I have often wondered why my ancestors
migrated northwest from Maryland to SW Pennsylvania, southwest through
Virginia to Kentucky, and then north to SW Ohio between the years 1790 and
1805. Why didn't they just go straight to the west from PA to OH?
After learning more about the landscape, the Indian problems and road
conditions, I now understand....
As the lands east of the Appalachians were used and owned by the earlier
English settlers, the new settlers crossed the Laura Mountains in
Pennsylvania, and flooded down the Shenandoah Valley. Kept from westward
movement by mountains, until much farther south the Cumberland Gap was
found, which permitted the settlers to cross into what became Tennessee,
and to move north into Kentucky. The only other access west, to the
Kentucky lands, was via the Ohio River, and it was controlled by Indians
in Ohio. They raided at will until their defeat at Fallen Timbers in 1796.
Before the French and Indian War a road ran west from Frederick, Maryland,
to Fort Cumberland on the Potomac, but even then there was no road over
the Pennsylvania mountains. At a time when the mountains hampered western
expansion the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road led directly to the fertile
Valley of Virginia and even to the Carolina Piedmont. During the early
years of the Republic it became the highway to Kentucky, for in southern
Virginia it joined the Wilderness Road, which Daniel Boone had blazed in
Crossing the mountains at Cumberland Gap, the Wilderness
Road led across Kentucky to the falls of the Ohio River, where Louisville
now stands. In the decades when Braddock's Road across the Alleghenies was
growing up in brush and when the Indians on the plains of western New York
barred the way across that state, the road down the Shenandoah to
Cumberland Gap was the most practicable route to the West. Used at first
by pioneers on horseback eager to cross the passes into Kentucky, it was
soon crowded with covered wagons, almost by the thousands. Many settlers
heading west visited Lancaster, York, or Carlisle first to acquire a
Conestoga wagon, a Kentucky rifle or other equipment. From 1775 to 1800
more than three hundred thousand settlers traveled this road to the West.
It was the use of this route rather than the one across the Pennsylvania
mountains that accounted for the settlement of Kentucky at a time when
Ohio was still Indian territory. It was difficult to go straight across
Pennsylvania because there were no roads or rivers to follow. So they
followed the rivers wherever they led--and that was to the southwest.
There, it was much easier to get over the mountains to rivers such as the
Kanawha and the Sandy that flowed into the Ohio, which led into Western
Pennsylvania. Sounds like the long way around to us but remember that they
were traveling with wagons and oxen without any roads.
In 1797 Zane's Trace began at Ohio River near the mouth of Big Three Mile
Creek (Aberdeen, Ohio) and ended up river at Wheeling, included Maysville
Pike which connected Natchez Trace.
The importance of the Cumberland Gap in the post-Revolutionary period is
of major significance. The discovery and use of Cumberland Gap released a
floodtide of settlers into the lands of the interior. A mere ten years
after the end of the Revolution, Kentucky became the 15th state
boasting a population of 220,000. Though other routes were utilized,
Cumberland Gap was "the way West" until 1810.
The Cumberland Gap is located where the three states of Virginia,
Tennessee and Kentucky meet. The Cumberland Gap, which measures 1,304 feet
in altitude, is Nature's passage through the Cumberland Mountains between
Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia - one of three natural breaks in the
rugged Appalachian Mountain range. If the journey was not treacherous
enough, there was also the occasional massacre by renegade natives. During
the summer and fall of 1784, more than 100 travelers were killed on the
Kentucky side of the gap. Like the ill-fated Donner Party, travelers had
to abandon wagons full of household necessities in bad weather to travel
the narrow gap by foot or horse. By 1796 it was known as the Wilderness
Road having seen as many as 200,000 travelers, including Abraham Lincoln's
parents and grandparents as they emigrated west. The Gap was then widened
to allow Conestoga Wagons through to lands west.The Gap was used for
commerce by 1800. Kentuckians drove long lines of horses and cattle
through the Gap to the markets in the east. But by the 1830s, other
east/west routes had been established, including the National Road,
causing the Gap's popularity to decline.
My FOWLER ancestors migrated from north central Maryland
to Ohio between 1787 and 1805. My DEVORE ancestors migrated from New
Jersey to Ohio at about the same time. Looking at a map, it seems a
fairly straightforward journey, and yet they traveled far to the southwest
and again north to reach Ohio. I now understand why. My 4th
great-grandfather, Benjamin Fowler, and his wife, Mary Naylor, lived in or
near Baltimore County, Maryland until at least 1787. Some of their
close relatives were living in Fayette County, Pennsylvania by 1800, which
is in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, near Virginia and the Indians
lands of Ohio. This was at a time when the borders of Pennsylvania
and Virginia were being disputed. To better understand this, I did
some research on the formation of Pennsylvania's counties....
Chester, Philadelphia and Bucks Counties
were created in 1682. In the Delaware region at that time were created New
Castle, Sussex (Hoarkill at that time) and Kent (St. Jones at that time)
Counties. Delaware was part of Pennsylvania until 1704.
Chester was the county closest
to Maryland (MD is south of Pennsylvania), bordering on Cecil, MD.
Lancaster, PA was created west of Chester in 1729. York, PA was created
west of Lancaster, PA in 1749. York, PA is on the northern border of
Baltimore Co., MD. In 1773 Westmoreland was created in the SW part of PA.
In that year, to the west of Westmoreland, Virginia created the West
Augusta District. In 1776 Virginia created Yohogania, Monongalia and Ohio
counties from West Augusta District.Yohogania, VA and Westmoreland, PA
were together. In 1781 Washington, PA was created from Westmoreland from
it's western portion. In 1783 Fayette, PA was created from Westmoreland's
southern portion. Washington and Fayette are on the northern border of
Maryland and what was then VA (became WV later). In 1786 Northumberland
was created in the north central part of PA. In 1788 Allegheny was created
in the northwest portion of PA, to the west of Northumberland and to the
north of Washington, PA and Fayette, PA. In 1796 Greene, PA was created
from Washington, PA's southwestern portion, on the northern border of
VA-WV and on the eastern border of Ohio. Washington, PA is also on the
eastern border of Ohio.
So in 1790, my ancestors were just to
the east of Ohio - their eventual destination - and yet they could not
cross the mountains from PA to get there. Instead, they gradually
moved south, probably through the Cumberland Gap, into southeastern
Kentucky, north to Madison County, Kentucky, then north to Mason County,
Kentucky which borders with southern Ohio. I'm sure they followed
the streams and rivers south to reach the Wilderness Trail. For some
reason, they seemed determined to reach Ohio, even though it was quite a
bit north of the Cumberland Gap. Many allied families followed the
same migratory path, including the following families: ELLIS,
DEVORE, DEWITT, NAYLOR, SELBY, GOSNELL, STINCHCOMB, DYE (from New Jersey),
McCARTY, DUVALL, CHENEY, CARSON, GIFFIN, MANN, WHEELER, CANNON, BENNETT,
BRIGHT, and others. Some members of these families remained in
Kentucky or went further south into Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia.
Below is a map with the general path
shown in red. The blue dot represents their approximate location in
1790-1795. The green dot represents their approximate location in
WHERE DID MY ANCESTOR'S CROSS PATHS?
For a period of about ten years, they
gradually moved toward their destination where my FOWLER and DEVORE
ancestors lived for about thirty years. Most of Benjamin and Mary's
descendants moved west to Indiana by 1840-1850, and further west to Iowa
and Missouri after that.
My CARSON ancestors (not proven) migrated
from Pennsylvania, probably following the same path as the FOWLERS and
DEVORES. In the year 1790, some of the FOWLERS were in Fayette, PA
and some of the DEVORES were in nearby Washington, PA. Some of them
were in Northumberland, PA, but shortly after that, moved southwest
through Fayette and Washington, PA to reach the Cumberland Gap. It
is possible that Washington and Fayette, Pennsylvania is the location
where the FOWLERS, DEVORES and CARSONS crossed paths, as they moved their
families toward a common destination. Benjamin's son, James, married
Elizabeth DEVORE once they reached their destination in Butler County,
Ohio (1808). During the migratory years, James was a young child,
perhaps traveling in groups over the Wilderness Trail with the DEVORES.
James' son, Benjamin Nicholas FOWLER, married Nancy A. CARSON ca. 1830 in
Butler, Ohio. Both the CARSON and FOWLER families were in
Madison County, Kentucky in 1800 while the family of Elizabeth DEVORE (and
a John FOWLER) was further north in Mason County, KY. I have not yet
found Nancy A. CARSON'S parents, but it is possible she was part of the
Lindsay CARSON (father of Kit Carson) family of Madison County, Kentucky.
Lindsay CARSON'S brother, Robert CARSON,
was born July 20, 1759 in Cumberland, Pennsylvania. Cumberland
County is located not far away from Baltimore, Maryland, which is slightly
to the south. Benjamin FOWLER I was probably married in
Baltimore, MD. A Robert CARSON was taxed in Baltimore, MD in 1783
(see below). Between 1789 and 1792, Robert CARSON went from
Cumberland, PA to Madison, KY. The chances are that he went through
or near Fayette, PA where the FOWLERS were in 1790. In Mifflin, PA in 1790
was a Henry CARSON born ca. 1740 probably in Ireland. Other research
does not show that Robert had a brother named Henry, however, it has been
fairly well established that Henry CARSON was closely related to Nancy
CARSON, possibly her grandfather.
Robert CARSON had children who were born in
Madison, KY between 1792 and 1810. Nancy A. CARSON was born
about 1812 in Ohio. Robert CARSON died about 1837, probably in
Seneca, Ohio. The migratory path of Robert CARSON closely parallels
that of the FOWLERS. It would be interesting to learn when Robert
CARSON went from Madison, KY to OH. At least two of his
grandchildren may have been born in Pennsylvania, one as late as 1829.
So Robert may gone back to PA and later to Ohio. If he or his close
relations were in Ohio by 1812, Nancy could have been related.
Family tradition says that Nancy A. CARSON was related to Kit CARSON.
If she was an unknown relation of Robert, this would be the case.
SOME OTHER CARSONS FROM PENNSYLVANIA WHO
WENT TO SOUTHWEST OHIO
In 1790 Northumberland, PA Benjamin Fowler
I was listed along with Elizabeth Devore's grandfather Nicholas. He
was also there in 1800. He was no longer there in 1810. By
1820 he was in Butler, OH along with the other FOWLERS. Also in that
county were John and Andrew Carson. John Carson married Sarah Gamble
and lived in Northumberland County in 1793 when their son Benjamin was
born there in that year. John died 1816 in Miami Co, Ohio - very
near the location where my FOWLERS lived at that time. It is not
known if the Andrew who is also listed was related to John and it is not
known who the parents of John were. In 1800 Northumberland, PA
Andrew was no longer listed, but John was still there along with a Robert
Carson, both living in Haines Twp. and both born before 1755. John
Carson was no longer in Northumberland, PA in 1810 and since he died in
Miami, OH in ca. 1816, he may have been in Ohio by 1810.
By 1830 John Carson's sons - Benjamin, John
and William - moved to Shelby, Indiana which is next to Marion, Indiana -
another location where some of the FOWLERS moved by 1840. His son
Samuel was still in Bethel, Miami, Ohio in 1830 but I cannot find him
In the 1820 Census of Miami, OH, Samuel
Carson had two young females age 10-16. One of these could have been
Nancy who married Benjamin Nicholas Fowler. John Carson Jr. also had
one female the same age, so he could also have been Nancy's father.
If you have any information about these
Carsons, please contact
1790 census -
NORTHUMBERLAND CO, PA:
Ben P D Fowler Northumberland, PA 1790 (231) (Image 25)
David Fowler Northumberland, PA (111) (Image 25)
Asahel Fowler Northumberland, PA (111) -- ASA? (Image 25)
Abm (Abner? ) Devore Not Stated, Northumberland, PA 1790 (133) Image 4
Nicholes Devore Not Stated, Northumberland, PA 1790 (132) Image 4
Henry Devore Not Stated, Northumberland, PA 1790 (100) Image 3
Andrew Carson Not Stated, Northumberland, PA 1790 (111) Image 16
John Carson Not Stated, Northumberland, PA 1790 (224) Image 34
1800 Census (semi-alphabetical)
John Carson Haines, Northumberland, PA 1800 (10010-00100) age 26-45
John Carson Haines, Northumberland, PA 1800 (10001-10100) age 45+
<b. bef. 1755>
NEXT LINE: Robert Carson Haines, Northumberland, PA 1800
(11001-01001) age 45+ <b. bef. 1755>
John Carson Bethel,Miami,OH 1820 (410010-01010) age 26-45 <b. bef.
1794> - Image 2
NEXT LINE: Samuel Carson Bethel,Miami,OH 1820 (310010-02010) age
26-45 <b. bef. 1794> - Image 2
Benjamin Carson Newberry,Miami,OH 1820 (000100-30100) age 18-26
<1794-1802> - Image 2
Benjamin Carson Sugar Creek, Shelby, Indiana
John Carson Sugar Creek, Shelby, Indiana
William Carson Sugar Creek, Shelby, Indiana
Saml Carson Bethel, Miami, Ohio