01/23/05 — Old roads a path to past

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Old roads a path to past

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on January 23, 2005 2:07 AM

The old trails and paths that wind through North Carolina could provide a deeper understanding of the state's heritage and history than some written records.

That's what members of the Old Dobbs County Genealogical So-ciety learned Sat-urday, when Tom Manguson spoke about studying tra-ding paths throughout the state.

Manguson, a member of the Trading Path Association, said that North Carolina had a century or more of unwritten history that took place before government records were kept.

The Trading Path Association is a non-profit corporation chartered by the state to preserve, promote and study North Carolina's historic trading path.

The key to discovering that history, Manguson said, is to search for the old road beds, pathways and trails throughout the state. And when those paths are identified, they need to be preserved.

Manguson said that in the 1600s indentured servants escaped from the "cavalier mentality" of their masters in Virginia and came to live in North Carolina. Those servants, both white and black, settled in with the Indians in North Carolina.

"The Indians were adoptive at that point," Manguson said. "If a person could behave, they were accepted."

Items found, or preserved, from those communities show a mixture of influences.

"There were blended communities by the end of the 17th century," he said.

The bowls of a pipe maker had a European design, with an African motif, but were handcrafted by Indians, Manguson explained.

But the only way to find out more about those blended communities is by studying the old roads, which are remnants of that era.

Often, those paths might look like "someone took a paintbrush to a cow's tail," because they meander about, he said.

"But 150 feet on either side of that old road bed holds a vast preponderance of history," he said. "Because everyone lived within spitting distance of the roads."

North Carolina is in danger of losing that link to its past because of urban sprawl and development. Some of the loss is accidental, Manguson said, and some has been intentional.

To find, and preserve, that forgotten chapter in the state's history, look for the shallow places in a stream, or a riverbed.

These, Manguson said, were the "chokepoints."

"And everyone went to the chokepoints because they were strategic points in any terrain," he explained. "The roads went from river crossing to river crossing and the towns then grew up."

Sometimes two to five roads would come together at these points.

"If you find these, you'll find evidence of past lives," he said. "We are urging everyone to find their old infrastructure. The roads are our heirlooms."