In Search of the Turkey Foot Road

The Turkey Foot Road study has been converted into a book

The Turkey Foot Road study that began on is complete, and has been published as a book by the Mount Savage Historical Society. Titled “In Search of the Turkey Foot Road”, the book traces the history and route of the legendary Turkey Foot Road that crossed the mountain barrier between the locations of presentday Cumberland, Maryland and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The book examines the Indian and bridle path antecedent to the road, and the significant role it played in regional and national events. It also presents a significant amount of information on the Ohio Company Road, the Old Glade Road, the Hay’s Mill Path, and the history of the Arnold’s Settlement area of Allegany County, Maryland. The book was written by Lannie Dietle and Michael McKenzie, and edited by Nancy E. Thoerig.

In Search of the Turkey Foot Road” is a fascinating read through time in our own backyards. Flavored with bits of interest in anecdotes and footnotes, and illustrated with copious maps and photos, the book is a critical analysis of primary sources that will cause you to marvel at the magnitude of information processed by Dietle and McKenzie. It will teach you amazing things about the land, events and people around you, and perhaps something about yourself.

For ordering instructions, visit the  Mount Savage Historical Society at, or call 301-707-1114.

The elusive, and perhaps otherwise lost Turkey Foot Road now − with Dietle and McKenzie’s thorough research and documentation – can be known to all. The route has been identified in considerable detail using maps, property surveys, depression era high resolution aerial photography, cropmarks, surviving landscape scars, local guides, and oral traditions. Assisted with GPS coordinates from the book, a dedicated hiker might set out to walk the eighteenth century route from Cumberland, Maryland to Ursina, Pennsylvania. Various key points between Ursina and Pittsburgh are also identified.

A brief history of the Turkey Foot Road

Before the French and Indian War, an Indian trail ran from Ohio, passing through what is now Pittsburgh, on its way to Wills Creek (now Cumberland, Maryland). It preceded the better known Ohio Company Road by several years, and was used by the English to trade with the Miami Indians. This trade precipitated the first organized large scale attack of the French and Indian War, long before George Washington attacked Jumonville. During the Revolutionary War, the route was re-cut and partially rerouted as a supply road to Fort Pitt. In this embodiment, it became known as the Turkey Foot Road, passing through Westmoreland, Fayette, and Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and Allegany County, Maryland. 

In its post-Revolutionary War heyday, the Turkey Foot Road was important enough to be depicted as a principal route on state maps. As such, it facilitated settlement in what was then considered the west, and served the transportation needs of those living near it. Portions became nineteenth century stage and toll roads. The route also facilitated early industrial and mining development in Mount Savage and Barrelville, Maryland in the days before the Mount Savage Railroad.



Click here to read about the principal contributors to the book.
11-29-2010 Press Release with sample images
Promotional photos for news and magazine articles
Map of the southern part of the road

Addendum to the first edition

Addendum to the second edition



Chapter summaries

1. Introduction
This chapter introduces Wills Creek, Fort Cumberland, and Turkey Foot in historical and geographical context, and provides a brief summary of the history and route of the Turkey Foot Road.

2. The Indian and bridle path traditions
This chapter introduces surviving Turkey Foot Road traditions in the environs of Mount Savage Maryland, Salisbury, Pennsylvania, and Confluence, Pennsylvania. It also describes why the Turkey Foot Road received its name.

3. Gist’s journal indicates that a packer’s path followed Jennings Run in 1751
A 1751 journal entry by an early pioneer identifies the location where the common trading path navigated the second mountain ridge west of present-day Cumberland. This journal entry provides concrete documentary evidence that what we now call the “Turkey Foot Trail” or the “Turkey Foot Path” was situated in the same water gap that was later exploited by the better known Turkey Foot Road, and was in use before the Ohio Company road.

4. The Fry and Jefferson map shows a trail to Turkey Foot
The Fry and Jefferson map was printed during the French and Indian War. It was created by a man who was familiar with the Wills Creek environs. It supports the Indian and packer’s path traditions in the Mount Savage, Maryland and Salisbury, Pennsylvania areas. It also supports the tradition that in the area west of the location of present-day Salisbury, a branch of the Turkey Foot Trail followed a northerly detour. The tradition of a more northerly route is presented in some detail by summarizing the written statements of a Salisbury resident who was raised along the northerly route.

5. Early trade out of Wills Creek before the Ohio Company road
This chapter uses early colonial records to examine early trading routes from Wills Creek and Harris' Ferry that facilitated trade with the Miami Indians of Ohio. These trading routes preceded the more famous Ohio Company Road by several years, and precipitated the first large scale attack of the French and Indian War.

6. Re-evaluating Ohio Company history
This chapter examines and disproves the common belief that the Ohio Company cut the Turkey Foot Road. In order to prove a negative, this chapter necessarily explores what the Ohio Company actually did do, where the Ohio Company’s road actually ran, and what is known of their road from its use for military purposes during the French and Indian war. Because of the need to explain what the Ohio Company actually did, the chapter provides an interesting account of events leading to active combat within Pennsylvania during the French and Indian War. This chapter relies heavily on Ohio Company records, military and colonial records, and contemporaneous articles. Little known colonial names for landmarks are explored, revealing once common appellations for regions of interest. These early names have been sources of confusion for at least the past 130 years.

7. Why the Ohio Company and Braddock did not use the Turkey Foot Trail
This chapter briefly explains why the Turkey Foot Road was not used as a wagon road by the Ohio Company, George Washington, and General Edward Braddock. One answer is provided by George Washington, and another is provided by geography.

8. The circa 1775 Leibundgutt traditions
This chapter examines the Peter Livingood traditions, using his business records to identify when he arrived in the area of present-day Salisbury, Pennsylvania. This examination bolsters the supposition that the Turkey Foot Road was being used in the time between the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War.

9. The mystery of Clinton’s 1779 road
This chapter explains why the Turkey Foot Road appears as a principal route on maps that were made following the Revolutionary War. It draws upon colonial and Revolutionary War records and early Pennsylvania surveys to show that the now legendary Turkey Foot Road was cut during the Revolutionary War for military purposes. In the area west of the location of present-day Salisbury, Pennsylvania, this route was more direct than the route shown on the Fry and Jefferson map, passing south of Mount Davis and remaining on the east side of the Youghiogheny River. The location of George Morgan’s bullock pens provides a decisive clue that indicates that the military route came to be known as the Turkey Foot Road.

10. Reconciling Veech, Clinton, and Tradition
This chapter briefly describes why the material about the Turkey Foot Road in previous chapters is mutually supportive, rather than mutually exclusive.

11. Washington’s correspondence mentions the new Turkey Foot Road
Before the Turkey Foot Road appears on post-Revolutionary War maps, it appears in correspondence to and from George Washington.

12. The circa 1754 to 1801 path from Cumberland to Jennings Run
This chapter describes a few early Maryland maps and legislative records that concern the portion of the Turkey Foot Road between the locations of present-day Cumberland and Corriganville, Maryland. The earliest is a 1762 deed that describes the route along the west side of Wills Creek as the old Indian War road.

13. Doctor Wellford's 1794 travel journal
The detail provided in Doctor Wellford’s 1794 travel journal helps to identify the then-existing route of the Turkey Foot Road through Westmoreland, Fayette, and Bedford (now Somerset) counties, Pennsylvania, and Allegany County, Maryland. The journal provides information on several families along the road, and proves that the depiction of the route near Salisbury, Pennsylvania on a famous 1792 map is in error.  The study of Doctor Wellford‘s journal was a journey of discovery for the authors, because they had little understanding of the Turkey Foot Road when the journal was first encountered.

14. The west side of the Allegheny Mountain
Beginning with this chapter, the focus of the book turns from the study of history to the study of the various alignments of the Turkey Foot Road. The route study is supported by maps, early property and road surveys, tradition, legislative acts, aerial photographs, and examination of physical scars on the ground. The reasons for the various alignments are also considered. Chapter 13 begins the route study by describing and illustrating the route of the Turkey Foot Road between Salisbury, Pennsylvania and the crest of the Allegheny Mountain.

15. The east side of the Allegheny Mountain
This chapter details and illustrates the route of the Turkey Foot Road between the crest of the Allegheny Mountain and the Maryland State line, and reveals one of the alternate names given to a portion of the road. Of particular interest are property surveys and aerial photographs that show that in the area north of the state line, most of the Turkey Foot Road was located west of the present-day Greenville Road.

16. Linking to the Bald Knob Road
This chapter describes and illustrates the route of the Turkey Foot Road between the Maryland state line and the historic Arnold’s Settlement area of Allegany County, Maryland.  At least part of the route was used as a stagecoach route at one time.  Although abandoned long ago, this route survives, under a different name, in the memory of living men. The route is easily identifiable on nineteenth century maps, depression era aerial photographs, and modern day satellite photographs. A plurality of roadbeds establishes heavy use. GPS coordinates are provided for much of the most readily identifiable portions of the route.

17. The 1804 route above Mount Savage
This chapter uses an 1804 road survey to prove a significant part of an alteration of the Turkey Foot Road that ran from the Pennsylvania state line to Archibald Arnold’s residence. Knowing where the road entered Pennsylvania was a key to determining the route across Savage Mountain. Another 1804 road survey proves the route in the vicinity of Barrelville, Maryland.  The survey was preceded by a petition to the 1801 Maryland Legislature.

18. The route through Corriganville
This chapter explores the route of the Turkey Foot Road in the vicinity of Corriganville Maryland.  The western end of this portion of the route is anchored by the 1804 survey in the area where Barrelville, Maryland is now located. The eastern end is anchored by interpretation of a 1797 Maryland legislative act. The route is shown, albeit somewhat schematically, on post-Revolutionary War maps. This chapter also identifies the locations of Indian Will’s cove and the sadly long gone Devil’s Backbone rock formation.

19. The Hays Mill Path shared the route
This chapter details the part of the Hays Mill Path that ran through what is now Southampton Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The Turkey Foot Road followed part of the Maryland portion of the Hays Mill Path through the locations of present-day Barrelville and Corriganville, Maryland.  The foundation for this chapter is the Southampton Township research that the authors performed before commencing to write the Turkey Foot Road book.

20. A Catholic Church on the Turkey Foot Road
This chapter provides information on the early Catholic Church that was located along the Turkey Foot Road near Archibald Arnold’s residence.  The first priest lived his life in the saddle, and is remembered for securing the property for the University of Notre Dame, where he is buried. An early church related book establishes the probable settlement date for the Arnold’s Settlement area.

21. The road came down to the valley near present-day Barrelville in 1793
This chapter develops the subject of early property ownership in the region between Barrelville and Mount Savage, Maryland, in order to prove that the then-existing route of the Turkey Foot Road came down out of the Arnold’s Settlement area near the location of present-day Barrelville. This and the next chapter provide important insights regarding the initial Mount Savage area settlement, which is known as Arnold’s Settlement.

22. An 1827 road closure document
This chapter uses an early road survey to identify the pre-1827 route of the Turkey Foot Road between Archibald Arnold’s residence and the location that is now the town of Barrelville. Part of the route is still in use today. This chapter reveals that some parts of the Turkey Foot Road are hidden in plain sight, and provides an interesting review of various topics within the area of Arnold’s Settlement.  It documents a portion of the Turkey Foot Road that the book refers to as the Mule Field route. This section of the route was once used as a stagecoach road, and included a horse changing station. In the Arnold’s Settlement area, the route passed at least two early inns. This route probably remained in use by stagecoaches until 1871, when rail service finally came to Somerset County.

23. The pre-1804 Bear Camp route theory
This chapter describes a plausible theory concerning the route of the Turkey Foot Road through Arnold’s Settlement before the 1804 alteration was made. The theory is supported by local tradition that indicates that a route along the Bear Camp tract was the Turkey Foot Road, and was also a stagecoach route. The presence of a heavily used primitive road is indisputable. Parts of the route are identifiable by landscape scars and aerial photography.  A now invisible portion of the route has been identified by recovery of a significant number of horseshoes. One of the early settlers in Arnold’s Settlement lived in the area this route passed through.

24. The later nineteenth century route directly out of Mount Savage
This chapter explores the alignment that was known as the Turkey Foot Road in the late nineteenth century. This route is supported by Jack Pyle’s statements regarding his father’s childhood recollections. The route is also supported by nineteenth century maps, and a still surviving but difficult to travel road that already existed by 1842. The probable reasons for such a dramatic route change are presented.

25. The Somerset to Cumberland Toll Roads
Two generations of a toll road were nineteenth century alignments of the Turkey Foot Road. The first generation was known as the Somerset and Cumberland Turnpike, and the second generation was known as the Wellersburg and West Newton Plank Road. These roads were important to the areas they passed through, and facilitated industrial and mining development in the areas of present-day Mount Savage and Barrelville. For example, the Somerset and Cumberland Turnpike was used to deliver coal to Harper’s Ferry, Virginia via Cumberland, Maryland.

26. The early 1900s road from Cumberland to Mount Savage
This chapter uses photographs and maps to show the terrain and nature of the Turkey Foot Road between Cumberland and Mount Savage, Maryland, with a special emphasis on the Jennings Run water gap. A part of this road was improved as a result of the 1904 State Aid Road Law. This chapter also covers the Old Toll Gate store in Barrelville.

27. The 1833 route through the Narrows
The Narrows is the name of an important water gap that is located just northwest of Cumberland, Maryland. Although the exact route of the Turkey Foot Road through the Narrows is lost to time and construction, this chapter shows the difficulty of the terrain, and describes the route that travelers would have followed into Cumberland after the National Road was rerouted through the Narrows. Essentially, the National Road along Wills Creek served as a realignment of the Turkey Foot Road.

28. Nineteenth century maps
This chapter reviews a number of nineteenth century maps that show the areas traversed by the Turkey Foot Road. Several of these maps are little known, and cover the region of Mount Savage and Barrelville, Maryland.

29. The route through the Salisbury area
This chapter describes the route of the Turkey Foot Road through the location of present-day Salisbury, Pennsylvania. The history of early bridges is covered, and aerial photos are used to document the Cassselman River fording site.

30. Salisbury to Winding Ridge
This chapter explores the fascinating section of the Turkey Foot Road between Salisbury and Savage, Pennsylvania. The post-Revolutionary War route has been proven using early property surveys. An alternate route is explored in detail using tradition, landscape scars, and depression era aerial photos. It is fascinating that the alternate route has survived in tradition, in lieu of the route that appears on eighteenth century surveys. It appears that the traditional route preceded the surveyed route, and has long been viewed as the true route.

31. Winding Ridge to Turkey Foot
This chapter uses early maps and surveys to pinpoint the route between High Point Lake and Harnedsville, Pennsylvania. It proves that certain present-day roads follow the route of the eighteenth century Turkey Foot Road.

32. The route north of Harnedsville
This chapter explores the route of the Turkey Foot Road between Harnedsville and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Although the authors did not study this section of the route as extensively as the route between Cumberland, Maryland and Confluence, Pennsylvania, the chapter provides significant route details that form a nucleus for future research.  Some of the landmarks along the way are Ursina, the Jersey Church, Robert Skinner’s 1794 farm,
Cornelius Woodruff‘s place, and the Revolutionary War era bullock pens. A completely different Turkey Foot Road is also described that ran from Somerset to Uniontown, Pennsylvania.

33. A route through the Listonburg area
This chapter describes a route that is known by tradition as a southern fork of the Turkey Foot Road. The existence of this traditional route is confirmed by an early property survey, surviving landscape scars, and depression era aerial photography. The property survey suggests that at least part of the route was federally funded before the National Road.

34. Other roads called the Turkey Foot Road
This chapter describes another route passing through the Confluence area that was also known as the Turkey Foot Road.

35. A floating sensation
This chapter describes the history and route of the Old Glade Road, and the early significance of Connellsville and West Newton. In doing so, it untangles the Turkey Foot Road accounts in the 1882 book “History of Fayette County Pennsylvania…

36. Back-pedaling through history
This chapter revisits the subject of a French and Indian War map that depicts routes going to
“Three forks of Yohiogain and “Great Crossings”. The map is discussed in the context of other contemporaneous maps and events.

37. Fort Cumberland
This chapter describes when Fort Cumberland was built, and provides details of its construction, size, armament, and initial name. The objective of the chapter is to address several undocumented, conflicting statements that have been published over the years. Some sources say that the original fort was simply renamed, while others say that Fort Cumberland was a second, larger fort. Another source indicates that the fort was an improvement of an Ohio Company structure. While far from comprehensive, this chapter provides some thoughts on the subject that are based on documentary evidence.

38. History of the Turkey Foot region
As a courtesy to the reader, this chapter reproduces material about the Confluence area from the 1906 book “The History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania”.  The material is based partly on documentary evidence, and partly on oral tradition, and covers the earliest known settlers in the Turkey Foot region. It describes the circumstances under which the area was first settled, and some of the hardships the settlers endured in the harsh and dangerous frontier.

39. Grandpa’s hatchet
This chapter describes the Turkey Foot Road research activities in philosophical terms, and briefly summarizes the history of the road, concluding the book.

The epilogue provides suggestions for future projects concerning the history and route of the Turkey Foot Road.


Thumbnail views of several images from the book

The second edition of “In Search of the Turkey Foot Road” includes 474 figures on a companion CD. Here are thumbnail images of a few of them, along with brief descriptions. The figures are comprehensively described in the book.

The dark green line on this field is a crop mark that reveals the path of an 1804 alteration to the Turkey Foot Road. This 2010 photo shows both Maryland and Pennsylvania.


This depression era aerial photograph shows an important fording site on the Turkey Foot Road. The book uses many such aerial photographs to document the route.


This 2010 photo shows a surviving portion of the 1780’s route of the Turkey Foot Road.


This depression era aerial photo shows that a primitive road was actually a maze of routes. The uppermost route, identified by pink dashes, was a nineteenth century stagecoach road.


This is one of many eighteenth century property surveys that identify the post-Revolutionary War route of the Turkey Foot Road.


This map illustrates the eighteenth century route of the Turkey Foot Road relative to modern roads and property boundaries.


This is an eighteenth century map that illustrates the Turkey Foot Road as a principal transportation route.


This 2010 photo shows a surviving stone culvert from the Turkey Foot Road that is located in a very secluded area of Greenville Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania.


This 2010 photo shows the deeply sunken route of the Turkey Foot Road across one of the principal slopes in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.