Charleston-Savannah Trail

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United States  Gotoarrow.png  Migration  Gotoarrow.png  Trails and Roads  Gotoarrow.png  Charleston-Savannah Trail

Charleston Savannah Trail.png
The Charleston-Savannah Trail (also known as part of the King's Highway) connected the South Carolina colonial town of Charleston with the colonial Georgia town of Savannah on the Savannah River in what is now Chatham County. Charleston was the largest European settlement in South Carolina, its capital, on the King's Highway, and the start of several other trails. Savannah was the earliest, the largest, and the original capital city of Georgia, established in 1733. Several other trails eventually radiated out from Savannah. The Charleston-Savannah Trail was probably opened to European settlers in the late 1730s. It began in Charleston County, South Carolina and ended in Chatham County, Georgia. The length of the trail was about 120 miles (193 km).[1]

Historical Background

Charleston was founded in 1670 by English and African immigrants from the Caribbean island of Barbados. Savannah was established in 1733 by colonists directly from England.[2] Because of swamps, rivers, and forests there was probably a delay of a few years before a trail between the two colonies was constructed. The Charleston-Savannah trail served as an extension of the King's Highway. Later in 1856 a railroad was built between the towns which played a significant role in the Civil War.

As roads developed in America settlers were attracted to nearby communities because the roads provided access to markets. They could sell their products at distant markets, and buy products made far away. If an ancestor settled near a road, you may be able to trace back to a place of origin on a connecting highway.


The first European colonists settled in counties along this trail (north to south) as follows:[3]

Connecting trails. The Charleston-Savannah Trail links to other trails at each end. The migration pathways connecting in Charleston, South Carolina included:

The migration routes connecting in Savannah, Georgia included:

Modern parallels. The modern roads that roughly match the old Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail start in Charleston. Follow I-26 north to the Orangeburg. Then take the Neeses Highway west to Springfield. Then take Highway 4 west to Aiken. Then follow Highway 19 northwest until it becomes Highway 25. Continue northwest along Highway 25 to where it meets Highway 378 in northern Edgefield County. Turn west onto Highway 378 to reach McCormick. Then go northwest on Highway 28 until Highway 81 forks off to the west. Follow Highway 81 winding westerly to Mt. Carmel. From Mt. Carmel take the Fort Charlotte Road 6.5 miles (10.4 km) southwest to Strom Thurmond Lake. The Old Fort Charlotte site lies under that lake.

Settlers and Records

The first colonists in what became the Fort Charlotte area arrived before the Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail existed. They would have arrived by way of the Savannah River, the Middle Creek Trading Path, the Fort Moore-Charleston Trail, the Augusta and Cherokee Trail on the Georgia side of the river, or even the Occaneechi Path and its overlapping Fall Line Road, and Great Valley Road. Only after Fort Charlotte was started in 1765 would travelers have been able to use what became the Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail. Even then, they may have used the older Fort Moore-Charleston Trail most of the way to Aiken County before splitting off toward Fort Charlotte.

Ulster-Irish, French Huguenots, and Germans were among the earliest, pre-Fort Charlotte pioneer settlers.

No complete list of settlers who used the Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail is known to exist. Nevertheless, local and county histories along that trail may reveal pioneer settlers who arrived after 1765 and who were candidates to have travelled the Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail from the Charleston area.

For partial lists of early settlers who may  have used the Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail, see histories like:

in McCormick County:

in Edgefield County:

  • John A. Chapman, History of Edgefield County from the earliest settlements to 1897 : biographical and anecdotical, with sketches of the Seminole War, nullification, secession, reconstruction, churches and literature, wtih rolls of all the companies from Edgefield in the war of secession, war with Mexico and with the Seminole Indians (Newberry, S.C.: E. H. Aull, 1897) (FHL Film 162293) WorldCat entry.

in Aiken County:

in Orangeburg County:

in Dorchester County:

External Links


  1. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 848. (FHL Book 973 D27e 2002). WorldCat entry.
  2. Faye Dyess, "Passengers of Ship Ann" in rootsweb at (accessed 27 March 2011).
  3. South Carolina - The Counties, (accessed 22 March 2011).
  4. Wikipedia contributors, "History of Augusta, Georgia," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,,_Georgia (accessed 27 March 2011).