Retracing the Route of the
Even though Terry and I met in Memphis, and even though she moved to Atlanta when I began my graduate studies at Georgia Tech, I knew all along that she was a "place person"—with Knoxville, Tennessee, being her place. She was born there, she grew up there, and she still has there an extensive network of family and friends.
Because Knoxville lies at the junction of two major interstates (I-40 and I-75), I had passed through the city several times before meeting Terry. I had also long associated Knoxville with the Great Smoky Mountains—which lie about an hour's drive southeast. But I was slow to appreciate Knoxville's character as a river city. Not only are the main offices of the Tennessee Valley Authority located downtown, but the Tennessee itself officially begins just upstream, at the confluence of the Holston and the French Broad.
One day it finally hit me that Knoxville lies downstream from Asheville, North Carolina—a seeming impossibility, based on a drive I once took between the two cities via Newfound Gap in the Smokies. But a little work with my road atlas revealed that despite the dramatic height of the Smokies, the Appalachians culminate not with Clingman's Dome but with Mount Mitchell—which lies east and a little north of Asheville, thereby giving the French Broad its opportunity for a downhill run to Knoxville.
Later I learned that the French Broad is one of several Appalachian rivers that slice almost completely across the mountain chain. Notable among these is the Susquehanna—so that whenever I drive from Rochester to Baltimore or Washington, via US-15, it's the Asheville-Knoxville puzzle all over again, on an even grander scale. Believe it or not, after reaching Wayland, New York (within an hour after starting), it's downhill the rest of the way: from the Conhocton and the Chemung to the Susquehanna and the Chesapeake Bay.
Of course—to identify again the origin of the puzzle—the road doesn't follow the streambed exactly. It rises and falls in ways often quite different from the river. If anything, however, the illusion of the river doing the impossible is even stronger with the Susquehanna than with the French Broad, because—unlike the French Broad—its watershed was reshaped during the Ice Age. Not only did the ice itself (and the rubble it left behind) give new definition to the upper reaches of the watershed, but torrents of meltwater broadened the lower valley far more dramatically than today's river could possibly have done. Especially impressive in this regard are the "water gaps," where long ridges have been severed, leaving in the riverbed only the barest hints of resistant strata.
It was the terrain of the Susquehanna that Terry and I sought to explore on our trip to retrace the route of the Sullivan Expedition. We left Rochester on 15 August 1993, following I-390 and NY-17—the same stretch of highway I had taken so many times to visit Grandma Cornell. We even took our first break (and our first pictures) at the Campbell Rest Stop. Soon after that, we reached Painted Post. From there we followed US-15: up the Tioga, over the mountains that had blocked the southward flow of the continental ice, and finally to Williamsport, on the West Branch of the Susquehanna.
At Williamsport we made our first research stop—at the Lycoming County Historical Museum. Rather than studying the exhibits, however, I spent most of my time surveying the publications for sale in the museum shop—to see if any of them could help us locate the historical sites I wanted to visit. Here I was unexpectedly lucky, adding to our car library George R. Beyer's Guide to the State Historical Markers of Pennsylvania8—which included the marker for Fort Freeland, our next intended research stop.
Rather than returning to US-15, we left Williamsport via I-180 (east of the river) and made our way to Warrior Run. Although the historical marker turned out to be located near the old Warrior Run Church, the woman who gave us a tour of the church was able to direct us to the fort's actual site, about a mile away. There we found a small stone marker that read simply: