Along the Wagon Road

Great_Valley_Road_Map

Route of the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road which many Scotch-Irish and German immigrants followed to new homes on the frontier of Virginia and the Carolinas. It is superimposed over a modern county map.

The second of five major waves of Scotch-Irish immigration arrived on America’s shores starting in 1725. Fleeing exorbitant rents, English suppression of Irish trade, and the resulting poverty, the descendants of the lowland Scots who had emigrated to Ireland in the early 17th century sought better fortunes across the Atlantic. Most landed in one of the port cities along the Delaware River, encouraged by Quaker Pennsylvania’s religious tolerance. Finding much of the farmland proximate to the coast already claimed by earlier immigrants, the Scotch-Irish arrivals headed inland, west through Pennsylvania and then southwest into Maryland and Virginia. The previously established settlers – although concerned that the large number of immigrants would threaten the existing order – were delighted to have a buffer between them and the occasionally hostile Native Americans on the frontier.

John Dickey was one of those Scotch-Irish helpfully buffering the coastal settlements. He and his wife Martha McNeely immigrated from Ireland, and in 1737 made their way to the frontier Virginia county of Albemarle, although it wasn’t until 1747 that he acquired land along Mechum’s River with a view toward Rockfish Gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Albemarle was still a young county; the first land patent was granted in 1727, and the first settlers only arrived in the 1730s, so John and Martha were among the earliest in the area. Continue reading