King's Highway

Even at its best, the condition of the route was seldom good. Narrow roads, ruts, mud, obstructions, and poorly maintained bridges and ferries were just a few of the inconveniences to be expected. The section between Wilmington and Charleston was judged by some travelers to be “the most tedious and disagreeable of any on the Continent.”

The King’s Highway, sometimes called the King’s High Road, was a post road that stretched from Savannah, Georgia, to St. George’s Fort on the Kennebec River in Maine, linking all colonies together after 1750. In time of war it was used to move militia, supplies, and British soldiers from one colony to another. The intercolonial road originated as a series of Native American trails, which were joined together and gradually enlarged to support animal, wagon, and stagecoach traffic. The segments were built at different times by the individual colonies during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Even at its best, the condition of the route was seldom good. Narrow roads, ruts, mud, obstructions, and poorly maintained bridges and ferries were just a few of the inconveniences to be expected. The section between Wilmington and Charleston was judged by some travelers to be “the most tedious and disagreeable of any on the Continent.”

The South Carolina section of the King’s Highway, built between 1739 and 1750, crossed the North Carolina line just above Little River on its way to Georgetown. It then skirted the Santee delta before passing through Jerveyville (McClellanville) to reach Charleston. The route to Savannah likewise followed the higher ground away from the coast in order to avoid the Edisto, Combahee, and Broad River basins and did not pass an important settlement until it stopped at Purrysburg on the Savannah River. While individuals could travel on foot or by horse, wagon, or carriage, the easiest and most economical mode was by post stagecoach. The driver was responsible for repairs and for fresh horses, accommodations, and food, usually to be found at inns every seven to ten miles along the way. In the twentieth century much of this road became utilized as U.S. Highway 17.

Leland, Jack. “The King’s Highway Is Romantic Trail into Lowcountry Past.” Charleston News and Courier, February 6, 1955, p. A8.

Teal, Harvey S., and Robert J. Stets. South Carolina Postal History and Illustrated Catalog of Postmarks, 1760–1860. Lake Oswego, Ore.: Raven, 1989.

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The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title King's Highway
  • Author
  • Keywords King’s High Road, was a post road that stretched from Savannah, Georgia, to St. George’s Fort on the Kennebec River in Maine, linking all colonies together after 1750, originated as a series of Native American trails, U.S. Highway 17
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 2, 2022
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 9, 2022
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