Monday, June 22, 2015

An Update On Iron Bridge and the Great Road

 For the basic history of the location of Iron Bridge originally published back on May 19, 2014, entitled "The Meeting Of The Townships" please click on the link provided.

  Page 249 of the book by Franklin Ellis about Fayette County History quotes a 1788 petition for a road from present-day Connellsville to present-day Iron Bridge: "Road from Zachariah Connell's to Isaac Meason's, on Jacob's Creek."

A view of the modern bridge over Jacobs Creek from the south bank

  The bulk of information included in the above mentioned article on "Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History" involved the naming of the road, some of my personal observations about growing up nearby, which relates to the trolley and railroad, but the main thrust concentrated upon  the earliest bridge, the original structure envisioned by Judge Finley. Later, I will supplement Mr. Dietle's fresher data, some of which is covered to an extent piecemeal in various recent posts, but not with the systematic and in depth form given below.

  Here I wish to correct, or adjust, one misleading idea presented in that post where I had stated the area of the Great Swamp encompassed the Iron Bridge location with extension into nearby Hammondville to the northeast. How much this enerally included Iron Bridge and beyond the Greenlick area to the south and east, was basically speculation mixed with some experience on my part, largely arrived at from 1939 black and white photos taken from Penn Pilot and traditions of old timers with earlier study of the broader water flow of Jacobs Creek and amount of accumulated swampland. My point is, there was some conjecture involved. The depth and extent of the waterway has clearly dropped a fair degree in my own lifetime, whatever the explanation construed by this fact.

  I would therefore add one plausible concept as an example for the Turkey Foot and Braddock routes diverging from the key area north of Pennsville and not using this sensible route, might refer to a particularly boggy region that, perhaps encumbered those miltary efforts a good deal in discouraging travelers until the undertaking to build the chain bridge. Of course, this hardly can explain the Hammondville route for the Braddock army for an obvious well earned reputation as the main location of the Great Swamp. As Rodney Mosler of Uniontown wrote about a tradition of the 'TFR' traversing over Walnut Hill and crossing Jacobs Creek at Dexter, and Veech who has made statements toward this area for path of this old road, this might reveal a need to avoid this low lying swamp, yet it is reasonable to consider there may remain other more legitimate explanations as to why these routes did not travel directly through what later became known as Pennsville, or the Great Road. The answers are still, ultimately,  unknown at the present day.

  There is a sore need that cannot be overstressed for the renewed discovery of these ancient roadways and their intended directions as to their extremely meaningful place in the formation of the villages and development of the townships of Upper Tyrone, Bullskin, Mt. Pleasant and East Huntingdon, straddling the counties of Fayette and Westmoreland here in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

   Again, all the facts are not fully understood by any means. Consideration could allow for an assertion of the theory of Indian paths diverting from the Catawba Trail as being partly responsible for helping to coose these differing routes on the frontier. More information can be gathered from the post on "The Braddock and Turkey Foot Roads..." with some key conjectures and ideas not all necessarily yet confirmed.

   Next we have the basic information researched, with permission from a corresponding e-mail, presenting definitive clues elucidating solid evidence to establish the Iron Bridge's 'Great Road':

   "The same page 249, (of Ellis' History of Fayette County), mentions a road that seems to have been petitioned for in Westmoreland County before the founding of Fayette county, that was to run from Stewart's crossing to Uniontown, and on to the Cheat river. The Fayette county book isn't clearly written, and seems to be saying that after the Founding of Fayette County, Fayette County ordered the completion of the portion between Uniontown and the waters of the Cheat River. Maybe the road is mentioned in the Westmoreland County history book".

The great road

  "Page 485 of the fourth edition, (from his book, 'In Search Of The Turkey Foot Road'), quotes from an 1802 article about the chain bridge 'near Judge Mason’s, on the great road leading from Uniontown to Greensburg”. This “great road” is interesting to those who study the Turkey Foot Road because it crossed Jacobs Creek between two other early fording sites: The locations where Braddock’s road crossed Jacobs Creek, and the location where Veech indicates the Turkey Foot Road crossed. It is difficult to understand why Braddock’s road swung so far east to cross, or why the Turkey Foot Road swung so far west to cross, when they could have both taken a more direct northerly route, crossing Jacobs Creek at the fording site that was used by the great road before the chain bridge was built. This fording site was at or very near the site of present-day Iron Bridge, Pennsylvania.

The origin of the great road deserves to be studied. Ellis’ 1882 book “History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania” provides a clue in the form of a 1788 petition for a “Road from Zachariah Connell's to Isaac Meason's, on Jacob's Creek.” This is interpreted as being a petition for a road between the present-day sites of Connellsville, where Zachariah Connell once lived, and Iron Bridge, Pennsylvania, which is located across the creek from where Isaac Meason once lived.

The same book also provides another clue, stating:
The first road viewed and laid out by order of the court of Fayette County, in December, 1783, was that from Uniontown to the mouth of Grassy Run, on Cheat River, this being part of a road which had been petitioned for to the Westmoreland County Court (before the erection of Fayette), to run from Stewart’s Crossings (Connellsville), through Uniontown, to the Cheat. It was ordered to be opened, cut, cleared, and bridged, thirty-three feet wide.

A petition was presented to the same court for “a road from Union Town to the Broadford on the River Youghiogheni,”…
Broad Ford is in the immediate environs of Connellsville. Taken together, these 1783 to 1788 petitions call for a new road between Uniontown and Iron Bridge, Pennsylvania. Such a road is shown on the 1792 Reading Howell map, and is interpreted as being the "great road" referred to in the 1802 article. Whether this road was preceded by an earlier path is unknown.
If Veech is right about where the Turkey Foot Road crossed Jacobs Creek, the Turkey Foot Road had to cross over Braddock’s road south of Jacobs Creek, before merging with Braddock’s road in the environs of Mount Pleasant. It seems extremely likely that the place where the two roads crossed would have been very close to where the great road ran through. In other words, the three roads probably formed something roughly akin to a six-point intersection—if not literally, then at least functionally.

If Veech's Dexter-area Jacob's Creek crossing site is accepted as valid, the Turkey Foot Road ran generally west-northwest from Wooddale to Dexter— which may have brought it through somewhere roughly in the vicinity of present-day George’s Trading Post. Braddock’s Road ran north-northeast from the western end of Country Club Road (near present-day George’s Trading Post) to the Hammondville area. The great road ran from somewhere in the general vicinity of the western end of Country Club Road to Iron Bridge. From the approximate location where Braddock’s road and the Turkey Foot Road intersected, the great road was a much more direct route north to Mount Pleasant. As such, it can be thought of as a shortcut to both roads, and may help to explain the eventual obsolescence of both roads in this area. This “shortcut” concept may help to explain a strange annotation on an old document that Al Wilson identified—but until Mr. Wilson publishes his discovery, this Addendum will remain silent on the matter."

 Now, this strange annotation Mr. Dielte specifically refers to in his closing remarks are the odd markings of the 'Old Braddock Road' from the 1757 Westmoreland County Barker Map that deviates from the location near Iron Bridge parallel to the west near Sherrick Run, in a previously unknown course toward the vicinity of Mount Pleasant. For those that haven't read it, here is a link to the whole article that was being awaited, " A Scoop On The Old Braddock Road..." I only hope this was worth the exercise in patience, but this doesn't directly concern the present post. Mr. Dietle has recently stated he "suspects that the route shown on the 1857 map may have been referred to as the “Old Braddock Road” because it served as a shortcut to an earlier section of Braddock’s Road”, while he also observes by way of a letter from Washington to his brother John, there was a fairly severe drought in Pennsylvania in the summer of 1754 during the Braddock campaign. This is clear from his further statement that, "we now found the Great Crossing of the Youghiogany, which may be passed dry-shod", leading to the conclusion Jacobs Creek was not in itself a serious problem as to the choice of fordings, and yet the bivouac near Hammondsville necessarily took some time and effort, keeping in mind, the condition of the swamps was therefore still a serious encumbrance to be overcome.

 While the thoughtful culmination the author has provided above is much appreciated, I want to further broaden the scope with some historical recollections from old newspaper archives. These mostly concern details of the Pennsville to Mt. Pleasant Road, or as somewhat erroneously called 'Old 119', with examples of the danger of the location and the conditions highlighting a handful of tragic deaths that once took place at Iron Bridge.

The old PA railroad bridge crossing of Sherrick Run

             NOTE- With the following click-able vintage newspaper articles from the Daily Courier you can read this information for yourselves.


   The above refers to one of many old time floods, this one was on .Aug. 31, 1888. Whether this suggests the early iron bridge or another that was washed away, it is said they will all be replaced by wooden structures.

  With the swirling backwaters, thick mud and occasional treacherous sink holes, this was indeed, and sometimes can still be a dangerous waterway. I am personally acquainted with a few people who barely survived the swamps on their own. So, do be careful in this region and you should come out fine and dry.

  Below, are articles from The Daily Courier showing forth the accidents and troubles surrounding the old bridges in the past:

     The above article is from the year 1919 and claims the submerged vehicle was caught on the old iron bridge which was said to still remain at the bottom of the creek!

     The article below is from the Daily Courier of March 15, 1912:


A word about road building

         In August of 1919 they finally gave in for a better bridge. If this would seem likely to be the last accident associated with Iron Bridge, think again, because from Jan. 2, 1920 we have the final one I am going to document on this subject:


     A Few Brief Words Of Orientation

     According to the 1758 map from The Gentleman's and London Magazine, Jacobs Creek once went by the earlier name of Terapin Creek. The chain bridge was built in 1802 and replaced after 1833 with a wooden bridge. The iron truss bridge, for which the site is named, was built in 1863, probably a ways to the east of the present bridge. The Mt. Pleasant and Broadford Railroad Station use to be here on the south bank of Jacobs Creek.

   To leave you with something upbeat, here's a newspaper article about this location of an altogether different sort from June 18, 1890 concerning the display and breeding of the famous racehorses of tycoon George A. Hogg, who once owned the surrounding farmland:


                  As always, any comments or responses are welcomed, so let me know if you found this article interesting. A happy beginning to our Summer!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Collaborator Gone Sour

   I hope the last article on my uncles from World War Two captivated some of your attention. Although, it can be a tough thing to write about, I am glad to be able to do something to honor their precious memory. By the page views here, this is such a satisfying reward to see the renewed interest.


  I suppose it evenually happens to everyone that blogs for a living, or just keeps a website as a part time hobby. This may be a difficult topic to approach wholeheartedly, or even half-heartedly. A glimpse into a brief, though troubling relationship doesn't have to be too painful and should hold enlightenment to a certain future reference. Just getting something off my chest. You've been forewarned. By the way, nothing said here relates to anyone I am in collaboration with to any extent in the present. You are ever so appreciated!

   Contacts can be developed over months and years in varying ways. I might meet someone out of the blue, right on the street. That isn't usually my experience. People are able to really surprise with enthusiasm from time to time. Distant relatives become interested, maybe a little critical, or old friends seldom heard from and little seen, offer a word of advice. An off hand e-mail, an acquaintance on Social Media, a follower or subscriber, or someone you love subscribing to. A friend's friend on Facebook, whatever. I've only made so many close contacts, and maybe this is for the best, and then, those sincere individuals that truly care about someone's website are surely worth developing an association with. There can be a world of collaborators and colleagues open up a virtual door, with all this entails:

  1: You talk to new contacts with much in common. Some can become so close and in frequent communication that you bring them in, perhaps through needed expertise and valued help in different areas, to the level of co-administrator.

  2:  You sometimes find out just how little you have in common with a broad group of slightly interested folk. Sometimes.

  3: E-mails come tumbling in at an alarming rate, (many of us would only wish this was true, while some would give their lucky stars they would Leave Them Alone!)

  4: A few turn into valuable friendships, knowledgeable collaborators, and even competitive colleagues and alter egos.

  Whatever the situation or reasons, occasionally, there exist those personalities which, not only may clash, but perhaps become enamored of our purpose or goals, often a gratifying relationship we would hope to repay in some form, some day. I am not talking about romantic ties here. More rarely, there are some guys and gals vaguely and also very aggressively intrigued with US, ourselves and every darn thing about our lives. Eh? Where you feel like pulling your hair out, or it could be, theirs? No?!

   Next, is the sticky, albeit sometimes theoretical situation, and thankfully, a rare one for most.

 A Dreaded Situation

   The colleague who sort of insinuates his or herself through the benign aspect of volunteerism. Maybe you are close friends, making the relationship is all the more meaningful...and DIFFICULT to extract yourself! And maybe through no fault of their own, make serious inroads on your time and abilities. Energy drainers, wasps, backbiters, right out of the New Testament, for all to avoid. BUT, you sure didn't ask for this situation? Did you? Too polite with a large helping of guilt toward someone who holds out a hand in our direction; sometimes they are well seasoned pro's at noticing every whim, calculating reactions, marking it on a mental notepad. Not entirely a facetious  description. One just might want their input, mailings, moderation, time? Oh my, yes. Conversely,  one might rather be left alone. Rarely, there are those, usually supervisors or bosses, that so in fact test us, sure, but some will strip you of irritating responsibility and perform everything for you! A small case of paranoia finds inevitable existence in reality. Often no serious, permanent damage is done. In other extreme cases involve stalking, late night phone calls, bothering your girlfriend, drinking your last beer, that sort of thing. Software info, sometimes their own brand, a mere coincidence, rest assured. Changes in format, oh very helpful at first! At the worst they can wreck havoc to the rafters! Innovators. Attempt sudden DMCA's; stealing your prized material, re-publishing  it on mirror blogs at the speed of light, Forums. boards that are quite impressed with this new found knowledge, anything they can do to shut you down and disown you. Then, slur you as the interloping charlatan. 'TAKE OVERS'. A dreaded nightmare experience, I'm sure. Luckily, I haven't been a victim of that brand of hell and hope I never am.

  One fine day, a well mannered friendly associate. The next, fangs and riveting attacks, unveiling your most private thoughts; reveling in evil and destruction years on end. Gosh, they claim these things happen on a frequent basis for some unfortunates. We hide our faces from it. Or, delectably look with eagerness for all the dirt. So they say, anyway. Shew! OK, calm down, start a new site, move to India or Costa Rica, wear a disguise and pray they will go away!

   The type of colleague I am referring to is more mundane. Yes, somewhere in the middle. A blessedly briefer encounter altogether. At first, this was interesting and a nice relationship. A person well off and instructive, knowing the region, though not living there since he was young. H'mmm, can you see where this is headed? Well, so many of you are intelligent, smart, perceptive, I know this.

 Chock Up One Experience For The Blog

  The gentleman was in business for himself; a wonderful thing, an entrepreneur. In the midst of a breezy chat that ran on for hours, (our first, and really only, phone conversation), the discussion ranged from personal hablits, to the old and unique bridge structure in the Upper Tyrone and East Huntingdon at Jacobs Creek., a real enigma still desperately in need of further attention on a professional platform; and discussing the likely connecting route of the Turkey Foot Road which Rodney Mosler, among others, claimed to of headed through this almost exact location. Someone that saw the situation the same as I, ah, a conversation worth its salt. Now coming across even more  excited by the discovery of the old bridge at Dexter, to the realm of obsession, (I thought that was my job?).  He then suddenly began diverting the talk into giving these odd, lengthy examples of his experiences helping people, that just didn't work out! Amish people, Florida Everglades, no he wasn't selling me land for religious purposes down under, but possibly his connections to software companies to help UPGRADE my life! Maybe this was only the nuance given, if so, never mind such outbursts. Nevertheless, I was bordering on a migraine and rather confused by now. Well, the fine idea of changing my website, turn it into something else, private hosting of the finest variety, indeed, magnificent chap. SELL YOURSELF. Well, off we go!

   But wait, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. There I am, wondering on end about this internet avenue, and he did infer helpful suggestions. Really. A better quality camera, why, of course, I will happily pay for this, no problem, who else? (Which I recently did. It wasn't as very expensive as it could of been and works fine so far). Next up, form a non- profit; intriguing concept which I am out of my element as to why and how. Many of you may know more of this than I, a bumpkin with a bare bones site, missing a few teeth, that when I am taking it easy some days, lounge around in pajamas. A slightly lazy guy with only a measly internet presence of some credible value to keep him near reality and from the abyss of absolute insanity. OK, I am exaggerating; just the last part. Oh, you figured that out already? Good. Well, the video idea is fair too, but unless we're on a train, a boat, thrashing through the jungles of forest, it can be almost the same benign experience in our Southwestern Pennsylvania counties, the moving images, awing explicit dialogue, adroitly catching yourself swearing at bugs, mumbling and saying 'ah three times in every sentence. Demanding, in depth docudramas can be a bit out of my range with my brand of regional history, as a digital camera with photos seems to usually do the trick. I'm befuddled now how this was managed! But you must use your imagination here. You know, back water, swamps, moonshine and all that; undershirts, no shoes, hiccuping and snoring the day away with fitful dreams of a normal existence like regular, city folk.  Such horrid intimations might arise in your psyche. Dreadful. Reminds me of reality T. V. Too much imagination.

  Alright, this is hardly proper, pulling your leg like this. (I do live very close to a city,and I go there once in a while-honest!).

  As a footnote, the point remains, a few of these ideas were sensible and proper. 80 to 90%, in fact. I am in the process of sorting some of this out. He told me to 'mull it over', maybe for a few hours or a day at best I was to discover, was the ordered and planned time frame. Where was my choice in the matter, you ask with baited breath? Non-existent son, eat your oatmeal, it's good fer ya! The heck with them there hanger on types. Forget their help and guidance, any usefulness. You don't need THEM  anymore boy, you got ME!  Upscale to the penthouse. Do I exaggerate, maybe a mite, or two. Well, the bottom line is that I was apparently expected me to integrate the idea by The Next Day and jump into this immediately, or I may well be some kind of traitor or renegade type. Maybe the problem was in the delivery, the pitch I heard. The last word of ADVICE was to chuck my friends, eliminate colleagues, disavow all collaboration, or something to that effect. It was rather a shocking explanation to better myself in today's competitive and cut throat market. Well, the world can be tough place I guess, this line of thinking could be, why not become like those people? I found this upsetting. Looking at it one way, why allow an outlet in myself for an express ticket for a turncoat and hypocrite to anything I stand for? Yea, maybe no big deal, we're off to the limelight in Tartarus. Do a selfie and grin broadly while deleting many e-mails. So, I am using an analogy bordering on exaggeration. It IS partly, but you understand. Am I correct in this assumption? Come on, this is a totally about face experiment to entertain while providing a basis in sheer fact and dwelling on the importance of my next historical post. Something to avoid, and another to enjoy.

  Now, when I didn't call exactly as planned, a few mundane things took place. Well, I called later the next day. Yikes! He was...standoffish, temperamental...moody; 'I don't really feel like talking about this subject right now', he mumbled through his presumably gold teeth and expensive caviar and wine. Just joking there, of course. I had visitors in the room that could hear what was going down. Not dumb people, unbelieving the tone of the turn around in the conversation, just the same. He left off the phone a while and came back,  he then stated, dryly, he doesn't want to discuss any of this... bloody offended. The very idea I would mull it over a bit longer, as I had been kindly told to do, must of been forgotten and abandoned. Ponder on the details conveniently left out. What can I say on my behalf, I'm just a rebellious fool at heart, aren't we all sometimes. Or, so I was made to feel. That was that. Game over. The real clicker that echoes back to me, is that he stated, "I could probably do this kind of thing myself"...h'mmm, heard that voiced before. Then the thought arises, and why not?

  Well, I did respond to his last e-mail which stated in no uncertain terms, his 'intuition' told him I am not truly supportive of changes and this heady assistance as a volunteer in my internet army might not be required, or something near to that effect. I guess that makes a wastrel, a slovenly lackluster dude. A very harsh idea came to me that a self promoted, high class General would obviously not appeal to my better judgement. Where was this going anyway? Someone breathing enviously over your shoulder with constant opinions is not always a tell tale gift from Heaven. Yes, I am weak and desired to get the last word in, by God! Writing back of my comprehension of the whole doggone situation, but, of this e-mail, although severely tempted, I will do as a genuine colleague has seriously advised, and take the high road. I know, some of you might of relished in it. I admit to that very emotion. (Maybe you could e-mail me privately, oh, alright, never mind).

  To this day, the bottom line is, I feel an odd sort of cold sympathy, mixed with bemusement and an opportunity lost that was hardly expected, or desired. I had a bout of depression for a few days, later turning to a philosophical stance. The situation could of been something meaningful, but temperament can get the better of people, no matter how educated or fascinated they are, leading brazenly to such a gun ho attitude in one that, originally, might of been as simple as an overzealous offer of some needed help. I can handle what most dish out. A choice, sure. But, really, why NOT think it over? The guilt could be mine to be shared in being a little too sensitive in my approach or outlook, while the example above is just one of those things, and I do wish this person well wherever his further interests lie. As long as it isn't involving me.

   No more lectures on this lamentable subject. Colleagues and friends can be an important part of our work, play and all facets of our interactions in any field, in our busy moments and the quiet hours.  We might want to reflect and be thankful to those that are there for us, and likewise. I know this isn't brain surgery, and I am of no perfect example, only drawing out one unfortunate obstinacy experienced. Many of you good folks come from all kinds of backgrounds, ages and capabilities, are discerning, intelligent and, mainly, well adjusted. Life has it's peaks and valleys, isn't that the truth? Whether we ever grow comfortable with the colorful aspects that contain a few thorns, that can lean toward the white and the dark, such things we either overcome, or struggle with. Hopefully, most dealings are a balm to the soul, wishing my visitors well intentioned connections, keeping the feelings of those closest to you throughout your lives, as one's dearest possessions are sometimes the least seen and felt.

  Speaking of bridges, I will have an update soon on one that is not at all lost, the Iron Bridge. Keep checking back and it will be published in time. Thanks so much for your interest! Please take a look at the other posts and check in again soon!


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