Great Valley Road

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Great Valley Road went from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Roanoke, Virginia. There it split with one fork going to Knoxville, Tennessee, and the other to Augusta, Georgia.
Adopt-a-wiki page
Pa-rootsbuttonwiki.gif This page adopted by:
PA Roots and its members
who welcome you to contribute.
Adopt a page today

The Great Valley Road, also called in various parts the "Great Wagon Road," "Great Warriors' Path," "Valley Pike," "Carolina Road," or "Trading Path," was the most important Colonial American route for settlers of the mountainous back country of the southern British colonies. It went from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania over to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia forking into the Tennessee Valley and Knoxville. The other fork went more south into the Piedmont Region of North Carolina, and then to its terminus on the Savannah River at Augusta, Georgia. From Philadelphia to Augusta was 735 miles (1183 km). Several other important early pathways merged with, or split off from the Great Valley Road.[1]

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

The American Indians developed a network of eastern trade and warrior trails stretching from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast. One of these trails, the Great Warrior Path from New York to the Carolinas, also served as the western boundary of British settlement until 1744. In that year a new treaty gave control of the east side of the trail to European colonists in Virginia. This opened the way for the trail to evolve into one of the most important roads for settlers in Colonial America.[2] By 1765 the road was cleared for use by horse drawn wagons.[3]

After 1744, the Great Valley Road was most heavily used by Ulster-Irish immigrants called Scots-Irish in America to spread through most of Appalachia bringing their Presbyterian religion.[3] Pennsylvania Germans also used the trail to spread into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The Moravians of Pennsylvania followed the road to settle the Wachovia region of North Carolina starting in 1753. The first settlements of Virginians in Tennessee were associated with the end of the trail in that region in the 1760s.

In 1746 the Pioneer Road first crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains from Alexandria to Winchester, Virginia, where it fed into the Great Valley Road.[4] The Wilderness Road opened in 1775 into central Kentucky, and branched off the Great Valley Road in southwest Virginia at Bristol (Sapling Grove).[5] Starting in the late 1770s explorers and pioneers at Staunton, Virginia started using the Kanawha Trail which followed the New River/Kanawha River into West Virginia.[6] From the terminus of the Great Valley Road at Knoxville, Avery's Trace to Nashville opened in 1788, and the Georgia Road to Athens opened in 1805.

Route[edit | edit source]

(Northeast to Southwest)[7]

  • Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (often called the Philadelphia Wagon Road through Pennsylvania)
  • Lancaster, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
  • Gettysburg, Adams, Pennsylvania
  • Hagerstown, Washington, Maryland (crosses Cumberland Road)
  • Winchester, Frederick, Virginia (Pioneer Road from Alexandria joined here)
  • Staunton, Augusta, Virginia (start of Kanawha Trail to West Virginia)
  • Roanoke, Roanoke, Virginia (trail forks toward Knoxville and Augusta)

Western fork

  • Bristol, Washinton, Virginia (start of Wilderness Road to Boonesborough)
  • Jonesboro, Washington, Tennessee
  • Knoxville, Knox, Tennessee (connects with Avery's Trace to Nashville, and the Georgia Road to Athens)

Southern fork

  • Martinsville, Henry, Virginia (on south fork of the Great Valley Road)
  • Salem, Forsyth, North Carolina
  • Salisbury, Rowan, North Carolina 
  • Charlotte, Mecklenburg, North Carolina 
  • Camden, Kershaw, South Carolina (where it merged with the Fall Line Road)
  • Augusta, Richmond, Georgia

Settlers and Records[edit | edit source]

For partial list of settlers who used the Great Valley Road, see:

in North Carolina

in Tennessee


Owen kept a journal of his trip from Virginia to Alabama in 1818. He followed the Great Valley Road as he traveled through Southwest Virginia into Tennessee. His journal is available online at Internet Archive - free.[8]

Wikipedia has more about this subject: Great Wagon Road

Internet Sites[edit | edit source]

Other Wiki Pages[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. William Dollarhide, Map Guide to American Migration Routes 1735-1815 (Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest, 1997)[FHL 973 E3d], 7 and 13.
  2. Dollarhide, 5.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Brenda E. McPherson Compton, "The Scots-Irish From Ulster and The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road" in at (accessed 31 July 2010).
  4. Dollarhide, 6
  5. Dollarhide, 12-13.
  6. Wikipedia contributors, "Kanawha River" in Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia at (accessed 1 August 2010).
  7. Dollarhide, 7, 12, and 13.
  8. "John Owen's Journal of His Removal from Virginia to Alabama in 1818," Publications of the Southern History Association, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Apr. 1897):89-97. Digitized by Internet Archive.

Catgory:West Virginia Migration Routes