Wagon Train kicks off National Pike Festival

Travel is less travail than 200 years ago, but still a lot of work

Travel is less travail than 200 years ago, but still a lot of work

May 16, 2008|By DON AINES

CLEAR SPRING -- In the days before the word infrastructure was coined, moving produce and raw materials east and finished goods and settlers west was more travail then travel.

The Baltimore-National Pike did not extend beyond Frederick County, so the job of opening up the western part of Maryland fell to a group of bankers willing to make the investment to build the road out to Cumberland, Md., to promote commerce.

That was at the end of the 18th century, and it was the early years of the 19th century before the road was laid, said Jack Pinnell of Hagerstown, one of the coordinators of the National Pike Festival.

"This is our official 20th year as the wagon train in Washington County," Pinnell said Friday night at the Plum Grove Mansion and Museum. On its grounds, a couple of dozen wagons and carriages were awaiting the start of that wagon train's journey from Clear Spring to Hagerstown, then onto Boonsboro on Sunday.


Today's journey from Clear Spring to Boonsboro might take 20 minutes by car in light traffic, but the wagon train will be moving at a more leisurely pace. Pinnell said he expects quite a few residents and visitors to line the route today and Sunday and to visit the encampment in Hagerstown at the Ag Center on Wilson Boulevard.

The "Bank Road," as the section of the National Pike through Washington County was called, eventually was extended into Ohio, Pinnell said. The federal government got back into the road-building business in 1806, when President Thomas Jefferson signed an act to extend the road past Cumberland, according to the National Pike Festival Web site.

Getting a wagon train rolling perhaps is easier than it was two centuries ago, but it still is a lot of work. Many of the participants rolled into Plum Grove pulling their wagons and horses on trailers behind pickup trucks, including 86-year-old Charles Lindsay and his son, John, both of Greencastle, Pa.

Charles Lindsay's linchpin covered wagon was built in 1881, but John Lindsay had little knowledge of its provenance beyond its age.

"You'd better have a good blacksmith's shop nearby" if anything on the wagon breaks down, John Lindsay said.

Not all of the wagons are antiques, Pinnell said. A company in Nebraska makes new wagons and even stagecoaches, and used wagons can be found online for a few thousand dollars, he said.

Percherons, Belgians, quarter horses and mules nibbled on spring grass or hay as a cold, gray wind rippled across the field. They will provide the horsepower today and Sunday, although not all of the animals will be hitched up.

Pinnell said 40 or 50 outriders usually join the train.

"This is something we look forward to every year," said Suzie Ellingson, 16, of Woodstock, Va. She and her mother have ridden along the previous four years, and Ellingson brought a friend, Christen Beahm, also 16, to join them this year.

"It's something other than a gravel road," said Suzie, whose family did not bring its doctor's buggy this year. "It's fun to see the people who come out to see us."

The Washington County segment of the 20th annual National Pike Festival and Wagon Train began Friday night with an encampment at Plum Grove in Clear Spring. Activities continue today and Sunday as the wagon train makes a 36-mile trip from Clear Spring to Hagerstown on U.S. 40, and from Hagerstown to Boonsboro on Alternate U.S. 40.

More information can be found at

Wagon Train schedule

The following is a schedule of activities associated with the festival. All wagon train times are approximate. Yard sales are set up along the wagon train's route.


· 6 to 9 a.m. - Breakfast available for purchase at Plumb Grove site.

· 6 to 9 a.m. - Harnessing and hitching of horses.

· 9 a.m. - Wagon train departs Plumb Grove

· 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. - FFA National Pike Day Celebration at Clear Spring High School, includes food, baked goods, yard and craft sales, antique tractor show, Betsy bingo, activities for children and pet dress-up contest.

· 10 a.m. - Clear Spring hosts Pike Day Parade.

· 10:30 a.m. - Wagon train stops at Wilson Store and Bridge, U.S. 40 at Conococheague Creek.

· 11 a.m. - Wagon train crosses Wilson Bridge, weather permitting.

· 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. - Wagon train stops as Huyetts Crossroads, Wacohu Grange, 100 yards west of U.S. 40 and Md. 63 intersection. Breakfast is available for purchase at the grange from 7 to 11 a.m. A chicken barbecue at lunchtime will be available while chicken lasts. Bake sale and flea market.

· 2 p.m. - Wagon train stops at the northern end of City Park in Hagerstown, between the Jonathan Hager House and the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

· 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. - Jonathan Hager house open.

· 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - Washington County Museum of Fine Arts open.

· 4 p.m. - Wagon train arrives at Ralph Henderson Ag Center, 510 E. Wilson Blvd., near Four-States Livestock Auction House, for an overnight encampment.


· 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. - Ralph Henderson Ag Center, 510 E. Wilson Blvd., breakfast by West Hagerstown Lions Club, sausage and pancakes, donation.

· 10 a.m. - Wagon train departs, heads for Ravenwood Lutheran Village.

· 10:30 a.m. - Wagon train stops at Ravenwood Lutheran Village off Frederick Street.

· 12:30 p.m. - Wagon train stops for lunch at Auction Square Complex along Alternate U.S. 40 outside Boonsboro.

· 1:15 p.m. - Wagon train leaves Auction Square Complex.

· 1:30 p.m. - Wagon train arrives at Shafer Memorial Park in Boonsboro.

· 2 p.m. - Activities at the park include pony rides for children.

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