A Detailed Route of The Great Wagon Road

Lancaster to Winchester

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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.

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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

 

18th Century Settlers Along The Banks of Muddy Creek

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Muddy Creek was originally named Gargals Creek and can be shown in this manner on the Fry-Jefferson map of 1755. The upper most branch is shown as Gargales Creek on the 1770 Collet map. The name of Dorithea Creek was given by the Moravians as early as 1756 but by 1780, the creek was referred to as Muddy Creek on all land deeds and other reference data.

The Muddy Creek Settlement is presently located in Forsyth County near Stratford Road. Present day land deeds describe the area as the Muddy Creek plat and early land deeds name the area as Muddy Creek as early as 1751. The flow of the creek is now controlled with culverts so much that you would never know that the creek even exists within the Winston-Salem city limits. It doesn’t begin to flow freely until you reach the Davidson County line near Cooper Road. At this point, it travels southeast and then turns back towards the west as it flows under the bridge of Frye Bridge Road. Here you can see the creek as it may have appeared to the early settlers in the area. The width is large enough to prevent me from attempting to jump across it and you are unable to see the bottom, hence the name, Muddy Creek. Now the creek begins to widen as it travels through the rural farm lands and woods. When it reaches the Hampton Road bridge, it has a width of approx. 11ft. and a much deeper base. If you are researching in the area and would like a more visual view of the landscape, I encourage you to take Muddy Creek Road. This will allow you to view how the land lays near the flood plain of this area. The large creek now travels more west and south until it reaches the Yadkin River which it joins. The origins of the creek begin in present day Stokes County and flows south to the railroad tracks near Highway 158/Stratford Road in Winston-Salem. Many years ago, during the 1970’s, you could see Muddy Creek along a short bridge that spanned Stratford Road, today it is no longer visible as a culvert has replaced the bridge and hidden the creek. Our early settlers used the creeks and streams to navigate through the area. They also used the small waterways to investigate the area and allow proper land selections for themselves and their families. During the early to mid 18th century, a period when roads do not exist, the little creeks and streams were vital to travel, livelihood and a sense of direction, a compass, if you will.

Location Is Key When It Pertains To Genealogy

We begin looking back to the past, the year is 1751 and much of eastern Carolina is already settled. The lands located west to the Yadkin River are seeing the arrival of new settlers traveling from the north down the Great Wagon Road. They arrive to a few settlements already in place, such as the Fourth Creek Settlement, the Dutch Settlement, the Davidson’s Creek Settlement and the Irish Settlement.  These first settlers arrived, unpacked their belongings and began seeking land. Once selected, they applied for land warrants. The date reflecting on these land warrants do not prove the date of arrival. Instead, the dates prove that these settlers arrived much earlier and in some cases were living upon the lands for years prior to applying for a land warrant. A “warrant” or an “entry” in the county surveyor’s book secured the applicant to a survey of the land. It was the responsibility of the applicant to hire 2 chain carriers. Once surveyed, 2 copies of this were made and the applicant had 1 year to submit the survey and pay the fees to the Land Office. Once the fees were paid, the deed was established and recorded. Within the warrant period, the applicant had 3 years to construct a building or dwelling at least 20ft x 16ft and plant 3 acres of land for every 50 acres submitted on the warrant. This gives you an idea of what your ancestor was doing during this time period. The settlers that applied for land warrants did not arrive one day, select a parcel of land the next day and apply for a land warrant the following day. Majority of settlers arrived, settled in and investigated the area. Many moved onward to settle elsewhere within the state, but this transaction involved months and years to complete.

Creating A Timeline Is Essential To Tracing Our Ancestor’s Steps

Bryan Morgan was born in Denmark and traveled to Ireland where he departed for the new colonies circa 1698. He lived in Chester County, PA until he migrated to Virginia in 1729. He organized a settlement which consisted of one hundred thousand acres of land near present day Winchester, VA. By 1748, Morgan and his family left for Carolina and new surroundings. Within 5 years, he claimed several thousands of acres and settlers regarded the area as “Bryan Settlement”. This particular area is located near the Yadkin River and Shallow Ford Crossing. After the arrival of Morgan Bryan, many other settlers followed his trail to the area which extended the Great Wagon Road from it’s previous route. Other families who settled in the area are Carter, Hartford, Davis, Boone, Linville, Hughes, Forbush and many others.  We know the year of arrival for Morgan due to the recordkeeping of Virginia and his partner’s records, Alexander Ross. The first land warrant for Morgan has a date of 10/7/1751 consisting of 640 acres near Yadkin River and Muddy Creek. Morgan became very successful in life through Indian trade which allowed the purchase of land in Virginia near Opequon Creek. The original settlers living within the Bryan Settlement all migrated elsewhere by the time the American Revolutionary War had began with the exception of Edward Hughes.

Townsend Robinson applied for a land warrant on 3/30/1751 consisting of 640 acres near Muddy Creek. This particular family arrived in Carolina from Maryland and settled near the Irish Settlement area. Townsend’s father, Charles Robinson, held the position of Justice of the Peace for Anson County and surveyor. Townsend left the area prior to the American Revolutionary War.

John Dorother applied for a land warrant on 4/1/1752 consisting of 640 acres near Muddy Creek. The chain carriers were Robert Ellrode(namely Elrod) and Robert McAnear. Surveyor was Charles Robinson. John migrated from Ireland and lived in Virginia for a brief period of time before traveling to Carolina.

Zachariah Martin applied for a land warrant on 4/10/1752 consisting of 640 acres near Muddy Creek. Zachariah is listed as “gentleman” and this 18th century term means social status, Zachariah was of high social rank. He was known as Colonel in Mecklenburg County, VA and his father, John Martin, was also listed as a “gentleman” in King William County, VA. Zachariah continued to live in North Carolina and died circa 1775.

Samuel Stewart applied for a land warrant on 4/1/1752 consisting of 640 acres near Muddy Creek. Samuel may be the brother of Henry Stewart who was already living in the area near William Jenkins, Christopher Gist and Barney Curran. John McGuire, constable of Rowan County, hired these men to guide a traveling party to visit the French commander located in the Ohio Valley in 1753.

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James Williams applied for a land warrant on 4/1/1752 consisting of 640 acres near Muddy Creek. It was then located in Anson County and the land deed was recorded on 8/22/1759. James Williams had a son named after him who served as 2nd Lt. during the American Revolutionary War. James Williams Jr. was killed at Kings Mountain, click here to read more.

Jacob Waggoner applied for a land warrant on 4/1/1752 near Muddy Creek. Chain carriers were Frederick Michal and Barnett Michal. Surveyor was Charles Robinson. The deed was recorded on 7/24/1760. Jacob’s uncle, John Waggoner originated from New Castle County, Delaware according to the Court of Common Pleas dated 1703-1717. Jacob’s father died in New Castle County, see Hall of Records located in Dover, Delaware. The Michal family mentioned as chain carriers were from Pennsylvania originated from Louis Michel who was among the first explorers to venture into the Shenandoah Valley in 1706-1707. It is believed that the Michel family and the Waggoner family traveled together to Carolina between the years of 1748-1750 from Virginia.

Robert Elrod applied for a land warrant on 5/2/1753 consisting of 640 acres near Muddy Creek. The deed was recorded on 1/27/1755. Robert is the son of John Elrod who migrated to New Castle County, Delaware. Robert married Sarah Scott and later moved to Kentucky where he died.

Jacob Kurr applied for a land warrant on 11/30/1753 consisting of 640 acres near Muddy Creek. Chain carriers were Alexander Clingman and Simon Haws. Surveyor was James Carter and deed was recorded on 10/3/1761. According to Rowan County Court Minutes I, pg. 104, Jacob Kurr instructed his friend, Daniel Little of Salisbury to sell his acquired land in 1763. Jacob migrated from Whippen, Philadelphia County, PA.

John Nation applied for a land warrant on 12/1/1753 consisting of 640 acres near Muddy Creek and Polecat Creek. The deed was recorded on 5/10/1757. John Nation traveled with Morgan Bryan from Virginia to Carolina. He was able to sell his land in Virginia and continued to live in North Carolina. He died approx. 1773 in Rowan County.

Elisha Robins applied for a land warrant on 12/1/1753 consisting of 640 acres near Deep River area and Muddy Creek in Rowan County. Chain carriers were Marmaduke Vickory and William Robins. The warrant was issued for Elisha Robins but the land survey was completed for Richard Robins, Elisha’s son. Deed was recorded on 1/9/1761. Elisha died circa 1760.

Charles Sparks applied for a land warrant on 5/2/1753 consisting of 640 acres near Yadkin River and Muddy Creek. Chain carriers were Edward Pool and Edward Sweting. Surveyor was James Carter and deed was recorded on 12/30/1760. Charles was born in Queen Annes County, Maryland.  Three brothers migrated to Carolina, namely, Jonas, Matthew and Solomon. Charles was a relative of these brothers.

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Edward Sweting applied for a land warrant on 5/28/1753 consisting of 640 acres near Wagon Ford and Muddy Creek. Chain carriers were William Pool and Edward Pool, surveyor was James Carter. The deed was recorded on 12/29/1760. The Sweeting family migrated from Baltimore, Maryland to Virginia during the early 18th century. Members of this family traveled to Carolina by 1748.

William Robinson applied for a land warrant on 5/1/1753 consisting of 640 acres near Buffalo Creek and Muddy Creek. Chain carriers were Benjamin Robinson and James Patton, surveyor was James Carter. Deed was recorded on 1/2/1760. William arrived from Maryland with John Thompson, John Todd and John Scott. William’s brother, John, was appointed constable on the south side of Grants Creek in 1753. William Robinson Sr. was the father of these brothers and he died in 1757 according to Rowan County Wills, A, 143.

James Hutton applied for several land warrants on 8/7/1753 consisting of over 20,000 acres near or along Muddy Creek. James was born in 1715 and died in 1795. This tract was part of the original “Wachovia” Moravian tract. James was one of the leaders in the Moravian church. More interesting finds on James Hutton. More Links.

William Thornbrough applied for a land warrant on 12/1/1753 consisting of 640 acres near Deep River and Muddy Creek. Chain carriers were Isaac Robbins and Michal Robbins, surveyor was William Churton. The warrant was originally issued for Anthony Baldwin. The Thornbrough family originally arrived from Ireland to Maryland approx. 1713. Brothers, Joseph and William arrived in Carolina circa 1749.

Devolt Macklen applied for a land warrant on 5/11/1754 consisting of 400 acres near Muddy Creek. The deed was recorded on 1/10/1761. The Macklin surname is Irish and many are found in Cecil County, Maryland as early as 1706.

Henry Cossart applied for a land warrant on 11/12/1754 consisting of 1,280 acres near Muddy Creek. Henry is noted as a British citizen according to William Lenoir’s personal papers and court documents. To learn more about this, click here.

Herman Husband applied for a land warrant on 2/26/1755 consisting of 640 acres near Muddy Creek, Richland Creek and Deep River. This warrant was not completed. Herman owned a plantation in Maryland and married in 1743. He traveled to Carolina before 1750 and owned several tracts of land away from Muddy Creek. He was a known Quaker and active during the American Revolutionary War. After his wife died in 1762, he moved south from the Piedmont area.

Henry Antes applied for a land warrant on 3/14/1755 consisting of 280 acres near Muddy Creek. Johann Henry Antes was born in 1701 in Germany. He traveled with other Moravian leaders to visit Carolina in order to purchase land for a new settlement. He was residing in Bethlehem, PA at the time and upon his return from Carolina, he fell ill and died. Several books claim that Henry Antes was the leader who acquired and applied for the land of “Wachovia”, but this is not true. James Hutton was the clergyman who arranged the Moravian transaction. Henry did apply for this particular land warrant, but the deed was never recorded. To learn more about this family, click here.

Jacob Lash applied for a land warrant on 2/6/1759 consisting of 640 acres near Stewarts Branch, Gargales Creek and Muddy Creek. The deed was recorded on 2/22/1759. Jacob arrived in Carolina in 1753 and was among the first Moravian settlers from Pennsylvania. The interesting fact here is the timeline from warrant to deed completion. It appears that the date for the land warrant was transcribed incorrectly in the NC Archives and should have been 2/6/1755 according to Rowan County. To read more about Jacob’s family, click here.

Solomon Sparks, relative of Charles mentioned earlier, applied for a land warrant on 9/22/1760 consisting of 700 acres near Yadkin River and Muddy Creek. Solomon and brother Jonas were appraisers of Phillip Howard’s estate dated 1753 in Rowan County Wills.

William Churton applied for a land warrant on 5/30/1761 and on 6/26/1761. The first consisted of 480 acres near Sparks Creek and Muddy Creek. The second consisted of 664 acres near Muddy Creek. Both parcels were surveyed for Charles Metcalf. William Churton was one of Lord Granville’s agents. Charles Metcalf is son of John Metcalf from England.

John Douthit applied for a land warrant on 2/9/1761 consisting of 640 acres near Muddy Creek. John arrived in America at the age of 15 and married Mary Scott in Maryland. To learn more about this family, click here. John also applied for another land warrant on 7/23/1761 which consisted of 700 acres near Muddy Creek, Moravian lands.

John Fraizer applied for a land warrant on 12/6/1761 consisting of 700 acres near Deep River and Muddy Creek. John was born in 1735 in Pennsylvania. He married Abigail Millikin and moved to Randolph County where he died in 1799. For further research on this family, see Quaker Documents of Guilford and Surry counties.

 Discoveries Are Waiting Among The Faded Pages

This concludes this segment of early settlers along the banks of Muddy Creek. Many of these pioneers were trained and talented with many trades such as weaving, wheelwright, pottery and much more. As you research, you can pinpoint the neighbors and close friends that traveled together down the Great Wagon Road to reach Carolina. A great many of these first settlers moved onward to other adventures but their footsteps were left for us all to discover and marvel on the remarkable details of their lives. The actual deeds can reveal more features such as exact location of land, adjoining land tracts, etc. Tax records will allow you to see how they were able to progress and adjust to their lives in the Carolina frontier.  Piedmont Trails wishes each of you great success with your own genealogy journey and encourage you all to look deeper within the records to locate the details that shaped our ancestor’s daily lives.

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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.

wheat

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

 

 

Life In 18th Century North Carolina

Prior to the Revolutionary War

Life in the 18th century was very much different from life as we all know it today. The pioneers who migrated from Pennsylvania down The Great Wagon Road were optimistic and filled with hope. They brought with them important items that pertained to their well-being, their faith and their sentimental values.  While they endured the hard trip, many would face great hardships and losses in the near future. This segment will focus on the settler’s lives and living on the Carolina frontier.

yadkin

The Yadkin River is pictured above with Pilot Mountain in the foreground. West of the Yadkin River was not very popular during the mid 18th century. So, for many of our ancestors, the Yadkin River was the line between settlements and wilderness. Once the land was chosen by the head of the family, namely, the father, the family began unloading their belongings. Trees would fall in order for a new home to shelter the family and the livestock. Farming would begin almost immediately. 90% of our ancestors were farmers and they farmed in all seasons if weather permitted. The man of the house was expected to provide food and shelter for his family. In order to accomplish this, farming was essential to the way of life for everyone.

The piedmont area of North Carolina was once the hunting and grazing lands of the Cherokee. The land was fertile and plentiful. The pioneers would select huge land tracts and begin improvements. The family unit was vital to the survival of the early settlers.  Everyone in the family had a job to do on a daily basis. It was up to the father of the house to oversee these chores and to make sure they were completed to his fashion.

lady

The wife, or the lady of the house would be responsible for the family garden and herbs. She would also be required to prepare the meals and tend to the smaller children. Clothing would be made by her, also milking the cows and washing the garments as well. The mother would also be required to educate her daughters with the knowledge they would need for their future families. Any possessions she had prior to marriage would belong to her husband until his death. Once the husband died, the wife would inherit 1/3 of his property and could legally own it until she remarried or died.

children

The children would all wear dresses until they reached the age of 5, give or take a year or two. These little ones were allowed to freely play at their leisure and either the mother or an older sister would tend to their needs daily.  As the children grew older, their responsibilities and their daily routines would change. The boys would go with their father to learn about farming, livestock, hunting and more while the girls would be with their mother to learn of sewing, cooking, gardening, etc.

A sample of a daily chore list:

Baby Elizabeth-age 1 plays with her corn husk doll

George-age 3 follows his older sister, Mary and tries to help

Adam-age 6 gathers wood and cleans the chicken house

Mary-age 10 finishes her sampler, milks the cow, gathers eggs, helps to feed livestock and helps tend to Baby Elizabeth

Christina-age 13 sews linens, pulls weeds in the garden, prepares beans for drying, attends fire at smokehouse.

John-age 15 tending wheat field, attends to livestock, checks on hogs in woods and hunts in the afternoon

Henry-age 17 is harvesting corn from the upper field

Michael-age 19 is with his father clearing new land for a larger corn crop next season

Elizabeth-age 41 is washing clothes, cleaning the home and preparing venison that John brought home the day before

Michael-age 43 is clearing land with his son and begins preparing for a trip to the mill in the morning with a portion of his corn crop-a full day trip

As you can see, one day in the 18th century required a huge amount of work, dedication and responsibility.  The weather played a vital role in the farmer’s life.  The fields could only yield what the weather would allow. Farmers based their success on the success of their crops. Wheat and corn were planted in huge tracts.

hayfield

Wheat allowed flour to be made and corn allowed cornmeal to be made. The family garden consisted of white beans, chard, pumpkins, scarlet runner beans, cucumbers, squash, peppers, carrots, peas, cabbage and lettuce. Herbs were also planted such as horehound, sage, nasturtium, hyssop and winter savory. Many settlers used limewater as a natural pesticide on their plants. Wooden traps were created to entice slugs and snails. They would also carry water to their gardens during dry and hot summers.

corn (2)

Usually, the settler would clear three fields keeping two active and the third one fallowed or unused. This method would allow the field to rest in between planting. Some farmers, however, believed that planting turnips in a fallowed field would restore nutrients back into the land. The turnips allowed food for the livestock or they were traded or sold. The livestock would be butchered in early winter to endure the family through the harsh colder days of winter. These settlers, for the most part, were already adapting to the winters of Carolina much better versus the Pennsylvania’s winters.

man (2)

To the 18th century farmer, there were many obstacles that stood in his way of progress. Sickness could overwhelm the family such as a smallpox outbreak. From the Moravaian diaries, we find that such an epidemic occurred in the piedmont area of Carolina in the spring of 1759. The incubation period was usually 2 weeks and then the person would have a high fever with blisters appearing if they survived the fever. Smallpox was capable of destroying entire communities. Fire was also a huge threat. Lightening strikes were very common and a family could lose all of their possessions in a matter of minutes.

The farmer depended on his neighbors for help with harvesting, building and any large project that he himself, with his family, could not handle alone. Neighboring events would also provide entertainment with music, dancing and the partake of distilled spirits. Local news would be shared with neighbors and friends as well in order to keep up with the latest events.

Bible

One of the most important items belonging to the first settlers appears to be their family Bible. Many churches were organized during the mid 18th century, telling us that faith and religion were vital to the pioneers. On the Carolina Frontier, they all were able to freely worship and practice their religion beliefs. Through hard work and being faithful to their religion, the first settlers believed they would all prevail and succeed on the frontier.

Tracing our family heritage not only contains names and dates, it also provides a link to a life that once was filled with details, chores, happiness and heartfelt losses. Thank you so much for your support of Piedmont Trails and join us again on the next blog when we begin to hear shouts of liberty from Carolina patriots and the onset of the Revolutionary War.

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Occupations of The First Settlers on The Carolina Frontier

1742-1762 Time Period

Majority of the first settlers to North Carolina were farmers. This list shows the occupations of persons living in North Carolina between the years of 1747 and 1762.

Adams, Johannes-potter

Ardnt, Peter-tavern keeper

Baker, Henry-wagonmaker

Baker, Samuel-miller

Barth, Johann Ludwig-butcher, tavern keeper

Bashford, Thomas-innkeeper

Beard, John Lewis-butcher, tavern keeper

Berry, James-candlemaker

Boise, Bostain-tailor

Boone, Jonathan-spinner

Boone, Squire(senior)-weaver

Bowers, James-tavern keeper

Braly, John-schoolmaster

Brandon, James-miller

Brandon, John-tailor

Brunner, George-gunsmith

Bunting, John-tailor

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Carson, James-tanner

Carter, James-millwright, surveyor

Cathey, Andrew-shoemaker

Cathey, George-miller

Craig, Archibald-innkeeper, ferry operator

Cranston, Andrew-doctor

Cusick, Edward-innkeeper

Deane, Luke-Indian trader, innkeeper, ferry operator

Dickey, John-gunsmith, merchant and store keeper

Dickson,Michael-weaver

Douglas, Alexander-stonemason

Dunn, John-attorney

Feree, Isaac-ferry operator

Forster, Hugh-saddler

Franck,Jacob-innkeeper, distiller

Frohock, John-miller

Gillespie, Elizabeth-innkeeper

Gillespie, Matthew-cordwainer

(c) National Trust, Calke Abbey; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Graham, James-stiller

Grob, Henrich-millwright

Hall, David-blacksmith

Harrison, William-attorney, innkeeper

Hendry, Henry-schoolmaster

Hickey, John-merchant

Horah, Henry-weaver, innkeeper

Hughes, Edward-tavern keeper

Huggen, James-tavern keeper

Johnston, John(juinor)-hatter

Jones, David-weaver

King, Richard-clothier

Lock, Francis-carpenter

Long, John-tavern keeper, planter-merchant

Luckie, Robert-wheelwright

Lynn, James-architect

Lynn, John-doctor

McConnell, William-merchant

McDowell, David-joiner

McGuire, John-Indian trader

McHenry, Henry-tailor

McKnight, WIlliam-malster

McManus, James-merchant

Magoune, George-innkeeper

Michael, Conrad-tanner

Miller, James-tailor

candle

Mitchell, John-merchant

Montgomery, Hugh-merchant, tavern keeper

Montgomery, William-tavern keeper

Morrison, William-miller

Oglethorpe, John Newman-surgeon

Oliphant, John-miller

Parker, John-doctor

Patton, John-blacksmith

Reed, Samuel-cordwainer

Rintelmann, Christopher-weaver

Rounsavill, Benjamin-ferry operator

Ryle, John-innkeeper

Shinn, Samuel-mason

Sleven, William-weaver

Steel, Robert-schoolmaster

Strayhorn, Gilbert-tailor

Thompson, John-cooper

Thomson, John-Presbyterian minister

Verrell, John-attorney, tavern keeper

Walton, Richard-tanner

Whitesides, John-miller

Williams, William-hatter

Woods, Robert-carpenter

This list derives from the book entitled, “Carolina Cradle” written by the late Robert B. Ramsey. Dr. Ramsey was a history professor at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. Definitions of a portion of the occupations are as follows:

weaver-person who weaves fabric

hatter-person who makes and sells hats

mason-a person who works with stone

millwright-person who designs or repairs machinery

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The settlers mentioned in this article were living in the Piedmont area of present day North Carolina. The Yadkin River would have been near the center of the area. Wishing you all great success on your research and Thank You So Much for your support.

 

 

 

 

Remembering The Great Wagon Road

Part 3

As we all think about the Great Wagon Road, our minds automatically picture our ancestors traveling the road with their personal possessions to new lands. They were adventurous and heroic to move their families to unfamiliar territories. Each person had their own individual story that they experienced along the road. Many of these stories are now lost to the winds of time and will never be known. However; many committed themselves to writing down their important events while on the journey.  When we locate a diary from this era, it is treated as a spectacular treasure. The present day researcher quickly turns the pages to learn and experience the Great Wagon Road for themselves. The lives that have been affected by this old road is unlimited. I believe it is still changing lives as we all research our ancestors and preserve our history. Welcome to the final segment of our Great Wagon Road adventure. This portion will concentrate on the individuals who made a great impact on the road in many different ways.

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1607-1744

Abraham Wood in 1646 began trading with the Indians located in Virginia and led an exploring party into the wilderness known later as the area of the Great Wagon Road.

Henry Hudson, a dutch explorer, was among the group led by Abraham Wood.

Thomas Batte, was sent to explore the territory in 1671. He reached the Mississippi River and turned back.

John Lederer, a German physician explored the area as well during the years of 1669-1670.

The meeting of the Five Nations was held in 1722 and attended by Governor Sir William Keith of Pennsylvania and Governor William Burnet of New York. This meeting was to bring peace with several different tribes of Indians and the new settlers who were pondering the settlement in the “wilderness” of Virginia and North Carolina.

From 1717 to 1767, a total of 68,872 German and Swiss immigrants arrived in Pennsylvania due mainly to William Penn who first arrived in 1708.

Secretary James Logan complained about the multitude of immigrants on March 25, 1727 in a letter addressed to William Penn’s son in England.

1744-1774

Resentment grew from the newcomers and their vast numbers. The customs and languages were different and viewed upon in a negative manner as a majority. Many began to look elsewhere for new settlements and freedom. The Germans and Swiss began to venture down the Great Warrior’s Path. The path was no more than a clearing consisting of 3 to 4 feet wide.

In November, 1743, two Moravians began a journey down the Great Warrior’s Path which brought them 5 months later to Georgia. They were Leonard Schell and Robert Cussey, Schell’s diary gave explicit details about the trip.

Joist Hite settled in Winchester, Virginia and owned an inn along the path that was widely known.

Stephen Schmidt settled along the Shenandoah River and owned a huge farm.

A diary excerpt from 1743 reads, “I used my hatchet to clear the path and fell a tree over Goose Creek in order to walk across it.”

Jacob Schuetz, an elder German, settled along Trent River, North Carolina after traveling down the road.

Stone marker lies in Winchester, Virginia stating that John Wilson and the bodies of his two children and his wife, Mary Marcus died and buried August 4, 1742.

Samuel Davies, minister, serving the southern portion of Virginia in 1759.

David McClure attended a wedding in 1775 in Virginia along the road and stated in his diary, “Dancing to the music of a fiddle, gambling and drinking.”

Joshua Fry, an Oxford graduate, moved to the frontier and worked as a surveyor of the road approx. 1757.

Peter Jefferson, traveled with Joshua Fry and had the task of map maker.

The 1st map was signed in 1744 and entitled, “Indian Road by the Treaty of Lancaster”

By, 1775 a new edition of the map was created and labeled, The Great Wagon Road from the Yadkin River through Virginia to Philadelphia, a distant 453 miles.

In 1744, a ferry was ordered on the Potomac, labeled Watkins’ Ferry.  A ledger book contains ferry rates, blacksmith rates, lodging and the retail sales of wine and other commodities.

William Ingles operated a ferry across New River in Virginia.

John Mitchell, William Nesbit, William Montgomery, Archibald Craige, Thomas Bashford, James Bowers, John Verrell, Luke Dean, James Berry and Henry Hoah were all early merchants located in North Carolina during the years of 1750 and 1760 after traveling down the road.

colonial-tavern

The road became even more active with the end of the French War in 1763. The rumbles of the wagons could be heard all day along the road during this time. A house or a merchant could be found every 30 miles. Business soared, but mostly from trading versus monies. The road was divided as well with a lower road and a upper road. The lower road extended into Maryland and ran along the eastern side of the original road. The upper, ran just west of the original road and eventually led you to the new Wilderness Road. A family living along these roads, were able to prosper. This allowed many settlements, towns and new county seats to emerge.

The road was no longer a 48 inch path through the forest. It was now a major 18th century highway and was traveled each and every day of the year, weather permitting. However, King George III ordered in 1764 that no one was to settle west of the Appalachians. This was ordered to maintain peace with the Indians of that area. But, soon word spread that the best lands were west of the mountains and soon settlers began to venture even further.

When a family left Pennsylvania in 1765 and traveled on the road, they would meet other families traveling. They would have seen huge farms, forts, taverns and small villages lined with houses, small shops and churches. If you lived along the road, you were ordered to help maintain it. Farmers were employed in the fall and this was a great source of income that endured for years.

The term “public house” came into existence and these houses were widely known all along the road. They provided the traveler a hot meal and bedding for the night.

By 1774, everyone knew about the road and had experiences to tell and share. Portions of the original road still exist today such as Highways 11, 81 and 66. So, even today, the Great Warrior’s Path proves to be a vital link in our daily lives.

great wagon road 5

On a personal note, I want to Thank each of you for this experience and allowing me to share my research with you. I cannot express the gratitude I have for all of you in helping to preserve our history. As we move forward, I look to the future with great anticipation and working together on our history and ancestry.  I could add so many more segments to this project and I most likely will in the future.  I cannot forget to pass along admiration for all of the settlers who traveled the Great Wagon Road. Without them, none of this history would have existed.

oxen