Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James P Whittenburg


In the early 1730s, small groups of settlers started moving into the Valley of Virginia, beginning the movement into the southern backcountry. By the late 1740s Scots-Irish, English, and German settlers pressed into North Carolina's western Piedmont, and the small trickle of migrants quickly turned into a flood which persisted for the next three decades. This is a study of mid-eighteenth-century migration to the backcountry South.;The purpose of this study is to describe the process of eighteenth-century southern backcountry migration and to determine migrants' underlying motivations and considerations as they went about this process. It explores the experiences of settlers who migrated to the Valley of Virginia and North Carolina's western Piedmont from the late 1740s through the early 1770s.;To describe the process of migration, including means of transportation, routes of travel, and the practices of provisioning and seeking accommodations, this study relies on travel accounts written by migrants, as well as the journals of merchants, missionaries, and itinerant ministers. All of these travelers went through approximately the same process of visiting ordinaries, seeking meals, and encountering others along the way. For migrant families, the journey required considerable planning. Families with ample financial resources often sent someone ahead to investigate opportunities to acquire land and determine a safe, convenient route. Along the way, travelers encountered numerous public houses, but they also relied on roadside residents who opened up their private homes, offering shelter and food.;For many migrants, the opportunity to acquire more land was a primary motive for moving. An analysis of land records from several source areas indicates several patterns involving the migrants. Landowners and non-landowners alike moved to the North Carolina backcountry from southeastern Pennsylvania, Southside Virginia, and the Valley of Virginia. Migrants tended to settle in areas where there were other people from similar backgrounds, and in some cases, from the same former neighborhoods. Settling near relatives and associates provided migrants a sense of stability and familiarity as they attempted to recast their lives in the backcountry South.



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