Cherokee Path

The Cherokee Path was one of the most important trade networks of early Carolina, connecting the city of Charleston with the Cherokee Indians of South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

The Cherokee Path was one of the most important trade networks of early Carolina, connecting the city of Charleston with the Cherokee Indians of South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Access to the tribe was originally by way of the Savannah River, over which Charleston merchants conveyed their goods to Savannah Town (Augusta). Here, Native American nations bought and resold these goods, eventually putting them into Cherokee hands either through a trail that led from Savannah Town to Keowee, the first of the Cherokee lower towns, or via the Creek Indians of northern Georgia.

Following the Yamassee War (1715–1718), the trade between the English and Cherokees shifted eastward. Traders moved northward along the Santee River to Fort Congaree and then northwest through Saluda Old Town and Ninety Six to the Dividing Path on the Savannah River. Here, a trail to the west led to Cherokee villages along the Tugaloo River and to the Creeks, but the more traveled northern path alongside the Chattooga and Little Tennessee Rivers accessed the Cherokee lower, middle, and upper settlements, a total of at least sixty villages and upward of eleven thousand inhabitants in 1715.

These towns produced quality deer hides, pelts, baskets, and chestnuts. At first they delivered these goods to neutral trade depots such as Fort Congaree. But increased demand for metal trade goods, red cloth, muskets, ammunition, and powder led to the establishment of trade stations among the lower villages and the middle towns. Fort Prince George was built at Keowee in 1753 to protect the trade.

The Cherokee Path, hundreds of miles long and yet only a trail, was gradually improved. Horses replaced Indian bearers, and inns were opened along the way to accommodate the traders, travelers, settlers, and soldiers who made the trail their own.

Crane, Verner. The Southern Frontier, 1670–1732. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1928.

Hatley, M. Thomas. The Dividing Paths: Cherokees and South Carolinians through the Era of the Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Meriwether, Robert. The Expansion of South Carolina, 1729–1765. Kingsport, Tenn.: Southern Publishers, 1940.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Cherokee Path
  • Author
  • Keywords trade networks, Fort Prince George,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date September 22, 2021
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 1, 2017
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