The Great Wagon Road Project

Welcome To The Great Wagon Road Project

The Great Wagon Road Project began in June 2019 with volunteers teaming up with Piedmont Trails to name this fascinating road as a National Historical Trail. Over the past year, we have met our objections head on and surpassed the great difficulties with groundwork during the pandemic of COVID-19. Nevertheless, we are optimistic and will face future challenges with determination and dedication on this fascinating road. We are prepared to go the distance as we pursue this adventure one step at a time.

The Great Wagon Road, also known as the Great Warrior’s Path, the Carolina Road, the Great Valley Road and the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road came into existence years before the first colonial settlers began living in the mid sections of present day Virginia. First used by the Native American tribes as a hunting trail and a communication trail between the tribes of the present day mid-Atlantic region to the upper northwest territory of Ohio and Michigan. Later, the road became a trading route involving the exchange companies of the 18th century and the Native American tribes. Goods such as gunpowder, salt, fabric, tea and other commodities were used as arbitration techniques in order to maintain peaceful connections between the Native Americans and the colonists.

The years that followed, primarily dating from 1740 to 1800, allowed the road to take witness to America’s first and greatest inland migration. The vast number of people who traveled the route during this time period speaks volumes to the legacy and history of this road. Measuring only as a footpath during the early years, the road quickly grew to accommodate huge Conestoga wagons filled with supplies, personal items and dreams of the future. Families numbering tens of thousands began the journey from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York and present day Maine to cross the Potomac River and into the wilderness known as Virginia. Land was widely known to be available in North Carolina as the prime acreage in the middle and northern colonies were quickly developed leaving little opportunity for the majority of these families to become landowners.

This overwhelming migration allowed the southern colonies to increase their population by over 100%. With this vast percentage, settlements and counties were quickly established and the southern colonies were filled with various types of cultures and religions. The action of these families moving southward also contributed greatly to the need of the militia during the French and Indian War as well as the American Revolutionary War. Groups numbering as many as twenty wagons and more traveled together, settled together and organized themselves together. First as neighbors and next as founded traditional communities, these tens of thousands of people prepared themselves to grow and harvest their crops, practice their trade and proclaim freedom for their heirs. Statistics show that during a thirty-year span, South Carolina improved the number of settlers from 70,000 to over 140,000.

The character of this road can be felt as we research the buildings, cemeteries, waterways and so much more that are still in existence today. Taverns and inns dotted the landscape as businesses grew along the road to capture and provide the needs of the traveling parties. With each document we discover, the road comes to life sharing it’s secrets and mysteries along the way. Diaries, journals, maps, land deeds, church records, court records and so much more bring forth not only the people who participated with this migration but it also addresses the important need for preservation and the significant role this road played in our nation’s history.

National Recognition Is Long Over Due For This Historic Road

Over 276 years of historical events occurred along the Great Wagon Road. Three major wars, including the Civil War which brought forth the end of slavery while the road provided a safe haven for the thousands of slaves traveling north via the Underground Railroad. The road which originally held signs ten feet above the ground for easy viewing on horseback or wagon now has witness to high speed performance with options of gasoline or electric horsepower. Once bells could be heard chiming in unison upon a horse’s bridle alerting approaching wagons that others were on the road, now, horns honk, cell phones chatter while the GPS system guides you along the shoulders of the road. At times, the road reveals a stunning occurrence from long ago: a child dying along the way buried near the road, steep inclines and deep ravines still visible today share their details of muddy slopes and slick terrain. Views from mountain tops point the way to travelers who stood on the very same spot so long ago. Amazing and fascinating are not the correct roads for the real purpose and meaning of this road.

Acceptance of this enormous task numbers in the few. Hard work, dedication and an enormous drive to succeed is required. The Research Team is fully aware of all of these and gladly accepts the task without complaining to offer the best that we have while continuing to live our lives, perform our daily routines such as employment and family needs and to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. In every sense of the word, it is well worth the long hours along the way. Concentration on the goal is what we all have in common, it is that goal of national recognition that keeps us going. This process is years in the making, it may take as little as three but could amount to as much as ten years. The commitment of the Research Team lies within the heart of each person. We are comprised of volunteers who quickly become the best of friends open to discovery and working hard together while sharing our journey to earn the respect the Great Wagon Road deserves.

We are always eager to receive new information and materials in regard to our task at hand. If you believe you have information that may guide us to our ultimate goal, we would love to hear from you. Simply submit your information to the Great Wagon Road Research Team via Piedmont Trails. We encourage attaching photos if this is possible and provide as much detail as available. As the team gathers the evidence and discovers the facts, various articles will be shared on Piedmont Trails about our progress. The evidence continues to build as we get closer to goal and national recognition. If you would like to become an active member of the research team, submit your information today and join the journey along this fascinating historical trail. Thank You so much for visiting the Great Wagon Road Project.