Astride the Casselman River just east of Grantsville stands historic Casselman River Bridge. Originally constructed in 1813-14, the single-arch stone bridge once served the old National Road which linked Cumberland, Maryland with the Ohio River.
The bridge crosses an area named Little Crossings. In 1755 George Washington, then a young military aide, was on the staff of British General Edward Braddock. Braddock led an army against a French fort near what is now known as Pittsburgh. Braddock's army forded the river at Little Crossings and also retreated back over the same spot after being defeated soundly by the French. At this time, very few whites had settled in the area, although it had been utilized by the Native Americans for thousands of years.
In the 1760s, after the French had been driven out of North America, Joseph Tomlinson erected the first inn several miles east of Little Crossings. The ford and the road that crossed it became a major thoroughfare of westward travelers. By the late 1700s a mill and farm residence were built near the crossing.
Early in the 19th century the federal government began an ambitious program of internal improvements, which included widespread road construction to help knit together the young republic. The National Road project was a capital improvement program aimed at upgrading Braddock's Road. The Casselman River Bridge was one of many such improvements built along the road.
At the time of its construction, the 80-foot span was the largest of its type in America. It was reportedly made longer than it needed to be in hopes that the planned Chesapeake and Ohio Canal would pass under it. A public celebration was held at the bridge on the day that workmen removed the supporting timbers. To the amazement of many, the bridge did not collapse.
Little Crossings became a busy center of commerce and transportation. Stage coaches, wagons, horsemen and foot travelers crossed over the bridge. More buildings appeared, including a store and another inn, which remains today as the Penn Alps Restaurant and Craft Shop.
The advent of the railroads in the 1840s resulted in cheaper travel. The National Road went into eclipse but it was revived in the early 20th century when federal aid became available for road development to accommodate a newer means of transportation - the automobile.
The bridge continued in service until U.S. Route 40 also became an important east-west artery just as the National Road had been. In 1933 a new steel bridge joined the banks of the Casselman River. The old stone bridge was partially restored by the State of Maryland in the mid-1950s and is now the center of Casselman River Bridge State Park.