OHIO COUNTY INFO: Pioneer Migration Routes through Ohio
Pioneer Migration Routes
through Ohio

(You can visit a map of land migration routes at http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~maggieoh/Gwen/migration.htm.)

Index of Articles

The Kanawha Trace Way Bill by Merle C. Rummel

The Bullskin Road by Merle C. Rummel

The Delaware Indian Road by Merle C. Rummel

Maps of Ohio County Boundary Lines (1792, 1797, 1799, 1801, 1803, 1806, 1808, 1810, 1812, 1814, 1816)

Genealogical Research in Ohio (Page 19)

History of Ohio In Five Volumes

Advancing the Ohio Frontier: A Saga of The Old Northwest

Zane's Trace, 1796-1812: A Study in Historical Geography

Historic American Highways (Significant Incidents in the Development of Highway Transportation In Colonial America and the United States during more than Four Centuries for the Settlers Moving West)

Ohio Revolutionary Memorial Trails System (This lists all the military trails both American and British.)

From the book: Genealogical Research in Ohio (Page 19)
by Kip Sperry email: [email protected]
WWW: http://www.kipsperry.com/

Five major early nineteenth-century migration routes into Ohio were:
  1. by Lake Erie's shores and on Lake Erie
  2. across western Pennsylvania
  3. through southeastern Ohio to Marietta and up the Muskingum River
  4. through southcentral Ohio and up the Scioto River
  5. into Cincinnati and up the Great and Little Miami rivers.
Some migration from Michigan, Indiana, and other Midwestern states also occurred later in the nineteenth century. The Ohio River, which comprises the state's southern border, was the most important migration route into southern Ohio. Migrants passed through the state using roads, canals, railroads, and the Ohio River as they moved west, north, and south.

History of Ohio In Five Volumes
by Charles B. Galbreath
[Secretary of the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society
Former State Librarian and Secretary of Ohio
Constitutional Convention (1912)]
The American Historical Society, Inc.
Chicago and New York

A glance at the map of the United States shows that the territory comprised therein naturally falls into several divisions or areas, with respect to topography. The country lying east of the Alleghany Mountains and bordering the Atlantic Ocean, is a natural division in itself from which, as we have seen, the colonists were practically a century in making their way across the mountains into the country beyond; bordering the Gulf of Mexico we have another distinct area, comprising what are known as the Gulf States; while extending westward from the Alleghanies with Lake Erie on the north and bordering the Ohio River on the south, lies the great Ohio Country, where during the latter half of the eighteenth and the first quarter of the nineteenth centuries, was staged the stirring drama of human life which we are considering.

Perhaps no region on the continent was better adapted to human habitation than this Ohio Country, which fact may have had much to do with the keen competition among the native tribes for its possession. The climate was most favorable since man, whether savage, barbarian or civilized, is at his best in a temperate clime. The geography of the region was ideal. There were mountainous sections and level plateaus; broad valleys and extensive plains; rich forest and open prairies, each with its own peculiar products of animal, vegetable and mineral wealth.

Two great drainage systems -- the Ohio River on the south and the Great Lakes on the north -- afforded the best of facilities for travel and transportation. Both systems were extensively used in east and west travel by the Indians, and later by white men; while the numerous rivers tributary thereto -- particularly the Miamis, the Scioto and the Muskingum, flowing into the Ohio; and the Maumee, the Sandusky and the Cuyahoga, discharging their waters into the lake -- the headwaters of which were separated only by short portages, furnished natural highways for travel north and south. Both the Ohio River and the Lakes seem to have been looked upon by the Indian as natural boundary lines, and the territory enclosed between them as a distinct section from that to the north or south.

In connection with the water highways of the country, there should be mentioned the numerous Indian trails which either supplemented or replaced them. These trails, while not natural highways in the sense that the lakes and rivers were, did follow natural lines of travel, and many of them doubtless were as old as the human occupation of the country itself. They not only traversed those districts devoid of waterways and crossed the portages between the headwaters of the navigable streams, but often followed the course of the water routes throughout their entire extent. The reason for this is obvious. The streams were not navigable in seasons of extreme drought, while in winter they often were frozen. Besides, some of the tribes preferred land travel, while all of them found it more convenient at times than that by boat or canoe.

The Indian trails often followed the high ground through which they passed, later becoming what are known as the "ridge roads" of the present time. The importance of the trails as factors in the settlement and development of the State of Ohio cannot be over-estimated. In many instances they determined the location of white settlements, forts and military roads, some of them later becoming public highways. Along these aboriginal trails the native tribes passed to and fro from one location to another, whether engaged in warfare, the chase, trade or migration. Later, together with the navigable streams, they served as the means of entrance to the white traders and settlers who pushed their way into the country north and west of the Ohio River.

Among the most important of these aboriginal highways was the so-called Great Trail, which was the western extension of the great highway between the Indian country around Delaware and Chesapeake bays, and the forks of the Ohio. Passing westward from Pittsburg this trail traversed Northeastern Ohio to Sandusky Bay, from whence it led around the west end of Lake Erie and northward to Detroit. Later it was the important military highway connecting Fort Pitt, Fort Laurens, Fort Sandusky and Fort Detroit.

The most important of the north and south trails of the state was the Scioto trail, between Sandusky Bay on the north and the Ohio River at the mouth of the Scioto on the south. Ascending the Sandusky River from its mouth, crossing the portage and descending the Scioto, it crossed the Ohio and joined the famous "Warriors' Trail" leading far away into the Indian country of the southland. Other important trails connected the Muskingum towns of the Delawares, the Shawnee towns on the Scioto and the Shawnee and Miami towns on the Miamis. Many trails of lesser importance traversed the country in all directions.

Toward the west, the Ohio Country extended till it merged with the Mississippi Valley, while its eastern boundary was the Alleghany Mountains. At the "forks of the Ohio," where Pittsburg now stands, was its eastern gateway, through which the native tribes passed in either direction, and which not only served the european explorer and settler for the same purpose but was the scene of many of the early activities which characterized the struggle between the French and the English for the possession of the rich prize lying to the westward.

In 1797 Ebenezer Zane opened "Zane's Trace" from Wheeling to Limestone (Maysville). It passed through the site of Lancaster (Fairfield County, Ohio), at a fording known as "crossing of the Hockhocking." He located at Lancaster one of the three tracts of land given him by the government for his work performed in opening the "Trace".

Extracts from the book:
Advancing the Ohio Frontier: A Saga of The Old Northwest
by Frazer Ells Wilson
Long's College Book Co.
Columbus, Ohio

The most prominent portage routes established were: from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi, (1) by Green Bay, the Fox and Wisconsin rivers; (2) by the desplaines and Illinois rivers; (3) by the St. Joseph's and Kankakee; from Lake Michigan to the Ohio by way of the St. Joseph's and Wabash rivers; and from Lake Erie to the Ohio by way of the Maumee and Wabash rivers, or, by way of the St. Marys or Auglaize branches of the Maumee to the Great Miami. Other popular routes connected the Sandusky and Scioto; the Cuyahoga and the Muskingum. For early and important explorations by these routes we are indebted to the zealous and intrepid Catholic missionaries and daring French adventurers La Salle, Marquette, Joliet, Nicollet, Hennepin, Brule, and others, who faithfully served their country and their cuase and left a record that shall long add luster to their names.

Extracts from the book:
Zane's Trace, 1796-1812: A Study in Historical Geography
by John Bernard Ray
Submitted to the faculty of the Graduate School
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for
the degree, Doctor of Philosophy, in the
Department of Geography
Indiana University
May 1968


In retrospect, Ebenezer Zane requested permission and was authorized by Congress in 1796 to open a "road" across the Ohio country from Wheeling to a point on the Ohio River opposite Limestone, Kentucky. This authorization carried with it the necessity of establishing ferry service across the major streams. As payment for his services, Zane received a 640-acre land tract at the crossing of the Muskingum, Hocking, and Scioto Rivers.

Thus, Zane's Trace was blazed through the wilderness during the summers of 1796 and 1797. It provided a much-needed corridor connecting the settlements of western Virginia and Pennsylvania with those of Kentucky. In blazing the Trace, Indian trails were utilized for the greater part of the way from Wheeling to the Scioto River; and Todd's military trace was followed from the Scioto River to the Ohio. Therefore, to lay out the route, all that was necessary was to complete identifying blazes and remove underbrush and other minor obstacles. Despite its primitive nature, mail carriers, emigrants, adventureres, businessmen, and circuit riders, on horseback and by foot, moved along the Trace into and through the rapidly expanding Ohio frontier.

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