National Pike Festival tells tale of history

Teaching Your Child

Teaching Your Child

May 15, 2009|By LISA PREJEAN

This weekend, visitors to Washington County will be able to step back in time to the early 1800s when Conestoga wagons and stagecoaches ruled the road.

The National Pike Festival wagon train will travel along our county's section of the road that paved a path to the West. There will be a weekend-long celebration of the rich heritage that provided a foundation for the road we know today as U.S. 40.

It all begins tonight with a wagon train encampment at Plumb Grove Mansion in Clear Spring. Visitors will be able to see the wagons and horses up close and talk to the wagoneers about days gone by.

In the 1790s, Baltimore bankers and businessmen began to see the value of extending a road from Baltimore to Cumberland, Md. In Washington County, this road became known as the Bank Road. Outside of the county, the road was referred to as Baltimore-National Pike. In Cumberland, it would be joined to a federally funded project - a road that would connect East with West, extending from Cumberland into Ohio.


Construction on this National Road began in Cumberland in 1811. By the 1830s, the road had extended through Ohio and into Illinois.

Countless travelers clip-clopped their way along the road, traversing the Allegheny Mountains in search of a homestead in the Ohio River Valley.

They left the East with all of their earthly possessions packed in Conestoga wagons, the "tractor-trailer of the 19th century." According to the National Park Service, these wagons were capable of covering about 15 miles a day.

Progress was slow-moving but steady. Towns began to form along the route as the travelers needed a place to stay and food to eat on their journey.

The companionship they shared with other wagoneers will be mirrored this weekend as the wagon train makes its way along the roads in our county. There is safety in numbers, and the journey can be joyful when others are along.

Motorists should take note of the wagon train schedule and be prepared to proceed slowly or take alternate routes. National Pike weekend is also a big yard sale weekend, so be prepared for sudden stops and congestion along the trail route. You can always tell where the animals have been, so be careful where you step or drive unless you want to take a certain smell home with you.

You can catch a glimpse of the wagon train at several places this weekend. All times are approximate.


Festivities are from 5 to 7 p.m. at Plumb Grove Mansion on Broadfording Road in Clear Spring, near the Clear Spring public schools.


The wagon train will head east on U.S. 40. There is a planned stop at Wilson Store around 10:30 a.m.

11:45 - Huyetts Crossroads, stopping for lunch

2 p.m. - Hagerstown City Park (The wagon train will stop at the parking lot between the Hager House and Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.)

4 p.m. - Stop fir the night at Ag Center, 510 E. Wilson Blvd., Hagerstown


10 a.m. - Wagons head east on Wilson and proceed onto Alternate U.S. 40

10:30 a.m. - Stop at Ravenwood Retirement Community on Kenly Avenue

12:30 p.m. - Stop at Auction Square Complex for lunch

1:30 p.m. - Shafer Memorial Park in Boonsboro. Wagons will circle up for about 30 minutes.

For more information about the National Pike Festival, go to on the Internet.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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