Early Settlers of Ashe County, NC

Segment 1

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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

Piedmont Trails

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 Beginning Journey West

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

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

Photo of 18th Century home and farm landscape.

Pioneers Traveled in Organized Groups

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northwest Territory Migration

A Brief History

The Northwest Territory consisted of a vast amount of land located west of the Appalachian Mountains and north of the Ohio River. This land became a territory of the United States after a treaty signed with Paris, France in 1783. It was then known as the Northwest Territory of the River Ohio and the Northwest Land Ordinance was established during the year of 1787. During this time period, land was available for purchase to entice new settlements in the region. Land was also available to American Revolutionary War veterans for their services during the war. Prior to 1787. there were several settlements located within the present day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan areas. These settlements were filled with citizens who migrated before and during the onset of the American Revolutionary War for various reasons. This blog will discuss the brief history of this area prior to statehood of these states. The Northwest Territory Migration was the 2nd largest to occur with the United States. The first being the Great Wagon Road migration from Pennsylvania to the southern colonies. Many of these same families who traveled the Great Wagon Road also traveled the trails for the new territory of the northwest.

Seal of the Territory of the US NW Territory River of Ohio

The Land Ordinance text reveals the initial setting of the land boundaries and the establishment of townships within 6 square miles with lines running north and south. This ordinance also proclaimed the need of public schools and each township was to set aside a tract of land for the purpose of a school. The ordinance also prohibited slaves upon the land. Unlike the early settlements of the colonies prior to the independence, our fore fathers were organizing the western sections by land sales and education of the future. These two elements were vital for the security of the new nation. The committee overseeing the operations of this ordinance was divided primarily between two known groups, the New England land system and the Southern land system. The first concentrating on the townships and how they would be surveyed and charted. The Southern land system focused on the frontiersman and larger tracts of land opposed to the original smaller tracts. The Southern land system wanted to expand it’s way of life known in the southern colonies with large plantations and slavery. Both of these groups played an important role in the new territory and both displayed attractions to the citizens thinking upon the idea of relocating to the area.

This diagram demonstrates the method in which land was charted and surveyed in the new territory. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Land settlement was prohibited west of the Appalachian Mountain chain since 1763. Although several families did indeed travel to these areas, especially present day Kentucky and Tennessee from 1763-1785. When the pioneers of the original colonies heard word of the new land available legally in the northwest, they also learned of the new laws proposed within the territory. This was accepted and viewed upon with the early pioneers in both a positive manner and a negative manner. Land in the new territory must be titled, chartered and surveyed in accordance to the law. This means that a family could not travel to the area, select a parcel of land, live upon the land and later submit to a survey and have the land titled correctly. There were new procedures to follow in order to acquire land ownership in this new territory. An example of this is a family migrates to the Ohio valley and lives upon 600 acres for 5 years. They do not apply for a survey, pay fees or submit for a title of land proving ownership. Years later, another family moves to the same parcel, applies for title, abides the laws and therefore owns the land legally. Until the new laws were respected, many land disputes resulted with boundaries and ownerships.

The sale of these land tracts would enable the new nation to settle portions of debt that occurred after the American Revolutionary War. However; before these parcels could be sold, the land squatters and the Indian villages had to be removed. The governor of the territory, Arthur St. Clair organized signed treaties with several of the Indian tribes located within the area. 80% of the Indian population participated with these treaties, the remaining were subject to the Northwest Indian’s War or otherwise known as Little Turtle’s War. It wasn’t until 1795 with the signing of the Greenville Treaty that the entire territory was open for settlement. Please note, that an Indian Reservation did exist along the northwestern portion of Ohio. This reservation existed until circa 1821 when the Indians were removed to a new location outside of Ohio.

Indian Country Map of 1834

Majority of families traveling to the Northwest Territory during the late 18th century would have traveled along the Wilderness Trail through North Carolina through Kentucky to reach the National Road through Ohio and onward to Indiana. Marietta, Ohio was the first settlement in this region dating to 1788. Colonel Rufus Putnam led a group of early settlers to the area and established the Ohio Company of Associates. Putnam’s original house still stands within the walls of the Ohio River Museum. The first settlers built a fort to prevent Indian attacks. They named the fort Campus Martius. By 1840, nearly 2,000 citizens were living in the community. Marietta was also known as the Riverboat Town during the mid 19th century.

The National Road was the main route into the Northwest Territory during the later portion of the 17th century. Before this, Indian trails and portions of Hunter trails were traveled to reach the area. Also known as the Cumberland Road, this trail was filled with pioneers traveling west. The federal government funded the road beginning in 1811. This allowed normal maintenance on the road which was very popular among the travelers.

Portions of the Nation Road in Washington County, Ohio

If you are currently researching your ancestor into the Northwest Territory, it would be best to determine the timeline prior to researching. Also, for those settlers who did not acquire a title for the lands, their records will not exist. These early settlers were known as squatters and only lived upon the land until it was sold legally to someone else or purchased by the squatter’s themselves. Very limited records exist for the period prior to 1788. But, if you are researching your ancestors, don’t give up on the search. The rewards are so priceless when you find documentation and proof that your ancestors did indeed settle the frontier known as the Northwest Territory.

As always, Piedmont Trails appreciates your support and hope each of you discover great treasures among your genealogy journey.

Opening Doors With Free Genealogy Research

Piedmont Trails has received a huge amount of questions and queries concerning free genealogy techniques. Due to the overwhelming response, Piedmont Trails made the decision to dedicate a blog segment covering the subject. This article will focus on the advantages and the “know-how” of researching without a paid subscription or any type of membership fee attached.

Subscription fees can add up very quickly when it pertains to genealogy. Some companies charge as much as $400.00 yearly to acquire genealogy records and separate fees for DNA testing results. Family lineage software varies as well from $25.00 up to over $200.00 depending on the size and the capabilities of the software. You have to ask yourself, are the fees really worth it? Genealogy research is so much more than researching online references. It involves an adventure, an expedition, a journey that you may be totally missing.

Genealogy Research Is So Much More Than Researching Online References

As with so many researchers of today’s social schedule, time is less available and the online tools are more appealing for this reason alone. But, there is a huge problem with this realm of thinking. Less than 20% of genealogy records and documents are available online. To those who are paying a $200.00 to a $400.00 yearly subscription, these results vary very little. In fact, less than 5% differs from subscription online resources and non-subscription resources. So, with all of this being said, what is the best way to research genealogy in 2019?

The first thing to do is to pinpoint your “family” and then to pinpoint that particular family location. In order to pinpoint a family, you need the family name. In order to pinpoint a location, you need to verify this by a census or a tax list or a land grant or a will/probate. If you don’t have this, start with what you know only. Example: John Smith-family and Stokes County, NC-location. Many of today’s researchers search randomly from one surname to another and filling in the blanks from online trees and other forms of false identification. Free range research does not support accurate results in genealogy. This type of researching only results in clues and hints. Secondly, create a timeline for this family.

  • Example of Timeline:
  • 1750-birth of John Smith
  • 1760-
  • 1770-
  • 1771-Land Grant#452-John Smith 100 acres Dan River-Surry County, NC
  • 1771-marriage of John Smith to Agnes Blackwell-Surry County, NC-6/11/1771
  • 1780-
  • 1784-tax lists for John Smith-3 cattle and 100 acres of land near Dan River
  • 1790-federal census-John Smith-1,2,0,1,0-Stokes County, NC
  • 1800-
  • 1810-Federal census-#101-John Smith-Stokes County, NC
  • 1820-
  • 1830-
  • 1831-Probate of John Smith-Stokes County, NC 4/15/1831

This is now your starting point for researching this particular family. You have the surname, head of household name, the area where the family lived and a timeline demonstrating the known facts on hand. What will be available for this family online? A majority of census records and land grants. Small amounts of marriage documents and wills/probates. You can find some of these items online for free at Family Search. Majority of land grants, warrants and deeds are also available online for each state and county. You can print or download these actual documents freely from the independent county/state websites. You may need to register as a “user” or “visitor” prior to printing or downloading. Now, you can concentrate on the missing information from your timeline that will prove the existence of your ancestor and the details of his/her life. You begin with the area location. In this example, that would be Surry County, Stokes County, NC and Dan River.

Free Range Research Does Not Support Accurate Results With Genealogy

To accurately research the area using the timeline above, you will need to locate Surry County and Stokes County local resources. These can include historical societies, genealogy societies, libraries, universities, museums and much more. Contact the resources either by online, phone, email or by regular mail service. These free resources are tremendous when it pertains to your personal research. Organizations such as these are filled with local history, documents, photographs, personal objects and so much more. The time you are now spending on random online searching can be much more beneficial if you spend the same amount of time corresponding with the local historians of the area and doing this free of charge. The end results are priceless. If you are able to actually visit the area, the rewards are even greater. But, not everyone is able to do this and corresponding with the resources is the most important goal.

Now that you have identified your local resources and communication has begun, you have the ability to prove who your ancestor was and how they lived. Always get a name when you are communicating with any organization or society. Give as many details as possible about your ancestors in order to receive what local information is available. Many of these organizations have volunteers who will actually research for you. This alone is proof why you should never limit your resources to a paid subscription or an online source. Actual documents are the proof you need to prove your lineage. Online family trees are not reliable resources. They are clues and hints only. They do not prove anything except what they represent and that is a fictional account of a family. Books are also clues and hints.

20% Of Genealogy Records Are Available Online

Piedmont Trails will always share free genealogy and historical websites. Hundreds of links can be found on the website and new links are added weekly. North Carolina Genealogy Links and United States Genealogy Links are both pages filled with free online resources. A new page covering Migration Trails and Routes is also filled with free resources and data. If you have trouble finding a particular resource, contact Piedmont Trails and we will attempt to locate a source for you. If you have hit a brickwall with your research and unable to identify a name or location for your ancestor, please feel free to post your query on our forum or group page.

Always plan your genealogy research with goals in mind. Never limit your resources to online only and enjoy your research with the full experience it gives. Always know that unlimited resources are available to you without huge subscriptions or membership dues. Thank You all for your support of Piedmont Trails and wishing you all great success with your research. Enjoy Your Journey To The Past !!

The Great Wagon Road Enters Into South Carolina

The Alternate Route From Charlotte, NC to Augusta, GA

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

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

Map of The Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania to Georgia

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

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

Tyger River, South Carolina

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

The Great Wagon Road Consisted Of 800 Miles

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

The Great Wagon Road In North Carolina

A Detailed Description For Years of 1745-1770

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Great Wagon Road Is A Historic Trail

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

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

A Detailed Route of The Great Wagon Road

Present Day Roanoke, Virginia to North Carolina State Boundary Line

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

Historic Road Sign Located At Tosh’s Ford, Virginia

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

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

Cahas Mountain, Franklin County, Virginia

Maggoty Gap Location

Carried it piecemeal up the last slope

Quoted by Morgan Bryan(1671-1763)

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

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

Blackwater River Bridge in Virginia

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

Beautiful lowlands with many grapes

Quoted by documents located at the Southern Moravian Archives

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

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

1751 Fry-Jefferson Map

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

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

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

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

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