Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail

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The Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail connected the South Carolina colonial town of Charleston with the British military's colonial Fort Charlotte on the Savannah River in what is now McCormick County, South Carolina Genealogy. Charleston was the largest European settlement, the capital, on the King's Highway, and the start of several other trails. Fort Charlotte was built 1765-1767 to help protect European settlers from Indian raids. Fort Charlotte was near the place where the Middle Creek Trading Path crossed the Savannah River from Georgia into South Carolina. Several other trails also radiated out from this fort. The Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail was opened to European settlers about 1765. It began in Charleston County, South Carolina Genealogy and ended in McCormick County, South Carolina Genealogy. The length of the trail was about 105 miles (169 km).[1]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Scots-Irish (that is Ulster-Irish), French Huguenots, and German farmers began settling the area in the 1750s. Some of these early colonists near Long Cane Creek were killed by Cherokee Indians in 1760.[2] As a result, the British military constructed Fort Charlotte between 1765 and 1767 to help protect local colonists from hostile Indians. The fort was then turned over to South Carolina. The Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail probably followed older Indian trails. Fort Charlotte was built at or became the nexus of several trails along the Savannah River in South Carolina and Georgia.

As roads developed in America settlers were attracted to nearby communities because the roads provided access to markets. They could sell their products at distant markets, and buy products made far away. If an ancestor settled near a road, you may be able to trace back to a place of origin on a connecting highway.

Fort Charlotte played a role in the American Revolution. The South Carolina colonial government used the fort as an arsenal. The first Revolutionary War action in South Carolina ocurred when Patriots seized those supplies. They also negotiated at the fort trying in vain to win the Indians to the Patriot cause.[3]

Route[edit | edit source]

The first European colonists settled in counties along this trail (north to south) as follows:[4]

  • McCormick 1750s by Scots-Irish
  • Edgefield 1750s by Scots-Irish
  • Aiken 1737 by Swiss/Palatines, and French Huguenots
  • Orangeburg 1731 by Reformed Swiss, German Lutherans, and French Huguenots
  • Dorchester 1696 by New Englanders from Massachusetts
  • Charleston 1670 by English and African Barbadians

Connecting trails. The Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail links to other trails at each end. The migration pathways connecting in Charleston included:[5]

The migration routes connecting in Fort Charlotte included:

The newer Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail also crossed the much older Occaneechi Path in Aiken County. The Occaneechi Path was overlapped here by the Fall Line Road starting about 1735, and also the Great Valley Road (south fork) starting in the 1740s.

Modern parallels. The modern roads that roughly match the old Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail start in Charleston. Follow I-26 north to the Orangeburg. Then take the Neeses Highway west to Springfield. Then take Highway 4 west to Aiken. Then follow Highway 19 northwest until it becomes Highway 25. Continue northwest along Highway 25 to where it meets Highway 378 in northern Edgefield County. Turn west onto Highway 378 to reach McCormick. Then go northwest on Highway 28 until Highway 81 forks off to the west. Follow Highway 81 winding westerly to Mt. Carmel. From Mt. Carmel take the Fort Charlotte Road 6.5 miles (10.4 km) southwest to Strom Thurmond Lake. The Old Fort Charlotte site lies under that lake.

Settlers and Records[edit | edit source]

The first colonists in what became the Fort Charlotte area arrived before the Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail existed. They would have arrived by way of the Savannah River, the Middle Creek Trading Path, the Fort Moore-Charleston Trail, the Augusta and Cherokee Trail on the Georgia side of the river, or even the Occaneechi Path and its overlapping Fall Line Road, and Great Valley Road. Only after Fort Charlotte was started in 1765 would travelers have been able to use what became the Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail. Even then, they may have used the older Fort Moore-Charleston Trail most of the way to Aiken County before splitting off toward Fort Charlotte.

Ulster-Irish, French Huguenots, and Germans were among the earliest, pre-Fort Charlotte pioneer settlers.

No complete list of settlers who used the Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail is known to exist. Nevertheless, local and county histories along that trail may reveal pioneer settlers who arrived after 1765 and who were candidates to have travelled the Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail from the Charleston area.

For partial lists of early settlers who may have used the Charleston-Ft. Charlotte Trail, see histories like:

in McCormick County:

in Edgefield County:

  • John A. Chapman, History of Edgefield County from the earliest settlements to 1897 : biographical and anecdotical, with sketches of the Seminole War, nullification, secession, reconstruction, churches and literature, wtih rolls of all the companies from Edgefield in the war of secession, war with Mexico and with the Seminole Indians (Newberry, S.C.: E. H. Aull, 1897) (FHL Film 162293) WorldCat entry.

in Aiken County:

in Orangeburg County:

in Dorchester County:

External Links[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 848. (FHL Book 973 D27e 2002). WorldCat entry.
  2. Long Cane Creek massacre site, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, accessed 4 January 2021.
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Fort Charlotte (South Carolina)," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed 24 March 2011).
  4. South Carolina - The Counties, (accessed 22 March 2011).
  5. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 847-61. (FHL Book 973 D27e 2002) WorldCat entry., and William E. Myer, Indian Trails of the Southeast. (Nashville, Tenn.: Blue and Gray Press, 1971), 12-14, and the book's pocket map "The Trail System of the Southeastern United States in the early Colonial Period" (1923). (FHL Book 970.1 M992i) WorldCat entry.
  6. "South Carolina Counties and Parishes - 1740" in The Royal Colony of South Carolina at (accessed 22 April 2011).