Route From North Carolina To Southern Indiana

Buffalo Traces and Paths

Early settlers moved from the East to develop lands in Alabama, Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana.  Early Bobbitt migrants used buffalo traces to move from North Carolina to North Alabama to Tennessee to Indiana. 

John P. Bobbitt 1789 - 1866, son of Lewis Bobbitt, Jr., moved from North Carolina to Orange County, Indiana. He and his wife had children in Shelby County, Alabama and Rutherford County, Tennessee.  The remainder of his children were born in Orange County, Indiana.

As the Northwest Territory was opened to settlement in the early 1800's, settlers moved into southern Indiana via two major routes. Those from North Carolina moved westward into Tennessee, northward into Kentucky, then crossed the Ohio River into Indiana. One of the common places for crossing was at the Falls of the Ohio near Louisville, KY. The territory that was to become the state of Indiana was covered with hardwood forests and contained several areas of swamp land. Settlers found that they were not the first to use that crossing. For many years, buffalo had migrated seasonally from central Illinois to Kentucky and had worn a wide path through the forests. Two wagons could travel abreast over much of the trail. This became known as the Old Buffalo Trace. It is estimated that 2/3 of the early settlers of southern Indiana used this path. US Highway 150 from Louisville to Vincennes, IN generally follows the same route as that early buffalo trail. As settlers progressed westward, many stayed at the small settlements that were established along the trail. The area of Washington, Orange, Martin and Lawrence counties are full of the footprints of our early Indiana ancestors. Those coming from the east, used the Ohio River as their highway and entered Indiana from several landing points along the river. Again, Louisville was a major entry point, but many also landed at Fredonia and moved northward along the Blue River Trace to where it intercepted the Old Buffalo Trace.

The above information was extracted from the book "Who's Your Hoosier Ancestor? - Genealogy for Beginners by Mona Robinson, 1992, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis

Information from


Indiana Historic Pathways

Indiana’s Historic Pathways passes through 16 counties. It comprises U.S. 50 from Vincennes to Lawrenceburg and U.S. 150, which overlaps U.S. 50 from Vincennes to Shoals and extends southeastward to the Falls of the Ohio. Portions of the old Buffalo Trace can be found on or south of federal highways connecting Vincennes and Clarksville.

Indiana’s Historic Pathways recognizes efforts stretching from antiquity to the present that sought to facilitate transportation between the lower Ohio Valley and the Mississippi Valley. The roads—beginning with the hoofs of bison and extending through pioneer explorers to stagecoach and then railroad, automobile and truck—stimulated the growth of towns and villages and the economies of the interior of southern Indiana. They also enhanced the growth and development of Indiana to the north, as most of the early settlers arrived first in southern Indiana and then moved northward. Indiana's Historic Pathways thus builds on the themes of westward expansion, the evolution of modes of transport, and the development of Indiana and the Midwest.  

The Buffalo Trace represents both Indiana's connection to prehistoric past and the story of its indigenous populations.  It was developed as a travel route for the massive herds of the now extinct Eastern American Bison that migrated from the prairies of Illinois and Wisconsin to the salt licks of Kentucky.  This trace would eventually attract American Indians, who would use the herds as a major source of food.  They would also use the bisons’ already worn path to journey across southern Indiana to reach the Falls of the Ohio at present day Clarksville/New Albany/Louisville.  When the first Europeans entered the area, they used the Trace as a natural path to travel between the Falls and the town of Vincennes.  As settlement increased, the trace would become the major highway over which settlers and military forces traveled between the two points.  Sections of this historic path remain visible from public roads.

In the years following the creation of the Indiana Territory, there arose a need for a better-constructed road between the Falls of the Ohio and the territorial capital at Vincennes.  In the early 1800's a road was constructed just slightly north of the old trace.  This Byway became the main stagecoach and wagon road between the two points.  The highway would be constantly improved as the population grew, eventually becoming what is today U.S. Highway 150.

With the arrival of the railroads in the 1850's, and the continual growth of southern and central Indiana, the need arose for another east-west transportation corridor across the region.  Its primary purpose was to reduce the travel time between the growing cities of Cincinnati and St. Louis.  In the 1920s and 1930s U. S. 50 was constructed to connect the Atlantic and Pacific coasts across the nation’s midsection.  In Indiana this road runs from Lawrenceburg to Vincennes, generally paralleling the roadbed of the railroad.  The highway would serve as the major east-west connector in southern Indiana until the completion of Interstate 64.

The development of these trails from pre-history to the present is the story of Indiana and the nation.



Buffalo Traces In Kentucky

Cumberland Trace - Scroll Down To See Wilderness Road

Natchez Trace


Other Sources Of Information