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   UPDATED JANUARY 8, 2006

Migration Route from Early Maryland and Pennsylvania to Ohio

Maryland > Pennsylvania > Kentucky > Ohio

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 1774-1775.

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 1805-1808.

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 after that. 

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 Sandra.

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 <1755-1774>
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>

1820 CENSUS
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

1830 Census
Benjamin Carson Sugar Creek, Shelby, Indiana
John Carson Sugar Creek, Shelby, Indiana
William Carson Sugar Creek, Shelby, Indiana
Saml Carson Bethel, Miami, Ohio