Sunday, August 11, 2019

Old Cabin in the Woods


 Hello fellow history buffs. I know, this is only the 2nd article for 2019. Please continue to stop by, you never know when I will get to a few other long planned on posts. Whether you are new to this blog or you are an old loyal follower who have been impatiently hoping for more insight on Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History, I hope you are all fine and in good health.

   Although these photos go back quite some years hence, this was a draft that hadn't seen the light of day. One reason for that: a difficulty in discovering exactly who owned the site as it changed hands since many years ago when, even then, little was known of it. I'm not providing GPS coordinates as much because of the murky condition as concerns any  recent land owners and all that. The post is finally uploaded in the name of research and historical interest.

  All the info I have available is it is quite old, but how old, I do not know, and it was in the 'Rhodes', or 'Rhoads', family for many years. When I and my brothers were little greenhorns an old lady and before that, an old man lived there, deep in the woods on Walnut Hill in Upper Tyrone Township. There use to be a larger lane down into the woods where every so often the old couple had groceries and other items delivered to their area. Well, unfortunately that is about the extent of my boyhood memories of the place.

  Any aware of further information, be sure to contact me.

  I was just feeling cooped up, so I took a corner of an afternoon to check the Walnut Hill area referred to in a previous Histbuffer post. Briefly, this primarily concerned the Braddock Road and the Turkey Foot Road, dwelling at some length on the historic and fascinating likelihood they may of actually crossed on or near Walnut Hill in Upper Tyrone and bordering Bullskin township.

 Touch of Fieldwork

  To give a little explanation, I strode off the road for a bit of fieldwork and felt immediately better to be out in nature. Whether you are hunting, hiking or just taking a stroll, there's something about the solitude and simplicity of going it alone in the woods that can really lend toward an advancement of your peace of mind. And I don't mean scanning pages of woods and snow online to grab a nice screensaver, occasionally spacing out and sighing now and then. No, sorry, that doesn't count!

  I started on the top of the hill, (an obvious beginning or ending, depends on how you look at it), where there is a remnant of the path leding from it's joining to the modern Kingview Road. To the east, this old route appeared to make a connection on a few maps, modern overhead photos, as well as 1939 aerial photos, to join the Kingview Road again from a few hundred yards downhill toward the paved main road on the way to Rt. 119. I had plans to eventually finish with this region in a future article. There use to be a much clearer pathway, wider in size, but you will have to take my word on that. Please, do keep in mind, not many know of the route, excepting a few that lived here a fairly long time ago.

The path near the guard rail to the east at the top of the hill

   Soon I worked my way down into...thorn bushes. HUNDREDS of them! Pesky, innumerable, from all angles, So, I took it slow and hesitantly, followed the trail through there. It appears to branch, then is more difficult to perceive. Later, in a rise toward the south there are a few roads that are were probably mine or farm roads.

After approximately 40 yards the road appears to split

   I would suggest no one actually attempting to duplicate my trek, let alone bothering to go through the trees and thorns from Beauty and the Beast's enchanted castle and simply go by what is shown here. Heck, some might just get lost in there. After a few weeks they will probably find their way back out. Maybe they will of learned about wilderness survival and camping, even though they are a quarter mile from a main road! If you are an experienced woodsman, or woods woman, you might be alright, otherwise, even with a compass (that wasn't part of my few items), it is a bit of a maze. Anyway, a warning, as unless mountain climbing is one of your serious hobbies, no one should attempt heading in there at the pole line to the north of where I did as the descent is extremely steep and surely much worse with the mud and snow of winter. The one advantage was minus the snakes and bugs of warmer months.

A clearer piece of the upper, southward trail

   Specifically, meaning, the path along the high, southern ridge staying in the very thick underbrush, to the point you couldn't get a photo without using a machete, while the lower, more northerly branch heading off eventually toward the old cabin, while further on, a deep hollow that can be a dangerous if not carefully skirted around to the west.

The old cabin hasn't been lived in for many years

 The area I found it in, after so many years of where I was reminded that it was suppose to be, wasn't quite the place I expected to come across it's whereabouts. So, you might say, I was a bit disoriented or whatever, but the case remains it was further up the hill than I had anticipated. No, I'm not perfect, let's put it nicely, shall we? But, I wasn't quite lost either..

 Again, no one I know of seems to be aware who exactly owns the old property these days. No harm was meant. Of course, not all that long ago one could freely hike these woods. No hunting or ulterior purposes were involved. If an objection arises to this post, and will do my best to respect the wishes of the owners as has been done to this point.

  The cabin, last used by an old couple by the name of Rhodes, or Rhoads, was to the last inhabited by the woman until her last days. By the way, if a Mr. Hall(?), or whatever the name is on a few old postings, I didn't see any other until meandering well past the cabin location and am an innocent guy who generally minds his own business, alright? The old landowner around these parts was a friendly man who had no qualms about traversing the hillside. I also saw no other person on my journey through some of the woodlands. Thank you.

   I was rather surprised to see that it did have electricity back in the day!

  The place is very deteriorated. Because the ceiling is fallen, there was no temptation to go inside. There was wood and junk under the floorboards.

  The well was still there, though I was stepping a bit gingerly.

  I followed one pathway until it was difficult to be certain of it's whereabouts.Then I caught pieces of a path or road off and on through to another, more easterly ridge. That's where I saw a few postings. Keep away, you are NOT wanted here! So, I did just that which changed the trajectory of my quest to going in farther down Walnut Hill and walking up in a ways. I noticed what appears to be a scar or trace in the cornfield. This looked interesting. It is easier to perceive and more noticeable in three dimensions from various angles. Here's a photo:

 Later on, I met a man at his residence coming home from work and realizing that I didn't have much daylight left OR permission, I promptly asked him about the road entering the woods back behind the houses. He told me he had only lived there for ten years, doesn't know the ownership situation but pointed out a house where some elderly people live that might have more knowledge. Quickly, it hit me, I know those people! One of them, Dolores Mailik, I had been in the Laurel Art Club with back in the 1990's. Yet, I decided not to bother these folks too much. So I put off any re-acquaintances until maybe a time when I was cleaned up and more presentable to ask if they know if it is alright I check the road down there for a pace or two, as it could be indicative of a clearer perspective of how this road originated.

 What concerned me most is the lack of rutting in the old road in those woods, as much as I could discern anyway. Such is often a feature of the Turkey Foot Road or the Braddock Road remnants amid steep terrain.There are logging or farm roads on the hill as well, but the importance and significance is not known to me.

  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the jury is still out, and may never convene on how much importance can be gleaned from our limited observations and lack of knowledge, which includes understanding of carpentry and building acumen. In general, these photos and a bit of familiarity with the lay of the overgrown hills and hollows is all I acquired by my rambling camera trek in the heart of February, a lot of years ago. Nevertheless, I felt relieved to of once again seen some of this first hand. In fact, I enjoyed the small excursion for what it was:

 a minor attempt to learn something more of the Turkey Foot Road through this particular region and a chance to get out from a case of cabin fever and check out an old dilapidated  cabin of a different sort. Underlying this, is the real possibility the TFR route went further down toward the northeast around Kingview. The jury hasn't yet been formed to convene on such an alternate course as that, with the basic deduction of very little to go on for now.

  As always, keep the emails and comments coming, they can be the life blood of a good old blog, and are truly appreciated! As for my recent lack of posts, priorities are what they are, so I will leave it at that. Take care, enjoy the rest of the summer, and I'll be back (some day!), for another excursion into our regional history on the next post, folks!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Braddock's Battlefield History Center

   Well, is this a surprise to anybody? 

   The fact is, this particular spring is a good time to be back from the semi-sabbatical I chose to take, though it wasn't neatly planned out. In spite of promises in the past, you may of noted back on the post from 3-25-18, there were a few problematic concerns and issues as well, some of which still remain in effect. Regardless of my reasons, part of the fast moving, last half a year was simply spent in alternate work and differing research. 

   Braddock Battlefield History Center


   Located in the Mon Valley, 7 miles east of Pittsburgh, the small, but important museum was built in North Braddock, an old steel town  the 1980's steel crisis, itself embattled from labor union disputes, an area of toiling, striking miners and lost prosperity. The sad result: Braddock was slowly abandoned by 90 percent of its population. After all, this was the region of the Battle of Homestead, or Homestead Strike from July 1 - July 6, 1892. 

   Not far from the amusement parks of Kennywood and Sandcastle, which can now be reached by the Parkway East and local bus routes, the steel workers and private security forces of Pinkerton agents clashed violently under the direction of the absent owner, Andrew Carnegie and under the direct supervision of the disliked, reactionary coal boss, Henry Clay Frick. The defeat for unionization and setback led to the steel strike of 1919.

   The Center was created by a caring individual named Robert Messner, originally opening its doors on August 18, 2012. The grand purpose was to provide needful information in honor of the Battle of the Monongahela of July 9, 1755, in which General Edward Braddock led the British and American troops from Cumberland, Maryland via the famous 1755 Braddock Road to Braddock's Field in western Allegheny County to attack Fort Duquesne. The occasion and the building of the road is still justly celebrated in various places. There the British were seriously defeated by ambush by the French and Indian (Native American) forces in crossing the river. As the initial loss became a huge victory under the efforts of General John Forbes and Colonel Bouquet in 1758 with the taking of what soon became Fort Pitt at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegeny rivers, and the lasting achievement at the Battle of Bushy Run in 1763, so the town of Braddock has hopes of recovering some day soon from its heavy losses and working toward a brighter future and job growth helping to resettle the old place anew.


   The good news to repeat here:

   The Braddock Battlefield History Center at will be reopening on May 25. On December 28, 2018, the new stewardship was implemented by Fort Ligonier, in nearby Westmoreland County, (a great historical spot I revisited in the fall of 2018, but that is another story!). The curator is Erica Nuckles, while the address is 609 6th Street, Braddock, Pa 15104. Regular hours are 11 AM to 4 PM, but the museum opens this Saturday at 12:00 noon.

   Maybe this article will encourage other interested 'history buffers' to acquaint yourselves in the fine collections of relics, artifacts, paintings and coins available, while checking out their video room, maps and some 'on loan' items.


   I sincerely hope visitors, new and old, will back me with enthusiasm in the delivery of NEW posts previously planned that continue the "Fayette/Westmoreland Forgotten History" tradition afresh with further material adding to our exciting discoveries. Thanks for the patronage!


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