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



Marker Text:

     Early settlers crossed the Trading Ford at the Yadkin River in their travels to the western parts of North Carolina and beyond. The ford was part of a large network of well-established trails that were developed and used by Indians for hundreds of years. In 1701, explorer John Lawson recorded crossing the Yadkin at the site. Throughout the eighteenth century, the ford was part of the Great Wagon Road, along which pioneers from Pennsylvania and other points north traveled south. As a consequence the Yadkin River valley and surrounding areas were settled by German, Scottish and Irish immigrants.

     During the Revolutionary War, the Trading Ford was used by General Greene’s army is their flight from Lord Cornwallis in February 1781. Following the defeat of General Horatio Gates’s troops by the British at Charlotte in December 1780, General Nathaneal Greene was given control of the southern Patriot forces. During January and February, knowing that Greene’s troops were weakened after Charlotte, Cornwallis pursued Greene across the state and eventually into Virginia.

     Arriving at the Yadkin River on February 2, 1781, Greene’s troops quickly crossed at the Trading Ford, moving all the available boats to the east side of the river. When Cornwallis’s troops arrived shortly thereafter, rain had swelled the river, making it impassable. Cornwallis was forced to march his troops to an alternate crossing, thirty miles north at Shallow Ford. Greene was able to escape from Cornwallis and ready his army for future fighting, which culminated in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781.

     The Trading Ford remained in use until the mid-nineteenth century, when a bridge over the Yadkin River was built. Even after the bridge was in place, the ford was used sporadically. In the 1920s though, a dam was built at High Rock and the areas surrounding the Trading Ford were flooded. The ford is no longer passable today, but it was originally located near present-day Big Island, the east end of which was one terminus of the ford.

Bill Sharpe, A New Geography of North Carolina I (1954)
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)
Robert W. Ramsay, Carolina Cradle: Settlement of the Northwest Carolina Frontier (1964)
James S. Brawley, The Rowan Story, 1753-1953 (1953)
William S. Powell, North Carolina Gazetteer (1968)
Trading Ford Preservation Association website:
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Original Date Cast:




north carolina highway historical marker program

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