I am a Tombstone Tourist: someone who loves to wander cemeteries. I find it akin to visiting a museum: an opportunity to enjoy rarely seen sculpture, intricate carvings, and amazing architecture, all in a tranquil outdoor setting. This blog is about cemetery culture, art, history, issues of death, and genealogy - subjects of current relevance. I usually find something that intrigues me and makes me want to dig deeper. Care to join me? Read on...
824 mile long Historic National Road begins in Cumberland, Maryland and ends in
Vandalia, Illinois encompassing the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, West
Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.
time, the road took on several names: Cumberland Road, National Pike, “The Road
That Built the Nation,” but in many communities it has simply been called Main
Street, eventually earning the appropriate nickname "The Main Street of
National Road was the first federally funded road in U.S. history, and in many
states is known today as Route 40. The road was built between 1811 and 1834 so
that pioneers would have a good trail to follow through the Appalachians in order to
reach the western settlements.
1806, President Thomas Jefferson authorized the building of a national byway that would connect Cumberland,
Maryland to the Ohio River. It took five years before the first 10 miles of
roadway were built, but by 1818 the road reached to Wheeling, West Virginia.
Settlers weren’t the only ones using the road, mail coaches, drovers and stagecoaches
found it to be an easy way to connect with the frontier towns out west.
1825, the road had become famous and was being lauded in song, stories and
legend. Small settlements began to pop up along the route, then communities and
small towns were established as many pioneers decided to settle
down at some spot along the way.
taverns, and stores selling staples and supplies were built, and these “pike
town” began to thrive. Conestoga wagons traveled the National Road loaded with
coffee and sugar for "out west," returning with produce and grain grown on the
newly settled frontier. Life was prosperous along the National Road for
many years - until the 1860s.
was during that time that the railroads began to change the way people traveled the country, and enthusiasm for traveling on the National Road
began to wane.
Building The Road
1885, the first automobile and the first bicycle were invented, and interest in
road travel was renewed again.
The National Road became US 40 in 1926 when a national road system went into
effect, but by the 1960s construction was completed on Interstate 70,
and Route 40, with its meandering roadways, was left in the dust.
you can still travel the National Road and explore over 200 years of history.
Old motels, classic diners, and century-old inns still line the byway. Each
state highlights special sections along the route, but be sure to keep an eye out
for cemeteries, too. Here are just a few to check out along the Historical National Road:
Key Monument 1898 and Today
is home to 170 miles of the National Road, traveling through urban Baltimore and across
acres of rolling countryside. Mount Olivet Cemetery, located in Fredrick, has been
called Maryland’s “Cemetery Beautiful” and is home to the burial monument for
Francis Scott Key, author of the Star Spangled Banner.
Keystone State offers two great stops for tombstone tourists as soon as you
cross the state line. Fort Necessity near Farmington is the site where the
opening battle of the French and Indian War was fought. Check out the interpretive center here and get a feel for what
life was like in the 18th century. Then it’s on to Braddock’s grave, a lone
monument placed at the site of his demise "In remembrance of Major General Edward Braddock",
who led the campaign to oust the French from American soil.
Mount Wood Cemetery
the Ohio River is Mount Wood Cemetery, a Hebrew and Jewish Orthodox cemetery in
Wheeling. Funerary art abounds on this rolling hill, from stones and monuments of the Victorian-era, to those more modern mid-twentieth
Buckeye State has numerous stops along the old National Road; for cemetery
buffs, take time to visit Columbus, the state's capital, and tour the Old Governor’s Mansion and the Ohio Statehouse before heading to an old neighborhood known as “The Hilltop” for a poignant visit to Camp Chase
Hoosier State boasts a beautiful lawn-style cemetery on this route: Crown Hill
Cemetery, in Indianapolis, is a “Who’s Who” of famous and infamous residents:
Indiana governors, senators, congressmen, and military officers are buried here
along with U.S. President Benjamin Harrison, poet James Whitcomb Riley, and notorious
bank robber, John Dillinger.
Franciscan Monastery Museum
Land of Lincoln is the ending point of the National Road. Visit the Franciscan
Monastery Museum in Teutopolis, the only one of its kind in the Midwest, and
roam through over 30 rooms of artifacts relating to the Franciscans and early Illinois pioneers. St. Francis of Assisi Parish is home to the cemetery and mausoleum
where the first Franciscan pastor is buried.
you take to the road this summer, try a back route and see what
adventures await …