The Great Wagon Road In North Carolina

A Detailed Description For Years of 1745-1770

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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

A Detailed Route of The Great Wagon Road

Winchester, Virginia to Roanoke, Virginia

The wagon wheels are slowly turning as the eyes are focused on the wilderness ahead. The weary are anxious for the trip to be over but the adventurous are eager for the next excitement in the road. The skies are open for all to see as the party succumbs to mother nature and her surroundings. It’s the hope and dreams that thrive within the hearts of so many. The longing of a home; security for the future, prosperity for the hard at work. All of this and more are promised along this road. One step at a time, no matter the obstacle, the road leads onward. The Great Wagon Road, resembling freedom, demanding strength and endurance, while remaining historic for generations of today and all tomorrows.

Welcome to Segment 2, A Detailed Route of The Great Wagon Road. When the settlers reached present day Winchester, Virginia, they were able to rest before arriving to the wilderness of colonial Virginia. Winchester was then known as Frederick Town and this area was thriving with activity. The three main roads leading from Pennsylvania to Virginia all met at this point. A tavern and several inns were located in the area. Depending on the timeline of your ancestor, the traffic along the road was quickly multiplying as the travelers reached this community. US Highway 11 resides closely to the route our ancestors had taken many years ago. 14 miles from Frederick Town was the crossing of Cedar Creek located at the Shenandoah County line. A bridge is now located near the original ford crossing. Trees blocking the road were a constant battle facing the travelers. This area was deeply wooded with little to no civilians located nearby. This of course depends on the time range in which your ancestor traveled the road. For instance, in 1740, this area was a complete wilderness with nearly zero inhabitants. By 1765, several pioneers had settled along the road, but the area was still considered very much a frontier. The trees were time consuming to remove and created one of many dangerous atmospheres that the settlers were constantly facing.

cedar creek November blog

Cedar Creek, Virginia Postcard

Once the pioneers crossed Cedar Creek, they traveled 3 miles to Strasburg. This community was established in 1761 but was considered a small village as early as 1749. The Great Wagon Road is still basically following US Highway 11 as several small streams and creeks are forded. 24 miles from Strasburg, Stoney Creek is crossed and the elevation during this area is 804 ft. The trail is rugged and filled with huge rocks and steep hillsides. 8 long miles allows the travelers to reach the Shenandoah River. Along the banks of the river, the Great Lakes Indian tribes would use this very route as a southern trading trail. Shenandoah named for the daughter of the stars. John Fontaine recorded in his diary after reaching the river dated 9/5/1716, “We had a good dinner and after it we got the men together and loaded all of their arms and we drank the King’s health.” By 1785, John Fontaine would not have recognized the area as mills were located all along the river and several families were settled within the valley.

Many settlers decided to stay in this particular region and they began settlements along the Shenandoah River. Christian Konrad, John Miller and John Ziegler organized the building of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church as early as 1733. John Stover, a Swiss land agent, sold land to George Boone in 1735. George, the uncle of Daniel Boone, lived near St. Peter’s Church and Bear Lithia Springs.  Surnames of Price, Gibbons, Smith, Meadows, Blakemore and Bear were living near Chainey Hollow as early as 1740.

The next 58 miles took the travelers through present day Rockingham County and Augusta County, Virginia. The mountain laurel, chestnut and red oak trees would overwhelm the landscape. Thick forests would line the hill sides with ash, maple and basswood. During the summer months, blackberries, huckleberries and raspberries ripen along the river banks. Wild game would have been plentiful through the valley such as deer, bear, fox and much more.

Shenandoah River Valley Map

Shenandoah River Valley date 1890

The travelers adjust to their surroundings as they make camp each night and make any repairs needed on their gear. They are traveling in parties numbering as low as 5 wagons up to 25 or more. Many have paid guides with them leading the way. It was important to maintain a continuous trend daily, but if a family member became sick or hurt, this could halt the travelers and many would separate from their original party.

Augusta County, Virginia is reached after traveling 58 miles from the crossing of the Shenandoah River. This area was first settled as early as 1732 by John Lewis. Other early surnames are Beverley, Coalter, Rommel, Bingham and Sheppard. The settlement was named Augusta after the county name and later changed to Staunton. From this point, the road is currently residing present day US Highway 11 and turns on State Highway 613 for 14 miles. The pioneers would then cross Folly Mills Creek and South River which brings present day road back to US Highway 11 in Greenville. 6 miles lies the Rockbridge County line as the road continues to stay within the valley basin as the settlers peer upwards to the steep mountain sides of Shenandoah National Park. The county, established in 1777, is marked by the boundary of Marl Creek, a bridge today.

The Natural Bridge is now 14 miles away. The area was viewed upon with awe by the travelers. Everyone would know of the bridge that stands 215 feet from the waters of Cedar Creek and spans a total of 90 feet in length. Many would camp along the creek and hold church services. The early Monacan Indians worshipped the area they called, “Bridge of God” and were inspired by it’s natural beauty.

The James River crossing is located 14 miles from the Natural Bridge. A ferry was available to the travelers by owner, Robert Looney. The Looney family lived in Cherry Tree Bottom near present day Buchanan. The family owned and operated a mill and an inn for travelers. The biggest obstacle for the travelers would be getting the horses to load the ferry for the crossing. Also, during the winter months, the river would freeze over preventing the ferry to cross. The ice would not be thick enough for the settlers to cross safely due to the weight of the wagons. The local inhabitants regarded the road as “The Great Valley Road” and many businesses would be established along the James River and Buchanan, Virginia. Surnames during 1740, Buchanan, Boyd, Anderson, Looney and Smith.

james river at buchanan

James River Bridge in Buchanan, Virginia

 

Traveling from Looney’s Ferry, the trails follows rough and rugged terrain. During rainstorms, the road would be almost impassable, causing the pioneers to stop and wait until the storms passed. Wagons were loaded with supplies and personal items which allowed the vessels to be extremely heavy. The muddy road would often absorb the wheels waist deep which could damage the wheel or axle and prevent the family from traveling further until repaired. During the hot dry summer season, dust was a constant battle. The dust would cover everything in sight. It was difficult to keep food supplies covered and free from the elements.  Approximately 14 miles from Looney’s ferry lies a small community named Amsterdam. During the early 19th century, this community was a normal stop during the stagecoach line. But, during the mid 18th century, a few settlers would have been located in this region. Joseph McDonald is found on records as early as 1769. McDonald is living in a log cabin and visited by the Moravians passing through the area in October of 1753. The original log home can be seen fully restored in Trinity, Virginia.

The travelers are now 4 miles from present day Roanoke County and the famous stone house. This stone structure once stood at present day Read Mountain Road. It was mentioned in several diaries by pioneers who traveled the Great Wagon Road. However, by the early 19th century, the structure is no longer standing and was not regarded as a landmark for travelers within the region. Remnants of the old Black Horse Tavern can be seen along Old Mountain Road which is the actual route of the Great Wagon Road through this area. To read more about the tavern and the Buford family, click here. The road leading into present day Roanoke, which has turned from Old Mountain Road to US Highway 11, was very difficult for the pioneers. Elevation along the road provided very steep hillsides. Diaries noted that several wagons unloaded half of their contents and took the wagons down hill or up hill. Once the hill was accomplished, these contents were unloaded and the empty wagon returned to load the half left behind. Numerous large rocks and deep holes filled the road space and travel at times were slowed to crawl.

Buffalo

Roanoke was first known as Old Buffalo Salt Lick. The road was a hunting trail of the Indians and this area was a gathering place for the animals, namely buffalo. Huge herds of buffalo would arrive at the salt marshes before the onset of the 18th century and this was considered as prime land for the Indians up to 1722. The Moravians describe several sightings of buffalo through Virginia and into North Carolina. But as of date, no documentation has been located that describes the huge herds that once migrated this area. Click here to learn more about Big Lick Junction. Early surnames in this area are Campbell, Newman, Preston, Osborn, Fulkerson, Carter and Rainey.

The settlers would have enjoyed a rest in this area while anticipation grew from thoughts of crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains into the frontier of Carolina. Segment 3 will cover the road as it winds through the Blue Ridge Mountains in southern Virginia. The road is continuously changing through the seasons and as the travelers move southward, the road becomes more narrow. At times, the road is noted to be only a few feet wide.

October great wagon road 2

Thank You all so much for your support and your interest in history and genealogy. If you missed previous articles pertaining to the Great Wagon Road, you can find each one listed below.

The Great Wagon Road

From Pennsylvania To New Lands

Wagon Road To North Carolina

Remembering The Great Wagon Road

Wagons, Horses & Stagecoaches

A Detailed Route of The Great Wagon Road

Our ancestors left an amazing trail to follow. Documents and records allow us to visit the past and share their adventures. As we all search through the paper trail, the journeys of long ago become intertwined with the journeys of today. Wishing you all great discoveries and treasures along your own personal journey.

 

 

A Detailed Route of The Great Wagon Road

Lancaster to Winchester

The Great Wagon Road consisted of more than one route from Pennsylvania to the southern colonies. In fact, 12 different routes are known to exist between Philadelphia to Augusta, Georgia. The most popular route during the years of 1741-1770 originated from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and ended at the Yadkin River in North Carolina. This particular route consisted of approx. 430 miles and began at the Conestoga River Ford in Pennsylvania. The actual river crossing location can be found along present day Old Philadelphia Pike and/or State Highway 340. A bridge crosses the river near the original location. In 1795, this portion of the road was actually paved with stones and ended at the Susquehanna River ferry crossing which is now a bridge on State Highway 462.

From Columbia, Pennsylvania, the road traveled to Wrightsville, known as Wright’s Ferry during the 18th century.  The road continued until York, Pennsylvania and the crossing of Cordorus Creek. This crossing is also a bridge today on State Highway 462. From York, the pioneers traveled approx. 5 miles to reach the “junction”. This crossroad was widely known with the travelers. It joined present day road following State Highway 116. This section was considered the older path after 1747 when the new trail was constructed. The new section of the road follows present day US Highway 30. The old route would take the settlers to Winchester, Virginia and consisted of approx. 117 miles.  The new route would take the settlers to the same location, Winchester and consisted of approx. 114 miles. In 1754, another route was also available to the settlers that took them from York to Winchester, Virginia through Black Gap. Estimated mileage for this route is 112 miles.

These alternate routes were roughly the same mileage but depending upon the season of the year, the resources that the family carried with them and the guide who was accompanying the party weighed heavily on which route was taken. During a ten year span, studies reveal that the most popular route for many was the oldest route due to the inns, taverns and business resources that were established along the way. This route held physicians, more churches for worship, blacksmiths and more.

group page picture

Once a party left Lancaster, Pennsylvania, they traveled down the road headed for Columbia, Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River ferry. The wagon would hold supplies to last through the trip. Large furniture items would not accompany most families. In fact, very few personal items would have been on board. If the family owned a spinning wheel, this was a necessity and was placed on the wagon. Bedding and bed framing were also essential. Clothing, cooking utensils such as pots, bowls, a chest with small personal items, money and most importantly, food to endure the trip were also added to the load. The road located in Columbia (established in 1726) was in good to fair shape during this time period and was often traveled with suppliers on their way to Philadelphia and elsewhere. Upon leaving Columbia, the road led to York, Pennsylvania which was approx. 14 miles away. On a good day of travel, 14 miles was achieved by the settlers, but on many days, less than 5 miles a day were made.

York, Pennsylvania was a thriving community during the time when the settlers would travel the Great Wagon Road. York was established in 1741 and was known as the first town west of Susquehanna River.  The Schutlz brothers built the first stone homes in the area circa 1733/34. An inn operated by Schnell was well known to the area. From York, the famous junction was just 5 miles down the road. Majority of travelers would camp at the junction site. Final discussions would be held on the route taken and chores such as washing, cooking, etc. would be completed. Repairs and equipment check would be finalized. The settlers would start at sunup to begin the next phase of their journey.

camp fire

14 miles from the junction, Hanover, Pennsylvania is located in Adams County. This is a new township to the settlers with limited resources available to them. The settlers are mainly Irish and Scottish. The community has met with frequent Indian raids during the past several years. The road here maintains a fair condition dependent upon the season and the current weather.  Traveling at night was extremely dangerous and majority of families refused to do this. They would camp each night and rise with the sun each morning.

From Hanover, the Great Wagon Road held 9 miles of wilderness to the state line of Maryland.  6 additional miles were required in order to reach the small village of Taneytown, Maryland. This was a very small community established in 1754 and as late as 1791 still consisted of only 1 road through the village. The next destination is Big Pipe Creek which is 4 miles from Taneytown and then the crossing of Monocacy River. The present day location for this crossing can be located on Maryland State Highway 194 in Frederick County.

Monocacy River

Monocacy River, Frederick County, Maryland

From the river crossing, the wagons would travel 20 miles to Frederick, Maryland. This community was filled with German settlers and the families would be welcomed to stay the night in homes all throughout the area. Hospitality was well known for this area along the road. Leaving Frederick, it was 12 miles to Turner’s Gap. This ranged in elevation of 1,100 feet, located at the Blue Ridge Mountain chain. 12 miles from this location was the crossing of the Potomac River in West Virginia. This was a ferry crossing that Samuel Taylor operated from 1734-1754 and Thomas Swearingen began operations in 1755. “Packhorse Ford” was located nearby for those families who either did not want to cross on the ferry or could not afford the money required for the crossing. Once the families crossed the Potomac River, they could rest in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. This small community was growing steadily every year due to it’s close proximity of the Great Wagon Road. Wagons could be repaired, supplies could be purchased or traded and the families could camp along the banks of the river.

potomac river

Potomac River

From the river crossing, it was 18 miles to the state line of Virginia. Once the wagons reached this point, the road quickly deteriorated to large rocks, fallen trees and steep inclines. Heavy loads became more difficult to control and animals became fatigued and weary. They would travel through Vestal’s Gap (known today as Key’s Gap) and through William’s Gap (known today as Snicker’s Gap). This was a long 15 mile trail until they reached Opequon Creek. Once they crossed the creek, they were 5 miles from Frederick Town (known today as Winchester, Virginia). The settlers were anxious upon reaching this community. It allowed them to rest and make any needed repairs on the wagons. Many would become concerned about their loads for the remaining of the trip. Items were discarded or traded for more supplies or money. They all knew that a vast wilderness laid before them. Many were second guessing their decision to travel the road, but they knew what laid behind them, they would travel further to see what laid before them.

The next segment will detail the journey from Winchester, Virginia to the Yadkin River in North Carolina. Surnames of families traveling the Great Wagon Road are currently discussed and researched by Piedmont Trails, followers, group members and forum members on Piedmont Trails FB Group Page and at Piedmont Trails Forum. Everyone is welcome to join us. I hope you all are enjoying this series as much as I am. The research involved with this project has been so rewarding. The Great Wagon Road is a treasure in it’s own right and the history associated with it’s journey throughout the years can not be ignored. The ancestors who traveled this road were just as special as the road itself. Although we may never know all of the details this road and it’s passengers endured, we have a better understanding of the conditions they experienced and a deep respect for the footprints that were left behind. To read more articles about The Great Wagon on Piedmont Trails, please click on the following links.

The Great Wagon Road-1st Article

From Pennsylvania To New Lands-2nd Article

Wagon Road To North Carolina-3rd Article

Remembering The Great Wagon Road-4th Article

Wagons, Horses & Stagecoaches-5th Article

Thank You all so much for your support of Piedmont Trails. It is your dedication to history and genealogy that breathes life into the words upon this page. Thank You !! May I wish you all well with your research and hope you have great treasures to discover while walking in the footsteps of your ancestors.

mums and log cabin

Special Thanks to the following sources:

York Historical Society of York, Pennsylvania

Map records of Pennsylvania State Archives

The American Frontier by Babcock

The Present State of Virginia by Beverly

Germans in Maryland by Nead

 

Early Settlers Of Rockingham County, NC

18th Century Land Grants of Matrimony Creek

Rockingham County began it’s origins from Guilford County in 1785. The Cheraw Indians lived in the area for many years. Another name for them was often referred to as Saura Indians. They spoke in Sioux dialect and lived in villages between the Catawba River and Yadkin River. They migrated during the late 17th century to present day Stokes and Rockingham counties. Several brutal attacks occurred during the early 18th century which left the villages in dismay.  In 1710, the Senaca tribe from the northwest attacked several villages within the area. The Cheraw or Saura Indians soon migrated southeast to Pee Dee River. Rockingham received it’s name from British Prime Minister, Charles Watson-Wentworth, the Marquis de Rockingham. He was the Prime Minister during the 1765 Stamp Act.

Matrimony Creek begins in Virginia and flows south through Rockingham County until it reaches the Dan River near Highway 311. Ironically, the little creek in Virginia splits away from Bear Branch and continues to present day Highway 220 into North Carolina. There are two Matrimony Creek sections, and one creek. This is why location is so important to the genealogy researcher. In other words, Matrimony Creek joins Bear Branch and flows together for approx. 2 miles in Virginia. Matrimony Creek is rumored to obtain the name from a bachelor residing in the area. Of course, no proof of this is in existence, but it would be interesting to know the story.

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Sullivant

Owen Sullivant received a land warrant consisting of 400 acres along Matrimony Creek on March 20, 1753.

Cantwill

Isaac Cantwill is recorded as a preacher of a church located along Matrimony Creek. The record states that in 1756, the church has a total of 28 members. Matrimony Creek Primitive Baptist Church was officially organized on September 17, 1776. By 1790, Aaron, Charles and Jacob Cantwill (Cantril) can be located on the census for Rockingham County.

James

Among the first settlers of Matrimony Creek was a man named Abraham James. On August 27th of 1762, Abraham received 697 acres located on both sides of Matrimony Creek. Abraham moved his family to Wilkes County and can be located on the 1790 census.  Isaac James entered on April 19, 1779, 200 acres and was issued on October 22, 1782 Book 48, page 139 Grant 630. William James entered on August 1, 1780, 440 acres and was issued on November 8, 1784 Book 56, page 208 Grant 1000.

Hopper

William Hopper recorded 510 acres on May 10, 1762 Book 6, page 161 Grant 20. He originally entered 700 acres in 1761. The Hopper surname is very active in present day Rockingham County, but William moved his family to Wilkes County and can also be found on the 1790 census near Abraham James. Soon after, William moved again to Orange County. Several family members remained near Matrimony Creek. Darby Hopper entered 235 acres on February 26, 1795. The grant was issued on April 24, 1800 in Book 107, page 362, Grant 397. James Hopper entered 200 acres on February 27, 1797 and was recorded on December 20, 1804. Book 120, page 213, Grant 510. Other family notes consists of a Joshua Hopper married Eliza Green and moved to Jacksonville, Illinois where he died in 1851. Thomas Darby Hopper was born in 1731 in Virginia and died in 1820 in Rockingham County, NC. He married Mary Rebecca Morgan.

Gowen

Aaron Gowen entered 410 acres in 1764. It was issued on May 16, 1786 in Book A, page 33. Aaron sold his land to Turbefield Barnes on October 26, 1786 Book A, page 139. At this time, a James Gowen also sold land for a 100 pounds to Thomas Henderson. The 1790 census shows James Gowing listed in Rockingham County. For more family deed records, click the link here.

Callahan

Darby Callahan entered 53 acres along the creek. The grant was issued on November 17, 1790 in Book 76, page 197, Grant 77. The 1790 census lists Josias and William Callahan living in Stokes County. Ezekiel Callahan entered 2 tracts of land on April 7, 1779. 200 acres were issued on October 22, 1783 Book 54, page 38 Grant 725. 100 acres were issued on October 22, 1783 Book 54, page 119 Grant 912.

Harris

Jesse and Thomas Harris entered 175 acres along Matrimony Creek on October 13, 1798 and was issued August 20, 1802. Book 115, page 312, Grant 443. Nathaniel Harris entered on September 17, 1793, 60 acres and was issued December 20, 1796 Book 91, page 445 Grant 247. Nathaniel Harris also entered 350 acres on March 1, 1797 and was issued December 18, 1799 Book 106, page 191 Grant 381. Charles Harris entered on November 21, 1778, 200 acres and was issued on October 11, 1783 Book 54, page 122 Grant 918.

Jameson

Thomas Jameson entered 140 acres along Matrimony Creek on August 24, 1796. The patent was never recorded.

Johnston

Joseph Johnston entered on August 28, 1780, 589 acres and was issued on November 8, 1784 Book 56, page 219 Grant 1038.

Cook

Reubin Cook entered on May 23, 1780, 600 acres and was issued on November 8, 1784 Book 56, page 194 Grant 964.

Odle

William Odle entered 25 acres on February 8, 1791 and was recorded on July 16, 1795 Book 86, page 465 Grant 215. The 1790 census for Rockingham County shows the surname Odle as John, Joseph, Lewis, Uriah and William.

Carter

Nathan Carter entered 100 acres on February 11, 1797 and was issued December 18, 1799 Book 106, page 186 Grant 373. The 1790 census for Rockingham County shows a Thomas Carter listed.

rockingham cabin

Cobler

Christopher Cobler entered 300 acres on November 28, 1778 and was issued on March 1, 1780 Book 33, page 299 Grant 253. Frederick Cobler entered August 16, 1784, 50 acres and was issued on May 16, 1787 Book 65, page 141 Grant 1449.

Powell

John Powell entered 100 acres on March 30, 1779 and was issued on March 1, 1780 Book 33, page 337 Grant 291.

Roberts

Richard Roberts entered on September 6, 1778, 200 acres and was issued on March 1, 1780 Book 33, page 441 Grant 395.

Davison

Richard Davison entered on January 2, 1780, 440 acres and was issued on October 22, 1782 Book 48, page 61 Grant 466.

Roach

John Roach entered on May 17, 1779, 100 acres and was issued on October 22, 1782 Book 48, page 122 Grant 594.

Leak

John Leak owned many acres of land along Matrimony Creek in 1773. He organized Leaksville in 1795 and built his home near the Dan River. By 1800, John Leak no longer owned his vast amount of land in the area.

Price

Reece Price settled near Matrimony Creek. He built his home in the area and married twice. To learn the detailed history of the Price family, click the link here.

Grogan

Henry Grogan was issued 200 acres on March 1, 1780 Book 33, page 235 Grant 239.

Matrimony Creek was used as a guideline from Virginia into North Carolina. A trail separated from the The Great Wagon Road and wandered narrowly near Beaver Creek where once was a fort during the mid 18th century. The fort was to offer security from Indians who were still living in the wilderness at the time. During the Revolutionary War, the creek was used once again along with the old trail to direct the troops of  Col. Abraham Penn on March 11, 1781.

1795 rockingham

Rockingham County’s history is filled with details that pertain to our ancestors lives. The way they lived, laughed, celebrated, cried and mourned. Matrimony Creek winds through the county, the lands of our relatives, just as it did many years ago until it joins the Dan River. Thank You for visiting our posting about the waters of Matrimony Creek and it’s early settlers. Wishing you all well with your journey.

 

18th Century Farming

Carolina Frontier

Among all of the pioneers who traveled The Great Wagon Road to Carolina, 90% of these settlers were farmers on their new lands. Once the family was established and the lands were cleared from trees and rocks, the planning began for the cash crop.  Wheat was the number one crop in the piedmont area of North Carolina. Farmers also grew corn, oats, flax and hemp. Tobacco was not widely grown at this time because of the lower prices before and after the American Revolutionary War. The oxen that brought many settlers to their new homes, now bring manure to the fields and pull the plows through the soil. Each day began at sunrise regardless how large the farm was or how small. Majority of farms were at least 100 acres and out of this 100, the farmer utilized as much acreage as possible for crops, livestock and gardening.

A fiber crop would consist of flax, hemp and cotton. These crops were not grown as a cash crop; however, many farmers did indeed profit from these. Fiber crops were woven and spun into coarse cloth for domestic use. Oats were widely grown and greatly exported to other colonies. Oats were also grown for horse feed. Rye and barley were grown and sold for local brewing which was very common among the early settlers.

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Flax Field in North Carolina

Apples, peaches, pears and plums were also grown on farms. Apples were used abundantly as well as peaches for cider and brandy. All of these orchard crops would be dried as well for later use. Corn fields would also produce peas and beans. Farmers would plant these crops in between the corn plants to take advantage of land space. During the year of 1772, black-eyed peas were greatly sought and over 20,000 bushels were exported from Virginia to England and the West Indies.

The garden would consist of sweet and Irish potatoes, pumpkins, melons and cabbage.  The garden space would differ from farm to farm depending on seedling availability and taste. Farming was hard work, but farmers learned to plant crops that required less maintenance and yielded more profit.

Some farmers would sow wheat in between corn hills or in other words, in between the rows. This would be called a winter wheat and would continue to grow until winter when it became dormant. The following spring, it would resume it’s growth and was ready for harvest by June. Wheat was harvested near the ground with a sickle. It was then stacked upright until fall or winter. Threshing the wheat took place by beating the harvest to separate the wheat berries from the hull or by leading a horse to walk over the hulls to allow them to separate. Manually threshing the wheat yielded approx. 5 bushels a day, while using a horse to thresh the wheat yielded three times the amount in one day.

sickle

18th Century Hand Sickle

After the threshing, the wheat was cleaned by removing the straw and dust. The wheat was then stored until it was taken to a local mill. Wheat was an excellent cash crop during the 18th century. Wheat held twice the market value versus corn and many of the first settlers prospered due to the income that wheat provided.

Farmers would not plant the same crops in the same fields year after year. Instead, they would alternate their fields in order to obtain the best yields. Years of planting would damage the soil and one way to provide nutrients back into the soil was planting turnips. Turnips were widely known to enrich the soil for the coming year’s crop. All farmers used this method and the turnips were used for eating and livestock feed.

Livestock and poultry were just as important with farming as were the crops. All farmers owned chickens. Eggs were vital with their diet and chickens were also used as a food source for the family. Many farmers owned ducks and turkeys as well. Chickens were allowed to roam and roast where they pleased. It wasn’t until much later when chicken coops became popular. Feathers were used for bedding and quills were used for writing purposes.

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Wheat Field in Piedmont Area of North Carolina

Pigs or swine were brought with many of the pioneers when they arrived in Carolina. Pigs multiplied quickly and required little care for their well-being. They also supplied a great source of meat for the family. Most pigs provided the family with 100 to 150 pounds of meat. The pigs would eat chestnuts, acorns, orchard fruit and roots. Butchering a pig would usually occur during the late fall to early winter months in order to supply the family with a food source during the cold winter. Pigs also protected the family farm by challenging wolves, bears and killing poisonous snakes. Because of this, pigs were allowed to roam freely on the land and farmers would mark their pigs by placing notches in an ear.

Soil conditions would vary from farm to farm, depending on the location. Many farmers endured large rocks while others endured sloping and hilly land. The early farmers of North Carolina managed to make their land work for their needs. They quickly learned the weather patterns and planted by the signs of the moon. They felt these practices were so important that the methods were passed down from one generation to the next. A farmer’s life was hard, but the new freedom that filled the air after the American Revolutionary War, inspired the pioneer family to rise with the sun, complete their chores and celebrate their achievements. A majority of the farms located in Carolina were small to medium size and the entire family worked the farm. Each member of the family was equally important to the survival of the family unit.

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Fence along Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

The one advantage the early settlers had in North Carolina was the rich soil upon their lands. Many of the northern colonies suffered from poor soil which yielded small crops. Here in North Carolina, the soils were untouched by farming and yielded huge quantities of crops. This is one of the main reasons why the settlers traveled to the piedmont area.

1786 Pricing

  • Flour-barrel-$4.00
  • Wheat-bushel- .58
  • Corn-bushel- .33
  • Oats-bushel- .25
  • Rye-bushel- .50
  • Tobacco-100 pounds-$2.50
  • Beef-100 pounds-$2.50

There were many jobs on the early farms. Everyday, a task would present itself. Hand tools were mainly used and hard labor accompanied sweat that was needed for prosperity. The changing seasons only changed the chores of the farmer, the work would carry on. The trails these farmers left behind are cherished as we look back upon their lives and share once again their triumphs.

tree and fog

 

 

18th Century Settlers of Stokes County, NC

Segment 2

Welcome to segment 2 of this series. The journey continues as we follow the footsteps of 18th century pioneers in Stokes County. These steps have left behind the trail that leads to their traditions, their homes and their past lives. We only have to learn the signs to enable us to bring the past to present day. There are so many remarkable techniques to use in regards to genealogy. The whole history cannot be discovered without the entire exploration of the trail. Stokes County can be claimed as a treasure trove of incredible history and exquisite stories of the past. Let’s continue the discovery.

The Bowman family has been established in the area since the mid 1700’s. Arriving from Halifax, Virginia, they settled near the present day Belews Creek community.  George Bowman, born in 1794, married Mary Ann Lilley on January 5, 1816. George was living near the Germanton area and had 7 children. Charles(1817), Susannah(1819), John(1822), Joseph(1825), Martha(1828), Eliza(1830) and George(1832). The original family Bible was once in the hands of Charles Bowman and his heirs. It stated that an eighth child was born in 1840 by the name of William and that the couple also raised John Lilley who was born in 1832. George Bowman also had 2 brothers by the names of Philip and Henry.

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John Boyles was born circa 1767 and son of William Boyles. John traveled down the Great Wagon Road from central Virginia. In 1788, John married Elizabeth and had at least 8 children. William(1789), John(1792). Hugh(1798), Peggy(1800), Isham(1803), Elizabeth(1804), Rebecca(1805) and Drury(1807). By 1797, John owned over 500 acres of land and his father, William,  died this same year. The eldest child, William(1789) married Charity King on November 25, 1808 and had six children.

Peter Bray was known as a red-headed minister who arrived in the area sometime prior to the American Revolutionary War. Various stories link this Peter to a sizable fortune in which several family members were notified in 1903. The inheritance was located near Windsor near the Thames River, England. Peter Bray married Martha Scott and had several children. One of them, David Bray, born 1744 in Virginia, settled along Fisher River near Rockford, Surry County.  Peter is mentioned in several documents that have him traveling all through the Piedmont area of NC. Vivid details are given from the Moravians as a” preacher of the wilderness”. Peter Bray, arrived in Virginia from Maryland and corresponded with the local Quakers, thus explaining the meeting of his future wife, Martha Scott. Martha, daughter of Abraham Scott who immigrated from London during the early 1700’s. An entire segment could be created for this family. The history is simply amazing.

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Richard Browder was living in Dinwiddle County, VA with his wife, Mary Thompson during the 1740’s. Richard was born before 1719 and was the son of John and Elizabeth Browder. Richard had at least eleven children. All were born in Virginia. Jesse Browder, grandson of Richard traveled to Stokes County circa 1850. But, several documents have been located that state Browders were already settled in several sections of NC. It is now believed that Jesse was not the first of this family to move into the Stokes County area.

Joseph Calloway and wife were the parents of at least  seven sons. Thomas, Joseph, William, Frances, James, John and Richard. Joseph had daughters but records have not been located to document their given names with proof. Joseph was living in Virginia during the year of 1665. Through the years, the family became close to the family of Daniel Boone and they arrived in NC prior to 1773. Thomas Calloway’s son, Elijah married Mary Cuthbert, niece of Daniel Boone, in 1780. Richard Calloway traveled with Boone to Kentucky and settled in Boonesborough. Richard later returned to NC and gathered his family and returned to Kentucky. Several families traveled with Richard Calloway and these are named as Flanders, Kiser and Brown. One famous story of this family consists of Jemima Boone and Elizabeth Calloway dated summer of 1776 and the Indians who captured them.

canoe

Matthew Corns arrived in Virginia and married Mary circa 1751. Known children are George, Samuel, Nancy, John and Jesse. George was living in Patrick County, VA and had several sons who served during the Civil War with Company H as the Stokes Boys. This family was of German descent and the sons of Matthew all fought during the American Revolutionary War.

Stokes County is filled with historical data. We will continue this journey with segment 3 arriving late spring. We always want to share our Thanks to you all for supporting Piedmont Trails. We are amazed with the kind words and encouragement that we have received. We greatly appreciate each and every one of you as we all work together and learn of our family heritage. Post your comments and questions and stay tuned for updates on our websites.

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