Early Pioneers of Western North Carolina

Present Day Watauga County

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Many families traveled The Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania and settled throughout Virginia. Others migrated further south to the Piedmont area of North Carolina during the mid 18th century. North Carolina was a wild frontier at the time and yet other families traveled west to forbidden lands. These pioneers traveled across the Yadkin River and endured the rough terrain of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This blog will give details of the early settlers in present day Watauga County, NC. Watauga was established in 1849 from several counties, Ashe, Caldwell, Wilkes and Yancey. By the mid 19th century, over 600 families were living in present day Watauga County and held a history for nearly 100 years in this vast mountainous terrain. Various reasons caused these families to settle here, such as the privacy the mountains could provide. Another reason was the words shared by so many of the upcoming war for independence. Taxes, opportunities and freedom for religion and freedom to dream are just a few of the explanations why these early settlers arrived.

A Glimpse Into Watauga County, NC

John Adams was a drummer at the age of 15 during the American Revolutionary War. He was present during the Battle of Yorktown which began October 9, 1781 and ended with Cornwallis surrendering October 18, 1781. Adams was among the French fleet of General the count de Rochambeau. The fleet soon departed for the West Indies still under the pursuit of the British. Young John Adams stayed behind, hiding in a sugar barrel. Once he was sure his ship had sailed, he wandered the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and learned how to become a cabinetmaker. He later sailed on a whaling ship along the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. He departed the ship and traveled to Rowan County where he met and married Esther Hawkins on September 17, 1795. The couple’s first two children were born in Rowan County, Francis and Squire. During the year of 1799, John Adams brought his family to the Cove Creek area of present day Watauga County, then located in Ashe County. He built a log cabin, farmed and became known as a cabinetmaker in the area. John was born circa 1762 and was later known to be living in Sarlat, which is 40 miles from Bordeaux, France. The French fleet to which he was assigned returned to Philadelphia in order to retrieve soldiers who deserted or who were left behind. It is at this time that John embarked on the whaling vessel for North Carolina. This very same reason could have been the result of John Adams settling in Watauga County and the remote area of Cove Creek. The couple had ten known children. John died at 1:00pm, Thursday, July 24, 1823 and was buried the next day. Esther Adams was born in 1774 in Orange County, NC. She was a charter member of the Cove Creek Baptist Church which was organized in 1799. Esther continued to live in the log home after John’s death until 1859, the time of her death. Children of this union are 1-Francis(1797-1846), Squire(1799-1877), Rachel(1800-1834), Sarah(1802-1823), Tarleton(1805-1877), Allen(1807-1893), Martha(1808-?), George(1809-1827), Alfred(1811-1870) and Elizabeth(1813-?).

Dr. Ezekiel Baird was born in Monmouth, New Jersey to Andrew and Sarah Baird. His mother, Sarah died in New Jersey and left her son twenty shillings in her will. Soon after her death, Ezekiel Baird traveled the Great Wagon Road with his wife Susanna Blodgett Baird to North Carolina. They traveled with a small party to the Watauga County area known today as Valle Crucis along Baird’s creek. The couple built a home and had three sons, Bedent(1770-1862), Blodgett and William. During 1795, Ezekiel and his son, Blodgett left the area to travel west. The family may have contemplated the idea of moving further west as many families during this time were doing. But, Ezekiel and his son never returned to Watauga County. Susannah continued to live in the home and was the first person to be buried in the Baird Cemetery located in Valle Crucis.

Watauga River

Thomas Bingham was born in Norwich, Conn. to his parents, namely Thomas Bingham and Mary Rudd. Thomas traveled the Great Wagon Road to Virginia where he met and married Hannah Backus. This family continued to live in Virginia until William, grandson of Thomas II moved to Reddy’s River, Wilkes County and married Mary Elizabeth McNeil. William’s son, George moved to Watauga County and married Mary Ann Davis in 1833.

William Coffey was born November 29, 1782 in present day Wilkes County, NC. He lived with his parents, Thomas and Sarah Fields along the upper Yadkin River. William married Anna Boone on October 18, 1804 in a small log home near present day Boone, Watauga County. They lived at the forks of Mulberry Creek and had the following children. Daniel(1805), Welborn(1807-1897), Gilliam(1810). Celia(1813-1899) and Calvin(1819) William Coffey died in 1839 and Anna remained a widow up to her death which occurred in 1876.

Michael Cook was born July 23, 1773, son of Adam Cook. He married Ann Elizabeth Arney. The couple moved to present day Watauga County and entered 600 acres by paying 5 cents an acre. The couple had at least 11 known children: Catherine(1798-1840), John(1800), Adam(1802-1865), Henry(1804), Mary(1806), Jacob(1808-1873), Michael Jr(1810), David(1814-1850), William(1815-1876), Elizabeth(1818-1846) and Robert(1820). Michael operated one of the first grist mills in the area and was located along the banks of Goshen Creek. Michael Cook died during the spring of 1844 according to will documents.

Benjamin Dugger was living in present day Watauga County during the year of 1787. He purchased land in the Brushy Forks area and was the father of at least 3 children. Several of Benjamin’s family members followed him to the area between the years of 1795 and 1805. John Dugger, born 1780 in Wilkes County, moved to the Watauga County area and settled near his relative, Uncle Benjamin.

Landrine Eggers is the son of George and Arie Beard Eggers. Landrine was born in 1757 and lived in Freehold, New Jersey until the family moved to Goshen, New York. Landrine and brother, Daniel Eggers both settled in the Jersey Settlement of Rowan County, NC. Both of these men served during the American Revolutionary War. Landrine married Joanna Silvers on April 16, 1779 and traveled to Watauga County later that same year along with his brother, Daniel and his family. They settled near Three Forks Baptist Church where they all were active members.

Conrad Elrod settled in present day Blowing Rock, Watauga County before 1800. His friends referred to him as “Coonrod”. He was born in 1749 to Wilheim and Anna Boschel Elrod. He was baptized in 1750 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Frederick, Maryland. Conrad had at least 5 children: Adam(1787-1875), Mary, Peter, William(1795-1867) and Alexander(1802-1894).

Ebenezer Fairchild was born in 1730 and lived with his parents, Caleb and Anne Fairchild in Stratford, Conn. Ebenezer married Salome Goble in August of 1750 at the First Presbyterian Church in Morristown, New Jersey. Salome died during childbirth and Ebenezer married Mary in 1755. Ebenezer’s children are Sarah(1751) Salome(1753), Abigail, Ann and Cyrus(1767-1853). Ebenezer was a charter member and elder of Dutchman’s Creek, now known as Eaton’s Baptist Church. Ebenezer was a known minister of Three Fork’s Baptist Church.

This marks the end of segment 1 in this series. Please be sure to visit our site for weekly updates and upcoming segments on this series and others, such as Stokes County, NC Early Settlers, Rockingham County, NC Early Settlers, Surry County, NC Early Settlers, Ashe County, NC Early Settlers and Early Migration Trails. Thank You All So Much for your support, Piedmont Trails greatly appreciates each of you. Stay the course and Enjoy Your Journey to the Past !!

Early Settlers of Ashe County, NC

Segment 1

Ashe County, founded in 1799 from Wilkes County, is located in the western mountains of North Carolina. It is named for Colonel Samuel Ashe, an American Revolutionary War veteran, a judge and former governor of North Carolina. The county seat is Jefferson, named for President Thomas Jefferson and established in 1800. An old buffalo trail allowed a path to the area near the New River, east of present day Boone, NC. This original trail traveled from the coast of North Carolina, through the Yadkin valley and up through the mountainous terrain located in the western section of the state. The trail moved further west through Kentucky and onward to the Great Lakes region. Indians used the Buffalo Trail for centuries with each generation learning from the former. Not only did they travel, but they also hunted along the trail. This was a means of migrating for the Indians as they moved across the wilderness of Carolina.

Community Map of Ashe County, NC

During the mid 18th century, men would venture into this area in order to hunt along the same trail that the Indians used for hundreds of years. These men were otherwise known as “Long Hunters”, the name was not attributed to the long rifles they most frequently used, but rather the length of time they would spend on hunting expeditions. These men were adventurous and courageous. They depended on their skills for survival and hunting game to provide for their families in way of fur trading, food, etc. Many of the Long Hunters would travel in packs of 18 to 20 men setting up a Station Camp in the wilderness. The party would set out on the trail in October and return by March or April of the following year. Two pack horses for each man was common along with various supplies such as lead, powder, bellows, hand vise, files, screwplates, tomahawks, flour, etc. They would return home with fur pelts and hides used for trading and selling on the market within the surroundings of their home.

Aerial View of the New River, Ashe County, NC

One of the early Long Hunters was John Findley who led Daniel Boone through the Cumberland Gap in 1769 on the way to Kentucky. Michael Stoner accompanied Daniel Boone to Kentucky in 1774 to warn a surveying party of possible Indian attacks. James Dysart, Castleton Brooks and James Knox became very wealthy due to their skills from the hunting expeditions. Elisha Wallen created a huge Station Camp in 1761 in present day Ashe County, NC. William Carr was a known Long Hunter as well as Humphrey Hogan who later became a school teacher and was later located in Washington County, Virginia in 1778.

After the French and Indian war, this area was defined by a line cresting the mountain tops. All lands that held waters flowing west towards the Mississippi were named “backwaters”. These lands were prohibited from early settlement prior to 1763. Before the American Revolutionary war, Thomas Calloway moved his family to the area. He was a well known captain of the colonial troops during the French and Indian war. The home was located along the New River between Beaver Creek and the Obids Creek. Thomas Calloway(1700-1800) and Daniel Boone were good friends and hunted together in the area several times. Thomas is buried near the New River Bridge located along Highway 163. It is rumored that the original stone seen on Thomas Calloway’s grave site was given to the family by Daniel Boone. William Doub Bennett was known to have several hunting cabins during the early 1750’s, near the New River prior to the French and Indian war. The cabins are noted by General Griffith Rutherford when he led the militia against the Indians in 1760. He documented the location of several cabins used by hunters in 1763.

Richard Baugess Mill on Big Windfall Creek

Despite the discouragement of settling this area prior to 1763, Virginia encouraged early settlements west of the Appalachian Mountains. This act was to remove the French from the Ohio Valley during the French and Indian war. The New River was named at this time in honor of Mr. New who operated a ferry near Radford, Virginia. Prior to the name, the river was known to hunters as Wood’s River in honor of Major Abraham Wood who arrived in the area as early as 1654. During the mid 18th century, Ulrich Kessler purchased land in the area with 300pds. He was a well known preacher who at times became intoxicated prior to church services. Ulrich encouraged his congregation to follow him and this brought new settlers to the area. This article will focus on a small portion of the early settlers. Piedmont Trails will have several segments on this series in the coming months.

Micajah Pennington was the son of Isaac Pennington of Goodstone Manor, Kent England. Micajah was born in 1743 and arrived to the colonies as a young man. His father, Isaac, was the father-in-law of William Penn of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is believed that through this connection, Micajah arrived in Philadelphia and migrated down the Great Wagon Road to Carolina. He married Rachel Jones in January of 1761 and the couple had at least nine children. Elijah, Micakah, Mary, Levie, Edward, Rachel, Elizabeth, Sarah and Joahaner. During the year of 1785, Micajah received a land grant of 100 acres along Elk Creek in present day Ashe County. Pennington Gap, Virginia was named after Micajah’s son, Edward settled in the area during the year of 1802. Elijah married Susannah on 9/9/1800 and continued to live in the Ashe County area. The couple had a son, Elijah Pennington who married Mary Osborne and they had the following children; Isaac, Elijah, Lue, Peggy, Sarah and Mary.

Isaac Pennington (great grandson of Micajah Pennington) with wife Martita Osborne Pennington

Henry Dulhuer was located in North Carolina during the late 18th century. A total of two land deeds can be found for him in present day Ashe County. 100 acres along Buffalo Creek was purchased with sixty silver dollars from Peter Fouts in 1801. 300 acres which was originally granted to Lawrence Younce, later granted to Peter Fouts and eventually listed the owner as Henry Dulhuer. Henry and his wife had at least two daughters, but the fate of this couple would end in tragedy. According to family historians, Henry prepared for a trip to New York during the years of 1805 and 1810. He never returned home. The facts are not known concerning his disappearance, but it was widely known through the community that Henry was traveling to New York for a patent for his new invention. During this same time period, the wife of Henry died from burns received from fighting a house fire. The two daughters, Katy and Anna were orphans at a young age. Katy married David Burkett in 1817 and Anna married Daniel Bowman. Anna and Daniel migrated west to Indiana and was settled in the area by 1850. Katy and David had two sons, Daniel and David Jr. David Burkett died in 1820 leaving young Katy a widow. She never remarried and raised her two sons in Ashe County. Katy died after 1860. She is shown on the 1860 census living with her son, David Burkett Jr.

I gazed upon the sunrise as it stretched it’s rays over the mountain I took a breath from the new day Remembering the long dusty miles and the cold rain The wagon wheels may rest today This valley with it’s fresh water and fertile soil is all I need At long last, I am home

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William Miller arrived in New Jersey from England circa 1752 leaving his fiancée, Mary Aldridge behind. William bound himself out in order to earn money for Mary’s passage. She arrived circa 1764 and the couple were married. They migrated along the Great Wagon Road to Carolina and first settled in the Jersey Settlement of Rowan County. By 1783, the couple had moved to the western section of the colony and was living in present day Meat Camp community of Ashe County. The couple’s son, William Miller Jr. was elected to the NC House of Representatives in 1824. He died one year later.

Luke White served in the militia from Wilmington District, NC according to many family members. However; the documents that would prove this statement have not been discovered as of yet. The New Hanover courthouse was burned in 1798, 1819 and 1840 and this would have been the prime target to find these resources. It is believed that Luke was born in Virginia circa 1750 and died during the year of 1820 in Ashe County. Luke married Elizabeth Yokley prior to 1773. Luke and Elizabeth lived along Roans Creek where Elizabeth died prior to 1810. The children of this couple are Elilzabeth, Susan, Nancy, Sallie, Mary, Catherine, James, David, John, Luke Jr and William.

Back Roads of Ashe County, NC

Rev. William Ashley was one of the earliest Methodist preachers in present day Ashe County. William was born in Surry County, NC and married Elizabeth Calhoun in 1778. The couple moved to the western section of the state by 1815 and were living in the Little Horse Creek area. William became the minister of Methodist Episcopal Church in Warrensville. At the time, the family had moved to Staggs Creek. A private cemetery overlooking the North Fork of the New River has remained on the family property for over 150 years. William died January 31, 1852 and the couple had eight children. Polly, Cynthia, Cary, Frances, Nancy Malinda, Spencer, Zilphia and James Porter Ashley.

The community of Scottsville was named after Frank Scott who operated a store in the area. Warrensville was first settled in 1826 and was then known as Buffalo Creek. It was renamed in honor of a man who operated the first grist and sawmill in the community. Crumpler was named after Major Crumpler, a confederate officer. It’s interesting to know that the aristocracy of eastern Carolina during the mid 18th century referred to the early frontiersmen of the western lands as “offscourings of the earth” and “fugitives of justice.” As research has proven, many families settled this vast wilderness when it was illegal to do so. Opinions will vary to the reasoning behind their migration, but a well known fact supports the determination shown by these early families. The farming of rocky soil was strenuous and the continued threats by Indians were common. By 1810, the wilderness had transformed to a beautiful landscape portrait. The inhabitants lived in peace and remote from the ever changing environment below the mountains. To learn more about the history of Ashe County, visit the history of 1914.

This is the end of segment 1 of this series. Segment 2 will be arriving soon. We Thank You so much for your support of Piedmont Trails and wish you great success on your research. Enjoy your journey !!

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 !!

Wagons, Horses & Stagecoaches

Adventures Along The Great Wagon Road

The travelers along the Great Wagon Road were able to experience many different adventures. Experiences ranging from weather related storms to musical entertainment and everything in between. This article will concentrate on the wagons, horses and stagecoaches that the early pioneers used on the road. The traffic along the road depended upon the season. During the harsh winter months, travelers would almost cease while other seasons would encounter the moving dirt and dust from the wheels moving south. At it’s beginning, the Great Wagon Road was a small hunting trail for local area Indians. Locals named the trail, The Warrior’s Path and this path measured a mere few feet at it’s widest point.

Once the Carolina frontier was opened for settlement, many northern settlers began planning the trip southward. Packhorses were led to Carolina beginning circa 1722. The path began to widen but as late as 1750, areas of the road were still only a few feet wide with narrow steep cliffs bordering it’s side. The road changed over the years in order to allow larger wagons to pass through safely. Several side roads were made to accommodate the larger wagons. Some of these roads would completely separate the traveling parties into two or three separate groups for days. The majority of the farming families made their carts and wagons. Due to the construction of these early vehicles, many did not make it to the new destination. The wagons that broke down along the road were either repaired or discarded where they fell. Many travelers set out on the journey by foot and packed what they carried in bundles strapped to their backs and small sleds that they would drag behind them. Families who owned only 1 horse usually traveled with the father on horseback and a child riding with him, while other family members walked behind. A mother would take care of the little children by either carrying them or holding their hands while walking along the road. By 1740, trains of packhorses could be seen along the road. Each animal capable of carrying 600 pounds each. These horses would usually carry a bridle bell as was the custom of the day. Other travelers could hear the bells in the distance and knew that a train of packhorses were near by.

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By 1750, large wagons were seen along the road. These were given the name of Conestoga. Manufactured in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, these wagons were capable of carrying up to 6 tons of weight. The wagons were built from hickory, white oak and poplar. The hubs were made from black gum or sour gum trees surrounded by a ring of iron used as the “tire” of the wheel. The weight of the wagon ranged from 3,000 to 3,500 pounds when construction was complete. A hinged tailgate dropped downward at the rear for easy loading and unloading. The wagons were arched with several iron hoops which were covered with an awning of canvas or homespun cloth. The covering was called a “poke bonnet”. These wagons were expensive ranging in price of $175 to $250 between the years of 1760-1790. Wagon Drivers could be hired to transport families and their possessions to their new homes. This practice was very popular as the families could trade for the travel expenses and have someone within their party that was very familiar with the territory. Wagon Drivers would advertise their departure on court day when everyone was in town. Families would make their deals and set the date for departure. These wagons were led by a team of 4 or 5 horses and required constant attention while on the road. The driver held his hand firmly on the “jerk line” which connected with the bit of the left wheel horse or team leader. Because of this, the driver would always sit on the left side just as we do today while driving our automobiles. While holding steady on the “jerk line”, the driver was able to control his team verbally. “Haw” meant to turn left while “Gee” meant to turn right. “Whoa” meant to stop. The horses set their own pace and provided braking power with their strong hindquarters. On steep grades, a chain would be installed from the wheels to the coupling poles to provide a brake. Wagons owned by a company were called “line teams” while independent drivers were called “regulars”.

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Many pioneers built their own wagons. One of the most important features of the wagons were the rims. The rims would have 2 pieces of iron that measured at least 1/2 inch thick. They were bent to the shape of the wheel and welded at both joints. The iron was hammered into place and immersed in cold water to shrink the iron to a firm and tight fit. Other features that were common are feed boxes attached to the side boards, a tool box equipped with horse hardware and various other tools essential for 18th century transportation. The settlers also stocked their wagons with crude iron utensils and “spider” pots used for cooking. Spider pots were large iron pots resting on 3 legs. Straw mattresses were common along with food supplies to endure the family while traveling. The personal possessions were also loaded. These items would vary from one family to another. Furniture items would rarely make the trip along the road. More common were the trunks that were originally brought from the settlers homeland. These trunks would vary in size and would hold clothing, money, a Bible or prayer book and anything that was highly valued by the individual pioneer.

Once the piedmont area of North Carolina was opened for new settlers, the daily traffic along the Great Wagon Road quickly accelerated to the point that wagons met other wagons and livestock drives constantly. This allowed the road to naturally widen from wagons pulling over to allow others by. Settlers who resided in Virginia would often drive their herds of livestock to market in Pennsylvania. It was a common sight to see these herds along the road during the mid 18th century and stampedes were just as common. The attraction of new settlers, trains of packhorses traveling back and forth and herds heading to market brought with it a great many accidents and thefts. An English traveler, Nicholas Cresswell, stated that, “The frontier draws both the very good and the very worst.” This statement would prove to be correct many times. Driving herds along the road required skill and concentration. Stampedes easily trampled over anything in the path. Devastation and loss were felt by many as well as thankfulness and blessings to a new hero.

The frontier draws both the very good and the very worst

The fast paced stagecoaches began traveling the Great Wagon Road after 1750. Eventually, these coaches would replace the express riders and “for hire” wagons which carried the mail and passengers. The stagecoach line began in New York and Philadelphia and soon they became a familiar site along the road. John Butler advertised his stagecoach services in 1751 and by 1780, a stagecoach could easily carry 5 passengers and the mail. The mail coaches would carry the reputation of faster service, but the passengers soon realized that services pertaining to their traveling conditions were very few. The passengers were exposed to the weather elements while only a leather cloth would shield them. The jolt and bumps felt on the road magnified greatly as the pace of the horses never waivered. The horses were exchanged at strategic locations throughout the road. Some of these locations were inns, taverns, mills and meeting houses.

The pioneers learned quickly to watch the skies for any signs of inclement weather.  Many wagons and carts would get stuck in thick mud by day and frozen hard to the land by night. The temperatures may hover just below freezing for days refusing any removal efforts of the wagon. The pioneers had to face the weather conditions openly. Heavy downpours, strong thunderstorms are just a few of the elements endured by them.  Swollen rivers would allow some wagons to drift downstream in rough currents and break apart with a thunderous crash upon the heavy rocks. Family members would drown during many river crossings. If a ferry was present, the livestock was treated carefully as many would loose their footing and slip overboard.

Between 1730-1750, the road was a wilderness in southern Virginia and North Carolina. The pioneers were exposed to the wild animals in the night. Usually a watchman would guard the party and keep a watchful eye for bears, panthers, Indians and thieves. Robbers were especially common in Virginia and their numbers grew from 1750. The next segment will include more details on this subject and will demonstrate life while traveling the Great Wagon Road. These early pioneers left a trail of strength, courage and a dream for tomorrow. They were willing to travel far to a new wilderness, a frontier named Carolina. They had no knowledge of what awaited them and their loved ones. They dreamed of a new life with new opportunities for them and their offspring.

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Present Day Highway 81, Virginia

History reveals the timeline and the details; our hearts relive the passion our ancestors felt as they were traveling this old Indian trail of long ago. Thank you so much for your support of Piedmont Trails. The next segment on this great adventure will be arriving soon. Until then, best wishes are sent to you as you travel along your journey to the past.

 

A Song Behind The Plow

Protecting The Legacy of North Carolina’s History & Genealogy

The fate of history and family lineage dwells within the people of the region. It’s the people of an area that restores and strives to pass on the treasures of history and genealogy from one generation to another. North Carolina has been transformed out of a wilderness filled with nature and wonder to the more modernized domain that we all know very well today. To those who seek the historical facts, filled with dates, incidents, paper documents, etc. the course is set to prove this incident happened here and on this day at this time. To those who seek a more personal experience travel a slightly different path. This path allows the ability to capture emotions and feelings that pertains to the historical story. This tradition is as old as North Carolina’s history itself. The art of storytelling dates back to the beginning. Regardless of your personal beliefs, the communication trend from one generation to another initially originated through verbal vocabulary. The story would allow the plot, a climax and a setting to demonstrate and capture feelings in order for those listening to remember the details and know their history.

Discovering your personal family tree is rewarding in itself due to the challenges that are a given when it comes to research. Preserving the data is just as rewarding and greatly cherished for generations to come. More and more hobby genealogists are swept away with the research and put off till tomorrow the thoughts of preserving the information they have already gained. This segment discusses the processes that pertain to the immortality of your work and learning how to research a more pleasurable and personal path with history and genealogy.

A Researcher Must Enjoy The Task Or Risk The Mistake Of Missing The Past

The historical genealogist has a job before them and the job should be met with dedication, commitment and a promise to themselves. Not all researchers seek a complete knowledge of lineage but an objective goal should be set for each person, or group or family members involved with the project. The most important rule reveals the enjoyment of the task. This relates to the title of this segment, The Song Behind The Plow. You need to enjoy your work, just as the farmers of long ago had to find a way to enjoy plowing the fields. When the research is overwhelming or you become frustrated, take a break from it for awhile.

Family Bible

Preservation means action taken to prevent deterioration. The following outline gives tips on how you can preserve your family history.

  • Storing Family Pedigree
  1. Never store you pedigree online ONLY!! Having an online tree is important and a great tool to share with others, but always have a backup tree on a genealogy gedcom software program. Whichever program you chose, create a backup source just in case the program fails at some point.
  2. Store a hard copy of your tree on acid free paper in a protective secure location. If you have future plans for your research, this tip can be very valuable for publishing, donating, gifting, etc.
  • Storing Photographs, Family Heirlooms, Books
  1. Photographs-Store your negatives in a dark dry area and separate each negative. You can also contact your local library or historical society for more guidelines on restoring photographs and preserving them.
  2. Family Heirlooms-Keep an inventory of your heirlooms for insurance purposes and take photos as well. Have items appraised if needed.
  3. Family Bibles and Books-I highly recommend contacting your local library for preserving books in your local area. Each climate is somewhat different and assorted rules apply when preserving these items.

horse and plow

Storytelling combined with genealogy and history is a way of passing on your information to the future. There are many different ways in doing this, such as donating your gedcom to a local historical society or library. You can also consider donating your material to the state level, North Carolina State Archives or the National Archives. Either choice you make preserves your genealogy work for future researchers.

To begin your research off of the regular path, you have to create a starting point. An example of this from my own personal records is as follows:

Joshua G Motsinger(1837-1865) Joshua was born in Davidson County, NC to the parents of Felix Motsinger(1783-1872) and Christina Laughenour Motsinger(1793-1883). I traveled to the area of the family farm located on present day Concrete Works Road. The information was translated from the land deed and local citizens of the area. The original house was still standing and additions had been made to it around 1920 per conversations with local residents. Interviews and church records revealed more details on the family during the Civil War. Joshua worked in the mines located near present day High Point. He was never involved with combat but was able to provide for his family of two children and his wife, Elizabeth Smith Motsinger(1841-1905) all during the war years. This information was located with the Civil War Widow’s pension of 1901 and Civil War mine records located at the state archives and county records. The 1901 pension records are usually 5 to 10 pages in length and if you obtain a copy, you will find out many more details about the veteran and the widow’s family. The land was part of the original tract that Felix Motsinger(1727-1791) purchased back in 1763 and family members inherited the property all through the years. To read more about this family in a story format click on the following link, Shadows On The Heart.

As you can see, I have been able to locate a great deal of information about this family which allows everyone to personally experience the joys and sorrows they endured during their lives. This journey allowed me to visit the actual farmland, trace back to church records and much more. Only a few of these records existed online, the majority of the records were located in libraries, county archives of both Rowan and Davidson counties and with church members who stored records. Many personal interviews were conducted with older members of the family and knowledge was also obtained from the Southern Moravian Archives and local newspapers within the area. If you are unable to travel and visit the research area, writing to the local historical societies and libraries will guide you in the correct direction.

family tree

No matter how you decide to store or share your pedigree, always know that your family tree is magnificent. Be proud of your discoveries and cherish your journey as you conduct the research. Wishing you all a great adventure while you discover the history and genealogy of North Carolina.

 

North Carolina After The American Revolutionary War

During the years after the war, the pieces of many families remained shattered and separated. Although independence had been achieved, many continued to repair their homes, bury their loved ones and heal the wounds that were left behind. The lives of the settlers were forever changed by the onset of the war and it continued well after the last battle was fought on Carolina soil. To say this time was filled with excitement or happiness for all of the settlers would not be true. Hardships were many which resided with loss, separation and anxiety about the future. The settlers were strong-willed and held the capabilities to overcome the weight of sorrow. They watched their children grow and dreamed what they would become. They were loyal to their new country and worked hard to improve their surroundings. The Carolina wilderness was no longer the untamed forest. The state began to take on a new identity and with this new form emerged opportunities, wealth, knowledge and so much more.

Although business did thrive throughout the war, the years following were met with new opportunities and new entrepreneurs. The most popular business among the settlers was farming.. England discouraged cotton crops prior to the war in order to protect their woolen and linen manufacturers. After the war, cotton was beginning to be grown on large acreage plantations. These large farms were located primarily in the eastern part of the state. Tobacco was the most important crop prior to the war and was grown throughout the state. In 1730, Virginia banned the importation of North Carolina tobacco and in 1734, the first tobacco market opened in Bellair, Craven County. Pork was considered a wise investment for many settlers and proved to be quite profitable during the years after the war. Cattle was beginning to grow as well as poultry.

18th century clock (2)

18th Century Clock

Clock and Watchmakers were operating throughout the state after the war, only a few existed prior. Many of these were also jewelers, silver and goldsmiths. Charles Frederick Huguenine traveled to North Carolina and lived in Halifax. He was trained in Pennsylvania and operated a business in 1798. In Bethabara, Adam Keffler was listed as a clock manufacturer. Mecklenburg County recognized Jonas Cohen, native of London. Robert Eugan worked in Edenton and Peter Strong worked in Fayetteville. A total of 40 watchmakers existed in North Carolina during the 18th century.

The State Bank Bill was passed in 1805 and the first banks were Cape Fear and New Bern. Both of these originated in 1804. The State Bank of North Carolina was chartered and it began operating in 1811. The Federal Government did not issue paper notes until the Civil War. The individual banks produced the bank note currency that existed during the early years of the 19th century.

Gold mining became extremely popular in Cabarrus County after 1799. Underground mining was present all throughout the state by 1825. Everyone in the area would mine for gold in some form during this time, hoping to “strike it rich”.

The first paper mill was built near Hillsborough in 1771. The mill was built to help with the paper shortage during the war. Another paper mill was constructed and operated by Gottlieb Shober in 1790 in Salem. It thrived strongly until the year of 1879 when the mill shut down production. The first newspaper was the North Carolina Gazette, published in New Bern in 1751.

Many do not realize that two chain merchants existed in 18th century North Carolina. They were John Hamilton & Co. and Buchannan, Hastie & Co. These two companies were the dominant merchants on the eastern section of the state. They were both Scottish firms that would set up several stores and hire storekeepers to operate them. Both companies were very successful during the years after the war. To name all of the merchants of the state would require writing a book, so the following is a sample of the 18th century well-known merchants. Chowan County-John Porter, Bath-Giles Shute, Beaufort County-Edward Moseley, Craven County-John Carruthers, Salisbury-James Harrell (James operated his store from 1750-1780), Bethabara-Traugott Bagge (Traugott operated the store in Bethabara from 1768-1772, then in Salem from 1772-1800), Hillsborough-William Johnston, Pitt County-Matthew Scott, Mecklenburg County-Jeremiah McCafferty, Caswell County-John McCoy.

caldwell log park

The New Mill Located At David Caldwell Historic Park

Schools were not organized on a statewide basis following the Revolutionary War. However; several schools did exist within the state. A school was built in the year of 1745 in Edenton and another one built in New Bern in 1764. A school was opened in Hillsborough during the year of 1766. David Caldwell, a minister, organized a school in 1761 located in present day Guilford County. It was named Caldwell Log College and served as an academy. Dr. Charles Harris operated an apprenticeship school and trained approx. 90 students in Cabarrus County.

Years following the war shows approx. 3,500 physicians operating in North Carolina. Only 400 of these had undergone some sort of training and about 200 of these actually held medical degrees. Medical provisions were very sparse during the late 18th century and early 19th century. Moravians used peach blossoms to fight smallpox and sassafras leaves to purify the blood. White oak was used for dysentery. Many herbs and spices were used as medicine for the sick such as sage, rosemary, mint, mustard, nutmeg and many more. Common diseases during this time were Malaria, Typhus, Influenza, Smallpox, Whooping Cough, Tubercolis, Dysentery, Scurvy, Arthritis and Worms.

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 allowed the western lands to be open to new settlements. This created new dreams for many of the North Carolina settlers and many migrated west through the Appalachian Mountains. For some families that endured great hardships from the war, the expansion allowed them to leave the war memories behind.

Cumberland_Gap

Cumberland Gap

Lands west of the Carolina mountains were settled mainly by different Indian tribes during the war. Beginning soon after the war, many settlers began to look for land investment in the west and soon settlements were allowed in Indiana Territory. This territory originated in 1800 and consisted of the northwestern sections from the Kentucky River to Fort Recovery. Present day states include Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and sections of Ohio and Minnesota. Records and documents can be difficult to locate for the Indiana Territory, but not impossible. In time, the territory was divided into individual territories and later each one claimed statehood.  The Great Wagon Road was still a vital link to and from North Carolina at this time and now many new roads were created that linked new communities and towns. The stage coach lines were more organized and developed by 1830. Town life was changing and growing daily for the settlers as rural life remained basically the same. As families were leaving North Carolina, just as many were arriving, so the state showed significant growth following the war.

great wagon road

Map of  The Great Wagon Road

Thank You all so much for your support of Piedmont Trails. Wishing you all great treasures to uncover as you research your history and genealogy. Be sure to browse the website for more new information and research links. Save travels on your journey.

 

 

 

 

North Carolina Family Research

A Detailed Outline for Hobby Genealogists for the Piedmont Area

Before you began your genealogy research, you first acquire the desire of learning more about your family. It begins as an interest but as you research further, the interest grows. Similar as a seed planted along your personal trail, the names of long ago are written down on sticky notes, absorbed in your head and the records never give you enough data to satisfy your need. This is the beginning of a genealogy tree. The branches extend and beckon to be recognized. Tax records, censuses, land grants, late nights, endless caffeine and eyeglasses all await you. It’s a passion that only fellow genealogists understand. “I’ve finally found the maiden name of my 6th great grandmother!!!!!” Many don’t understand your excitement, but other researchers do and while they are enjoying the moment with you, they are also anxious to hear the surname to see if it may link to their family too. Genealogy is an amazing route to travel and contains so much more than estate files and sticky notes. So, Welcome, pull up a chair and enjoy your visit. North Carolina is one of the most fascinating states to conduct genealogy research. You can find records dating to the mid 17th century. You only have to know where to look and how to look. Let’s begin.

stacked books

Surname

Researching without the correct name will only lead you to outer space. You have a surname, but you have to consider spelling variations of the name. For instance, Kramer, Cramer, Cromer and Crommer are all the same surname. You can research databases using the Soundex Code. This will give you much more information that you can sift through in order to pinpoint and identify the individual you are currently looking for. All through history, individuals have been named at birth and known by friends and other acquaintances by a totally different name. Nicknames exist today just as they did centuries ago. Immigration from another country not only required the immigrants to take an oath of allegiance, in some cases, it required the immigrant to change his or her last name. Having the Right name is vital before you research in North Carolina or anywhere within the world.

Piedmont Location

Majority of piedmont early settlers migrated from the northern colonies during the mid 18th century, such as Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maine and Virginia. When they arrived to North Carolina from these areas, they settled primarily in the area, east of the Yadkin River and west of the sandhills area near present day Fayetteville and Sanford. County tax lists and early land grants will give you the exact location of your early piedmont ancestor. Every early county tax list is not online and sadly, some of these are lost forever due to courthouse fires or other circumstances. County history is extremely important to your research. Without the history and timeline of the county, you are researching in the dark. To understand North Carolina county timeline, click here. Majority of land grants are available and many of these are online. Searchable databases can be located at North Carolina Land Grants and at North Carolina State Archives. Estate wills and court records can give you the location as well. Once you have the correct name and the correct location, you then can establish a research trail. Keep in mind the changing boundaries of the state and counties as you move along your research timeline.

Research Timeline

It’s important to create a timeline for the ancestor you are searching for. If you’re not sure exactly what the timeline is, begin with what you know. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s not to guess on genealogy data. Guessing is left for the lottery, the percentages are basically the same. Once you know the timeline, look for historical events within the timeline. For instance, what was going on in the area at the time. This will heighten your search techniques and allow you to search certain criteria.  North Carolina Encyclopedia is a great source for this as an online tool. Your local library and historical societies are great choices as well.

History of Online Research

Majority of researchers of present day, typically research online. And, YES, there are many different ways to research online today versus 20 years ago. The websites that were available then were very few and the information was mainly donated by volunteers or librarians who wanted to make the information available, freely with no obligations. As the years progressed, a few genealogy companies began to emerge and these companies began collecting this data for commercial use. Volunteers began to disappear and genealogists began to keep their records private because they didn’t intend for the information to be used on a commercial revenue basis. As the volunteers were eliminating their data on the internet,  a monopoly of genealogy companies began to make themselves known and fees began to surface for subscriptions, memberships and more. The majority of the free sites that remained online became unknown to the future researcher. These sites were no longer being updated  and many were left abandoned. A few sites that remained were the exception, the #1 site- Rootsweb and the #2 site- The Genealogical Society of Utah, now known as Family Search. Both have been transformed over the years. The #1 North Carolina site was, The American History Project. It was filled with link after link of county records. It was a volunteer program and many county documents were stored on the #1 site of Rootsweb in order to gain popularity and to take advantage of the free pages offer with Rootsweb. But this all changed when Rootsweb was sold in 2008. Many volunteers who were actively donating data online left the site for good and slowly began disappearing from the internet. Other commercial companies began to appear and the online genealogy world forever changed from that point onward. The history of online genealogy allows a better understanding of online techniques in today’s market. I refer to online genealogy as a market, because it has vastly changed during the past 20 years and now resides within commercial trade as millions and millions of revenue are reported for large genealogy companies.

daisy

Present Day Online Research

As stated earlier, online research has grown tremendously over the years. It’s amazing to discover the changes through the years. You may have an online subscription to the many corporations now involved with genealogy or you may rely on your own personal online search engine to obtain records. Online genealogy companies will inform you what they have on their database. You may be able to locate the majority of your family on one site and you may not. It all depends what the company has available for you online. A multitude of records are available by using certain simple keywords and a variety of search engines.  All that is required to perform a simple online search like this is to insert keywords for the search engine to do it’s job. Direct free search engines for North Carolina are North Carolina Genweb and North Carolina Genealogy Society just to name a few. There are more of these free databases online and they can be found if you insert the keyword, “free”. Also, use several search engines, there are many out there in the internet world and each one is slightly different from the other. The results from these different search engines will amaze you with the results.  Keywords are vital on getting the results you want. Think about what you are searching for and enter the keywords that speak this for you. Sometimes too much information is just too much data to go through. Concentrate on what’s important and narrow your search in this manner.

Online Family Trees

The trees located online can be used as “Hints & Clues”. The trees themselves are not sources and should not be used this way with your own personal lineage. You discover someone’s tree and it names an ancestor you have been looking for. After the excitement calms down, look for the source that proves the information. If you don’t see it, the new discovery is just a simple clue for you to investigate further if you wish. It’s not a legal binding document, a family Bible or proof that states this particular person is your ancestor. 95% of online trees contain incorrect data, lineage failures and fabricated information. You may contact the person who owns the tree and they inform you they received the information from a book, for instance. Get the name of the source so you can verify the information. Many family genealogy books have errors as well, look for the legal proof. Without the proof, it’s a simple clue.

Following The Legal Trail

Each and every family that lived in the piedmont area of North Carolina associated with the current government in some form. They paid taxes, submitted information to census takers and acquired a means of making a living such as farming. Births occurred along with deaths and many owned land. All of these actions are intertwined with government documents which creates a legal trial to follow. These type of documents are available for research on many different levels. The NC Archives houses all of these documents from each and every county of North Carolina and even those counties that no longer exist today. County government documents can be located at the current county seat courthouse. Even city and town documents can be located in individual settlements and historical societies. Several North Carolina books have been published during the past 100 years that pertain to these documents such as tax lists, will abstracts and much more. 33 counties suffered lost records due to fires, etc. For the piedmont area, Guilford county is among the worst as far as records destroyed or lost. The legal trail leads to proof of your ancestor’s existence and lineage to you.

Snail Mail & Email

The older genealogist loves snail mail. You arrive at the mailbox and guess what, the will of 4th great grandfather has arrived. You now hold the legal document proving his existence and the names of his wife, children and witnesses to the death event. Handwritten or typed letters say so much about your passion and drive to locate the answers you seek. This works especially well with older family members who may hold the key to your research. The piedmont area has the best hospitality and loves to share with others. Librarians and the archivists located at the NC State Library do respond to snail mail requests on a regular basis. Please provide them with as much information as possible when submitting a request. The state archives will charge you for the copies and out of state residents will also pay a search fee. To read more about the fees, click here. Local historical societies will respond to your request by snail mail as well. These societies are comprised mostly of volunteers who are eager to respond to your request. Email communications are a vital tool to genealogy research. Email can allow documents to be attached for quick viewing and filing  on your computer.  Everyone has access to email these days and it’s a quick communicator that provides privacy unlike social media sites or message boards online.

cabin777

The piedmont area of North Carolina holds many details within it’s history. The past can come alive as you research your ancestors in this area and learn how they lived and where. Land grants of long ago can lead you to the original homestead and possibly a family cemetery in the woods. Words can’t describe the feeling as you walk along the same land as your ancestors did over 250 years ago.

For links to local piedmont area historical societies and county databases, visit the NC Genealogy Links page. The page is updated on a weekly basis, so visit it often for new surprises and links. The next blog will continue the discovery of early land grants in Rockingham County. Wishing you all great success with your research and share your great discoveries and adventures with Piedmont Trails. As always, your support is greatly appreciated here and your presence is greatly valued. May sunny days follow you along your journey.