Mohawk or Iroquois Trail
Did an ancestor travel the Mohawk Trail of New York? Learn about this settler migration route, its transportation history, and find related genealogy sources.The Mohawk Trail, also known as the Iroquois Trail, or Great Indian Trail, started as an Indian footpath from Albany, a major early New York trade center, to Fort Oswego, the first British fur trading post on Lake Ontario established in 1722. An important fork of this trail from Fort Schuyler (Utica) to Fort Niagara (Youngstown) is also described in Great Genesee Road. Each end of the Mohawk Trail connected 
Some sources also extend the Mohawk Trail from Albany to Boston through the northwest corner of Massachusetts.
Albany, New York was founded by the Dutch colony of New Netherland in 1614 and quickly became their premier fur trading center and second largest town. In 1664 England conquered the former Dutch colony and renamed it New York.
In 1722 the British built a fur trading post near the mouth of the Oswego River on the southeast side of Lake Ontario. In 1727 they constructed log palisades, the first of a series of fortifications in the area. This was the first British military outpost on Lake Ontario. More nearby forts were also added in 1741 and 1755. These forts around the trading post helped establish the British as a power on the Great Lakes, and were sometimes collectively were called Fort Oswego.
Indian trails through the forests existed for hunting, for trading, and for making war. To reach what became Fort Oswego and build it up, the British most likely improved an already existing Indian path between Albany and Fort Oswego. The route for carrying furs and skins to Albany, for communication, and for military troop and supply movements became known as the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail.
The French and Indian War (1754-1763) led to improvement of Indian pathways into roads for the military and for settlers. In 1758 the British built Fort Schuyler (now Utica, New York) to guard the central Mohawk Trail to Fort Oswego and the junction with the Mohawk Trail to Fort Niagara at a Mohawk River ford.
In 1759 British troops from Fort Oswego were shipped along Lake Ontario to Fort Niagara. The British besieged Fort Niagara for 19 days and captured it. This made the Mohawk Trail an important supply route from Albany to Fort Schuyler (Utica) to Fort Niagara. The west fork of the Mohawk Trail from Utica to Fort Niagara was about 212 miles (341 km) long. From Albany to Fort Niagara it was about 306 miles (492 km).
During and shortly after the American Revolutionary War 1775-1783, many American Loyalists sought refuge from angry American neighbors by leaving for Canada. Those Loyalists from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania that made it to Ontario usually reached there by following the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail.
As American settlers moved west the two branches of the Mohawk Trail were used heavily. New York invested in road improvements from Albany to Utica in 1793. Further, in 1794 New York authorized work on the Great Genesee Road from Utica to Caledonia and after 1798 to Buffalo. The Genesee Road partially overlapped the west Fork of the Mohawk Trail as far as Oneida and Madison counties on its way to Fort Niagara. However, near Syracuse the original Mohawk Trail took a more northerly route. In 1797 a weekly stagecoach began service between Utica and Geneva on the Seneca/Ontario county line. Each leg of the round trip took three days. In 1798 the Great Genesee Road became a turnpike, a high quality toll road under private control.
But New York toll roads eventually had competition. Water travel on canals was less expensive than road tolls. The Erie Canal was completed in sections: Rome to Utica 1819, Utica to Syracuse 1820, Brockport (west of Rochester) to Albany 1823, and the entire canal Albany to Buffalo opened 1825. Moreover, several railroads charging about the same as the canal began offering passenger service farther and farther west. Railroad service from Albany to Schenectady began 1831, to Utica 1836, to Auburn 1839, to Rochester in 1841, and to Buffalo in 1842. In 1853 the several railroads were merged into a New York Central Railroad mainline from Albany to Buffalo. The decrease in toll revenues made the old turnpike company unprofitable. By 1852 it was dissolved and the former toll roads from Utica to Buffalo became public roads again.
The counties along the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail route (southeast to northwest) were as follows:
The Mohawk or Iroquois Trail had a west fork from Fort Schuyler (Utica) to Fort Niagara that partially overlapped the Great Genesee Road. Counties along the west fork of the Mohawk Trail route (east to west) were:
- Lincoln County, Ontario, Canada, the trail continued westward in Canada following the base of the escarpment south of Lake Ontario
Connecting trails. The Mohawk or Iroquois Trail linked to other trails at each end of the main trail, and each end of the west fork.
The migration pathways connected at the southeast end of the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail in Albany, New York included:
- Hudson River a navigable river stretching from north of Albany then flowing south to empty into the Atlantic Ocean at New York City
- Lake Champlain Trail a pre-historic Indian path from Albany to the St. Lawrence River via the Hudson River, Champlain Canal, Lake Champlain, and in Quebec the Richelieu River (and Chambly Canal)
- Mohawk or Iroquois Trail 1722 from Albany to Utica to Rome to Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario
- Forbidden Path (later Catskill Turnpike) a pre-historic Indian path from Albany to Buffalo on Lake Erie
- Old Connecticut Path a pre-historic Indian path from Boston, Massachusetts to Springfield, Massachusetts to Albany with a fork from Springfield to Hartford, Connecticut
- Albany Post Road (or Queen's Road, or King's Road) 1669 from Albany to New York City
- Greenwood Road from Hartford, Connecticut to Albany
- Champlain Canal 1819 connected the Hudson River to Lake Champlain (New York City to Montreal)
- Erie Canal 1825 connected Albany to Buffalo on Lake Erie (New York City to the Great Lakes)
The migration pathway connected at the northwest end of the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail in Fort Oswego included:
- West Fork. The migration pathways connected at the east end of the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail (west fork) in Utica included:
- The migration pathways connected at the west end of the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail (west fork) in Fort Niagara included:
- Lake Erie with connections to Buffalo, Cleveland, Toledo, and Detroit
- Niagara River with connections to Buffalo, Fort Niagara, and Ontario in Canada
- Lake Ontario with connections to Toronto, Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and the other Great Lakes
- Mohawk or Iroquois Trail by 1758 from Albany to Utica to Fort Niagara
- Great Genesee Road 1794 from Utica to Caledonia and later Buffalo
- Erie Canal 1825 from Albany to Utica to Buffalo
- Lake Shore Path from Buffalo, New York to Cleveland, Ohio
- pathways into Ontario, Canada including the extension of the Iroquois Trail westward along the south side of Lake Ontario
Modern parallels. The modern roads that roughly match the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail from Albany to Fort Oswego are:
- New York State Route 5 from Albany to Deerfield (near Utica)
- New York State 49 from Deerfield (near Utica) to Rome
- where it becomes New York State 69 from Rome to Mexico
- turn west onto New York State 104 from Mexico to Oswego
The modern roads that roughly match the west fork of the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail to Fort Niagara are:
- New York State Route 5 from Albany to two miles east of Sherrill, Oneida County
- two miles east of Sherrill turn northeast on New York State Route 31 from near Sherrill to the outskirts of Lockport, Niagara County
- at the outskirts of Lockport, turn northeast on Cold Springs Road which becomes Old Niagara Road which becomes Stone Road
- which merges into westbound New York State Route 93 from Lockport to Fort Niagara
Settlers and Records
Early settlers in central New York most likely traveled there via Albany. Albany was a hub of pathways from New York City, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Quebec. Probably the largest group to settle were New Englanders, many from Vermont. But people from almost every part of the eastern seaboard and Europe also were common in the area.
Many of the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania Loyalists who fled to Ontario during or shortly after the American Revolution followed the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail. For a list of over 300 Loyalist families is the Niagara area of Ontario see:
- Norman K. Crowder, "1784-1785 Niagara Return" Early Ontario Settlers: A Source Book (Baltimore: Genealogical Publ., 1993), 132-42. WorldCat entry. FHL Book 971.3 H29c.
No complete list of settlers in New York who used the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail is known to exist. Nevertheless, local and county histories along that trail may reveal pioneer settlers who arrived 1722 to 1850, and therefore who were the most likely candidates to have traveled the Great Genesee Road or Seneca Turnpike.
For partial lists of early settlers who may have used the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail, see histories like:
- Crisfield Johnson, History of Oswego County, New York, 1789-1877 : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers (Philadelphia : L.H. Everts, 1877). WorldCat entry. FHL Film 874492. Indexed in Index to History of Oswego County, New York (Salt Lake City : Family History Library, 1991). FHL Fiche 6087924 (4 fiche); Book 974.767 H2j index.
- Samuel W. Durant, History of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers (Microreproduction of original published: Philadelphia : Everts & Fariss, 1878). WorldCat entry. FHL Film 823718.
- Samuel T. Wiley and W. Scott Garner, Biographical and portrait cyclopedia of Niagara County, New York (Microreproduction of original published: Philadelphia : Gresham Pub. Co., 1892). WorldCat entry. FHL Film 317821 Item 4.
- Mohawk (Iroquois) Trail RootsWeb description of the route and a brief history.
- Iroquois Trail Heritage Village, Vineland, Ontario brief description of the Canadian part.
- History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925 focuses most on modern Mohawk Turnpike.
- The Great Genesee Road partially overlaps the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail.
- Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 851. WorldCat entry. FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
- Wikipedia contributors, "Fort Oswego" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Oswego (accessed 2 July 2011).
- Mohawk Trail in Routes in the Northeastern United States: Historic Trail, Roads, and Migration Routes in RootsWeb (accessed 6 October 2014).
- Wikipedia contributors, "Albany, New York" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albany,_New_York (accessed 2 July 2011).
- Wikipedia contributors, "Fort Niagara" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Niagara (accessed 2 July 2011).
- "History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925 Chapter 130: The City of Utica" in Schenectady Digital History Archive at http://www.schenectadyhistory.org/resources/mvgw/history/130.html (accessed 2 July 2011).
- Wikipedia contributors, "Battle of Fort Niagara" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Fort_Niagara (accessed 2 July 2011).
- William Dollarhide, Map guide to American migration routes, 1735-1815 (Bountiful, Utah : AGLL, c1997), 14. WorldCat entry. FHL Book 973 E3d.
- "The Mohawk Turnpike" in RootsWeb at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~tqpeiffer/Documents/Ancestral%20Migration%20Archives/Migration%20Webpage%20Folder/%281%29%20NORTHEASTERN%20US%20ROUTES/Mohawk%20Turnpike.htm (accessed 2 July 2011).
- Wikipedia contributors, "New York State Route 5" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_State_Route_5 (accessed 2 July 2011).
- "The Way West Through Northern Seneca County," http://www.co.seneca.ny.us/history/The%20Way%20West%20Through%20Northern%20Seneca%20County.pdf (accessed 2 July 2011).
- Wikipedia contributors, "Erie Canal" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Central_Railroad (accessed 2 July 2011).
- Wikipedia contributors, "New York Central Railroad" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erie_Canal (accessed 2 July 2011).
- "Great Genesee Road" in Handybook, 849.
- Handybook, 847-54.