March 18th, 2015

During the time the Native Americans lived in the northeastern region of America, a system of paths or trails developed based on logical decisions of level ground or gentle inclines taking the most direct route avoiding excess moisture or major obstacles.  Though often used, these were not easy hiking trails.  Inclement weather along with seasonal flooding had to be taken into consideration as well as crossing streams and rivers at the most accessible points.  These passages were first used by chiefs, warriors and hunting expeditions and so there were three major reasons for traveling from their communities and these functions gave way to their names: Traders’ Path, Warriors’ Path, and Hunters’ Path.  These trails, originally made for an individual to pass on foot, were widened as missionaries and traders began traveling by horseback.  As time continued, these bridal paths were improved for the passage of wagons bringing settlers and soldiers to the area.  And with wagons being transformed into modern vehicles of transportation, the improvements on these roads developed into highways allowing for faster and safer modes of movement.  What had originally been designed to establish trade and communication among communities of Native Americans, became the migratory routes of the Native Americans leaving the area while at the same time serving as the settlers’ exploratory routes to the inner area of colonial Pennsylvania.  In addition, these paths or trails became the system for the new settlers to continue trade and travel into the 21st century. 

The Great Shamokin Path was the major passage for the Native Americans traveling along the east bank of the West Branch of the Susquehanna.  The path guided the Native Americans north from the area known as Shamokin in what is now Northumberland, along the east bank of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River to what was then called Shawnee Creek, now called Chillisquaque Creek.  Here Otzenachse, a Shawnee town, was located at the mouth of the creek on the north shore; this town was abandoned in 1728 when the tribe moved west.  Pa Route 14 now closely follows this path.  The path continued north to the place where Shikellamy formerly lived, just south of present-day Milton, continuing up the east side of the West Branch of Pa 405 to what is now Watsontown.  Here the Warriors’ Camp was located at the mouth of Warrior Run and the path forked: one branch continued to follow the river to a point across the river of what would become Montgomery, Lycoming County; the other ran north along the river and Route 405 to Delaware Run and its headwaters.  The motorist should take local route 49062 to the Lycoming-Northumberland county borders.  From these points, the path continued heading west.

These early roads were simply compacted dirt and left the traveler quite dusty.  In August 1924 bids were taken for the stretch of paved road from South Main Street to below Riverside Park.  The new highway went over the old road, or Dickson Avenue, from the Pennsylvania railroad depot to the oil tanks below town, then directly through the oil tank property and down the old canal bed to the old lock where it cut across the field to the river road.  Then on down this road to a short distance below the road leading into the Fiske & Company brick plant, where it crossed the field connecting to the old road at the bridge over Muddy Run at Riverside Park.  This eliminated the two bad curves at Riverside Park and the two at the old lock below town.  A new bridge was built over Muddy Run sometime the following year.  This was the last of the roads in this section to be improved; a great improvement to one of the most traveled roads in Pennsylvania allowing the Susquehanna Trail to come up along the river and divert some of the traffic from the Milton Muncy Highway.  The only unfinished road after this improvements was from Dewart to Montgomery which at that time was an exceptionally good road.  When the road to Milton was being built, the official detour went through McEwensville, which was one of the best paved roads in the state at that time.

Contractor Walter A. Godcharles’ bid was accepted and his crew began work on the new highway between Riverside Park and Watsontown in early April of 1925.  According to The Record and Star, “They are working at the lower end of the job, having torn up the old road bed to get ready for grading, while that portion of the road will be finished first and connect with a stretch of a mile or more already finished just below the old lock or Port May.  When this is finished traffic can detour out around by Keiser’s Mill and the brick road over Lower Main Street, as the new bridge over Warrior Run will no doubt take some time to finish, and the completion of the road from there up to the borough limits.”

[The Record and Star, August 15, 1924, pg 1; April 10, 1925, pg 1.]

 Last Modified: 02.16.12

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