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Johnstown Magazine

Forbes Road

An army of trailblazers leave their mark on the Laurel Highlands.

By John Rucosky

A Colonial officer in his mid-twenties takes in an autumn vista of Laurel Hill from the back of his horse on a rise above Ferrellton in Jenner Township, Somerset County. Sitting high in the saddle at six-foot-two, he adjusts his athletic frame between the stirrups and sighs. It’s raining again. The sprawling ridge a few miles ahead dressed in it’s late-October splendor is just another obstacle to him - and a big one at that.

George Washington is a Virginian far from home. A military colonel in the service of His Majesty King George II of Great Britain, he wonders how he will lead over 2,000 soldiers with bulky wagonloads of supplies and heavy artillery over the ridge of virgin timber to the camp at Loyal Hannon on the other side, still 50 miles from his destination at the forks of the Ohio River. He did not want to come this way and, in fact, had argued obstinately against it.

It’s 1758 and he’s on the frontier. For the time being, there is no Somerset County. No Ferrellton. And Dr. Edward Jenner, who will grow up to invent a vaccine for smallpox, is a 9-year-old lad far off in England. The only locale that dons a name is where Washington and his party are currently stuck: Camp Muddy Run.

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