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Watershed Human History- Sideling Hill Creek

Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct
Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct

The first European settlers arrived in the Sideling Hill Creek watershed in the 1730’s. The European settlers moved into the region to set up trading posts and hunt the abundant game that lived in the forested ridges and valleys of southeastern Bedford County. Throughout the late 1700’s and into the mid-1800’s the valleys in the Sideling Hill Creek watershed were slowly cleared to make room for agriculture, while the ridges were logged to provide local building materials and household fuel.

By the time the area was “accessible” by mass transport systems, including the B&O railroad in the 1830’s and the C&O canal in the 1840’s, the watershed had already defined itself as a self-sufficient region dependent on small-scale and primarily subsistence agriculture and forestry. Although in many regions the arrival of major transport systems have historically led to an instant rise in the export of raw materials, the arrival of mass transport in the Sideling Hill Creek watershed seems to have had little such impact, with the possible exception of the timber industry. Transporting agricultural and forest products from the watershed to major hubs of commerce such as Cumberland, MD or Washington, D.C. was certainly made easier, however the lack of historically important raw materials in the region, such as coal, led to the preservation of an almost pre-industrial landscape.

Historically, there were approximately twelve small communities in the Sideling Hill Creek watershed, all of which had a post office, a general store, and most had a schoolhouse and church. These communities were self-supporting with a schoolhouse (built near a spring for a water supply), a post office, and a community store. They also offered services like blacksmiths, shoemakers, and wheelwrights. Farm produce would be carried, usually to Cumberland, Maryland, packed in ice and bartered for necessary household items. Icehouses were filled with blocks cut from the nearby winter-frozen stream.

However, as transportation routes became more reliable and people began moving to the cities, these small communities began to disappear. Although many of the communities that once existed in the watershed are now no more than a small cluster of homes, at best, the names of these communities can still be found on most maps. In many cases only remnants of the once thriving community remains such as the Fairview church at Ingelsmith; the mill foundations at Silver Mills; and the general store building at Purcell. From old farm houses to roads that bare the name of the first families to settle the area, the Sideling Hill Creek landscape is dotted with historical reminders that tell the story of place changed by time, but conscious of its historical identity.

For more information on the history of the watershed, visit the Villiage of Chaneysville or the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy's websites.

Source: Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

Watershed Map

Sideling Hill Creek Watershed Map
Map contains the following: