Negro Mountain: New Insight on Name, 2016
Negro Mountain: New Insight on Name
The following information appeared in a newspaper article appearing in the July 24, 2016 edition of the Cumberland Times-News. It was written by Champ Zumbrun with input from Nina Higgins, historian for the Cresap Society. The information is excerpted from four articles written in 1756 and recently discovered in two colonial newspapers from that era, these being the Maryland Gazette and the Pennsylvania Gazette. It tells of an incident that occurred at the time of the French and Indian War. Thomas Cresap Jr. had been killed during an encounter with Indians on April 23, 1756 about 15 miles west of Fort Cumberland. One month later his father, Colonel Thomas Cresap, left Fort Cumberland to complete his son’s mission, this being the removal of Indian threats to the region. It is written a black frontiersman marched with Cresap. He was “old” and of “gigantic stature,” and had volunteered to fight for the English against the French and Indians. Though no name is given, he was identified as a “free Negro.” The following Cumberland Times-News article excerpt tells the tale:
“On May 28, 1756 at sunset, the incident that resulted in the naming of the mountain began. It started when Cresap heard an ‘Indian holler,’ and looking ahead, saw two Indians riding on horses towards him. Instead of taking cover, Cresap marched toward them on the road, in his words, ‘with my gun cocked on my shoulder.’ A ‘running fight’ had begun.
Cresap temporarily lost sight of the Indians due to a bend in the road. About the same time the Indians came back into view, the black frontiersman suddenly appeared in support of Cresap. Standing on the road just 30 yards from Cresap, the brave black frontiersman ‘presented his gun’ at the two Indians. The Indians at this time ‘immediately alighted from their horses.’
Another Indian appeared and the three Indians soon took cover behind trees, two on one side of the road and the other on the opposite side. Cresap and the black frontiersman were caught standing on the road without cover, ‘not having advantage of any tree at that place.’
The courageous actions of the black frontiersman drew the attention of the Indians to himself and away from Cresap. Within seconds ‘two of the Indians fired and shot the Negro,’ killing him. The bold behavior of the black frontiersman allowed time for four of Cresap’s men to return fire, killing one Indian, wounding another, and causing the other to flee.”
Thomas Cresap’s life had been saved. And according to John J. Jacob’s 1826 Cresap biography entitled, “Life of the Late Captain Michael Cresap,” it was this incident which resulted in the naming of “Negro Mountain.”
Photograph: The Fort Cumberland postcard, from a lithograph by the A. Hoen Lithography Company of Baltimore, originally appeared in William Harrison Lowdermilk's History of Cumberland, Maryland published in 1878. It was later made into a postcard and published in the early 1930's by C.E. Gerkins, 81 N. Centre Street, Cumberland, Maryland. The postcard is from the collection of Angela and Albert Feldstein.
Allegany County, Maryland
African Americans, History; Allegany County (Md.), History.
Allegany County (Md.), 1890-2008