Search Potomac Sites
Largest city on the Potomac outside the Washington area, Cumberland, Md., occupies a dramatic spot on the North Branch Potomac, surrounded by mountains that rise more than 1000 feet above the North Branch valley. The river makes a large loop northward here, reaching within six miles of the Pennsylvania border, and pushing the town of Ridgely, W.Va. into the heart of the city. Cumberland is rich in history. Indians traveling through the mountains often passed through the Cumberland region on their way to the Ohio valley. Early European explorers found the Cumberland site to be a well-secured Shawnee Indian village in 1728. As early as 1749, traders of the Ohio Company established a post at Wills Creek, which flows down one of the mountains to meet the Potomac at Cumberland. In 1753, George Washington visited the trading post, returning in 1754 to deal with the French, who claimed this section of the country. British General Edward Braddock established a strong Fort Cumberland as a western outpost in 1755. In that same year, Braddock was killed on an expedition from the fort, and the frontier was in dispute for several more years. After the French and Indian War, British policy forbade settlement beyond the Allegheny Mountains; the town languished for several decades. In 1787, the town was incorporated and began to prosper as a key stop on the route west.