On the road again

Festival re-creates pioneering spirit that expanded the nation

Festival re-creates pioneering spirit that expanded the nation

May 16, 2002|BY KATE COLEMAN

The weather forecast is calling for showers Friday and Saturday.

That doesn't matter to Laura Parrish and her fellow wagoners.

"We're going to be there regardless," she says.

"There" is not just one place or destination. "There" is the road - the National Pike - and the 14th anniversary celebration of its history, the National Pike Festival.

The festival, which begins Friday with an overnight encampment in Clear Spring, will travel the "road that made the nation."

There will be 17 wagons and about 35 outriders - people on horseback escorting the wagons during the excursion, which stops at several points in Hagerstown, moves on to Funkstown Saturday night and travels to Boonsboro on Sunday.


Local communities will celebrate along the way with music, food, flea markets and yard sales.

The weekend event, covering nearly 40 miles, commemorates an important time in America's history, the opening of the young U.S.A.'s western territory.

In 1797 Baltimore bankers and businessmen wanted the Baltimore-National Pike extended to Cumberland, Md.

In Washington County, the pike also was known as the Bank Road, Parrish says.

In 1806 President Thomas Jefferson signed into law an act that authorized federal funds for a road from Cumberland to Ohio.

The Washington County weekend is part of a 300-mile-long event in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio - some celebrations taking place this weekend, others on different weekends, says Parrish who is coordinating the local event.

"We consider this a living history demonstration."

The history demonstrated is not that of bravery in battle but that of daily life on the road - at a pace of about 4 miles per hour. People don't realize how much work was involved, Parrish says.

Towns were about 12 miles apart - three hours and time-to-rest-the-horses apart. Twelve miles between Frederick and Middletown, Md., 12 miles between Middletown and Boonsboro, 12 miles between Boonsboro and Funkstown, and so on, Parrish says.

Travelers stopped not at Motel 6 but at specialized inns with stables known as wagon stands.

A book in the Washington County Historical Society collection, "Thomas B. Searight's 'The Old Pike,' an Illustrated Narrative of The National Road," includes some wonderful detail about local wagon stands.

In Funkstown, Joseph Watts at the east end and William Ashton on the west end competed for customers at their taverns.

John B. Wrench had the only old wagon stand in Hagerstown. "Hagerstown was rather too stylish a place for old wagoners ..."

Searight wrote that David Newcomer kept an old wagon stand 4 1/2 miles west of Hagerstown. He and his wife were known for their "set-up job" on prospective buyers of horses he sold. "Now, David, thee must not sell that favorite horse," she'd say.

These days, wagoners live nearby enough to take their horses home to their own "beds," says Parrish, who lives in Keedysville. Others will camp at Clear Spring and Funkstown.

Organizing the event is a huge undertaking. "It's a lot of work, and you have to have a passion for it," Parrish says.

She will not be riding in her covered wagon this year because she sold it to filmmakers for the local production of the Civil War movie, "Gods and Generals."

But Parrish wouldn't miss the festival. She helped to establish a nonprofit foundation - James Shaull Wagon Train Foundation Inc. - to keep the festival and its history alive.

The foundation honors her friend, James Shaull, who worked his Belgian horses on his Sharpsburg Pike farm and participated in the annual wagon trains. Shaull died in a tractor accident shortly after the 2000 Pike Festival.

National Pike Festival schedule

Friday, May 17, 4:30 to 7 p.m.

n American Legion picnic grounds, South Martin Street, Clear Spring

- Wagon train encampment, bluegrass music

- Old-fashioned dinner available, $8

- Craft and yard sale at carnival grounds

Saturday, May 18

- 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. - Old Tyme Country Breakfast, American Legion, Clear Spring, $6

- 9 a.m. - Wagon train depart, traveling across U.S. 40 to North Martin Street, turning left on Broadfording Road, traveling south to U.S. 40 and east toward Hagerstown

- 10 a.m. - Parade begins at Clear Spring High School; bake sale; chicken barbecue at ambulance station; Craft and yard sale at carnival grounds

- 10:30 a.m. - Wagon train stop, Wilson's Store

- 11 a.m. - Stone bridge crossing, weather permitting

- 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. - Wagon train stop, Wacohu Grange, 100 yards west of U.S. 49 and Md. 63, Huyetts Crossroads: chicken barbecue, bake sale, flea market

- Wagon train travels through downtown Hagerstown on Washington Street to South Potomac Street, to Lee Street, around Park Circle to Hagerstown City Park

- 2 p.m. - Wagon train stop at northern end of park between Hager House and Washington County Museum of Fine Arts

- 3:30 p.m. - Brief stop at Ravenwood Lutheran Village, Kenly Avenue

- 4:15 p.m. - Wagon train encampment, Funkstown Community Park, bluegrass music

Sunday, May 19

- Pancake breakfast

- 10:30 a.m. - Wagon train departs, heading east on Alternate U.S. 40

- Noon - Wagon train stops for lunch, Auction Square Complex, Boonsboro

- 2 p.m. - Shafer Memorial Park, final stop, 30 minutes

Note: All times are approximate.

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