Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness. Colossians 3:15

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Turkey Foot Road history becomes personal

Published in Cumberland Times-News Sunday, November 14, 2010.
(Beginning mid-October 2010, the Times-News limited Letters access to online subscribers.)

Historic roads take us where we want to go, and they transport us to where we come from.

Our fortune to live in such a notably historic place in America gives us an advantage, if we explore it, to understand how the past shapes our present. That dynamic becomes personal when “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 mostly forgotten early route that breached the barrier of the Allegheny Mountains and opened travel westward for settlers from Wills Creek.

Dietle and McKenzie are collaborators on items and articles of historical interest in nearby southwestern Pennsylvania and northwestern Maryland, posted at Dietle’s family genealogy web site This is their first book. It is a volunteer project to benefit the Mount Savage Historical Society, which plans to publish a CD with a print companion.

Mount Savage was a destination for settlers and travelers along the Turkey Foot Road, an upgrade of ancient Indian trails. At the town’s northern border with Pennsylvania, Arnold’s Settlement sprang up where Archibald Arnold (proprietor of Arnold’s hotel), and Logsdon, Durbin, Mattingly and McKenzie families (and relatives) stopped on their way west from Westminster in Carroll County, Maryland around 1770.

The Turkey Foot Road follows Wills Creek northwest out of Cumberland, and then Jennings Run west to Barrelville, where it tacks up the hillside to join Mile Lane in northeast Mount Savage. Then it scales Bald Knob Road, and at the top of the hill goes northwest to Pocahontas, Pa., then to Salisbury, Confluence, and the Forks of the Ohio at Pittsburgh.

As an early traders trail, the route forged on to Pickawillany, Ohio (present-day Piqua), where the French and their Indian allies waged a battle on the English in 1752. In this sense, Dietle and McKenzie suggest, trading activities along the Turkey Foot trail in the contested Ohio territory helped incite the French and Indian War.

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 (at present-day Confluence, Pa.). Most likely, the road takes its name from this destination.

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

Descended from Gabriel McKenzie, one of the early settlers who accompanied Archibald Arnold, Michael McKenzie led the project’s local research endeavors. He works as a diesel engine mechanic at the CSX Cumberland shop.

It was my pleasure to sign on as editor. The book is a fascinating read, meticulously researched and abundantly documented and illustrated with appendices, maps, figures and photos. It is sure to tickle any reader’s curiosity about the people, places and events that transpire along the Turkey Foot Road.

Dietle, McKenzie and I found that we have ancestors in common. Drucilla Ann McKenzie, a descendant of Gabriel, is my mother’s father’s grandmother. Drusianna’s son Ozias Weimer, my mother’s grandfather, was Johannes Weimer’s great-great-grandson. Ozias married Elizabeth Rose Breig, Martin Weimer’s great-great-granddaughter.

Martin and Johannes Weimer were brothers who emigrated from Langensoultzbach, France (in Alsace, on the border with Germany). Martin Weimer, also Dietle’s ancestor, built the first house in Salisbury, Pa., Dietle documents, and owned property along the Turkey Foot Road.

Visit to see sample pages from the book; among them are the Table of Contents, and first and last chapters. Watch for announcements about availability; or enquire at

No comments: