"The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road:  Indian Trail to Highway of the New Republic"

  Presented by Ed Johnson

The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road will be the subject of an illustrated program presented by Ed Johnson, retired history teacher and President of the Goschenhoppen Historians, at the Historians’ May meeting. 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, in 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.


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. Along the way Mr. Johnson will also discuss Conestoga wagons, the Wilderness Road, and the National Road, as these all played a part in the saga of the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road. Participants will even hear about someone born in the historic Henry Antes House in Upper FrederickTownship who traveled the Great Wagon Road on her way to the Moravian settlement at Salem, North Carolina.


Mr. Johnson’s well-illustrated presentation will take place at 7:30 PM on Thursday, May 17, 2018 at Red Men’s Hall, the Goschenhoppen Historians headquarters, located at 116 Gravel Pike (Route 29), Green Lane, PA. The public is welcome to attend and refreshments will be served during an informal get-together at the conclusion of Mr. Johnson’s talk. More information can be obtained at 215-234-4119 or on the Historians’ website: www.goschenhoppen.org.

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