Great Wagon Road Project

The Early Roads To Salisbury, North Carolina

All roads lead to Salisbury, North Carolina? During the years of 1740 to 1750, documents are proclaiming that at least two major roads did in fact lead to this area. Present day Salisbury was not a coincidence, this area was planned by the Colonial House Assembly during April of 1753. It’s orders were to construct a courthouse and a jail at the intersection of two known Indian trails. These trails are known as The Great Warrior’s Path and An Unnamed Trail. More about the Unnamed trail later in the article. Prior to this order, at least 7 log homes were established in the area. From research, the following surnames were residents of the area known as Salisbury prior to the year of 1753. James Alexander, James Carter, John Dunn, John Ryle, Johannes Adam, William Montgomery, Peter Arndt and Edward Cusick. With the naming of these early residents, it stands to reason that these trails were used for migration and trade. The area of Salisbury was originally located in Anson County, North Carolina prior to 1753. Years of families traveling into the area prompted the creation of a new county and Rowan County was established. Salisbury was quickly chosen as the county seat due to the population in and around the area.

Map of Salisbury, NC 1857

Courtesy of Library of Congress Washington D.C.

Map of Salisbury, NC 1808

Courtesy of Library of Congress Washington D.C.

Map of Salisbury, NC 1770

Courtesy of NC Dept. of Archives, Raleigh, NC

Map Displaying Near Salisbury, NC Area 1737

Courtesy of NC Dept. of Archives Raleigh, NC

As you can see from the above maps, the original roads varied greatly through the years. But, with documents proving the existence of residents, the establishment of a community and the existence of these trails on various documents, the proof is revealed. As more and more settlers arrived to the area, more and more routes and roads were completed. Keep in mind, these 18th century families traveled in groups. These groups contained numbers between 2 up to 30 families traveling together at one time. I say the number of thirty simply because I’ve not personally ran across a number higher than this so far with proof. That’s not to say that these families didn’t travel in huge wagon trains from the middle colonies. I believe that many of them did just that.

The origin of these trails that intersected at present day Salisbury were merely footpaths, no wider than one foot across. As you think of this, you will begin to realize the difficult journey this would have been. Many documents state that the further south one traveled, the more narrow the path would become. Eventually, more trees would be removed and different fords would be used to enable the trip more easily and more quickly as well. Over time, the footpath would evolve into an appearance of a common dirt road. The surface would be compacted down with the traffic and this did not allow proper water runoff which resulted in extremely rough travels during heavy rains, storms, etc.

Now, getting back to the “Unnamed Trail” as mentioned in the first paragraph. Many historians will refer to this trail as the Occaneechi Trail, while others will proclaim it as the Catawba Indian Trail. Still others simply refer to it as The Trading Path. The truth of the matter is the project has not positively identified this intersecting trail and we move forward through various maps, data and information to properly identify it. But, as the colonial records prove, a second trail did exist and the placement of present day Salisbury was the result of this fascinating intersection.

Map Displaying The Journey of John Lawson 1700-1701

Courtesy of NC Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources

The project is enabling several resources to determine the trail and one of these happens to be the journey of John Lawson during December of 1700 to February of 1701. He traveled a distance of approx. 550 miles through both North and South Carolina and encountered various tribes, paths and routes. A resource of his personal diaries are listed below in the sources list..

A special note in moving forward with the project. The group is currently working on the North Carolina segment and we planned to complete this by August 1st of 2020. However; due to the current national situation, the schedule has changed to October 1st as the new deadline. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions about the Great Wagon Road Project, simply let us know. If you have material or information that you feel would benefit the project, we would love to hear from you. Use the contact form on Piedmont Trails for contacting the project. Also, if you would like to learn more information about the project, simply enter “Great Wagon Road Project” in the search tab or visit the link provided here for the project’s outline.

Wishing you all a Safe Journey in the weeks ahead. Thank You all so much for your support of Piedmont Trails and The Great Wagon Road Project.

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