Russell Shorto

Down the Road

When we told friends last year that we had decided to move from Europe to the mountains of western Maryland, we got the same response (complete with italics) over and over:


Point taken. Our new home, while it excels in hiking trails and glorious views, is not especially great for culture, restaurants, night life or even good coffee. But we had several reasons for moving where we did. High among them was that I was about to launch into work on a book about the American Revolution. My new town, Cumberland, would place me near the center of the action, within driving distance of battlefields and libraries up and down the East Coast.

Continue to my New York Times story on Braddock’s road.

3 Replies to “Down the Road”

  1. Mark Fisher says:

    Great article. Even better, to me, is your ‘story’ about why you are in Cumberland. I am Chair of the Cumberland Planning Commission, work with Economic Development and Neighborhood Revitalization, and I am a candidate for City Council. You and your family are a perfect example of who we (Cumberland) need to attract.

    I’d love to hear more about what made you pick Cumberland and the factors in your decision. It could help our outreach efforts to bring more independently employed, intellectual, and culturally diverse families into our city.

  2. Lynne Bair says:

    It was thrilling to me to read your wonderfully written article. Both my parents families have been from Cumberland and western Pennsylvania since colonial times. I never lived in Cumberland myself, but summers and vacations were always spent there. My parents and previous generations are buried in Rose Hill cemetery, and our last family home is next down Washington Street from the church at 104 Washington, now the Gilchrist Museum and Gallery.

    Anyway, your highlighting of the little appreciated rich history of this region,and of how evocative the woods and roads still are, was great to read.. I hope you continue to focus your writer’s eye on the historic America that dwells in Cumberland and vicinity, appreciated by many locals but unknown elsewhere.

    By the way, I think you will agree that Washington Street itself is a fascinating tour through major American architectural styles of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    Thank you for sharing the odd spell this historic area can cast if one stops to consider it a little more deeply.

    Lynne Bair

  3. I enjoyed your beautifully written piece. I have spent the last 4 years researching and writing a manuscript on my 4G-Grandfather, a German immigrant farmer of 1750 who settled north of Hagerstown in 1753. In writing his story, now en route to submission to an academic publisher, I have done much of the Braddock road as you have, stopped at Braddock’s burial site, driven through Cumberland. It is magic country. What also impressed me was that things that happened in the 18th c are so deeply imbedded in the names we gave roads and features of the geography. Would enjoy talking/emailing with you if you are so inclined.

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About the Author

  I was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I have three children (Anna, Eva and Anthony) and three step-children (Reinier, Hector and Benjamin).  I write books of narrative history; I believe history is most meaningful to us when it manifests itself through individuals in conflict. My books have been published in fourteen languages and have won numerous awards.  I am senior scholar at the New Netherland Institute and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. My interests include the past, the present and the future, not necessarily in that order.  

photo by Keke Keukelaar