Unicoi Trail
I work with a volunteer trail maintenance crew, keeping the trails clear in the Tellico District of the Cherokee National Forest here in Southeastern Tennessee. Today, we worked on the Unicoi Trail. Let me tell you about this old trail.

The Unicoi Trail may possibly be the oldest trail in North America that has been in continuous use right up to the present. An ancient Indian trail, it is probably over 1000 years old. Originally, it crossed over the mountains to connect Indian villages between what is now Murphy, North Carolina and Vanore, Tennessee.
The Spanish Conquistador, Hernando de Soto, and his entourage of soldiers were the first known Europeans to enter the Southern Appalachians in 1540. It is believed that they crossed the mountains on the Unicoi Trail.
In the early 1700's the English set up a trade route beginning in Charlestown (modern Charleston) South Carolina that ran up-country to join the Unicoi Trail and continue on over the mountains to the western Cherokee villages in the Tennessee River Valley.
In 1756 a unit of the British army, together with a company of civilian tradesmen marched from Charlestown over the Unicoi Trail to the Cherokee towns of Great Tellico and the main Cherokee town of Chota. Near Chota, on the banks of the Little Tennessee River they built Fort Loudoun. The idea was to discourage the French from influencing the Cherokee and Creek Indians west of the Southern Appalachians.
However, relations between the British and the Cherokee soured and in 1760 the Cherokee laid siege to the fort. Months later, starved into submission, the British agreed to surrender the fort and to march back to Charlestown.
Believing that they had been tricked because the British had tried to hide their weapons and gunpowder instead of leaving them in Indian hands, the Cherokee ambushed and massacred most of the garrison along the trail.
The trail served as a warpath during the American Revolution. The Cherokee sided with the British and raiding parties used the trail to sweep down on remote settlements in the Carolinas. John Sevier lead counter raids against the Cherokee towns along the Little Tennessee and Hiwassee Rivers.
In 1816 an agreement was reached between the whites and the Cherokees that a private company would develope the trail for mutual commerce and that it would be called the Unicoi Turnpike. The trail was improved and a toll booth was set up.
By the 1830's the Unicoi Turnpike was a thriving throughfare over the mountains. Drovers drove herds of cattle and pigs, and even flocks of geese and turkeys along the trail to markets in the East. Long trains of pack horses carried the white man's trade goods west over the mountains and returned loaded with precious furs and deer hides. Even freight wagons pulled by big horses or oxen moved along the trail.
A man and a horse were charged .12 1/2 cents. A man on foot, .06 cents. A wagon and team, $1.00. A four wheel pleasure carriage, $1.25. Cows per head, .02 cents. Hogs, sheep, goats, .01 cent each.
By the time of the American Civil War the Unicoi Trail was in decline. However, throughout that war the soldiers chased each other back and forth along the trail while bushwackers skulked and laid in ambush waiting for victims, and they didn't care which side of the war their victims were on. A particularly notorious band of guerrilas and murderers who operated in the area were known as the "Kirkland Bushwackers".

Today, backwoods roads roughly follow the course of the old Unicoi Turnpike. Only a few miles of the original trail remains a hiking path through the national forest.

Know what you believe in. Fight for your beliefs. Never compromise away your rights.
Posts: 1271 | Location: Cherokee Land, Tenasi | Registered: 06 January 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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This is a very interesting bit of history. Thank you for posting it. It is amazing how things happened in the past. That 1540 date is back there a ways, no?

pistuo deo lalo
Posts: 3714 | Location: Acatlan de Juarez, Jalisco, Mexico | Registered: 22 October 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thanks Leon. After posting it I realized that it should be in the "History" section.

Know what you believe in. Fight for your beliefs. Never compromise away your rights.
Posts: 1271 | Location: Cherokee Land, Tenasi | Registered: 06 January 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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That was very interesting. Thank you for sharing.


"Better fare hard with good men than feast it with bad."
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Posts: 649 | Location: Oregon | Registered: 27 June 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Free Trapper
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Osiyo Rancocas
Thanks for the history info. I enjoyed reading your post. It is truly amazing what OUR very own country has been through considering it is, or was, one of the youngest countries. Alot of history in such a short period of time. Wado


Keep your tail high and dry!
Posts: 173 | Location: Oregon Territory | Registered: 11 June 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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