Notes for McCullough's Trading Path



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McCullough Trading Path
Person:John McCullough (35)


A number of internet sources provide information about McCullough's Trading Path. The dissertation of Elizabeth Lee (Source:Lee, 2008a, supplemented by Source:Lee, 2008a) is probably the most authorative source of information, especially for the portion of the route that traversed the South Branch of the Potomac watershed. An earlier work, (Callahan, 1923), provides additional information about the route, particularly in the area beyond the South Branch. Veech, 1858, provides additional information that helped to refine the location of the path from the Pennsylvania border to "McCullough's Old Camp" on the Monogahela. Hurlburt, 1904 provides additional information citing Geoerge Washington's accounts of the area

From : Source:Lee, 2008a

pp 41-42:

The South Branch Valley lies approximately fifty miles from the Great Warrior Path, which runs north and south through the Valley of Virginia. White settlers used the Great Warrior Path, later the Great Wagon Road, as the main artery for traveling southwest and west from the eastern seaboard cities. The path ran from the home of the Iroquois in New York State south to the Carolinas. A main branch ran west into Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap. McCulloch’s (or McCullough’s) Path, or the Trader’s Trail, was used by Indian traders and was an important route west from the Great Warrior Path. It ran from the Great Warrior Path at Winchester through Wardensville in eastern Hardy County to the South Branch Valley at Old Fields. From Old Fields, it crossed the Seneca Trail and crossed the Allegheny Front to Mt. Storm. McCulloch’s Path turned north to western Maryland, finally extending west to the Monongahela Valley from which one could easily continue to the Ohio River and beyond. A branch of McCulloch’s Path also extended to Horseshoe Run, a tributary of the Cheat River in present-day Tucker County. Virginia cattlemen had used the mountain pastures known as the Glades in western Maryland (the glades of Great Youghiogheny and Deep Creek or “Green Glades Creek”), and in Canaan Valley of present-day West Virginia, as summer pastures since at least 1755 (see the account by Braddock’s soldier in Chapter 3). The eastern bison herds originally grazed in these upland grasslands during the summer, and Native Americans used their trails to the mountain pastures. 'The McCullough Trading Trail' led from the South Branch Valley through the Glades by way of the North Branch of the Potomac. George Washington, in his 1784 trip through the Potomac Highlands, followed it and described the Glades:
“These glades have a pritty appearance, resembling cultivated Lands & Improved Meadows at a distance; with woods here and there interspersed. . . . They are highly beneficial to the circumjacent Country from whence the Cattle are driven to pasture in the spring and recalled at Autumn.”


John McCullough came from a Quaker community in New Jersey to the South Branch after 1752, although McCullough and his in-laws, the Inskeeps, were Presbyterians. They came to the South Branch together and settled at Old Fields. John McCullough’s sons, Samuel and John, were born in the South Branch Valley, and John McCullough first came to prominence during the French and Indian War as a trader. The McCullough family moved to the Ohio Valley circa 1772.

p 124

John McCullough, a resident of the South Branch near Moorefield, came to prominence with the Bouquet campaign. McCullough was responsible for providing grain (“forrage,” or oats and Indian corn) to wagon trains when they reached the South Branch. In July, he accompanied Washington’s company as a wagon master from Pearsal’s Fort on the lower South Branch to Fort Cumberland. Washington recommended him to Henry Bouquet as someone “who woud make an exceeding good Waggon Master.” McCullough was not primarily a farmer, as Henry VanMeter was, but a trader, and he obtained products, such as distilled spirits, beyond the primary agricultural goods (e.g., livestock and unprocessed grains).

From: The History of West Virginia, Old and New, by James Morton Callahan, 1923, Internet Archive

McCulloch's path, an early Indian and traders' trail
  • westward from Winchester and Moorefield
  • passed up Patterson's creek through Greenland Gap;
  • crossed the Alleghenies at Mount Storm (in Grant county, West Virginia),
  • led across Maryland on the general route of the Northwestern turnpike to the Little Yough near the route of the B. & 0. railway,
  • across the Big Yough, through Herrington and Murley's Glades,
  • via the Crab Orchard across the Pennsylvania line into Fayette county
  • east of the summit of Laurel hill which it crossed at Wymp's Gap,
  • thence (passing slightly north of Morris' Cross Roads)
  • to McCulloch's old camp on the Monongahela between the mouth of Cheat and Neal's Ferry.
This trail was known to the people of the South Branch as early as 1756.

One branch of it reached Cheat river at Dunkard's Bottom (three miles from Kingwood, Preston county), at which the first permanent settlement was made in 1766. By 1784, this path eastward from Dunkard's Bottom had become somewhat overgrown with briers,

but a new road from a lower point on Cheat (at Ice's Ferry near the Pennsylvania line)

ascended the Laurel hill north of Cheat, connected with the main McCulloch path at the ford at James Spurgeon's on Sandy creek (New Bruceton, Preston county), thence continued northeastward via the crossing of the Youghiogheny (about fifteen miles from Spurgeon's), and to Braddock's road.

Branching from the McCulloch trail at or near the present town of Gorman, in Grant county, a path crossed the Allegheny mountain, or more properly the Backbone mountain, near the Fairfax stone, thence reaching Cheat river at Horseshoe bend, in Tucker county. This has been called the Horseshoe trail.

William Mayo knew of that trail as early as 1736, and probably followed it to the waters of Cheat river. During the French and Indian war an escaped prisoner, who was making his way home from Ohio, fell on the trail at the Horseshoe bend, and followed it to the South Branch. Following his directions, settlers took their way to Cheat river in 1766 and 1769 and located permanently. This was the trail followed by Simpson and the Pringle brothers, the deserters from Fort Pitt, when they made their way to the site of Buckhannon and Clarksburg, an account of which is found in Withers' Border Warfare.

The path crossed Tygart's river below Philippi and passed near Clarksburg. It was of great importance in the early years of the settlement of the present counties of Tucker, Barbour, Harrison and Upshur.


McCulloch's path was an early Indian and Traders trail that began in present day Winchester, VA and ended in Fayette County, Pennsylvania at McCoulloch's old camp on the Monongahela River. It entered Maryland at McCulloch's Crossing along the North Branch of the Potomac River. The path led settlers over Backbone Mountain and continued through Garrett County crossing the Little Yough and the Big Yough then through Herrington and Murley's Glades before entering into Pennsylvania.

From:Monongahela of Old, James Veech, 1858

McCulloch's Path was an Indian and Traders' trail from Win- chester and Moorfield, Va., westward. It came by way of Little Yough, near the route of the BaUimore and Ohio Rail Road, crossing the Big Yoiigh near the same point where that rail road crosses it, passing throug'h Herrington's and Hurley's Glades, and by the Crab Orchard. It entered Pennsylvania and Fayette county a little east of the summit of Laurel Hill, which it crossed at Wymp's Gap; thence passing a little north of Morris' Cross roads, it crossed the Monongahela into Greene county, between the mouth of Cheat and Neal's ferry.

McCulloch was an Indian Trader. His "camp" was just across the State line on the Monongahela river. He was in the habit of supplying the Indians, even in times of war, with kni\'es, hatchets, powder, &c. The settlers complained of this, and threat- ened him, but he would not desist. At length they determined to enforce their threats. Learning that he sometimes returned by Sandy Creek and Braddock's road, a number of the settlers from about the Great Crossings and Turkey Foot, disguised themselves, and went in pursuit. They caught him at Jesse Tomlinson's, at the Little Crossings, or Castleman's river. They gave him to know that his contraband trade must cease. Mac. resisted and threat- ened and entreated. Tomlinson, it is said, sought to protect him as his guest. But the men were in earnest. Tom Fossit was one of them. Tom caught and held him in his giant grasp, while others, as the term used was, "deviled him," until he promised never more to transgress. After despoiling him of his ill gotten peltry and other pelf, they let him go, and he never was seen again in this region of country.

From Hurlbert, 1904 Pioneer Roads and Experiences of Travelers
Speaking of George Wahington's activities in western Virginia, about 1784.:

"From Col°. Bruce . . I was informed that he had travelled from the North Branch of Potomack to the Waters of Yaughiogany, and Monongahela — that the Potomk. where it may be made Navigable — for instance where McCulloughs path crosses it, 40 Miles above the old fort [Cumberland], is but about 6 Miles to a pretty large branch, of the Yohiogany . . —that the Waters of Sandy Creek which is a branch of cheat River, which is a branch of Monongahela, interlocks with these; and the Country between, flat — that he thinks (in order to evd. [evade] passing through the State of Pennsylvania) this would be an eligible Road using the ten Miles Ck. with a portage to the Navigable Waters of the little Kanhawa;

. ." 8 This creek rises in Hardy County, Virginia, and flows northeastward through Hampshire County, entering the North Branch of the Potomac River about eight miles southeast of Cumberland, Maryland. This was the basis of Washington's plan of internal communication from Potomac; he now pressed forward to find if it were possible to connect the Youghiogheny and North Branch of the Potomac, the Youghiogheny and Monongahela, and the Monongahela and Little Kanawha. Of course the plan was impossible, but the patient man floundered on through the foothills and mountains over what was approximately the course mentioned, the "McCullough's Path" and Sandy Creek route from the Potomac to the Monongahela. In his explorations he found and traversed one of the earliest routes westward through this broken country immediately south of the well known resorts, Oakland and Deer Park, on the Baltimore and Ohio Railway.

This was the "McCullough's" Path already mentioned. Having ascended the Monongahela River from near Brownsville, Pennsylvania, Washington, on September 24, arrived at a surveyor's office (the home of one Pierpoint) eight miles southward along the dividing ridge between the Monongahela and Cheat Rivers.4 On the twenty-fifth—after a meeting with various inhabitants of the vicinity—he went plunging eastward toward the North Branch of the Potomac

along the New Road [which intersected Braddock's Road east of Winding Ridge] to Sandy Creek; & thence by McCullochs path to Logstons [on the North Branch of the Potomac] and accordingly set of [off] before Sunrise. Within 3 Miles I came to the river Cheat ab*. 7 Miles from its Mouth — . . The Road from Morgan Town or Monongahela C. House, is said to be good to this ferry [Ice's] — distance abt. 6 Miles5 . . from the ferry the Laurel Hill6 is assended . . . along the top of it the Road continues. . . After crossing this hill the road is very good to the ford of Sandy Creek at one James Spurgeons,7 . abt. 15 Miles from Ice's ferry. At the crossing of this Creek McCullocks path, which owes its origen to Buffaloes, being no other than their tracks from one lick to another & consequently crooked & not well chosen, strikes off from the New Road. . .

From Spurgeon's to one Lemons, which is a little to the right of McCullochs path, is reckoned 9 Miles, and the way not bad; but from Lemons to the entrance of the Yohiogany glades8 which is estimated 9 Miles more thro' a deep rich Soil . . and what is called the briery Mountain.9 . .

4 Union Township, Monongalia County, West Virginia. • Oliphant's Iron Furnace, Union Township? 6 The mountainous boundary line between Monongalia and Preston Counties. 1 Bruceton's Mills, Grant Township, Preston County, West Virginia? 8 Southwestern corner of Maryland, some twenty miles north of Oakland. 9 Briery Mountain runs northeast through the eastern edge of Preston County, bounding Dunkard Bottom on the east as Cheat River bounds it on the west.

At the entrance of the above glades I lodged this night, with no other shelter or cover than my cloak. & was unlucky enough to have a heavy shower of Rain. . . 26th. . . passing along a small path . . loaded with Water . . we had an uncomfortable travel to one Charles friends10 about 10 Miles. . . A Mile before I came to Friends, I crossed the great Branch of Yohiogany. . . Friend . . is a great Hunter. . . From Friends I passed by a spring (distant 3 Miles) called Archy's from a Man of that name — crossed the backboneu & descended into Ryans glade.12—Thence by Tho*. Logston's . . to the foot of the backbone, about 5 Miles . across the Ridge to Ryans glade one mile and half . . —to Joseph Logstons iyi Miles . . —to the N°. Branch at McCullochs path 2 Miles13 — infamous road — and to Thos. Logstons 4 more. 27th. I left Mr. Logston's . . —at ten Miles I had . . gained the summit of the Alligany Mountain 14 and began to desend it where it is very steep and bad to the Waters of Pattersons Creek . along the heads of these [tributaries], & crossing the Main [Patterson's] Creek & Mountain bearing the same name15 (on the top of which at one Snails I dined)

I came to Col. Abraham. Hites at Fort pleasant on the South Branch16 about 3 5 Miles from Logstons a little before the Suns setting. My intention, when I set out from Logstons, was to take the Road to Rumney [Romney] by one Parkers but learning from my guide (Joseph Logston) when I came to the parting paths at the foot of the Alligany 17 (abt. 12 Miles) that it was very little further to go by Fort pleasant, I resolved to take that Rout . . to get information.

10 The Friends werethe earliest pioneers of Garrett County, John Friend coming in 1760 bringing six sons among whom was this Charles. The sons scattered about through the valley of the Youghiogheny, Charles settling near the mouth of Sang Run, which cuts through Winding Ridge Mountain and joins the Youghiogheny about fifteen miles due north from Oakland. Washington, moving eastward on McCulloch's Path probably passed through this gap in Winding Ridge. A present-day road runs parallel with Winding Ridge from Friendsville (named from this pioneer family) southward to near Altamont, which route seems to have been that pursued by McCulloch's Path. See Scharf 's History of Western Maryland, vol. ii, p. 1518; Atlas of Maryland (Baltimore, 1873), pp. 47-48; War Atlas 1861-65, House Miscellaneous Documents, vol. iv, part 2, No. 261, 52d Cong. 1st Sess. 1891-92, Plate cxxxvi.

11 Great Back Bone Mountain, Garrett County, Maryland, on which, at Altamont, the Baltimore and Ohio Railway reaches its highest altitude. It was about here that Washington now crossed it, probably on the watershed between Youghiogheny and Potomac waters west of Altamont.

12 Ryan's Glade No. 10, Garrett County. 13 This point ispretty definitely determined in the Journal. We are told that the mouth of Stony River (now Stony Creek) was four miles below McCulloch's crossing. This would locate the latter near the present site of Fort Pendleton, Garrett County, Maryland, the point where the old Northwestern Turnpike crossed the North Branch. 14 Greeland Gap, Grant County, West Virginia. , 16 Knobby Mountain. 17 Near Moorefield, Hardy County, West Virginia. 11 Mt. Storm, Grant County. The Old Northwestern Turnpike bears northeast from here to Claysville, Burlington and Romney. Washington's route was southwest along the line of the present road to Moorefield. Evidently the buffalo trace bore southwest on the watershed between Stony River and Abraham's Creek — White's West Virginia Atlas (1873), p. 26. Bradley's Map of United .States (1804) shows a road from Morgantown to Romney, also a "Western Fort" at the crossing-place of the Youghiogheny.

This extract from Washington's journal gives us the most complete information obtainable of a region of country concerning which it is difficult to secure even present-day information. The drift of the pioneer tide had been on north and south lines here; the first-comers into these mountains wandered up the Monongahela and Youghiogheny Rivers and their tributaries. Even as early as the Old French War a few bold companies of men had sifted into the dark valleys of the Cheat and Youghiogheny.

18 That it was a difficult country to reach is proved by the fact that certain early adventurers in this region were deserters from Fort Pitt. They were safe here! A similar movement up the two branches of the Potomac had created a number of settlements there — far up where the waters ran clear and swift amid the mountain fogs. But there had been less communication on east and west lines. It is easy to assume that McCulloch's path was the most important route across the ragged ridges, from one glade and valley to another. It is entirely probable that the New Road, to which Washington refers, was built for some distance on the buffalo trace which (though the earlier route) branched from the New Road. An old path ran eastward from Dunkard's Bottom of which Washington says:" . being . . discouraged . . from attempting to return [to the Potomac] by the way of Dunkars Bottom, as the path it is said is very blind & exceedingly grown up with briers, I resolved to try the other Rout, along the New Road . ."as quoted on page 21. The growth of such towns as Cumberland and Morgantown had made a demand for more northerly routes. The whole road-building idea in these parts in the last quarter of the eighteenth century was to connect the towns that were then springing into existence, especially Morgantown and Clarksburg with Cumberland.

Washington's dream of a connected waterway was, of course, hopelessly chimerical, and after him no one pushed the subject of a highway of any kind between the East and the West through Virginia. Washington's own plans materialized in the Potomac Navigation Company, and his highway, that should be a strong link in the chain of Federal Union between the improved Potomac and the Ohio, became the Cumberland Road; and it ran just where he did not care to see it — through Maryland and Pennsylvania. Yet it accomplished his first high purpose of welding the Union together, and was a fruit of that patriotic letter to Governor Harrison written a few days after Washington pushed his way through the wet paths of the Cheat and Youghiogheny Valleys in 1784.

18Dunkard's Bottom, in Portland Township, Preston County, West Virginia, was settled about 1755 by Dr. Thomas Eckarly and brothers who traversed the old path to Fort Pleasant on South Branch.—Thwaites's edition of Withers's Chronicles of Border Warfare (1895), pp. 75-76.

These first routes across the mountains south of the Cumberland Road — in Virginia— were, as noted, largely those of wild beasts. "It has been observed before," wrote Washington in recapitulation, to what fortuitous circumstances the paths of this Country owe their being, & how much the ways may be better chosen by a proper investigation of it; . ." In many instances the new roads built hereabouts in later days were shorter than the earlier courses; however it remains true here, as elsewhere, that the strategic geographical positions were found by the buffalo and Indian, and white men have followed them there unwaveringly with turnpike and railway.

When Washington crossed the North Branch of the Potomac on the 26th of October, 1784 at "McCullochs crossing," he was on the track of what should be, a generation later, the Virginian highway across the Appalachian system into the Ohio Basin. Oddly enough Virginia had done everything, it may truthfully be said, toward building Braddock's Road to the Ohio in 1755, and, in 1758, had done as much as any colony toward building Forbes's Road. All told, Virginia had accomplished more in the way of roadbuilding into the old Central West by 1760 than all other colonies put together. Yet, as it turned out, not one inch of either of these great thoroughfares lay in Virginia territory when independence was secured and the individual states began their struggle for existence in those " critical " afterhours.

These buffalo paths through her western mountains were her only routes; they coursed through what was largely an uninhabited region, and which remains such today. Yet it was inevitable that a way should be hewn here through Virginia to the Ohio; the call from the West, the hosts of pioneers, the need of a state way of communication, all these and more, made it sure that a Virginia Turnpike should cross the mountains.