Old Cherokee Path
Scots-Irish (that is Ulster-Irish), and German farmers migrating along the Great Valley Road (sometimes called the Great Wagon Road) through Virginia began settling the counties near the north end of the Old Cherokee Path in the 1750s. However, during part of the French and Indian War from 1754 to 1763 they decided to leave the Washington County, Virginia area. Some settlers after the war in Johnson County, Tennessee and Watauga County, North Carolina were pushing beyond the Proclamation line protecting Indians from intruders. Many of the re-settlers in the area became involved in the Watauga Association (a semi-automomous government) starting in 1772. In turn this led to the tentative and short-lived State of Franklin.
From the first contact with Europeans the Cherokee Indians had settlements called the Lower Cherokee Villages in the northwest part of South Carolina and part of Georgia. The most prominent was the town of Keowee in what became Oconee County, South Carolina. Another important town was Tugaloo near what became Toccoa, Georgia. Several important Indian trails converged on these villages, including the south end of the Old Cherokee Path. The Cherokee resisted most European settlement near their villages. However, the Cherokee sided with the British during the American Revolutionary War. By 1777 Patriot forces attacked and drove the Cherokee from South Carolina, and Tugaloo, Georgia. Patriot veterans soon began to settle on former Cherokee lands. Eventually the old Indian trails in the area were improved into migration routes for European settlers.
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:
- Watauga County, North Carolina 1760s by Scots-Irish
- Caldwell County, North Carolina 1760s from Burke and Wilkes Counties, NC
- Burke County, North Carolina 1760s by English/Welsh, and then Scots-Irish
- McDowell County, North Carolina 1760s from Burke and Rutherford Counties, NC
- Rutherford County, North Carolina 1750s by Scots-Irish
- Polk County, North Carolina 1760s from Rutherford County, NC
- Spartanburg County, South Carolina 1755 by Scots-Irish
- Greenville County, South Carolina 1777 by Scots-Irish, and Revolutionary War Veterans
- Pickens County, South Carolina 1753 by English and Scots-Irish near Fort Prince George near Keowee, the primary Lower Cherokee village.
- Oconee County, South Carolina 1784 by Germans, and Revolutionary War Veterans
- Stephens County, Georgia about 1777 by Revolutionary War Veterans
Connecting trails. The Old Cherokee Path linked to other trails at each end. Other trails also crossed it in the middle.
The migration pathways connected at the north end in Washington County, Virginia included:
Between those two ends the Old Cherokee Path was also crossed by several other important routes:
- Jonesboro Road after 1769 crossed the Old Cherokee Path near the Burke/McDowell county border, NC. The Jonesboro Road connected New Bern, North Carolina to Jonesborough and Knoxville, Tennessee.
- Rutherford's War Trace opended in 1776 through the same place because it overlapped the Jonesboro Road there.
- Catawba Trail a pre-historic route met the Old Cherokee Path near the North Carolina/South Carolina border. The Catawba Trail connected the Lower Cherokee villages with the Cumberland Gap and Wilderness Road into Kentucky.
- Old South Carolina State Road opened in 1747 and met the Old Cherokee Path near the North Carolina/South Carolina border. The Old South Carolina State Road made its way to Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina. A branch of the Old State Road also may have followed the Old Cherokee Path to Fort Prince George, Keowee, and Tugaloo.
Modern parallels. The modern roads that roughly match the old Old Cherokee Path start in Toccoa, Georgia. From Toccoa, take US-123 east to Easley, South Carolina, then east on US-124 to Greenville. Go north on US-25 to SC-11. Turn east on SC-11 to Gowensville. Take SC-14 north to Landrum, then northwest on US-176/Asheville Highway to Tryon, North Carolina. Turn north and then east onto NC-108 to Rutherfordton. Take US-64 north to Lenoir, then go north on US-321 to Boone. Take US-421 to Mountain City, then turn northeast onto NC-91 to Damascus, Tennessee. From Damascus take US-58 northwest to I-81, the Interstate version of the Great Valley Road.
Settlers and Records
The Great Valley Road was the trail leading to the north end of the Old Cherokee Path. A few colonists settled in Washington County Virginia in the early 1750s but decided to leave for safety reasons during the French and Indian War. The Lower Cherokee Villages on the South Carolina and Georgia part of the Old Cherokee Path inhibited most European settlements until the American Revolutionary War. Settlers prior to 1777 were most likely using trails other than the Old Cherokee Path to reach their new homes.
No complete list of settlers who used the Old Cherokee Path is known to exist. Nevertheless, local and county histories along that trail may reveal pioneer settlers who arrived after 1777 and therefore who were the most likely candidates to have traveled the Old Cherokee Path.
For partial lists of early settlers who may have used the Old Cherokee Path, see histories like:
in Washington County, VA:
- Lewis Preston Summers, History of Southwest Virginia, 1746-1786, Washington County, 1777-1870 (1903; reprint, Baltimore: Regional Pub. Co., 1971) (FHL Book 975.5 H2sLp 1971; Film 162046) WorldCat entry.
in Oconee County, SC:
- Frederick Van Clayton, Settlement of Pendleton District, 1777-1800 (Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, c1988) (FHL Book 975.72 W2c) WorldCat entry. The old Pendleton District embraced the present counties of Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens. Includes plats and their owners taken from the "State Record of Plat Books."
in Stephens County, GA:
- Katheryn Curtis Trogdon, History of Stephens County, Georgia (Toccoa, Ga.: Toccoa Womans Club, [c1973]). (FHL Book 975.813 H2t) WorldCat entry.
- Cherokee Lower Towns has maps of town locations, a link to a Revolutionary War battle database, sources, and list of Revolutionary War battles involving Cherokees.
- Georgia History Early Trails describes westward migration on and route of the Lower Cherokee Traders' Path and other routes through Georgia.
- Wikipedia contributors, "Tugaloo," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tugaloo (accessed 5 April 2011).
- Wikipedia contributors, "Great Wagon Road," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Wagon_Road (accessed 7 April 2011).
- Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 852. (FHL Book 973 D27e 2002). WorldCat entry.
- Wikipedia contributors, "Watauga Association," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watauga_Association (accessed 8 April 2011).
- North Carolina - The Counties, http://www.carolana.com/NC/Counties/nc_counties_alphabetical_order.html (accessed 7 April 2011), and South Carolina - The Counties, http://www.carolana.com/SC/Counties/sc_counties_alphabetical_order.html (accessed 7 April 2011).
- "County History" in Historical Society of Washington County, Va. at http://hswcv.org/history.html (accessed 7 April 2011).
- "Johnson County History" in The Original Johnson County, Tennessee Genealogy Page at http://jctcuzins.org/history/johnhist.html (accessed 7 April 2011).
- Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 847-61. (FHL Book 973 D27e 2002) WorldCat entry., and William E. Myer, Indian Trails of the Southeast. (Nashville, Tenn.: Blue and Gray Press, 1971), 12-14, and the book's pocket map "The Trail System of the Southeastern United States in the early Colonial Period" (1923). (FHL Book 970.1 M992i) WorldCat entry.
- William E. Myer, Indian Trails of the Southeast. (Nashville, Tenn.: Blue and Gray Press, 1971). (FHL Book 970.1 M992i) WorldCat entry.