The National Road - Page 3

by Robert Bruce

In the fall of 1914, Robert Bruce travelled the National Road and recorded his experiences in a work published by the National Highways Association in 1916. The portion of his "travel" log covering Allegany County will be presented here.


By this time the tourist will begin to see more of these old iron mile-posts, though quite a number of the originally complete series have disappeared. Continue on the good road with trolley mostly along the Eckhart Branch of the Cumberland & Pennsylvania R. R., passing, on the left, the Cumberland & Westernport power house and trolley barns, to the three corners at the scattered village of Clarysville. This is easily identified by the illustration on this page of the old Clarysville Hotel, one of the best preserved on this part of the route, and once considered a "large and commodious" tavern.

It is said to have been built about 1810 or 1812 by Gerard Clary, who came from Baltimore County, Maryland, and married a Miss Waddell, whose father owned a tract of land at or near Allegheny called "Waddell's Fancy." I f it was built as early as that, it may have been originally on the older Braddock Road, just where it turned from Braddock Run to go up Flaggy Run toward Hoffman Hollow, through which it climbed to the top of the ridges south of Grahamton and Frostburg. The relative location of most of these is shown on the detail map, page 38; Flaggy Run heads at Vale Summit, a short distance below that map, but a branch of it comes down through Hoffman. Clary conducted this tavern during part of the old Pike days.

Here, from the second year of the war between the states to its end, was located one of the most important U. S. A. hospitals for convalescent soldiers, with the several frame buildings grouped largely around, though principally in front of the hotel, as shown in the illustration, page 46. The first building to the right of the tavern was the dispensary the name of which can be seen on the original photograph, though almost lost in the reproduction. To the right of the dispensary was the guard house, a small stone building, the bottom floor of which was used as a dead house. The building to the left of the tavern, with the horse and buggy in front, was the residence of Dr. J. B. Lewis, Surgeon, U. S. Volunteers, in charge of the hospital.

Click on picture for more about Clarysville Inn/Hospital

On the opposite side of the Pike from the tavern a horse will be noticed, tied to the railing. The horse belonged to Dr. M. M. Townsend, a practicing physician who had charge of several of the wards until the close of the war. Officers' quarters, the dining room and office were in the old tavern; the long frame buildings, about 100 feet by 18 feet, were sick wards, each having two rows of iron cots, with an aisle down the center. After the war all these temporary structures were torn down and sold, the iron bedsteads being bought and used quite generally throughout that part of the country.

Though the picture is generally true to life, the artist erred badly in putting a wood-burning stack on an engine used in the heart of the coal regions, and also in showing hard-coal cars on a railway hauling only soft coal, but the old passenger coach is a faithful reproduction. It was painted red, had two hand-brakes at one end and one at the other; it was run by gravity from Eckhart, the next town on our route, to the Narrows, west of Cumberland, and only coupled on to the coal train to be hauled into that city. G. G. Townsend, son of Dr. M. M. Townsend, and now of Frostburg, traveled on this railroad for four years while attending the Allegany Co. Academy at Cumberland, and was often allowed to "run the car," especially near election time, when the conductor was inclined to talk politics with the passengers. After the coming of the trolley, the old car served some time as a caboose and was then dispensed with.

In looking up data concerning the war-time hospital at Clarysville, the writer discovered that the first suggestion to locate it there was made by Mrs. Mary E. Townsend. Though in her 83rd year, Mrs. Townsend wrote from Frostburg in January, 1915, clearly in her own handwriting, the following account of how the hospital came to be located there:

M. E. Townsend

"I remember perfectly the first time I went to Cumberland to see my husband after he went into the hospital there. It was in Dr. George B. Sukely's room, and he said to my husband: 'Can't you think of some place near here where these convalescent men, who are not improving in this dreadful heat, could be transferred?' I did not wait for my husband to reply, but said I knew of the very place, eight and one-half miles from Cumberland, in a delightful valley I came through this afternoon-the finest spring water, a large wagon tavern, several houses and three large barns not used for years. I went on to describe it as surrounded by woods, with rocks to sit on, and the air delightfully cool.

"It took Dr. Sukely's idea at once, and he proposed going to see it, which he did, and found it just the thing. The next day the barns were cleaned and fresh hay, put on the floor: then the men were taken up in their blankets and laid on the floor. Many said they had never slept so well; it proved an ideal spot and hundreds of men were saved by the easy transfer. The 1,100 feet greater elevation and the pure water made a great difference.

"My husband, Dr. M. M. Townsend, had charge of it at first, and everything possible was done for the comfort of the men; but it was found that an army officer must be employed to take charge of the hospital. Dr. Townsend was not willing to go into the army, and Dr. J. B. Lewis, who brought his wife, three children and his mother-in-law, was employed. Eight government wards were erected, the few houses fitted up and physicians employed. Dr. Lewis' family and myself were all interested in the convalescent men and did what we could for their comfort; at one time there were over 2,000 in the hospital."


At Clarysville the National Pike, which follows the older Braddock Road most of the way from Allegany Grove, leaves that route (which kept more nearly straight west through Hoffman, as shown by the map page 38) by turning right across a fairly long stone bridge. Immediately beyond it begins a considerable ascent, with a left curve below the Eckhart mines, crossing the Cumberland & Pennsylvania tracks into Eckhart, whose most conspicuous landmarks are the mining operations of the Consolidation Coal Co. We are now entering one of the most interesting bituminous coal producing sections of the United States; in fact, one of the very first mines of the now celebrated George's Creek coal was at Eckhart.

In the earliest days, the coal was hauled by wagon to Cumberland, where it was put onto flat-boats and keel-boats, to be sent in time of high water down the winding Potomac to Georgetown (D. C.). There it was unloaded and the flat-boats broken up to sell for lumber, though some of the keel-boats were brought back and loaded again. This was before the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal was built, and one has only to note again the many windings of the Potomac, as shown on the map top of page 9, to realize the difficulty of getting coal to market with such primitive means of transportation.

At Mount Savage, on the upper one of the two roads between Cumberland and Frostburg (see map page 48), were rolled the first railroad rails in the United States, in cross-section resembling an inverted U. Some of these were used on the Eckhart R. R., and old-timers say that they could tell by the different sound the moment the car struck them. At that time Mount Savage was a Promising industrial center, operating two large blast furnaces and quite large rolling mills. It now has large fire brick and enameled brick works.

Beyond Eckhart the Pike continues on a fairly steady ascent, along with the trolley, past the Eckhart Farm, with many fine views, especially over to the left and back toward Cumberland, into Union Street, the main street of Frostburg. Entering the town, there is a comfortable stretch of brick followed by a rather steep upgrade on rough stone pavement, to the business center at Broadway, an intersection easily identified by the First National Bank and the Citizens National Bank on opposite left-hand corners. Just beyond -see map, page 48-is the Gladstone Hotel, on the right, and a little farther along the Post Office.

Frostburg is a substantial, prosperous-looking place, with a population of about 8,000 within the corporate limits, and from 10,000 to 12,000 within a one-mile radius. It is situated on top of the divide between the waters of Jennings Run on the north and George's Creek on the south, that ridge connecting the base of Dan Mountain on the southeast with that of Big Savage Mountain on the northwest. Rain falling on the right, or north, side of Union or Main Street finds its way into Jennings Run, and thence to Wills Creek and the Potomac at Cumberland; water from the south side of Union or Main Street runs into George's Creek, and reaches the Potomac at Piedmont, W. Va. Frostburg has an elevation of 2,100 feet, pure mountain spring water, magnificent mountain scenery in all directions, a fine summer climate, and many miles of good road.

From Cumberland to Frostburg by the National Road is only eleven miles, and about the same by the State Aid Road, also shown on the map page 48, through Corriganville and Mount Savage, though by the Western Maryland R. R. the distance is fifteen miles. It is worthy of note that many of the principal towns between Cumberland and Wheeling grew up along the old Pike about twelve miles apart. The two leading taverns in Frostburg at the height of popularity of the road were the "Franklin House" and "Highland Hall," the locations of both of which are shown on the local map page 48. The "Franklin House" site is now occupied by the First National Bank, on the south side of Union Street and the cast side of Broadway. "Highland Hall" stood about 'where the Roman Catholic rectory now stands, and was one of the most popular arid noted taverns along the road.

The once sharp competition between the regular freight and passenger traffic lines naturally brought rival ones into existence. Searight's History of the "Old Pike" mentions the Franklin House and Highland Hall, but not the McCulloh House, though the latter was conducted as a tavern much later than either of the others. This stood on the south side of the Pike, almost facing the road leading from Union Street to the C ' & P. depot and Mount Savage; it was a large, two-story brick building, with a broad porch on its front and east sides, the one on the cast overlooking the large stage and wagon yard that extended back to the barn where the stage horses were kept. Teams were changed here and elsewhere about every twelve miles along the route. The remodeled building is now used as a general store, owned by Shaffer Bros.


The vast tonnage of this region finds its way, especially to tidewater markets, through several channels, largely at first over the Cumberland & Pennsylvania R. R., which, with the Consolidation Coal Co., a subsidiary of the B. & O., passes through almost a continuous town in the George's Creek valley from Frostburg to Lonaconing, connecting with the parent system both at Mount Savage junction above, and at Piedmont below. Frostburg is the highest town in the district; then, farther south, on lower elevations, are Borden Shaft, Midland and Ocean to Lonaconing, about at the center of the mining region and headquarters for several of the producing companies, situated in the valley 225 feet below the George's Creek Big Vein.

Mount Savage junction (see map above), where the B. & 0. R. R. turns the corner for Connellsville and Pittsburgh, is a great transfer point for coal, cast and north. Not only does the Cumberland & Pennsylvania bring a heavy tonnage to that point from the full length of the George's Creek valley, but it also makes connections with the Pennsylvania system from its junction with that railroad at Ellersie, Md., just north of Corriganville and on the Mason and Dixon line. The George's Creek & Cumberland, running between Cumberland and Lonaconing, without going through Frostburg, is now a part of the Western Maryland system, and delivers its tonnage to that road at Cumberland.

Considerable of the coal mined in this district still goes to Cumberland and then down the Potomac by the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, now controlled by the B. & 0. Boats carrying about 110 tons each make the trip from Cumberland to Georgetown, D. C., or Alexandria, Va., in from four to five days over the water route, in which Washington was so much interested both before and after the Revolution. In the very early days some of the coal from this district was hauled south to Westernport and thence boated along the north branch of the Potomac, but that is done no more.

In and around Frostburg are many points of interest if the tourist has time to look them up. From Dan Rock, on the summit of Dan Mountain (named for Daniel Cresap, son of the pioneer, Col. Thomas Cresap), about seven miles southeast of Frostburg, is bad one of the finest views in the Appalachians, embracing parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and an especially long stretch of the north branch of the Potomac. It is, however, difficult to reach by motor, though sooner or later the county or state will probably build a good road to that point.

One of the two Maryland State normal schools is located at Frostburg, and also the Miners' Hospital, built and maintained in co-operation between the state, city and mining companies. The hospital stands on an elevation overlooking the Jennings valley, by which the upper one of the two routes from Cumberland enters Frostburg, and commands a magnificent view. Both this and the State Normal School are located on the map, page 48, which also shows how the connecting route down the George's Creek valley leaves Union Street by Grant Street, at the eastern end of Frostburg.

Resuming the trip, leave Frostburg northwest on Union Street, up a slight grade and over a short stretch of brick, coming again onto the macadam of the old Pike. There is now an unexpected but rather steep downgrade, in the course of which the car used in taking these notes passed a four-horse team laboring slowly up with a wagon of heavy logs, apparently as was done three-quarters of a century ago. After crossing the small stream at the foot, one begins the ascent, which is not ended until the summit of one of the main Allegheny ridges is reached at Big Savage Mountain.

Midway of this ascent the view on this page was taken; on the south side of the road and just west of the two iron posts, where the two men are standing, is the site of the second brick toll house west of Cumberland. The Boundary line between Allegany and Garrett Counties as shown on the map, page 48, passes just west of where that old toll house stood, though a more recent survey of the boundary line between the counties passes about half a mile west of that point. Garrett County was made from the western portion of Allegany in 1872, and the two have since then had considerable trouble over the dividing line, which is supposed to be from the mouth of the Savage River at its junction with the Potomac, near Piedmont, W. Va., by a straight line along the backbone of Big Savage Mountain to the Mason and Dixon line, at the southern border of Somerset County, Pa.

In ascending the long steady grade on the eastern slope of Big Savage Mountain, a wonderful view unfolds over to the left; and it will repay the tourist to watch for the road built by private subscription, just at the crest leading to St. John's Rock. This is shown as a spur from the old Pike on the map, page 38; the "rock" has an elevation of 2,930 feet, or 50 feet above the point where the main road crosses the summit of Big Savage Mountain. From the rock, and to a large degree also from the Pike, one may look back and see Wills Mountain, the Narrows, Sandy Gap, Dan's Mountain and Frostburg.

Up to the time that a road is constructed to Dan's Rock (as mentioned in a preceding paragraph), the view from St. John's Rock is probably the finest on this trip. W. E. G. Hitchens, G. G. Townsend, and other public-spirited motorists of Frostburg, have been principally instrumental in raising the money necessary to build the road, which leads directly to the rock, around which there is ample space for leaving or turning cars. About 800 feet south o f the rock is a low point where the mountain was crossed by Braddock's Road; an old wood road in fair condition leads to it, and the distance can either be walked, or a car can be taken over it without much difficulty.


Just beyond the side road to St. John's rock, the Pike makes a right curve at 2,880 feet elevation, almost 1,000 feet above Frostburg: this the actual summit of Big Savage Mountain, which with Negro Mountain and Keysers Ridge, both farther along, are the three highest points between Baltimore and Wheeling. Then there is a gradual descent of the western slope to cross a stone bridge over Savage River: and a corresponding ascent, this time up Little Savage Mountain, which is 120 feet lower than Big Savage. One can easily imagine that the wind blows up strong at times across these heights; and, looking either ahead or behind, the layman is apt to wonder that a road of so relatively easy grades could be laid out across this sort of country.

On the right, immediately beyond Little Savage; is the farm of Thomas Johnson, a descendent of the first state governor of Maryland; his house is at the fifteenth mile-post west of Cumberland or the fourth beyond Frostburg. Nearly opposite, but a trifle father west, are Mr. Johnson's spacious barns; the larger one shown in the view on page 51 is at the beginning of the longest straight-away so far on the Pike west of Cumberland. This was known in stage-coach days as the "Long Stretch," a continual succession of up and down grades, but without any deviation from a direct line for two and a half miles-naturally longer to the freight wagon driver of three-quarters of a century ago than to the motorist of today. Eight tenths of a mile beyond the west foot of the Little Savage Mountain, and 65/100 mile beyond the Johnson house, our route crosses Fishing Run, the first northward-flowing stream, the waters of which find their way into the Monongahela, Ohio, the Mississippi and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico.

The road could easily have been built somewhat around rather than straight across some of these ridges, at the same time securing more uniform and lighter grades; but that would not have been in keeping with the letter of the law which created the National Turnpike. One traveling this "long stretch" is reminded of the earlier part of the trip between Baltimore and Hagerstown, except, of course, this section is much more hilly. The next few miles are over lesser ranges and across minor streams, as shown by the map on top of page 48; and one needs to keep a lookout for the next point of interest, best identified by a clump of trees on the north side of the road about three and a half miles from the western foot of Little Savage Mountain. Here it is still possible to see where and how Braddock's Road crossed the National Highway; near this point also the third brigade of Braddock's army camped on June 15, 1755.

Less than a quarter mile west was the "wagon stand" kept as early as 1830 by John Recknor, beyond which begins the long descent-- about 260 feet in a mile--to Two-Mile Run, a small stream crossed by a short stone culvert. The long "hollow" on either side of this was once commonly known as the "Shades of Death," from the dense forest of white pine which formerly, covered the region, making a favorable shelter for hostile Indians and shutting out nearly all of the sunlight even on a bright summer day. Old wagoners who drove from Baltimore to the Ohio River or beyond dreaded this locality as the darkest and gloomiest place along the route; and it was the scene of one or more "hold-ups."

But the once splendid white pine forest in this part of Garrett County were cut down, sawed up and shipped to market long ago; so the "Shades of Death" became no more, though it is only a few years since the last mill made into shingles what was left of the pine. Many of the larger stumps are still in the ground, and others were built into the stump fences so characteristic of the once heavily-wooded country; most of these fences have begun to decay from their exposure of a generation or more to the elements. About one mile west the road makes a dip to the small stream known as Red Run, and immediately thereafter ascends the eastern slope of Meadow Mountain. In this valley is the small hamlet of Piney Grove, also named from the pine trees once covering this entire section.



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