The Washington Times

May 3, 1999, Monday, Final Edition 


HEADLINE: Pioneer's grave complete again; Stone returned to rightful place  


   OLDTOWN, Md.  - Col.  Thomas Cresap's tombstone is back where it belongs, atop the grave of the pioneer who blazed a trail across Western Maryland in the mid-1700s. 

   Allegany County history buff Francis Zumbrun used an 1884 map to find the spot along the Potomac River near Oldtown where Cresap was buried in 1787. On April 24, he enlisted a Boy Scout troop from La Vale to help mark the grave with the headstone, which had been moved a mile away to a churchyard for protection 60 years ago. 

     The grave lies within the C&O Canal National Historical Park near Lock 70, where it will be developed this summer as a historic attraction with interpretive markers. 

   "Everyone in Kentucky knows who Daniel Boone is.  Everyone in Maryland should know Thomas Cresap.  He's our state's great frontiersman," Mr. Zumbrun said. 

   An English immigrant, Cresap founded the first white settlement in Allegany County by establishing a trading post and stockade at Oldtown in the early 1740s.  George Washington stayed at the Cresap house several times on trips west. 

   Cresap, working with the Delaware Indian Nemacolin, laid out a passage west from Cumberland to Pittsburgh.  It evolved into the Braddock Trail, which became part of the National Road and eventually U.S.  40. 

   Cresap was buried near his homestead in a spot marked with a rough fieldstone slightly larger than a loaf of bread.  Scratched on the stone was the inscription: T.C.  Died Jan.  31, 1787. 

   In 1939, the headstone was carted to the Oldtown United Methodist Church Cemetery with the blessing of Cresap's descendants.  The grave site was not recorded and became lost to memory. 

   In the early 1980s, Mr.  Zumbrun obtained a map noting the approximate burial site from the local Cresap Society.  He had never visited the spot but assumed it was marked by a monument, like the 8-foot Cresap memorial in Cumberland's Riverside Park.  About 10 years ago, he learned that the grave's exact location was unknown and decided to find it. 

   His decade-long search ended recently when Mr.  Zumbrun and Carl Robinette, a friend who works for the Soil Conservation Service, pinpointed the spot after Mr.  Robinette noticed a fieldstone protruding at an unnatural angle in the general area of the grave.  Then they found several similar stones in a circular pattern, all standing on end. 

   The characteristics matched a description of the grave found by the National Park Service in records at the Allegany County Courthouse. Infrared scanning yielded no verifiable images of human remains but also showed nothing that would preclude a grave. 

   "Based on the historical record and the infrared, we're definitely sure it's his grave," said Doug Stover, the park's chief historian.