Lehigh and Lackawanna Paths
Did an ancestor travel the Lehigh and Lackawanna Paths of New York and Pennsylvania? Learn about this settler migration route, its transportation history, and find related genealogy sources.
The Lehigh and Lackawanna Paths were ancient American Indian trails running about 197 miles (317 kilometers) from Unadilla (Wattle's Ferry) in central New York passing near Scranton, Pennsylvania to join the Minsi Path in Northampton County, Pennsylvania on its way to Philadelphia. By 1766 pioneers had used this route and the associated Minsi Path to reach central New York from Pennsylvania, and vise versa. The Lehigh and Lackawanna Paths with the Minsi Path were a pioneer connection from the Catskill Road in New York to the Great Valley Road in Pennsylvania.
This is one of the main routes connecting New England and New York to Pennsylvania and the southern United States. An alternate route to the southern United States was the King's Highway.
Pre-turnpike era. New England residents gradually began moving into central New York on foot or horseback by 1753. In 1790 the opening of the Military Tract in modern Cayuga, Cortland, Onondaga, and Seneca counties began attracting Revolutionary War veterans, their families, and other New Englanders and Pennsylvanians into central New York. In 1792 a mail route (and probably a stage line) was established on the Catskill Road. The Lehigh and Lackawanna Paths route was already a pioneer pathway, and probably was a wagon road before that mail service was started just to the north.
Stages. Stagecoaches generally began regular transport of mail and passengers on long trips in the American colonies in the 1760s. They made regular trips between stages or stations where travelers were provided food and rest. Where available, stagecoaches became a preferred way for settlers to travel to a new home.
Toll roads. As traffic increased along a roadway American political leaders turned to toll roads (turnpikes) to raise money to improve, clear, and repair their local highways. Toll revenue from stagecoaches, drovers, and other travelers was used to maintain the roadbeds and bridges, and, if there was enough left over (rarely happened), to pay a turnpike stockholder dividend. If turnpike revenue decreased too much, the roadway maintenance was typically turned over to the state, and the path was made a free public road.
Railroad competition. The heyday of wagon roads into central New York was the early 1800s before the coming of the railroads in the 1830s and 1840s. Railroads were faster, less expensive, and safer to use than overland wagon roads. As railroads entered an area, the long distance overland wagon roads (especially the toll roads) normally became less used. Railroads like the following began moving settlers and replaced much of the wagon road traffic in the area:
- Unadilla, New York
- Otsego County, New York
- Delaware County, New York
- Chenango County, New York
- Wayne County, Pennsylvania
- Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania
- Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania
- Monroe County, Pennsylvania
- Northampton County, Pennsylvania
- Bucks County, Pennsylvania along the Minsi Path
- Montgomery County, Pennsylvania along the Minsi Path
- Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania along the Minsi Path
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Connecting routes. The Lehigh and Lackawanna Paths connected with several other migration routes:
Unadilla and Bainbridge connections:
- Catskill Turnpike from the Salisbury and Canaan Turnpike at Salisbury, Connecticut to Catskill, New York to Unadilla, New York to Bath, New York.
- Ulster and Delaware Turnpike from the Salisbury and Canaan Turnpike at Salisbury, Connecticut to Kingston, New York to the Catskill Turnpike at Bainbridge, New York.
- Susquehanna River
Northampton County, Pennsylvania connection:
Settlers along the Lehigh and Lackawanna Paths in Pennsylvania and New York are most likely to have originally come from either Philadelphia, or from Massachusetts or Connecticut, especially areas near Springfield, Boston, or Hartford. But people from almost every part of the eastern seaboard and Europe also were common in the area.
No complete list of settlers in Pennsylvania and New York who used the Lehigh and Lackawanna Paths is known to exist. However, many of the earliest settlers in the area would have used this turnpike to reach their new home. The Lehigh and Lackawanna Paths would have attracted nearby settlers because it helped them reach markets for buying and selling goods and services. Therefore, the land records, tax records, and histories of the earliest settlers along the route would list the names of people likely to have used this pathway.
- Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 850-51. WorldCat entry; FHL Book 973 D27e 2002.
- Almyra E. Morgan, The Catskill Turnpike: a Wilderness Path (Ithaca, NY : DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County, 1971), 2-3. Tompkins County Public Library digital pdf copy; At various libraries (WorldCat).
- Frederic J. Wood, "The Twelfth Massachusetts Turnpike" in The Turnpikes of New England and the Evolution of the Same Through England, Virginia, and Maryland (Boston: Marshall Jones, 1919), 26-27. Internet Archive version online.
- Stagecoach in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 30 October 2014).
- Wood, 33-36.
- Bethlehm Pike in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 11 November 2014).
- Hudson and Boston Railroad] in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 23 October 2014).
- Lehigh and New England Railroad in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia (accessed 10 November 2014).