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Historic Valley trail

Iroquois and settlers in wagons went from N.Y. along Susquehanna River to Sunbury and points south.

Standing along state Route 4010 near Shickshinny, this state historical marker commemorates a part of the Great Warriors Path, which centuries ago connected the Iroquois nation in New York to both rival and friendly tribes as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. The path was one of the most traveled native trails in eastern America.

Long before European settlers came to the Wyoming Valley, members of the six Iroquois nations, both peaceful and warring, traveled through the valley on one of the longest and most popular native trails in the eastern half of the continent, the Great Warriors Path.

Branching off at both ends to connect settlements in the New England region to those as far south as the Gulf of Mexico, the main trail stretched from present-day Athens, N.Y., in Iroquois country to present-day Sunbury, according to Paul A. W. Wallace, a local college professor.

The trail ran along the Susquehanna River through the towns of Tunkhannock, Pittston, what is now Plymouth, Shickshinny and Berwick before splitting at Sunbury into trails that ran to Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Maryland, Virginia and points farther south and west.

Even as European settlement pushed native territory west during the 18th century, the Iroquois demanded access to trails that led south so the nations could continue their generations-old hostilities with the Catawbas and Cherokees in the Carolinas, according to the Web site explorepahistory. com.

The site tracks the connections among Pennsylvania’s approximately 2,200 state historical markers.

Despite its name, the trail was not used solely for warfare. “It was the designated road for Iroquois ambassadors traveling south to ‘brighten the chain of friendship,’” with allies in Philadelphia and Lancaster, Wallace wrote in his history book, “Indian Paths of Pennsylvania.”

By the middle of the century, the trail became more heavily used by wagon-riding settlers, who aptly renamed it “The Great Wagon Road.”

Three historical markers throughout northern Pennsylvania commemorate the trail’s location. The one on state Route 4010 in Shickshinny also marks the part of the trail Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf took to meet Madame Catherine Montour, a white woman who lived among the natives.

Zinzendorf, a highly religious German aristocrat who founded Bethlehem and whose daughter formed the schools that became Moravian College, sought Montour’s connections to help him proselytize her people.

The marker and more than 300 acres of land around it are conserved by the North Branch Land Trust.

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