After the Lewis and Clark Expedition returned East, America’s founding fathers realized the United States would become a vast country stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The National Road became the solution.
When George Washington and Thomas Jefferson moved, on a grand scale, to introduce an Act of Congress to build a proper road from Cumberland, Maryland to Wheeling, West Virginia. It would be the first constructed totally with federal funds. Work on the road began in 1811 and finally connected to Wheeling in 1818. The route was extended to Vandalia, Illinois in the 1830s.
The arrival of the National Road would bring in an era of prosperity that lasted nearly a century. As it turns out, Pennsylvania’s 90-mile section of the Historic National Road was also the site of some very important events in US history. The first shots of the French and Indian War, which began America’s fight for independence, were fired here.
Later, the Whiskey Rebellion tested the federal authority of the United States, when President Washington, traveled to Western Pennsylvania to quell the unrest. Uniontown, Brownsville, and Washington evolved into major commercial centers, while small towns, taverns, and businesses sprang up from end to end to serve westward-bound travelers on what is now US Route 40.