The Planting of Civilization in Western Pennsylvania

By Solon J. Buck; Elizabeth Hawthorn Buck et al. | Go to book overview
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XI. The Development of Transportation

THE planting and progress of civilization in a new region are obviously dependent on the facilities for transportation and communication to and from and within the region. Not only must the country be accessible to immigrants but continuous contact must be maintained with the outside world so that there may be a free inflow of the ideas, institutions, and products of more highly developed areas. The natural advantages of western Pennsylvania in this respect have been indicated in a previous chapter--its central location, its relation to the great waterways of the Mississippi and St. Lawrence systems, and its accessibility by passes over the Appalachian Mountains. During the period under consideration these advantages were developed and improved mainly by the application to them of techniques and types of equipment already well known in the civilized world when the occupation of the region began; and it was only at the close of the period that a notable recent invention--the steamboat--made its appearance in the West. The first great era of progress in transportation--the era of turnpikes, steamboats, and canals--did not get under way in the West until after the War of 1812; and the locomotive had just been invented in England at that time. What the early history of western Pennsylvania would have been if it had been penetrated by a railroad in advance of settlement can only be imagined.

The facilities for transportation were not wholly in a state of nature when white men began to enter the region. The Indians, often following the runways of wild animals, had discovered most of the passes and convenient fording places, had developed by use a network of trails, and had invented canoes for navigating the streams. Indian trails, contrary to a common impression, were not blazed or marked in any way, but those most used were worn deep by innumerable foot

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