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How the Trails Began

Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information


How The Trails Began

We will begin by extracting a few lines from the Prologue of "The Forest and The Fort" by the late Hervey Allen.

"In the beginning was the Great Wilderness. It guarded the swift streams and covered the mountains. The countless trees were like the columns of the firmament. Endless aisles moved in every direction amongst them. Then up and down the eastern coast white-sailed ships made harbor, and our forebears commenced life in a new world. From one century to the next they moved laboriously from tidewater to the mountain barriers. The tentacles and network of roads began reaching out for the hills. For a long time the forest stood there untouched by the invader. The frontier blundered against the barrier of trees, natives and mountains. To go there was to leave all behind except God, language, and the memory of simple numbers. It was to begin anew, to become something unique in time. The American disinherited himself. But he reinvented society. "For the first time in memorized history man was free to act entirely on his own responsibility." In the mountains of the Alleghenies and westward there was where and how new America began."

George Washington, Christopher Gist, and Harmon Husband, among others, were the first to record their impressions of this wilderness. There were no cameras then. And today relics of the forest's majesty give but faint hints. Oldtimers have forgotten most of what they once saw of the virgin trees.

The Indians made the trails that were first used by the white man in finding his way through the Wilderness and over the many mountain ranges that tilted downward to the Ohio. There are no reliable dates on which to reckon the trek of the traders. They came only for the open season, returning east with furs. There is ample evidence that they were numerous, that they used the Indian trails from one end of the mountain barrier to the other. Many of the Indian trails on the west side of the Alleghenies were originally made by the buffalo, and were known as buffalo traces. The last buffalo seen in the Tableland, according to "Trans Allegheny Magazine" (1900) was in 1825 at Valley Head, Randolph Co., West Virginia.

The white fur trader was indirectly responsible for the coming of the settlers. The three fur-trading companies, two in Virginia, and one in Pennsylvania, offered inducements for folks along the tidewater to


Editor: Felix G. Robinson


Collection Location:
Ruth Enlow Library, Oakland

Original Size:
22 x 15 cms

Maryland, History

Western Maryland, 1750-1963

Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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