The following information on The Cherokee Path is used with the permission of Roy Vandergrift, III and William S. Taylor, Sr. They presented this information to the South Carolina Genealogical Society's Twenty-Eight Annual Meeting on October 10, 1998.  Additions have been made from Roy Vandergrift's presentation at the 2002 Annual Meeting.  Thank you Mr. Vandergrift and Mr. Taylor for allowing this information to be placed on the SCGS Web Page.


Trails, fairly unobstructed walkways, were created by migratory animals linking water and food sources which they visited on a regular basis.  Humans used animal trails and developed them over periods of time. Indians/Native Americans/"Natural People" developed trails/paths/roads from camp to camp or to link trade or resource sites.

When Europeans arrived, networks of trails already existed. These, along with the streams (rivers), were the travel, trade and communication routes in SC. Several of the more important paths/trails in Carolina were...

Invasion and Settlement c. 1670

In 1670 the English came to Carolina from England and Barbados. By 1715 adventurous Carolinians had explored into Alabama and North Carolina. The Indians of the League of the Iroquois roamed up and down what became the "Great Philadelphia Wagon Road" to trade or wage war.  The Saluda Indians apparently came from Shawnees in Pennsylvania and were headed to St. Augustine, but stopped at and old mound site on the river that bears their name - Saluda.

Travel along the Cherokee Path - c. 1700-1759

For about 40 years the Path was used by people on foot and by pack animals. The Path followed either the higher ridges by rivers or flat land and avoided any obstacle that slowed travel. By 1715 one million animal skins had come to Charleston and two "armies" had traveled along part of the Path on the way to North Carolina to fight the Indians. The Yamessee (Yemassee) War, 1715-16 was a serious threat to the colonists, so the Carolinians waged a successful war of extermination. After that war Carolina was basically free of all but the tiny remnants of tribes, except of course, the Cherokee who probably hunted all the way down to Eutaw Springs - above Moncks Corner. Captain George Chicken had led an expedition to secure peace with them c. 1715. The "Cherokee Path" is first mentioned by the Commons House in 1717.

The Township Plan for SC

In 1730 a plan was developed to establish some ten townships along the major roads and waterways across the colony - Charleston would be protected. "Arrow catchers" were brought in from the German states, Switzerland, France, Wales, Virginia, and Ireland. The Path ran through Amelia township and Saxa Gotha Township, both along the west bank of the Santee, Congaree and Saluda Rivers.


By 1737 the Path was a wagon road to the Congarees from Charleston. This road was extended beyond the Congarees by 1748, and it was the main road with the trees cleared but with no bridges. By 1759 the Path was the wagon road to Fort Prince George. Regulations mandated that the road be thirty feet wide with loaded wagons keeping to the right of the road's center.  See George Hunter's Map and information on Hunter's Great Survey of 1730.

This powder horn dates from c. 1760 and was etched by
an officer in Grant's Expedition against the Cherokees.
It correctly shows the locations of places, and the scale is accurate.

From Keowee to the Middle Towns and Over-Hill Towns

From Keowee, the Path fanned out into the mountains. The routes usually followed streams and valleys - going to Clayton, Georgia and up to Franklin and Murphy in North Carolina and across into Tennessee to the Cherokee towns and Fort Loudoun. Captain Demere marched 200 men from Keowee following the southern route to Fort Loudoun in 1756 in only 10 days, which was considered to be a fast trip.

The Cherokee War 1759-1761

When the Cherokee War broke out in 1759-1761, in the middle of the French and Indian War, three armies marched and camped along the Path/Road from Charleston to Granby, 96, and Keowee, where Fort Prince George had been built in 1756. Governor Lyttleton, colonel Montgomery and Colonel Grant had armies of up to 2300 men with animals, carts, and wagons. Fort Prince George was the staging area for assaults against the Cherokee in what is now North Carolina - along the Little Tennessee River - highway #441 between Clayton, Georgia an d Franklin, North Carolina. A path led from Keowee/Fort Prince George to Fort Loudoun, which had been constructed by South Carolina troops in 1756.  The Cherokee intrigued the fort to surrender and then murdered over 20 of the defenders on the march back to Fort Prince George.

Fort Loudoun was build by Carolinians on the side of a hill at the request of the Cherokee so they could see inside. The fort served to keep the Cherokees neutral in the French and Indian War and to keep the French away. The fort was a ten (10 day hike to Fort Prince George.

The Later Years of the Cherokee Path 1761-2002

Governor James Glen, after visiting Fort Prince George, led an army of 500 militia and soldiers and met with the Cherokee and signed a treaty at Saluda Old Town in July, 1755. In the late 1750's and 1760's the Carolina Back Country filled with immigrants, and more roads were opened. The struggle between the Back Country and Charleston again came to the forefront, with Charleston refusing to share political and judicial power with the Upcountry folk.  The Regulator Movement resulted and a small government "army" came up from Charleston and engaged a militia force of Regulators on the Path at the edge of present day Saluda County.

During the War for American Independence, troops from both sides marched the Path, long since called a "road". The "Ride of Emily Geiger" in 1781 is a story about a young woman who carried a "British are Coming!" message to General Sumter from General Greene. Her grave and home are in the area south of Columbia.

The Path was renamed by sections: from Moncks Corner to the St. Matthews area was called the "Road to the Congarees", State Road and "Old Number Six" Road; State Road today in West Columbia; Mineral Springs Road between US #1 and US #378; Old Cherokee Road through Lexington, close to Lake Murray; and Old Cherokee Trail through Saluda County, paralleling the Saluda River.

In many places today the Path is still in use, and in other places it lies beside the road anywhere from a few inches to ten feet deep and around 25 feet wide with a flat bottom.


Native Americans (Indians) - Close to the Path: Then and Now

DeSoto encountered Indians in May, 1540 when he crossed the Congaree River, and Captain Juan Pardo also met them some 27 years later when his company walked up from the Beaufort area in 1566-67. When the English/Barbadians arrived in 1670 and trade began with the interior, there may have still been around 15,000 natives in SC - down from the approximately 30,000 at the beginning of the 16th century.

This state has been inhabited for thousands of years by people who are now, divided, classified, and identified by archaeologists/anthropologists as the: Paleo period; Archaic period; Woodland period; Mississippian period - these people are the mound builders from about 1,000 years ago, whose mounds have been recycled by every group afterwards until erosion or purposeful destruction have erased them; many mounds still dot the southeast, including the site close to the Cherokee Path on Lake Marion, used as a fort in the War for American Independence - and the Contact and the Post Contact Period.

To mention some is to exclude some of these "post contact" peoples, but...the Chicora Indian met the Spaniards on the beach in 1520's near Georgetown, and knew the French in the Beaufort area c. 1562 and the Spaniards in the same place until c. 1588.

the Chicora fought the English in the late 17th century and were last heard from with the Catawba Indians in 1743. The Chicora are still here - about 450 of them living in the northern coastal region of the state.

the Cherokee, our name for them, not theirs, probably hunted down to the Eutaw Springs area, they being the dominant people force in the state. They were slowly pushed from the state: the 1755 Treaty at Saluda Old Town; the 1777 Treaty at DeWitt's Corner; and 1816 when they gave away the last vestige of the mountains in SC. The Cherokee have almost always been friendly, trusting and overly dependent on the English colonist/Americans. The Cherokee are happy to entertain tourists in nearby Cherokee, NC.

The Congaree tribe lived west of the Congaree River in the Cayce area - across from Columbia. They traded with the early settlers at Fort Congaree c. 1720.

The Edistos (more correctly the Kussos or Coosabos, since they lived between the Edisto River and the headwaters of the Ashley River). This tribe is alive today and lives in the 4 Hole Swamp area.

The Saluda Indians came down from Pennsylvania in the late 1600's, probably to trade with the Spaniards in Florida. They stopped on the Chickawa River - the Cherokee word that means "River of Corn", but after the Yamassee War they returned to join the Shawnee in Pennsylvania, but left their name "Saluda" attached to the river-which does not mean "River of Corn". While here, they lived at a place called "Saludy Old Town" - an abandoned mound site.

Their may be many more tribes, then and now, but these may be associated with the Path.

the Yamassee Indians came to Carolina after ill treatment by the Spaniards in Florida only to suffer under the Anglos, which they did not long endure. The Yamassee War of 1715 came close to destroying the colony. The Goose Creek area was attacked - around St. James Church until the Indians and their towns were destroyed. The survivors joined other tribes.

Timeline on the Cherokee Path

Detailed information on currently traveling the Cherokee Path.

Cherokee Path Bibliography

Map from Bierer's book


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