History of Bedford and Somerset CountiesHistory of Bedford and Somerset Counties - Volume 2 - Chapter 3
The disastrous ending of Braddock's ill-fated expedition, upon which such high hopes had been built, left the French in complete possession of the country beyond the Allegheny mountain, which thus became the frontier for the English settlements. It was a barrier beyond which they might not pass, and which continued for a period somewhat over three years. For the French to have maintained this barrier here and elsewhere would have been to confine the English settlements between the mountain and the Atlantic ocean.
So far as the English were concerned this was an intolerable situation. On their part, the next three years were years of preparation to break the power of the French and their savage allies. As to the French, they were by no means idle. They sent out their war parties, made up of French and Indians, who, following Nemacolin's trail, or the Braddock road, crossed to the eastern side of the mountain, and, leaving Fort Cumberland, Maryland (which was now the nearest English outpost), to the right or left, as best suited their purpose, they harassed and ravaged the border settlements of Virginia, Maryland, and the adjacent parts of Pennsylvania. Small forts and block houses were captured. The houses of the settlers were burned, and they themselves and their families were killed and scalped, or carried off into hopeless captivity.
Early in the year 1758 an army of almost six thousand men were assembled at Raystown (Bedford) for a second campaign against the French. This force was organized and commanded by General John Forbes, with Colonel Henry Boquet as second in command. It was made up of a detachment of three hundred and fifty Royal Americans, twelve hundred Scotch Highlanders, sixteen hundred Virginians, and two thousand seven hundred Pennsylvanians. There was also a detachment from Maryland, but we have no information as to its numbers. It was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Dagworthy. There were also upwards of one thousand teamsters, or wagoners, for the hauling of the transportation of the supplies for the army.
The Virginia regiments were command by Colonel George Washington and Colonel William Byrd, the former being the ranking officer. Among the officers connected with the Virginia regiments were Andrew Lewis and Adam Stephens, both of whom later on attained high rank in the Revolutionary war. This was the school in which they learned much of the art of war, as did Washington himself.
While Raystown had been made the general rendezvous for the army, the route had not been determined by which it was to march for its objective point. This was Fort Duquesne, which had been erected by the French at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. At that time the Braddock road (but seven miles of which pass through the southwest corner of Somerset county) was the only one that had at all been opened in the direction of the forks of the Ohio river. The question before the commanding general was, whether the army should march to Fort Cumberland, nearly thirty miles away, and take that road, or whether a new road should be cut through what, admittedly, was a region mostly covered by dense forests. It would seem that the original plan had been to make the campaign over the Braddock road, and that it was Sir John St. Clair, quartermaster-general of the army, who suggested to General Forbes the idea of making a new road across Laurel Hill. Later on he again sided with the Virginians. But General Forbes was now not easily to be turned from the fullest investigation before determining his route.
It is to be remembered that in 1755, the year of the Braddock expedition, Colonel James Burd had laid out a road from Reastown to the Turkeyfoot, when it was abandoned. General Forbes wrote to Colonel Boquet that he should reconnoitre country between the Allegheny mountain and the Great Crossing, and said that a road could be made in that direction, but that it ought to be done in the fall after the leaves were off the trees. The report that Boquet received of this route was unfavorable. Acting under the orders of General Forbes, Colonel Boquet seems to have investigated every possible route westward from Reastown.
On July 14, 1758, Forbes wrote to Boquet: "I have sent up Major Armstrong with one Dunning, an old trader, who has been many times upon the road between Reastown and Fort Duquesne. He says there is no difficulty in the road across Laurel Hill, and that he leaves the Youghiogheny all the way upon his left, and that it is only forty miles from Laurel Hill to Fort Duquesne.
In a letter from James Young, commissary of musters and paymaster-general, written to Richard Peters, from Carlisle, July 23, 1758, among other things it is stated "that Captains Clayton and Ward have been out in search of a road, and bring accounts that a much better one may be found from Raystown than the Braddock road. He also adds that Mayor Armstrong, with one hundred men, was sent out on Friday to see if he agreed with the same. The Virginians are making great interest that the route may be by Fort Cumberland, but I hope they will not succeed."
As to this first movement westward, on July 20, 1758, Colonel John Armstrong wrote to Governor Denny from Carlisle, saying: "The General has sent my brother, George, to Reastown with orders to take with him a hundred men, in order to find and mark a road from Reastown as near to Fort Duquesne as he can possibly go, leaving General Braddock's road and the Yohiogaine to the left, and afterwards to attempt a scalp or a prisoner."
Colonel Armstrong evidently looked upon this service as fraught with hazard to those engaged in it, for he adds, "I shall not mention my thoughts of the fate of these people in case they approach too near the fort, as the enemy doubtless will view them every step of the way from Raystown."
It would also appear that Major Armstrong, on his return, had orders to make an entrenched camp at Edmonds' swamp, in Somerset county. Under date of July 25th General Forbes wrote to General Abercrombie as follows: "Scouting parties have been sent out with the best guides we could find, and according to the reports which some of them have made, the road over the Allegheny mountain and the Laurel Ridge will be found practicable for carriages, which will be of infinite consequence, will facilitate our matter much by shortening the march at least 70 miles, besides the advantage of having no rivers to pass, as we shall keep the Yeogheny upon our left. The troops are all in motion. But I have retarded the march of some of them upon the route from this place, as I am unwilling to bring them together until the route is finally determined."
On July 26th, Colonel Boquet wrote to General Forbes:
Thus Colonel Boquet would appear to have left no stone unturned to get full information concerning the possibility of this route over the Laurel hill, so that no mistake could be made. It is certain that Washington strongly advocated the following of the Braddock road, advancing, among other reasons, that this road was already cut and opened, while to cut a new road through dense forests that lay between the army and Fort Duquesne would occasion so much delay that it might endanger the success of the expedition. But aside from military reasons, there were also some other factors which had much to do with determining the matter.
Along with the dispute between the English and French over the region beyond the Allegheny mountain, there was also a contention between Virginia and Pennsylvania over a part of it, the former claiming a large area of territory west of the Laurel hill and along the Youghiogheny. Monongahela and Ohio rivers, that was also claimed by Pennsylvania. This dispute was a source of much bickering between the two provinces for many years, and was not finally settled until after the Revolutionary war. It was not to Virginia's interest that a second road should be cut through the wilderness, and in opposing it Virginia was only trying to take care of her own interests. It goes without saying that Pennsylvania also had a watchful eye over the situation.
Washington, no doubt, was anxious to serve his state in every way that he honestly could, and from a military point of view it must be said that there was much to justify his advocacy of the Braddock route. Colonel Boquet wrote Washington a letter, in which he gave him the credit of being sincere in his conclusions. Had Forbes been one iota less fortunate than Braddock was unfortunate. Washington's words might have come true to the letter, and they did come very near being so.
General Forbes' final decision was in favor of a new road. This Indian trail presented so many advantages over the rival route that the scale was turned in its favor. Among them were these: The distance over which his army was to move was from forty to fifty miles less from where it then was than it would have been by way of Fort Cumberland and the Braddock road. There were no large rivers to be crossed on this route, as was the case with the other road, and last, there was much more forage to be found along the new road than on the route of the Braddock road. As there were many hundreds of animals with the army, that must in some way have subsistence. This, of itself, was a matter of the greatest importance.
On July 31st Forbes wrote positive orders to begin the road. As the sequel proved, from the military point of view, it was the right thing to do. In other respects it certainly was greatly to the advantage of Pennsylvania, and it was particularly so for what is now Somerset county. Such was the final outcome, for the road passed through its entire length, or width, from east to west, and it also makes that part of Somerset county historic ground.
At the time that General Forbes reached this decision, he was still at Carlisle, where he had been detained on account of the state of his health. He did not reach Raystown until about the middle of September, and then had to be carried forward on a litter. Colonel Boquet was in command at Raystown, and as soon as he received the necessary orders he promptly began and carried forward the work. At Raystown he had a force of 2,500 men, exclusive of the detachment employed on the road, which some authorities say numbered 1,400 men. It is to be presumed that the road began at Raystown, still, this is not certain. It is to be remembered that in 1755 Colonel James Burd had commenced the cutting of a road toward the Turkeyfoot, and had carried the work well on toward the top of the Allegheny mountain. It is very probable that some miles of this first road might have been made use of for the new road, or until the first road turned too far away to the southwest. Sir John St. Clair was sent out as an advance supervisor of the working force. At the same time there can no doubt but that Colonel James Burd was one of Colonel Boquet's righthand men in the making of this road
While the work of this road was being vigorously prosecuted, some working parties were also sent out on the Braddock road, who made at least a show of repairing it. This was done for the purpose of deceiving the French and making them believe that the coming army would march over that road. It is, however, to be looked upon as certain that every movement was watched by lurking savages and spies, but we have no account of any special hindrance having been encountered while the road was being constructed through Somerset county.
On August 12th St. Clair wrote to Boquet from Camp "on ye side of ye Allegheny." that not much progress had been made as he had hoped, and urged the sending of men with digging tools. On august 16th he wrote: "A small retrenchment (probably meaning entrenchment) is picked out at Kickoney Paulins. The stages will be from Raystown to Shanoe Cabins, 11 miles; to Sir Allen McLean's Camp, 9 or 10 miles; to Edmond's Swamp, 9 or 10 miles." On August 23rd St. Clair again wrote Boquet from Stony Creek, that "three wagons have got to this place. The road not so good as I shall make it. **** I hope to get to Kikony Paulins tomorrow night." That night he wrote again from Kikony Paulins in reply to Boquet's letter: "It is impossible for me to tell you anything more than I have done about the road from L. H. I required 600 men to make the road over the Lau-Ri-ge in three days, on the condition that I was to see it done myself, and perhaps I might reach L. H. the third day. I expect to get the road cleared as far as the Clear fields, a mile from the top of Laurel Hill on this side, by the time the A-my comes up, and work afterwards with as many men as the other cops are willing to give me." From Edmond's swamp, St. Clair next wrote: "I got the wagons safe as far as this post yesterday. The road is so far good, and if it had not rained so hard I was in hopes to report the road good this night to Kikony Pawlins."
On August 27th Colonel Boquet wrote to St. Clair, "to push the road with all possible dispatch," and adds. "The chief thing we want is the communication open for wagons to Loyal Hannon. Employ all your strength. Colonel Burd has orders to cut backwards to you from Loyal Hannon. Captain Dudgeon and Mr. Daft will oversee some part of the road."
It looks as though the road had by this time advanced but little further than the foot of Laurel hill. As time passed, many parties seemed willing to admit that Colonel Washington had been telling some plain truths when he urged General Forbes not to try this route. The road finally reached Ligonier, to which place the army was brought and a fort erected. From Fort Ligonier a party of 1,500 carried the road forward toward Fort Duquesne. Some authorities claim that up to this time the enemy had not suspected the opening of this road, but confined his attention to the defiles and passes on the Braddock road. This may have been so at first, but after Fort Ligonier was reached it was different.
That the progress of the road was slow, and with it that of the army, is quite certain. It was not until the early part of November that General Fores arrived at Fort Ligonier, to which the entire army had now come up. He was still a sick man, and was borne across the mountain on a litter. He must, indeed, have been a man of grim determination to have kept in the field when he was not able to ride on horseback. After the arrival of General Forbes at Fort Ligonier a council of officers was called to consider the situation. Their opinion was that nothing further could be done, owing to the lateness of the season. But a few hours later three prisoners were brought in, who reported that Fort Duquesne had been evacuated, and this report proved to be correct.
The road in Somerset county is known under two names. By some it is called the "Forbes road." Because it was by his orders that it was cut through the wilderness, by which all that part of Somerset county was then covered. Others call it the "Boquet road," because Colonel Boquet had in charge the opening of it.
That it followed an old Indian trail that later on became an Indian trader's path, is quite certain. Christopher Gist passed over it in 1750, and in his journal may be found names of localities and the courses and distances by which he traveled. In an account accompanying Patten's map[ (1750) we find this: "From Shawonese Cabins (in Bedford county) to the top of the Allegheny mountain, 8 miles; to Cowamahoning (Quemahoning) creek, 6 miles; to Kickena paulins, 5 miles." Indian traders gave these names of localities and distances, To top of Allegheny mountain, 8 miles; to Edmond's swamp, 8 miles; to Cowamahoning, 6 miles; to Kickena paulins, 5 miles. In 1754 John Harris, Indian trader, in a table of distances, gives the name of Stony creek instead of Cowamahoning. He also mentions the Clear Field as being seven miles distant from Kickena paulins. This would mean a place near the top of Laurel hill. All these localities are within what is now Somerset County. The names here given all antedate 1758, the time of the cutting of the road. They even antedate the time of the Braddock expedition. Gist, in his journal of 1750, gives the name of Stony creek. Washington, himself, had also passed over the trail, and gives the name Stony creek. It is, therefore, apparent that where the other use the name Cowamahoning, Stony creek is meant.
The trail, and its successor, the road, both cross the Quemahoning, but it is near the Indian town. The distances given in some cases are only approximately correct. Two maps of 1770 show the Forbes road as passing through Edmond's swamp.
Frederick Post, A Moravian missionary, on his way to visit some of the western Indian tribes, traveled with a part of Colonel Boquet's forces as far as Loyalhannon. In his journal he says: "Nov.6. Then we set off and found one of the worst roads ever traveled until Stony creek. 7th. We rose early and made all the haste we could on our journey. We crossed the large creek, Reckenpalin, near Laurel Hill." Here it looks as though a mistake has been made in transcribing or translating Post's Journal, which probably was written in German. He had probably written "Kickena paulin," as had all others, but had given it as the name of the stream, instead of Quemahoning, its right name. On a map of 1755, which antedates the road by three years, a trail is marked though these parts. All of these facts, when taken together, show conclusively that the road followed an Indian path that was the nearest way from the Ohio river to the headwaters of the Juniata river.
But to return to the road. As it progressed, forts and defenses were erected at different places along its route. One of these was on the top of the Allegheny mountain. The locality is known as the Breastworks. A small mountain stream nearby, but on the eastern side of the mountain, is known as the Breastwork run. On October 30, 1758, General Forbes marched from the Shawnese Cabins to Fort Durward, and this probably was the name of the fort, although the name Fort Durward does not seem to appear anywhere in the Pennsylvania archives.
In the year 1855 the late Judge William M. Hall, of Bedford, ran the county line between Bedford and Somerset counties. In speaking of this fort, Judge Hall says, "It is northwardly from the turnpike about a mile, at a point where a building known as the shot tower is located. Nothing then remained of it except a slight elevation in the form of a square. The county line runs through it, about one-half of it being in either county. *****
At that time its outlines could easily be traced. I do not recall its size, but think the outlines indicated a rectangular enclosure of about a hundred feet on each side. There was nothing to show except the raised earth making an embankment of two or three feet high. It was no doubt a stockade of timbers set on end and imbedded in the earth several feet. In recent years we have been informed that these outlines may still be traced. How long it may have been used as a defensive position is not known at this time."
There is also a defense of some sort spoken of as Miller's Fort, after John Miller, who lived near by, and it is probable that it is the same. Near by is a locality that in those days was known as "The Fields." Washington and his Virginians were encamped here when on their march over the road.
Oven Run is a tributary of the Stony creek, entering it from the east. It is one of the most picturesque streams in the county. It rises in Shade township, and has a length of nearly six miles. Its general course is somewhat toward the northwest, but near its mouth it changes to the west. Above its falls, and on the north side of the stream, and about three and a half miles east of Stoystown, is the site of a fort. Near the run are the remains of a large oven, in which, it is said, bread was baked for the army. It is this oven which gives the stream its name.
Hard by in a field in the site of the fort which was built by Colonel Boquet in his march across the county. This fort is described as an earthen breastwork of four ravelins connected together and pointing north, south, east, and west, each ravelin being about seven-five feet in length. There is also said to have been a ditch around it. The outlines of the fort may still be traced, and many relics have been picked up in its vicinity. Daniel Berkeybill is the present owner of the land on which this fort is located. For a time, at least, a permanent garrison was kept here. Frederick Post, on his return journey, says: "December 28, 1758. We came to Stony creek, where Mr. Quicksell is stationed. This, probably, was Lieutenant Joseph Quicksell of Colonel James Burd's battalion. It is also said that there was a stockade at the crossing of the Stony creek." There certainly is a reference to it in the old Colonial papers.
In Galbraith's Journal of a later period, we read, "We left Ligonier at 8 o' clock p. m., came over the Laurel Hill to Jolly's, very dark." A note in "The Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania" says that "Jolly's was Stony creek," but it is more than likely that this was the name of some person there who entertained travelers. The name occurs among the taxables of the county after it became settled.
It is known that Colonel Bouquet was at Loyalhanna about September 7th, but he must have returned to Stony creek. On October 12th the French and Indians made a fierce attack on the detachment at Loyalhanna, when Colonel James Burd was in command. Colonel Boquet was then at Stony creek with 700 men and a detachment of artillery. He could get no farther on account of the condition of the road. After the affair was over Colonel Burd reported it to Colonel Boquet in the following letter:
Colonel Boquet, in a letter to General Forbes, dates at Rays Dudgeon, October 13, 1758, 10 p.m., says:
This letter of Boquet's, it is to be noted, is dated at Ray's Dudgeon. Just where this place or locality may have been is not certain. It seems, however, to have been between the post at Stony creek and the top of Laurel hill, and therefore in Somerset county.
There was also a fort on the east side of the Quemahoning, between where Burntrager's and Boyer's mills now are. It is described as being similar in shape to the fort at Oven Run, but somewhat larger. As a Stony creek, many relics of those times have been unearthed here. Many flint arrow and spear heads have also been found. The fort is on what used to be known as the Daniel A. Weaver farm, which is probably the same farm now owned by Joseph C. Reininger. It will be remembered that Sir John St. Clair, in one of his letters to Colonel Boquet, made mention of the "retrenchment" at Kickena paulins, and this fort was probably the same. There is also some tradition to the effect that there was still another fort or defense between the "Breast works" on top of the mountain and that at Oven Run.
General Forbes, after accomplishing the object of his campaign, which was the driving of the French from the Forks of the Ohio (Pittsburg), returned to the east over the road leaving Fort Duquesne on December 3, 1758. At Fort Ligonier he was detained by sickness for several weeks. But on December 27th he left Fort Ligonier. Several days were spent in reaching Stony creek. Frederick Post, who was then returning from his western journey, was of the party.
General Forbes must have been a remarkable man, and of wonderfully strong will. From all accounts of him that have come down to our time, it looks as though his physical condition was such he should have been in his bed, instead of conducting a campaign through such a wilderness as his army was obliged to traverse. Both in going and returning he had to be carried on a litter. Post, in his Journal, makes mention that expresses were sent forward to the several stations to have quarters especially prepared for him.
From the time that the main purpose of the expedition had been accomplished, there was more or less movement along this military road in the transportation of needed supplies for the garrisons of the forts and posts on its route. Guards and relays were kept at the several stations. This most certainly was the case at Stony creek. Through the greater part of 1759 there was at all times more or less danger in traveling over the road.
When the French forces abandoned Fort Duquesne, a part of them, under DeLigneris, retired to Venango. While some of the Indian tribes made friends with the English, the French still retained some influence over others. As long as they kept their hold on Venango, they still made use of these Indian allies with more or less advantage to themselves. War parties, sometimes led by white men, made frequent inroads on the outlying settlements, and they were at all times on the alert to waylay and harass the military convoys that were traversing the road. It was not until after the French had been forced to entirely abandon Pennsylvania, that these Indian troubles ceased. In time the minor defense along the road were abandoned.
But when, in 1763, the great Pontiac prevailed upon the Western tribes to take up the hatchet once more against the English, there were again Indian troubles and invasions along the western borders of Pennsylvania. Once more there was a necessity for an armed force to march over this road for the purpose of beating back these savage hordes from our western border. The forts and defenses along the road wherever needed were again repaired and garrisoned. At this time Bedford must be looked upon as being the extreme frontier settlement in these parts of Pennsylvania. As the Indian title was not yet extinguished, there could be no legal settlement west of the Allegheny mountain. There may have been a few settlers along the road, but these could only have been there by sufferance of the military authorities.
It is evident that a garrison had been maintained all the while at Fort Ligonier, on the western side of Laurel hill, as well as at Bedford, but there is no certainty that there was any in the intervening distance. At this juncture savages prowled along the entire length of the road, and an attack was actually made by them on Fort Ligonier. In June, 1763, knowing the desperate situation at Fort Ligonier, Captain Ourey, commanding at Bedford, sent out a party of twenty volunteers, all experienced woodsmen, to its relief. They succeeded in reaching the fort. The force for the relief of the western posts was organized at Carlisle by Captain Boquet. While there, and before his army was ready to begin its march, the situation at Fort Ligonier seemed to him to be so serious that he was impelled to attempt a re-enforcement of it. For this purpose be selected a detachment of thirty of his best Highlanders and ordered them to push forward in an attempt to get across the Laurel Hill. So dangerous was that part of the road through Somerset county considered that this detachment had orders to avoid the road, to lie close by day and to travel only at night by unfrequented paths. Although the fort was beleagured by the savages, they succeeded in eluding them, and entered the fort without loss.
Boquet, with the main body of his army, passed over the road from Bedford to Fort Ligonier between July 25th and August 2, 1763. The post at Stony creek was re-established, and it is probable that this was done elsewhere along the road wherever needed. Before reaching Fort Pitt, Colonel Boquet was obliged to fight a bloody and for a time a doubtful battle with the savage enemy, at Bushy Run, but, defeating them there, he was able to raise the siege at Fort Pitt.
It may be added that Fort Ligonier, so near our western border, and Fort Pitt were two of the only four forts in the entire west that were able to hold out against this Indian outbreak. This Forbes road was the one fortified road to the Ohio river. So long as Forts Loudoun, Bedford, Ligonier and Fort Pitt retained their garrisons this highway between them meant everything to their defenders and the woodsmen about them. Even when they were abandoned, nearly all the stores and ammunition for the forts and posts in the valley of the Ohio river had to be hauled over it. Truly it was one of the greatest of the early highways of the country.
[Source: The History of Bedford and Somerset Counties by Blackburn and Welfley, published in 1906. Chapter 1, pages 1- 9. Transcribed and donated by Batha Karr <email@example.com>. ]
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Last Revised: April 13, 2013