The Great Wagon Road of the 1700s
If you are searching for your immigrant ancestors, here is a guideline for you. This is where to begin your research.
The Courageous Settlers of the Blue Ridge Mountains:
Those who settled in the Blue Ridge Mountains were a cross-lot of poor people from the Lowlands of the Palatinate along the Rhineland in Germany, persecuted protestants from Switzerland, Austria, and Europe, and the Highlanders who suffered English tyranny because of their preference for a Stuart king upon the throne of Scotland.
The Port City where they landed
Philadelphia was the major European port city during the 1700s. It was the landing of those escaping religious persecution. Despite Philadelphia being the safest landing at that time, as opposed to the shipping lanes southward, thousands of ships sank en route. Especially if they were caught in a storm and went off course, this is one of the reasons that the National Archives has a meager collection of passenger lists. Too, if you are searching for a passenger list, keep in mind that those records were not always given at port on the date of arrival. For this reason, it is a good idea to thoroughly research the records well past the arrival date.
The Germans came mostly from the Rhine River region of Germany. They carved a trail along the Great Wagon Road southward into the Carolinas, cutting westward through the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky.
The Great Wagon Road across North Carolina
Emigrants from the canton of Zurich were the first to arrive in the American Colonies. Their landing port was Philadelphia, between 1734 and 1744. The major settlement region was in the North Carolina mountains.
See the book by Faust as follows: Lists of Swiss Emigrants in the Eighteenth Century to the American Colonies by Albert B. Faust and Gaius M. Brumbaugh. In two volumes, this is the authoritative work on Swiss emigration to the Carolinas and Pennsylvania in the 18th century. Volume I identifies approximately 2,000 emigrants from the Canton of Zurich during the period 1734–1744.
The Scots from Northern Ireland
The Highlanders who left Scotland first went to Northern Ireland to be among other protestants. They did so to escape imprisonment from the British. The first group to arrive in the colonies dropped anchor in Wilmington, North Carolina, and settled for a time along the Great Dismal Swamp.
They were poor and sold all they had to make the passage, some indenturing themselves. They left the dismal swamp region to settle in the western mountains of North Carolina. To date, no records have been found from the Great Dismal Swamp region. Thus, the logical place to search is in the counties that comprise the western mountains of North Carolina. It is simply part of genealogical research — to scan every possibility.
Remember, people were frequently on the move, exploring new possibilities, and free land.