Monday, April 27, 2015

A Scoop on the Old Braddock Road in Westmoreland County

 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.

 Other Influences

  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.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Connellsville Canteen, Veterans Voices and Railroad Murals

   I do apologize if this article is not as well rounded as I would of liked. The ol' early spring virus has caught me at a bad time. This shows I am only human. The high fevers were the worst. Well, doctors and hospitial tests aside, it is to be hoped the good visitors to "Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History" will sill enjoy the subject matter presented here.

The Connellsville Canteen replica of World War Two is located in the Laurel Highlands off of Rt. 119, just south of the Amtrak Station on North Water Street in Connellsville of historic Fayette County, PA.The dedication of this version is from April 23, 1994, on West Crawford Avenue fifty years later, the creation of Harry Clark in  association with the Fayette Count Cultural Trust and Canteen Chairman Todd Reagan. Here's a peek at a few of the great murals.

 It has a great railroad museum of the Indian Creek Valley gifted by Tuffy Shallenberger and brought from Nemacolin Woodlands with painstakingly created murals displayed with photographs. They have a unique 1936 Olympic torch and other related paraphernalia on display Nov. 22 to Jan. 10 of this year, centering around the exploits of Connellsville native, John Woodruff in Berlin and his proud moment in winning the Gold Medal.

    “We hope that the Connellsville Canteen will be just one of the many places people will want to visit while they are in town,” said Daniel Cocks, curator of the Canteen memorabilia. “Connellsville has a lot of treasures, and I am sure the Connellsville Canteen will prove to be another one of them", according to the Tribune article of Nov. 29, 2013 by Nancy Henry.

     Much of this vision becoming a reality was accomplished by Rose Brady of the Red Cross. More on her further on by a valued colleague. They could use additional funds, with the Coffee Shop and entertainment projects planned, so please, kindly consider making even a small donation! It has been estimated that the Connellsville Canteen has served as many as 600,000 servicemen!

courtesy of explorepahistory

In the heady and desperate days of the 1940's and the 'Victory Gardens' the military teamed up with the railroads and mobilized many thousands of chartered 'troop trains' for the transport of many millions of young, brave, but innocent and sometimes, disoriented soldiers, with the knowledge of their secret dispatch and routing movements kept by only a few top officials and Defense intelligence of the War Department. They generally used the specially built, (and close and uncomfortable), Pullman sleeper cars back in 1943.

 Well, the canteens, as they were called, were specifically set up to offer a meal, maybe a well needed stay overnight and some encouragement from the dedicated volunteers and local nurses to the tired and beleaguered servicemen traveling through the towns and cities on the home front, often between their tours of combat duty. This was eagerly and selflessly attempted, literally, around the clock with oversight from the Salvation Army and the USO. Many donations came from the outlying areas.

sailors at the Connellsville Canteen

So, this particular canteen from a log gone era operated from 1944-46 at the old B&O Station on the Youghiogheny River. Here they would do pick ups and drop offs, exchanging worn out crews for fresh ones and checking over the engines and refueling. 

Rose Brady and the Connellsville Canteen,
 by Bobbi Kramer

      The world was at war in 1944. Many of the women of Connellsville and surrounding communities had loved ones serving abroad or had even lost a husband or loved one. But, the amazing thing about human beings is how they band together and rise above evil in such situations.

     This is what happened when Rose Brady and her brother Father Frances Bailey sat down for coffee after dinner one day in 1944. In conversation he told Rose he thought it would be nice to serve the servicemen and women snacks and such when they were traveling through the Connellsville Train Station. The trains had to stop in Connellsville to get water for the engines and it was a short stop for the troop trains.

   When Rose agreed, she had no idea just how far reaching this idea would take them. But, once Rose sunk her teeth into the concept of how to forge ahead, she became a tenacious bulldog with a bone. She was an extraordinary  organizer and perfectionist. This writer believes Rose was the only God-ordained person to do the job. She had been volunteering for the Red Cross in blood drives and was also in politics. She had a husband and five children - one in the service. She was known to run a well-oiled machine even at her thirteen room home in Green Street in Connellsville, delegating tasks to her family to keep things running smoothly. 

   She must have been a perfectionist, even in her dress. She dressed meticulously and wore an up-do hairstyle and/or a very stylish hat. A family member is known to have said she even had her own hatmaker.

Rose contacted Ira Younkin, former mayor of Connellsville, Jim Sterbutzel of the Civics Organization, James Driscoll, Editor of the Courier and Major Bryant of the local Salvation Army about having a Canteen for the servicemen. They all unanimously agreed this was a very special thing to do. They acquired the old Boyts-Porter warehouse near the B&O Train Station and tracks and put a kitchen area in it and an area for cots for tired service personnel. They hung signage designating it 'THE CONNELLSVILLE CANTEEN'. Many businesses, organizations, churches, scout troops, ladies' auxilliaries and more held fundraisers, dances and donated monies. Even children got involved. Ten year old Susie Shields, daughter of Jim and Jean Shields, said she would gladly sell her paper dolls and books in May of 1944 to make money for the Canteen. In June of 1944 she proudly handed Rose Brady the two dollars she made at her sale. her mother was a canteen volunteer and her Dad was the manager for the A&P, that donated foods, etc. to the Canteen. From the youngest to the oldest, everyone wanted to help the War Effort.

 While Rose was working on the Canteen project, her brother, Father Bailey was serving as a Chaplain in the the end of the War, he was at the Dachau Concentration Camp when the Allies released the prisoners. But, we can be certain he kept in touch with Rose and said many prayers for the creation of the Canteen.

Canteen Collage, by Bobbi Kramer

vintage Canteen pic

   A Word on the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh

   The Veterans Breakfast Club has partnered with the Veteran's Voices of Pittsburgh, with Kevin Farkas as Executive Director of the organization. For quite some time helpers like Nancy (Sova)  Hrabak, a Connellsville local, have been involved in recording the stories and anecdotes of the old veterans in the Canteen Coffee Shop. The group, with 250 interviews and Ceane O'Hanlon-Lincoln who has won numerous awards, are publishing her audiobook 'Sentimental Journeys'.

  As a son who along with my two brothers Scott and Mark, are extremely proud of the service of my own father Wayne Wilson and the enervating, sometimes humorous and often scary stories we would reluctantly draw from him and some details of our two uncles, 'Curly' and 'Cougie' my mother's brothers who tragically died in World War Two, (I plan a future entry on their lives), a feel a special interest is keenly felt. The double loss for John Hoover, our maternal grandfather and Ida Hoover, our grandmother, 'Nan', as we affectionately referred to her, left them in an emotionally distraught condition for quite some years, I strongly feel this is very commendable work, in my humble opinion.

 You can check out some of the stories of the Veteran Voices here with podcasts and the preservation of a unique and growing collection. There is much information and featured veterans to further your awareness. Also, with touching stories, like from Congressional Medal Of Honor winner, nurse and WASP, Florence 'Shutsy' Reynolds, and Gunner's Mate, Guy Tressler of the Naval special forces.

  You can also check into their Facebook page.

 I say, V for veterans and V for victory!

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