Old South Carolina State Road
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. Several important Indian trails radiated out from these villages. These trails would eventually become migration routes for European settlers. The Cherokee resisted most European settlement near their villages. The Cherokee sided with the British during the American Revolutionary War. By 1777 Patriot forces attacked and drove the Cherokee from South Carolina. Patriot veterans soon began to settle in former Cherokee areas.
Charleston was founded in 1670 by English and African immigrants from the Caribbean island of Barbados. It became the largest city and capital of the South Carolina colony. Many trails and roads radiated out from Charleston. In 1747 the Old South Carolina State Road was opened and settlers began pouring north along it into the interior. In 1753 the British colony of South Carolina built Fort Prince George across the river to the east of the Cherokee town of Keowee. It is likely that a branch of the Old State Road went to Fort Prince George.
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 (south to north) as follows:
- Charleston 1670 by English and African Barbadians
- Dorchester 1696 by New Englanders from Massachusetts
- Orangeburg 1731 by Reformed Swiss, German Lutherans, and French Huguenots
- Calhoun 1730s by Scots-Irish (that is Ulster-Irish), Germans, and French Huguenots
- Lexington 1730s by Germans, and French Huguenots
- Newberry 1750s by Germans, English, and Scots-Irish
- Laurens 1753 by Scots-Irish
- Spartanburg County, South Carolina 1755 by Scots-Irish
- Greenville County, South Carolina 1777 by Scots-Irish, and Revolutionary War Veterans
There are three possible routes the Old South Carolina State Road may have taken to exit the state. Over the years the route may have shifted:
- from Newberry to Union to Spartanburg to Landrum in Spartanburg County, South Carolina on the route that would become the old Appalachian Highway or U.S. Route 176 to Polk County, NC.
- from Laurens to Greenville to Travelers Rest in Greenville County, South Carolina north along what became U.S. Route 25 to Polk County, NC.
- from Greenville west to Clemson and Seneca (earlier Fort Prince George and Keowee) in Oconee County, South Carolina probably overlapping the Old Cherokee Path west to Toccoa, Georgia (earlier Tugaloo) via what became U.S. Route 123.
Connecting trails. The Old South Carolina State Road linked to other trails at each end. Other trails also crossed it in the middle.
The migration pathways connected at the south end in Charleston included:
The migration pathways connected at the north end near Spartanburg County, South Carolina included:
Between those two ends the Old South Carolina State Road also crossed and had junctions with several other important migration routes:
- Occaneechi Path pre-historic in Lexington County
- Fall Line Road about 1735 (overlapped the Occaneechi Path) in Lexington County
- Great Valley Road (south fork) 1740s (overlapped the Occaneechi Path) in Lexington County
- Lower Cherokee Traders' Path pre-historic in Spartanburg County
- Upper Road about 1783 in Spartanburg County
Modern parallels. The modern roads that roughly match the old Old South Carolina State Road start in Charleston, South Carolina. Take Interstate 26 west (that is north) to Goose Creek. From Goose Creek follow U.S. Route 176 northwest to Henderson, North Carolina.
Settlers and Records
The Old South Carolina State Road from Charleston to Orangeburg was part of earlier routes and already well-traveled by the time the State Road opened in 1747. Settlers who came via Charleston may have arrived by sea, or by the King's Highway. Some later settlers may have joined the State Road at its junction with the Fall Line Road near Columbia. Especially the Ulster-Irish in the old Ninety-Six District used the State Road to reach early settlements in what became Newberry, Laurens, Union, Spartanburg, and Greenville counties east of the Cherokee Villages. Once the Cherokee left what became Pickens and Oconee counties during the Revolutionary War, in 1777 veterans of that war began settling on Cherokee land and probably used part of the Old South Carolina State Road to help get there.
No complete list of settlers who used the Old South Carolina State Road is known to exist. Nevertheless, local and county histories along that trail may reveal pioneer settlers who arrived after 1747 and therefore who were the most likely candidates to have traveled the Old South Carolina State Road.
For partial lists of early settlers who may have used the Old South Carolina State Road, see histories like:
in Newberry County, SC:
in Union County, SC:
in Laurens County, SC:
in Spartanburg County, SC:
in Greenville County, SC:
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.
- Adam Prince, 1920 State Trunk Routes - An Overview describes Trunk Route 2 as the "Old State Road." The route included Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville, but where it exited South Carolina is "unclear." Various possibilities described include routes via Landrum, Travelers Rest, and Seneca.
- Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 852. (FHL Book 973 D27e 2002). WorldCat entry.
- South Carolina - The Counties, http://www.carolana.com/SC/Counties/sc_counties_alphabetical_order.html (accessed 8 April 2011).
- Adam Prince, 1920 State Trunk Routes - An Overview, http://www.gribblenation.com/scroads/state/1920.html (accessed 10 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.