Fall Line Road

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At the southeastern edge of the Piedmont is the (water)fall line, where rivers drop to the coastal plain. Towns grew at the fall line because cargo on boats had to be portaged around the waterfalls which also served as an important early source of water power. Mills built to harness this resource encouraged the growth of towns. The larger rivers were navigable from the ocean up to the fall line, providing a trade route for those mill towns.[1]

The Fall Line Road (or Southern Road) was the road built to connect most of those growing mill towns.

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.

Colonial Roads in the South.png

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

By 1735 the Fall Line Road forked off of the King's Highway at Fredericksburg, Virginia and continued south along the fall line, a geographic dropoff seperating the Tidewater from the Piedmont regions. The rivers above each waterfall or rapid were relatively easy to ford because they were not subject to ocean tides, or marshes. Connecting the river fords and nearby mill towns with overland roads helped migration and trade.[2]

North Carolina law only required the building of roads from a town to the "nearest landing." So North Carolina was slow to develope roads between towns.[2] The Fall Line Road was historically significant because it was the first into the interior connecting towns away from the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas. [3]

After several Indian removals from 1790 to 1826 the Fall Line Road was slowly further extended from Augusta to the west Georgia border for white settlers. In 1831 the final treaty was signed that allowed settlers to follow the road and settle along it as far as Montgomery, Alabama.

The length of the Fall Line Road is about 170 miles (274 km) from Philadelphia to Fredericksburg, and about 1030 miles (1658 km) from Fredericksburg to Montgomery.[4]

Route[edit | edit source]

Towns on the Fall Line (Northeast to Southwest)[5]

  • Trenton, NJ: Delaware R.
  • Philadelphia, PA: Schuylkill R.
  • Wilmington, DE: Brandywine Creek
  • Baltimore, MD: Patapsco R.
  • Georgetown, DC: Potomac R.
  • Fredericksburg, VA: Rappahannock R.
  • Richmond, VA: James R.
  • Petersburg, VA: Appomattox R.
  • Roanoke Rapids, NC: Roanoke R.
  • Smithfield, NC: Neuse R.
  • Fayetteville, NC: Cape Fear R.
  • Cheraw, SC: Pee Dee R.
  • Camden, SC: Wateree R.
  • Columbia, SC: Congaree R.
  • Augusta, GA: Savannah R.
  • Milledgeville, GA: Oconee R.
  • Macon, GA: Ocmulgee R.
  • Columbus, GA: Chattahoochee R.
  • Tallassee, AL: Tallapoosa R.
  • Wetumpka, AL: Coosa R.

Some consider the start of the Fall Line Road to be Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It follows the same route from there to Fredericksburg, Virginia as the King's Highway. The Fall Line Road and Upper Road both spit off from the King's Highway at Fredericksburg. Most but not all towns on the Fall Line are connected by the Fall Line Road.

Counties or Independent Cities on the Fall Line Road[4]

Settlers and Records[edit | edit source]

No lists of settlers who used the Fall Line Road are known to exist. However, local and county histories along the road may reveal that many of the first pioneer settlers arrived from places to the northeast along the route.

Most settlers would have moved from the northeast to the southwest along the Fall Line Road. People from Pennsylvania (especially around the major port city of Philadelphia), southern New Jersey, eastern Maryland, and northern Virginia would be the most likely starting places for Fall Line Road travelers. They would have settled in places like Richmond or Petersburg in southern Virginia, or in the Carolinas, or Augusta, Georgia until about 1790. The Georgia portion of the road was not open to most white settlers until after a series of treaties from 1790 to 1826. In 1831 the last treaty made the road clear to settlers all the way to Montgomery, Alabama.

The Scots-Irish (or Ulster Irish) were among the more common ethinic groups found plying the Fall Line Road.

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "South Carolina" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Carolina (accessed 20 January 2011).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Beverly Whitaker, "The Fall Line Road" (2006) in Genealogy Tutor at http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~gentutor/FallLine.pdf (accessed 23 January 2011).
  3. William Dollarhide, Map Guide to American Migration Routes 1735-1815 (Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest, 1997), 5, 10, 33, and 36. (FHL Book 973 E3d). WorldCat entry.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 849. (FHL Book 973 D27e 2002). WorldCat entry.
  5. Wikipedia contributors, "Fall line" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fall_line (accessed 20 January 2011).