The Transylvania Times -

By Marcy Thompson
Picturing The Past 

Estatoe Path Was First Major Road In County


Buffalo once roamed in this area.

The Estatoe Path was likely the earliest road through what is today Transylvania County. Long before Europeans ventured into the area, a path was being carved through the valleys between the higher mountains to the North and the lowlands to the south. The path was not one defined roadway, but rather an intertwining network of trails first worn into the earth by migrating animals.

Buffalo, elk, and deer were efficient travelers, taking the easiest route to their grazing grounds and water sources. Wolves and mountain lions also travelled these paths as they followed the herds and hunted.

The early native people who lived and roamed throughout the area used these same paths. Later the Cherokee would use them as they moved between their valley towns in present day northwestern South Carolina and northeastern Georgia up the French Broad River to their over-the-hill towns in the mountains of what is now Western North Carolina. The Cherokee also used the smaller trails branching off the main path as they hunted game, harvested berries and nuts, and gathered hardwood, flint and copper for their tools.

As explorers, trappers and traders came into the region, they too used these paths, continuing to widen the principle trails. Trappers transported furs from the mountains to port in Charleston and goods from Charleston back into the mountains for trading.

When settlers arrived in the late 1700s, the local militia was ordered to build a wagon road following near the Estatoe Path from the Swannanoa River to Mills River to Davidson River.

A few years later Buncombe County Court ordered the laying out of a road from the (Estatoe) Ford of Ben Davidson's River to the middle fork of the French Broad River. In September 1956, North Carolina historical highway markers were placed on U.S. 178 at the French Broad River Bridge in Rosman and on U.S. 64-276 at the Davidson River Bridge northeast of Brevard recognizing the Estatoe Path.

North Carolina historical highway markers in Transylvania County commemorate the Estatoe Path.

The markers read, "Trade route between mountain settlements of the Cherokee and their town, Estatoe, in what is now South Carolina passed nearby."

(Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at or (828) 884-3151 ext. 242.)


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