Last Ride on the Underground Railroad

October 16, 2014
Florence Stockage, from the Virginia Historical Society

Florence Stockage, from the Virginia Historical Society

As early as 1786 George Washington complained that one of his runaway slaves had been assisted to freedom by a “society of Quakers, formed for such purposes.” Estimates of the number of fugitive slaves who escaped the South along the Underground Railroad network from 1800 to 1860 range from several hundred to two thousand annually.

Despite Levi Coffin’s claim in his autobiography that he was the “President” of what before the age of steam was just the “Underground Road,” the escaped slave assistance network was a classic example of leaderless resistance. Many individuals, both white and black, under no central command, cooperated house to house and neighborhood by neighborhood to pass fugitives along points of safety.

Over his 40-year career, Levi Coffin and his community of Nantucket Quaker emigres in New Garden, Guilford County, NC, smuggled more than 3,000 runaways “contrabands” along the Kanawah Trail, across the Blue Ridge Mountains and through Virginia and Ohio to the Quaker settlement at Richmond, Indiana.

The advent of war in 1861 slowed but did not stop the network’s activities. It did, however, make one important alteration: white federal soldiers, escapees from prisoners of war camps, could also follow the well-worn trail to freedom. Perhaps the last documented escape took place in late 1864.

Prisoners in the Stockade at Florence SC

Prisoners in the Stockade at Florence SC

With the fall of Atlanta and the approach of Sherman’s forces in September, 1864, Confederate forces evacuated the Andersonville prison camp by rail. Eight thousand federal prisoners spent three days in stock cars without food or water before arriving at Florence, South Carolina, a sleepy railroad crossing on the Pee Dee River 110 miles west of Charleston and 107 miles southwest of Wilmington.

The Florence National Cemetery

The Florence National Cemetery

Their arrival on September 15th was a surprise to the local guard detail, a single Reserve company of men over 45 and boys under 18. Without food, water, shelter or even a stockade ready, the prisoners themselves were set to work alongside slaves to build their own new prison.

William S. Burson, a 31-year-old native of Salinville, Ohio, saw a chance to escape when prisoners began tearing down rail fences and ranging farther and farther from the camp. Gaining a guard’s permission to “gather firewood,” he triggered a “Race to Liberty” that broke the guard line as 400 prisoners stampeded into the woods and swamps along the river.

A swamp around Florence, SC

A swamp around Florence, SC

Burson, a private of Company A of the 32nd Ohio Infantry, had been captured July 22nd in the fighting around Atlanta. With two other 29-year-old escapees, Benjamin F. Porter, of the 10th Ohio Cavalry and John Henson, of the 31st Illinois Infantry, Burson built a raft and crossed to the far side of the Pee Dee with no idea of where to go. They were found hiding in a cornfield by a Negro overseer named Will, who fed them and “told us to stay in the woods till night, when he would come back… and put us on the road that would carry us straight to North Carolina; and said we need not be afraid of the darkies, as they were all friends to us. And so we found them to be.”

POWs living in a "shebang" at Florence

POWs living in a “shebang” at Florence

For a week the trio struggled through central South Carolina, chased by bloodhounds, enduring torrential rain without blankets or shelter and suffering diarrhea from eating raw corn. Stumbling blindly through forest and field in moonless, rainy nights, they were frequently aided by negroes who provided them with matches, sweet potatoes, corn bread, chicken and bacon, and risked severe punishment for trading them civilian clothing for their federal uniform jackets.

A long leaf pine savannah

A long leaf pine savannah

By Sept 28th the group made across the state border to the turpentine forests of the North Carolina Sandhills. It was still raining, and Burson, nursing a broken rib and already weakened by two months at Andersonville, was in the grip of a fever and bronchitis so severe that he could barely whisper.

Collecting Rosin in the turpentine forest

Collecting Rosin in the turpentine forest

Three days later, friendly local negroes guided them to a trustworthy member of the Home Guard, who advised them against trying to join the Union forces at New Bern, NC. Instead he directed them to follow the Plank Road northwest to “a large settlement of Quakers in Randolph County,” where “a secret organization” of Union men, would help them through to Tennessee.

This man, though dressed in rebel garb, was Union at heart, and I found that the Jeff Davis was government was losing more by such soldiers than it was gaining.”

Joseph Newlin 1797-1865

Joseph Newlin 1797-1865

When they reached the Randolph County settlements in they were taken under the wing of 67-year-old Joseph Newlin, a well-known Quaker who had almost certainly partnered with the Coffins to help fugitives along the Underground Road. For at least a week the three prison escapees would stay in the county, hidden among various local supporters.

Randolph County, a 30-mile square in the heart of North Carolina, had been gripped by internal guerilla warfare during the Revolutionary War, and old grudges were revived to fuel revenge taken 80 years later. A correspondent in August 1864 wrote that “we are getting right in to war at home, neaighbour against neaighbour.”

Rural Randolph was teeming with “outliers” (draft dodgers) and “recusant conscripts” (deserters) hiding in the woods, ‘caves’, and hills. Today’s site of the state Zoo, Purgatory Mountain, took on that name during the war due to its surrounding haze of concealed campfire smoke. Outlawed and hunted by sheriff, home guard and regular army, these roving bands of young men were a constant source of civil strife. Civilian government came close to collapse, unable to enforce the law or protect local citizens. Troops from Raleigh were frequently called in to round up deserters, punish local collaborators, and guard the factories and polling places.

A civil war deserter

A civil war deserter

Randolph had also been at the heart of anti-slavery activism. The home of more Friends meetings than any other county in the state, it had been the headquarters of the Manumission Society. Daniel Worth, an anti-slavery missionary, had been tried there in 1859 for distributing “incendiary literature.” Residents of the county had voted against secession in 1861 by a ratio of 57 pro-Union voters to every single Confederate. The editor of the Fayetteville Observer explained the vote by saying that the people of Randolph “are attached to the Union, and they felt that the Union was in danger.”

Despite these sentiments, when North Carolina reacted to Lincoln’s call for troops by seceding, Randolph County’s governing elite enthusiastically responded. In 1861 eight companies of troops were raised by the sons of the wealthy farmers and lawyers. At least some county residents also joined the opposing forces at the same time. Howell Gilliam Trogdon, a native of Franklinsville, joined 8th Missouri Zouave regiment and led the “forlorn hope” attack on the Stockade Redan at Grant’s siege of Vicksburg in 1863. Trogdon became the first North Carolinian to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor- gaining the Union’s highest military award for fighting his southern brethren.

In 1862 the draft forced more county residents to serve the Confederacy, but even then they couldn’t be made to stay. The desertion rate for the 8 Randolph companies was 22.8 percent, as contrasted with 12.2 percent for North Carolina as a whole. In October 1864 alone, Confederate officials reported 150 deserters in the county.

A prime example of a local deserter was a great-grandfather of Randolph County’s best-known modern resident, Richard Petty. William F. Toomes, a 26-year-old blacksmith, initially avoided Confederate service as a vital employee of a Deep River cotton mill. Drafted into the 58th NC Infantry in December 1863, he was sent to the Georgia-Tennessee front. Within two weeks Toomes had deserted his Confederate regiment and joined the U.S. Army, serving with the 10th Tennessee Cavalry through the end of the war.

The war would prove devastating to the county’s political structure, wiping out most of the next generation of the antebellum power brokers. This first became evident in the election of 1864, held just 6 weeks before Burson arrived in the county, when Peace Party candidates had swept the local vote. Referring to the unsuccessful candidate for governor, a correspondent wrote that “every old Bill Holdenite in the county is elected, and old Bill beat Vance in Randolph!”

William Burson, recovering from his illnesses, was housed near Franklinsville with “a strong friend of the Union, and of course a bitter enemy of the so-called Confederacy.” His host grew to trust Burson, and initiated him into the lodge of the “Secret Order” modeled on the Masons, “the mysterious order H.O.A., which organization was doing almost as much injury to the rebel cause as an invading army.” The HOA, or “Red String,” referring to the Biblical cord of Rahab which allowed Joshua to infiltrate the city of Jericho, had been a major issue in the state elections held in August. The “President” of the order told Burson he had been in the southern army in Virginia, but had “turned his steps homeward, and at once opened a station on the Underground Railroad.”

Franklinsville, like the rest of Randolph County, had been split by the war. One of the state’s premier cotton mill villages, and the largest urban community in the county, its first factory had been founded in 1838 by Levi Coffin’s cousin Elisha, who sold stock in the company to Quakers and anti-slavery activists. The town had been named after Jesse Franklin, an obscure governor and congressman venerated by abolitionists for voting to keep slavery out of the Northwest Territory. In 1850 a Wesleyan, or “Abolition Methodist” meeting house had been established there by missionaries from Indiana.

In the 1850s slaveowners took control of the factory in a hostile takeover, and with the advent of war production was almost entirely diverted into weaving and sewing undergarments for the military. The populace remained pro-Union, however. As early as June,1861, pro-government citizens had warned that Franklinsville had “Abolitionist and Lincolnite among us who defy the home guards”.

Franklinville was one of a number of communities, said an irate Confederate in 1863, “that are thoroughly abolitionized… Those people… read the New York Tribune before the war [Horace Greeley’s antislavery newspaper]…. They wanted a Lincoln electoral ticket- & because they could not get it, many of them refused to vote at all. Go into their houses now & you will find the Tribune and other abolition Journals pasted as wallpaper in their rooms.”

The “President” of the HOA around Franklinville was probably Reuben F. Trogdon, a cooper and post-war Republican sheriff of the county. Burson noted that the Trogdon family was “widely known as being very hostile to the cause of Jeff Davis… so closely watched by the rebels that they… did not dare sleep in their houses at nights. I found among them men who had not slept in their houses for two years, and some who had not eaten in their houses for six months. They were compelled to camp out in the woods, in order to hide from the rebel soldiers who would frequently make raids on the Union men, and if caught… they would, in almost every case, murder them outright.”

The Blue Ridge from Wilkes County, NC

The Blue Ridge from Wilkes County, NC

Burson’s HOA contacts helped him map out a route to join the Union army in Tennessee that took them through all of the pro-Union “Quaker Belt” counties of North Carolina: Guilford, Stokes, Yadkin, Wilkes, Watauga, and Ashe, where HOA contacts could guide them along the way.

Ashe County, NC

Ashe County, NC

In Ashe County they lost their way and Henson and Porter were recaptured and sent back to the Confederate prison at Salisbury. Burson managed to escape on foot, only to be intercepted by more Home Guards while trying to cross the New River. He was taken to the town of Boone, where he escaped with the aid of another HOA member. From Blowing Rock, NC, suffering more trials and tribulations, he made it through Cumberland and Unicoi counties, TN, to the Union lines at Bull’s Gap, in Hawkins County.

Election Day

Burson had walked more than 400 miles in 55 days since escaping from Florence. His first act upon reaching Union lines on November 8th was to vote. It was Election Day, and the Underground Railroad had delivered a vote for Abraham Lincoln from the Unionists of Randolph County, NC.

Boys in Blue

On the Waterfront

October 3, 2014

 Worthville 9011lowres

A hundred and more years ago, Randolph County’s mill villages were intimately attuned to the waters of Deep River. A good strong flow meant regular work as the mill’s water wheel or turbine turned the lineshafts and pulleys that powered the machinery. A drought meant the mill must stop until there was enough water to get it going again- an enforced vacation that was not always welcome. Floods on the other hand could push the wheels too hard, damaging the delicate machinery and again forcing the mill to stop for repairs.

Worthville Cov Br washed away 2879lowres

The river and its mill ponds also provided transportation links in times when roads were primitive and poorly maintained. A powered flatboat regularly ran between the mills at Central Falls and Worthville, carrying raw cotton and finished goods. A passenger boat similarly once ran between Franklinville and Ramseuri. Even in leisure time, mill village residents looked toward the water. Picnics and community gatherings were held in mill-owned parks along the river, and at least in Franklinville and Worthville, organized paddle recreation in boats of various descriptions was common.

Worthville Covered Bridge looking south toward factory

Worthville Covered Bridge looking south toward factory

In a 1976 interview, 88-year –old Randleman resident Mrs. N.B. (Sophronia H.) Pickett told the Randolph Guide that “on Saturdays and Sundays the flatboats were used for recreational purposes, and she was sometimes a passenger on this ferry to Central Falls to attend ball games or other social events… In 1903, while the Worths were operating the Worthville mill, a beautiful park was created… for the pleasure of the residents, Mrs. Picket recalls. ‘The park, now long gone, was a favorite meeting place of the young people and a source of great enjoyment. Gravelled walks were shaded by age-old trees. There were swings, benches and a beautiful boat landing where one could get a canoe for a ride up or down the shady river.’” ii

Worthville Boat House, ca. 1912

Worthville Boat House, ca. 1912

Contemporary accounts note the care the Worths gave to the mill pond. “A new coat of paint has been put on the boats belonging to the park…” said the Worthville correspondent in March 1908.iii “The Worth Manufacturing Company are spending lots of money preparing for a picnic and boat races July 3rd,” he wrote in June 1909.iv Randleman also may have had such a facility, but the only reference is to its destruction. “The floods of last week are perhaps without parallel in all the history of this section…” says the courier in March 1912. “At Randleman… a small boat house and boat were carried off.”v

From several historic photographs of Randolph County boaters, I’ve identified three separate types of simple, flat-bottomed boat designs, well suited to the quiet waters of Piedmont rivers, ponds and lakes. All three can be seen in the following picture of the Worthville covered bridge, probably dating to circa-1900.

Worthville Dory

In the boat to the left a man is rowing a group of four in a skiff, a flat-bottomed boat with a pointed bow and square stern. This is a particularly large skiff, probably at least 16 feet in length. Two women in hats share the stern bench, with the rower in the middle and another man in the bow, facing aft. Given the large size of the boat, it was probably not a local product.

Man in Dory Wville

To their right is a man in a bowler hat rowing what looks something like a canoe, but on close inspection is probably a dory, given how the rower is using oars in an oarlock, not a paddle.. The boat is tapered at both ends, which rise from the lower middle where the oarlocks are positioned. The rower is facing the stern, which appears to be slightly square, while the bow is pointed. This is the case with a dory, a lightweight, shallow-draft boat from 16 to 23 feet long.

The dory is a simple design with high, raked sides, a flat bottom and sharp bows, a hull shape defined by the natural curve of sawn, overlapping planks. Dories are one of the oldest traditional forms of fishing boats used in both coastal waters and in the open sea, known to be both seaworthy and easy to row. This one is a long way from the ocean, but is just as suited to the calm waters of the Worthville mill pond. Other pictures of the Worthville boathouse show multiple dories, which were probably purchased elsewhere by the mill when the park was created. They were most likely professional products.

Scow beached in background

Scow beached in background

Worthville Scow with oars

On the extreme right, pulled up on the shore near the end of the bridge, almost obscured in the shadows and cropped out of two other versions of this picture I have seen, is yet another style of boat. Undoubtedly a local homemade product, it is one of the simplest of all boats, known as a scow. Made of entirely of standard size straight planks, nailed or screwed together, the scow was as easy to build at home as a wooden box.

scow_fig

The most common size was 3 feet wide and 12 to 13 feet long, with a 5-foot flat bottom amidships and the bow and stern tapering (“rising”) to square end pieces only 4 inches high. Most scows were entirely symmetrical, with no clearly defined bow or stern. Scows were utilitarian work boats, designed for hauling the maximum amount of cargo, passengers or fish. Most early ferries were built using the scow design.

Fishing from a scow

Fishing from a scow

Punt or Scow, Cold Spring NY

Punt or Scow, Cold Spring NY

Very similar in design was another type of quiet-water, flat-bottomed boat, the punt. Known today almost entirely from pictures of Cambridge and Oxford students languorously punting along the Cam and Cherwell, punts were originally workboats used for fishing and hunting on shallow ponds and lakes. Instead of being propelled by rowing, punts are normally dragged along by the punter using a 16-foot-long pole pushed against the river bottom.

Punting

Punting

A scow and a punt are visually almost identical, with a punt measuring several feet longer than a scow, and sometimes more narrow. Recreational punting at British universities became popular in the 1870s, but punts were commonly used in the United States for duck hunting on shallow coastal sounds before gasoline engines were cheaply available.

BoatCFranklinville mill pond

The final style of boat used in 19th century Randolph County appears in two photographs in my collection from Franklinville. I believe it to be another skiff, much smaller than the one in the Worthville photo, and home-made product that required more complicated construction techniques than the dory or scow. The first photo shows the boat drawn up on the shore of one of the 3 Franklinville mill ponds. The Upper Mill, the Lower Mill, and the Ironworks all had separate impoundments, but this one is so narrow that it is most likely the Ironworks pond on Bush Creek, also known as “York’s Pond.”

Fville scan0011

This small skiff is very sharply pointed toward the bow, and probably could only safely hold two people. The homemade nature of this boat is evident from the second photograph, which clearly shows the rough-cut lumber. The sides are single 1-inch-thick planks at least 12 inches in width; a passenger seat braces the nose, and rudimentary “knees” or side braces stiffen the vertical plank sides. The bottom deck is made of six planks of varying widths, tied together by a batten running the width of the deck near the bow. The deck was probably built first, with the sides bent and nailed using the shape of the deck as a form or pattern.

Construction of a Bayou Skiff

Construction of a Bayou Skiff

The hydrodynamic V-shape of the Franklinville skiff may have made it easier to row than a scow, and clearly illustrates the evolution of boat-building from the square bow of the scow to the sharp prow of the dory. All of these 19th-century forms have roots in the Anglo-American watercraft traditions.

dugout NC White

There undoubtedly were  examples in Randolph County of native watercraft traditions such as the canoe and kayak, but no photographs of them are known. In eastern North Carolina, some examples of native dug-out canoes have been recovered by archeologists, but so far, nothing like that has been found in Randolph County.

i “C.F. Moon operated a gasoline boat between this place and Ramseur last week for the convenience of the Piedmont Association held at Ramseur. “Franklinville News,” The Courier, 20 Aug. 1908.

ii The Randolph Guide, 21 July 1976, page E-12.

iii The Courier, 26 March 1908.

iv The Courier, 3 June 1909.

v The Courier, 21 March 1912.

Denver Allred on Worthville

August 31, 2014

Denver Allred

Denver Allred, at home in Worthville, from the Courier Tribune, September 3, 1984.

One of the reasons I started this blog is that, having collected information on Randolph County history for more than 40 years now, I find that I’ve reached the point where I can’t remember everything I’ve found out.  I have have files I haven’t opened in a quarter century, and while I vaguely remember things people have told me over the years, I forget the specifics.  Here is an example.

In preparing the next post here, on mill village boating, I knew that at some point the Worth Manufacturing Company, owners of the mills in Worthville and Central Falls, operated a cotton barge on the river between the two mills.  But how did I know that?  Where did I find that out?

Happily my son Vlad has been helping me reshelve and clean out my office, which has gradually become the place where all the stuff goes when I won’t let him throw something away.  Able to open the farthest file cabinet again, I found a file labeled “Allred, Denver (Worthville).”  Inside was a surprise, an affidavit I made for Denver in 1985, which I had completely forgotten.  

I was in law school at the time, not yet a lawyer but already a notary, and as part of an investigation into the “navigability” of Deep River, I was asked by Ed Bunch (already a lawyer, and in solo practice) to interview Denver Allred about this question.  [The legal question was whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had jurisdiction over Deep River; federal law says that they regulate electricity produced on “navigable” waters.  FERC prevailed; that’s why the Randleman Dam Authority has to pay the low-head hydro operators along the river for the 8 million gallons a day diminution of the flow of the river.]

The Worthville mill pond was briefly drained of water when the cleanout plug failed.  From the Courier Tribune, June 19, 2013.

The Worthville mill pond was briefly drained of water when the cleanout plug failed. From the Courier Tribune, June 19, 2013.

This is a lesson in itself regarding history, when the historian himself can’t remember the daily details of his own life 29 years later.

Here is the document.  Afterwards, I’ve added from my notes in the file the parts of my conversations with Denver on other topics, who was a wealth of information. [He was the father of Worthville historian Becky Bowman, and I use her book on Worthville regularly.  Maybe she could add a lot here!]  I don’t think I ever tape recorded my conversations with Denver, but I might have, and have forgotten even that.  I have a lot of tapes stored away that I haven’t fully transcribed, especially if they weren’t all about Franklinville.

Affidavit

According to my notes, I spoke with Denver Allred on February 1, 1985, from 1:00 to 3:30 PM.  

He told me he was “the oldest man in Worthville.”  He was born in Gray’s Chapel, but his family moved here in 1903.  He said he went to work in the mill when he was ten years old, carrying drinking water to the hands in the spinning and carding room.  He did lots of other jobs, for every company that ever owned the mill.  More women worked in the mill than men; women were weavers and spinners, and the men’s did maintenance work, heavy work.

[The photos marked “Proof” are historic photographs of Worthville restored by photographer Darrell Dennis of Patrick Springs, VA, and available for purchase on his website: http://pictures.embarqspace.com/# .  He has done a great job restoring these old photos, so buy copies from him directly!]

[The photos marked “Proof” are historic photographs of Worthville restored by photographer Darrell Dennis of Patrick Springs, VA, and available for purchase on his website: http://pictures.embarqspace.com/# . He has done a great job restoring these old photos, so buy copies from him directly!]

 

He started working for Hal Worth, when Hal Worth lived in a house at the ballfield.  He worked for J.D. Williamson, who bought the mill from the receivers after the bankruptcy.  He worked for Wiley Ward, who took over after the Depression, when the town was in bad shape, he said he’d take up the financial slack if the town would dis-incorporate.  He worked for Fieldcrest, until they made him retire at 65.  Then he worked some for Baxter-Kelly-Foust after they bought from Fieldcrest.  He was an electrician, a fixer, a bricklayer, and worked once for Simon Varner, a contractor.   

The Worth house was torn down and rebuilt into a house near the cemetery, near the house Cicero Hammer lived in.  The second house across the road from the cemetery.  His wife’s father built the house we were talking in- had it built, by Cicero Hammer’s father, in 1885.  Cicero Hammer, the congressman, was raised in Worthville.  His father was a preacher, and built houses.  

Worthville_Mill_dam_Deep_River

He said the mill in Worthville ran on two turbine water wheels and a Corliss steam engine with more than a hundred horsepower.  It had an eight-foot flywheel and ran the shafts with a 30” leather belt.  He ran the Worthville turbines until they shut it all down.  They were still using the same old turbines.  The belts didn’t work as well as electricity, but it worked.

The mill back then mainly made “Hickory” sheeting and cottonade; most of it went to South America.  They made some seamless bags from waste cotton- sweepings and etc.  The bag looms would weave the bottom in them when they were through; that was sort of a curiosity.  A gadget would flip up, weave the bottom, and flip down.  The bottom was like a selvage, where they could cut the bags apart.  Most of the looms were Stafford looms; Draper looms came later.   

Stafford Bag Loom

[The standard Stafford looms were installed in July, 1915 (Bowman, p. 90) and junked and replaced with automatic Draper looms in August 1937. See Bowman, p. 166.  These first Stafford loom replaced in part the seamless bag looms that had been used since the 1880s.  The Franklinville factory was the first to manufacture seamless bags in North Carolina, starting in 1872.  Their looms were made by the Lewiston Machine Company, Lewiston, Maine, as were the original ones at Worthville.  Stafford also made bag looms, as seen here, but I believe Worthville was out of the bag business by the time they installed Staffords.]

J.A. Williamson was Secretary-Treasurer of the mill after Ervin Cox bought it from the receiver.  Mr. Williamson put in Stafford Automatic Looms; that was a curiosity too.  They used 6 or 8 shuttles stacked up in there; the loom would stop and change shuttles all by itself.  That was the curiosity.  People would come see that work.  Before that, the weaver had to change shuttles, start the loom up by hand.  The weaver had to put in a new quill and restart it.  The filling yarn was on the quills.  

This was the standard loom made by the Stafford Company, of Readville, Mass., after 1900.

This was the standard loom made by the Stafford Company, of Readville, Mass., after 1900.

The Worths here paid the best on the river.  Ramseur was a good town and all, but they just didn’t pay the money that they did up the river here. Weavers were paid by the cut, by the length of cloth on the roll. They’d fold the cloth up in bolts, put a big sticker on it- a Big Game Rooster.  Put it in big packing boxes lined with waterproof paper.  There was a big cheat in that.  They’d fill the bolts full of clay and tallow to make it weigh more.  Clay and tallow put on by a finishing machine.

Cotton came to Randleman or Millboro on the railroad.  They sent it to Central Falls to have it dyed; they dyed the raw cotton; dyed it every color of the rainbow.  Dyed it for yarn for shirting, checks and plaids, and cottonades (that was like gingham).  

It was Mr. Williamson’s idea to run the cotton barge between Mill #1 and Mill#2.  It took the raw cotton down, and the dyed cotton back up.  Then they’d spin it in Worthville.  Williamson brought the idea from Roanoke Rapids, where he was from.  The barge stopped before the first world war.  It quit when the mill company went broke.  

[From Deed Book 159, Page 11: The Worth Manufacturing Company was duly adjudged bankrupt by U.S. District Court on OCtober 30, 1913.  The auction of valuable assets held at Worthville on December 9, 1913 listed “one motor boat.”  C.J.Cox was the high bidder for the property, Mill #1, 57 “tenement houses,” all the machinery and cotton in process.]

The park was “down below the cemetery”, with a concession stand that made and sold ice cream and rented row boats by the hour.  There was a motor boat for rent, too.  But the cotton barge landing was down the river from the park, below the dam and covered bridge.  There was a foot walk across the river until the covered bridge washed out in 1910 or ‘11.  He saw the old covered bridge wash away.  Hopper’s Ford was where the foot bridge was, and that’s where the new bridge is now.  

Worthville Dam with bridge abutment

This bridge abutment on the north side of Deep River was evidently used by both the covered bridges and the steel bridge, all of which were washed away by high water.

[The Worthville covered bridge washed away in the storm of March 15, 1912.  G.E. Hill recalled when a new concrete bridge was under construction in 1939 that he left the mill that morning for his home on the opposite side of Deep River.  “An early spring rain had caused the river to rise to such an extent it appeared dangerous… Mr. Hill was on the bridge when it washed from the piers and when the the structure broke in the middle, Mr. Hill… was dragged from the waters before it was too late…”  Bowman, p. 201.]

The Central Falls dam backed water up to the site of the new bridge.  The barge landed just about where the bridge is.  There was a dock built on a canal, about a hundred feet from the river.  It was a flat-bottomed barge run by a gasoline engine.  There was a cab with a man on top to steer- two men operated it.  They’d run excursions on Sundays, so we could ride to Central Falls and back for a dime.  It was a big Sunday attraction.  One time some courting couples were on it, and a gar fish jumped out at them and scared everybody.  

When the river was up, the water was swift.  The boat would get away from them, and run onto the back.  Once it ran on the rocks and stuck.  They got men from the mill to pull it off on a long rope; Williamson was the boss, directing the operation.  The rope broke and everybody fell except one man.  “Why didn’t you fall, too?” Williamson said.  It was ‘cause he wasn’t putting out!

[The photos marked “Proof” are historic photographs of Worthville restored by photographer Darrell Dennis of Patrick Springs, VA, and available for purchase on his website: http://pictures.embarqspace.com/# .  He has done a great job restoring these old photos, so buy copies from him directly!]

[The photos marked “Proof” are historic photographs of Worthville restored by photographer Darrell Dennis of Patrick Springs, VA, and available for purchase on his website: http://pictures.embarqspace.com/# . He has done a great job restoring these old photos, so buy copies from him directly!]

Mr. Williamson had the first car in town- a big old Buick side-cranker.  When he drove it they’d wear dusters, goggles and hats.  Williamson got the telephone lines laid from Millboro to Worthville and into Randleman.  He was a big man.  So was Hal Worth.  Ervin Cox, who bought the mill from the court.   He owned both places, Worthville and Central Falls; lived at Central Falls.  He built Cox’s Dam, between there and Cedar Falls.  Whoever ran the mill- their politics would sway a lot of people.

The superintendent lived in that big house on the hill.  The first post office was in the Boarding House, below the standpipe- the two-story house on the right.  There was a mail slot in the door to the basement.  The Dowdys lived in the house across from him.  They later went to High Point, started Mann Drugs.  The school was where the Methodist Church is now.  The Union Church was near the office and the store, and the mill.  The Madison Williamson house was right there, too.  It burned in the early 1900s.  There was one big boarding house up behind the stand pipe.  There were three or four others at first.  During the first war, a Dorsett ran a boarding house, ran 3 shifts.  They’d change the sheets on the beds, and another shift would come in and sleep.  

There was lots of entertainment.  Joe Giles, a farmer, would have big corn shuckings, and have all grades of stuff to eat- pie, cakes, chicken stews.  If you shucked a red ear, that meant you could kiss the girl beside you.  He had four children, one boy.  He lived at Franklinville, married and lived at the Fentress place- his wife was a Fentress.  He was a slasher man, put the starch and sizing on the warp.  The Slasher Man was paid most of any machine operator- that was a big responsibility.  His brother Reuben also worked up here; was the Master Mechanic at Worthville.  John Bray was another Master Mechanic; he was a powerful fiddler.  

Lots of people played music then.  Charlie Ward; he was a powerful fiddler and guitar player.  He’s 90; he’s in Asheboro in the rest home.  Mark Johnson, he was a Worthville banjo picker, and a farmer.  He was some relation to Daner Johnson, the banjo man.  It was a special treat to hear Daner Johnson play.  He played anywhere and any time he took a notion.  Nep Johnson was his brother; lived up on the edge of Randleman; was a farmer and auto mechanic.

From the announcement of the annual Worthville Reunion, to be held May 3, 2014, in the  Courier-Tribune, 5 April 2014.

From the announcement of the annual Worthville Reunion, to be held May 3, 2014, in the Courier-Tribune, 5 April 2014.

More on Charlie Poole and Daner Johnson

July 15, 2014

Charlie Poole porch swing

I have recently had several inquiries regarding Charlie Poole and Daner Johnson from people who have read my previous posts.  I purposefully didn’t include a lot of genealogical material there, but as usual, many of the interesting details of the lives of local people relate to their families.

Since Daner is supposed to have been the teacher of Charlie, I decided to go back and unearth as many facts about their family connections as I could find.

The Pooles.

There are a couple of direct entries on Charlie Poole in ancestry.com, but all entries have issues, especially with dates of birth and death.  I prefer to fall back on what census takers recorded first hand at the time.

There is a lot of understandable confusion over when Charlie Poole’s  mother may have died, stemming largely from the fact that his father John Philip Poole supposedly married two sisters with very similar names.

John Phillip Poole and wife appear in both the 1900 census of Randolph County and the 1910 census of Alamance as just “John Poole” and spouse “Bettie.” Ancestry.com entries list his birth year as 1853, but the 1900 census says he was born in March 1850 in NC, and his father was born in NC.

John Poole’s occupation in 1900 is listed as “Cotton Mill Spinner;” in 1910 it is listed as “Cotton Mill Lapper.”  [The Lapper Room was part of the process of opening bales of cotton and making flat sheets or laps of cotton which would then be sent to the Carding Room.  From the Carding Room, roving bobbins would go to the Spinning Room.]  Both censuses says that John Poole cannot read or write, and is a renter of a house (not a farm) in each place.  Franklinville Township included the mill villages of Franklinsville, Island Ford, Cedar Falls, Central Falls and Worthville, all within a 9-mile stretch of Deep River.

1900 Census Randolph (Fville)

Poole 1900 census

 

Bettie Poole is listed in both censuses as a house keeper.  The 1900 census says she is the mother of 9 children, 8 of whom are living.  The 1910 census says she is the mother of 13 children, 8 of whom are living.  The 1910 census says that only she and her son “Ralf” can read and write.  In the 1900 census, only son Lea had attended school that year.

The following children of John and Bettie Poole are listed in 1900 (birth dates from census; death dates from ancestry.com)

Sarah E (b Oct 1878) d 1933 (occupation 1900, “Cotton Mill Spinner”)

Leroy (Lea) R (Jan 1884- 1957)  (1900- “Cotton Mill Spinner”)

Ralph (Aug 1889-  )  (1900- “Cotton Mill Spinner”)

Charlie C (March 1891) (different birth year from most listings) (no occupation)

James (Feb 1894)  (no occupation)

Giles (Jiley) M. (Aug 1896)  (no occupation)

Henry M (Aug 1897)  (no occupation)

In the 1910 Census the family has moved from Franklinville TS in Randolph County to Faucette TS in Alamance County [The Haw River mill village is partially in Faucette TS and partly in Haw River TS.  The villages of Glencoe and Hopedale are also in Faucette TS].  Sarah is no longer listed in the family, and Lea lives in a neighboring house with his wife Julia, age 21, whom he married in 1906.  They have a daughter Mary E., age 2.  Lea’s occupation is listed as “Cotton Mill Spinner” in 1900 and “Cotton Mill Slubber” in 1910.  [A Slubber was one of 3 different roving frames used in the Carding Room preparing cotton for spinning].

In 1901 Ralph’s occupation has changed to “Carder,” so he worked in the Card Room with Lea.  “Charley”’s occupation in 1910 is  “Cotton Mill Oiler.”  This was necessary to keep the machinery in good operating condition, and there may have been oilers in each separate “Room,” or they may have been sent where ever they were needed.  In 1910, James, “Jiley” and Henry all worked as “Cotton Mill Doffers.”  Charlie’s job as an oiler could be seen as a step up from doffer, but didn’t require particular speed or skill, as a doffer might.

In 1910 the Pooles obviously live in an Alamance County mill village, as they are surrounded by mill occupations.  In 1900 one neighbor, Anderson Diffee, is a “Cotton Mill Bailer” [i.e., employed in the Cloth Room, baling cloth for shipping].  The next neighbor, Jessie Bonkemeyer, is a farmer.  On the pages before and after the Poole entry, there are 5 weavers and  two spinners listed in 4 families among numerous farmers.

1910 Census Alamance

Poole 1910 Census Alamance

The Johnsons.

Sorting out the Johnson family is not so straight-forward, but I think I have put something together from assorted ancestry.com records and census records.

Hiram Johnson, age 55, is listed as a Miller in the 1870 census of Surry Co, NC (Mt. Airy vicinity).  His wife is Lydia Shields, age 54, born in Moore County, NC, near Carthage.  The 1870 census lists their children as follows:

Elizabeth, age 24, “House Keeper” [born circa 1846]

Lydia, age 23, “At home”

Elizabeth, age 15, “At home”  [born circa 1855)

Hiram, age 15, “At school”

Cindee, age 10, “at home”

Louisa, age 4, “At home”

The Charlie Poole listings on ancestry.com list what may be the two Elizabeths as-

“Betsy Ann, 1850-1896)” and

“Bettie Ellen, 1850-1911”

Obviously these dates don’t fit, but the nicknames might.

Ancestry.com lists the father of Hiram Johnson as Ransom Johnson, c1790-1852

Ransom is listed as having two children with Susan (unk. Last name)-

Hiram,

Acquilla (3-3-1813 in Alamance County -1869)

Acquilla Johnsonmarried Philipena Cornelia Moser (1815-1910) in Alamance County.

They had at least seven children (one of which, another Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Johnson, married Samson Bunting in 1861 and died in 1876, so thankfully doesn’t muddy the already murky Bettie/Betsy Johnson waters).

One of their daughters, Nancy Lou Johnson, apparently had 4 children, at least 3 of whom are listed as “unknown father.”

Dora E. Johnson (1864-1958, father David Breedlove)

William Arthur Johnson, 1883-1948 (he later had 13 children of his own)

Napoleon P. Lusien Johnson (1870-1955), who married twice and may still have living children)

Daner Gordon Johnson, 1879-1955.

082309_0416_CharliePool9.jpg

So, Daner Johnson’s paternal grandfather Acquilla Johnson and Charlie Poole’s maternal grandfather Hiram Johnson were brothers.

That means their parents (Bettie Johnson, whichever one, and Nancy Lou Johnson) were first cousins, and Daner and Charlie were second cousins. (Not first cousins, as I said in my original blog post)

Here is what I have found specifically regarding Daner in the public records:

In 1870 census takers found Nancy Johnson, a “seamstress” aged 30, living in the home of her sister Harriet Johnson, age 34.  Her daughter Dora E., 6 and Thomas, age 2, were “at home.”  The Johnson sisters lived next door to Anthony Moser, age 46, a farmer with 7 children, who was also their uncle, brother of their mother Philapena.

In the 1880 Census Nancy Johnson, aged 41, is listed as a single head of household living in “Randleman Mills” NC.  Her daughter Dora E., age 16, is employed in a cotton mill.  Nancy has sons Napoleon P., aged 9; William A., aged 4, and Danie G., 8 months.

The 1900 census shows 62-year-old Nancy as the head of her household, a farm in Cedar Grove township of Randolph County.  She owned the land subject to a mortgage, and had 15 animals.  Her son Napoleon L. Johnson, 29 and single, farmed the land.  Her son Dannier G. Johnson, single, had “no occupation.”  Daner and his mother could not read or write, though Napoleon (known as “Nep,”) could.

In 1910 Napoleon, 39, is married to Jennie, 34, and they have a daughter Lora, 6 months old.  Jennie Trotter is listed in genealogy indexes as dying in 1915.

The 1910 census found Daner Johnson living in Siler City, NC, boarding in the home of John J. Foster, age 54.  Johnson, aged 29, is living there with his wife Lilian, age 18.  They have been married one year.  Daner’s occupation is listed as “self-employed automobile mechanic,” and he had been out of work for 8 weeks in the previous year.  According to the census, he can read and write.

In 1920, Napoleon, 49, is single and Minnie Underwood, 32, is living in his house with daughter lora, 10, and James Johnson, age 8.  Minnie (1887-1965) at some point married Napoleon and they are both buried in the Holiness Church cemetery in Randleman.  Their daughter Lora or “Loray” never married and was still living with them at the time of the 1940 census.  Loray Johnson was the informant providing information for the death certificates of both her father and her uncle Daner in 1955.

082309_0416_CharliePool10.jpg

Daner and his mother Nancy are both buried in the Melanchthon Lutheran cemetery west of Liberty in Randolph County.

 

Mac Whatley, 7-15-14

Unconventional Warfare

April 29, 2014

Pineland Money

Confession:  About fifteen years ago, when I was Mayor of Franklinville, I secretly collaborated with the Pineland Resistance Movement, guerrilla freedom fighters seeking to destabilize the civilian government.  They had me in return for a pig-picking in some hot, forsaken section of Montgomery County, and a helicopter ride.  Looking back, maybe I sold myself cheap.

Twice each year the center of North Carolina becomes the fictional country of Pineland as part of the Robin Sage training exercise, the final test for students at the Special Forces Qualification Course held at the U.S. Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, based out of Fort Bragg.  Several hundred servicemen and women from the base act as the People’s Republic of Pineland home defense forces, and the aspiring Green Berets play the resistance.  Civilians volunteer to be “trained” as resistance forces by the Special Forces “advisors;” I was a Mayor role-playing an elected official for what they called a “key-leader engagement.”   Using citizen volunteers adds realism; on the flip side, so does seeing a squad of black-clad ninjas crawling up through one’s pasture, or hearing gunfire and flash-bang grenades at midnight.

Pineland Resistance, Fayetteville Observer photo

Pineland Resistance, Fayetteville Observer photo

From the Special Forces press release:  “Candidates are placed in an environment of political instability characterized by armed conflict, forcing Soldiers to analyze and solve problems to meet the challenges of this ‘real-world’ training.  With the help of civilian authorities and local citizens, Robin Sage has been conducted since 1974; before this, similar exercises were run under the names Devil’s Arrow, Swift Strike, and Guerilla USA.  The exercise’s notional country of Pineland encompasses 15 counties in North Carolina, including Alamance… Chatham, Davidson, Guilford… Montgomery, Moore, [and] Randolph…  Special Forces candidates and Robin Sage role-players live, eat and sleep in these civilian areas.”

People's Republic of Pineland

People’s Republic of Pineland

The mythical country of Pineland comes to life for two weeks twice a year, and by the time it’s over, maybe the new Green Berets have learned enough to stay alive in some place like Afghanistan.  As the father now of a son in Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., I hope they learned a lot.  Whenever I hear of a Green Beret in a casualty report, I hope it wasn’t anyone I ever knew in Pineland…

University of Pineland

University of Pineland

The Army calls this an exercise in “unconventional warfare,” though it seems as though the unconventional has become the norm nowadays.  The irony of this part of North Carolina, these central counties, being the heart of the fictional resistance movement is not lost on me as a historian, however.  Pineland has brought the teaching of guerilla warfare into 20th and 21st century Randolph, where the real article inflamed the same ground during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Bloodshed and politics went hand-in-hand here during the War of the Regulation in 1771; during the Whig-Tory War of 1780-1782; and during the War of the Rebellion of 1861-1865  There is no accurate count of casualties from any of these eras of internecine conflict, but it is no exaggeration to estimate the dead in the hundreds.  An actual body count would put Randolph, Moore and Chatham counties into the lead as North Carolina’s bloodiest battlefield- yet we don’t even make the list.

Pineland Guerillas

Pineland Guerillas

Colonel David Fanning’s assassination of Randolph County’s militia leader, Colonel Andrew Balfour, wasn’t Fanning’s first murder, or his last.   In his one circuit of the county in March, 1781, Fanning killed Balfour, the head of the militia infantry, seriously wounded John Collier, the head of the cavalry; burned houses and barns, and generally decapitated civilian government by scattering the justices meeting at the county court.  He did the same in Chatham County, and for good measure he attacked state government in Hillsboro, capturing the Governor and Council and taking them prisoners to the British in Wilmington.

Head of the Resistance Forces, Pineland Bob Snyder, retired Green Beret.  AP Photo, Gerry Broome.

Head of the Resistance Forces, Pineland Bob Snyder, retired Green Beret planning an attack in Ramseur. AP Photo, Gerry Broome.

The lack of government and justice after the Revolution insured that simmering desires for revenge would survive in family lore for more than four score years, to surface in Randolph of the 1860s.  A county that overwhelmingly resisted secession continued to resist Confederate government.  Though the county sent large numbers of soldiers into the southern army, it also sent many into the Federal forces, and as many more refused to fight for either side.  As I have written before, North Carolina’s first recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor was Howell G. Trogdon of Franklinville.  Many others left the county to fight for the Union or to protect their Quaker families in Indiana or Ohio.

Randolph County was under martial law for much of the war, with government forces supporting the tenuous control of civilian authorities while they searched for deserters, draft dodgers, “recusant conscripts,” “Holdenites,” “Lincolnites,” and other undesireables.  Purgatory Mountain was honeycombed with the underground hide-outs of the “hiders out of the army.” The county had a shadow government, the Heroes of America or Red String, whose members after the war formed the nucleus of the Republican Party.

Chief Kidd's Hideout

Chief Kidd’s Hideout

As civilian officials tried to cope with “an environment of political instability,” some went too far.  Deputy Sheriff Alfred Pike of Franklinville finally captured the leader of the resistance, “Colonel” Bill Owens, only after obtaining information on his hiding place by torturing Owen’s wife and children.  A Deputy for 15 years, Pike was so roundly censured in the press for his tactics that he resigned and moved his family to Texas, and the blow-back cost his boss, Sheriff J.W. Steed, his job in the election of 1864.

Robin Sage 3

This is just part of the story of Randolph during the Civil War that was researched and written by Bill Auman for his PhD dissertation.   It has recently been published by MacFarland, and is available on Amazon.   [http://www.amazon.com/William-T.-Auman/e/B00GXSW0IS  ;  William T. Auman, Civil War in the North Carolina Quaker Belt: The Confederate Campaign Against Peace Agitators, Deserters and Draft Dodgers (2014).]

WTA Civil War Quaker Belt

Buy his book, and read the real story of Randolph’s war.  You will never look at the Confederate flag decal on some ratty pickup truck in the same way again.  Maybe if they knew their own family history, they’d have bumper stickers for The People’s Republic of Pineland, instead.

 

“Blockading”: The oral autobiography of Dove Coble

October 24, 2013
Ready to run the Blockade.

Ready to Run the Blockade, from http://www.louisville.com

This is about half of an oral history interview I recorded with Dove Coble (1900-2000) at his daughter’s house on 1 March 1997.  Dove was a delightful fellow who remembered just about everything that had ever happened to him.  I had a great time talking with him, and it was the only interview I ever did with someone willing to talk about the business of running moonshine, a big part of the economy of the county in the late Nineteenth and the first half of the Twentieth centuries.

The long and colorful tradition of moonshining in Randolph County ran from Black Ankle on the Montgomery County border, through Seagrove and Millboro all the way north to Level Cross.  After the Civil War the federal government established a system of licensed distilleries in which Treasury Agents would collect a tax on each gallon of whiskey produced.  There were many “Government Stills” established across Randolph, but for each legal still there were at least two illegal producers.  Moonshiners refused to run a “government still” and pay the excise tax.  In Prohibition days (and afterwards) running the illicit liquor from the stills deep in the Randolph County countryside up to the thirsty markets in the North was a major source of cash income.  Though glass “Mason” jars were invented before the Civil War (many were produced up into the 1900s with the mark “Patent Nov 30th 1858″), moonshiners kept many a Randolph and Moore county potter in business up until World War II.  And transporting those containers to the ultimate buyers was the province of the “Blockade Runner,” or “Blockaders,” a very conscious reference to the Civil War “greyhounds of the sea” which ran the federal blockade of southern ports to supply the Confederate war effort. 

Dove Coble died just a few weeks short of his 100th birthday, and was buried in Gray’s Chapel, or “York Town,” as he called it.

My name’s William Dove Coble.  Senior.  That’s my boy at Eastern Randolph [his son, Dove Coble Jr., was a teacher at ERHS].  I was born the 11th of June, 1900.  If I live to see June I’ll be 97.   I was born over there on Sandy Creek; Brower’s Mill.  It’s Kidd’s Mill now, on Sandy Creek, back in the woods there. My daddy, Rossie Coble, died in 1917, and was buried over at Gray’s Chapel, and I’ve been there ever since.  There was five of us boys and three girls.  I was the oldest child.  They’ve all gone but me and my youngest brother, Truman Coble, lives there in Ramseur.  Seventeen years younger than me.  My daddy died in March, and in June I was seventeen, and then Truman was born after that.  My father lived in the country.  Shelly Coble was my daddy’s brother, and Will Coble, and Clem Coble, they’re buried this side of Town, there where Joe Buie’s father is buried.  Charlie Coble and Ham Coble, they’re my closest kin.  I lived over here at Gray’s Chapel, not at the schoolhouse, but on up the road where that dairy barn is, at the rock wall.  Hackett Road.  That’s where Dove Jr. lives.  My wife passed away and I’ve been over here at Opal’s [his daughter in Asheboro] since ’82, when Curtis Coble passed away….

I never did get no education, never got to seventh grade.  I get more now out of the Upper Room than I can the Bible.  The stories, you know; I ain’t got no education.  I can read, and write my name.  I started off at Patterson’s Grove.  The schoolhouse was on what you called the Ferguson road, the road from Ramseur to White’s Chapel.  I went there four years, and then over to White’s Chapel, at a little schoolhouse there, didn’t go there but one.  Just five or six years.  I moved all over the country.  I wasn’t doing nothing but running around.  We just drug up, to tell the truth about it.  I’m lucky to be here.  I lost my daddy, and I wasn’t 17; there was nine of us, and no welfare nor nothing.  It was Hoover days.  Can you imagine how I lived?  Just drug up.

I lived over there in the country when the war ended, close to Brower’s Mill.  My daddy died in 1916, and the next year I had to register.  I was up plowing corn there in the back yard, plowing around saw logs in the field.  Momma come out in the field and waved at me; we heared the bells and whistles blowing at Franklinville.  We didn’t have any telephones.  They tied them whistles down; you can imagine the racket.  Both mills sounded the same; they both had whistles; you couldn’t tell one from the other.  I registered for the war in Ramseur.  I.F. Craven ran the draft board.  He lived in a big house behind the drug store beside Fred Thomas, who run the broom shop.  I’ve got that little card; it’s the only thing I’ve got to know when I was born; didn’t get no birth certificate.

My grandpaw W.H. Coble, William, is buried right there in that old cemetery, Old Salem.   I never remember any church there, I don’t know where it fell down or what.    He’s where the William come from.  Leeshy, my grandmaw, that’s where they got the Dove;  from Dunc Dove’s crowd; my grandmaw was his sister.  They lived up towards White’s Memorial.  Dunc and his son Tracy lived there on the hill next to Dr. Fox, on that street above Burnice Jones.  My grandpaw come down on a wagon and we went to that old wooden store [the lower company store]; went and got molasses out of a fifty-gallon drum with my grandpaw.  That was back before I went to school, Nineteen Five.  The Company stores were just old country stores.  They had everything in the world you wanted in there.  But I didn’t buy nothing.  Didn’t have to buy nothing.  Wasn’t nothing I could buy.  I didn’t have no money; what could I buy?

1924 Open Cab Express Body Model TT- Ford's first pickup.  Before that model year Ford only provided the truck chassis, and local wagonmakers purpose-built the bodies.

1924 Open Cab Express Body Model TT- Ford’s first pickup. Before that model year Ford only provided the truck chassis, and local wagonmakers purpose-built the bodies.

I come there to Franklinville in Twenty.  Ed Routh, Ernest’s daddy, and Paul, and Iula, found out I needed work.  I drove a truck, the first one they ever had in Franklinville.  One ton Ford truck, open bed, to haul flour and feed and everything they made.  Had a cover for it, but it was open, open bed.  Open cab, no glass.  I hauled flour to Seagrove and Siler City, and loaded it on the train.  They shipped it to the college up there.  Women’s College bought the flour direct from the mill, and had it shipped up there.  It was too far to drive then.  Wasn’t no such thing as a hard surface.  64 wasn’t built.  No road down to Ramseur, or anywhere.  Did without ‘em.  Parks Buie told me that Joe would order five gallons of oysters of a morning, tell them to put them on the train down on the coast, and they’d come to Greensboro and down to Franklinville on the second train, that run after dinner, and he’d get it of an evening.  Five gallons of oysters for a dollar and a quarter.  The train went up in the morning, met the trains and stuff in Greensboro, and come back after dinner.

Guess how much I made in six days.  Ten dollars a week for six days, ten hours a day.  All day.  Went in six in the morning, stayed till five in the evening.  An hour out for dinner.  If they didn’t fix for me I walked back to the house for dinner, next door to Burnice Jones, where he lives now.  That house above it.  I lived with my great aunts, Bell and Lizzie and Effie Luther.  They’re all buried around there.  They worked in the mill before I went down there. My aunts were fine people, but they was old then.  They was retired.  Two of them never married.  Old widow women.  They looked after me, they was good. I maybe paid $5 a week; if I wanted to pay them anything I did, but I didn’t have to.

Ed Routh was the head knocker and manager.  He was the flour man.  Bascom Kinney ground the corn meal.  Old Davis, across the river, he was there part of the time.  They’re all gone.  They bought the truck while I was there.  I was the first driver they had, anyway.  I could drive anything then.  The first job I had, I helped put flour in the sacks, meal, flour and everything.  Corn meal went in little bitty bags, ten pounds.  Plain corn meal. They didn’t have no self-rising to start with; they put it in after I went down there. Excelsior was the plain flour; Dainty Biscuit was the self-rising.  I bagged that flour, and Ernest helped before he went on the road.  Ten pound bags; twenty-five; and them big bags is what they shipped.  They put ninety-eight pounds in them.  The college got maybe ten bags in a shipment, every week, or whenever they needed it.  I first hauled stuff through the wooden bridge, the covered bridge.  Mr. Routh lived right up there by the mill.  Basc Kinney lived next door, that worked for Ed as a miller.…

[I] Went to work in the roller mill.  Me and Ernest worked there, and his daddy.  Ed Routh done the most of the work.  He could do most anything, kept everything just as clean as a woman.  He kept us wore plumb out to keep the spider webs and things cleaned up. That mill, it run by water then.  The water wheel was in the lower end, the back end.  The race run around behind the mill, and a chute come out of there, going under to the water wheel, and the shaft run back under the mill and the belts went on up.  All of it was ground by water then.  Didn’t have no lights to start with; they finally got up to date, and got electricity.  And the cotton mill run by water then, too….

I had an old T-model, $150 copper head T-model, ‘Fifteen.  I got Joe Buie to let me have a little money, maybe a hundred dollars, and my aunt give me some. There wasn’t no bank, they put that in after I went there.  That store opened up, and the office for both mills.  I didn’t have to have but two or three hundred dollars, but I didn’t have none.  I got it the first year I was down there.  Twenty-one.  $150; drove it; kept it for five years, and I got that much out of it when I sold it.  Then when the A-Models come out, I got another one.  I had a A-Model when I got married….

1927 was the first production year for the Model A Ford.

1927 was the first production year for the Model A Ford.

[John] Clark changed everything [about Franklinsville in 1923].  But of course I was blockade running around all over the country, wasn’t married or nothing; didn’t stay down there much.  I was maybe in Siler City one night and somewheres else the next.  But I still worked every day, ten hours a day.  Back then, the hours weren’t nothing. Bob Craven, who lived in that last house by the trussell, said he could remember me going by there of a morning at daylight, going to the mill.  He said, “You was crazy as hell, then.”  I said, I didn’t have no choice.  I stayed at home there, piddled around so we didn’t starve.  You know what we had.  Just nothing.  Hoover Days.  I don’t care what your politics are. If you lived through Hoover Days, you won’t forget it, if you live to be a hundred.  I sold liquor of a night, when I was driving the truck [for the roller mill]; me and Benton Moon.  Did you know him?  Fanny Burke was his wife, and Roy Holliday married her later.  Me and Benton would go over in York Town and get a case every night.  All of them around there, Doc Cheek, that run the drugstore, he’d drink it just like water.  That’s what Franklinville was like when I went down there.

You could buy liquor anywhere you wanted it. There were a few government stills around, but I never did go to none of them. Over here in Lineberry where I live now, George Allred had one back up in the woods there.  And there was one there at Shady Grove.  Sharp Kivett, he’d give you the history of that.  Fletcher Pugh, owns that sawmill on that road, he could tell you the truth about it.  Sharp Kivett and George Allred, that’s the only two government-mades I ever went to, knew where the places were.

From the New Georgia Encyclopedia

From the New Georgia Encyclopedia

But I went to all these others, all over the country.  We had plenty of it around White’s Chapel. York Town, or White’s Chapel, it’s all the same to me.  People there made blockade whiskey, it wasn’t government liquor.  My daddy made liquor all his life.  Old man Warren Langley over here at Staley, down close to the government still at Staley; his boy Clarence died here last year;  Warren Langley was number one.  The Toomeses were good up in Level Cross.  But if you wanted good liquor, back in below Seagrove, down towards the river, old man Lucas was the one. Cross the railroad and go back down there by Luck’s, and wind around not more than a mile back over in there.  If he had bad liquor he’d tell you so.  He’d say, “I ain’t got nothing for you this week.”  I wouldn’t buy no burnt liquor.  And he

had enough sense, if had a little burnt liquor, he wouldn’t put it off on one of his customers.  You know, the mash, what makes the steam off the whiskey, if it stuck to the bottom of your still, it burnt.  It ain’t nothing to brag about, but they’d take me when I was little, and they’d poke me there after the fire was took out, and have me clean that still out.  I’ve been in one many a time.   If you make it right, you had copper from where you put it in the still.  Then it went to the wooden doubler, and then it went up in the cooler, and when it went on out down there where you catch it in a jug, it was liquor.  If it come out there, and there weren’t no bead on it, they wouldn’t save it.  You’d check the temperature by looking to see if it beaded up on the copper.  You’d shake it.  If it’s right fine on you, it ain’t rig

ht.  It all used to be made out of corn; they made out of sugar later.  That man in Staley, to start off with, he wouldn’t have no sugar liquor.  He made corn liquor.  Oscar Langley was one of Warren’s boys.  He used to play ball in Ramseur and he was drunk as a fool, and they couldn’t tell it.  He was a pitcher, I believe.  It’s all behind me, but I’ve seen lots of things in my time.   There ain’t a place between here and Staley, creek or branch or road nor nothing else that I ain’t been.  I’ve been down to a still on that Hickory Mountain road, from Siler City to Pittsboro.  It ain’t nothing to brag about, but I’ve been there.  It was the way to make money.  But I didn’t drink none of it.  I found out, it was to sell, not to drink.  I’ve never been drunk in my life.  My brother, he took enough for me and him both.  It just ruint him.  But you can’t convince him of that, even now.

Not many people would fool with brandy.  Some of them made it, and some didn’t.  I had the most brandy that’s ever been over in there.  I had twenty gallons up there in Lineberry, in the barn.  Clark Millikan made it for me, the first brandy he ever made in his life. That was R.C. Millikan, who died here recently.  I went to the mountains and got a whole load of apples, put it in the barrell, and kept it till it worked over.  Made cider.  Put them in a barrell, put your sugar in it, or after it sours you can make it without if you clear it up.  While it’s working you can’t still it.  It’s got to work over.  Clark made a little money.  But he died over here with his britches open [in the nursing home], just like me and you’s gonna do.

Moonshine run, from serbianforum.org

Moonshine run, from serbianforum.org

I could make $10 in a night.  That’s the reason I went home; I told Ed Routh I could make more than that by going to York Town one day a week.  Well, he said, you just come on and work for me while you’re here, and I’ll pay you as much again as you’re getting.  They paid me five out of the mill and five out of the Company.  It all went to different names.  Roller mill got credit for this; the mill got the other.  I still run around everywhere, but he didn’t know it.  I didn’t ever fool with it around there [the roller mill].  Ed would take a drink, but I didn’t know till after he was Register of Deeds that he ever did.  He wasn’t a drunkard, but after he’d come back to Ramseur, he told me, when you get some good, you can bring me half a gallon once in a while.  But politics didn’t change that man.  He didn’t change because he had an office job.  If you’d started down there where I did, barefooted, no daddy, you’d know about how you’d feel.  Then when you’d get up a little, you’d get above it.  But Ed was number one, and Joe Buie was just as good.  He wouldn’t tell you no lie, nor cheat you either.  And that old Spoon boy, one armed man, the banker there, run the bank beside the office; if I didn’t have a dollar I could go in there and get it.   The Sumners lived in that house across the road.  John, and George, the county doctor.  And two girls.  Dave Sumner let me put my new car in that shed behind the house, wouldn’t charge me a cent.  Edison Curtis lived up on that hill on Depot Street, and Henry Curtis, and Polly Newsom, and Will Thomas lived down through there.  There wasn’t anybody in Franklinville or between here and Staley I didn’t know.

A quart Kerr jar of white liquor.

A quart Kerr jar of white liquor.

Sometimes you’d pay $5 for six gallons; you’d take it and peddle it out; people would buy it, and you could double it.  I took it right down town there [Asheboro], where the bank used to be [Bank of Randolph], and people would give me orders to take some to Greensboro.  They couldn’t get blockade liquor in Greensboro.  They had to come out somewhere else and get it.  They could buy liquor, but they didn’t want that.  That man at the bank would say, “You go take Ben Cone five gallons.  He lives out there toward White Oak.  Just drive on out there like you own the place.  Drive in there like you have groceries.”  I had pretty good nerve then.  But they never caught me.  Tommy Brookshire that lived at Randleman was the deputy here one time.  I was going to town one night, right down here where the hospital is; I was in one of those A models.  Well, he just drove up to me and was gonna stop me, and I just turned round and went down that side street, and didn’t see him any more that night.  And he didn’t see me.  That’s as close as anybody ever caught me, but I didn’t stop.  Them days is all gone.

I stayed there till the last day of Twenty-five.  Got married, and never did work any more down there.   I moved up here to Lineberry, Acie’s Store up above Gray’s Chapel.  I didn’t have no land, and I bought that schoolhouse for $200.  Put a new roof on it, and rented it since I’ve been over here.  I give it all to the young’uns, where Acie Lineberry’s store was.   And that Highway from Asheboro to Liberty wasn’t built then.  They built it with horses. That’s how long I’ve been there.  I met my wife over here at Grays Chapel.  She was a Hackett.  She come from over at White’s Chapel.  I got married the last week of the year.  Went up there and still run around all over the country and everywhere else after I was married.  Siler City and Seagrove, or below Seagrove, was as far as I ever went.  You know what they call Black Ankle?  I used to take to a store back in there, ten miles back on that river.  Mandy’s Store.  I’ve been in there and bought liquor since I been big enough to go back.  See, I stayed down there, sold liquor, peddled liquor, and everything else.  I don’t mind telling you.  All around Franklinville, and Black Ankle, and everywhere else.  I got pretty good on my feet then.  In 1928,  I had a little money I’d saved, and I got an A-model.  Paid for it peddling liquor.  But I went in debt building this bridge here in Central Falls in Twenty-eight.  That’s where I went in debt.  I made enough to get out there, but went in debt $500, and had to give my bootlegging car away.

But I had an old truck. Do you believe I drove an A model from Greensboro to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in one day?   I had that truck, and I knew a boy that had business up there, and he helped me buy a new truck here, and I went to South Carolina and sold liquor; earned enough to pay for my land over yonder in two years.  Now, then, what can you do in two years?  Go in debt, that’s all you can do. But there was money in trucks, if you worked it out.  I had to work it out; it wasn’t give to me.  I went to Greensboro and I told them, I gonna mark me a route to Pennsylvania.  He laid down a sheet of paper and said you just follow this highway till you hit the mountains.  You don’t go round them mountains, go right on through them till you get to Pennsylvania.  It’s seventy miles from where the President is over to Lancaster.  I drove up there from 8:00 till 9 that night.  I went by myself.  My old truck was up there; kept my new one here, and went to South Carolina.

When I got out of debt I quit fooling with it.  Old man Jewell Trogdon, a preacher here in town, he was the one caused me to get out.  He just told me, over here in Gray’s Chapel Church, “What if the Lord would take these two girls away from you?”  He knowed I was running around here and yonder and everything else.  Old man Trogdon showed me where I was wrong.  So I told the man over here who built this bridge, “Ed, you better make good of this liquor.  These two cases is the last.”  He said, “What do you mean?  You can’t quit!”  I said, “Yes, I have, I’ve done quit. You can drink it, but I ain’t even gonna sell this.”  I stayed and got enough to pay for my land off what I done that year.  I had $2,000 when I got done.  I got my first truck in ’28, over here at Central Falls.  And then went down there and got enough to pay for my land.  And I went on to carpentry work, and never fooled with no more liquor.

I know time changes everything, but I’ve seen a lot of things since ‘seventeen.

The History of Water

September 22, 2013
Lassiter Mill Dam on the Uwharrie, destroyed 9-4-2013 to open the river to the annual shad run.

Lassiter Mill Dam on the Uwharrie, destroyed 9-4-2013 to open the river to the annual shad run.

Before there were counties, before there were towns, before there were road names and 911 addresses, there was geography.  In the past as in the present, local landmarks of whatever description oriented residents as to time and place, (how often do we say something like, ‘Turn left where the Hardees used to be”?).   Before the advent to sophisticated surveying instruments, let alone aerial photography, satellite images and Google Maps, residents depended on their intimate and granular knowledge of local geography.  This big rock or that big oak tree was known to be the corner between one landowner and his neighbor in the medieval English common law system inherited in the eastern United States, known as “metes and bounds” surveying.  The Metes, or measurements, carefully established the unique directions, distances and calculated angles of the boundary lines; the Bounds, or terminal points, delineated the extent of the tract of land described.

The Bounds also oriented the description in larger segments of time and place, from the largest to the smallest extent, with the growing recognition of political boundaries.  A tract of land purchased by an immigrant could be located in North America (before 1492); the United States (1776); Carolana (1629); North Carolina (1691) ; Randolph County (1779); Asheborough (1792); Back Creek Township (1868).

The natives and earliest explorers and colonists, of course, had few or none of these reference points.  Dr. John Lederer (b.1644) a German immigrant and explorer, first travelled from Fort Charles, (now Richmond), Virginia into Carolana in May 1670.  Lederer’s party of 20 white men and 5 Indian guides had dwindled down to just 4 people by the he returned to Fort Henry (now Petersburg, VA) in July 1670.  But during that 90 day period Lederer had become the first recorded European visitor through Piedmont NC, all the way to the Catawba River near what is now Charlotte.  His expedition journals were translated into Latin and published, forming the first guidebook for subsequent travelers.

Moseley Map, 1733

Moseley Map, 1733

In 1701 Swiss explorer John Lawson visited the area and first gave us many of the landmark names we still use today.  He lived with the Keyauwee Indian tribe (now spelled Caraway) and crossed the Heighwaree River to get to them (now spelled Uwharrie).   Lawson evidently heard no local name for the other major local watercourse, which he only noted as “two pretty Rivers, something bigger than Heighwaree, but not quite so stony. We took these two Rivers to make one of the Northward Branches of Cape-Fair River, but afterwards found our Mistake.”  One of these “two pretty Rivers” was certainly Deep River, which is in fact a “Northward Branch” of the Cape Fear.  Early explorers, however, had the impression that the Deep was a tributary of the Uwharrie; Col. William Byrd, in his “History of the Dividing Line” (1728), says in tracing the route of the Trading Path that the Deep is “the north branch of the Pee Dee.”  The error was first inaccurately mapped on the 1733 Moseley map of North Carolina, where the Deep and “Uharee” merge and flow into the “Sapona or Yadkin River”. [Byrd’s book is the first recorded use of the name “Yadkin.”]

The lack of a received native American name for the Deep has also provided much confusion to historians and local residents; for more than one hundred years it has been accepted in Randolph and Guilford counties to claim “Sapona” as the Indian name for the Deep.  This is incorrect, as Lawson clearly refers to the “Sapona” native town as being on the Trading Ford of the Sapona River, some 20 miles west of the Keyauwee town.  However, Lawson himself had confused the issue by stating that the Sapona was “the west branch of the Clarendon, or Cape Fair River.”

In the present era of satellite photographic maps from space, it is too easy to dismiss these early errors as stupid mistakes.  It was a difficult matter in the 17th and18th centuries to track a watercourse from its source to the sea.  The amazing thing to a historian is that local residents had in fact such an intimate acquaintance with each body of water that they knew where it flowed.  Up until the Civil War, the most familiar landmarks of Randolph County were natural, physical, environmental distinctions of water, earth, wind and fire.  Everyone was familiar with them, and every body of water, no matter how large or small, shallow or deep, had a name.

The junction of Sandy Creek with Deep River at the Wildlife boat landing

The junction of Sandy Creek with Deep River at the Wildlife boat landing

Before there were county names, the name of the major local river was the primary landmark in any deed.  “Waters of Deep River” sent the reader to the east side of what became Randolph; “Waters of Uwharrie” directed them to the west side.  From 1752 to 1770, Deep River waters were in Orange County, St. Matthew’s Parish, and Uwharrie River waters were in Rowan County, St. Luke’s Parish.  In 1770 parts of Orange and Rowan were combined to create Guilford County, which was itself divided in 1779 to create Randolph.

Each tract could be and usually was further subdivided to pinpoint the location:  “Sandy Creek, waters of Deep River,” or “Caraway, waters of Uwharrie” indicated particular areas of each watercourse.  Muddy Creek, Polecat Creek, Solomon’s Creek, Bush Creek, Sandy Creek, Gabriel’s Creek, Mill Creek, Brush Creek, Richland Creek- all are major tributaries (or “Forks” or “Prongs”) of the Deep.  Little Uwharrie, Caraway, Back Creek, Bettie McGee’s Creek, Little River, are all major tributaries of the Uwharrie.   Each creek was further subdivided into numerous “Branches,” and each branch could be divided into “Runs” or “Brooks.”  A “wash” or “draw” was a dry creek bead, only intermittently or seasonally wet.

“Spring Branches” were the head sources of a watercourse, where natural springs bubbled up from the ground.  These were highly sought-after pieces of property, and often a spring retained the name of its first owner long after that person had departed.  “Adam’s Spring,” for example, is in New Salem, a tributary of Polecat Creek, and was the place where the doomed heroine of the ballad “Naomi Wise” met her alleged killer, Jonathan Lewis.  “Mineral Springs”  indicated that the water from a particular spring had dissolved substances that provided a particular taste, often thought to have healthful or healing qualities.  “Hot Springs” were naturally heated, and were developed into spas and resorts.

Shelter built over Adams' Spring, New Salem (now gone)

Shelter built over Adams’ Spring, New Salem (now gone)

The smallest and most personal branches were those that began or “headed” on a homeplace, where the residents carried water for their animals and washing.  Sidney Swaim Robins (1883- 1979) wrote of his boyhood at 177 South Main Street in Asheboro that the branch behind his house was named after them, then their neighbors. “Below our place the Robins Branch became first the McAlister Branch, then the Penn Wood Branch, on its way to make Haskett’s Creek, which we used to cross on a covered bridge about four miles out on the road to Randleman.  Of course we fished that creek all the way from Ed Walker’s line [now the site of Central Methodist Church, 300 S. Main at Academy St.] way down past “Eck’s” dam [unknown] to the place where Garland Pritchard grew up [647 E. Pritchard St., now an Acme-McCrary factory, but once Garland Lake Dairy].  We caught suckers, sun perch, catfish (after rains), now and then an eel, a few of them big enough to eat.  I knew the small pond on the McAlister place to freeze over thick enough for skating only about three times in my real Asheboro years.” (Sketches of My Asheboro, 1880-1910, p. 2)  The branch he describes now runs between Elm and Randolph streets, flowing roughly north toward Haskett’s Creek.

Penn Wood Branch to Haskett's Creek

Penn Wood Branch to Haskett’s Creek

In 1793 Jesse Henley conveyed two acres of land on Abram’s Creek to the Justices of Randolph County for use as a courthouse.  This land covered what is now the intersection of Salisbury and Main Streets, in Asheboro, and the nearest watercourse is the one to the northwest, which headed in what became Dr. J.M. Worth’s cow pasture, now the location of the 2002 Randolph County Courthouse.  Before the county demolished the houses that sat in the present parking lot, a stream ran diagonally through that lot and crossed Salisbury Street at the intersection with Cox.  Now buried in a culvert, the stream emerges east of Cox Street behind 236 North Cox Street and runs east, merging with Penn Wood Branch near 214 North Elm Street.  J.A. Blair wrote in 1890: “When Henley entered this land [1786] there was a small cabin on it, near the spring a little north of where the old Hoover House now stands, and an old man lived there by the name of Abram.  He had a small patch cleared around his house and lived chiefly by fishing and hunting and, it is said, could stand in his door and shoot deer and wild turkeys.” (p43)

Abram's Creek area

Abram’s Creek area

The point here is that the tributaries of Deep River were “heading” on the east side of Asheboro, and flowing downhill and northeast into the river.  Whether Robins’ or McAlister’s or Penn Wood’s Branch, the stream that now flows along Elm and Meadowbrook started at a spring behind 835 South Cox Street in Asheboro, meandered its way into Deep River, and eventually flowed into the Atlantic Ocean through the Cape Fear River at Southport, NC.

The 1851 Plank Road (now Fayetteville Street) followed the Ridge Line through Asheboro.

The 1851 Plank Road (now Fayetteville Street) followed the Ridge Line through Asheboro.

On the west side of Fayetteville Street, any rain drop that hits the ground goes in a different direction.  Back Creek is the tributary of the Uwharrie that drains the western half of Asheboro.  The first reference I have found to Back Creek itself is in the 1763 Survey Book of Henry Eustace McCulloh (see my 1895 Architectural History of Randolph County for a more detailed discussion of McCulloh).  Back Creek Friends Meeting is first referred to in 1775; Back Creek Mountain is first referred

to in 1786 (Deed Book 2, Page 223); and Back Creek Township was established in 1868.

Back Creek

Back Creek to its junction with Caraway Creek

“Cedar Fork” is described as a tributary of Back Creek in a 1786 deed of Thomas Winslow (DB2, Page 230).  Google Maps shows it as running between Bunting Road and Lexington, which would make it the major feeder stream from downtown Asheboro.  The primary prong of Cedar Fork heads in the parking lot of the State Employees Credit Union, 1036 S. Park St., and then meanders northeast almost to the railroad track to the intersection of Cooper Street, Armfield Avenue and Hammer Avenue, where it turns northwest.  From there it runs in a culvert under Memorial Park tennis courts, runs between Spencer Avenue and West Kivett Street; crosses Uwharrie Street at Occaneechee Street and then runs through a deep ravine to cross under the I-73/74 Bypass at Old Farmer Road, just south of East Street.  It continues through the ravine at the end of West Street, and intersects another tributary of Back Creek just west of the dead end of Northridge Drive.

The source of Cedar Fork of Back Creek

The name of this second stream, which runs north from an area behind Klaussner Furniture, crosses Old Farmer Road at Register Street, and crosses Bunting Road running north, is not clear from any records I have seen.  A third stream runs north parallel to the second from two ponds located north of Old NC Hwy 49 and south of US 64, west of Cranbrook Circle; this crosses US 64 just east of Westside Circle and flows north parallel to Jarrell Drive to the end of Bunting Road, where it enters Lake Bunch, one of the City of Asheboro’s original 1920s-era raw water reservoirs.  Another, Lake McCrary, was created by damming a fourth tributary of Back Creek which heads north of Westchapel Road and flows north parallel to Westminister Court.  Lake McCrary overflows into Lake Bunch, which meets the main prong of Cedar Fork near the dead end of Little Lakes Trail, just west of the intersection of a sixth stream, which runs south across Old Lexington Road from its source between Berkeley Lane and Viewmont Drive just south of Northmont Drive.

The many 'prongs' of Back Creek south of Dave's Mountain

The many ‘prongs’ of Back Creek southwest of Dave’s Mountain

The names of these six streams are currently not known with certainty, but could possibly be recovered from a detailed historical search of land titles.  For example, the 1929 deeds (DB 234, P99 and DB250, P514)into Sulon Stedman who built a house at 745 Lexington Road (now Robert C. Shaffner) state that the property is bounded in part by Malley’s or Mallie’s Branch and Bunting Road- a large area which encompasses the main fork of Cedar Fork but could describe yet another branch (#7) which flows from the Episcopalian Church on Mountain Road, across Old Lexington Road and around the City of Asheboro Water Treatment Plant at the end of Bossong Drive to intersect with Cedar Fork.  At the same time, however, there is still some confusion- one of the deeds (DV144, P258) into the City of Asheboro for the property which became Lakes McCrary and Bunch says that the land lies “where Cedar Fork and Mollie’s Creek unite, about 1 ½ miles west of the Town of Asheboro.”  So, Mollie’s Creek or Branch could be either of the two tributaries (#3 and #4 above) which formed the old city lakes.

For good measure, let me mention that yet another tributary of Back Creek was involved with the creation of a third Asheboro city lake, Lake Lucas.  Lake Lucas was created in the late 1940s by damming Back Creek itself, but one of the acquisition deeds (DB 384, P499 and Plat Book 4, Page 77) refers to 16.35 acres bisected by Moulder’s Branch, “North of Maple Grove Dairy.”  Most of the dairy pasture land is now under water, but the Maple Grove Dairy house itself still stands at 2882 Old Lexington Road.  Since the head of the main fork of Back Creek runs north almost all the way to US 311, it may be that “Moulder’s Branch” is the tributary which runs west out of Back Creek Lake, crossing Lake Country Drive, Northmont Drive and I-73/74 to head just west of North Asheboro School Road, just west of Balfour Elementary School and North Asheboro Middle School.

Every area of Randolph County could benefit from detailed analysis of historic deeds to determine the names of the neighborhood watercourses.  This commonplace information has been lost to the present generation, which since the 1930s has been more concerned with automobiles, roads and street names than with geography.  But Randolph County is rich with the forgotten history of water.  Just tell your friends you know a shortcut that allows you to walk from the Pee Dee River to the Cape Fear River in fifteen minutes or less.  Then take them on a walk from 1036 S. Park Street to 835 South Cox Street.

The walking route

The walking route: Green Pin Pee Dee; Red Pin Cape Fear.

Randolph County Agriculture: Wheat

September 20, 2013
Harvesting Wheat with a Cradle, Southeast Randolph County, circa 1900

Harvesting Wheat with a Cradle, Southeast Randolph County, circa 1900

I’ve promised various people for years that I’d write up some of the history of agriculture in Randolph County.  It’s one of my favorite topics, but like all of them, I find a bit and a piece here and there that add up over the course of time to something locally unique.  As each separate element is part of a larger whole, that adds richness and complexity to the individual part, sometimes it is hard to sit down and write about the pieces before the big picture takes shape.

Randolph County never followed the plantation agricultural system of the eastern part of the state and the Deep South.  The hilly, rocky terrain broken up by numerous small rivers and creeks precluded the assembly of large open flat fields, and the Quaker and German cultural heritage of the Piedmont did not support the ownership of the slave labor required to profitably grow cotton.

The last census of slavery in the United States in 1860 included 393,975 named persons holding 3,950,546 unnamed slaves, or an average of about 10 slaves per holder.  One American citizen out of 70 was a slaveholder, with an average of about 10 slaves per holder.  The year before the war that ended the practice, slaveholders of 200 or more slaves, (constituting less than 1 % of the total number of slaveholders, or 1 out of every 7,000 free persons), held 20-30% of the total number of slaves in the U.S.

One of the largest American slaveholders, Joshua Ward of Georgetown, SC, owned more than 1,100 enslaved African workers.  This was not the case in Piedmont North Carolina.  In Guilford County just 22 citizens owned more than 20 slaves, with only one owning more than one hundred (James T. Morehead- 107), and the next largest owning just 53.[i] In Randolph in 1860, just 11 persons owned 20 or more slaves, with the largest, General Alexander Gray of Trinity, owning 104.[ii]  Gray (1768-1864), a General in the War of 1812, was probably the largest slaveholder in both counties before he began distributing slave families among his children as they married and came of age.  In keeping with Randolph County’s contrarian nature, Gray was also a member in good standing of the Manumission and Colonization Society, a slave emancipation group, which met in his new barn in 1817.[iii]

Benjamin Swaim, writing in the local newspaper The Southern Citizen in 1839, noted that “our provisions are mostly of the domestic kind- plenty of cheese, Butter and Milk, from the cool recesses of the Dairy.”[iv]  Fred Burgess of Ramseur noted in 1920 that only 10% of the county’s agricultural production was from non-food crops. [v]  In 1933, County Farm Agent E.S. Millsaps reported that those non-food crops consisted of 3,086 acres of tobacco and 1,403 acres of cotton—just 6% (4,489 acres) of the 76,263 total acres cultivated in the county’s 4,000 farms.[vi]

Millsaps went on to say, “Randolph is one of twenty North Carolina counties that raise wheat on a commercial basis.  The crop in Randolph, however, is not primarily commercial, being raised chiefly for the making of flour and corn meal for family use.  In 1933 the county had 16,373 acres sown in the grain, each acre yielding an average of twelve bushels, bringing the total crop to 196.500 bushels.   Sold on the average for $1.03 per bushel the crop had a total value of $202,095.00, or a value of $12.36 per acre.”[vii]

Wheat and corn had been the region’s primary crops even before the county itself was formed in 1779.  Even as late as 1894, the county still had what apparently was the largest number of water-powered grist mills in the state- more than 90. [viii]  Wheat and corn production required grist mills to make the raw product into something more valuable- flour.  Without a mill, homemakers could grind some grain by hand for baking and cooking.  But the only commercial alternative without a mill was to ferment the grain and corn into mash in a distillery- and the county had an unusual number of those, as well.

Cutting Wheat with Cradles, Iredell Co. NC (NCSU Archives)

Cutting Wheat with Cradles, Iredell Co. NC (NCSU Archives)

Randolph County Varieties of Wheat

A snapshot of the farm economy of a local Quaker family on the eve of war is found in a letter written by  Nathan Barker [1805-1886] and wife Catharine Cox Barker [1806-1866] of Buffalo Ford, to their son Ezra [1838- 1929], a student at New Garden Boarding School.

“6th month the 21st, 1860….  [We] cut our winter oats yesterday, finished cutting wheat the day before; the wheat came on all in a few days.  We commenced on 6th day last and cut and put up what was about 17 acres that day, so thee [may] suppose we had help.  We also had one hand 7th day and two 2nd day.  The two fields of purple straw at home turned off well and we think is well-filled.  The fields of white grained wheat was thin on the ground; that away from home did not turn off very well tho I think the grain is good.  To day planting out potato slips; so busy in the corn field last week there was [no] spare time for potato planting.  No mowing done yet except some to give to the horses green.  The flax is not ripe enough to pull yet; some of ours looks pretty well, some not so well where the ground has been rather wet.”[ix]

Purplestraw

One of the interesting questions to modern historians is whether any of the agricultural products grown in the mid-19th century are still available today.  Even today, such information is glossed over in private conversation.  We say, “I planted begonias,” not “I planted Burpee’s hybrid Purple Zinger Begonias.”  The above passage is more than usually helpful, and actually includes a recognizable name: “Purple straw” wheat.  The genealogy of American wheat starts with a 1922 USDA publication, “Classification of American Wheat Varieties, by Jacob Allen Clark.  Clark surveyed wheat production across the entire United States, and collected 25 named varieties of wheat being grown in North Carolina in 1919.  One of those, “Purplestraw,” was being grown on 86,500 acres, 13.9% of the state’s total wheat production.  In his technical description Clark noted that Purplestraw was a spring-planted, early harvested midtall wheat, awnless, with red kernels and a purple stem.   Its origins were unknown, but it was first described by the Virginia agricultural writer Edmund Ruffin in 1822 as “Early Purplestraw,” and was also commonly called “Bluestem.”  “This variety is fairly hardy and has been grown from fall sowing in the southeastern states for many years.  Its principal advantage over other varieties in that section is its early maturity, which in part is due to its spring habit.”[x]

Purplestraw Wheat - Carpenter Farm, Gaston Co., NC (1929- NCSU Archives)

Purplestraw Wheat – Carpenter Farm, Gaston Co., NC (1929- NCSU Archives)

Clark’s 1919 collection of wheat varieties formed the basis of the US Department of Agriculture’s National Small Grains Collection, still grown and maintained at the Small Grains Germplasm Research Facility at Aberdeen, IdahoNot all of the 1919 grains survive, but 3 different strains of Purplestraw are still available. [xi]  In addition to the 25 varieties of which Clark collected, 21 more named varieties were reported where he was unable to obtain samples.  These 46 total named varieties reported from North Carolina were by far the most diverse collection in the Southeast.  South Carolina, in contrast, reported 10; Virginia 23.[xii]

Nathan Barker’s other wheat variety was describes only as “the white-grained wheat.”  What appears to be a poor description is actually quite specific and helpful in searching Clark’s lists, as most of the North Carolina-grown wheats have red or pink kernels.  Only three are listed as having white kernels: “Goldcoin,” “Greeson,” and “Kivett.”    The first can be immediately disregarded as post-1860– Goldcoin was first commercially distributed in 1900, a strain formerly known as “White Clawson” from Seneca, New York.[xiii]   Greeson and Kivett, however, are strong contenders, as one has a Guilford County origin, and the other evidently Randolph County roots.

Kivett.

Clark notes simply that “Kivet is a white-kerneled wheat which has been grown in NC for many years.  It was obtained by Blount (47) and reported in 1892 in his New Mexico experiments.  It is possibly the same wheat as White Wonder, as both are grown in the same localities.”[xiv]  Samples of Kivett were not found by Clark in 1919, but White Wonder was obtained is still available at the Aberdeen test station.  Franklinville native Robert A. Craven, when I interviewed him in 1997, said that Kivett was similar to Greeson (which he called “Greensboro Wheat”), but that Kivett “wasn’t quite as big a grain” [see below].[xv]

Ag Extension Agent with Wheat (NCSU Archives)

Ag Extension Agent with Wheat (NCSU Archives)

Greeson, or Greensboro.

Of “Greeson,” Clark reports a veritable mountain of information.  His technical description Is a model of how much information can be noted by a close inspection of one stem of wheat: “Plant winter habit, midseason, midtall; stem glaucus, white, midstrong to strong; spike awnless, oblong-fusiform, middense, erect to inclined; glumes aglarous, white, midlong, wide; shoulders wide, square to elevated; beaks wide, obtuse, 1mm long; apical awns few, 2 to 20 mm. long, somewhat incurved; kernels white, midlong, soft, ovate, acute; germ midsized; crease midwide, deep; cheeks rounded; brush small, midlong.”[xvi]

Distribution: grown in Chatham, Randolph and Guilford Counties, NC.

History—According to W.H. McLean of Whitsett, NC, ‘this variety originated by a man whose name was Greeson, and has been grown in this country for a number of years and is very popular.’ He reported that it constituted 40 percent of the wheat grown near Whitsett, Guilford County, NC, in 1919.”  [The seed now maintained in the Idaho germplasm bank under the name ‘Greeson’ was evidently obtained, “date unknown,” from H. P. Moffitt, of Ramseur, NC.]

Synonym- ‘Greensboro.’  Because the seed was obtained at a fair held at Greensboro, NC, this name is used for the variety in Randolph County, NC, where the wheat is most widely grown.”

Clark’s notation of possible synonyms for each variety recognizes that, in an age where each farmer or local miller saved the seed of his personal favorite variety, the seed saver often felt entitled to name the variety as he saw fit.  My cousin Danny Whatley, whose mother was a Bonkemeyer, records another such synonym as part of that Randolph County family’s history.  The immigrant ancestor Frederic Gerhard Bonkemeyer left Germany in 1853 and arrived in Randolph County in 1855, supposedly bringing from German a pocket full of seeds- what came to be known as the “Bonkemeyer Strain” of wheat. [xvii]

However, Robert Craven in his 1997 interview, without even being asked about either variety, shared an alternative history:

“They had a kind of wheat in this country they called ‘Greensboro Wheat.’  The way it got its name, an old man Bonkemeyer, I knowed him, went to Greensboro one time, to the Guilford County Fair.  I never did get to go.  He went one time, and he was looking over the grain, and he seen a pretty nice stack of wheat there that he liked the looks of, and he stuck him a handful in his pocket.  And he come home, and come wheat-sowing time, he fixed him a row out there somewhere and sprinkled that handful of wheat in that row.  Well, the way I got it, that handful growed enough wheat, after the ground it out by hand, that he had about a half a gallon the next year.  Well, he sowed that, and from then on, that’s the way Greensboro Wheat got in this country and got its name.  I’ve growed its since I’ve been a’living here.  It was a good wheat.  It made good flour.  I reckon it would be counted a hard wheat. It didn’t have no beards on it.  I always dreaded that.  They had a bearded wheat, but it didn’t go over so big.  You never did work out in that none.  If you’d ever got some of them beards in your shirt, you’d a’ quit raising it too.  I never did raise no rye to thrash on that account.  You know that rye’s got beards on it, and about the only way to get rid of them is to burn your britches and shirt.  It would irritate the life out of you.

“Greensboro Wheat was smooth wheat.    Then they had a kind they called ‘Double-Head’”  You part your hair in the middle… and that Double-Head wheat had a crease on each side, like you’d laid it off, just like you’ve parted your hair.  And then there was a kind they called ‘Kivett Wheat.’ It wasn’t much different than the other.  Wasn’t quite as big a grain.”[xviii]

For the record, I note that the USDA also has a variety named “Gleason,” collected in 1929 in Statesville, NC.  Clark listed Gleason with the “unidentified” varieties of wheat of which he had been unable to trace samples.  The similarity between the names “Greeson” and “Gleason” has me wonder if the latter is the same as the former, but the name became confused the further it travelled away from Guilford County.  Only some future comparison of the two plants and seeds could tell if they are identical.


[i] 1860 U.S. Census of Guilford County, Slave Schedule:  James T. Morehead- 107;  Jno. A.Gilmer-53; C.P. Mendenhall- 48; Miss Mary Staples- 43; Letitia Walker- 41; Strudwick Summers- 40; Isaac Thacker- 40; A.H. Lindsay- 38; Arch Powell-34; J.M. Donnell- 30; David Scott-29; Jno. A. Mebane- 27; Delphinia Mendenhall- 27; J.A. Hughes- 25; Eli Smith- 25; Alex Robbins- 25; Wm. Barringer- 24; Emsley Donnell- 23; Ralph Gorrell; C.P. Jones-23; Peter Adams- 23; Elizabeth Troxler- 22.

[ii] 1860 U.S. Census of Randolph County, Slave Schedule:  Alexander Gray, 104 slaves; son RH Gray owned 22; son in law (md. Letitia Gray) AG Foster owned 30; Josiah Cheek- 39; Lewis Lutterlough-33; O.A. Palmer- 33; Noah Smitherman- 33; Thomas Marley- 21; Thomas A. Finch- 20; Abner Coltrane- 20; Allen Skeen-20.  Among many other prominent county leaders, Clerk of Court Hugh McCain owned 16 slaves; Dempsey Brown of Trinity, 15; AS Horney of Franklinville, 10; Dr. JM Worth of Asheboro, 9.

 [iii] Randolph County (1979), p. 72.

 [iv] Quoted in Zuber, Jonathan Worth, p. 42.

 [v] RC, Economic and Social, 1924, p.55.

 [vi] “Randolph Is Great Agricultural County,” The Courier, 1 Nov. 1934, p.C-3

[vii] Id.  The article also noted that “The Farm Forecaster reports the acreage in rye for the county in 1933 at 1,853, yielding on average of 9 bushels per acre.  The total yield of 16,677 bushels, selling for an average price of $1.06 per bushel, brought $17,678.00, a little better than $9.50 per acre.”

[viii] 1894 Business Directory of Randolph County, “Branson’s Directory.”  Eli Branson, a Randolph County native, meticulously listed each individual county property owner, with the acreage owned and its tax value.  It is the best source for raw farm figures outside of the decennial census.

[ix] Original letter in the possession of Leanna Barker Roberts of Westfield, Indiana.

[x] Jacob Allen Clark, “Classification of American Wheat Varieties,” USDA Bulletin No. 1074 (Washington, DC, Nov. 8, 1922), p. 212.

[xi] The collection holdings are searchable at http://www.ars.usda.gov/main/docs.htm?docid=2884 .

 [xii] Id.

 [xiii] Id.

 [xiv] Clark, p. 206.

 [xv] Robert A.  Craven (1909- 2000)— interviewed 8-8-1997 at his home on Iron Mountain Road south of Franklinville.

[xvi] Clark, p. 60.

[xvii] Daniel J. Whatley, “Bonkemeyer Family,” Randolph County Heritage Book #1 (1993), p. 148.

 [xviii] It is an interesting question whether Craven, when he describes Greensboro wheat as “smooth,” meant that it had a shallow crease, or no crease.  Clark’s description, of course, says the Greeson kernel had a “deep” crease.  Craven goes on to contrast Greeson with another variety he calls “Double-Head,” because the crease was even deeper.   Perhaps some day if the variety is grown again, some of these questions can be answered.

July 1, 1863.

July 1, 2013

NC Monument GettysburgKilled in the battle of Gettysburg, July 1st, 1863, Lieut. John H. Palmer, of the 22d Reg’t N. C. T., in the 24th year of his age.

He was a native of Randolph county, and among the first to volunteer in defence of his beloved country. Thus has fallen one so young, and promising, in the opening bud of manhood. He died a true patriot and soldier, fighting the enemies of his country and home. He was ever gay and lively; polite in his manners and strict in the discharge of his duties. Gallant in action, and heedless of danger—he feared not to follow where the colors went.

In him his parents have lost an excellent son, and North Carolina one of her brightest stars.

“He sleeps on Pennsylvania’s plains,
Amid the fallen brave,
The wild wind of her native hills
Sing requiems o’er his grave;
Deep toned notes of cannon’s roar,
Nor musket’s deeply rattle
Can rouse him from his sleep no more,
Nor wake him up to battle!
Green be the turf o’er his head,
And sacred be the sod;
Oh! may his spirit find a home
In glory, with his God.”

–J******.
[Published in the Fayetteville Observer, September 14, 1863]

John H. Palmer was the oldest of the twelve children of Oron Alston Palmer (1813-1890) and Sylvania Selvina Staley (1817-1896) of the Long’s Mills community north of Liberty in Randolph County.  He was born October 21, 1837, and enlisted in Company I, the “Davis Guards,” of the 22nd N.C. Infantry, on June 5, 1861.

John’s younger brother Joseph N. Palmer, born July 16, 1841, enlisted in the same company at the same time, but “mustered out… at home” on December 17, 1861—that is, he died at home, probably of one of the diseases that spread through the camps in the early months of the war.  So the war had already taken at least one member of the family before Gettysburg.

John Palmer was promoted to Sergeant Major on July 31, 1861; to 3rd Lieutenant on June 14, 1862; and to 1st Lieutenant on July 18, 1862.  Lt. Palmer was not by any means the only loss from Company I that day.

Lutheran Theological Seminary's Schmucker Hall

Lutheran Theological Seminary’s Schmucker Hall

From the Greensboro Patriot, September 24, 1863 (also published in Fayetteville Observer)

TRIBUTE OF RESPECT.
HEADQUARTERS 22D N. C. REGIMENT,
Camp near Orange C. H., Va., Aug. 26, 1863.


At a
meeting held by the officers of the 22d N. C. Regiment, Capt. C. F. Siler was called to the Chair, and Lts. R. W. Winborne and S. G. Caudill were appointed Secretaries.

The Chairman having explained the object of the meeting to be for the adoption of resolutions expressive of the sorrow for the death of Lieuts. J. F. PALMER [sic- J.H. is correct]  and I. S. ROBBINS, Company I, 22d N. C. Regiment.

The following gentlemen were appointed a Committee to draft resolutions: Lts. B. W. Birkhead, G. F. Gardin and W. A. Tuttle, Sergts. T. J. Hooper and F. M. Birkhead.
WHEREAS, It has pleased Almighty God in His infinite wisdom to remove from our midst our beloved comrades in arms, Lts. J. F. PALMER and I. S. ROBBINS, of Co. I, who left their professions under bright auspices, at an early date and hastened to the rescue of their country, and fell on the bloody heights of Gettysburg, under the majestic folds of the banner of liberty, while bravely leading their company.

Resolved, That while we bow in humble submission to the ways of Divine Providence, in his dealings with men, we cannot refrain to mourn the loss of these brave and noble young men whose gallantry and skill as officers has been tried on every field that their company has been engaged in, and found to be of the highest order; whose gentlemanly bearings had reached the acme of perfection towards all those they became associated with, and won for them the confidence and admiration of all who knew them.

Resolved, That in their death their company and regiment has sustained an irretrievable loss, and our righteous cause two of its most noble defenders.

Yes! before that terrific fire was begun,
The mission of these noble men was done;
Ere the flowers of summer were in bloom,
The noble martyrs were laid in one tomb;
Secret, yet swift, the fatal missile sped,
And friends now weep over their early bed.

Resolved, That we wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty days.
Resolved, That we extend our heart-felt grief to the bereaved families, and for comfort would point them to that Being who has vouchsafed all that is good for man.
Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be sent to the families of the deceased, and to the Greensborough Patriot, Catawba Journal and the Fayetteville Observer, for publication.

Lieut. B. W. BIRKHEAD, Co. I, }
G. H. Gardin, Co. B, }
W. A. TUTTLE, Co. A. ) COM.
SEGRT. HOOPER, Co. E,
}
BIRKHEAD, Co. L, }

Lt. R, W. WINBORNE,       } Secretaries.

Lt. S. G. CAUDILL, }

[This very formal expression of grief was a common feature of men’s clubs before the war- Masons, or social clubs would meet to eulogize a departed member, and write such flowery Victorian messages for publication in the local papers.  As time between battles permitted, the officers and men continued the tradition until the losses came too fast to keep it up.]

Isaiah Spurgeon Robins (b. 5-30-1837 ) was Company I’s 2nd Lieutenant.  His family history will be outlined in another post, but he enlisted in Company I on July 5, 1861, mustering in as 1st Sergeant.  He was promoted to Ordinance Sergeant in March 1862 and transferred to the regimental Field Staff.  On July 18, 1862 he was elected 2nd Lieutenant and transferred back to Company I.  How did the company lose both its lieutenants on July 1st?

On June 30th, J. Johnston Pettigrew’s brigade of eastern North Carolinians was sent into the little town of Gettysburg, PA, to look for supplies (“especially shoes.”)  They ran into John Buford’s Union cavalry and cocked the trigger for what became the turning point of the war.

A.P. Hill awakened his men to march into the town before dawn, and fortified them with an unusual allowance: any man who wanted an issue of whiskey at 5 AM was to receive one.  A five-mile march along the Chambersburg Pike brought them within sight of the town by 10 AM- and also within sight of federal artillery, which began a bombardment.  By 2:30 battle had become general along a front just west of the ridge where the local Seminary was located, and Robert E. Lee ordered Pettigrew’s 26th NC to press the federal line- which happened to be held by the famous Iron Brigade.  The federals were pushed back, but at a heavy cost- Pettigrew’s brigade suffered 40% casualties.

Dorsey PenderAbout 4PM Dorsey Pender’s troops advanced to relieve Pettigrew.  Pender’s Division of North Carolinians, including the 22nd NC Regiment, had led the march of A.P. Hill’s corps into Pennsylvania. They were in high spirits, impressing a British observer, who wrote “The soldiers of this Division are a remarkably fine body of men, and looked quite seasoned and ready for any work.  Their clothing is serviceable … but there is the usual utter absence of uniformity as to colour and shape of their garments and hats; grey of all shades, and brown clothing, with felt hats predominate.” [Lt. Col Arthur J. Freemantle, Three Months in the Southern States (London, 1863), pp229-230];  Dorsey Pender himself noted that “I never saw troops march as ours do:  they will go 15 or 20 miles a day without leaving a straggler and hop and yell on all occasions.” [ James I. Robertson, Jr., General A.P. Hill (1987), p204.]

His men charged right into a ferocious artillery barrage- 20 cannon spaced 5 yards apart threw iron at the Confederates.  One of the Union officers wrote that his cannon were “cutting great gaps in the front line of the enemy.  But still they came on, the gaps being closed by regiments from the second line, and this again filled by a third column which was coming over the hill.  Never have I seen such a charge.  Not a man seemed to falter.  Lee may well be proud of his infantry.” [Wainwright, Diary of Battle, quoted in Robertson, AP Hill, p212]

Gen. Alfred Moore Scales

Gen. Alfred Moore Scales

The brigade commanded by Alfred Moore Scales, a Rockingham County attorney, formed the extreme left of the attack.  The brigade, which included the 22nd NC, attracted a storm of musket fire from Union troops dug in at the Seminary in addition to the artillery, which fired case, canister and explosive rounds into the massed men.  The North Carolinians held, and pressed the attack, at horrific costs.   The color-bearer of the 13th NC his right arm blown off by an artillery shell, grabbed the flag with his remaining hand and pushed ahead shouting, “Forward, Forward!”  It was one of the fiercest artillery barrages of the war, and “virtually annihilated” Scales’ five North Carolina regiments.  Scales, himself wounded, reported that “only a squad here and there marked the place where regiments had rested.”  (McPherson, p. 212)  The brigade’s 500 casualties included every field officer. (id.)

How did Lts. Palmer and Robins die?  I’ve found no details- but the specifics can be imagined from the context.  Company I, the “Davis Guards,” their company, was at or near the center of the 22nd NC Infantry regiment, which was in the thick of the attack on Seminary Ridge by Scale’s Brigade, which was decimated by the Union artillery.  Other sons of North Carolina died there that day, and no doubt more Randolph County boys died with them.  We know these two, one 25 years old, one 26, and they can stand for them all.

Scales Brigade Monument Gburg

New Market Inn

March 30, 2013
New Market Inn, from the southeast, circa 1950.

New Market Inn, from the southeast, circa 1950.

During the winter months I try to get out and investigate the parts of Randolph County that are not so accessible when the animal and vegetable elements of creation awake in the spring and summer. Saturday March 30th, 2013, was a beautiful warm and sunny day, and as I was driving down 311 I steered through that odd left-hand crook in the road in Sophia that I’ve wondered about a thousand times. Whether going north just past New Market Elementary School or south just past Marlboro Church Road, cars must jog left as 311 for some unexplained reason swerves in its path beside the railroad. As a historian I’ve long been aware that this is the site of the New Market Inn- the one colonial or federal inn that retained its identity into my generation. For some reason I’d decided or been told ages ago that the inn itself was on the lot where a garage and auto salvage yard now covered all the acreage, but this last Saturday B.U. (Before Undergrowth) seemed like a good reason to double back and check out what my friend Colon Farlow recently asserted to me: that the inn wasn’t on the garage lot, but on the adjacent lot just to the west, a wooded lot now for sale. Not only did I stop and hike that lot, I got the first tick of spring for my efforts, so here’s the story.

New Market Inn, circa 1940.

New Market Inn, circa 1940.

In my book Randolph County: Images of America, the New Market Inn is illustrated on page 70 (and shown above) in a photo taken in 1935. This and one other image of the building in the historic photo database at the county public library document the house after its demotion in status into use as a barn, and before it collapsed or was demolished circa-1960. They show a house that architectural historians would term “Georgian,” the style that takes its name from the 18th century kings of England and is usually reserved to structures built before 1810. Georgian style houses show a strong formal symmetry, often with a five-bay center-hall plan. Georgian proportions emphasize verticality, with tall, narrow windows and steep roofs and boxed cornices which are cut flush to the gable ends. In Piedmont NC such houses were always of heavy timber construction, as brick was too expensive to use for residential bearing walls until the 1830s. Interiors would have had simple finishes, with exposed floor joists, raised panels on doors, mantels and wainscots, and enclosed “dogleg” or “boxed” stairs.
Conversion of the house into a barn has removed most of the decorative information I usually use to date a structure, and there are no photos of the interior known, but exterior photos of the New Market inn definitely exhibit the Georgian vertical emphasis and the symmetrical five-bay plan. The entrance door has been expanded into a barn door, but on the second floor what appears to be an original door opening suggests that the house had a center-hall plan. Most of the windows have been removed and boarded up; the two remaining may have been reused from other locations, as they appear to be short 6×6 sash. Visible through the open center door is another window on the far side of the house; it is located where a door should be, but the shadow appears to indicated a repurposed 9×9 sash. At the lower southeast corner an assymmetrical door and window could be later changes to the original plan; they may also mark the location of a separate entrance to the inn’s tap room.

Sketch of the stone foundations

Sketch of the stone foundations

The second, slightly later photo is a valuable view of the eastern side, showing the steep roof pitch of 10 or 12 inches of rise to every foot of run. The attic floor has two narrow windows crowded into each side gable, leaving space for a large end chimney which, if it existed, has been removed. A shed-roofed one-story addition is visible to the north side; the large barn-like additions on the west which were visible in the previous photo are here hidden behind a large cedar tree. The later photo documents a catastrophic structural failure progressing in the west-central portion of the house, where the inward slump indicates that the floor joists have rotted or been removed.

Corn Crib

Corn Crib

On my exploratory hike, the only standing structure I found was this corn crib/ tractor shed combination, probably dating to the 1930s or 40s and of little interest. Much more unusual was the blooming carpet of purple “Grape” or “Roman” hyacinth, which covered at least an acre southwest of a stone foundation. The briars, brush and vines, even in their temporarily leafless state, did not allow close inspection, measurement or adequate photography of the foundation. By my analog paced measure, the fieldstone foundation is 10-12 inches above grade and measures approximately 30 feet wide by 45 feet long. A water-filled depression indicates a cellar under the western end of the structure, at least 15 by 30 feet. A flat 4 by 5-foot rectangular stone a foot thick lies near the center of the façade, and another one approximately 2 by 4 feet lies at the southeast corner. Both may have been step stones to the doors shown on the photos. Chimney bases are not discernible to the east or west, but a large pile of brick and stone inside the foundation could be the remains of a chimney positioned either at the west end or at the center of the house.

Foundation stones

Foundation stones

Like much 20th-century journalism, newspaper accounts of the house sell romance and nostalgia over actual history. “YE OLD TAVERN, LANDMARK OF PIONEER DAYS, STILL STANDING IN NEW MARKET,” spins an article dated April 24, 1938 from The Randolph Tribune:

A few miles above Randleman on the High Point Road in New Market Township stands one of the earliest landmarks of pioneer days in Randolph County. It is a symbol of the sturdy and cultured type of pioneers who set up well-built homes in a country hitherto uninhabited except by Indians. There is something about this old landmark that seems to shout, “Mine is an interesting story.”

Today the old tavern, known formerly as one of the best on the Plank Road, is a barn, sheltering the owner’s stock and housing the hay and fodder. The chimneys have crumbled to dust, the front door has been replaced by a big swinging barn door, and the steps are gone. An investigator will find that there were eight rooms downstairs besides the dining room and kitchen. On the second floor were a large hall and six bedrooms. At the top of the narrow stairway the third floor consisted of two big loft rooms. The remaining windows are very narrow, the ceilings are low, and the wood has been painted several different colors. There are several original handmade doors. The fireplace used eight-foot logs.   At one corner of the house is a huge, long rock which some say was an “upping block,” others a doorstep.

Hearthstone, Doorstep or Upping Block?

Hearthstone, Doorstep or Upping Block?

This is the only description of the interior, but the writer evidently included the additions and expansions of the house in his room count, as the original block could not have had ten rooms downstairs and six bedrooms on the second floor. It is also interesting that the writer notes only one fireplace.    The article goes on to state: “Just who built this huge house is uncertain, but the earliest known occupants were Sidney Porter and his wife, Ruth Worth Porter, who later removed to Greensboro.” Addison Blair’s 1890 history doesn’t discuss the house in particular, but of New Market itself he writes

This is an old settled place, and was the home of Capt. John Bryant, a Whig, who was shot in his old house by Colonel Fanning. The place afterwards came into the possession of Shubal Gardner, who had a store there and was regarded as a big man. He owned a number of lots in Johnsonville and at one time drove a heard of beeves to Philadelphia. Joseph Newlin bought the property in 1840 and called it New Market and for many years carried on an extensive store and tin shop.

(J.A. Blair, Reminiscences of Randolph County, Asheboro, 1890; p. 49)

In the 1960s, local historian Addison Wall (who lived only a half mile from the site) wrote The Randolph Story for the Randleman Rotary Club, and noted on page 106 that “The inn closed down some time after the Civil War and was converted into a barn.  The lower floor was used as a granary and storage by Mr. Snider who bought the farm seventy-five years ago.  The New Market elections were held for a number of years in the building…. The building was torn down about 1950.”

To fully examine all these personalities involved with the property will take additional posts!


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