Did an ancestor travel the Minsi Path of New York and Pennsylvania? Learn about this settler migration route, its transportation history, and find related genealogy sources.
The Minsi Path, also known in part as the Bethlehem Pike, ran about 187 miles (301 kilometers) from Kingston, New York to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Ancient Indian trail was named after the Minsi Indians. Pioneers used this route by 1766 to go from New England and New York to Pennsylvania, and vise versa. The Minsi Path was a pioneer connection from the Ulster and Delaware Turnpike in New York to the Great Valley Road in Pennsylvania.
This is one of the main routes connecting New England and New York to Pennsylvania and the southern United States. An alternate route to the southern United States was the King's Highway.
Pre-turnpike era. New England residents gradually began moving into central New York on foot or horseback by 1753. In 1790 the opening of the Military Tract in modern Cayuga, Cortland, Onondaga, and Seneca counties began attracting Revolutionary War veterans, their families, and other New Englanders and Pennsylvanians into central New York. In 1792 a mail route (and probably a stage line) was established on the Catskill Road. The Minsi Path route was already a pioneer pathway, and probably was a wagon road before that mail service was started just to the north on the Catskill Road.
Stages. Stagecoaches generally began regular transport of mail and passengers on long trips in the American colonies in the 1760s. They made regular trips between stages or stations where travelers were provided food and rest. Where available, stagecoaches became a preferred way for settlers to travel to a new home.
Toll roads. As traffic increased along a roadway American political leaders turned to toll roads (turnpikes) to raise money to improve, clear, and repair their local highways. Toll revenue from stagecoaches, drovers, and other travelers was used to maintain the roadbeds and bridges, and, if there was enough left over (rarely happened), to pay a turnpike stockholder dividend. If turnpike revenue decreased too much, the roadway maintenance was typically turned over to the state, and the path was made a free public road.
The Bethlehem Pike charged tolls between Philadelphia and Bethlehem from 1804 to 1904.
Railroad competition. The heyday of wagon roads in Pennsylvania and New York was the early 1800s before the coming of the railroads in the 1840s and 1850s. Railroads were faster, less expensive, and safer to use than overland wagon roads. As railroads entered an area, the long distance overland wagon roads (especially the toll roads) normally became less used by migrating settlers.
- Kingston, New York including the Ulster and Delaware Turnpike, Hudson River, and Albany Post Road.
- Ulster County, New York
- Sullivan County, New York
- Orange County, New York
- Pike County, Pennsylvania
- Monroe County, Pennsylvania
- Northampton County, Pennsylvania
- Bucks County, Pennsylvania
- Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
- Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania including the Forbes Road, Great Valley Road, King's Highway, and Delaware River.
Connecting routes. The Minsi Path connected with several other migration routes:
Northampton County, Pennsylvania connection:
- Forbes Road west from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
- Great Valley Road southwest from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Knoxville, Tennessee.
- King's Highway (aka New York City - Philadelphia Post Road) southwest from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Charleston, South Carolina.
- Delaware River.
Settlers along the Minsi in Pennsylvania and New York are most likely to have originally come from either Philadelphia, or from Massachusetts or Connecticut, especially areas near Springfield, Boston, or Hartford. But people from almost every part of the eastern seaboard and Europe also were common in the area.
No complete list of settlers in Pennsylvania and New York who used the Minsi Path is known to exist. However, many of the earliest settlers in the area would have used this turnpike to reach their new home. The Minsi Path would have attracted nearby settlers because it helped them reach markets for buying and selling goods and services. Therefore, the land records, tax records, and histories of the earliest settlers along the route would list the names of people likely to have used this pathway.
- Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 850-51. WorldCat entry; FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
- Almyra E. Morgan, The Catskill Turnpike: a Wilderness Path (Ithaca, NY : DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County, 1971), 2-3. Tompkins County Public Library digital pdf copy; At various libraries (WorldCat).
- Frederic J. Wood, "The Twelfth Massachusetts Turnpike" in The Turnpikes of New England and the Evolution of the Same Through England, Virginia, and Maryland (Boston: Marshall Jones, 1919), 26-27. Internet Archive version online.
- Stagecoach in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 30 October 2014).
- Wood, 33-36.
- Bethlehem Pike in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 10 November 2014).
- Hudson and Boston Railroad] in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 23 October 2014).
- Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 851. WorldCat entry; FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.