12 September 2014

Old Roads and Trading Paths -- the superhighways of our ancestors!

Indian Trading paths in North Carolina (conjectured routes) by Mark Anderson Moore
courtesy Noth Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh
source: NCpedia -- Indian Trading Paths (by Tom Magnuson, 2006) 

Roads, roads, roads ... we love them, we hate them.  They get us places, they are clogged with traffic.  And, compared to our ancestors and how they traveled, often the same roads and yet very different experiences.

This came to mind since old paths and colonial roads have very much been the news locally!

The Joel Lane Museum House last Sunday held this event  "Applying Technology to Find Colonial Roads in Back Country NC" by Dale Loberger where Dale’s presentation told the story of how he was finally able to tease valuable information from old documents that were never intended to reveal such specifics.  Through his quest, he learned an appreciation for the historic construction of maps to allow him to properly deconstruct them for use in modern Geographic Information System (GIS) technology.  

In mid-August the “Tar Heel of the Week” published by the News and Observer was Historian Top Magnuson who charts old roads that help explain the Piedmont in the 1700s and founded the Trading Paths Association (FB Page).
Just a few miles from Tom Magnuson’s home, a trench 12 feet deep and 10 feet wide cuts through a patch of woods.

Hundreds of years ago, this road would have bustled with wagons and oxen, Native Americans, laborers, tradesmen and slaves – all looking to cross the Eno River at the same place year after year.

The old road is one of dozens that Magnuson has charted across the state and beyond – largely forgotten paths that he prizes for their insights into a time and place that is scarcely recorded in written history.

Additionally, NC has an organization called the William P. Cumming Map Society (FB Page and website) whose goal is to bring together individuals who share a common interest and enthusiasm for maps.  Many of the maps discussed are colonial maps and directly relevant to our pursuit to understanding the lives of our ancestors.

As you can tell, I’ve been doing 1. a lot of driving lately, and 2. trying to imagine how our ancestors traveled and what a different experience that was.  A trip that takes me minutes, took them hours.  A trip that takes me hours, took them sometimes days.  Though it’s nice that I can get places quickly, I do sometimes wish the pace of my life was sometimes slower.  As is often said “Life’s a journey, not a destination” and when we zoom by everything, we often miss the details of the journey that our ancestors had more awareness of.  You can find much more along this “train” of thought by reading ...
Ramblings from a train ... using travel as an opportunity to "see" the world as it is now and as it was!

All of the efforts by the individuals and organizations mentioned definitely enrich my understanding about how and where people traveled in the 17th and early 18th centuries here in North Carolina.

Do you have similar local efforts and programs?

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