Great Trail

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One part of the Great Trail system stretched from Passamaquoddy territory in northernmost New England through the Lakes Region of New Hampshire and down to the Shawmut Peninsula in Massachusetts. From there it connected to the region of the Wampanoag of Cape Cod, and over to the territory of the Nipmuck and other tribes around Lake Chaubunagungamaug before connecting to areas of present-day Connecticut and points farther south.

Another part of the Great Trail system in New England was later followed by Massachusetts Route 2; it leads from Boston to upstate New York. The section now known as the Mohawk Trail (used by tribes such as the Mohawk and Pocomtuc) leads from the Connecticut River valley through the Berkshires and Mohawk Trail State Forest into the area of present-day Albany, New York, the state capital. From here, the Great Trail system connected all parts of the territories where the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy lived.

In northern New Jersey, the portion of the Great Trail much-used by the Lenape included choice places to cross the Passaic River and to pass through the valleys among the Watchung Mountains, notably at Hobart Gap. As the Dutch colonists advanced beyond the proximity of the Hudson River, the new settlers found these paths crucial to their movement. New Jersey Route 24 generally follows a branch of the trail in this area.[</ref>Wikipedia contributors, "Great Trail" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at Great_Trail(accessed 6 March 2013).</ref>

A more southern part of the Great Trail system went from Delaware across Pennsylvania to Oldtown, Maryland, and then to the Ohio River below present-day Pittsburgh. It crossed Columbia County to Bolivar and Sandusky, and continued west. The part of the Great Trail used by Colonial American troops during Pontiac's Rebellion has been improved as U.S. Route 23.[1]

Mohawk Trail map.png

History[edit | edit source]

Albany, Albany County, New York Genealogy was founded by the Dutch colony of New Netherland Genealogy in 1614 and quickly became their premier fur trading center and second largest town. In 1664 England conquered the former Dutch colony and renamed it New York. [2]

In 1722 the British built a fur trading post near the mouth of the Oswego River on the southeast side of Lake Ontario. In 1727 they constructed log palisades, the first of a series of fortifications in the area. This was the first British military outpost on Lake Ontario. More nearby forts were also added in 1741 and 1755. These forts around the trading post helped establish the British as a power on the Great Lakes, and were sometimes collectively were called [3] Fort Oswego.

Indian trails through the forests existed for hunting, for trading, and for making war. To reach what became Fort Oswego and build it up, the British most likely improved an already existing Indian path between Albany and Fort Oswego. The route for carrying furs and skins to Albany, for communication, and for military troop and supply movements became known as the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail.

In 1726, after a period of absence, the French re-settled and fortified the Fort Niagara area on the southwest side of Lake Ontario guarding the Niagara River.[4]

The French and Indian War (1754-1763) led to improvement of Indian pathways into roads for the military and for settlers. In 1758 the British built Fort Schuyler (now Utica, Oneida County, New York Genealogy) to guard the central Mohawk Trail to Fort Oswego and the junction with the Mohawk Trail to Fort Niagara at a Mohawk River ford.[5]

In 1759 British troops from Fort Oswego were shipped along Lake Ontario to Fort Niagara. The British besieged Fort Niagara for 19 days and captured it.[6] This made the Mohawk Trail an important supply route from Albany to Fort Schuyler (Utica) to Fort Niagara. The west fork of the Mohawk Trail from Utica to Fort Niagara was about 212 miles (341 km) long. From Albany to Fort Niagara it was about 306 miles (492 km).

During and shortly after the American Revolutionary War 1775-1783, many American Loyalists sought refuge from angry American neighbors by leaving for Canada. Those Loyalists from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania that made it to Ontario usually reached there by following the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail.[7]

As American settlers moved west the two branches of the Mohawk Trail were used heavily. New York invested in road improvements from Albany to Utica in 1793.[8] Further, in 1794 New York authorized work on the Great Genesee Road from Utica to Caledonia and after 1798 to Buffalo.[9] The Genesee Road partially overlapped the west Fork of the Mohawk Trail as far as Oneida and Madison counties on its way to Fort Niagara. However, near Syracuse the original Mohawk Trail took a more northerly route. In 1797 a weekly stagecoach began service between Utica and Geneva on the Seneca/Ontario county line. Each leg of the round trip took three days.[10] In 1798 the Great Genesee Road became a turnpike, a high quality toll road under private control.[9]

But New York toll roads eventually had competition. Water travel on canals was less expensive than road tolls. The Erie Canal was completed in sections: Rome to Utica 1819, Utica to Syracuse 1820, Brockport (west of Rochester) to Albany 1823, and the entire canal Albany to Buffalo opened 1825.[11] Moreover, several railroads charging about the same as the canal began offering passenger service farther and farther west. Railroad service from Albany to Schenectady began 1831, to Utica 1836, to Auburn 1839, to Rochester in 1841, and to Buffalo in 1842. In 1853 the several railroads were merged into a New York Central Railroad mainline from Albany to Buffalo.[12] The decrease in toll revenues made the old turnpike company unprofitable. By 1852 it was dissolved and the former toll roads from Utica to Buffalo became public roads again.[9]

Route[edit | edit source]

The counties along the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail route (southeast to northwest) were as follows:

The Mohawk or Iroquois Trail had a west fork from Fort Schuyler (Utica) to Fort Niagara that partially overlapped the Great Genesee Road. Counties along the west fork of the Mohawk Trail route (east to west) were:[13]

Connecting trails. The Mohawk or Iroquois Trail linked to other trails at each end of the main trail, and each end of the west fork.[14]

The migration pathways connected at the southeast end of the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail in Albany, Albany County, New York Genealogy included:

The migration pathway connected at the northwest end of the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail in Fort Oswego included:

West Fork. The migration pathways connected at the east end of the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail (west fork) in Utica included:
The migration pathways connected at the west end of the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail (west fork) in Fort Niagara included:

Modern parallels. The modern roads that roughly match the Great Trail from Albany to Fort Oswego are:

  • New York State Route 5 from Albany to Deerfield (near Utica)
  • New York State 49 from Deerfield (near Utica) to Rome
  • where it becomes New York State 69 from Rome to Mexico
  • turn west onto New York State 104 from Mexico to Oswego
  • Massachusetts Route 2

The modern roads that roughly match the west fork of the Great Trail to Fort Niagara are:

  • New York State Route 5 from Albany to two miles east of Sherrill, Oneida County
  • two miles east of Sherrill turn northeast on New York State Route 31 from near Sherrill to the outskirts of Lockport, Niagara County
  • at the outskirts of Lockport, turn northeast on Cold Springs Road which becomes Old Niagara Road which becomes Stone Road
  • which merges into westbound New York State Route 93 from Lockport to Fort Niagara

Settlers and Records[edit | edit source]

Early settlers in central New York most likely traveled there via Albany. Albany was a hub of pathways from New York City, Vermont, Connecticut, Indiana,Illinois, United States Genealogy, Michigan, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Quebec. Probably the largest group to settle were New Englanders, many from Vermont. But people from almost every part of the eastern seaboard and Europe also were common in the area.

Many of the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania Loyalists who fled to Ontario during or shortly after the American Revolution followed the Great Trail. For a list of over 300 Loyalist families is the Niagara area of Ontario see:

  • Norman K. Crowder, "1784-1785 Niagara Return" Early Ontario Settlers: A Source Book (Baltimore: Genealogical Publ., 1993), 132-42. WorldCat entry. FHL Book 971.3 H29c.

No complete list of settlers in New York who used the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail is known to exist. Nevertheless, local and county histories along that trail may reveal pioneer settlers who arrived 1722 to 1850, and therefore who were the most likely candidates to have traveled the Great Genesee Road or Seneca Turnpike.

For partial lists of early settlers who may have used the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail, or the Great Trail see histories like:

Oswego County

Oneida County

  • Samuel W. Durant, History of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers (Microreproduction of original published: Philadelphia : Everts & Fariss, 1878). WorldCat entry. FHL Film 823718.

Niagara County

  • Samuel T. Wiley and W. Scott Garner, Biographical and portrait cyclopedia of Niagara County, New York (Microreproduction of original published: Philadelphia : Gresham Pub. Co., 1892). WorldCat entry. FHL Film 317821 Item 4.

External Links[edit | edit source]

The Great Genesee Road partially overlaps the Mohawk or Iroquois Trail.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Indian Trails and Towns in Ohio.
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Albany, New York" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at (accessed 2 July 2011).
  3. Fort Oswego.
  4. Wikipedia contributors, "Fort Niagara" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at (accessed 2 July 2011).
  5. "History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925 Chapter 130: The City of Utica" in Schenectady Digital History Archive at (accessed 2 July 2011).
  6. Wikipedia contributors, "Battle of Fort Niagara" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at (accessed 2 July 2011).
  7. William Dollarhide, Map guide to American migration routes, 1735-1815 (Bountiful, Utah : AGLL, c1997), 14. WorldCat entry. FHL Book 973 E3d.
  8. "The Mohawk Turnpike" in RootsWeb at (accessed 2 July 2011).
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Wikipedia contributors, "New York State Route 5" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at (accessed 2 July 2011).
  10. "The Way West Through Northern Seneca County," (accessed 2 July 2011).
  11. Wikipedia contributors, "Erie Canal" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at (accessed 2 July 2011).
  12. Wikipedia contributors, "New York Central Railroad" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at (accessed 2 July 2011).
  13. "Great Genesee Road" in Handybook, 849.
  14. Handybook, 847-54.