The Royal Colony of North Carolina

The Kings Highway

Idea of Charles II in 1660, it was not completed until 1735, finally linking Charles Town with Boston

The King’s Highway, named after King Charles II, who asked the governors of his colonies to establish a line of communication between the colonies in 1660, very soon after being crowned.

The entire length of The King’s Highway did not become a continuous wagon road until about 1735. Incorporating the Boston Post Road (opened in 1673), the route traveled over 1,300 miles, from Boston, Massachusetts to Charles Town, South Carolina. Along the route, there are numerous communities today with a King Street, King’s Road, or King Avenue, all remaining from the days when it was called the King’s Highway.

Boston to New York: The King’s Highway followed the same route as the Boston Post Road, or today’s Interstate 95.

New York to Philadelphia: The route crossed the Hudson River by ferry from Manhattan Island to Newark, New Jersey, from there much the same as the present-day New Jersey Turnpike to Trenton. It ferried the Delaware River at that point and followed what is now Interstate 95 into Philadelphia.

Philadelphia to Alexandria: this portion of the King’s Highway was also called the Great Coastal Road, and followed the same path that US Highway 40 takes today.

Alexandria to Norfolk: This portion of the King’s Highway was often called the Potomac Trail. It followed the same route as US Highway 1 from Alexandria to Fredricksburg, then VA Highway 2 through Bowling Green, then southeast on VA Highway 721. The old route crossed the Mattaponi River into King William County, then the Pamunkey River into New Kent County, then on to Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Hampton, where a ferry crossing landed at Norfolk, Virginia. Although an important route during the American Revolutionary War, the use of the road lessened significantly after the capital of Virginia was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond in 1779.

Norfolk to Charleston. Leaving Norfolk, a traveler on the King’s Highway began a difficult trek through and around the lowland swamps of the tidewater areas of Virginia and the Carolinas. Many fords were necessary on this route, which followed present-day US Highway 58 from Norfolk to Suffolk, Virginia; then into North Carolina via what is now NC Highway 32; skirting west to avoid the Dismal Swamp and then south to Edenton, North Carolina.

From the Quaker communities around Edenton, the old highway followed what is now US Highway 17 to New Bern, North Carolina, an important seaport and the early colonial capital of North Carolina. From New Bern, the highway bypassed White Oak and Angola Swamps in a fairly direct line to Wilmington, North Carolina at the Cape Fear River. As US Highway 17 does today, the old road continued on to Georgetown, and finally to Charles Town, the colonial capital of South Carolina, and the southern terminus of the King’s Highway.

Later, it would be extended to Savannah, Georgia.

© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved