In this 2010 photo, Editor Nancy E. Thoerig is standing on a portion of the route that survives as a four wheeler trail.
I had been interested in the Turkeyfoot trail since the time Alice Carney explained it to me in the 1980s as an Indian path that crossed the vicinity of Arnold’s Settlement (early Mount Savage), on its way to the Forks at Pittsburgh and into the Ohio Valley.
About a year ago, when my cousin Barry Thoerig, whose wife is Alice’s daughter, told me he was digitizing the Carney papers. I asked him to let me know if he found a map of the trail that Mrs. Carney had shown me. I thought it would be interesting to see again.
Barry sent me a copy of a survey that had to do with the 1827 closure of part of the Turkey Foot Road, the subsequent travel route that largely followed the old Indian trail. While not the map I had in mind, this survey captured the interest of the authors.
Lannie Dietle had found me on the Internet, where I’ve posted parts of a small St. Patrick Catholic Church history that I wrote in 2004. He e-mailed me in the summer, regarding some of the early town settlers. After several e-mail exchanges, Lannie told me of his book topic. I asked Becky Korns, an officer of the Mount Savage Historical Society, what she knew about this and was delighted to hear from Becky that the project was to benefit the historical society, and that Lannie was a cousin of her husband David Korns.
This survey was a document that Lannie and Michael McKenzie had sought earlier and had given up hope finding. Now, with evidence in hand, Mike returned to the courthouse and secured this documentation of the Turkey Foot Road route as it stood in 1827. This finding clarified many of the authors’ questions, and Lannie reworked Chapter 21 to incorporate the survey into a “surprise ending” scenario.
Lannie subsequently invited me to read the draft, and he sent me a link on July 27. Being a writer and analytical type, I couldn’t help but critique. Thankfully, Lannie appreciated my remarks; and as we continued to communicate, our relationship evolved into that of writer and editor.
I’ve had great fun working with Lannie and Mike on the project. We each feel gratified to unravel the mystery of the lost Turkey Foot Road (and trail) – to satisfy our own curiosities, and for the sake of posterity – and we are delighted to do it to benefit the Mount Savage Historical Society, whose officers and members work diligently day-to-day to preserve our heritage.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the story for me is to discover how the Turkey Foot Road defines us who trace our roots to the pioneers who settled and lived along it. I gained two relatives I hadn’t known I had, in Lannie and Mike. I discovered that, through my mother's father, the three of us share genetic connections to two early frontier settlers.
Gabriel McKenzie, Mike McKenzie’s ancestor, traveled the Turkey Foot Road on his way from central Maryland to settle in early Mount Savage. His descendant, Drucilla Ann McKenzie, married my mother’s father’s grandfather, Samuel K. Weimer. Their son Ozias Weimer, my mother’s grandfather, was Johannes Weimer’s great-great-grandson. Ozias married Elizabeth Rose Breig, who was Martin Weimer’s great-great-granddaughter. Martin and Johannes Weimer were brothers who emigrated from Langensoultzbach, France (in Alsace, on the border with Germany). Martin Weimer, also Lannie Dietle’s ancestor, built the first house in Salisbury, Lannie documents, along the Turkey Foot Road.
I’ve learned a new way to look at historic roads. They are transportation corridors that still take us where we need to go, but they also transport us into the time and place of our ancestors, who seem to wait there for us to visit. I hope, as I’m sure Lannie and Mike do, that more folks will be assisted or inspired by “In Search of the Turkey Foot Road” to take a new look at this old passage and visit their long-lost relatives, who at great risk and much hardship forged this passage through the wilderness to leave us the legacies of our hometowns.
− Nancy E. Thoerig