King's Highway

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Did an ancestor travel part of the King's Highway from Boston to Charleston? Learn about this settler migration route, its transportation history, and find related genealogy sources.

The King's Highway was also called in various parts the "Kennebunk Road," "Boston Post Road," "New York-Philadelphia Post Road," "Pequot Path," "Delaware Indian Path (New Jersey)," "Great Coastal Road," "Potomoc Trail," or "Charleston-Savannah Trail." It evolved from a network of Indian paths into postal trails, and then into an important Colonial American wagon and stagecoach route for settlers along the Atlantic coast. In 1664 British King Charles II requested a road from Boston to New York City, newly conquered from the Dutch. However, the sea route was relatively easier and safer. So as late as 1704 even finding the lightly traveled postal road was difficult. The highway in South Carolina was built from 1732 to 1735.[1] By 1750, weather permitting, wagons and regularly scheduled stagecoaches traversed a continuous road from Boston, Massachusetts, to Charleston, South Carolina, a trip of about 1,300 miles (2,100 km).[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.

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Before 1735, people on horseback found traveling the muddy pathways of the King's Highway a difficult journey. Occasional stagecoaches between Boston and New York started about 1735. Regular schedules for stagecoaches were not available until the 1740s. Several nearly parallel routes eventually developed favoring different towns. The "highway" included several possible ferry routes off Manhattan Island. Prior to 1745 travelers from Philadelphia more often used boats to New Castle, Delaware. By 1775 the highway stretched from Maine to Georgia and became one of the unifying factors of the American Revolution. The name "King's Highway" fell into disfavor because of the war, but troops on both sides often used it. Parts of the highway in the Williamsburg-Yorktown area of Virginia were virtually abandoned after the Revolution.[2]

Map of the King's Highway about 1750.

Route[edit | edit source]

(Northeast to Southwest)[2]

  • Portland, Maine (in later years)
  • Portsmouth, New Hampshire (in later years)
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Providence, Rhode Island[3]
  • New Haven, Connecticut[4]
  • New York City, New York
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • Trenton, New Jersey
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • New Castle, Delaware
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Annapolis, Maryland
  • Alexandria, Virginia
  • Fredericksburg, Virginia
  • Williamsburg, Virginia
  • Norfolk, Virginia
  • Suffolk, Virginia
  • New Bern, North Carolina
  • Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Georgetown, South Carolina
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • Savannah, Georgia (in late 1730s)

Settlers and Records[edit | edit source]

No lists of settlers who used the King's Highway are known to exist.

Additional Information[edit | edit source]

The Wikipedia article, Boston Post Road, describes the route in detail, including a list the towns and cities on the road.

Wikipedia has more about this subject: King's Highway (Charleston to Boston)

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. "South Carolina Counties and Parishes - 1740" in The Royal Colony of South Carolina at (accessed 22 April 2011).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 William Dollarhide, Map Guide to American Migration Routes 1735-1815 (Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest, 1997), 2-4, and 7. (FHL Collection Book 973 E3d). WorldCat entry.
  3. Boston Post Road in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 17 October 2014).
  4. Frederic J. Wood, The Turnpikes of New England and the Evolution of the Same Through England, Virginia, and Maryland (Boston: Marshall Jones, 1919), 25. Internet Archive version online.