In the early Americas Native American societies developed a vast network of trails and pathways that connected societies from New York into Canada all the way into the Southeast and Southwest, into Mesoamerica. Archaeologists have found evidence of trade goods traveling between the Great Lakes and Gulf Coast, and large trading centers such as Cahokia (near modern St. Louis) facilitated long-distance trade between various regions in North America. Trails were also used as warpaths and many other uses. The Seneca Trail roughly follows the route of U.S. 219 through West Virginia from Silver Lake on the Maryland border to Princeton on the state’s southern border with Virginia.
Some historians claim that the Seneca Trail was also used as a colonial boundary between British settlers and Native lands, in both the Treaty of Albany (1722) and the Proclamation of 1763. The Treaty of Albany recognized the Blue Ridge Mountains as the boundary between Virginia and Native lands; later treaties, such as the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, pushed that line further west. The Proclamation Line of 1763 was created in the aftermath of the French & Indian War to regulate relations with Native Americans and restrict white settlement in the west (hoping to manage some of the violence occurring between Native Americans and white settlers). The watershed of the Appalachian Mountains was the boundary line, with all land with water flowing east towards the coast marked for the Virginians and all land with water flowing west towards the Mississippi marked for the Native Americans. The Seneca Trail lies west of these two marked boundaries, but it may have been an understood boundary for local travelers.
In the 1920s, West Virginia historian Hu Maxwell located and followed the Seneca Trail to find the missing pieces to link the route together from Oakland, MD and Elkins, WV and map the trail through WV.
Fansler, Homer Boyd. History of Tucker County, West Virginia. Parsons, WV: McClain Print Co., 1962.
Graves, Birch. “The Seneca Trail.” Traveling 219: The Seneca Trail. Accessed September 1, 2020. http://www.traveling219.com/stories/elkins-marlinton/the-seneca-trail-history/.
“Native American Clashes with European Settlers.” West Virginia Archives & History. Accessed September 2, 2020. http://www.wvculture.org/history/archives/indians/indland.html.
Rice, Donald L. “The Seneca Trail.” The West Virginia Encyclopedia. Accessed September 1, 2020. http://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/243.
Cobb, William H. Indian Trails, Frontier Forts, Revolutionary Soldiers and Pioneers of Randolph County. Elkins, 1923.
Maxwell, Hu. “The Seneca Indian Trail.” Magazine of History & Biography (1954).
Myer, William E. Indian Trails of the Southeast. Washington: Bureau of American Ethnology, 1928.