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When you drive along Brodhead Road in Center, Aliquippa, or Hopewell, think of this: Brodhead's Road was the first highway built through the wilderness that was to become Beaver County.
The significance of this early highway is best understood in light of circumstances of the year 1778. A fledgling nation was struggling through the trauma of birth, her unprepared, desperate army perilously close to defeat at the hands of a bitter enemy. Conditions were most severe in the wilderness of the Ohio Valley. Here in the hills that would one day become Beaver County, a few determined pioneers fought for their liberty against almost constant attacks by the savage Indian allies of the British.
The furthest outpost of civilization was the village of Pittsburgh and its fortress at the forks of the Ohio, built 20 years earlier during the French and Indian War. A highly controversial plan was proposed by Brig. General Lachlan McIntosh, Commander of the Western Department.
The frontier could be better defended, McIntosh felt, if a second fort were constructed on the north side of the Ohio, at the mouth of the Beaver. Fort McIntosh was built, despite much opposition, and it was named for the man who had proposed it, and who became its first commander. To supply the fort, a road was cut through the wilderness from Fort Pitt.
Few records concerning this road have come down to us, but according to legend, much of the route followed an old Indian trail called the "Glade Path." The road was not named at first, but in successive years, it became known as Brodhead's Road. Colonel Daniel Brodhead was a rival of Gen. McIntosh, and one of his most bitter critics. Shortly after the completion of Fort McIntosh and its supply road, Col. Brodhead replaced the General in command of the post.
Brodhead thus became closely associated with the road, and history has firmly affixed his name to it. Brodhead's Rd. traverses three communities in Beaver County, and can easily be identified with the present-day Brodhead Rd. through Hopewell, Aliquippa and much of Center Twp. In the vicinity of the Beaver Valley Mall, however, the modern road diverges from its namesake and leads north and west into Monaca.
More recently, a modem four-lane highway supplanted the contemporary Brodhead Rd. and in seeking a more direct route into Monaca, retraced a short stretch of the original 1778 road.
In selecting an appropriate site for the historical marker, it was decided to place it on a portion of the original route which was not heavily traveled, so that those passing by could pause and read t e inscription. The sections of the old road, passed by when modem highway improvements began, did not retain their original name, but are known variously as North Branch Rd., Stone Quarry Rd., and Wagner Rd. The first of these, a narrow twisting lane reminiscent of the early country roads, shares a beautiful vista with North Branch Church and Cemetery. With the permission and agreement of church officials, it was decided that this would be the perfect spot for the marker.
Another section of the old road, completely abandoned and forgotten in the 20th century, is unfortunately inaccessible to the casual visitor. History tells us that the supply road came down to the Ohio River through the gap opposite the fort.
Nearly a quarter-mile of the old Brodhead's Rd. is clearly traceable along the hillside.
Topographic maps of the area, drawn in 1905, show no trace of the road through the gap, so it must have been abandoned long before. Similarly, the 1876 Atlas of Beaver County shows no road in this location. An unworthy fate for a part of the first public highway in Beaver County.
The fort didn't fare as well as the road. After only 10 years it was abandoned and replaced by the Big Beaver Blockhouse, on a site now in New Brighton.
In the years following 1778, the new nation won its independence and went on to bigger things.