The early road known as Gist's Trace (and "Nemacolin's Path") was first blazed by a Maryland frontiersman named Thomas Cresap and the Delaware Indian Chief, Nemacolin. Mr. Cresap surveyed the terrain while Nemacolin took charge of the physical labor needed to break the trail. They worked on the trail in 1749 and 1750. The road (or trace) takes its name from Christopher Gist (1706-1759), one of the first white explorers of that area but it has also been called Nemacolin's path and Braddock's road. Christopher Gist was born in Maryland to Richard and Zipporah Gist. Richard Gist was a formally trained surveyor and his son, Christopher followed in those footsteps. Christopher Gist is said to have provided the English and the colonists with the first descriptions of what was then called the "Ohio Country". During the French and Indian War he accompanied George Washington as Mr. Washington traveled the trail into the Ohio Country on a mission for the colonies. That failed mission was to negotiate a settlement of sorts with the French military. Mr. Gist eventually owned land near the present day city of Uniontown, Pennsylvania which he named "Gist's Plantation". He was instrumental in the beginning of a small town there.
Gist's Trace was only sixty miles in length but was an important migration route because it created the passage between the Potomac and Monongahela rivers. It provided pioneers means to travel into western Pennsylvia and as far west as Ohio thus promoting settlements in those areas. Once it was completed it offered a roadway for settlers in stage coaches and wagons as they made their way western into the frontiers. Rivers also afforded a means of transport from one area into another without the necessity of breaking a trail through forested land. The Gist Trace started at the mouth of Wills Creek, traversed the Laurel Mountains to the Monongahela River to its junction with Redstone Creek. The trace traversed the country between what is now known as Cumberland, Maryland to the present day city of Brownsville, Pennsylvania.
The entire roadway is of great historic interest and finally, as it became an important part of the National Road (Pike) it took its place among the most famous highways of the migratory experience of America. It is contained within parts of Highway 40 in Pennsylvania. Although the name of the road has changed over the years from Nemocolin's Path, Washington's Road, Braddock's Road, and the National Pike, it has earned its place in the economic and political history of the United States. It travels through Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania and is an important route for genealogists researching those earliest years of the nations settlements from the colonies westward.