Unicoi Trail

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United States  Gotoarrow.png  Migration  Gotoarrow.png  Trails and Roads  Gotoarrow.png  Unicoi Trail
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The Unicoi Trail (in red on the map) was a pre-colonial Indian trading path connecting the western parts of North and South Carolina with eastern Tennessee. At first it was open to trade only—no settlers. But after about 1795 settlers began using it.

Historical Background

The Unicoi Trail, Unicoi Turnpike, or Trading Path, emerged from the Saluda Gap where North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia now meet. The trail headed west on the south side of the far west part of North Carolina over to the Tennessee border where it passed through the Unicoi Gap. The trail then curved north toward the Overhill Cherokee villiages and ended at either Tellico, or Vonore, or Knoxville. The Unicoi Trail was the most heavily used trade route into east Tennessee, but settlers were forbidden to use it prior to the decline of Cherokee military power in the 1790s.[1]

The first British colonists known to have used the Unicoi Trail in 1690 brought trade goods from Charleston to the Overhill Cherokee villages.  By 1700 French colonists from the Gulf Coast followed the Great Indian Warpath to trade in the same villages. In 1736 an Englishman named Priber used the Unicoi Trail to reach Tellico where he and a Cherokee named Motoy set up a utopian-communist society. However, after five years the British arrested Priber and accused him of being a French spy.[2]

After ?????? the Unicoi Trail was the most convenient way for pioneers from the Waxhaw area of the Carolinas to cross the mountains into east Tennessee.

Settlers and Records

There is no known list of settlers who travelled the Unicoi Trail. However, some of the early residents of Tennessee may have used the trail to reach their destination, as well as several other routes like the Great Valley Road, Wilderness Road, Kentucky Road, Avery's Trace, or Georgia Road. For early Tennessee settlers see:

Internet Sites


  1. East Tennessee Historical Society, First families of Tennessee: a register of early settlers and their present-day descendants (Knoxville, Tenn.: East Tennessee Historical Society, c2000) [FHL 976.8 H2ff], 23.
  2. Lowell Kirk, "The Unicoi Turnpike" in Tellico Plains Mountain Press: Online History and Feature Ezine at http://www.telliquah.com/unicoi.htm (accessed 14 August 2010).