My ancestor, William Preston, resided Rumney, Grafton County, New Hampshire in 1808. By about 1816, he had removed to and settled at Fort Winchester in the area of now Defiance, Defiance County, Ohio.

What are the most likely migration routes he would have taken if he had gone north, through Canada? What if he had come across New York, to Lake Ontario? Was there any substantial migration route further south, say through Pennsylvania?

  • 1
    This feels more like a history question then a genealogy question.
    – user47
    Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 2:23
  • 3
    Understanding the historical context is a big part of doing genealogical research, as it can inform where you look for information. So the question is spot-on. Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 3:39
  • You are both right; it is one of the reasons I posted the question. We are fortunate to have some high rep members of History.SE who committed to Genealogy & Family History. Perhaps questions like this will provide the opportunity to discover how the two site work together.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 3:50
  • again! I thought the whole reason our two grandfathers ended up running a trading post at the Fort was due to their service days during the 1812 War? So how did the troops get there? And did they ever go home & then return after the War??
    – user1456
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 20:10
  • Hi, Pat -- welcome to G&FH.SE. The philosophy here is to ask specific questions and give specific answers which others can learn from later on. Since your remarks don't provide useful information about migration routes, I've asked that this answer be converted to a comment. If you'd like to ask about troop movements during the War of 1812, please post it as a separate question, which can be linked back to this one as a related question.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 20:21

3 Answers 3


I currently live in New Hampshire and have often driven by car to Michigan for family matters so have seen the 'lay of the land'.

Based on the date range given and the fact that travel on Lake Erie was not wise to do from 1812 to 1814 - due to a war I tend to think they traveled by land. The US highway system is built upon the routes traveled by early settlers which often followed Indian trails.

Travel from Rumney to Rutland, VT then south to Albany was a common route before 1800. Then following the New York Thruway west to Buffalo is a level travel route with settlements in existance at the time. That route is similar to the one the Erie Canal follows.

An alternate would be similar to Interstate 88 from Albany across the southern part of NY ending up near Erie, PA. Then travel along Lake Erie until arriving at present day Toledo, OH.

I have driven both routes and know the roads follow level land with few passes to be traveled over. I also see advertised atlases of showing the early 'highways' which could prove useful. I bought one for Michigan which helped confirm the likely migration route from Jackson County, Michigan to Kent County, Michigan in the 1840's.

While it is possible they traveled by boat on Lake Erie they would have had to find an early sailing ship to hire. Or they could build their own. That would require some expertise (ship building and seamanship) that would not be a skill commonly found in Rumney.

  • +1 This answer provides insight and historical context. I would image that @Dr.Bill(WilliamL.)Smith will comment also.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 22:27

I'll suggest a 4th alternative, mentioned by Ezri, that he traveled down the Ohio River to Cincinnati and then upriver to the Piqua area. [P.S. He is my ancestor, as well - GeneJ and I are cousins, for full disclosure; and, we'd really like to know how and why he made this trip!] Research has suggested he may have been involved with local militia in the Piqua area before his arrival at Fort Winchester, but the details are very scanty. I add the alternative, hoping someone will recognize it as viable for some reason.


This is a very intriguing question, I think this would be the basis for a lengthy book. I have about 5 justified answers that have solid ground. The first of these answers would be:

"along a waterway," this answer is the simple answer, towns and cities were built along waterways.

However, this answer would not justify the question.

  • By Boat or Flat skid
  • By Horse and Carriage.
  • By Stagecoach
  • By Boat
  • By Railroad

Early experimental railroads

1720: A railroad is reportedly used in the construction of the French fortress at Louisburg, Nova Scotia.[1] 1764: Between 1762 and 1764 a gravity railroad (Montresor's Tramway) is built by British military engineers at the Niagara Portage in Lewiston, New York. 1795: A wooden railway on Beacon Hill in Boston carries excavations down the hill to clear the land for the State House. 1799: Boston developers begin to reduce the height of Mount Vernon, prior to building streets and homes. Silas Whitney constructs a gravity railroad to move excavated material down the hill to fill marshy areas to create new land from the Back Bay.[2] 1809: In September an experimental railroad is built next to a Philadelphia tavern by a millwright named Somerville. The track, built for Thomas Leiper, has a grade of 1-1/2 inch to the yard (1 : 24 or about 4%) over its total length of 60 yards (54.9 m) and proves satisfactory when tested with a loaded car.[3]

The incline section of the Granite Railway, photograph taken in 1934. 1810: The Leiper Railroad, designed and built by merchant Thomas Leiper, connecting Crum Creek to Ridley Creek, Pennsylvania opens. It is used until 1829 when it is replaced by the Leiper Canal, but replaces the canal again in 1852. This became the Crum Creek Branch of the Baltimore and Philadelphia Railroad (part of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad) in 1887. This is the first railroad meant to be permanent, and the first to evolve into a common carrier after an intervening closure. See the 1826 Granite Railway (pictured) for comparison. 1811: George Magers designs and builds a 1-mile (1.6 km) wooden gravity railroad between a gunpowder mill and its powder storage bunker at Falling's Creek, Virginia.[4] 1815: New Jersey grants a charter on February 6, 1815 for a company to "erect a rail-road from the river Delaware near Trenton, to the river Raritan, at or near New Brunswick", as proposed by John Stevens (1749-1838). This is the New Jersey Railroad Company and is the first railroad chartered in the United States, however it is never built due to an inability to attract financial investors. 1816: A railroad is reportedly used at Kiskiminetas Creek, Pennsylvania.[5] 1818: An iron-smelting furnace at Bear Creek, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania reportedly has a wooden railroad in operation.

Dunbar, Seymour. A History of Travel in America. Dunbar. (p. 880.)

First Railway (Tramway) Built in America, Lewiston, NY, 1764 American Railroads; Their Growth and Development by Association of American Railroads (Washington DC, 1956) Library of Congress - History of Railroads and Maps Railroad History Database [10] National Railway Historical Society (NRHS): Historical Almanac of American Railroads - US, Canada, Mexico William D. Middleton, Where is America's oldest railroad tunnel?, Trains May 2002 [edit]Specific railroads First Permanent Railroad In The U. S. And Its Connection To The University Of Pennsylvania (Leiper Railroad) The First Railroad in America 1826-1926: A History of the Origin and Development of the Granite Railway at Quincy, Massachusetts

I'm going with all of them, I don't see why they wouldn't have used any necessary means of travel. The railways were built along these waterways to replenish their boilers. This makes a strong case as to migratory patterns in general.

  • Cousin Bill commented also. He has done such great work on this.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 22:53

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