Have you ever thought about the origins of the roadways that you travel every day in your community? Many modern thoroughfares were once important “highways and byways” in days of old.
People who live in the vicinity of Buttermilk Hill and McCune roads in Venango County, or along the “old” and “new” Route 322 through northwest Pennsylvania may not realize that
a major footpath from colonial times passed right through their neighborhoods — the Venango Trail. It ran from the forks of the Ohio River (now Pittsburgh), through Crawford County and all the way to today’s Presque Isle on Lake Erie.
This trail was founded by the Native Americans of western Pennsylvania who used it as the primary route to travel north and south across western Pennsylvania.
After the French invasion of western Pennsylvania in 1753, the section of Venango Trail from Presque Isle to Venango (today’s Franklin) became a military highway to move troops and supplies. After the French abandoned their forts in western Pennsylvania, the British, and later Americans, continued to use the trail for military purposes.
As many people in Crawford County are familiar, a famous traveler journeyed this path more than 250 years ago. George Washington, along with his guide Christopher Gist, traveled the Venango Trail in 1753 to deliver a trespass notice from Virginia’s Lt. Gov. Robert Dinwiddie to the French. In 2003, “Washington’s Trail 1753” signs were posted along today’s roadways of western Pennsylvania where Washing-ton traversed the trail. You can spot several of them along Route 322.
To look at the direction the Venango Trail ran in a modern context, here is the route one would have to follow. From Franklin, the trail ran along the bank of French Creek and modern Route 322. It then followed the road into the village of Sugarcreek. From there, the trail ran close to or followed Buttermilk Hill Road, and after crossing Route 964 above Utica, the trail followed McCune Road until it meets Old Route 322. The trail thus proceeded with this route into modern-day Cochranton. Leaving Cochranton, modern Route 322 closely follows the Venango Trail path.
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