National Pike Festival food


When horses and wagons file through Washington County this weekend for the National Pike Festival and Wagon Train, they'll be re-enacting journeys made on the road in the early and mid-1800s.

cont. from lifestyle

The re-enactors won't be stepping out of character at all when, rather than cooking their own meals over open campfires, they're served hearty breakfasts and suppers at stops along the road.

During the National Road's heyday in the 1840s, travelers didn't have to cook their own meals.

"On average, between Baltimore and Wheeling (W.Va.), there was a tavern every mile," said Tom Markwardt, public information officer at Fort Necessity in Farmington, Pa., operated by the National Park Service.

Fort Necessity's Mount Washington Tavern was a popular stopping point along the nation's first federally funded highway, which linked the Eastern United States with settlements west of the Ohio River, Markwardt said.


The stretch of road between Baltimore and Cumberland, Md., referred to as the National Pike, was technically not part of the National Road because it was privately built. But it was considered the same road by its travelers, according to histories of the road.

Taverns along the National Road had names like Black Horse, Highland Hall, Six-Mile, Three Turn, Slacks, White Swan and Workman, according to Thomas B. Searight's "The Old Pike," which notes several stops in Washington County.

Boonsboro, "a lively village," had a tavern, according to Searight.

Funkstown had wagon stands, basically taverns catering to wagoners, at the east and west ends of town.

John B. Wrench ran the old wagon stand in Hagerstown - "always a prominent point along the road" - until the city became "too stylish a place" for his humble establishment.

There was an old wagon stand 4 1/2 miles west of Hagerstown and, 3 miles west of it, "an imposing and well-remembered tavern kept by John Miller," according to Searight's book.

Places to lodge

The Clear Spring area boasted a number of places to lodge, including several hotels in the town limits, according to Clear Spring historian David E. Wiles.

Travelers were able to get a good, if not fancy, meal at taverns along the National Road, which generally served the offerings of the day family-style in mass sittings called by the ringing of a bell, according to Markwardt.

"It was basically fast food. You went in, you ate and you went out," he said.

Tavern fare consisted of hearty foods - stews and soups, roasts, breads, seasonal vegetables and sauerkraut, Markwardt said.

Because they would serve up to 70 people at a meal and the new wood cook stoves appearing in homes had yet to be adapted for commercial cooking, taverns still used open-pit cooking, he said.

There was variety in the offerings, thanks to vibrant trade all along the road, which gave tavern owners and innkeepers access to virtually all of the products available at the time, Markwardt said.

Oysters, shipped by express wagons that could get from Baltimore to Cincinnati in three days, were available along the road from September through April, he said.

Each year, counties in Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio honor the road and its place in history with wagon trains and old-fashioned activities.

Washington County's wagon train will start in Clear Spring Friday, May 19, and make its way to Boonsboro by Sunday, May 21.

See also:

-- Recipes: National Pike Festival

-- A historian's look at the National Road

-- What's on tap for this weekend

-- Activities planned in Clear Spring

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