Welcome to Part 2 of our 3 part segment pertaining to the Great Wagon Road. The 1st part contained information from Pennsylvania through Virginia and the route our ancestors took. This segment will discuss the entry into North Carolina. When our ancestors passed through the southern portion of Virginia, they were met with the Blue Ridge Mountains and the descent from the elevation. It is unclear exactly where the actual roadbed is located in this area, but the area was filled with rough terrain and wilderness.
We know from the map above, that Indian trails and paths did exist prior to the arrival of the Great Wagon Road into North Carolina and from this map, we can gather more information on the terrain and different routes. Cherokee attacks were numerous during the years of 1759 and 1760. There were several early settlers who were killed along the Yadkin River in February of 1760. Also, attacks were noted during the spring of 1776, mostly west of the Blue Ridge Mountains in present day, Watauga and Ashe counties. Many people have claimed to have found the original roadbed of the Great Wagon Road and many remnants and various items have been claimed to be found along the road. Grave sites were visible as well, according to oral histories, but the actual route has never been fully identified from Virginia following southward. We do know that upon descending the Blue Ridge Mountains, our ancestors were looking for “The Great Guide” or “The Pilot” which is present day Pilot Mountain pictured below. According to Moravian diaries, “The mountain looked like a giant took a bite right from the top.”
During the years of 1750 to 1766, this area would have been an untamed wilderness with very few to no other settlers in the area. The road during these years would have been treacherous and not maintained at all. It was not until after the Revolutionary War began, that settlers were assigned road maintenance near their homes. The Moravians were making multiple trips back and forth from 1753. This allowed the road to become more wider in areas and less rocks and overgrowth to be removed. The Moravians also had access to a team of 6 horses when using the road and could travel much more quickly versus a single family with 1 team of horses, or none at all. The travelers also had to be aware of animals, such as bear, panthers, wolves and poisonous snakes. Not many know that buffalo also roamed in this area, but they were forced to the higher terrain of the western mountains of North Carolina and were not in the area since the Saura Indians left in approx. 1710. This was years before the Great Wagon Road came into existence.
A newspaper article was written in 2013 by the Winston-Salem Journal detailing the route of the road through the Rural Hall area, present day, Forsyth County, NC. This area is approx. 30 miles south of Pilot Mountain. The link to the article can be found here. Depressions of the actual roadbed were located along Cordell Drive and Highway 66, just north of present day Rural Hall. According to the Moravian diaries, this has been proven to be true as the Moravians were making their way to the settlement of Bethabara which lies just south of Rural Hall. We know that the Moravians left the road and traveled a few miles south in order to locate a building which was already on the property they just purchased in 1753. This was the site for Bethabara. Bethania was established on “The Pennsylvania Road” according to the journals of the Moravians. This means, that Highway 67 and Bethania-Tobaccoville Road both cross over the original Wagon Road.
We know that the road turns west after leaving Bethania and prepares to cross the Yadkin River. We also know the location of the crossing was made in the “Shallow Ford” which is located just southwest of present day Lewisville. The crossing was made here because the Yadkin River only averaged 18″ in this one spot unless the river was swollen due to recent rains or melting snows. For more information on this area and neighboring Davidson, Rowan and Yadkin counties, see the video link listed here.
This is the end of Part 2, Part 3 will contain settlers that traveled The Great Wagon Road along with the year of migration and the area of settlement. If you would like to read more about The Great Wagon Road in North Carolina, click the link here and here.