north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     An ancient Indian trading route was retraced by eighteenth century colonists traveling south from Pennsylvania. The path, which became the Great Wagon Road, was heavily used by settlers, Indian traders, soldiers, and missionaries. Such deep ruts were cut into the ground that remnants still survive. The Great Wagon Road has been called the most heavily traveled road in colonial America, with southbound traffic estimated in the tens of thousands. It was used extensively during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, with a number of battles or skirmishes occurring near the route. The corridor was also traveled by frontiersmen such as Daniel Boone and David Crockett. The Great Wagon Road was a principal artery during America’s formative years, so the history of the route is closely tied to that of the nation and its first frontiers.

     German and Scots-Irish immigrants began pouring into Pennsylvania in the 1720s. As land became difficult to acquire, they looked to the south, following explorers and land speculators down the route known then as the Great Warrior’s Path. In North Carolina the backcountry, now the Piedmont, was just opening to settlement. The hardy and industrious immigrants and their descendants made ideal settlers for the frontier. The Great Wagon Road was instrumental in the settlement of the Wachovia Tract by the Moravians, who traveled from Pennsylvania and Maryland after 1753. The route passed near Bethania, one of the early towns established by the Moravians, and it is there that the state commemorates the Great Wagon Road with a highway historical marker.

Parke Rouse Jr., The Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia to the South (1973)
R. Kyle Stimson, The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road in Forsyth County, North Carolina, 1750-1770 (1999)
William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries (1989)
Christopher C. Crittenden, “Overland Travel in North Carolina, 1763-1789,” North Carolina Historical Review (July 1931): 239-257
Christopher C. Crittenden, The Commerce of North Carolina 1763-1789 (1936)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources