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Sunday, November 28, 2010

New book retraces historic Turkey Foot Road

Mount Savage Historical Society
P.O. Box 401
Mount Savage, Maryland 21545
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NEWS RELEASE -- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 29, 2010 -- Contact: NancyE.Thoerig@verizon.net


MOUNT SAVAGE, Md. – Along the northwestern Maryland and southwestern Pennsylvania border, an Indian trail led traders, drovers, travelers and settlers into the American frontier. The primitive road that evolved from this ancient route spawned scattered settlements that today are our hometowns.

“In Search of the Turkey Foot Road: From Fort Cumberland to the North Fork of the Youghiogheny,” by Lannie Dietle and Michael McKenzie, retraces this historic and nearly forgotten route, highlighting the part between Cumberland and Confluence, Pa.

The Mount Savage Historical Society is publishing the work , as announced by President Dennis Lashley. Visit http://www.mtsavage.info/ to see sample pages.

The serious reader soon finds that this 342-page book is more than a story about a road. The Turkey Foot Road, disguised by different names, still takes us where we need to go; and this historic transportation corridor continues to define us today as descendants of those who braved the elements and events of the early American wilderness to make homes, and leave legacies, in a boundless new land of opportunity.

Co-authors Dietle and McKenzie, and Editor Nancy E. Thoerig, found that they share ancestors who traveled this road and settled along it. They suspect that many thousands of Americans similarly can trace their lineage to settlers along the Turkey Foot Road.

Relying on maps, property surveys, aerial photographs, crop marks, landscape scars, oral traditions and local guides (namely Salisbury, Pa. Mayor Harry Ringler, Sr. and Mount Savage amateur historian and archaeologist Francis Bridges), Dietle and McKenzie delineate the route in detail. Assisted with their GPS coordinates, a dedicated hiker might set out to walk the 18th century route from Cumberland to Harnedsville, Pa. The authors also identify key points between Harnedsville and Pittsburgh.

“In its heyday,” Dietle summarizes in the final chapter, “the Turkey Foot Road was an early route west. It helped to settle the towns and environs that interest us most: Barrelville and Mount Savage in Maryland; Wellersburg, Pocahontas, and Salisbury in Pennsylvania.”

Dietle continues, “The road also serviced points farther west, such as Springs, Savage, Confluence, Harnedsville, and so forth, all the way to Pittsburgh. By 1820, the United States population had grown to 9.6 million, and about half of it had moved west of Cumberland. As this tremendous migration and population growth occurred, some of the people along the Turkey Foot Road moved on, helping to settle and populate the great American west.”

The antecedent to the Turkey Foot Road, traditionally called the Turkey Foot Trail, was an Indian trading path. In 1749, the colonies of Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland, at the request of the Miami Indians, improved this route to facilitate easier trade between Pickawillany (Piqua), Ohio and Wills Creek (Cumberland), Md.

English trade flourished along this primary corridor into the contested Ohio territory, and tensions with the French mounted. Thus, the early Turkey Foot Road, the authors contend, provoked the first large scale attack of the French and Indian War, at Pickawillany in 1752.

George Washington made the earliest mention of Turkey Foot the authors found, in reference to the confluence of the Casselman River and Laurel Hill Creek with the Youghiogheny River, at present-day Confluence, Pa. Most likely, the authors believe, the road takes its name from this destination.

“In Search of the Turkey Foot Road” is a fascinating read through history in our own backyards. Meticulously researched and abundantly documented, with almost 80 appendices and 460 maps, figures and photos, the book is sure to tickle any reader’s curiosity about the people, places and events that transpire along the Turkey Foot Road.

Drawing upon his ancestral connections and childhood memories in Somerset County, Pa., Dietle writes from his home in Houston, Texas, where he works as principal designer for an engineering firm that makes seals for oilfield equipment.

Descended from one of the first settlers in Mount Savage, McKenzie led the project’s local research endeavors. He lives in Barrelville and works as a diesel locomotive mechanic at the CSX shop in Cumberland.

Proceeds benefit the Mount Savage Historical Society. Visit http://www.mtsavage.info/ to see sample pages, a general overview and chapter summaries, biographies for the co-authors, editor and contributors, and to contact Becky Korns, MSHS secretary, to order.

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NEWS STAFF: For more information on the Turkey Foot Road project, or to arrange an author’s interview, write NancyE.Thoerig@verizon.net.

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