Daniel Harrison House, circa 1749
The Valley Pike - the Great Wagon Road - Athawominee - the Great Warrior's Path- the Long Grey Trail...
This heavily traveled road - Route 11 today - was a primary route for settlement into the Virginia back country in the 18th century. In earlier times, what started as an Indian path became a road for commerce, travel, and even war.
Athawominee, known today as the Great Warrior's Path, ran from New York down into the Carolinas. The first trail was pounded by the hooves of buffalo and other animals as they wandered in search of food, water and salt. Soon the Indians began to use these cleared areas, perhaps only as wide as a man's shoulders, as a path to connect the tribes. They sought a way to communicate and trade with each other.
The Great Wagon Road began in Philadelphia, headed west towards Gettysburg, and then southwest into the Shenandoah Valley. Near Martinsburg, West Virginia the trail entered the Valley and continued southwest toward Kentucky. But at first the road was too narrow for a wagon to pass - travel was by horse or on foot. Many people carried everything they owned on their backs.
Scots-Irish, German and English settlers began to pour into the Valley as they sought good farm land and an independent and free life. The Germans settled in what would later become Shenandoah and Rockingham
counties. By 1729, the Scots-Irish were arriving in great numbers and settled further south in Augusta, Rockbridge and Highland counties. This group also established the town of Winchester in 1730.
More time and more people gradually improved the condition of the route. By 1765 most parts of the road were accessible by wagon. Travel was easier and the migration continued...
Learn about the Harrison family and other Related Families... Read the book "Settlers by The Long Grey Trail" by J. Houston Harrison, a history and genealogy of the Harrison family.
Ninety miles and more it stretches
Up the valley,towards the south
Firm it is to wheel and hoof-beat,
Firm it holds in flood and drouth
And it links the towns and cities,
Jewels on a silver chain,
Shining in their emerald settings,
In the broad and fertile plain.
Leading out from fair Winchester,
'Cross Opequon's silver stream,
Through the fields of hard-fought battles,
And were Shendo's waters gleam
Far along the Massanutten,
Where the shadows blend and play,
On it leads to the hills of Staunton--
Betsy Bell and Mary Gray!
Straight it runs for leagues of distance,
Here and there a crook or turn;
Now it leaps a creek or river,
Or caresses bank and burn;
But it never halts or falters,
On it leads through night and day,
Like a cheering path of promise--
'Tis a fine old honest way!
It is gray with dust and limestone,
Ground by myraid pounding feet,
And by wheels that turn unceasing
Through the hours and minutes fleet;
For the whole long trail is bordered
With the native rocks of gray,
Strewn in scattered heaps about it,
As with giant hands at play.
It is gray with age and hoary
From the passing of the years,
Long unknown in white man's story,
Though beset with hopes and fears;
For the red men in their journeys
Passed this way in the long ago,
Now to visit friendly neighbors,
Now to attack some distant foe.
John W. Wayland, often called the "Valley Historian", wrote numerous books about the Shenandoah Valley. He was also a poet, and " The Long Gray Trail" is one of his more well known poems.
And perchance before the red men
Made it path to friends and foes,
It was marked out through the woodlands
By the shaggy buffaloes,
Choosing well the fairer levels,
Grading true each slope and hill --
Masters of their craft and cunning,
Engineers of matchless skill!
Can you feel again the romance
Of this ancient long gray trail?
Can you hear the stages rattling,
And the trav'ler's lusty hail?
Can you see the long procession
Of the endless marching years?
Hear the laughter that has kissed them,
Or the splash of blood and tears?
It is gray with ghosts of warriors,
Hosts in blue and hosts in gray,
Thronging through the martial Sixties --
This was Stonewall Jackson's way!
Hear you shouts of horsemen charging,
Echoes that shall never fail?
Now, me thinks I hear a bugle,
Sounding down the long gray trail.
It is calling from the shadows
Of a twilight far away,
To the souls of heroes dying --
Dying at the close of day;
Or, it may be, only sleeping,
Waiting for the Captain's call
To awake and gird for battle
In the morning --that is all!
Oh my Valley! Beauteous Valley!
You have seen and you have heard
More than I can feel or utter,
More than lies in human word;
You have watched and you have listened;
And though voice and song should fail,
You'll still cheer and you'll still shelter
All that pass the long gray trail.
The Long Grey Trail by John W. Wayland