The Royal Colony of South Carolina

The Great Wagon Road

This is the road with the big Conestoga Wagons coming down in the thousands during "the flood" of Scots-Irish, Welsh, and German/Swiss immigrants into the two Carolinas from 1740 to 1765

Known to some historians as the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road, this route was developed from a series of Indian trails into the most heavily used migration route in the English colonies.

Although some northern parts of the trail were used by settlers in the 1720s, it was not until 1744 that a treaty with the Iroquois nation gave the English colonists full control of the path in Pennsylvania. The road was extended through the Shenandoah Valley and into South Carolina and Georgia by 1763.

Tens of thousands of German, Scots-Irish, Welsh, English, and Swiss settlers seeking cheap southern land traveled the road. Like many colonial roads, most of the Great Wagon Road was little more than a wide dirt path. Travel was slow. Rain storms made the road almost impassable.

Immigrants came by foot, horse, or wagon.

In good weather, a horseman could go about 20 miles a day. A wagon averaged half that distance.

The Conestoga wagon originated in Pennsylvania during the first half of the 1700s and was built to carry two to three tons; it was pulled by a team of four to six horses or oxen. The Conestoga was so versatile that it was still used during the westward expansion of the mid- to late-nineteenth century.

The average dimensions of the Conestoga: length - 22 feet; width - 5 feet; height - 12 feet.

The dray was better suited to the narrow, rough upcountry roads than the Conestoga. With a low-slung, two-wheel base, it could carry more than a packhorse but could still go into areas the larger wagon could not reach. It was usually pulled by one horse or one ox.

Length - 14 feet; width - 4 feet.

The pack horse was the best way to transport goods and people over the roughest paths of the upcountry. It was especially useful to Indian traders and could carry up to 600 pounds.

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