The Beginning Journey West

Advertisements

After the American Revolutionary War, vast amounts of new land became available for settlement. Families could now travel west, past the Appalachian Mountain chain and explore new opportunities. You can imagine the conversations around the evening meals as considerations were discussed. The prospect of leaving the current family home and settling elsewhere would entice excitement and anxiety. Many of these families held memories of traveling the Great Wagon Road to the southern colonies. These families were experienced with traveling long distances and the dangerous situations that would imply. War veterans were weary after struggling through battles of war, sickness and loss. Many veterans and their families longed for new beginnings in a new area with peace. Veterans received land grants in these new locations to reimburse them for their services that were carried out through the war. The new land was the hot topic of conversation after the war. It brought excitement to many communities in Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina and all of the remaining northern states. Local meetings were held in homes, churches and taverns. The majority of the population that were most interested in these meetings and conversations were farmers, wealthy entrepreneurs and young males between the ages of 21 and 30.

The 1783 map above can be used as an excellent reference point for distinguishing which state submitted land warrants, surveyed and operated land purchases, etc. As you can see, originally, the entire upper northwestern territory was once operated and claimed by the state of Virginia. For genealogists, this information is vital to research data and proof of lineage. For the early pioneers pondering on traveling to these areas, it was of little significance on statehood operations. Good road conditions, rich soil and open opportunities were much more important to the 18th century citizen. Regardless of the state, location or area, the farmer families suffered the most economically. Acquiring large land tracts were essential for any farmer to prosper within his community. Next seasons crops were planned for growth which provided the family with more. For instance, the money would provide for additional schooling for the children, visits to relatives who lived elsewhere, updates to the family home, etc. If a family suffered from several failing crops over a short span of a few years, this would greatly impact the family. Overtime, many of these families believed that the opportunities within the new western frontier would allow them to finally prosper. Farming families were close to their neighbors, especially the smaller farms. They relied on one another during harvesting, plowing the fields for spring planting and so much more. If one member of the community decided to leave, this would also greatly impact the remaining neighbors living in the vicinity.

Photo of 18th Century home and farm landscape.

Pioneers Traveled in Organized Groups

A few people knew someone personally who traveled to the new area and sent word back that they made it and the area was promising. Many families were encouraged to move based on the words and letters of others. All of these items did not hold truths about the area such as pamphlets, wagon guides, etc. The dangers however; were numerous. In addition to these dangers, the needed supplies to ensure survival were also numerous. It was unheard of for families to travel alone to areas west of the Appalachians. Even scouts and mountain men preferred to have a travel companion. With this being said, if you have a family ancestor who migrated during this time period to the northwestern territory, you may be able to locate their former neighbors as well. Many genealogists have been able to locate their own families by following the trails of their ancestor’s neighbors. Groups of pioneers traveled west. These groups usually consisted of at least one or more of the following: a guide, farmers, storekeepers, physicians and a pastor.

Once the decision was made to travel west, the family would prepare for the journey. The group would organize itself and combine materials to ensure safety and survival along the trail. A good reference for this would be local early church records. Documents have been discovered within church records that hold data of church members leaving the congregation to travel west. Personal information such as departure date and the names of the members who left the area. Depending on what the family owned, greatly depended on what the family took with them as far as personal items. During this time period, very little furniture items were placed on the wagon due to the weight and available space for it. Tools, cooking utensils, food and money were the essentials that would ensure the family’s survival on the journey and settling the new area. A weighted down wagon on good open roads with a good team pulling it could travel 25 miles a day. This will give you an idea on the length of the trip for your ancestor if you know both the departure and arrival locations. Of course, factors did hamper with the scheduling and the day to day routines of the journey. These factors were weather, sickness, lame horses or steers, wagon failures and more. Some of these could delay a family for days and/or even weeks.

The essentials for any journey west would have included a wagon, horses or steers, harnesses, saddles, tools and provisions. The tools would have been an axe, handsaw, chisels, hammer, shotgun and a knife. Also, wrought nails, coil of wire, 4 yards of rope or strap, hoop iron, cooking utensils and buckets for water. Fishing hooks, line and horseshoes would have been added to the list. Provisions would have included soap for washing garments and personal hygiene. Pickled foods as well as dried fruits, vegetables and meats. Cured ham and bacon as well as jerky. Flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and various spices. Coffee and tea were also loaded. The wagons were packed basically the same with each family and over the years this method became the normal procedure for loading a wagon. The food provisions as well as the garments and linens were laid upon the centered flooring section of the wagon. This was the area where the family would sleep if necessary in the wagon. Other items were strapped to the interior or placed along the sides of the wagon walls.

The Genealogy Journey of the Western Territories can be Discovered Using Local Resources

If you are researching your ancestors along the western trail of the late 18th century and the early 19th century, several surprising resources are available for you. The number one source that comes to mind is early church records. These records are historical documents that can reveal vast amounts of details regarding church members and their lives. Departures to the western frontier engulfed a community. As stated earlier in this segment, pioneer families traveled in organized groups to the western territory. Many genealogists have used church records to not only prove lineage, but to bring to light the details of their ancestor’s lives. The second top source would be the local historical/genealogical societies. These organized groups can range greatly with the amount of documents on hand. Journals, personal letters, ledgers and community news have been located from the time period mentioned in this article. Ledgers located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina have been able to provide exact details on the last purchases from the local businesses prior to a citizen’s departure for the west. The state archives would be a great resource as well. These archives can provide you with veteran service, land grants and the property’s history such as sale date, etc.

Never limit your resources for genealogy or history. Understanding the western migration is one of the most extraordinary subjects of our history. The opening of the northwestern territory affected so many families in so many different ways. To learn more about early wagon trails and research links, please visit the Migrations Page and the United States Genealogy Links Page. If you are having difficulty finding a local resource for your research, let Piedmont Trails know on the contact page. I wish you well on your research and hope you find fascinating treasures along your trails. Enjoy Your Journey !!

The Great Wagon Road Enters Into South Carolina

The Alternate Route From Charlotte, NC to Augusta, GA

The last article concentrated on the detailed route of the Great Wagon Road through Kershaw and Camden, South Carolina. This last segment of the route will give details through an alternate route in South Carolina and onward to Augusta, Georgia. The settlers traveled through York County, Chester County and Saluda County. Many of these pioneers would settle all throughout this area and just as many would travel onward to Georgia. South Carolina during the early to mid 18th century was not the wilderness frontier that North Carolina clearly was. Land was not as plentiful through the area and this reason alone discouraged many settlers during the late 18th century. The journey was filled with hardships such as dangerous floods, but the settlers that traveled this route were adventurous and brave.

This route leaves Charlotte, North Carolina traveling 14 miles to the Catawba River crossing into York County, South Carolina. Today, Lake Wylie covers the landscape of the original route. Ebenezerville was one of the first settlements in this area. Traveling along State Highway 49 for approx. 17 miles, the route reaches Fergus Crossroads. The crossroads are now located on Liberty Street intersection in York. The first courthouse in the county was built here in 1786 and the name originated from two brothers, John and William Fergus. The crossroads were extremely important to the area as 6 different wagon road routes connected together at this point. The routes are listed as follows: 1-traveling northwest to Kings Mountain and known as the Rutherford road 2-traveling southwest to Pinckney’s Ferry on the Broad River 3-traveling south to Chesterville 4-traveling northeast to Charlottesburg and the Catawba River(The Great Wagon Road) 5-traveling east to Nation Ford 6- traveling southeast to Landsford in Chester County.

Map of The Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania to Georgia

The route continues for 17 miles to the county line of Chester and Mt. Hopewell Church. Chester county was established in 1785 and the first court was held at the Walker’s home. This location was later known as Lewis Turnout in 1776. The road continues on State Highway 49 for 4 miles to the Broad River located in Lockhart. The actual crossing is now a bridge near the Union County line. Traveling 10 miles from Broad River, the road reaches Union, originally named Unionville. This community was established in 1765 and was named after Union Church. The original church stood near the location of Monarch Mill. It appears that the first settlers arrived in 1749 and greatly grew between the 1760’s and the onset of the American Revolutionary War.

From present day Union, South Carolina, the original route turns left onto State Highway 215 and travels 15 miles to US Highway 72. The route follows the highway for approx. 6 miles until Tuckertown Road is reached. The Tyger River is reached after traveling 7 miles and today is a bridge near the Newberry County line. From the county line to Enoree River crossing is approx. 18 miles. The river looks completely different from the 18th century landscape. The area has been flooded and now has the appearance of a lake where the original crossing ford would have been. From the Enoree River crossing, the route travels for 41 miles crossing the Crims, Wateree and Hollinshead Creeks. The present day route takes you along Broad River Road until you reach Interstate 26.

Tyger River, South Carolina

The road now reaches Saluda River and Lexington County. It is believed that the actual crossing of the river was located at the present day bridge along Interstate 26. The river crossing is 14 miles from Lexington which was originally known as Saxe-Gotha. The community was established in 1735 as one of the 9 original settlements to entice development during the early 18th century. Families were encouraged to travel to these locations, free transportation was provided along with free provisions for one year and free land. Many of the original settlers preferred to own larger tracts of land and to be separated from their neighbors. With this being said, many of these early settlers migrated to other territories and other opportunities. Upon reaching Lexington, the route turns on National Highway 1 and travels 17 miles to Leesville. The settlement of Johnston is reached after traveling 18 miles along the route. The Savannah River is approx. 28 miles from Johnston and the families would navigate the river to reach their destination of Augusta, Georgia.

The Great Wagon Road Consisted Of 800 Miles

Researchers have studied the migration that involved the Great Wagon Road for nearly 200 years. The exact number of families that traveled the road may never be known, but their legacy lives on as present day genealogists and historians strive to document the road. Many are astonished to learn that the historic road is not recognized as a National Historic Trail. Thousands upon thousands of families traveled the route for various reasons. These families suffered hardships that only can be imagined today. They also celebrated an independence and a freedom that encouraged them onward. Their stories of courage deserves to be preserved and honored as well as the original trail itself. It’s up to the present and future generations to complete this goal. Piedmont Trails is proud to announce the involvement of a volunteer group who is currently active on representing this historic trail as a National Treasure. Sharing this data with you all has been a fascinating journey in itself. I encourage you all to travel the route or portions of it, in order to understand the significance and the importance of The Great Wagon Road. During the coming months, Piedmont Trails will share stories of the famous trail complete with details on what your ancestors would have seen and experienced while on the road. Thank You all so much for your support of Piedmont Trails. Wishing you all great success with your research. But, most of all, Enjoy Your Journey To The Past.

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.