Fort Moore-Charleston Trail

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The Fort Moore-Charleston Trail connected the colonial South Carolina seaport of Charleston with Fort Moore guarding trade on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River across from Georgia's subsequent colony of Augusta. Charleston was the largest European settlement in South Carolina, its capital, its main trade connection to Europe, on the King's Highway, and the start of several other trails. In 1716 Fort Moore was completed at the site of an Indian village that became the important fur trading center of Savannah Town (New Windsor Township after 1737), the primary pelt trading center with Charleston. The Fort-Moore-Charleston trail likely opened at that time. Many other trails also converged on this town just below the fall line, and later on the town of Augusta across the river in Georgia. The Fort Moore-Charleston Trail began in Charleston County, South Carolina Genealogy and ended in Aiken County, South Carolina Genealogy. The length of the trail was about 144 miles (232 km).[1]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Charleston was founded in 1670 by English and African immigrants from the Caribbean island of Barbados. It became the largest city and capital of the South Carolina colony. Many trails and roads radiated out from Charleston.

The Westo Indians were the first known residents of Savannah Town, South Carolina, observed there as early as the 1670s. However, they were replaced by Shawnee (Savannah) Indians because of a 1679-1680 trade war. This town became important to the South Carolina colony because it was a prosperous center for the western fur and deer skin trade. Pack trains of animal furs and skins arrived from the Appalachian (Blue Ridge) Mountains and beyond. Savannah Town was just below the fall line, the farthest upriver an ocean-going boat could reach. Iron and manufactured goods were traded for the pelts. Skins from Savannah Town were shipped by boat to Charleston and from there to Europe. In 1715-1716 South Carolina built and garrisoned Fort Moore on the Savannah River to protect this trade from attacks by hostile Indians, Spanish, or French, and presumably about this time opened the Fort Moore-Charleston Trail. In 1730 the area was incorporated as New Windsor Parish and Township. In 1737 about 200 Swiss from the Canton of Appenzell settled the area.[2]

As a western pelt trading center, many Indian trails converged on this area. An old Indian trading trail called the Occaneechi Path stretched from the former Indian village at New Windsor toward Camden, South Carolina, then north to Charlotte, North Carolina, and beyond to Petersburg, Virginia. The Lower Creek Trading Path extended from Savannah Town/New Windsor into the mountains all the way to Clarksdale, Mississippi on the Mississippi River. The Cisca and St. Augustine Trail (or Nickajack Trail) connected the Cumberland River at Nashville, Tennessee to the Savannah River at New Windsor, South Carolina to St. Augustine, Florida on the Atlantic Ocean.

Sometime around 1735 white settlers began using the Camden to New Windsor part of the Occaneechi Path as part of the overlapping Fall Line Road. Settlers from as far away as Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania may have started appearing in Aiken County via this route. Likewise, the Great Valley Road through Virginia to Tennessee had a south fork extension that partly overlapped the Occaneechi Path and Fall Line Road and may have brought settlers from as far away as Pennsylvania to Aiken County by about the 1740s.

In 1735 Augusta, Georgia was founded five miles upriver from Fort Moore by British colonists coming up the Savannah River from Savannah, Georgia. The citizens of Augusta did what they could to deflect the fur and skin trade from Savannah/New Windsor, South Carolina to their Georgia city and their seaport at Savannah, Georgia. In 1740 a ferry service began between the two rival towns of New Windsor and Augusta. However, New Windsor declined in importance. By 1765 the town was abandoned and Fort Moore was closed.[2]

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.

Route[edit | edit source]

The first European colonists settled in counties along this trail (north to south) as follows:[3]

Connecting trails. The Fort Moore-Charleston Trail linked to other trails at each end.[4]

The migration pathways connected at the south end in Charleston County, South Carolina Genealogy included:

The migration routes connected at the north end in Aiken County, South Carolina Genealogy, or in Augusta, Richmond, Georgia included:

Modern parallels. The modern roads that roughly match the old Fort Moore-Charleston Trail start in Charleston, South Carolina. From Charleston, take Interstate-26 northwest to Exit 187. Turn south on SC-27 toward Ridgeville. Turn west onto US-78 to the Barnwell-Aiken County border where the road forks left and becomes US-278 into Augusta, Georgia.

Settlers and Records[edit | edit source]

The first European settlers in Aiken County either came up the Savannah River or Fort Moore-Charleston Trail starting about 1716. Around 1735 white settlers may have started arriving via the Fall Line Road. Many other trails converged here but most were Indian trails and were most likely used by fur trappers and traders rather than by settlers coming to the area. However, in later years whites settlers could have used all these trails for coming to or leaving the area.

No complete list of settlers who used the Fort Moore-Charleston Trail is known to exist. Nevertheless, local and county histories along that trail may reveal pioneer settlers who arrived after 1777 and therefore who were the most likely candidates to have traveled the Fort Moore-Charleston Trail.

For partial lists of early settlers who may  have used the Fort Moore-Charleston Trail, see histories like:

in Colleton County, SC:

  • Evelyn McDaniel Frazier Bryan, Colleton County, S.C.: a History of the First 160 Years, 1670-1830 (Jacksonville, Florida: Florentine Press, 1993) (FHL Book 975.795 H2b) WorldCat entry.

in Aiken County, SC:

External Links[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 849. (FHL Book 973 D27e 2002). WorldCat entry.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Wikipedia contributors, "Savannah Town, South Carolina," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,,_South_Carolina (accessed 12 April 2011).
  3. South Carolina - The Counties, (accessed 7 April 2011).
  4. 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.
  5. "South Carolina Counties and Parishes - 1740" in The Royal Colony of South Carolina at (accessed 22 April 2011).