Lower Cherokee Traders' Path
The Lower Cherokee Traders' Path was an important trade route on the Piedmont connecting the Cherokee and other interior tribes with the Occaneechi tribe, middlemen traders in southern Virginia, to the early European colonists on the Chesapeake Bay. It was considered the west fork of the Occaneechi Path (Traders' Path) and became a major part of the Upper Road. For a list and map of other South Carolina roads see South Carolina Emigration and Immigration.
By 1748 the Upper Road was open and settlers began pouring in. At first a few traders, isolated farmers, or innkeepers settled along the path with Cherokee permission. The first European settlement in counties along the Path happened as follows: Mecklenburg 1740s, Gaston 1740s, York 1750, Cherokee 1750s, Spartanburg 1755, Greenville 1777, British Fort Prince George in Pickens 1753 , Oconee 1784, and Stephens 1781. Between 1750 and 1784 the Lower Cherokee Traders path through South Carolina helped bring as many as 250,000 settlers to the area as the Cherokee Indians ceded more and more lands. In 1760 there was a war between South Carolina and the Cherokee in which most lower Cherokee villages were destroyed. During the Revolutionary War the Cherokee sided with the British. After a Cherokee-British attack in 1776, a Patriot counter-attack drove most of the remaining Cherokee from South Carolina.
Most European settlers were Ulster-Irish Presbyterians mostly from Pennsylvania, but plenty of English, Welsh, native Irish, native Scots, Swiss, French, and Germans were also included.
Modern Interstate 85 from Charlotte, North Carolina to Greenville, South Carolina runs a little north of the old route, and from there on South Carolina Highway 123 to the Georgia border is similar to the old route.
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.
Counties on the Lower Cherokee Traders' Path (east to west)
- North Carolina: Mecklenburg, Gaston
- South Carolina: York, Cherokee, Spartanburg, Greenville, Pickens, Oconee
- Georgia: Stephens
Overlapping and Connecting Routes. The Upper Road, the Occaneechi Path, and the Great Valley Road (south fork) all connected to the Lower Cherokee Traders' Path at Charlotte, North Carolina. The Lower Cherokee Traders' Path and Upper Road fork off to the west though Gaston County, North Carolina and all six of the northern-most counties of South Carolina.
The Catawba and Northern Trail (for a map, click here) leaves the Lower Cherokee Traders' Path at York County, South Caroina and heads north to the Yadkin River settlements in North Carolina. The Cherokee Old Path and a branch of the Catawba Trail started north from the Lower Cherokee Traders' Path near Greenville County.
Several trails continued on from the the western end of the Lower Cherokee Traders' Path at the former Cherokee village of Tugaloo, Georgia. The Upper Road continued on to Macon. The Unicoi Turnpike headed northwest to the Overhill Cherokee villages in Tennessee. The Coosa-Tugaloo Indian Warpath went off in the direction of Birmingham, Alabama. The Tugaloo-Apalachee Bay Trail headed for the Florida panhandle. The Fort Charlotte and Cherokee Old Path followed the northeast side of the Savannah River down to old Fort Charlotte in northwest McCormick County, South Carolina.
Settlers and Records
No lists of settlers who used or settled along the Lower Cherokee Traders' Path are known to exist. However, local and county histories along the road may reveal that many of the first pioneer settlers arrived from places to the northeast along the Upper Road, the Occaneechi Path, the Fall Line Road, or the Great Valley Road (south fork).
The most likely place of origin for settlers along the Lower Cherokee Traders' Path was from the Waxhaws and the Yadkin River settlements in North Carolina. Those from farthest away may have arrived from southern Virginia, Maryland, or even the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania or southern New Jersey. Some Ulster-Irish setters may have come via the port of Philadelphia a generation earlier.
- Cherokee Lower Towns has maps of town locations, a database, sources, and list of Revolutionary War battles involving Cherokees.
- Georgia History Early Trails describes westward migration on and route of the Lower Cherokee Traders' Path and other routes through Georgia.
- North Carolina - The Counties, http://www.carolana.com/NC/Counties/nc_counties_alphabetical_order.html (accessed 1 February 2011).
- South Carolina - The Counties, http://www.carolana.com/SC/Counties/sc_counties_alphabetical_order.html (accessed 1 February 2011).
- "Jesse Walton d. 1789," Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/imagegallery.php?EntryID=W012 (accessed 1 February 2011).
- Oconee County, Carolina" in South Carolina: The Counties at http://www.carolana.com/SC/Counties/oconee_county_sc.html (accessed 1 February 2011).
- "York County, South Carolina" in South Carolina: The Counties at http://www.carolana.com/SC/Counties/york_county_sc.html (accessed 1 February 2011).
- Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 851. (FHL Book 973 D27e 2002). WorldCat entry.