I have several interests, but one of them is traveling old trails. About twenty years ago my Dad and I talked about traveling the Oregon Trail. I even went as far as figuring out which paved roads came closest to it.
I found out that the beginning of that trail had several jumping off points, so we picked Independence, Missouri as our point of beginning. But time and events both his, my Mom’s and mine got in the way; and we kept putting off the trip. Dad died in 2003, and we never got around to it.
But several years later while Chuck was in Idaho on his annual fishing trip with his buddies, I flew to Independence and followed the Oregon Trail by car all the way to Boise, Idaho where Chuck joined me. We continued until Oregon City, Oregon at the trail’s end.
It was a great trip, though not as great if Dad had shared it with us. There were times, though, when I felt he was there. I even made a comment or two for him, such as my first sighting of wagon ruts still visible today. I remember being alone and saying out loud as if he were standing right there beside me, “Well, Daddy, these are pretty darn cool, aren’t they?”
Years later I spent some time again following the Lewis and Clark Trail, again while Chuck was fishing . I began in nearby St. Louis, Missouri and ended at Great Falls, Montana. I’ll do the rest of this trail later—in fact some of it later this year. This trail is a water trail mostly following the Missouri River and then other westerly rivers, but it is almost impossible to do it by boat because of all the dams.
Chuck and I just did another one of the old trails and several old roads back in March. We were on our way back from staying at my sister’s bedside in Winston-Salem, NC. We thought she was doing better because she was progressing so rapidly, and Chuck needed to get some stitches out from an outpatient surgery that had been done a few days before Pam was placed in the hospital.
So on our way back down to Florida, we picked up this migratory route in Lodge, SC and followed it all the way west and south to Millegeville, Ga. where our daylight ran out. This research was for my book “Palmetto Pioneers”. I was trying to determine how the Walker Family migrated from their home in South Carolina to their new land in Jefferson County, Florida.
I know that my Walker family migrated to Florida around 1828 to 1829, and so I tried to figure out how they got here. I learned through research that the area west of Macon, Georgia, had just recently opened up due to a treaty between the Creek Nation and our government. I also learned that the only road into this part of Florida at that time was one of the old trails called the Hawthorne Trail. It started somewhere up on the Old Federal Road west of what is now Macon and passed down near Cairo, GA before ending near Concord, Florida north of Tallahassee near the Florida/Georgia state line.
But how did they get from Lodge, SC all the way to the Macon area on the Old Federal Road? So starting in Macon, Georgia, I looked for roads that were here in 1827; and since there were few and many times only one road or trail, I worked back using these roads or trails to their home in SC. It is speculation or at best an educated guess.
The Hawthorn Trail ran south from the Old Federal Road. For our purposes the Old Federal Road ran from near Macon to the west, all the way to Mobile. It connected with the Fall Line Road which ran through Milledgeville, GA, which was then the capitol of Georgia. The Fall Lind Road was one of the oldest roads in America, and it ran from Philadelphia all the way down well into Alabama. For our purposes, though, we are only interested in that portion which ran from Augusta, Ga., to Milledgeville.
But again how did they get to Augusta from Lodge, SC which is located in the South Carolina low country southwest of Charleston? I found an earlier route or road between Charleston and Augusta. Actually it was called the Fort Moore-Charleston Road. Fort Moore was located across the river from Augusta in South Carolina. It was an earlier trading post, and Augusta grew up around this area. The commerce continued between the Indians and Europeans until eventually the fort closed and was abandoned, but this area across and up the river to just before the fall line is where the city of Augusta continued to grow.
Once I discovered these early trails or roads, I looked for a current road or roads which followed it as closely as possible. It turned out to be US 78 which ran all the way from Charleston southwest to where Fort Moore used to be then from Augusta and down through Thomson, Georgia. I found it amazing that one major road today followed a good part of this early migratory route. So with my research fairly complete, Chuck and I first began near Lodge, SC, our point of beginning, which was the Walker families’ point of beginning, too.
We quickly found northeast of Lodge the Little Salkehatchee River and immediately on the other side of the river was Carter’s Ford Baptist Church. What a great find. My 5th great grandmother was a Carter from here as was her mother-in-law. It seems that Joel and Elizabeth Walker were kin to each other before they married.
Below are the families that migrated from here in 1828-29.
- Joel & Elizabeth’s son Jesse & his wife Elizabeth Wilson Walker including their children 6-7 year old Mary Adeline (my 3rd great grandmother), 4-5 year old Henry, 2-4 year old Sarah, and 1-2 year old James J. all born in SC
- Joel & Elizabeth’s son James & his wife Elizabeth Padgett Walker including their daughter 0-1 year old Delilah who was born September 28, 1828 in SC
- Joel & Elizabeth’s son Littleberry Walker, who was 17-18 years old, born in SC
- Joel’s son Stephen Walker, who was 22-23 years old, born in SC (We are still unsure if he traveled with the family to Florida, though).
There is a possibility that the parents of Jesse, James, Stephen & Littleberry Walker came down to Florida with them; but their daughter Mary Jane Walker & her husband Stephen Lightsey did not come down until between July 12, 1832 and 1835. Family lore says that the parents came down later than their Walker sons. If they did come down later this is probably their party:
- Joel & Elizabeth Carter Walker with their son 13-16 year old David
- Mary Jane Walker & Stephen Lightsey with their two sons 2-5 year old John Adams and 1-3 year old Joel Walker
Carter’s Ford was a natural ford on the Little Salkhatchee River. The Walker land was nearby, quite possibly across the road from the church. Today, that road is SR 217. Using old maps, it looks as if their land is north of the road on the west side of the river. It looked like prime cotton land or land for cattle. The Walkers did both.
It was neat to stand where they probably lived and thrived for several generations before moving on. The land here is up on a ridge, high and dry. The fields here lie fallow; but when I got out to take a photo, a covey of quail jumped up in front of me. This land with its palmettos in the flood plain next to the river and its cypress swamps and stands of pine remind me of the Aucilla River and its river swamps. This is the low country just before rising up to the coastal plans below the fall line. We’re about 22 miles from Waltersboro, which was then and still is today the county seat of Colleton County.
By studying the old maps, I’m fairly certain they went northwest from their home to meet up with the Fort Moore-Charleston Road. The only other route which intersects with US 78 goes southeast through a very low long swampy area, so I felt they didn’t take that route because of the wagons. They also would have had to cross the Little Salkehatchee here, and it is wide.
We drove on into Lodge which is really just a crossroads and did not exist when the Walkers lived here. The old road today travels closest to US 64 and US 601. They built the latter road in 1927 and most likely on top of the already well-established trail. Just before we got to Bamberg, we crossed again the Little Salkehatchee River; but it is narrow here. They probably used a ferry because the river looks deep. The rest of US 601 like US 64 was high and dry. Today, there aren’t any old forests, but I felt like there might not have been any then either. After all they were moving on because the ground was worn out cotton fields.
We intersected with US 78 at Bamburg, SC. I looked up the history of Bamburg to see if it was a town when they passed through here about 1828. The town was founded around 1750 by French Huguenots and Scots-Irish so it was definitely there then.
As we drove west on US 78, I looked to see if there was a wiki page on this road. I found much more info. There are wiki pages for most federal and some state roads in the US. They contain great historical information about these routes.
I questioned what the weather was like in the fall of 1827, but I found nothing online. I need to read local papers from Charleston, Augusta (1828 to 1829) and surrounding towns to see what I can find. Today, though, it is wet.
When the family got to Bamberg, the town then was called Lowerys, a crossroads on the Fort Moore-Charleston Rd. I was able to look up the history of each town as we passed through. I looked for answers to questions like: when was the town established, what buildings are still standing today that were standing in the 1820s, and what was the town like in 1820? I was trying to figure out what the family saw as they passed through.
The next town of Denmark, a railroad town in 1830, was built on the earlier town called Graham’s Turnout. If the railroad was built to Denmark by 1830, then this means they built the railroad here when the family traveled down this road. It helps me picture what they saw. I’m sure they used slave labor, because this was before the Civil War.
The next town is Blackville. Blackville is in the part of South Carolina called the “Back Country.” Due to a plentiful supply of water for drinking and transportation, settlers came to this area prior to the Revolutionary War. They fought the Battle of Slaughter Field north of Blackville near the Mennonite church. When the railroad built between Charleston and Hamburg, John Black chose this area as an overnight stop for the train. Several hotels sprang up, as did a bustling railroad town. Blackville was established in 1833 and chartered in 1837. So though we know there was a settlement here when the family passed through, it looks like they built the hotels and railroad station a little later.
Just so you know, though, Blackville became a marketing and transportation center and thrived until the Civil War. By February of 1865, though, sixty thousand Union troops had passed through the town. General Sherman met with his generals here, burned much of the town, looted, demolished the railroad, and continued on his march. So whatever existed when the family came through just before 1830 Sherman probably burned.
Next we got to Williston, South Carolina. We noticed that all of these towns are about 6-10 miles apart. We know that the Wills family came to this area before the 1790 census, and that a settlement grew up on this road. When the family came through here, we’re not sure whether it was called Williston or Willis Station. It became another railroad stop, but stagecoach service existed between Charleston and Augusta, so it could have been a stage station, too.
Finally, the family got to the Augusta area, but their road did not go directly into the city before crossing the Savannah River. Instead it came to a ferry down river from the city. When researching this ferry, I found that it had been called the Sand Bar Ferry; and someone took a picture of the abandoned ferry before it disintegrated. It is below. This ended Fort Moore-Charleston Road.
So what was Augusta like when the family came through there in 1828-1829. The Native Americans used Augusta as a place to cross the Savannah River, because of its location on the fall line. They also traveled a fall line path, which later became the Fall Line Road. I found an old map which shows how the Fort Moore-Charleston Trail entered Augusta and how the Fall Line Road left the town.
Oglethorpe named the town Augusta, in honor of Princess Augusta, wife of Frederick, Prince of Wales. The town was laid out on the flat slopes of the Savannah River. The townspeople got along peacefully most of the time with the surrounding tribes of Creek, Yuchi and Shawnee Indians. The Shawnees in the region were known as the Savano Indians. The name of the Savannah River is an anglicized version of their tribal name.
When the family came through the city, it was already incorporated and had been since the 1790s. Still standing in the city today are two buildings that were standing there. They are the First Presbyterian Church and a mansion called Ware’s Folly, the home of the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art.
The house built by Ware was called his folly because he spent $40,000 to build it in the early 1800s. In today’s dollars it would be a $12 million house. I could see the Walker families riding by just to see what a $40,000 house looked like.
Leaving the city, the families took the Fall Line Road. This road follows a geographical (water) fall line, where rivers drop to the coastal plain. Towns grew up on the fall line because cargo on boats had to be portaged around the waterfalls. These falls served as an early source of water power, so mills sprang up harnessing the power supplied by the falling waters, In time towns grew around the mills.
The Fall Line Road (or Southern Road) was the road built to connect most of those growing mill towns. It followed, though, an old Indian path as so many of these roads did. It was well established by the time the Walkers traveled it in 1828-29.
The Fall Line Road continued on this path as far south as west of Milledgeville, GA until a series of Indian treaties from 1790 to 1826 opened up the Georgia and Alabama parts beyond the Macon area. Notice that this area opened up in 1826 and the Walkers moved south around 1827 to 1828.
The road here still follows US 78 and will until we get to Thomson, GA. The first town past August is Harlem, but it was called Sawdust when the family came through. It was a lumber town and was quite wild. It was known for a lot of drinking, gambling, prostitution and carousing; and it was full of men. I don’t really believe they stopped here to spend the night. Not with the young children, though some of the men may have slipped into town on the pretext of needing some supplies.
There are now several more small towns between Harlem and Thomson, but they did not exist when the family migrated through.
Thompson Georgia was called Slashes in the late 1820s. The area between Harlem and Thomson is rolling hills and less of the flatlands that we drove through on the other side of the river in South Carolina. This is a very pretty area with lots of farmland, but when they passed through it was a booming timber operation. I guess that is why one town was called Sawdust and the other Slashes. It makes me wonder if this was all old forest timberland back then or if much of it had already been timbered out. Looking at the economics of the town will probably give me that answer.
Once we passed Thomson, we then took SR 16 through Warrenton and down to Sparta where we took SR 22 all the way down to Milledgeville. This continues to follow the Old Fall Line Road.
Warrenton, Georgia was a town with a wooden courthouse when the family came through here in 1827. The Stagecoach Inn was here, and the family may have stayed there since they were not destitute and everyone probably needed a good bed and bath. We know that the Marquie de Lafayette stayed in town at the Allen House in 1835, and he gave us a pretty good description of the town in his journals. The Allen House has since been moved to Oglethorpe where it stands today.
We crossed the Ogeechee River, and the fall line rapids are very visible from the road. I was about 95% sure that this was the Old Fall Line Road, but now I’m 100% sure. We stopped and took a picture of the rapids.
This is beautiful country through here. I wonder if they thought about stopping? Maybe some of their party did. We have found no journals or diaries, so we wouldn’t know for sure.
If they had waited five or six years later, they could have had it much easier. Railroads were being built several years right behind them.
Jewel was the next town. It is very near the Ogeechee, but I cannot find any sign that Jewel was there when they came through. It seems that it became a mill town later on, a mill town sitting on the river. There probably was a ferry here at one time, and they may have used it to cross.
Sparta was here, though, when they came through. It was called Sparta and may have gotten its name because it is said that its frontier residents fought like Spartans during the Creek War of 1811-1815. Major Charles Abercrombie laid out the town from his own lands in 1795, and his former home still stands on Maiden Lane today. Rabun Street, named for Matthew Rabun, the father of Georgia Governor William Rabun, became known as Maiden Lane when Sparta’s Female Model School was organized there in 1831. Abercrombie’s house was there when the Walkers came through.
I imagine that the family looked forward to seeing Milledgeville. It was already established as the capital of Georgia and had been since 1804. The Treat of Fort Wilkinson (1802), in which the people,, hard pressed by debts to white traders, agreed to cede part of their ancient land. This opened up this part of Georgia. The restless Georgians and Carolinians quickly pressed west and south in search of new farmland; and the town of Milledgeville, which was carved out of the Oconee wilderness, helped accommodate their needs. So this was settled by the time the families came through here in the late 1820s.
The town was laid out and modeled after Savannah and Washington, DC. It included four public squares of about 20 acres each. It stood on the edge of the fall line , where the Upper Coastal Plain merged into the Piedmont. Its Gothic revival style state capital was built by 1809, and it was then known as the first United States public building built in America. I believe the families would have wanted to see this building, which is still standing today.
By the time they got to Milledgeville, the town had been prosperous especially after the cotton boom of the early 1800s. There were elegant houses with colossal porticoes, cantilevered balconies, pediments adorned with sunbursts, and fanlighted doorways. There were several very nicely built churches on its Statehouse Square. Imagine how they felt seeing this city, but remember that they lived a short distance from Charleston and had probably visited that city as well. Elizabeth Carter Walker’s mother was a Middleton, a family well-known in South Carolina and Charleston, so we feel certain the older members of the families had visited Charleston. Milledgeville, though, was a much newer city.
Finally, the families left Milledgeville and entered the newly-opened territory, the area that the Creek’s had just ceded to the government. And that is where I will stop this post for this week.
The next section of their travels was much harder to research because there were no settled communities and the old roads were hard to follow, both for them and for me. That will be discussed hopefully soon
Below is a little list of questions that helped me determine what old trails my ancestors used when they migrated from SC to Florida.
List of Research Questions
- What date did they first appear in their destination? (I used birthdates of children to help me figure out a range of dates—1828-1829 and 1835-1838. This showed me that the family migrated to their destination of Florida in two groups.)
- What old trails or roads were available during these dates? I used old maps to help me determine what trails and roads were available.)
- What towns did each of the old trails or roads pass through? (I used Wiki and local historical information to try to find what was happening in the town and what buildings were there that are still standing today. Also, to find out when it was settled to make sure it existed when they passed through.)
- Look at the history of the areas to see what might have led to or aided their migration down these old trails or roads? (The history of their home county or point of beginning showed an economic collapse of cotton , and the history of the Indian treaties showed an area that opened just before their migration. Also, in Florida, the First Seminole Indian War had ended and Jefferson County was just formed.)
- Who used the old trails or roads? (We know from diaries, journals and historical accounts that the railroad was being built between Charleston and Augusta and that freight was already hauled on the trails or old roads from Augusta, Milledgeville and other river ports up and down the Fall Line Road. We also know that Georgians and Carolinians were migrating on to Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and points beyond. Finally, there was a stage line operating on these roads, too These roads were also postal routes.)
- I have not looked up the surnames along the migratory path yet, but it would be good to see if anyone stopped and stayed behind. (Use Census records.)
- Look up the weather for that time period. Was it normal, wet or drought? (Use newspaper articles, diaries and journals.)
- Finally, this question unique to this study needs an answer. How much of the forests had already been removed on the Fall Line Road southwest of Augusta?