Pondering The Turkey Foot and Braddock Routes
Occasionally, I find myself spending an inordinate amount of a day or two around about my cluttered little nook in the sun porch looking at old maps. Any of you get into serious map reading? It is an occupation-slash-hobby that can become very time consuming. Well, I find myself spending a lot of free time staring somewhat blankly at and going back over and over them 'til the wee hours of the night, again and again and pondering... yet again.Then one is required to check the area on the ground to gain a better perspective or little more is to be learned.
Now, to get right to the point, I noticed something more than remotely unusual on a particular old map. We'll get to that soon and you can decide for yourselves. I had already observed what may well be a 'TFR' (Turkey Foot Road) remnant and where the Braddock Road may well of crossed this antique road at Walnut Hill in Upper Tyrone Township of Fayette County, PA. The decision was made for a future presentation concerning the route of Braddock's Road southeast of Prittstown as well as a projected route from observations of the TFR from Wooddale toward Kingview and Dexter Road to the northwest, consequently, for all intents and purposes, crisscrossing from the other direction. With the notice of this peculiarly marked map, thereby I found myself planning a brand new post, doubly exciting.
Hopefully, we can make more sense of the whole situation, which as far as I am aware, has never been properly documented. There are quite a few links to help fill the knowledge base of this subject. I add those for that very purpose, and though this may seem a distraction, they are necessary to get the full picture. You can take the time to click these now. On the other hand, if this appears a little too much to grasp at one time, please come back to the site later and check these links after reading the main post when there is more free time.
A Word On Further Research:
Once we are brought forward to this update in what I theorize was a 'high ground', fairly direct route of the Turkey Foot Road near Upper Tyrone to Mt. Pleasant and East Huntingdon Township, the plausible insinuation that alternate routes were developed and others partly abandoned, soon there appears a complication in referring to the routes of the Braddock Road and the Turkey Foot Road in this region. One aspect that might be a significant factor is there are indications the 'BR' was used longer and more frequently south of Jumonville and Mt. Braddock as the forerunner of the National Road to Brownsville and thus led to the popular route past the Monongahela river, thereby, as I am led to understand it, the remnants north in Fayette and Westmoreland counties were less used and more quickly abandoned and forgotten. This should be kept in mind. Consequently, we are in need of fresh documentation in our modern age of this locality. The internet is as good a place as any to be found. As an example, this has been succinctly noted, although in book form, in "A Hidden History Of The Laurel Highlands", with the observation there is a patchwork research requiring further investigation in archeological field work. I would enthusiastically echo the suggestion that property deeds are in urgent need of examination to attempt to clarify the more exact routes of these important historic roads.
Soon after this, I stumbled upon other info altogether while checking on Norman Baker's dedicated book on the Braddock Road and various historical descriptions. This took place while trying to follow up on research supplemented by the precise author, Lannie Dietle. If you recall, it was he that provided relevant material for the Iron Bridge article last May and earlier in February of 2014, a guest blog post on the Turkey Foot Road and also providing an in depth interview segment in September. A few others chimed in with e-mails and some thoughts of their own as well.
During our search late last year for an antecedent of the Turkey Foot Road with Jeff Hann, Mr. Dielte made the reassuring statement that, to a point, the idea of the Turkey Foot and Braddock roads crossing in this region is a "plausible theory" of mine. Frankly, this provides me with a hint of being on firmer ground and this cautious researcher's vote of confidence was a real shot in the arm. My friend and colleague, Mr. Dietle, also recently reminded me of Franklin Ellis' book, "History Of Fayette County, Pennsylvania" where there is a reference to a 1788 petition for a 'Road from Zachariah Connell's to Isaac Meason's, on Jacob's Creek'. It appears plausible this was concerned with the 'great road' from Connellsville to Greensburg, later often called the Mount Pleasant road, and rather misnamed 'old 119' traversing what became known as the Iron Bridge and its small community. There was also a 1783 petition. This does add a depth of further perplexity considering why the Braddock and Turkey Foot routes did not travel the more direct route through Pennsville, specifically the Iron Bridge crossing on the Mount Pleasant Road, but would allow for a better explanation as to why the old famous roads were soon abandoned.
Secondly, I would also like to include a minor, though important contribution of my brother Scott, who helped orient me somewhat early on as to the positioning of the terrain and geography of the region. The truth is, though he doesn't really use the computer and may never see this, a hearty thanks for some credit is due for his input in this area with helping me get a tighter grasp on things.
Quite possibly, the laborious efforts undertaken in the mid to late eighteenth century by these military men of note to find the best way to cross Jacob's Creek and avoid as much of the old 'Great Swamp' may well of had the effect of creating different usages of three roads through this key place. Added to this is the estimated minor branches of the traditional Indian Catawba Path that is said to run near Rt. 982 in Bullskin township from the Stewart Crossing at Connellsville toward Laurelville. And yet, there is rumored a branch of the Catwaba Path that ran near Everson to the Walnut Hill region followed by George Washington and Edward Braddock's army in the French and Indian War and cut and cleared by them. This hasn't been proven. This much of a claim toward Indian paths still allows some indications within the realm of reason that might of first led to the round about routes being advanced near the townships of Upper Tyrone, East Huntingdon and Bullskin. At the present, the exact details involved in the actual roads through Walnut Hill, Prittstown and on near to Mt. Pleasant are in many ways unknown with only basic reports and descriptions, like Orme's journal and a few maps acknowledging Braddock's traditional route and research on the Turkey Foot Road in Fayette County providing some evidence. Oh, some books have been written and Laycock once fleshed out a good deal of Braddock's route, especially to the south, but much has yet to be decisively understood and proven.
I will highlight the route bordering these townships below based on this old enigmatic map. Hopefully, Lannie won't mind my referencing here for background purposes his projected route from the best sources and research, courtesy of his book "In Search of the Turkey Foot Road" which adds much knowledge of the 'TFR', mostly further to the southeast of this region. Here pay heed to the northernmost portion of the map:
What is noteworthy, for this post we are dealing soley with the region a few miles to the NORTH of Iron Bridge and a mile to the southwest.
The Mystery of the Barker Map's Braddock Road Route
Basic Orientation of the Area
In previous posts attention has been paid to various references to the TFR heading around Iron Bridge one mile to the southwest, therefore constituting a crossing of Jacobs Creek at Dexter in the northeastern tip of Upper Tyrone township. It is an odd situation that the more direct route of the Iron Bridge road was not used, for whatever reason, for the routes of the Braddock or Turkey Foot roads. Here I've included a photo there where the B&O railroad and later the Chessie System tracks can be seen:
A photo looking east at Dexter:
So, in essence, I honed in on various maps, and a few choice books, modern and old, whatever I could get my hands on, admittedly obsessed with the subject. I have already done some research in East Huntingdon about the lost toll houses of Route 31 which coincides in a round about way. That investigation produced little in the way of historical satisfaction.
Here is a look at the old Scottdale Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad bed close to Sherrick Run from Iron Bridge to Turkey Path to the east of West Overton:
|old railroad and Sherrick Run, north of Iron Bridge|
|Iron Bridge from the south and the Jacob's Creek crossing|
This is now a private road following the old rail bed and a likely route of the TFR and possibly an unknown branch of the Braddock Road, which will be shown later by the Barker Map of 1858. The next photo illustrated is looking southward toward Iron Bridge from Turkey Path.
|GPS coordinates are 40.117990, -79.554969|
|Location where Turkey Path Road bridged Sherrick Run to the Mt. Pleasant Rd|
Courtesy of Google Maps, the above mapping marks the exact spot close to the old PA railroad spur where the Turkey Path Road was bridged crossing what is known as Sherrick Run to the Mt. Pleasant Road, (sometimes called the Pennsville Road and further to the south, the Richey Road). It is hardly a coincidence the railroad used this old route. Unfortunately, to history buffs like myself, the old bridge has since been removed. The Mt. Pleasant Road use to pass through Connellsville before the Interstate Rt. 119 four lane was built in the 1960's. It now ends near the Greenridge Cemetery where it use to continue into Moyer.