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Rediscovering the Braddock Trail

By Robert L. Bantz, Western Maryland Chapter

Joe Conners learned that an especially deep section of the Braddock Trail runs through his land in Garrett County.

One never knows where his or her first visit to an archeological society chapter meeting may lead. It was during my first meeting that I heard an inspiring presentation by chapter member Homer Hoover, a retired state highway surveyor, about the history and existence of Braddock’s trail in western Maryland.

The trail played a prominent part in the French and Indian War, helping set the stage for the Revolution and the founding and expansion of our county.

To Thomas Cresap, Christopher Gist and their friend Nemocolin, a Delaware Indian, falls the honor of having blazed the trail for the OhioTrading Company in 1753 from Will’s Creek - today’s Cumberland - westward to the Ohio Valley.

It is this historic trail that provided the route through the wilderness for George Washington in his attempt to evict the French and Indians from the Ohio Valley in 1753 and 1754. It is this trail along which General Edward Braddock and his 2,100 troops marched to their 1755 defeat by the French and Indians at the battlefield near the confluence of Turtle Creek and the Monongahela River six miles south of present-day Pittsburgh. One of Braddock’s wagon masters was Daniel Boone.

After Braddock’s defeat and after the war, Washington used the trail for four later trips through western Maryland. The trail provided a route to the west for Meriwether Lewis in July, 1803, on the first leg of his historic trip to the Pacific Ocean. And the trail provided passage westward for thousands of pioneers until the opening of the National Pike in 1806.

Hoover’s talk inspired me to locate, photograph and plot the trail, using the relatively new Global Positioning technology.

Employing the maps and journals of Christopher Gist and Braddock’s officers and servants, as well as land grant maps, local lore and books by Lacock in 1908 and Ruckert in 1975, I was able to locate and plot the trail in western Maryland.

Through the use of GPS technology, I plotted the trail and provided maps to Carol Ebright, a State Highway Administration archeologist, to establish an awareness of the trail in case it is impacted by future highway construction. Carol also had parts of the trail given site designations, 18AG241 in Allegany County and 18GA314 in Garrett County.

Preserving trail sites is becoming ever more difficult because of our rapidly developing Society. I have visited each landowner to share the history of the trail and ask to help preserve it for posterity.

Two sites are very important historically and exist in impact areas.

The first is the original and very historic trail on Haystack Mountain just west of Fort Cumberland. It is very rapidly being developed with new housing and the land on which the trail exists is for sale for housing.

The second site, and the most historic French and Indian site in Garrett County, is Little Meadows. This was the location of Braddock’s 1755 stockade and camp. It was the campsite for George Washington during six of his westward trips and it was the homesite of the first settler in the county, whose grave is at the former stockade location. Little Meadows also is a pristine wetland.

I have reason to believe portions of the original log road still exist within the glade here and plan to search for them.

But Little Meadows is sitting within the impact area of the U.S. 219 improvement corridor. Due to the importance of the site, one of the goals of the Western Maryland Chapter is to work with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Maryland State Highway Administration to try to keep the impact upon the site to a minimum.

I get many calls from people wanting to know where the trail is so they can search for the long-sought “Braddock’s Gold.” The search has created a lot of trespassing and a lot of problems with the landowners. But to tell the truth I have found it. It is not in the form of precious metal but in the form of hundreds of friendships I have made along the way.