.

  Some Associated Links

    Here is the "Turkey Foot Road" guest blog of Lannie Dietle. He notes citations to the Smith survey on page 477 of his book.

    This is a VERY fresh link to my newest post about "A Very Old Bridge" with information about the key area where the Turkey Foot Road should cross Jacob's Creek at Dexter at the border of Upper Tyrone and East Huntingdon townships of Fayette and Westmoreland counties.

    Here is a link to my recent article on "The Braddock And Turkey Foot Roads"; and everyone can check out the  "Lost Cemetery On The Braddock Road", also recently posted!

   This is an early 1900's topographical map with added animation to help with a perspective of the the route Jeff originally found and the route north of the intersection later covered by Mr. Hann, Mr. Dietle and Mr. Wilson: 

  This is a click-able schematic map of Jeff's route superimposed on  the modern area. Certainly, saving me some work, this was made out by Mr. Dietle showing the 1794 survey route and the route Jeff Hann discovered for comparison:

The yellow lines are from the old surveys. Jeff Hann's route is in red

  For what it is worth, there has been speculation by Jeff Hann and myself as to whether this could be an older route unrelated on the James Smith survey, or if this is actually a later short cut, though apparently common sense alone would ascribe the 1794 route as the earlier.

   As Lannie Dietle and Mike McKenzie recognized and related on page 349 of their book, when "people claimed land or settled along the Turkey Foot Path or road, they might of used the road as a property boundary, or alternatively may have placed the road at the property boundary." This is a key place to look for added confirmation.

A Walk In Bullskin With Jeff Hann and Mick Lilley

  This exclusive segment is restricted to the area to the south of the Spruce Hollow and Breakneck Road intersection.

  I headed up there some time later on a Sunday and walked the whole road, logging roads crisscrossing, and with parallel remnants included. Jeff took photos with his Nikon and I, as well, with my 'less expensive' Sony cam.

  Here you will see the fascinating photos Jeff took and the story of the finding of the road. Some photos are in the 'panorama' format and very large and clear. I had to crop and adjust these to better fit the Blogger format, but they are breathtaking in full.

  The downhill westward facing photo below shows Mick Lilley on the old road. Mr. Lilley is commendably teaching of this route to his class at the local elementary school. This was taken southeast of Breakneck Road further near the top of Quail Hill. 

Turkey Foot Road remnant with Mick Lilley

    Mick Lilley is a Social Studies school teacher for sixth grade students at the Bullskin Township Elementary School and owns a part of the Chestnut Flat region where the road bed is located. Jeff and Mick are friends and hunting companions. Jeff has hunted deer in this region for years. Mick's wife of 12 years is Natalie (Myers) Lilley, originally from Normal, Illinois, and he has 3 children; an 8 year old daughter, Ryann, and 2 sons, Luke 6, and Jake 5. They live on Quail Hill Road.

    In Jeff Hann's own words, "One day I'm sitting in my tree stand deer hunting, looking down at the old road when it struck me that this was no logging road. Mick and I discussed it and decided it must be the Turkey Foot Road." This is a good hunch and a serious candidate.


Roughly midway between Quail Hill and Breakneck Road

      Next up, according to Jeff, this is the visible end of the road as it comes out near the present Jay, (Jack), Shultz property looking north. Coordinates are approximately, 40 degrees 03'44.30, -79 degrees 31'21.93. Basic Latitude and longitude are in the photo caption.The start of the climb up the Chestnut Ridge, (from Breakneck), the rut here is two feet deep as seen in the left side of the photo.

According to Jeff, the GPS coordinates here would be
 latitude 40.062306, -79.522758 longitude

     This is a panoramic photo toward the intersection of Spruce Hollow and Breakneck roads. You can spot the area of the fields to the far right hand side. You will need to click the photo for a better perspective. The sunken road to the left is about two feet deep here.

      Here we have another example of the split route and this photo is taken by Jeff Hann further down toward the Spruce and Breakneck road crossing. Approximate coordinates are 40.061183, -79.521361. This could be an area for lighter baggage or horses to pass, or as the route became deeper and more damp and rutted, and the alternate road was built to compensate.

One fourth the way up Chestnut Ridge the rut splits, perhaps for a detour or passing zone.

    In Jeff Hann's words, this is looking southeast, about a quarter of the way up Chestnut Ridge.  The rut being about four feet deep. The road seems to split right here, but comes back together 50 yards further up the hill. Jeff states, "my reasoning would be there was probably a rough spot in the road here causing them to move over onto new ground."

Mick Lilley and Alan Wilson. Photo courtesy of Jeff Hann.

   A photo of Jeff Hann and his wife, Amy:

Jeff Hann, the discoverer of the variant
route of the 'TFR' with his wife, Amy.

     Since I had a camera along on our first journey, here a few extra photos to help flesh out various aspects of the roadbed:

A deep part of the sunken roadbed east of
Breakneck near  40 03'17.60" n  79 30'26.32.


Jeff Hann up Quail Hill on the TFR roadbed he discovered.

A more southern region of the old trace looking south
toward the Quail Hill Road.

Looking northerly toward the Spruce and
Breakneck intersection to the right.

   On the above photo, the house to the right near Shultz Lane is approximately at 40 03'50.71 n  79 31'24.46" w. Jeff Hann's route and the Smith survey route may of used the same roadbed through this location, and it is also indicated here to of joined southeast of the intersection beyond the house to the right. Jeff and Lannie both have noted traces from online maps and satellite photos.

     Below is a crop of the old Smith land surveys in this region. Specifically, your attention should be drawn to the James Smith survey mentioned further above in this article, as it contains a route of the Turkey Foot Road. There was an abandoned farm in the region that would appear to be connected to the TFR route. It leaves this property at roughly latitude 40.067423°, longitude -79.524547° :


     On November 29,after receiving phone calls from Lannie Dielte, Mr. Hann invited us to travel the Bullskin region with him in his Sierra. Say no more, we were on our way to a unique experience.

    Here on a search for Turkey Foot Road continuations to the north, Jeff and I had the accompaniment of Mr. Dielte.

   The Investigation North Of Shenandoah Road

    First we attempted to locate traces near Shenandoah and Gault School Roads but met with little success. There was less in the way of clear connections to go on.

    Below we observe a part of the somewhat questionable north draw route past the fence looking south. I believe this is at Butler's:

fenced area of a steep candidate for the TFR
toward the Londonderry Lane

    This is a photo of Jeff's looking downhill toward the north draw. This may be an unlikely location for the Turkey Foot Road and though it is steep and fairly straight, one of the only known possible related candidates for a variation of the Turkey Foot Road at this time. For this reason it had to be checked out thoroughly.

A variation or alternative route  of the draw
not far from the Gault School Road

the west draw near Gault School Road
 The above photo is of the steep area to the south of the old fenced road long possibly connected to the old Detwieler property looking south, of Jeff's grandfather's, (Eugene Butler), property NW of the Londonderry lane when it was last used as such in the mid to late 1930's. This photo taken by Jeff Hann when we had Lannie Dielte accompanying us for this woodland journey. The grade appears steep, but it is not too steep a terrain for wagons, according to Lannie Dietle, who has much experience between his grandfather's farm and various hilly routes of the Turkey Foot Road. The origin is not properly known.

     Mr. Dietle recently wrote to me in an e-mail:

     "The place where the 1794 route exits the north side of the James Smith survey is on the west side of the ridge, and a 1939 aerial photo shows a road entering the field from exactly that exit point and going to the now abandoned farmstead on the west side of the ridge. Based on these two matching facts, I think that the 1794 route of the TFR followed the west side of the ridge. I don't know where it crossed Shenandoah Road, but it might have been the sunken road at David Butler's. If that is where it crossed, it might have used the west draw that we walked, but the road we walked up the draw has been worked over by modern machinery and there's no way to tell if it's the route."

     Click on these photos to see a closer view of the Butler deed. It might be worth reading :

The Butler deed


   As intimated above, as this segment of the investigation ran on, and leads were followed, it was decided there was, as of yet, no definitive conclusions for evidence of the route at Shenandoah Road and further north. There is always a possibility the route, or a variation, descended to the Pleasant Valley Country Club area.

   Documenting A Route Toward Shenandoah Road

    Below is a highlighted overhead Yahoo maps photo of this curved, heavily used variation of the Turkey Foot Road discovered further north of Spruce Hollow Road:

From Jeff Hann's Verizon phone application

    We sauntered north of Shenandoah Road through very rocky fields on to the north draw area; checked out Hawk Road to the south and as Jeff is so familiar with his 'neighbors' and works with these townships, it was a great advantage. Later, we got the chance to talk to Matt Shultz just north of the Spruce Hollow and Breakneck Road intersection. We would still like the opportunity to talk to his father and hear of more traditions of this region. Matt promptly informed us, YES, indeed there is an old road behind the house! A red letter day for extenuating advancement of our cause.

    Off we went at a fairly brisk pace, climbing hills and ducking through undergrowth, stretching over logs, mud congealing to our shoes. Wonderful stuff. This was a such a gain for our knowledge base, I can tell you, and another reason for thanksgiving! You might imagine the smiles on our faces in between ducking the thorn bushes. We quickly realized the strength of the case had grown considerably that the TFR extended north with this route. We were surprised to find the road so high up and close to Breakneck Road itself when we would of considered it nearer to the more northerly ridge.

    Below, is the early stage of the route of the area to the north past the Spruce Hollow and Breakneck intersection of the Shultz property that without going into too much detailed explanation, matches up quite well with the southerly sunken roadbed route documented earlier:

entering the road location at the Shultz property

   Below is a photo Jeff took from the Shultz home back from the area of the above photo connecting up to the southern route. You can see the Spruce Hollow Road on the left side of the home and Breakneck Road heading out to meet up with the Quail Hill Road in a general southwest direction:

Just north of the Shultz property, coordinates are approximately
40.064994°,  -79.523871°

Shultz Lane area along the route of the
James Smith Survey,courtesy of Yahoo maps.

        An Ancestral Niche

     The GPS coordinates for the old Frank Wilson store, (a great uncle of mine), near the intersection of Breakneck and Quail Hill Road, are at approximately 40 03'06.25 n. 79 31'36.58" w. He discontinued his business in 1971 and passed on a few years later. It certainly has the appearance of a well made stone structure:

My great uncle Frank Wilson's old store was on the first floor
   It wouldn't hurt to relate, Histbuffer, (Alan Wilson), is proud of having an extensive ancestral background surrounding the area, though I am temporarily deviating from the main purpose of the post.

   This includes various relatives, most who knew each other of the different branches. My g, g, grandfather, James Wilson, who lived south on Shenandoah Road; g, grandfather Shed Wilson, who lived across from Mt. Olive United Brethren church; a g. grandfather and g, grandmother John and Tullie Bowser; two g, grandmothers, Mary Wilson, Louisa Grim, and g, g, (etc.), grandfathers like Amzi Miner, a slew of John Miner's, (or Minor), and George Hatfield's who lived on Spruce Hollow Road, the northern segment; and Adam Hatfield himself. As far as I could discover, he appears to of ended up in the Ohio country, but may of also moved on from there. More on this at another time on another post. Just to add a few highlighted maps of my relatives here, folks might sympathize when I fess up to a small degree of bias. As Lannie Dietle is surely extremely well aware of on a personal level these discoveries become that much more insightful. They do so here for me. Comparatively, for Jeff Hann and Mick Lilley also, and are gravy on the potatoes:



The Researchers

    Here are a few photos taken after our miles of field research and a special trip over to the Normalville area and Mill Run with extra meaningful commentary by the indefatigable expert, Lannie Dietle, who was able to take some precious time out from the Thanksgiving holiday with his family in Annapolis, Maryland and coming into our region from visiting in Pittsburgh:

Colleague Jeff Hann with Mr. Dietle to the right.

Author Lannie Dietle here with Histbuffer.

    Ever ready to offer some guidance, as Lannie himself stated his feelings toward this article in an e-mail, "As the TFR book indicates, I had high hopes that the book would serve as a catalyst that inspires local research by individuals who are more familiar with the area than I will ever be. I thank you both for your on the ground research, and look forward to reading about it, and seeing pictures on Al's blog. If you need any editing assistance on this blog topic, don't hesitate to ask." 


     It is not definitively known at what period the Turkey Foot Road was cleared and used beyond the 1779 and 1794 references, but the depth of the sunken road and the points it connects with the fact that there are passing areas or route variations of alternate sections of road along the route, lays much groundwork to the theory that it was used heavily as a through road. It may have served mining and logging activities at various times during its long period of use, as many old abandoned roads were from time to time. The fact that the Quail Hill region of the road appears to be a through route strongly suggests that it did not begin as a mine or logging road.

   With the added discovery of the Turkey Foot Road to the continuing route to the south, Lannie Dietle and I, along with Jeff Hann, are that much more certain we are dealing with the real thing. We who have studied it, based on its location and condition are convinced that it was a variation or route of the Turkey Foot Road that may have been developed after the 1794 route that is shown on surveys above, and there is a remote possibility, even before that. The exact timing of this route is not specifically known for absolutely certain. We are happy to of been a part of this new and insightful addition to the road's whereabouts.

    Importantly, the ridge route identified by Mr Hann is a superior through route, compared to the 1794 one shown on the Smith surveys. Shorter and with less grade.

    Jeff Hann theorizes that the north draw from the southern Londonderry Lane with it's variation is a possible, though steep continuance of this route, but considers a route that would deviate to the E. Keefer area that would include that road from there on to the Wooddale mill as a more appropriate alternate route. He is furthering his search into areas to the north and south and expanding his travels through these places to find more evidence of the Turkey Foot Road and it's variations near Bullskin and we heartily wish him much good luck in this quest. There is also a distinct possibility the Turkey Foot Road headed through the Spruce Run Valley near to the Pleasant Valley Country Club and what use to be the Hatfield Mill area and bearing on what became the Medsger Road north of Rt. 982. This is conjecture until some evidence presents itself through further investigation.
    Matt Shultz referred to a tradition of some stagecoach place nearby, and there was a schoolhouse across Breakneck falling to ruin when I was a teenager. The Firestone place further west on Breakneck Rd. has a local tradition of being an old stagecoach/tavern stop also. An old map, though I haven't yet gotten the date posted for you, shows what appears to be 'Gut's', or 'Guzzy's' tavern on the Gault School Road. This allows for some credence to the early activity there in Bullskin.

    On the southern route variation from the James Smith survey, the idea that the usage had shifted more to the shorter route should be taken under consideration. Jeff Hann's alignments to the south appear to be in general harmony with those to the north.

    In certain key areas, I may, or may not, differ from my colleagues in factoring in circumstantial evidence and to what degree this is pertinent. Once varying amounts of research evidence is accumulated, one must decide how precisely this provides additional information into the equation over all and to what extent that is readily acceptable. Under ideal conditions it is always best to correlate the highest documentation possible, but when this is often severely lacking, one needs to reevaluate everything with much caution, yet gather it into a reasonable foci to substantiate the essence of what is most relative to the potential level of decision making. Thus, making the pronouncement this is in in the realm of the circumstantial, but may correlate well to the facts in a given situation, not necessarily the only answer to be found thereby. In other words, basically leaving nothing out in the explanatory process, allowing for different levels of importance. When there is less to go on, one might have to rely more heavily, for better or worse, on what clues that do exist and attempt to interpret the evidence as best as is deemed possible.

    It is hoped that this article goes a fair way to enhancing knowledge of the Turkey Foot Road in this piece of Fayette County as we relate the establishment of these recent discoveries and do some justice to the research of those directly involved.

   Be sure to check back soon for a further update with more research by Jeff Hann of the Turkey Foot Road route south of Quail Hill. This will involve the Hawk Road path he has discovered!

   A special hello goes out to Mr. Lilley's sixth grade class and all the kids at the Bullskin Elementary School at 125 Pleasant Valley Road!

 If anyone has additional information, please contact us. Thank you.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment

Contact Form


Email *

Message *