The Great Wagon Road

The Great Road, or the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road, ran from Pennsylvania all the way to Georgia, and was one of the most heavily traveled routes for settlers in America.  This route began as a migration route for bison and deer, and was later used by Native Americans for hunting and war making, before becoming the primary migration route for European immigrants.  For our purposes, we will deal with it's northern portion, which extended westerly from Philadelphia into Maryland, and then southwesterly across a portion of West Virginia into the great Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

The migration of the Zentmeyer family began on the docks in Philadelphia (1).  It is not known how long they lingered in Philadelphia, but in less than two years' time, they had traversed the Great Wagon Road to Lancaster, and had settled in northern Lancaster County (2), near a area known today as Penryn.  It was here that Bernhard and Salome raised their family, and it was here that they were buried, Salome in 1774 and Bernhard in 1784. 

Arguably, daughter Magdalena was the first to move west down the Great Road, when she married Johannes Lauman in 1769 in Cumberland Co. Pennsylvania.  Magdelena and Johannes moved further down the Great Road around 1800, to Middlebrook in Augusta Co., Virginia, but by that time they were following other members of the family into the Shenandoah. 

Around 1777,  Bernhard b.1740, Christopher, and Jacob moved out of present-day Penryn.  Jacob, the youngest, moved northeast into Cocalico Township near Ephrata (3) and became a farmer and blacksmith. He was buried in the Springville (Keller) Mennonite Cemetery in Ephrata in 1831.  Older brothers Bernhard b.1740 and Christopher followed the Great Wagon Road through York and Gettysburg into northern York County, (now Adams Co.) and together farmed about 425 acres in area known today as Arendtsville (4)

Christopher and his family were the next to migrate farther down the Great Wagon Road after he lost his farm in present-day Arendtsville at a Sheriff's Sale (foreclosure) in 1789, traveling over the Blue Ridge Summit of South Mountain into Washington Township, Franklin County (5).  Christopher's farm there was situated between present-day Penmar and Rouzerville. He was buried in a family cemetery on his farm in 1834.

The next movement of the family down the Great Wagon Road was that of the three sons of Bernhard b.1740, first Jacob and Johannes around 1790, followed by George a little later, into Shenandoah County, Virginia (6) where they were known as Santmyers or Sentmires.  (Spelling the surname with "S" had been an early alternative to "Z" as early as Lancaster Co., and today is roughly equivalent in numbers of individuals)  The area where Jacob settled is near present-day Front Royal, Warren Co.  A generation later, this portion of the Great Wagon Road was called The Valley Road, or The Valley Pike.

Johannes was granted a Treasury Land Warrant in 1783 for 183 acres in Montgomery County near present-day Floyd, Virginia (9) , although he did not immediately move there.  After marrying Barbara Windle in the Shenandoah, Johannes, now known as Centmeyer, was recorded as having his firstborn in Boutetourt County in 1792.  (Centmeyer was an alternative spelling also seen earlier in Germany)  He was recorded as buying 40 acres on Mudlick Creek near Big Lick (7) in 1797 as St.Moyer.  We have located this land, in a suburb of Roanoke called Cave Spring.  Around 1800 Johannes and his family moved to the area of present-day Floyd.  Although he was listed in the 1810 Census in Christiansburg (8), he was clearly well-ensconced in the Little River community which would later become Jacksonville in 1858 and then Floyd in 1896.  There he was known as Sint Muyer, Centmeyer, C.Meyer, and St.Mire, although his headstone reads Zentmeyer.

The next migration down the Road, albeit a catch-up, was that of Bernhard b.1740 into the Shenandoah.  We believe that Bernhard b.1740, after also losing his farm near present-day Arendtsville in a tax sale, moved into the Shenandoah to live with his son Jacob in the middle 1790s. He was known there as St. Moyer, and was buried in the family cemetery on a hilltop known locally as the Santmyers Cemetery sometime in the 1820s. 

At Big Lick, (7) the Great Wagon Road split.  The main portion headed south into the Carolinas and ultimately to Georgia, while the westerly branch was known as the Wilderness Road, a route pioneered by Daniel Boone through the Cumberland Gap of the Appalachians into central Kentucky.  From here the Wilderness Road headed northwest towards Louisville, with another branch heading northeast through Boonesborough, and then on into Ohio.

George Zentmire, youngest son of Bernhard b.1740, married Elizabeth Dunn in the spring of 1797 in Frederick County, Virginia as Sentmire.  They remained in Virginia until about 1805, at which time they migrated into Warren County, Ohio (10) where they were known as Zentmire.  It is not known at this writing which branch of the Wilderness Road they followed on this journey.  George and Elizabeth were buried in the Olive Branch Cemetery in Warren County in 1836 and 1854 respectively, with their headstones reading Zentmyer.