Early History of Native American Trails
Historical trails, often called "traces" or "paths" contributed to the migration and settlement of large portions of the United States. Many trails were well established by the time Europeans immigrated to the colonies. The original 'travelers' on the trails were probably various types of wildlife as they moved from place to place in search of grazing lands, salt sources and fresh water. Native Americans were familiar with trails and utilized them for thousands of years prior to settlement by Europeans. The paths were also used to wage war, thus the term: “War Path”. Because they were often well worn, relatively easy to follow and led to grazing lands and fresh water Europeans utilized them as well on foot, horseback and with wagons. Many of these trails, or portions of them, were eventually utilized in the construction of roads and highways in modern times.
History of the Venango Path
A Native American Trail that ran from the "Forks of the Ohio" (modern day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) to Presque Isle, Pennsylvania. The trail was named for the American Indian village of Venango located at the mouth of the French Creek where it empties into the Allegheny River. The trail has great historic import and a wonderful history of its own.
George Washington and the Venango Path
In December of 1753, George Washington, together with Christopher Gist (Gist's Trace) traveled the trail to deliver a message to the French living near Venango Village at Fort Le Boeuf. The picture on this page is a reproduction of the map used by George Washington on that trip. Because of the bitterly cold weather, the travelers were forced to leave the trail at the Forks of the Ohio to find shelter in the Indian village of Logstown (near what is now known as Ambridge, Pennsylvania. Washington and his small group of men left the village a few days later and proceeded northeast along the Connoquenessing Creek to find the French. On their return trip home from Fort Le Boeuf, Washington and Gist found a Native who agreed to act as their guide to lead them down a different trail to the Forks. After several miles the Native turned on Washington and Gist and fired his gun at them. They were unharmed. Although they captured their would-be killer, they turned him loose to return to his village. From that point, they used a compass traveling across country through the forest and returned safely to Williamsburg, Virginia on January 16, 1754.
The Venango Trail and the French and Indian War
The trail was used as a military road during the French Indian War. The French were occupying Western Pennsylvania at that time and the Venango Trail became an important military road that connected a group of French Forts reaching from Lake Erie to Pittsburgh. When the British drove the French from western Pennsylvania, the French burned and abandoned their forts. The British quickly rebuilt all of them and renamed them. At that time the British were using the Venango Trail as a military road.
The Demise of the Venango Trail
During Pontiac's War in 1763, Native Americans burned all of the forts. After the British army defeated several of the hostile Native tribes the Native Americans moved into Ohio and further west. After fighting ceased in Western Pennsylvania, the Venango Trail fell into disuse and was no longer used as either a Native American Trail or a military road.