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Hikers Take Washington’s Journey Through Butler Co.

George Washington
George Washington

Hikers will walk through the same area this weekend that George Washington journeyed back in the 1700s.

The walks on Saturday, February 24, in Slippery Rock are part of an annual event that celebrates history, nature and Washington’s birthday.

Most of the hikes will start at the Jennings Environmental Center and feature ancient artifacts, discussions with historical authors and authentic re-enactors. The event will conclude with cherry pie.

“There’s a number of different hikes depending on what you’re interested in,” Rodney Gasch, president of Historic Harmony, said in an interview. “There’s a long hike that starts at 9am and that’s seven miles. There are three nature walks and then there are six history hikes and these are hikes that tell the story of George Washington’s mission in 1753 that brought him right through Butler County.”

This activity is open to the public and registration is not required but the number of participants allowed on some of the hikes is limited. A $2 per person cash donation is requested.

“There’s going to be two big tables for the French and Indian War re-enactors,” Gasch said. “Some of these people will be out re-enacting the shooting of George Washington but others will be inside, men and women in their period costumes, and these people are really knowledgeable about what people did in that time, how they survived, how they cooked and all that sort of thing.”

Even non-hikers will find fun things to do that day—interact with circa 1753 reenactors at the main building at Jennings, meet noted history authors Brady Crytzer and Jason Cherry, purchase books related to George Washington and his 1753 mission, and see and touch the equipment that travelers and soldiers used to survive the harsh wilderness that was western Pennsylvania in 1753. There will also be information about the North Country National Scenic Trail, which passes through Butler County. It is 4,600 miles long between North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Vermont, where it joins the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail.

The day’s festivities honor the 286th birthday of the first president. It is also the kick-off of a year of activates commemorating the 265th anniversary of Washington’s mission. He had volunteered to deliver an ultimatum from Virginia’s lieutenant governor that French forces withdraw from British-claimed territory west of the Alleghenies. The French, building a line of forts south from Lake Erie, declined, demanding instead that the British stay out of New France. Washington’s adventure led within months to the outbreak of the French and Indian War, and included two incidents that might have killed him decades before he would command Colonial forces against Britain in the Revolutionary War and become the new nation’s president.

The first incident was an errant shot from the musket of a Native American, most likely sent by the French to end Washington’s trip back to Virginia. It is considered by many to be the first shot of the French and Indian War. Two days later Washington also survived a tumble from a rudimentary raft into the ice-choked Allegheny River, near what is now Washington’s Landing in Pittsburgh.