The history that lies along the banks of the Catawba River fills the valley with family heritage and stories of long ago. A path located south and west of the area existed since the early 18th-century and possibly before. This path was known as the Keowee Trail. Trade between England and the Native Americans who lived west of the Catawba River was encouraged and moderated to establish and keep the peace between the two parties. Expeditions guided by frontiersmen lined the road filled with items for trade in exchange for furs. This practice grew during the first decades of the 1700s, and both parties benefitted from the rewards. Once the word began spreading about the vast wilderness in this area, others living in the middle colonies showed an interest in what would become of these lands. The men traveling these trade routes often communicated in taverns and other businesses in different areas; this enabled the knowledge about the land and resources available in the Catawba River basin. Documents prove that many of the first settlers in the piedmont region of North Carolina link to earlier family members occupied in the trade business. This statement is true with Adam Sherrill and the area along Sherrill’s Path.
It is hard to imagine today a wilderness so vast in acreage with no roads connecting it elsewhere. Pinpointing the North Carolina tribes and their locations seems to prove a possible path through the Catawba area. The evidence or written proof, however, is lacking. Hopefully, with future research, this theory will be proven correct. Until then, primarily focusing on the origins of Sherrill’s Path must accompany the man, Adam Sherrill, and his family. The son of a fur trader, Adam was born in Cecil County, Maryland, in 1697. Elizabeth Corzine weds Adam in Chester County, Pennsylvania, in 1722 at the age of 25. Eighteen years later, the family relocates to Augusta County, Virginia, and continued to live in the area for several years. At the age of 50, Adam, with other family members, traveled to North Carolina.
The North Carolina land office opened for business in 1745. By this time, many families had already made their decision to move south and settle. Groups of travelers used rugged roads and paths to reach the North Carolina boundary line, and Sherrill’s travel route may reveal why his final destination was different from so many others. Most people traveled into North Carolina during the 1740 decade either by way of the Trader’s Path through Petersburg, Virginia; or by using the Great Wagon Road through Henry County, Virginia. These routes would explain the legal land documents along the Yadkin, Dan, and Deep Rivers during this time frame. The Sherrill party settled further west along the Catawba River, and this would allow us to think about why. Little to no neighbors would lead to no protection or assistance if a crisis occurred. Another element to consider would be access to wagon routes for supplies and trade. Is it possible that Adam Sherrill mistakenly identified the Catawba River as the Yadkin? Exactly what road did Adam take into North Carolina?
These questions lead us back to Adam’s father, William, and his contacts. William was born in Devon, England, in 1666 and arrived in Maryland sometime before 1687. He married Margarette Rudisil in Cecil County, Maryland, in 1693 at the age of 27. He became a landowner in 1702, nine years after his marriage in Maryland. By 1718, William is living in Conestoga, Pennsylvania and his occupation lists him as a fur trader. His employment speaks loud and clear about his contacts and communications. William would have knowledge of the trade business in the Carolinas and the lands. William died circa 1747, near the age of 80. What events lead to his death is unknown, but it appears William lived a long life. His death brings up the question, what knowledge did he share with his son, Adam? Another question is, did William’s death occur along the trip to North Carolina? One independent source claims that William died in Cecil County, Maryland. But without a will or other evidence, William’s death location remains a mystery. It is significant to relate the timing of Adam Sherrill in North Carolina and the date of his father’s death or disappearance from records as closely related events.
The roads leading south from Augusta County, Virginia point to the Staunton River along the Blue Ridge Mountains. From this position, various sidetracks or paths were available for the choosing. It was not unheard of for families to get lost along the way. The Moravians admitted to this in their diaries and eventually found their way into North Carolina in 1752. From research gathered by The Great Wagon Road Project, one road, in particular, could be a possibility for Adam Sherrill. The route in question would travel into North Carolina in present-day Carroll County, Virginia, and pass the landmark of Mt. Ararat in Surry County, North Carolina. This road, proven with absolute evidence from Christopher Gist’s journal dated 1750, could explain why and how Adam Sherrill arrived at the Catawba River. The road ended at Mulberry Fields, present-day Wilkes County. From this position, the Catawba River and Sherrill’s Ford are approximately 60 miles apart. When one considers the approximate mileage from Salisbury, Rowan County to Sherrill’s Ford, the distance is far less at 40 miles. With this information, we can begin to look further into the direction and location of Sherill’s Path.
Mulberry Fields Road traveled east to west from present-day Wilkesboro as early as 1747. Further research on this particular road may lead to an earlier establishment date. The road passed the Bryan Settlement, west of the Yadkin River, and named for Morgan Bryan and his family. From this point, Sherrill’s Path begins traveling south and west near present-day Statesville, Iredell County, then proceeds south to the Catawba River and the Sherrill’s Ford, which unfortunately is underwater today at Lake Norman.
The location of Adam Sherrill in 1747 would be Bladen County, North Carolina. The county boundaries would change through the years, and these would contribute to the area of records and documents as one studies the road. The Great Wagon Road Project has uncovered numerous materials and is in the process of researching each one of these. Sherrill’s Path traveled near many historic sites, such as Fort Dobbs and intersected with the Trader’s Path. Could Sherrill’s Path be a direct link to the original Great Wagon Road? The Great Wagon Road Project has complete confidence that future works and investigations will reveal the answer.
- A map of the most inhabited part of Virginia containing the whole province of Maryland with part of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and North Carolina by Fry & Jefferson 1755 courtesy of the Library of Congress)
- Carolina Cradle by Robert Ramsey published by University of North Carolina 1964 pp. 47-50
- DocSouth-Sherrill Ford’s Monument
- Marker to Be Erected in Memory of Adam Sherrill by Statesville Record and Landmark, Statesville, NC, 1929
- North Carolina State Archives Land Grants Raleigh, NC
- Records of the Moravians Volume I 1752-1771 by Adelaide Fries published by Edwards & Broughton Printing Company Raleigh, North Carolina 1932
- Sherrill Family Cemetery Catawba County, North Carolina
- Sherrill’s History of Lincoln County, North Carolina (a series of newspaper articles published in the Lincoln Times by William Sherrill, 1935.
- The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road In Forsyth County, NC 1750-1770 by Kyle Stimson published 1999 p 33 and 94
- The Journal of Christopher Gist 1750-1751 Annals of Southwest Virginia by Lewis P Summers, 1929
- The marches of Lord Cornwallis in the Southern Provinces, now States of North America; comprehending the two Carolinas, with Virginia and Maryland, and the Delaware counties by Faden & Cornwallis 1787 (courtesy of the Library of Congress)
- The Sherrill Family