The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road:

Indian Trail to Highway of the New Republic


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ed Johnson

Retired History Teacher and President of the Goschenhoppen Historians

7:30 pm, Red Men's Hall, Green Lane, PA



Many colonial-era roads began as Indian trails. The Warriors’ Path was an early trail that was originally worn down by eastern bison. The Iroquois used it to hunt, trade, and wage war. This path extended from east of the Appalachians in Pennsylvania to Georgia. Over time, through a series of treaties, the English acquired use of the Warriors’ Path and, after 1744, of the land itself.


After 1744 the path developed into the principal route of the colonial back country. The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road became a conduit for the settlement of the frontiers of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. It was the most heavily traveled road in the colonies. Over this road, a constant stream of tens of thousands of English, Scots-Irish, and Germanic settlers, Indian traders, soldiers, and missionaries moved south and west.


Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett used the Great Wagon Road to explore the frontier. George Washington used it during the French and Indian War. As the British threatened Philadelphia, the Continental Congress evacuated the capital using the Great Wagon Road. Important battles of the southern campaign of the Revolutionary War were fought on or near the road. From the Great Wagon Road, Daniel Boone blazed a trail into the western Carolinas, Kentucky, and Tennessee that became the Wilderness Road.


The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road will be the subject of an illustrated program hosted by the Goschenhoppen Historians. Ed Johnson, retired history teacher and president of the Historians will speak on the topic on Thursday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. The program is free and open to the public.


Caution: This trip down the Great Wagon Road may take some detours. Expect to briefly visit Market Street in Philadelphia, a bridge designed (but never built) by Thomas Paine, and some other old roads in Pennsylvania. Also, to be discussed will be the Conestoga wagon, the Wilderness Road, and the National Road. Participants will even hear about someone born in the historic Henry Antes House who traveled the Great Wagon Road on her way to the Moravian settlement at Salem, North Carolina.