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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Case Studies in American Migration: Part Two: The King's Highway

By TastyCakes - Own work, Public Domain,
In November 1783, future president James Madison traveled from Philadelphia to Annapolis with future president Thomas Jefferson. The trip, which today would take about two and a half hours by automobile, took them four days. Madison traveled on to his home in Orange County at Montpelier, Virginia. Because of bad weather, the journey of about 100 miles took nine days. Until 1790 in the Colonies and subsequently the United States of America, most long-distance travel was done by ship or boat. The only roads in the Colonies were a series of locally built and maintained post roads.

This system of local roads became known as the Boston Post Road or the King's Highway. The road was also called the Great Coast Road. The map above shows the approximate location of the road as it finally developed in the 1770s. The first stagecoach service between Boston and New York City was established in 1772. Here is a short summary of the Boston Post Roads from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Boston Post Road.
Before European settlers colonized North America, Native Americans had established trails that were used frequently. These paths eventually became portions of post roads, which were used by post riders to deliver mail to the early colonists. The first portions of the Boston Post Road were laid out in 1673, becoming America’s first mail route. In the 1700s, riders carried the Boston News-Letter, widely considered America’s first regular newspaper, along the Boston Post Road with regular mail, sharing information with settlers and connecting towns along the route. 
In 1753, then-Deputy Postmaster Benjamin Franklin traveled the Boston Post Road to standardize postal rates based on distance. Stone markers were placed at mile points along the route. In 1783, the Boston Post Road carried America’s first long-distance stagecoach service from New York to Boston, corresponding with improvements in the road’s surface that resulted in a faster, safer, and more efficient transportation system. The success of the stagecoach service along this route convinced Congress to send mail by stagecoach instead of lone rider.
The outlines of the King's Highway formally instigated by King Charles II in 1660, which incorporated the Boston Post Road, were established beginning in 1650 through 1735. What genealogists who are doing research in colonial America need to realize is that from 1607 until beginning in 1735, about 128 years of our history, there was no generally usable road system along the East Coast of the country. As you can also see from the example of James Madison's travels at the beginning of this post, there was no real road system until the 1800s. 

The King's highway is roughly 1300 miles long. The time it took to travel is illustrated by this map from Paullin, Charles Oscar, and Charles Oscar Paullin. 1914. [Paullin collection: compilation materials for Charles Paullin's Atlas of the historical geography of the United States, 1932].
Perhaps it would be a good idea to evaluate the dates and places in your research keeping in mind the limitations on travel for the first almost two hundred years of American history.

Here is a link to the first case study post.

Case #1:

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