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The Great Valley Road, also called in various parts the "Great Wagon Road," "Great Warriors' Trail," "Valley Pike," "Carolina Road," or "Trading Path," was the most important Colonial American route for settlers of the mountainous backcountry of the southern British colonies. It went from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania over to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia forking into the Tennessee Valley and Knoxville. The other fork went more south into the Piedmont Region of North Carolina, and then to its terminus on the Savannah River at Augusta, Georgia. Several other important early pathways merged with, or split off from the Great Valley Road.
The American Indians developed a network of eastern trade and warrior trails stretching from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast. One of these trails, the Great Warrior Path from New York to the Carolinas, also served as the western boundary of British settlement until 1744. In that year a new treaty gave control of the east side of the trail to European colonists in Virginia. This opened the way for the trail to evolve into one of the most important roads for settlers in Colonial America.
After 1744, the Great Valley Road was most heavily used by Ulster-Irish immigrants called Scots-Irish in America to spread through most of Appalachia bringing their Presbyterian religion. Pennsylvania Germans also used the trail to spread into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The first settlements in Tennessee were associated with the end of the trail in that region.
(Northeast to Southwest)
- Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (often called the Philadelphia Wagon Road through Pennsylvania)
- Lancaster, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
- Gettysburg, Adams, Pennsylvania
- Hagerstown, Washington, Maryland (crosses Cumberland Road)
- Winchester, Frederick, Virginia (Pioneer Road from Alexandria joined here)
- Staunton, Augusta, Virginia (start of Kanawah Trail to West Virginia)
- Roanoke, Roanoke, Virginia (trail forks toward Knoxville and Augusta)
- Bristol, Washinton, Virginia (start of Wilderness Road to Boonesborough
- Jonesboro, Washington, Tennessee
- Knoxville, Knox, Tennessee (connects with Avery's Trace to Nashville, and the Georgia Road to Athens)
- Martinsville, Henry, Virginia (on south fork of the Great Valley Road)
- Salem, Forsyth, North Carolina
- Salisbury, Rowan, North Carolina
- Charlotte, Mecklenburg, North Carolina
- Camden, Kershaw, South Carolina (where it merged with the Fall Line Road)
- Augusta, Richmond, Georgia
Settlers and Records
For partial list of settlers who used the Great Valley Road to settle in Tennessee, see:
- East Tennessee Historical Society, First families of Tennessee : a register of early settlers and their present-day descendants (Knoxville, Tenn.: East Tennessee Historical Society, c2000) [FHL Book 976.8 H2ff].