Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Road to the Catawba River Valley

From Partisans and Redcoats, by Walter Edgar, © 2001, HarperCollins Publishers:

    In 1740 there were very few Europeans in the South Carolina backcountry. By the American Revolution, nearly one-half of the colony's total population, and 80 percent of its white population, lived there.
    The migration of predominantly Scots-Irish settlers transformed the lower South and, in the final analysis, was key to America's triumph over Great Britain in the Revolution. The Great Wagon Road that served as the settlers' highway began across the Schuylkill River from Philadelphia. From the Pennsylvania capital it went west to Harrisburg and then turned south, following the great Shenandoah Valley through Maryland and Virginia into the piedmont of North Carolina. The road veered slightly southeastward to the Moravian settlements at Wachovia, and then almost due south to the South Carolina town of Pine Tree Hill (Camden).
    The Great Wagon Road traversed the Catawba River Valley from north to south en route from Wachovia to Pine Tree Hill. The Catawba River, arising in North Carolina and continuing into South Carolina, was a slow moving, muddy river. Its valley was broad and fertile. Because of its lushness and accessibility, it was the site of some of the first backcountry settlements in South Carolina. The Waxhaws, one of the largest backcountry settlements, was situated in the Catawba River Valley. In 1769 John Stuart, who was royal superintendent of Indian affairs for the Southern District, wrote that "near the Boundary, that Country is full of inhabitants, which in my memory was considered by the Indians as their hunting Ground, such is their rage for settling far back."