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The Great Wagon Road and the Wilderness Trail

The presence of Bandys in Accomack County, Virginia and nearby Talbot County, Maryland for over 130 years suggests that they could be ancestors of later generations. The locations where later Bandys are found suggest that they left the Accomack and Talbot County area heading westward and southward. Two routes may have been followed.

Richard and Avy are found in Cumberland County, Virginia in the 1750's consistent with a directly westward movement. Such a trek would have been across the Chesapeake and up the James River. In the early 1600's, Jamestown settlers followed this route. These earliest English settlers included John Smith who married Pocahontas.

Alternatively, early Bandys could have picked up the "Great Philadelphia Wagon Road" in Maryland northwest of Talbot County and followed the road southwestward. After leaving Philadelphia, the road crossed Maryland into Virginia. The Great Wagon Road followed an old Indian trail called the "Great Warriors' Path". Historian Carl Bridenbaugh wrote, "southbound traffic along the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road was numbered in tens of thousands; it was the most heavily traveled road in all America and must have had more vehicles jolting along its rough and tortuous way than all other main roads put together."[i] The Great Wagon Road was the key path to the development of inland America. Only an overgrown trail in the 1720's, the Great Wagon Road developed into a major road in the following decades. Each county maintained its segment paying farmers to haul in gravel after they harvested their crops in the fall. Enterprising pioneers operated ferries crossing major rivers charging travelers for passage. Where there were no ferries, travelers forded streams and rivers often having to wait days for the swollen waters to subside. Over time, inns were build providing travelers with a place to eat and sleep. The inns were spaced about a day's travel apart.[ii]

Upon reaching Big Lick, now called Roanoke, the wagon road split with the westward route known as the "Wilderness Road" and the southward route still referred to as the "Great Wagon Road". Richard (71, 14-1) apparently moved from Cumberland County, Virginia to the Big Lick area. Many later Bandys are found along the Great Wagon Road's way. Although, it is not clear that Bandys used the Great Wagon Road to get to the Big Lick area, it is very likely many used the road to move westward and southward from there.

The westward route passed through Tazewell County, Virginia and split again with one route passing through Cumberland Gap into Kentucky, and the other leading on to Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee. Cumberland Gap is the famed as the route explored by Daniel Boone. According to Tazewell County history, Thomas Bandy made his way there. As noted, the town Bandy bears the name.

Wagoners sang endlessly as they covered the miles. One song contained the words:

Tazewell County and Tazewell Town,

Lord have mercy and do look down.

Poor and rocky and hilly, too,

Lord have mercy, what will these poor people do.[iii]

Thomas' descendants live in Bandy, Virginia today. A town of 200 people, over 50 are named Bandy. Bandy's Trading Post is owned by the family. In this writer's 1995 visit, Marvin Bandy said, "Most folks here made their living by mining coal, cutting timber, and moonshining, but not as much anymore." This friendly group says they are all related in more than one way, and confess to having made a little moonshine. Marvin's sister has a family Bible that shows recent generations.

Still others almost surely made their way farther along the Wilderness Trail through Cumberland Gap to Kentucky. In 1794, Wiltshire Bandy served as a private in Price's Battalion, Kentucky Mounted Volunteers,[iv]and Wittshin Bandy was listed in the 1795 Kentucky census as living in Fayette County.[v] This is assumed to be 1815 Richard's son Wilcher (298, 17-3) (1772 - January 1851). Also, listed in that census living in Fayette County was a John.[vi] The last letter in his last name was unclear, and his identity is uncertain.

Tax records from 1800 list Thomas Bandy as living in Green County and Joseph in Jessamine County.[vii]Thomas is assumed to be the son of Thomas and the grandson of 1795 Richard. Joseph could be 1815 Richard's son Joseph (Wilson) (perhaps 166, 16-166)(1776 -after November 1857) or possibly a previously unidentified individual.

Reuben Bunday is listed in Kentucky in 1799 and he is listed there again as Reuben Bundy in 1801 along with James Bundy.[viii]James could possibly be either 1815 Richardsí son Jameson (409, 17-628) (September 16, 1788 - January 16, 1873) or Thomasí son James (159, 16-6) (December 27, 1786 - ? ). Perhaps Reuben (199, 16-387) (December 1, 1785 - January 20, 1861) is George's son. Previous information indicated, however, that they left Virginia at a later date. This suggests that they went to Kentucky earlier than previously believed. Perhaps they returned to Virginia. Reuben Bundy is listed in Pulaski County, Kentucky in 1810 along with George (p. 125). Reuben and George are both listed as between the ages of 26 and 44 suggesting that George is Reuben's brother rather than his father. A Reuben, in fact, is listed in the 1810 Virginia census. If it is the same Reuben, he is listed twice. In 1820, a George Bundy is listed in Cumberland County (p. 150). This George is listed as being over age 44. George and Reuben Bandy are both listed in Breckenridge County. The Cumberland County George could be 1795 Richard's son and the father of George and Reuben.

Hugh Bandy is listed in the Green County, Kentucky census for 1810 (p. 253). Hugh is listed as being age 45 or older with a wife the in the same age bracket. They have four sons and three daughters living with them. It is now assumed that this is a reference to Elisa (Elihu) Bandy (son of Thomas and grandson of Richard who) who is known to have lived there.

And others probably followed the Wilderness Trail into Tennessee. The earliest known listing of a Bandy in Tennessee is William Bandy, identity unknown, who is twice listed in County Court Minutes in 1793 and once listed in the Registers Book in 1800.[ix]Thomas (son of 1795 Richard) and four of his sons (Cara, Thomas, Jameson, and Horatio) along with five of 1815 Richard's sons (Joseph, Perrin, Richard, Solomon, and Jameson) also made their way to Tennessee. All are listed there in the Census of 1820 for Sumner, Wilson, and Smith Counties. An unidentified David is also listed living in Sumner County in 1820. This David is listed as being over 45. David last name listed as Bundy married Frances Martin on November 22, 1822 in Sumner County, Tennessee.[x] Perhaps the same David signed a petition, dated December 9, 1797, to build a road from Fincastle, Botetourt, County, Viriginia to Sweet Springs, Virginia.[xi] In 1836, David sold 40 acres of land in Wilson County, Tennessee identified has part of the land on which he formerly lived.[xii]David last name listed as Bundy purchased land from the heirs of Henry Bandy, deceased in 1837.[xiii] His having twice lived in the same area as Richardís relatives would strongly suggest that he is related to that family.

And still other Bandys seemed to take the Great Wagon Road south into North Carolina, South Carolina, and possibly Georgia. Avy's son George made his way to what is now Catawba County, North Carolina. The Wagon Road followed the west side of the Catawba River south past Charlotte, North Carolina to Chester, South Carolina and on to Augusta, Georgia. Bandy Township, Bandys High School, and Bandy Crossroads, all in Catawba County, are named after this group.


[i] Carl Bridensbaugh, Myths and Realities: Societies of The Colonial South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1952.

[ii]Robert Rouse, Jr., The Great Wagon Road from Philadelphia to the South. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1973.

[iii]Harriette Simpson Arnow, The Flowering of the Cumberland. New York: Macmillan, 1963, p. 394.

[iv]Virgil D. White, The Lost Soldiers: An Index to the Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers (1784-1811) Vol. 1, p. 12.

[v]The 1795 Census of Kentucky. TLC Genealogy: Miami Beach. 1991, p. 9.


[vii]Ronald Vern Jackson, Early American Series: Kentucky, 1709-1780, Vol. 1. Bountiful, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems, Inc. p. 23, and G. Glenn Cliff, Second Census of Kentucky 1800. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1982, p. 13.

[viii]James F. Sutherland, Early Kentucky Households, 1787-1811. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1986, p. 24.

[ix]Marjorie Hood Fischer, Tennesseans Before 1800: Davidson County. Galveston: Frontier Press, 1997, p. 11.

[x]Silas Emmett Lucas, Jr. and Ella Lee Sheffield, 35,000 Tennessee Marriage Records and Bonds, (1783-1870). Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1981.

[xi]Robert Douthat Stoner, Seedbed of the Republic: A Study of the Pioneers in the Upper (Southern) Valley of Virginia. 2 ed. Kingsport, Tennessee: Kingsport Press, Inc. 1962. This reference was pointed out by Jerry L. Bandy in a 1996 letter.

[xii]Thomas E. Partlow, Wilson County, Tennessee Deed Books N-Z 1829-1853. Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, Inc.:, 1984, p. 157.

[xiii]Ibid.p. 124.

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