Old Cherokee Path

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United States  Gotoarrow.png  Migration  Gotoarrow.png  Trails and Roads  Gotoarrow.png  Old Cherokee Path

Old Cherokee Path.png
The Old Cherokee Path connected the Lower Cherokee Indian villages, in particular Tugaloo just southwest of the Savannah River in what is now Georgia (but also villages in South Carolina), with several Indian trails, especially the Great Indian Warpath or Great Valley Road as it was called in Virginia. Tugaloo, Georgia was at a nexus of several other Indian trails. The Great Valley Road was one of the most significant settler migration routes in America. The Old Cherokee Path was not fully opened to European settlers until the Cherokee were forced out of South Carolina and part of Georgia in 1777 during the American Revolutionary War after the Cherokee sided with the British in that war. The Old Cherokee Path began in Stephens County, Georgia and ended in Washington County, Virginia. The length of the trail was about 150 miles (241 km).[1]

Historical Background

Scots-Irish (that is Ulster-Irish), and German farmers migrating along the Great Valley Road (sometimes called the Great Wagon Road) through Virginia began settling the counties near the north end of the Old Cherokee Path in the 1750s. However, during part of the French and Indian War from 1754 to 1763 they decided to leave the area. Many of the re-settlers in the area became involved in the Watauga Association (a semi-automomous government) starting in 1772.[2] In turn this led to the tentative and short-lived State of Franklin.

The south end of the Old Cherokee Path was in Oconee County, South Carolina at the convergence of several Indian trails and settler roads mostly leading to the lower Cherokee Indian village of Tugaloo across the Savannah River in Stephens County, Georgia. Tugaloo was built at or became the nexus of several trails along the Savannah River in Georgia and South Carolina. Before the Revolutionary War Cherokees resisted white settlements on their land. During the American Revolutionary War the Cherokee Indians took sides with the British. By 1777 Patriot forces had driven the Indians from the Lower Cherokee Villages in South Carolina, and Tugaloo, and Patriot veterans began settling the area.

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.


The first European colonists settled in counties along this trail (north to south) as follows:[3]

Connecting trails. The Old Cherokee Path linked to other trails at each end. The migration pathway connected at the north end in Washington County, Virginia was the pre-historic Great Indian Warpath (overlapped by the Great Valley Road opened to European settlers about 1744).

The migration routes connected at the south end in Oconee County, South Carolina, or in Tugaloo, Stephens, Georgia included:

Between those two ends of the Old Cherokee Path it also crossed several other important routes:

  • Jonesboro Road after 1769 crossed the Old Cherokee Path near the Burke/McDowell county border, NC. The Jonesboro Road connected New Bern, North Carolina to Jonesborough and Knoxville, Tennessee.
  • Rutherford's War Trace opended in 1776 through the same place because it overlapped the Jonesboro Road there.
  • Catawba Trail a pre-historic route met the Old Cherokee Path near the North Carolina/South Carolina border. The Catawba Trail connected the Lower Cherokee villages with the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky.
  • Old South Carolina State Road opened in 1747 and met the Old Cherokee Path near the North Carolina/South Carolina border. The Old South Carolina State Road zig-zagged its way to Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina.

Modern parallels. The modern roads that roughly match the old Old Cherokee Path start in Mount Carmel. Go north on SC-81 to a little north of Iva where it forks left onto Good Hope Church Road. Follow that road onto SC-187/SC-24. Continue to follow SC-24 and it will eventually become the West Oak Highway. Follow it north to Westminster and the Toccoa Highway. That Highway will take you southwest to the Savannah River near where the old village of Tugaloo was at the confluence of Toccoa Creek and the Tugaloo River.

Settlers and Records

The first colonists in the two southern counties along what became the Old Cherokee Path arrived before the fort or trail existed, usually by way of the Savannah River, the Middle Creek Trading Path, or the Augusta and Cherokee Trail. The northern three counties were Cherokee Indian areas until the American Revolution when the Cherokees were expelled as a result of siding with the British.

No complete list of settlers who used the Old Cherokee Path is known to exist. Nevertheless, local and county histories along that trail may reveal pioneer settlers who arrived after 1765 and who were candidates to have traveled the Old Cherokee Path from the Fort Charlotte area.

For partial lists of early settlers who may  have used the Old Cherokee Path, see histories like:

in Washington County, VA:

in Johnson County, TN:

in Watauga County, NC:

in Caldwell County, NC:

in Burke County, NC:

in McDowell County, NC:

in Rutherford County, NC:

in Polk County, NC:

in Spartanburg County, SC:

in Greenville County, SC:

in Pickens County, SC:

in Oconee County, SC:

  • Frederick Van Clayton, Settlement of Pendleton District, 1777-1800 (Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, c1988) (FHL Book 975.72 W2c) WorldCat entry. The old Pendleton District embraced the present counties of Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens. Includes plats and their owners taken from the "State Record of Plat Books."

in Stephens County, GA:

External Links


  1. Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America, 10th ed. (Draper, Utah: Everton Pub., 2002), 852. (FHL Book 973 D27e 2002). WorldCat entry.
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Watauga Association," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watauga_Association (accessed 8 April 2011).
  3. North Carolina - The Counties, http://www.carolana.com/NC/Counties/nc_counties_alphabetical_order.html (accessed 7 April 2011), and South Carolina - The Counties, http://www.carolana.com/SC/Counties/sc_counties_alphabetical_order.html (accessed 7 April 2011).
  4. "County History" in Historical Society of Washington County, Va. at http://hswcv.org/history.html (accessed 7 April 2011).
  5. "Johnson County History" in The Original Johnson County, Tennessee Genealogy Page at http://jctcuzins.org/history/johnhist.html (accessed 7 April 2011).
  6. William E. Myer, Indian Trails of the Southeast. (Nashville, Tenn.: Blue and Gray Press, 1971). (FHL Book 970.1 M992i) WorldCat entry.