Early History of 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.
Location of Kittanning Path
The path ran in a generally East to West pattern running from the Juniata River in modern day central Pennsylvania to the Indian village of "Kithanick" (now known as Kittanning, Pennsylvania). It crossed the Allegheny mountains on its way. It wound through the counties of Cambria, Indiana, through Shelocta, and ended at Kittanning in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania on the western bank of the Allegheny River. In the early 1700s the area was inhabited by the Lenape (Delaware) Indians) and Shawnee.
It is known that the Kittanning Path was in use by 1721 but it had been utilized prior to the time by First Nations People. John Hart, a white trader, was given a license to trade with the Native Americans in that area in 1744. Lands in the western portion of modern-day Pennsylvania were closed at that time to white settlements by treaty agreement with William Penn. Mr. Hart constructed a camp ground for over night travelers on the path, naming it: "Hart's Sleeping Place". Maps of the day marked the camp's location and records of its use were kept at the wayside. In 1754, John Harris, the founder of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania stayed at the Camp on a trip into the area.
In 1755 the Lenape, unhappy with the treaties that took much of their land, used the path to wage war against a British settlement at the Juniata River. Prisoners were taken to the village of Kithanink. Again in 1756 the path was used by the Lenape as they attacked and burned Fort Granville (near modern-day Lewistown, Pennsylvania). There was loss of life and prisoners were captured and taken to Kithanink. In retribution the British sent Lt. Colonel John Armstrong (born in 1717 in Ireland) who ordered the burning of the village of Kithanick. Mr. Armstrong was later a general in the Revolutionary War and Armstrong county is named for him. After 1781, there are no records of Native Americans using the trail.
A portion of the path has been surveyed and preserved near Carrolltown, Pennsylvania. U.S. Highway 422 follows the original trail going North Northwest through Indiana County to Shelocta County in Pennsylvania.