Stories from PA History
Story Details
Crossing the Alleghenies
Perhaps more than any other natural feature, the Allegheny Mountains shaped the settlement of Pennsylvania's people and the development of its transportation systems. From the first paths blazed by Native Americans to the Portage Railroad and Pennsylvania Turnpike, Pennsylvanians have always sought better, faster ways to cross this great divide.

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Bring this subject into focus through the following chapters. These stories take exploration of the main story further by providing more detail for you to learn and explore.

Overview: Crossing the Alleghenies
Chapter One: Early Turnpikes and the Old State Road
Chapter Two: Toward a National Road
Chapter Three: Pennsylvania Canal and Railroad
Chapter Four: The Pennsylvania Turnpike

Historical Markers In the Story
marker icon "S" Bridge (Washington) marker icon Dunlap's Creek Bridge (Fayette)
marker icon Great Crossings (Somerset) marker icon National Road (Somerset)
marker icon Searight's Tollhouse (Fayette)

Lesson Plans for this Story
Take your students back in history with these discussions and activities for the classroom

Story Bibliography

Original Documents
icon full text The Act of Congress Approving the Creation of the National Road, March 29, 1806
icon full text Uria Brown's trip on the Cumberland or National Road, 1816

1730 - 1731 Citizens of Lancaster County petition the colonial government of Pennsylvania to establish a "King's Highway" between Philadelphia and Lancaster Counties
1754 George Washington's Virginia militia troops ford the Youghiogheny River at Great Crossings in Western Pennsylvania
1792 circa 1792: Development of Simpson Ferry Road west of the Susquehanna River in Cumberland County
1792 Construction of the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike begins
1794 Opening of the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike
1811 Construction of the National or Cumberland Road begins
1818 The National Road is completed through to Wheeling, in what was then Virginia
1826 Construction begins on the Pennsylvania Canal
1828 Construction begins on the Staple Bend Tunnel as part of the Allegheny, Portage Railroad, the first railroad tunnel built in the United States
1831 - 1834 Development of the Allegheny Portage Railroad to link the eastern and western divisions of the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Canal
1835 Pennsylvania takes over control of the National Road within its borders
1836 - 1839 First metal arch bridge in the United States is constructed over Dunlap's Creek along the National Road in Fayette County
1847 J. Edgar Thomson named Chief Engineer of the Pennsylvania Railroad
1852 Thomson named President of the Pennsylvania Railroad
1883 William Vanderbilt begins construction of the South Pennsylvania Railroad, as a direct challenge to the Pennsylvania Railroad
1886 Vanderbilt agrees to sell the South Pennsylvania Railroad to the Pennsylvania Railroad before the line is ever completed
1893 Bicycle mechanics J. Frank and Charles E. Duryea of Springfield, Massachusetts invent the first successful gas fueled automobile in the United States
1899 Over 30 different companies in the United States produce automobiles
1903 Pennsylvania legislature establishes the State Highway Department
1911 Pennsylvania legislature passes the Sproul Act creating a new statewide system of public roads
1913 Nation's first drive-in filling station opens in Pittsburgh
1931 Governor Gifford Pinchot initiates the state's rural road improvement program
1935 Pennsylvania officials begin considering the construction of a distance highway utilizing the right of way of the old South Pennsylvania Railroad
1938 The state breaks ground for the original 160 mile stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Cumberland and Westmoreland Counties
1940 The Pennsylvania Turnpike opens to the public
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