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The Crossroads of America exhibition, which is currently being constructed on the first floor of Allegany Museum, covers the history of the National Road. We are taking care to include people who have often been overlooked.

For example, did you know that, in the 1800s, African Americans were a common sight on the National Road? They often worked as wagoneers, typically unaccompanied by anyone who might stop them from escaping. Two of the best known were Westley Strother, and Samuel Nimmey.

Most tavern owners along the National Road owned more than one tavern. African Americans worked moving goods from one tavern to another. Enslaved African Americans also transported other slaves for their owners.  In his book “The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself” (1849, )Josiah Henson describes a  journey in 1825 on which he delivered eighteen other enslaved people and himself from his master’s home in Virginia to his master’s brother’s home in Kentucky, largely via the National Road. Along the way, he was complimented many times on his reliability, and other travelers offered to purchase him.

The Crossroads of America exhibition will feature the history of human movement in the area. Plans for the approximately 4,500 square foot space include a Native American hut, a model of Fort Cumberland, models of what George Washington looked like when he visited the area in the 1750s and again in 1794, and displays about the building of the National Road, the C&O canal, and the railroads.

Josiah Henson