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The Settlement of Roan Oke, Virginia

Today, the capital of the Blue Ridge Mountains began as a fork in the road. The footpath from the Potomac River through the Winchester area dating to 1728, had grown over the 1730 decade. In 1745, Orange County court directed Simon Akers and George Robinson to inspect the route from the Forks of Roan Oke. This court order is the first that mentions Roanoke. The men were to reach the gap over the mountains to the Brunswick County line. The first court order in Augusta appointed Mark Evans, William Kervine, John McFarran, and James Montgomery as the road overseers. The Speedwell estate, known for Robert Harvey’s ironwork location, converged with the Trader’s Path and the Indian Trail from North Carolina before 1750. During this period, the Roanoke River was called Goose Creek. Tinker Creek, located at the north end of the river, was called Buffalo Creek. The south branch was called South Fork of Roanoke.

Captain George Robinson settled on 191 acres on a branch of Buffalo Creek. Robinson’s property was the beginning of the settlement in Roanoke. Tosh’s Ford began as a river crossing from one part of his plantation using an established ford from the Native Tribes before his arrival. The original Great Wagon Road footpath crossed the property of Tasker Tosh. In 1746, Augusta County designated two roads through the Roanoke Valley to be maintained by the local settlers. One was located along the north fork, while the other was along the south fork. On the north fork, Tobias Bright was named overseer. On the south fork, Mark Evans and James Cambell were the overseers.

Erwin Patterson, a constable on the Roanoke near the Great Lick, appears in 1746 documents. Patterson’s property is on Looney’s Mill Creek. The Indian Road led through the Great Valley to the foot of the mountains before North Carolina. From the Great Valley to Pennsylvania, James Patton and John Buchanan marked the road under the direction of the Orange County court. This section of the original footpath was the first to be improved. Gilbert Campbell’s property below Wood’s Creek is a crossing along the original route. In 1745, this route became a public road. Local names for the road are Borden’s Path, Indian Road, Market Road, and the Great Road.

The Great Wagon Road Project will have much more on this particular area in the coming weeks. Traces of the footpath extend from the Packhorse Ford to present-day Roanoke in the 1730 decade. Indian traders and mountain men explored the area, and tribe history comes to the surface as the project continues. As 1750 arrived, numerous new roads from the original route surfaced in the area. Distinguishing these from the original footpath is determined by the official records and the natural terrain.

Several land deeds, road orders, and other documents mention the Roanoke area as Roan Oke, separating the words. We will have much more on the new roads and the Carolina Road. The latter originated much later in the colonial period. Until then, Enjoy Your Journey to the Past !!


  • Kegley’s Virginia Frontier by Frederick Bittle Kegley- Janaway Publishing, Inc. 2012
  • Orange County, Virginia Road Orders
  • Annals of Augusta County, Virginia from 1726 to 1871 by Joseph Addison Waddell- C. Russell Publisher Staunton, Virginia 1902
  • The Westover Manuscripts by William Byrd of Westover- Edmund and Julian C. Ruffin Petersburg, Virginia 1841
  • Library of Congress-Photo of Roanoke 1891- American Publishing Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

1 reply »

  1. Hi, I so enjoy your posts. This project is so exciting! Thanks so much for listing your references. I’m a very visual person, so my next step is to actually see this on a map.
    You mention several places as I’m trying to follow the direction and time period.
    I ‘m very familiar with Winchester , Va as I used to live there. And I know a place called “Packhouse Ford” along the Potomac river outside of Shepherdstown, WV, which is an hour from Winchester. But I imagine there might have been more than one packhouse ford.
    I also know a James Patton married a Sarah Hughes ( Hughes being the family I’m tracing down), and I have Buchannon’s in my family. Excited to see them together.
    You must spend a lot of time reading. Thanks for being engaged with us as we travel these backroads together. Kim Hughes Forry

    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 1 person

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