CAMBRIA COUNTY ROADS.
Cambria County has plunged in the matter of building good roads and raising the money to pay for them. Ten years
ago the work of getting Cambria "out of the mud" was barely begun, state highway patches in the county
were constructed largely of macadam, county jobs done or contemplated called for brick surfacing, and a group of
road enthusiasts who had made a little map of the county showing about 80 miles of highways to be improved so as
to link all important places was regarded as highly visionary, impractical or plain crazy.
The good roads story, of course, began long before that. Cambria was much interested from the very beginning of
efforts to establish a state department or bureau, especially to give supervision, advice and aid to the townships
which had begun to suspect that the old system of road construction and repair was not entirely businesslike. State
Senator Jacob M. Stineman was interested in good roads. Senator George M. Wertz represented the county while the
famous Sproul Act, creating a department and a system of state highways, was under consideration. Other legislators
took a hand. Some of the richer townships were talking about real money for road improvements. The City of Johnstown
was longing for better transportation facilities to and from the other sections of the county. The north of the
county was aroused to see to it that if by any miracles funds should be available for better roads, Northern Cambria
would get its share. Ebensburg sat up when the Sproul Act proposed a state system built primarily on the theory
that the highways should connect the county seats. And here and there the state kept feeding out a little money
to put in a mile or two of road which by comparison with the average dirt road was heavenly for those who were
so lucky as to use the improved fragment. And all the time more and more people were acquiring automobiles, and
the automobile was a poor mud horse.
Counteracting the powerful sentiment in favor of good roads were trouble arising from the questions how roads were
to be financed and who was to decide which were the more important roads to be built first. Political squabbling
from the highest places at Harrisburg down into the townships prevented any unity of sentiment. Senator Stineman
was condemned because he got a little piece of state money for a little piece of road out of South Fork. A macadam
road up Constable Hollow from Moxham was appropriated for before Senator Wertz, who had property out that way,
was a member of the Senate, but the road was dubbed the "Jungle Road" and denounced as a waste of public
funds in a wilderness or a private graft to boom suburban real estate. Ebensburg had already gotten some macadam
on what is now the state highway, but that was forgotten. The first suggestions that the Menoher highway, from
Westmont to Ligonier, be improved, were derided as scandalously profligate. The state had but small revenues applicable
to good roads and could borrow no money by issuing bonds without first amending the Constitution. Local taxes everywhere
were being increased. Good roads were greatly to be desired, but good roads seemed to be safely locked up within
the pearly gates of Paradise.
County Engineer L. R. Owen describes the activities in road building in Cambria County during the past ten years
as "a principal industry." The products of that "industry" in miles of roads and in debts created
are quite accurately measurable, but value of the products to be derived from the use of the roads is unknown and
incalculable. Cambria County is now one of the four leading counties in the state in completed hard surface roads.
Pennsylvania, in the same respect, is one of the three leading states in America.
In the years from 1905 to 1910 the Pennsylvania Highway Department constructed 11 miles of macadam on state roads
within the county. In 1911 the Sproul Act went into effect, and Cambria's status under the act was both strengthened
and complicated by the fact that the center of population, Johnstown, was not the county seat nor located centrally
as to county lines, but was only a few miles from the Somerset County line, its suburbs in fact extending to the
line and over it, and almost as near to the Westmoreland and Indiana County lines. The claims of Johnstown could
not be ignored by lawmakers or administrative executives, neither could Ebensburg as the county seat be overlooked,
nor the group of growing towns in the north. There were peculiarities of physical geography, those same characteristics
which had brought in earlier days of transportation the wonders of the Portage Railroad and the power consuming
curves and grades of the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad from Altoona to Johnstown, the narrowness of the
Conemaugh Gorge, which forced the early Frankstown road to the ridges south of the Conemaugh and off to the north
to the present line of the William Penn highway for the crossing of the mountain to Indiana County. From the south
the natural way into the county was by roads along the watercourses of the Stonycreek and its branches from Windber
and from Jenner Crossroads, with ridge roads in between. In the north, at the east and west borders, the courses
of Clearfield Creek and of the West Branch invited the road builders to locate their main highways. But the road
builders had little to do with the location of roads. They had to put the roads where agricultural and industrial
developments had placed the people in groups big and little, and neither a system following the natural water grades
nor one running roads at right angles to each other in cross sections would answer the purpose.
Adjoining counties were doing little in the way of road building. Somerset had no large city and the county was
content to go along with the state highway theory. Blair was spending some of its own money on county roads with
good results in awakening appreciation of the value of a good road to a community. Clearfield was deep in the mud,
and about the deepest mud was on roads running to and across the Cambria line. Indiana, with no large city, and
with the influence of the county seat diminishing as many coal towns, widely scattered, grew up and the importance
of Blairsville increased, had little thought of a real county system of roads and hardly any at all for a good
road connection either with Johnstown or with Ebensburg. Politically the Indiana situation was full of dynamite
and no leadership non political appeared to make a county program. Johnstown wanted to get into the Ligonier Valley,
for various reasons, and also to tap the dairying, fruit and farming sections of near Bedford County. But the Ligonier
region was the hinterland, politically, industrially and in land values of sprawling Westmoreland County and Westmoreland
as a whole constituted one of the most difficult local road problems in the state. Greensburg, the county seat,
centrally located by geographical measurement, was remote from the great bulk of population. There were big towns
and industries up the Westmoreland side of the Allegheny River and up the Monongahela River, while industries were
solidly occupying the available ground along the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad near the Allegheny County
line. Scottdale and Mt. Pleasant were industrial centers in the section of the county toward Connellsville. It
was no trouble at all to start big fights about piece meal roads in Westmoreland.
Cambria County in 1926 has about three times the 80 miles of good roads which appeared to be impossible 10 years
ago. Up to 1915, in addition to the 11 miles of state road macadam, there was about an equal mileage of other improved
roads, or a total of 22 miles. That was enough to spread to every section of the county and into neighboring counties
the good roads movement.
The state highways, as originally on the Sproul Act road map and as subsequently changed, are included in two primary
routes and several secondary routes. The main east west highway is the William Penn, entering the county from Hollidaysburg
at Cresson and passing through Loretto and Ebensburg to Mundy's and Armagh toward Pittsburgh. The shorter route
between Cresson and Ebensburg is by the county road through Munster known as the Cresson Pike. When the state was
ready to perform in Cambria County on its share of the road building program, Mr. C. M. Schwab was building Immergrun,
his home at Loretto, and willing to swap funds to have the main highway take in the old main street of Loretto
and pass the Schwab estate. The Cresson Pike was receiving attention from the county, some costly changes in grade
were necessary and several grade crossings and dangerous subways made a relocation of a part of the road highly
desirable. All this has since been done, but meanwhile the William Penn was swung around through Loretto. The Johnstown
connection is at Mundy's Corners. The William Penn is complete, from Pittsburgh to Easton, a water grade road across
the state, with a big figure 3 in a keystone as its marker. It received a great deal of boosting in the early days
of happy anticipation of its construction through the "William Penn Highway Association." Johnstown was
to be on the William Penn only by courtesy of the leg from Johnstown to Mundy's by way of Conemaugh, but Altoona
thought it could never be happy unless this highway ran right through its heart. The theory of every Main Street
in the state then was that Main Street must be incorporated in some main highway. The persistence of that theory
did much to create the necessary enthusiasm for enormous good road debts. Many Main streets became sick and sad
after the main highways came through them, but such experiences were incidental to the good roads and automobile
fevers everywhere. M. H. James, Ebensburger, where the Main Street idea always was strong, and Johnstown newspaper
reporter in his younger days, was the publicity agent for the William Penn, and later, until 1926, publicity agent
for the whole Pennsylvania Department of Highways.
The steepest grade on the William Penn, now considerably improved by widening and straightening, is on the east
slope of the Allegheny Mountain from a short distance east of Cresson to the foot of the mountain, and few motorists
find that difficult. On the western edge of the county, beyond Mundy's toward Pittsburgh, the improvement halted
for several years. Difficulty in securing favorable bids was ascribed as the main reason for the delay. For all
of the construction from the Indiana-Cambria line to Armagh and Blairsville, contractors would have a short haul
for materials only at the Blairsville end. But the improvement came through and Johnstown was officially represented
by the mayor and council, and by the Good Roads Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, at William Penn Highway Day
ceremonies, Thursday, Oct. 1, 1925, which was part of Old Home Week at Blairsville, celebrating historical events
as far back as the visit of Conrad Weiser in 1748 to the Indians as special emissary of the province of Pennsylvania
and the bearer of $5,000 in gifts as token that the friendships begun by William Penn with the aborigenees was
to endure. The celebration was also the centennary of the town of Blairsville as dated from the first election
of a burgess in 1825. The town itself was laid out and lot sales begun some years before, on the strength of a
report that a good road was coming through to connect Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and that it would not follow
exactly the line of the first Frankstown road survey, but dip down to the Conemaugh at the site of the new town.
This northern turnpike gave the town its right to exist. John Blair of Huntingdon County was president of this
new section of the pike, and James Campbell, owner of the townsite, named the place for the president of the road.
Blairsville in those days had little hope of transportation from the east by water. In the Conemaugh, five miles
above, were the dangerous Laurel Rapids, where the stream roars through the famous Packsaddle Gap. The east was
already talking about the canalization of the waterways. In fact, the project of transportation from Philadelphia
to Pittsburgh by canal had been given real impetus by legislative approval a year before the first burgess of Blairsville
was chosen, in March, 1824, and by 1834 the combination of railroad and canal was completed on this route. The
canal was constructed upstream on the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh to the mouth of the Kiskiminetas and was
operated to Kiskiminetas Junction in 1828. In 1829 it reached Blairsville, and by 1831 it was in operation to Johnstown,
the roaring Laurel Rapids serving only as scenery along the way. Twenty years later Blairsville was dreaming of
becoming a great railroad center and terminal. In 1925 it hailed the new William Penn as gladly as it had the old
pike 100 years before. The canal had been swallowed up by the railroad and the railroad was carrying enormous traffic
through the town, but the opening of the William Penn that day marked the beginning of another era in transportation.
The second primary state highway traversing Cambria County north and south is marked from the Maryland line, south
of Meyersdale, to the New York state line, north of Bradford, as Route No. 6. As a continuous trans Pennsylvania
road of great importance, it has no name. Johnstown joined with Somerset to get part of it and with northern Cambria
to get other parts. The Good Roads Committee of the Chamber of Commerce of Johnstown made an effort some years
ago to eliminate the local idea that this was a local road, and to implant the fact it was not merely a part of
the Somerset Pike or the Ebensburg road, but attempts through the Publicity Committee of the Chamber failed to
put the thing across. From Mundy's to Ebensburg the route is that of the William Penn. From Grampian to DuBois
it is the same as Route No. 5, the Lakes to the Sea Highway; and from Kane to Mt. Jewett it is the same as Route
No. 7, the Roosevelt Highway, across the North Tier counties from Erie to Milford. Excepting short stretches between
Bell's Landing and Grampian, Clearfield County, and between Mt. Jewett and Bradford, this great road is completed.
In 1919 the improved road mileage was 341/2. Four years before that the county commissioners had begun to offer
aid to townships for road building and the townships by 1919 had built seven and one half miles of brick on concrete
base. The cost was $270,500, of which the county paid $115,000. In the same period five miles of county road of
similar type was built by the county. In 1919 the whole state was talking good roads and Cambria County was taking
the lead in road projects. The county commissioners adopted a resolution offering to aid any township in the construction
of permanent roads to the extent of two thirds of the cost. In five years from 1919 to and including 1923 road
building under this program went on at the rate of more than 20 miles a year, about $1,000,000 a year. This gave
the county 151.23 miles of good roads, or twice the mileage which a few years before seemed desirable but impossible
of achievement. Included in this total is 10 miles of state highway routes, but not state or county constructed
roadway, within the City of Johnstown. Johnstown received no state funds for highways and no county funds for paving,
although the county aided the city in the building of a number of bridges. The state had long since abandoned the
macadam type of roads for main highways, convinced that modern traffic requirements demanded a more durable surface,
with heavy stone base, and was building concrete roads of increasing width. The county also was modifying its types
of construction, brick on concrete having long been favored, to adopt the state system of putting hillside brick
only on the heavier grades. Road builders of experience cheerfully attempted to finish in short time stretches
of two or four miles of road, where formerly a mile was considered quite a job. Road building had in fact become
a principal industry.
In the year 1924 there was completed 17.35 miles of state highway in Cambria County, 3.3 miles of county road and
29 miles in townships and boroughs, a total of 49.65 miles, bringing the improved roadways in the county above
200 miles. The county engineer reported 201.58 miles at the close of 1924. The year 1925 found a let up in the
number of contracts made and work in progress was being rapidly completed. The county and the state had no great
funds available for further road expenditures and the townships and boroughs in many instances also had reached
the end of their financial strings. But the state finished 8.60 miles more of road, the county 2.91 miles, and
the townships and boroughs 2.10 miles of macadam and 1.75 miles of hard surface road, a total for the year of 13.26
miles, making 214.84 miles of good roads in the county. Additional mileage under construction included 1.25 miles
on the old Frankstown road out of the city from the head of Main Street, part of the Main Line Highway; 2.15 miles
on state highway route No. 221 out of Hastings through Elder Township to the Clearfield County line; 2 60 miles
on the Blacklick Valley road from Twin Rocks to Vintondale, a county road project; and a quarter mile on the Edwards
Hill road, Westmont Borough, to connect the Lower Yoder Township road already constructed with the Menoher Highway.
These additional roads bring the total to 221.44 miles, including no city paving at all except the 10 miles estimated
as parts of state highway routes within the municipality, and including no paved roadways in boroughs and townships
other than those on the highway routes.
Improved state highway routes in Cambria County were not all built at the expense of the state. Driving over good
roads here, one can not tell by the appearance or type of road whence came the money to pay for the improvement.
The mileage of roads which are primary or secondary state roads in Cambria County, at the close of 1925, was 169.50.
The total state highway and state aid mileage, of which about one third was still earth and cinders, on January
1, 1925, was 10,768.07.
The 169.50 miles of state roads in the county, by types of construction, are: Concrete, 66.27 miles; brick, 34.96
miles; macadam, 17.35 miles; earth, 50.82.
As the state highway routes were originally laid out, they left but a small mileage of county roads, most of which
were parts of pikes when taken over by the county. The 18.04 miles of county road were: The Cresson Pike, brick
on concrete base, 7 miles; the Benscreek Pike, brick on concrete base, 75 mile; the Ligonier Pike, concrete, 1.83
miles; Ligonier Pike, earth, .60 mile; Lovett to Beaverdale, concrete, 2.16 miles; Haws Pike, Johnstown to Westmoreland
County line, cinder surface, 3.10 miles; Vintondale Twin Rocks, 2.60 miles. By Act of Assembly, the Haws Pike became
a state highway this year, 1926, reducing the county road mileage by 3.10 miles. The Ligonier Pike earth section
disappeared, concrete replacing it, so that all of the county road mileage is now improved.
County Engineer Owen makes a tabulation to show the proportionate share of the cost of Cambria County road improvements
with reference to the state, the county and the townships and boroughs, as follows:
Built by the state, 100 per cent payment 44.01 Miles.
Built by county as county roads, 100 per cent 11.74 Miles.
Built by townships, 100 per cent payment 5.00 Miles.
Built by township and county with state 50 per cent 29.80 Miles.
Built by borough and township and two thirds cost by county 83.72 Miles.
Built by township, borough and county, 100 per cent on state highways 30.52 Miles.
Streets in City of Johnstown on state highways improved at 100 per cent cost of city 10.05 Miles.
Total 214.84 Miles
Besides the Haws Pike, the Legislature of 1925 added to the state highway mileage in Cambria County the road from
the end of the concrete near Loretto to Chest Springs, about two miles.
The main state highways in Cambria County are wholly improved. They are the east and west William Penn Highway
and the north and south Route No. 6. The most extensive improvements on other state highways are on what is called
the Main Line Road, Cresson to Johnstown, largely accomplished by the use of county and township and borough funds.
There were many troubles in putting this road through, the boroughs involved being Cresson, Lilly, Cassandra, Portage,
Wilmore, Summerhill and South Fork, and the townships Cresson, Washington, Portage, Summerhill and Croyle, to bring
the road down to connect with the Adams and Richland Township roads to the Windber road at Geistown. From the beginning
of state road mapping and planning, it was hoped that a way would be found to make a roadway between Johnstown
and South Fork through the gorge of the Conemaugh by way of Mineral Point, though costs appeared to be prohibitive
for the cuts and fills along the narrow way. The state highway was routed from South Fork to Lambs Bridge, giving
access to the Adams Township brick road at that point and thence to the head of Main Street, Johnstown, over the
old Frankstown road. The state balked at the city end of this proposed road, claiming the grades into Main Street
were excessive and that for all but local service the Clapboard Run road out of Franklin or some other route from
the city would serve as well, but admitting that the roundabout route through Adams and Richland did not relieve
the state of the obligation to provide a direct Main Line road. This difficulty was solved by an agreement with
the county that the county take over the Johnstown end of the road, while the state, by relocation, would greatly
improve the section from Lamb's Bridge toward the city, meeting the county on the top of the hill. By that time,
however, the Main Line road was in use from Cresson to Lamb's Bridge, and the water grade road from South Fork
to Johnstown had been discarded for the present. East Taylor Township had given the Mineral Point section an outlet
by concrete and brick by connecting with the Ebensburg road above Conemaugh, and other county aid roads were built
to connect up places in Adams, Croyle and Summerhill townships.
Cresson Township declined to petition the county for aid on its Main Line road mileage or to pledge its credit
for part of the cost. The township supervisors objected that the state intended to relocate the road so as to leave
without direct access to it a number of residents whose homes were on the north side of the Pennsylvania Railroad
tracks. They also insisted that the state highway should take the course of the old road to the Summit, whereas
the state's engineers eliminated distance and grade by a relocation. In efforts to remove this blockade, the Good
Roads Committee of the Johnstown Chamber of Commerce, the Old Portage Main Line Association and enthusiasts in
Cresson, Lilly and other places went so far as to join Cresson Township taxpayers in subscribing funds to make
good the amount of money withheld by the township supervisors. Other means of completing the financing of the road
faunally were found. In no other township in the county did a similar situation arise, although there were endless
arguments as to the proper location of roads. Location and bridge troubles at Portage and Lilly were encountered
and the county commissioners demanded that the probable amount of damages to be paid be determined before the county
notified the state that funds were available and the county wished the state to proceed with construction. There
were bitter fights, too, on this and other road projects, as to alleged unfair centralization of and exercise of
power from the State Highway Department, but the roads came through just the same. A small gap in the Main Line
Road at Lilly should be closed this year.
The Main Line state highway route is of great local importance. As a state highway the western terminus of the
route was at Johnstown. But Johnstown looked upon this road as a part of a longer road worth while considering
in relation to the whole highway system for this section of the state. The Johnstown good roads boosters saw the
Main Line of the future connected up with the Menoher Highway, Johnstown to Ligonier, as a part of an attractive
and highly useful cross over between Altoona, north of the William Penn Highway, and points south of the Lincoln
Highway west of Greensburg - an almost direct line from Altoona through Johnstown, Ligonier, Greensburg, West Newton
and Monongahela City to Washington, Pa., and the Old National Road.
The water grade secondary state highway down Clearfield Creek from Gallitzin through Syberton, Ashville, Dysart,
Dean, Frugality, VanOrmer and Flinton to the county line near Coalport, with its branch from VanOrmer to Glasgow
and Blandburg and across the mountain to Ramey, is the most belated of the original Sproul Act routes in the county.
From Cresson to Gallitzin there is a good road, built with county aid as part of the Main Line route. State aid
was long ago applied for on the Gallitzin Township section to Ashville. Dean Township has been able to do but little
on its own account. Reade Township taxpayers contended hotly with each other for several years as to whether the
hill road or the creek road should have preference, but finally the voters got together and authorized a bond issue
to the limit of the remaining borrowing capacity, about $130,000. The mountain towns were demanding an improved
road from Blandburg to Bellwood, which would let them into Altoona. The county commissioners in 1926 agreed to
apply the county's state award funds to the creek road, and after obstacles in the way of possible damage claims
had been removed, the state let a contract for 3.5 miles from Flinton toward Ashville. Completion to Ashville,
and from Ashville to Gallitzin, is not yet in sight.
There was also a gap between Ashville and Chest Springs on the Buckhorn road, Patton to Altoona. The route between
Ebensburg and Indiana, two county seats, also has been slow to materialize. A concrete county aid road was built
from the William Penn at Mundy's to Nanty Glob, in the valley of the Blacklick, and this was extended over a section
of Indiana road to Belsano. A spur was built from Ebensburg to the new coal town of Revloc, and from the Ebensburg-Carrolltown
road (Route No. 6) to the coal town of Colver, both in Cambria Township. Farther north, Barr Township, on county
aid, improved the road from Spangler to Nicktown, intending later to extend this road to the township line and
then through Blacklick Township to connect at Belsano with the Indiana road and the road into Nanty Glob. Such
an extension would give to the west of the county a shorter route to Spangler, Barnesboro and the north, and a
fine alternative road at times when Route 6 and the William Penn Highway are congested with traffic or temporarily
out of use for reconstruction, repairs or bridge building.
Carroiltown and Patton, Patton and Hastings, Hastings and Barnesboro were linked up in the north county system,
Route 6 from Carrolitown through Spangler to Barnesboro completing the loop. While delays caused by the war and
lack of state funds kept the main highway blocked between Ebensburg and Spangler, East Carroll and Allegheny townships,
with county aid, put through a brick on concrete road from Loretto to Strittmatters, near Carrolltown. This road
was of great service for several years as an alternate route to state highways.
Many roads besides those on state highways were built from the townships on the surrounding hills to the City of
Johnstown. West Taylor and Middle Taylor constructed brick roads to Coopersdale and Minersville, respectively.
East Taylor connected up the north of the township and the Mineral Point section, then asked the county to help
bring Route 6 into the city from Good's Corner to the city line at Prospect. The old Ebensburg road was originally
a part of this main highway, then known as Route 62, but the Ebensburg road had a bad hump on a sharp curve near
the bridge over the Pennsylvania Railroad. Besides, it was politically wise to draw the route out of the city through
Franklin and Conemaugh boroughs, and perhaps, under then existing traffic conditions, also wise from the viewpoint
of a traffic engineer. At any rate, Prospect lost the road and Conemaugh got it, even though the Conemaugh route
led over several railroad crossings at grade in the city and over an unsatisfactory bridge between Conemaugh and
Franklin and a dangerous bridge between the city and Franklin Borough. The county and East Taylor Township got
together, under strong pressure from the City of Johnstown, and brought the highway to the city line by the more
direct route, which avoided the grade crossings. By that time it was certain that the Conemaugh-Franklin bridge
over the Little Conemaugh and the tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad must be rebuilt, and that the rebuilding
would cause great inconvenience, if not danger, as it actually did before the Prospect route was improved.
To meet the county township plans for a main highway pitching into the city from Prospect, the city located and
opened a new thoroughfare through Prospect, calling it Middle Avenue, avoiding the hairpin curve and excessive
grade of the old Ebensburg road, and giving a more direct route. Viewers, however, felt themselves justified in
awarding damages to a number of property owners considerably in excess of benefits to be derived from a fine new
street on a main state highway. The City Council, wrestling with the problem of financing a heavy program of improvements
in a complete sanitary sewer system, a number of bridges and many street paving and repaving jobs, threatened to
repeal the ordinance for the opening, of Middle Avenue. No such action was taken, however. The street was opened,
but owing to the heavy grading done could not be paved at once. Then, in accordance with engineering policy of
the city, it was necessary to construct storm and sanitary sewers. This year, however, the work of opening, grading,
paving and curbing was completed. The Conemaugh-Franklin bridge had been rebuilt and the City of Johnstown, Franklin
Borough, the Pennsylvania Railroad, Bethlehem Steel Company and utilities interested had agreed upon plans for
an overhead bridge from Maple Avenue to Franklin Borough, crossing the railroad's tracks and the Little Conemaugh.
Plans of some years ago had contemplated a subway at this point, under the stream and the Pennsylvania Railroad
to the north side of the river.
West and Middle Taylor Township roads may easily be extended northward to the William Penn whenever the cost appears
to be justified. North and south traffic may now use either the Prospect or the Conemaugh routes and both are greatly
relieved by completion of the Main Line Road, with further relief in sight when the Lamb's Bridge-Frankstown road
is completed into Main Street. The Windber road through Dale, Walnut Grove and Geistown is heavily used and in
good condition up to the city line, with traffic of such volume as to indicate that Bedford Street must be regarded
as a main thoroughfare of the future. The Constable Hollow or Arbutus Park road from Moxham to Geistown is serviceable,
but is not a first class road. The bad name given it in political squabbling has had enduring effects. The outlet
through Ferndale was made a first class roadway from Ferndale to Island Park, but comes to the city line over a
dangerous grade crossing and a bridge of insufficient width at Bridge Street. A general traffic bridge across the
Stony Creek from Moxhana to Ferndale is now proposed, on about the location of the present Johnstown Traction Company
bridge. To meet the traffic conditions arising from the completion of the water level road to Jennertown and the
partial completion of routes to Davidsville, Hooversville and Stoyestown, the city improved Franklin Street from
its connection with Valley Pike to the city line, and the county and Upper Yoder Township paved the road to a connection
with the old Somerset Pike at Island Park. In Roxbury, Franklin Street meets new boulevard streets which extend
up the hill through Southmont to connect with the Menoher Highway, and by agreement with Somerset County, the old
Ligonier Pike route, from Sulphur Springs across the county line into Cambria County to meet Menoher Highway, also
is improved, Cambria and Somerset counties each working to the line. This agreement is in part the result of the
efforts of Cambria and Westmoreland to put through the Menoher Highway from Johnstown to Ligonier, a small section
of the Menoher Highway cutting across the northwest corner of Somerset County. The beginning of Menoher Highway
was in Johnstown, when the city extended Somerset Street to meet, the roadway down from Westmont by way of Grandview
Cemetery, the road then being designated as the Millcreek Road. When agitation began to put the road through to
Ligonier, the road was renamed for its entire length in honor of Maj. Gen. Charles T. Menoher, commander of the
Rainbow Division, American Expeditionary Forces, who was born near Ligonier.
From Westmont and Brownsville another road came down to Cambria City. From Edwards Hill, Lower Yoder Township paved
its way into Morreliville. A concrete road was built along the north side of the river from Minersville to Coopersdale.
For a western outlet directly from the City of Johnstown there are various related plans, some of which have been
carried out, some are awaiting only funds and some are still being debated. When the city plan, discussed in another
chapter, was made, it provided for a boulevard to replace Iron Street west to the Cambria City bridge. In the original
circumstances Cambria Steel Company desired to occupy the space of Iron Street between the present mill fence and
the river wall for plant and track extensions. When the agreement finally was signed, however, Bethlehem Steel
Company did not deem this space so highly valuable for manufacturing purposes, but was willing to carry out the
agreement for the sake of improved traffic conditions. The change calls for a new general traffic bridge from the
foot of Conemaugh Street, at the Point, across the Stonycreek, and a boulevard passing under the famous Stone Bridge
of the Pennsylvania Railroad to Cambria City. Broad Street and other thoroughfares in Cambria City, Morreliville
and Oakhurst sections have already been improved to the exit from the city by way of the Haws Pike, now state highway,
and a new bridge to Coopersdale carries the city traffic to the old Cramer Pike, also now state highway, on the
Indiana side of the Conemaugh River below the city.
Johnstown good roads boosters have long sought better facilities for traffic between the Wheatfields of Indiana
County and the Seward-New Florence section in Westmoreland County and the valley back of them. In both these fields
progress was made, but the main highway question of how best to hook up the city with the William Penn remains
The Cramer Pike, on the Indiana side, is a lovely summer road. It runs by easy grade to the mountain side below
Coopersdale and holds its course to Cramer well above the level of the river and the railroad tracks below. The
railroad, years ago, had crowded the road out of the ravine, giving the best grades to steam railroads on both
sides of the river, and to accomplish this the railroad had aided the Wheatfield farmers and others in constructing
the Cramer Pike. On the Westmoreland side, also well above the railroad tracks on the mountain side, the Haws Pike
had a bit more bench room and perhaps better rock foundation, so that it was wider and considered safer for two
way motor traffic than Cramer Pike.
Cramer Pike, the story goes, was located and laid out by the late John Fulton for Cambria. It is quite likely
that the object of the steel company was to make itself elbow room for a railroad outlet toward the west. In case
it became necessary, Cambria felt that it was in position to strike out on its own account or to join with others
in making a north and south railroad, and it could take to the ridges to go eastward. But the narrows of the Conemaugh
below the city were pretty well monopolized when the Pennsylvania interests took over the old canal and tracks
were laid and operated on both sides of the Conemaugh. Cambria, it is fair to say now, did not intend to be bottled
up in that direction. It literally took to the hills to secure and hold an outlet. No official record exists, so
far as is known to the writer, of the purpose here ascribed to Cambria, but there is little doubt that mountain
survey marked the direction of an effort to maintain the independence of Johnstown's greatest industry from railroad
Cramer Pike was put on the state highway map as part of the route from Greensburg to Ebensburg on the county seat
to county seat plan, coming into Johnstown by way of New Alexandria, Blairsville, Clyde and Armagh. The William
Penn to Mundys would now be the natural route. Also on the state highway map was the valley road from Ligonier
through Fort Palmer, West Fairfield and New Florence to Seward, where it met the Haws Pike, and from Seward across
the river to Cramer.
Both the Westmoreland and the Indiana sections wanted better roads and better access to Johnstown. Johnstown wanted
better communication with both sections and also sought a closer connection with the William Penn at Armagh. But
the state, three counties and several boroughs and townships, not to mention the Pennsylvania Railroad, were involved.
Extensive improvements were made on the Haws Pike and Cramer Pike was fairly well maintained.
A plan with strong Johnstown support was devised to make the Haws Pike a state highway by changing Route No. 223,
Greensburg to Ebensburg, after leaving Cramer, so as to cross the river from near the mouth of Cramer Run to the
Haws Pike above Seward. Senator W. I. Stineman later gave this measure his support and some backing was found for
it in Indiana, Westmoreland and other counties. The West Wheatfield folks, and some of those who had disposed of
their Cramer Pike stock at a low figure in order to free the road of tolls and make it a state highway, feared
that abandonment of Cramer Pike as a state highway meant its abandonment as a public road of any kind. The State
Highway Department, while giving no indication that it was ready to promise construction of a state highway on
the Cramer Pike, was not prepared to undertake the construction of viaducts or bridges and the viaduct across the
Conemaugh was bound to be costly.
The distance from City Hall, Johnstown, to Cramer is about the same by the Cramer Pike and the Haws Pike routes.
The viaduct would carry the highway over the railroad tracks on both side of the river, eliminate a dangerous grade
crossing at Seward and complete an excellent connection between the city and the William Penn. The Chaplin bill
was not passed, but in 1925 the Haws Pike, Johnstown to Cramer, was made a state highway without affecting the
status of the Cramer Pike. The necessary replacement of the Seward bridge and the rapid growth of the Seward-New
Florence section, together with the progress made on the road to Indiana by way of Armagh, Mechanicsburg and Homer
City, and the rapidly increasing motor traffic between Johnstown and Pittsburgh, are certain to keep the western
outlet a live subject, with the probabilities that there will be two roads, one on each side of the river.
Opening of Route 317, Island Park to Jennerstown, on the Lincoln Highway, was celebrated in the fall of 1921. Friday,
Aug. 3, 1923, the Meyersdale Chamber of Commerce and the Salisbury Board of Trade invited Johnstown, Somerset and
other towns to join in the celebration of opening Route 6 from the National Highway in Maryland to the Lincoln
Highway at Jenrierstown, 47 miles.
Sept. 25, 1923, southern Cambria, central Cambria and north Cambria joined in a great celebration at Sunset Park,
a parade leaving Johnstown with floats and banners and traveling by way of Loretto and the Bradley Junction road
to Carrolltown. A numerous brigade joined in line at Ebensburg. At Loretto Charles M. Schwab and motorists from
Main Line towns were added to the parade. Over the whole circuit - Carrolltown, Spangler, Barnesboro, Hastings
and Patton, the towns were decorated and each added its section to the parade. Many of the Johnstowners in that
parade that day had their first good look at Northern Cambria. The festivities showed a degree of cordiality in
the relations of the north and the south, created largely by the union of good roads workers in a common cause.
The original road map for Cambria had almost worked a charm. When contracts on Route 6 were held up because it
was deemed necessary by the highway department that the Northern Cambria Traction Company take its tracks off the
road, Johnstown Chamber of Commerce had put $1,000 in a pool to help the traction company out of the way to make
the improvement which was almost certainly bound to greatly limit if not ruin the prospects of the trolley line
for future prosperity.
One of the hardest and longest drawn out road fights was that as to the first improved road between Someset and
Johnstown. The Friedens-Stoyestown route would serve the most populous territory. The Benscreek route through Jennerstown
was a water grade. As a political proposition the Friedens route was much the better. As an engineering project,
the Benscreek offered many inducements. The Sproul Act was several times amended, while both the Friedeiis route
and the Benscreek route advocates were several times thoroughly scared by the clamor in favor of a third route,
by way of Scalp, Windber and Central City to the Lincoln Highway. Samuel Lenhart, former sheriff of Cambia County,
had his summer home near Sulphur Spring and the late Judge Francis J. O'Connor held the O'Connor farm. These two
led the fight for the Benscreek road. They had a powerful ally in Edward Manning Bigelow, then highway commissioner,
but the General Assembly several times changed the Somerset County routings and Somerset County politically could
not grasp the thought that perhaps more than one road was possible.
Cambria County, especially Johnstown, has been deeply interested in the road to Windber and beyond, by way of Rummel
and Ogletown across the Allegheny Mountain to Pleasantville and thence to Bedford by way of Schellsburg or through
"Our many matchless miles of scenic splendor make Pennsylvania unique and unsurpassed," says Dr. Martin
G. Brumbaugh, former governor of Pennsylvania. No part of the state is scenically more splendid than Cambria County.
Menoher Highway, traveling in either direction, presents some of the loveliest mountain and valley views in the
state. More sedate but not less charming, at any season of the year, is the Benscreek drive from the Lincoln Highway
into the City of Johnstown. On William Penn Highway there are many splendid views. Especially rugged is the scenery
glimpsed from several points over the valley of the Blacklick.
In these pages on modern road building in Cambria County the old Sproul Act route numbers have been abandoned.
The main state highways are rapidly being given names and markers. Readable road and street signs everywhere point
the way and guide books are universally used by the motorist who ventures out of his home territory.
There is almost certain to be a lull in road building. In Cambria County the people authorized a county bond issue
of $5,000,000 at one time but decided adversely in 1924 at a special election the question of approval of an additional
county loan of $3,000,000. Some townships which were too poor or too conservative to contribute their shares to
road funds for local projects are caught in the slump in road building. One of the features of the road development
illustrating how state and county sentiment as expressed by majority votes affected communities opposed to the
bond issues or to the roads as planned, is that in Cambria County more than a million dollars of county funds were
devoted to roads in townships that had voted against road bonds.
State roads, county roads and township and borough roads have run away with bridge funds. It will require much
money to make the bridges and viaducts of the state highways as good as the roads are now. So it is in Cambria
County. The county commissioners in submitting the question of more bonds in 1924, stated that a temporary slackening
of speed in road building would bring some inconvenience but no serious injury to any one. But there was some degree
of urgency in the bridge situation. A dozen bridges were named as worn out, too narrow or otherwise incapable of
meeting traffic demands. These new bridges will cost about $650,000. Then the county is called upon for aid in
bridge building by the City of Johnstown to the extent of at least $500,000.
Increasing the adverse vote on the bond were political considerations of various kinds, but perhaps the greatest
factor was the common belief that taxes were not equitably assessed and collected, and that the burden of public
improvement loans was not equally distributed. Then, too, the City of Johnstown was carrying out a heavy improvement
program of its own on streets, bridges and sewers, the city school board was spending borrowed money at the rate
of about a million a year for improvements and extensions, nearly every township and borough was loaded to the
limit with bonds and principal industries were facing somewhat discouraging prospects.
The problems of road and bridge maintenance are becoming important financially. There have long been serious disputes
as to divisions and limitations of authority between the state and the county and the townships. Few communities
determine the width of roads and the character of construction from actual deeds and probable future traffic. Everybody
wants a first class road. Curtailment of tax funds or borrowing capacity are bringing a change in this respect.