The Great Wagon Road Enters Into South Carolina

The previous article left the Great Wagon Road on the banks of the Yadkin River in North Carolina. The road ended at the Shallow Ford Crossing in the year of 1748 before additions were added later. Carolina was a vast wilderness west of the Yadkin River and early settlements were discouraged prior to circa 1730. Edward Hughes operated a tavern in this location for over 50 years. The tavern was in place by 1753. The actual crossing is located near Cornwallis Drive and was comprised of natural stone that was flat across the river and shallow. Although during frequent rains and storms, the area was prone to flooding and would prevent wagons from crossing for days at a time. Early settlers living in this area in 1748 were Morgan Bryan, Squire Boone, James Carter, George Forbush, Samuel Davis and William Linville. It is believed that these settlers all traveled together down the Great Wagon Road from Virginia with the exception of Edward Hughes. According to documents, Edward settled in the area prior to 1748 and traveled from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While traveling, Edward purchased a tract of land in the valley of Virginia during December of 1746 but left the area during the fall of 1747.

From the Shallow Ford crossing, the Great Wagon road ended in 1748 and a small pack horse trail continued from this point to Salisbury, NC. Present day route would be portions of Highway 158, Highway 601 and NC Highway 801. Once on Old Mocksville Road, the original route follows for 8 1/2 miles to Salisbury. This portion of the road was ordered for improvements in 1763 and was completed as a wagon road approx. 1764. Also, from the Shallow Ford crossing, another road was ordered in 1770 that would travel to Mulberry Fields, presently known as Wilkesboro. This road would follow present day Highway 421. It was known to the early settlers as Boone Road, named after Daniel Boone. The road connected to the Wilderness Road and eventually reached Kentucky.

Rowan County, NC

The road ended at Salisbury for a time until 1755 when the road was extended to the Mecklenburg County and the settlement of Charlotte, NC. The present day route follows US Highway 29. Charlotte was originally known as Charlotteburg and was first settled circa 1750. By 1768, the settlement was chartered as a town, largely by Scotch-Irish traders. In most cases, the presence of an inn indicated the location of the county seat. Salisbury and Charlotte both contained inns which allowed the county justices a residence on court days.

The actual route for the Great Wagon Road south of Charlotte has not been fully researched as it has north from Charlotte. Correspondence from historical societies, South Carolina State Archives and libraries support the following route. Traveling south along US Highway 29 to Lancaster County, South Carolina. This boundary was formerly known as the Catawba Indian Nation. This tribe survived the early settlers of the 18th century and survived the American Revolutionary War while fighting with the patriots against Cornwallis. They are a recognized tribe today and many are still living on portions of the original lands.

The road was known to the early settlers as Camden Road or Wagon Road. An historical road marker can be located at Twelvemile Creek which is now a bridge on Harrisburg Road and US Highway 521. Traveling along for 13 miles, you will cross three creeks which are now culverts. The names of these are Fording Causer Branch, Cane Creek and Camp Creek. The road then crosses Gills Creek and enters into present day Lancaster. Lancaster originated as a small settlement as early as 1759. The Waxhaw Presbyterian Church was located in the area during this time period. Lancaster was formed in 1795. Following US Highway 521 for approx. 20 miles, Bear Creek will be visible as well as Kershaw, an early settlement established in 1732. Us Highway 521 continues for approx. 25 miles until the settlement of Camden is reached. Both Camden and Kershaw are treasure troves for early history of South Carolina. Like Kershaw, Camden was established during the year of 1732.

Congaree River Columbia, South Carolina

Camden is located along the Wateree River and was a powerful waterway for the early pioneers. The town was originally named Fredericksburg and Kershaw was known as Pine Tree Hill. From this point, the road takes US Highway 1 and Taylor Street for 30 miles until the Congaree River is reached and the city of Columbia. Continuing on US Highway 1 and Augusta Road, the next 12 miles covers the intersection of present day Interstate 26 and US Highway 1. Lexington is reached on the road after an additional 12 miles. Lexington was formally known as Saxe-Gotha and established in 1735.

Saxe-Gotha Town Plat

Leaving Lexington, the road follows South Carolina Highway 23 for 21 miles to the Edgefield County line. Francis Higgins operated a ferry on the Saluda River and was well-known to many travelers along the road. At this point, the road follows South Carolina Highway 121 for approximate 30 miles until the Savannah River. The travelers would navigate the river to reach Augusta, Georgia.

The next segment of this series will concentrate on another route entering into South Carolina and arriving in Augusta, Georgia. I hope you are enjoying this journey with Piedmont Trails and hoping you are finding new hints and clues for your ancestor’s trails.

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The Great Wagon Road In North Carolina

A Detailed Description For Years of 1745-1770

The last segment featured the trail reaching the Carolina wilderness. As the early settlers gazed upon the horizon, they carried within them the dreams of their hearts and the hope of the future. The pioneers have been traveling for weeks now, enduring the hardships of the road and it’s many hazards. The families along with the animals are becoming more and more tired of the daily travel. The rough terrain is harsh along with the elements of nature forcing her hand upon the pioneers. Many of these pioneers changed their destination routes and settled in areas near the road. 

The tall swaying pines were greeting the pioneers as they crossed the Virginia/Carolina state line onto present day Amostown Road located in Stokes County. Traveling 5 miles, they reached present day, Sandy Ridge after crossing Buffalo Creek and Blackies Branch. The trail has continued as an Indian hunting path but it is also following the old buffalo herd trails. The buffalo made several paths that lead to water such as Buffalo Creek. The actual ford of Blackies Branch is located on Dillard Road. The road now joins with NC 704 for 4 miles until it joins NC 772. The next major water crossing would be located at the Dan River. Many different fords have been located along the river, many believe that the most popular ford was located along Glidewell Road near present day Dodgetown Road. Upon reaching the Dodgetown area, a junction in the trail appears. This junction was named Limestone Road during 1770. The pioneers who traveled the road prior to 1770 took the trail extending onto Highway 89 south to Walnut Cove where portions lie across Highway 65 and 66 through Stokes County.

The Great Wagon Road branches into many different trails along the Carolina countryside. As you follow NC 772, 3 miles from Dodgetown area, the settlers would be arriving in present day Dillard. Continuing along NC 772 for 4 miles, the trail turns on Hickory Fork Road until Willard Road. I strongly recommend a 4 wheel drive in this area along Willard Road due to the very rural area and frequent flooding from the Dan River. Once the river is crossed here, the present day road transforms into a dirt path until it reaches Saura Farm Road.  Tuttle Road is located after traveling 2 miles. This road will join US 311 and Oldtown Road near Walnut Cove. Continuing onward for 4 miles, the trail reaches present day Brook Cove Road and then joins Highway 8 until it reaches the original Townfork Settlement. A bridge is now located near the original ford at Town Creek. 

A few surnames who settled this area prior to 1760 are Armstrong,  Beard, Bitting, Braley, Donnel, Gillespie, Grogan, Kerr, McClure, McAdoo, Nicks, Nix and Walker. Majority of these pioneers lived near Buffalo Creek in present day Stokes County, NC.

Documentation proves that settlers were traveling this area as early as 1718

Highway 8 leads the present travelers to Germanton which was established in 1790. The crossing of Buffalo Creek would be waiting on the early settlers which today can be crossed by a bridge. The original trail now travels 1 mile to the junction of Highway 65 in Rural Hall. From here you travel 2 1/2 miles along Germanton Road/Highway 8 until Stanleyville Drive. 5 miles to University Drive in Winston-Salem and 1/2 miles to West Haynes Mill Road. Another 1/2 mile crossing Grassy Creek until the trail reaches Bethania Station Road. At this point, the Moravians built a new road that reached their settlements. This segment will continue with the original trail. 

From Bethania Station Road the trail travels along Beck’s Church Road to Bethabara. In 1763, a new road was ordered in this area that leads to present day Salisbury and the Yadkin River. This route would have been closely followed by Morgan Bryan and his traveling party from Virginia. The actual route can be located near Speas Road and Midkiff Road. The area has drastically changed over the years due to agriculture and economic progress. After 2 miles the trail joins Reynolda Road in Winston-Salem. Traveling for 5 miles along Stratford Road and Reynolda Road, the trail then reached Silas Creek Parkway and Ebert Road. Traveling 4 miles to NC 150 and Old Salisbury Highway, this portion of the road was originally a pack horse Indian trail that traveled east to Cross Creek, otherwise known as Fayetteville, NC.

Documentations prove that George Washington traveled sections of the Great Wagon Road while on his Southern Tour during 1791.

From this point, the road travels 27 miles along NC 150 and US 29 to reach the Yadkin River. Today a bridge marks the crossing along the original route. The above data documents the original route of the road entering into North Carolina. Depending upon the timeline of the early pioneers depends on what actual route they traveled. North Carolina was a land of wilderness with little to very few settlers prior to 1745 in this region. Portions of the land were open meadows which were perfect grazing lands for buffalo. The last document verifying the sightings of buffalo in the region can be found in the Moravian diaries and date to the year of 1758. Huge trees also dominated the landscape as well as wildflowers and natural springs. The land that our ancestors gazed upon so many years ago has greatly changed all through the years. But due to research, it is possible to travel along the same route our ancestors did during the 18th century.

To have a better understanding of the sounds our ancestors heard while on the Great Wagon Road, click here. Also, if you would like to have a better understanding on how the wagons crossed rivers and creeks, click here. Depending upon the timeline of your ancestor, greatly varies  which route was taken. Prior to 1765, only two routes were used from Big Lick(Roanoke), Virginia to Carolina. After 1770, several new routes were established and used up to the American Revolutionary War. By 1790, road improvements were made along the many routes leading into North Carolina and additional routes were made traveling south and west from the region. 

The Great Wagon Road Is A Historic Trail

The early settlers used the road to travel back and forth from North Carolina to Pennsylvania. The road allowed the sale of cattle and crops for many of the pioneers. Supplies were transported into North Carolina via the road to stock shelves in merchant stores located in Moravian settlements, Salisbury and other early towns established prior to 1770. The next segment on the road will give a detailed route entering into South Carolina and Georgia.  Also, a new page will be arriving to Piedmont Trails in  January 2019. This page will give research techniques and information about all 18th and early 19th century migration trails throughout the entire United States.

Piedmont Trails appreciates your support so much. I hope everyone is able to discover many treasures along the trail of your ancestors. Determining the actual route of your ancestors can be a difficult project, but it is not impossible by any means. Using the right research techniques and creating a timeline from your notes will greatly help you determine the right route. All of our ancestors left an amazing trail to follow. Enjoy your journey !!

A Detailed Route of The Great Wagon Road

Present Day Roanoke, Virginia to North Carolina State Boundary Line

Welcome to segment 3 of The Great Wagon series. The photo above shows the Roanoke River lined with the season of autumn as it winds and turns through the landscape. The last article ended at present day Roanoke, Virginia, otherwise known to the traveling pioneers as “Big Lick”. Beginning at Franklin Road, a historic road sign informs present day travelers of the historic importance pertaining to the Great Wagon Road. The settlers would have traveled this section and reached the banks of the Roanoke River. The crossing was known as Tosh’s Ford and after crossing the waterway, the travelers would have seen Evans Mill, which was located approximately 1/4 mile south near Crystal Spring. Franklin Road will allow present day U.S. Highway 220 to join the route and here the pioneers would begin leaving the great valley of Big Lick. 

Historic Road Sign Located At Tosh’s Ford, Virginia

The date referencing the group of Moravians using this crossing is incorrect on the historical road marker. The 15 Moravian men left Pennsylvania on the morning of November 2, 1753. Daniel Evans arrived in the area prior to 1750. He settled at the foot of a mountain, now known as Mill Mountain. He captured the waters of Crystal Spring and operated a grist mill along The Great Wagon Road for years. Mark Evans, Daniel’s father, arrived in the area with his three sons, Daniel, Nathaniel and Peter sometime during the year of 1741. Mark died before the large land tract was properly deeded and his son, Daniel became the owner of the property. This acreage extended from the modern Roanoke Regional Airport to the Franklin County line. The spring was known by several names such as “Big Spring”, “Fountain” and “McClanahan’s Spring”. By 1881, the name changed once more to Crystal Spring. The grist mill was built in 1750 and was located  approximately 400 feet from the spring. Evan’s Mill was declared as the “most important mill on the frontier” according to “Virginia Frontier: The Beginning of the Southwest, The Roanoke of Colonial Days(1740-1783)” by FB Kegley. Due to the importance and popularity of the mill, the mountain where the Evan’s family resided became known as Mill Mountain. 

The settlers traveled 5 miles from the location of Evan’s Mill and reached a natural gateway named Maggoty Gap. This passage made it possible for the heavy wagons and livestock to pass through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Morgan Bryan(1671-1763) cut the path for the first wagon in 1746. He later reported to others that he had to disassemble his wagon and carry it piece by piece up the last slope. Morgan stated that this portion of his trip took 3 months to travel 80 miles from the valley of “Big Lick” to his destination of “Shallow Ford” which is present day Yadkin River near Winston-Salem, North Carolina. As you can see, it depended greatly on the timeline in which these early settlers traveled on determining the length of time for the trip.

Cahas Mountain, Franklin County, Virginia

Maggoty Gap Location

Carried it piecemeal up the last slope

Quoted by Morgan Bryan(1671-1763)

The route in present day next reaches U.S. Highway 220 freeway intersection and the original route crosses Maggoty Creek and follows VA 613 or Naff Road. A brick structure stands along Naff Road and was an active inn during the mid to late 18th century. The road passed directly in front of this inn. A map from 1865 gives reference to the location serving the travelers along the road. The actual structure dates to the mid 18th century. Traveling 4 1/2 miles to the end of Naff Road, the route once again joins present day U.S. 220 and Goode Highway. The pioneers traveling late 18th century would have seen the mill of Jacob Boon(1749-1814). The area where the mill was located later developed into a community named Boones Mill. Many genealogists and historians become confused with this family and the famous legend of Daniel Boone and his lineage. However; the families were not related at all. Jacob is shown on early documents as Bohn and was later changed to Boon. According to documents, the mill was constructed just prior to the year of 1786.

Passing over Little Creek along VA 739 and traveling 10 miles, the settlers would have crossed Blackwater River. Today this crossing is a one lane bridge along VA 643. Early documents proclaim this area was terribly known for flooding. Several families would be camped near here to wait out the floods before crossing. The photo below shows the color tint of the waters, thus the reason for it’s name.

Blackwater River Bridge in Virginia

Now the route travels 5 miles following VA 802 otherwise known as “Old Carolina Road”. Traveling 9 miles to present day Ferrum which was established in 1889. The construction of the railroad decided to use the original wagon road in 1892. The rail lines were constructed on top of the road in this area. The pioneers would have traveled 6 miles from this location to reach the boundary of Henry County, Virginia. After crossing Town Fork Creek, a steep incline would have been waiting on the wagons. This incline was filled with trees, debris, rocks and many more dangers. It is estimated that the original climb would have been approximately 4 miles with 1 mile of travel along the ridge line. A steep descent along VA 606 and the crossing of Little Reed Creek would have been made along the bottom. Here the route joins back into U.S. Highway 220 and the area of Philpott Dam. The dam has greatly altered the landscape and the appearance of the area would have appeared completely different to the 18th century travelers. Moravian diary entries reveal that many of the travelers regarded this area as the most beautiful along the route.

Beautiful lowlands with many grapes

Quoted by documents located at the Southern Moravian Archives

The Smith River is the next obstacle for the pioneers. Following present day U.S. Highway 220 through Fieldale by vehicle to the river crossing. Many historians speculate that the actual crossing was near the waters of Blackberry Creek. The 1751 Fry-Jefferson Map shows this possible location. From U.S. Highway 220 to VA 609, the route traveled through an early settlement named Rangely. This community was active as early as 1753 and was located near present day Dillons Fork Road. It was popular with the early travelers because of a man named John Hickey(1728-1784). John operated a store and was known as the last stop along the trail to replenish supplies. John Cornelius Hickey was born in Middlesex, Virginia and settled near the Smith River. It is recorded that John also operated an inn and maintained a farm with various crops. The court of June, 1749 ordered the following: 
The road order reads: “It is ordered that a road be laid off and cleared the best and most convenient way from Staunton River to the Mayo Settlement at the Wart (Bull)mountain, and it is ordered that Joseph Mayes and all the male laboring tithables convenient to said road forthwith mark of and lay the most convenient way from Staunton River to Allen’s Creek, and keep the same in repair according to law. 

The road became known as Hickey’s Road, an extension for the Great Wagon Road. From this point, the road traveled 11 miles to reach present day Horse Pasture, Virginia along U.S. 58. The original Moravians camped in this area on November 11, 1753 as noted in the journal held at the Southern Moravian Archives. From this point, the original route crosses over between Wagon Trail Road and George Taylor Road traveling 4 miles to reach the North Carolina state line boundary.

1751 Fry-Jefferson Map

The Great Wagon Road has now reached the boundaries of the Carolina Frontier. The new settlers are anxious upon reaching their new homes. Anticipation grows with each mile as they gaze upon Carolina for the first time. The pioneers were very aware of the miles they had traveled, but how did they measure the actual mileage? The colonial equation was averaged by tying a piece of linen to one of the wooden spokes on the wagon wheel. The circumference of the wheel multiplied by the revolutions the wheel turned equaled to the amount of mileage traveled for the day. For the most part, the settlers traveled approximately 15 miles a day. This 15 miles did not take into consideration, downed trees, sickness, poor weather or failed equipment.  After researching the trail, I believe that 72 miles separated Roanoke, Virginia to the North Carolina state line. 

The next segment will follow the road through the Carolina wilderness, giving details along the way. The road will eventually end in Augusta, Georgia by the end of this series. Piedmont Trails is currently supporting a group of volunteers who are working together in order for the Great Wagon Road to be named as a national historic trail. If you are interested in volunteering with this project, click here or click on the contact page and submit your request. 

Excitement fills the air as new pages are added to this website. United States Research Links is new which covers all 50 states. This page gives you free links for researching history and genealogy. Arriving soon, Migration Trails Throughout The United States. This page will reference early trails and roads that allowed our ancestors to travel. The arrival of this page will be in late December.

I greatly appreciate your support and hope you enjoy your visits with Piedmont Trails. Our ancestors left many trails to follow and I hope you are enjoying your journey to the past. Wishing you all great discoveries filled with many treasures along the way. 

  1. Virginia Frontier-The Beginning of the Southwest, The Roanoke Of Colonial Days(1740-1783) by FB Kegley
  2. Historical Society of Western Virginia
  3. Southern Moravian Archives