The Indian Trading Path and colonial settlement development in the North Carolina Piedmont

by Dobbs, Gladys Rebecca, Ph.D., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2007, 171 pages; AAT 3262603

Abstract (Summary)

This is a work of historical geography examining the role of an Indian-origin transportation route in the development of the colonial settlement system that emerged in the North Carolina Piedmont during the mid 18 th century. This system has evolved in modern times into an important polycentric urban region, and the area's current inhabitants attribute this pattern to the Indian route, the Indian Trading Path. The relationship between the route and settlement development has not previously been tested, however. Previous work in settlement development geography has in fact treated the North American colonial landscape as a blank slate and failed to take account of landscape features left by an area's earlier occupants.

This work comprised a process of transforming archival data---several thousand records from the earliest documented European settlement of the area---to geographic information in a GIS (geographic information system) and then to geographic knowledge through analysis of spatial and temporal pattern in the GIS. A two-scale model was used to explain the process by which the Indian Trading Path could affect emerging settlement patterns at the level of both town and regional system. While the model and results are geographically specific and not meant to apply to backcountry settlement in a general sense, the overall approach used can profitably be applied to other locations, both in terms of technical methodology and in terms of realistically assessing the role of indigenous landscape features in colonial outcomes.

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