2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 43 (Oct. 21 – Oct. 27): Transportation

2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 43 (Oct. 21 – Oct. 27): Transportation

“first” joined Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on its “first” year in 2014… and what a whirlwind year that was… writing, editing and researching daily for 365 days! As much as I wanted to continue the following year, I found that I didn’t have the time to continue another year with that type of research… although I did continue blogging and writing stories at my own pace, which allowed me to write on other topics as well as family stories when ideas came my way… but I’ve often missed it. The first year were no specific weekly prompts like today… but I’m taking a different spin on them. There will be some posts on a specific ancestor, but most will be memories that spring from those prompts. Head over to 2014 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks to read about my ancestors in the first years challenge.

If you’re new to genealogy, make your “first” stop to Amy’s website for genealogy ideas or even join in on this 52 Week challenge… you learn by doing… not procrastinating! There is no right or wrong… anything you do is a start!


Wikipedia: Transport or transportation is the movement of humans, animals and goods from one location to another… Transport or transportation was quite different for our ancestors… what would they think in seeing all the changes today?

When my McKinley’s first rolled into Georgia from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina in the early 1800’s… they didn’t arrive by train, plane or car… they travelled, lugging all their possessions, by wagons… and most likely a covered wagon pulled by oxen for endurance. The covered wagons gave them protection from the sun and rain, keeping themselves and their belongings safe from the elements.


The heavily traveled Great Wagon Road, also called the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road, was the primary route for the early settlement of the Southern United States.

As a young girl growing up in the early 1960’s, for some strange reason, I remember being obsessed with covered wagons… and longing to ride in one. I often said that when I married, I wanted to ride on one for my honeymoon, not sure if I was thinking how much fun that would be? I never even knew that they actually did offer such honeymoon travel packages… but it never entered my mind again when I married many years later. I think by that time, I’d changed my mind on that type of excursion… who really wants to ride for a long period of time bouncing around with no shock absorbers!

When my third great grandparents, William and Sara (Beaty) McKinley, left Mecklenburg County, N.C. in 1830… traveling over 250 miles to reach their destination of Putnam County, Georgia. As mules or oxen walk about two miles an hour… averaging fifteen miles a day, it took them almost four weeks… and that depended on the weather, roads being passable, and if they ran into hostile Indians or others. In as they traveled near Cherokee lands, they most likely didn’t run into any problems.

colonial road map

Most likely my McKinley and Bryan ancestors traveled the Colonial Roads of the Fall Line Road, and the Upper Road into Georgia

To protect themselves, their food, and belongings, the fabric wagon cover was often soaked in linseed oil… making it waterproof. In as much as we pack our SUV when we travel to Georgia by car today, I can’t even imagine what they had to choose in going and leaving behind when they left their home in moving across states… often to a remote unpopulated area. When they left Mecklenburg County, N.C., it was much more civilized than where they were relocating to, in Putnam County, Georgia. At that time, Putnam was a new county… only newly incorporated from Baldwin in 1807; was that the reason for the relocation?

miles map

Putnam was considered one of the most promising counties in middle Georgia at that time. It offered vast forests covering its hills, with many streams flowing through… making for easy crops of cane growing. The Oconee bordered the county on one side, with several brooks and large creeks weaving in and out. The land soon filled with new inhabitants and one-room cabins.

The next mode of travel that opened the west to faster travel was the railroad and the steamboats; hauling heavy freight by covered wagon was quickly replaced by both. By the end of the Civil War in 1864, the heavy covered wagons were no longer even produced… they were no longer needed. Time was marching on… and changing. Between 1841 to 1869, more than 250,000 to 500,000 made their way west by covered wagons… often drawn by either mules, oxen or a combination of both. Mules were strong, quicker and often tolerated the heat better, but oxen were more good tempered animals and strong… and they could eat native grasses… so that made them cheaper than the mule as you didn’t have to carry their feed. My grandfather (Bryan) always used a mule for plowing, but again he wasn’t traveling cross country.

My fourth great grandfather, Tillman D. Gooch, left for California after riding the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma in 1838/39; the forced relocation of the Cherokee Indian tribe. As that was the last mention of him in Georgia, we possibly believe he might have continued the rest of the route to California by train. I can’t even imagine riding horseback from Georgia to Oklahoma, which by today’s travel is over 1000 miles…  and in those times, it was traveling over rough terrain… often having to even clear paths as they went.

My Bryan ancestors were already in the Blue Ridge Mountain area of Habersham and Lumpkin Counties as early as the late 1700’s. I can’t define their mode of travel into the area, but mostly likely they traveled into Georgia by covered wagon… but we have not defined from exactly where they relocated from… as of yet. I know they traveled by horse and wagon in the early years there, and continued to use wagons until way into the 1930’s and even into the 1940’s.

Great Aunt Myrt Poss (Bryan) told me stories of how her parents, William C. and Sara (Turner) packed their wagon, filled with straw and quilts when traveling to visit his father, William Madison Bryan (my great-great grandfather) who lived in Lumpkin County, Georgia. It was a week, or more, long ride to reach his mountain cabin from their then home in Greene County, Georgia. Aunt Myrt talked about how they camped out along the way… cooking and sleeping under the stars. While the kids probably didn’t mind the trip, or the camping out, I can’t imagine the adults found it as enjoyable, but it was all they knew, and the only way to reach their destination.

My granddaddy Edgar T. McKinley didn’t finally relinquish his wagon completely for electric travel by car until almost 1940… mama said cars were far and few inbetween. People continued to rely on their “tried and true” horse and buggy. While he did own both a Model T and Model A car… he still enjoyed taking his Sunday drive to visit family in the horse and wagon. My grandmother never learned to drive after breaking her arm when granddaddy showed off once in the Model T… she was always frightened to ride in one until much later… probably why he used the wagon on Sunday drives. His father, Lawson McKinley, had a wagon with the surrey fringe on top… mama remembers him coming back from town in it on Saturday afternoons.

In being a farmer, Granddaddy McKinley always owned a truck… he needed one to transport his pride and joy… his Walker Foxhounds, and haul those huge cotton bales. Fox hunting was a big pastime in Greene County… there was never a Friday night when he didn’t pack up his dogs for a night of hunting. He lived for fox hunting, and when he had to give it up… he grieved over having to give up his dogs! There wasn’t a farmer in Greene County, at that time, who didn’t go fox hunting. And if you went fox hunting, you went to the local filling station in town on Saturday afternoons to continue hashing out whose dog was in the lead on Friday night and whose dog treed the fox. I’m told that my grandfather had some of the best Walker dogs around… he was very proud of those dogs!

Transportation changed after the war… when many at that time weren’t only owning cars, they were buying “new” cars. Granddaddy bought his only new Ford car about 1954… complete with no radio, no air conditioning, and probably no heat. Imagine! Many things today which come standard in our cars… were not standard in the early cars. What would they think about the new cars and gadgets today… imagine, no more hanging your arm out the window as a turn signal. They’d call us certainly spoiled in transportation today with our planes, cars and trains. They never traveled by plane… trains was the fastest mode of travel for them at that time.


During my lifetime, I’ve seen many changes in transportation… even just in the cars I’ve  owned… from my first classic 1965 Mustang, and later a 1967 Mustang Fastback.  My father owned many classic Pontiac Catalinas… he was always a Pontiac man! When I was a child though, I only remember him having station wagons. I loved those style wagons, as I could plant myself way in the back “third seat”… far away from my parents. One of our station wagons had two seats that faced each other in the back and a couple of them had the third seats that actually faced the car behind you. How safe was that with no seat belt… and riding with the back window down… we all survived! Me standing by my classic “1965” mustang with a friend of my parents. I should have had my head examined when I traded it in for my 1967 Fastback Mustang… if only I knew what the future would hold for that car! Hope someone saved it!

Our station wagon often turned into a camper on the weekends when we went camping at Lake Sinclair… so much fun. When you folded the second and third seats down, you had a bed… just bring quilts and pillows. While Daddy enjoyed sleeping outside in a recliner, mama and I kept warm and mosquito-free inside the wagon! Today, the station wagon has turned into a SUV… just look around, almost everyone owns one… including me. We also even had our share of station wagons before they went out of style; nothing better to own when raising children, pets, and great when moving!

How have I forgotten space travel… and how far we’ve come in transportation to the moon and planets. I was always fascinated with the astronauts when their rockets went up… and especially when they landed back in the ocean. I have memories of being glued to the screen watching that capsule splashdown in the ocean with waiting Navy seals to rescue them. I even have a few posters and space information that I sent away for from the Kennedy Space Center… I was a frequent writer in asking for material. And today, they no longer even ride in that cramped capsule attached to a rocket… they have advanced to a huge plane-ship that explodes into space and now lands like an airplane on a runway… I know my grandfather would shake his head on that one!

How will transportation change in my grandchildren’s lifetime… already they have the self driving cars… which I will never trust! Heck, I can’t even ride shotgun with my husband and close my eyes. I am the second pair of eyes on the road… which today you need… to keep safe from those who think they must be on their cell phone while driving. Nothing infuriates me more when we travel… seeing them texting on their phones while drifting over in the next lane… often my lane! Yes, I’m the backseat driver… but I like to call myself the “navigator”. No more folded maps… trying to navigate through to find your course… just ask “Siri”… although a couple of times she’s taken us off course, but for the most part, having your phone plot your course is one of the best things!

Will we ever see the “Jetson” age of flying around in our cars? I sure hope not!


Continue reading 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks over HERE!

To read more Family Stories… click HERE.

© 2019, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

My blog is at: https://everyonehasafamilystorytotell.wordpress.com/
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1 Response to 2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 43 (Oct. 21 – Oct. 27): Transportation

  1. Very nicely written. While we often tell that our ancestors went from A to B, and opine how hard that must have been, we seldom get to this fine detail. No shock absorbers brings it home!

    Liked by 1 person

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