Construction of the National Pike reached Brownsville in 1817; but there
is evidence that the work was carried on in Washington County during 1817 and
possibly as early as 1816. This found in the death notice of William Penrose
in The Reporter of June 30, 1817, which proves beyond all doubt that
construction work had been carried east of Washington during that year and
very probably in 1816.
This obituary states that William Penrose died June 26, 1817, of a
pulmonary complaint at Robert Hamilton’s house in this borough. He was one
of the contractors for making the first mile of the United States
Turnpike road, east of Washington.”
Contemporary newspaper accounts show that construction work was carried
on across Washington County in 1818 and 1819. The Examiner of February 22,
1819, announced that an appropriation of $288,000 had been made to complete
the last 30 miles. This indicates that construction had reached a point a
little east of Washington.
The Examiner of May 10, 1819 states that “the Grading Notes of that part
of the United States’ Western Road yet to be contracted for, are at Davis
Morris’s in this borough, where every person desirous of contracting can
have access to them.”
That the road was completed across the County and on to Wheeling by
the end of 1820’s is shown by an announcement in The Examiner of December 20:
“Thomas McGiffen, Esq., has been engaged in examining the United States
Turnpike, made under contract with the government by James Kinkead and
Company, between this place (Uniontown) and Washington, who has approved it
and ordered the same to be given up by the contractors for public use.
The National Turnpike is now complete from Cumberland in the state of
Maryland, to Wheeling in the state of Virginia, a distance of 130 miles.”
STAGE COACH LINES
During the years of travel on the National Pike many stage lines were
in operation; but we are only concerned here with those in Washington
County. These were operated by Hill, Simms, and Pemberton, John Fleming’s Hack
Line, Stockton and Stokes, National Road Stage Company, Good Intent State
Company, James Reeside’s “June Bug” Line, “The Oyster Line,” Pilot Stage
Company, People’s Line, and the Landlord’s Line.
When President James Monroe visited Washington on September 14, 1817,
he evidently traveled in a private conveyance from Wheeling, as there is no
record of a stage line in operation at that time. That was before the
pike was completed through the County, and the old road between here and
Wheeling was usually in terrible condition.
The Reporter of September 8, 1817, gives the information that on
September 4, the President was met on the Wheeling road by the local committee
at a point 10 miles west of Washington, and escorted to the Globe Inn.
This places the point of meeting at Claysville, which had been laid out only
five months before.
When the President arrived at the Globe Inn, the Reverend Andrew Wylie,
President of Washington College, welcomed him with an address on behalf of the
trustees, faculty, and students, to which Mr. Monroe replied with feeling.
He spent the night at the Globe Inn, and the next morning went to Canonsburg,
where he met the faculty and students of Jefferson College. He stopped at J.
Emery’s Inn for refreshments, and after an address by James Ross he continued
HILL, SIMMS and PEMBERTON LINE
The first regular stage line of which I have found a record was organized
in 1818 by Hill, Simms and Pemberton, who Searight says, organized
and operated the first line of passenger coaches between Brownsville
and Wheeling. Stephen Hill, of this firm, was proprietor of Hill’s Stone
Tavern at Hillsborough. This is the only reference I have found, and nothing
is said as to how long it was in operation; but its life was probably
short, for that was before the pike was completed across the county to
JOHN FLEMING’S HACK LINE
This line ran between Washington and Wheeling. Its existence must
have been very short, for the only reference I have found is an advertisement
in The Reporter of March 21, 1821:
This advertisement does not appear after the issue of April 23, and the
success of the line is not known. Fleming was proprietor of the Philadelphia
and Kentucky Inn.
Seymore Dunbar in his, “A History of Travel in America,” says that
the first stagecoach between Cumberland and Wheeling reached the latter place
on August 1, 1817. The source of this information is not given, and I am
inclined to think that he is a year ahead, for The Examiner of August 10,
1818, contains the announcement of a Stage line:
A NEW LINE OF STAGES
From Washington City and Baltimore have commenced running to Wheeling
direct—From the magnitude of the enterprise and all the badness of the
roads in many places (a considerable part of the National Turnpike
unfinished) the entire fulfillment of the contract could not reasonably
be expected in the commencement. But we have been informed by a passenger
from Washington City, that stages, etc., are complete from both the above
cities to this place. it now only wants the necessary arrangements
between this and Wheeling, which we understand is every day expected,
when the public gratified in the accomplishment of an undertaking
to which they have looked with much anxiety. The first trip from Washington
City and Baltimore, to this place (Washington, Pennsylvania) has been performed
with seven passengers in less that four days and a half (end of)
This is the first notice of travel by stage between Washington
City and any eastern city. The announcement must have created considerable
excitement in the little town of Washington from which there had been no
through travel to the East prior to 1818.
STOCKTON AND STOKES
Lucas W. Stockton and Richard Stokes were prominent in stage lines
throughout the entire history of the National Pike. Their first connection
with Washington County is shown by an advertisement in The Reporter
of April 30, 1821, in which they announce “a new line of Post Coaches
from Gettysburg to Hagerstown, for the accommodation of passengers
from Philadelphia to Wheeling or Pittsburgh. This line unites the one
from Washington to Baltimore to the former places, by the way of the great
National Turnpike, with the line from Philadelphia to Gettysburg.”
The stages were to run once a week until April 1 and then three times
a week. The distance from Wheeling to Philadelphia 346 miles, would be
covered in a little more than four days.
The fare is not given, but on June 28, 1821, Stockton and Stokes
advertised that the fare from Chambersburg to Baltimore was reduced to
$6 in the mail coach.
ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE
OF STAGES AT WASHINGTON, PA.
The Brownsville or Southern stage arrives Sunday, Monday, Tuesday,
Thursday, and Saturday at Meridan—and on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
at 8 p.m.—Departs Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday at 2 a.m. and on Sunday,
Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11 a.m.
The Wheeling or Western stage arrives Sunday, Monday, Wednesday,
and Friday at 11 a.m. and on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at Meridan,
and on Wednesday and Saturday at 2 a.m.
Northern or Pittsburgh stage arrives Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at
8 p.m.—Departs Sunday at 7 a.m., Wednesday and Friday at 2 p.m.
Just think of having to get up in time to catch a stage at 2 o’clock
in the morning; but that was just what the people of Washington had to do
it they wanted to go East or to Pittsburgh for a little shopping.
NATIONAL ROAD STAGE COMPANY
Lucius W. Stockton was the most important figure in the history
of stage lines on the National Pike and in the United States from 1829
until his untimely death on April 25, 1844, from the bite of a mad dog.
He was the grandfather of Dr. James W. Stockton of Washington.
Born at Flemington, New Jersey, September 1, 1799, he became
associated with Richard Stokes in the stage business in the East while
still a very young man. The extent of their operations is shown by the
early advertisements in The Reporter, quoted above.
It was during a trip to Washington in the early 1820s that Stockton
met David Moore, owner of the present Auld House and one of the early
stage line proprietors in this section. That meeting was very important
for it resulted in a romance, and on November 24, 1824, he married
Moore’s daughter, Rebecca.
Stockton, his partner, Stokes, and Daniel Moore organized the National
Road Stage Company. The other members of the firm were Moore N. Falls, of
Baltimore, and Dr. Howard Kennedy, of Hagerstown. Stockton, as president,
took active charge and soon had agents in every town on the road. The
Washington headquarters were at the National Hotel (now the Auld House),
with Daniel Moore as the first local agent, succeeded at various times by
James Briceland, John Irons, James Searight, Daniel Valentine, Major
George T. Hammond, Edward Lane, Elliott Seaburn, and William Newman. The
last three were at one time stagedrivers for the company.
After his marriage Stockton built a large brick residence in Uniontown,
which he called “Ben Lomond,” a beautiful old house that is still
standing, but is now a restaurant and tavern; and the great elm trees that
once shaded it not so many years ago have been cut away. He constantly
traveled over the road, inspecting the line and stations, in his private
carriage which he called “The Flying Dutchman,” hauled by his two
favorite sorrel horses, “Bet” and “Sal” with this team he frequently
made the 66 miles from Cumberland to Hagerstown in a day, from Cumberland
to Uniontown, 64 miles, in a day, and Uniontown to Wheeling in 12 hours.
On these trips he always stopped at the stations to transact whatever
business was necessary.
It is a long journey back across the years to the old stage coach days
on the National Pike; but in memory I was once fortunate to having this
unforgettable experience with Mrs. Margaret Stockton McKennan, widow of Dr.
Thomas McKennan, Washington’s beloved physician of years ago. They were
the parents of Dr. James W. McKennan.
Mrs. McKennan died in 1924, at the age of 93, a daughter of Lucius W.
Stockton by his first wife. Two years before her death I interviewed
this grand old lady amid the historic surroundings of the old McKennan
homestead (now part of the Scott Motor Company building) where she had
spent the greater part of her life. In spite of her great age, her mind
was remarkably clear, and she related incidents of stage coaching
days of more than 80 years before. Together we traveled back across the
span of years to the line when her father was the “stage coach king of
the United States.” Her young life covered much of the history of the
old pike for she remembered, long before the railroads, when travel
was in all its romantic story on the road. She lived to see the day when
railroads put the pike out of business, and she saw the automobile
bring back the old road.
Listening to this old lady as she took me back across the long years,
I was entranced. She told of her father’s trips over the pike, and of his
race with a train on the original Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The locomotive
was regarded as a toy, and Stockton made a bet that he could beat the
train from the Relay Station to Baltimore. Driving a favorite gray horse
he won; and in spite of the claim made by the railroad officials that the
defeat of the iron horse was due to engine trouble it was a fair race and
fairly won by the horse.
Stockton often made the journey between towns on the seat beside the
driver of the coach. He was an expert stage driver himself, and she told
of one occasion when a driver of a rival line attempted to pass the stage
on which her father was riding. This was a little too much for Stockton.
He seized the reins and drove the coach himself under his expert handling
he left the rival coach far behind. Then he was satisfied and turned the
reins over to his driver. One cannot help but wonder what the passengers
inside thought of that wild ride as they bounced around in the coach as
it rolled forward and backward and from side to side like a ship at sea.
The pike was hard surfaced macadam, but it was not the smooth concrete
roadbed of today.
She described how the stages of her father’s line generally went in
trains of six or more together, all filled with passengers, each coach drawn
by six of, the fastest horses to be found. At the relay station, usually
about 12 miles apart, the teams were changed in not more than five minutes,
often less, for the relays were always ready. Each coach carried nine
passengers on the inside, three on each seat, one at each end and one in
the middle. There was room for one passenger with the driver, and often
several others on top.
She described the mail coach as smaller only two seats. The mail pouches
were piled inside, mail traveled at the high speed of three and one-half
days from Baltimore to Wheeling, stopping at each town to deposit
mail and take more on.
It was seldom that anyone was permitted to ride in the mail coach; but
Mrs. McKennan was one exception. When she was a little girl she often came
from her home in Uniontown to visit her grandfather, Daniel Moore, in
She loved to ride the mail coaches because they went so fast; and
her father would put her in charge of the driver, who allowed her to sit
beside him. It was a wonderful journey for that little girl of long ago
and as she described it her eyes lit up with the sparkle of a maiden of
more than 80 years past. She loved to watch the speeding horses, and it
seemed wonderful how fast the farm houses, the green fields, the country
side or villages flew past. The slow Conestogas with their big white canvas
covers, drawn by six horses, some by oxen, were a wonderful sight. There
were so many that one was always to be seen, and the coach flew past so fast
that they seemed to stand still.
Crossing the Monongahela River on the long covered wooden bridge was
a big event in the life of this little girl, now an old woman nearing
the century mark. It was so thrilling, and she always wondered if the
bridge would fall into the river with the coach; but she was not afraid.
She was too excited to even think of fear, and she gloried in every mile
of the ride. The stage left Uniontown, in the morning and reached
Washington before noon, all too soon for this little girl. The only child
who ever rode on the driver’s seat of a mail coach on the National
Pike. After a visit with her grandfather she made the return journey on
another mail coach in the same way. Her description of that long, long
ago time made a deep impression on my memory. I can still see her sitting
in an old style rocking chair, and I can recall almost every work of her
story. It was an experience that few reporters have been privileged
to have, and I treasure it.
(To Be Continued)
For part 1 of The National Pike Story For part 3 of The National Pike Story