Trinity College Bell

April 26, 2009

The Bell on display under the Trinity College gazebo on the site of the original Trinity College and High School was made by the Henry McShane & Co. Bell Foundry of Baltimore, MD, in 1879.

The Bell and the Gothic style papyrus-leaf columns that the gazebo stands upon are the only surviving Trinity College artifacts in Trinity. Both appear to date to the post-Civil War renovation and expansion of the original 1855 brick Trinity College building.

The photo above, from the Duke University Archives, shows the building from the south in 1861, with President Braxton Craven and the all-male student body posing in their new role as commander and cadet corps of the “Trinity Guard.” The three-story brick building appears similar to any of the five cotton mills built on Deep River from 1838-1850, and in fact the college building was the focal point of Trinity in exactly the same manner as the factory was the raison-d’etre of any mill village. One major difference is that the windows of the college are much larger than the windows in any factory.

Organizing the home guard unit was Craven’s last-ditch effort to keep his student body from enlisting in the army en mass; during the war, however, he and the students were put on active duty guarding the Confederate prisoner of war camp at the former Salisbury Cotton Mill.

The 1855 college building was expanded between 1872-1874 with a large wing that fronted the road which is now NC62. The new wing set at a cross-angle to the 1855, so that the whole made a T-plan. The new wing contained classrooms and a chapel; the balcony of the chapel was supported by the papyrus columns which were re-used in the 1924 Trinity High School building.

The 1874 college building’s pointed windows and door openings gave it a vague Gothic Revival style which was popular for educational buildings and would be carried to its pinnacle in North Carolina in the 1924 West Campus at Duke University in Durham.

My favorite picture of Trinity College is the only one that shows the campus and grounds, a drawing on the cover of an 1883 commencement program. Whether this garden actually existed is unclear (the photo above only shows a field or wild flower meadow), the 1883 drawing shows a lively Victorian knot garden, with extensive flower beds and gravel walks.

When Trinity College was moved to Durham in 1892, the old college buildings were turned into a private college preparatory school, which became a public school in the early 20th century. In 1924 a special school tax district was established in Trinity and a new elementary school and high school building was built on the site of the college. That was in turn torn down in 1981, and the historic site is now a parking lot. The gazebo is squeezed between NC 62 and the fence around the lot.

Trinity Civil War Trail Marker II

April 25, 2009

The Trinity College marker on the North Carolina Civil War Trail was dedicated today.

The marker itself was erected in December, but today was the beautiful warm day to get a good crowd together.

The marker is located beside the gazebo made from the old Trinity College chapel columns which shelters the old Trinity College bell, returned to Trinity by Duke University about 15 years ago.

The story of the Gothic papyrus-capital columns, salvaged from the Trinity High School auditorium, is told in the entry on Trinity High School (TR:16) in my architecture book.

The original Trinity College building had some pointed church-like windows which perhaps suggested the Gothic style which became popular for residences around Trinity and Archdale.

One still stands on the west side of NC62 in Trinity (TR:11 in my book).

Sash Sawmill

April 17, 2009

I love old mill buildings, which means I love the machinery that runs in and outside of mill buildings, because the neat thing to me about mills is that the building and the machinery and the power transmission system that connects it all is inseparable. This is totally different from a modern factory, which is usually just a concrete pad with a wooden or metal shelter over it, and plenty of electrical outlets to plug all the machinery into our power grid. Early mills were dependant on water power and a mill was located where the available fall of water provided enough kinetic energy to do a sizeable amount of work. The first steam engines in Piedmont North Carolina were used in cotton mills such as the Mount Hecla mill in Greensboro about 1830, which liberated mills from the flood plain. But even then, the steam engine and boiler just replaced the water wheel as a prime mover.

I came across this photo in an odd way. I found a hefty old book at a yard sale, almost 500 pages of 19th-century lithographed photos of the landmarks of the world, from the Tower of London and Notre Dame of Paris to the Kremlin and the Taj Mahal. It was a late 19th-century coffee table book, meant to grace a parlor and provide hours of enjoyment in the era before movies, radio, TV, and the internet: Royal Photograph Gallery: Placing on Home Exhibition Photographs of the Majestic and Imposing in Nature; the Beautiful and Inspiring in Art; the Grandly Scenic, Eventfully History and Strikingly Descriptive; Including Impressive Scenes, Heroic Events and Famous Achievements which Mark Human Progress and Distinguish the Nations of Earth. Introduced by John Clark Ridpath, LLD, America’s Famous and Foremost Historian. Philadelphia: Historical Publishing Company, 1893.

On page 419, this picture caught my eye, and the caption really surprised me.

“OLD MILL NEAR ASHBOROUGH, N.C.—

This is one of those picturesque and attractive scenes which frequently greet the eye of the traveler in the old north State. It is equally suggestive of antiquity and poetry. Located in the neighborhood of the county seat of Randolph County, and taking advantage of a natural water power, the primitive structure, with its leaky water wheel and creaky cogs, tells the story of a time when grists were borne long miles to mill and when flour was not evolved by the steam roller. All about the old mill are the somber forests which echoed the rush of waters over the dam, the groaning of the burdened water-wheel, and the monotone of the busy burr. Where once the far-off farmer unloaded his scanty bushels and waited for his snow-white return, the tourist now finds recreation and the artist an object for admiration.”

Quite the poetic description, and pretty definitely wrong. The mill is definitely a water-powered mill, but it’s obviously no grist mill, even though there’s an old discarded mill stone leaning against the axle crib. It’s a water-powered vertical-blade saw mill, also called an “up-and-down” or “sash” sawmill. And it’s the only picture of a Randolph County sash sawmill I know of.

[Illustration from Oliver Evans, 1790, of his design for a vertical blade mill.]

Since their invention in 1844, modern sawmills have spinning round blades, like a hand-held skill saw. The first circular saw mill, powered by a steam engine, was brought into Randolph County by Jonathan and John Milton Worth, who in 1852 contracted to supply lumber for the construction of the Plank Road being built from Fayetteville north to Salem.

[The saw in its sash or frame.]

Before that time, every saw mill was powered by water, and cut wood with a long saw blade mounted in a vertical wooden frame similar to a picture or window frame. The frame was attached to a crank which pushed it up and down on a track as a water wheel turned the crank, with a motion similar to the opening and closing of a window sash (hence the name). A mechanical ratchet mechanism pulled the log, mounted on a cogwheel-driven carriage, against the moving saw blade. The water-powered blade was designed to move at about 150 strokes a minute, so as to cut about 3,000 board feet of lumber in a 12-hour day. Depending on the available water power, however, production could vary down to 500 board feet per day. Water-powered saw mills such as these were an American invention, dating as far back as 1621 in New England, long before similar mills were used in Europe (see Michael Williams, Americans and Their Forests, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992, p. 167.)

The size and shape of the mill building is the giveaway that it’s a saw mill. Saw mills were long, narrow, one-story buildings, while grist mills were squarish, boxy, multi-story buildings. The only convenient early way to grade wheat or flour and meal was to drop it from a height to sift it and scatter trash contamination. Wheat and corn storage bins were also located in the attic, so that the grains could be funneled into the stones from above.

This building has no attic space, and is long and narrow (look at the pitch of the roof- the building can be no more than 15 feet wide). It’s powered by an elderly-looking overshot wheel; the feed from the head race is positioned so it hits the wheel at about 11:55 on a clock face, just slightly off center, so that the wheel rotates counter-clockwise (also evident from the placement of the buckets, designed to fill up and be pulled down by gravity to our left). As the water buckets filled and the wheel turned, the large iron gear mounted on the left side of the wheel turned at the same speed as the water wheel, since they are the same size. But the slow rotation of the wheel was transformed into a fast motion to be transmitted to the saw mill by the large gear being meshed with the smaller gear to the lower left. I can’t really tell how many teeth there are (which would determine the gear ratio), but this arrangement might have powered the saw at a speed as much as 8 to 10 times the speed of the water wheel.

No work is being doing now, though- the wheel is stopped for the photograph. We can tell that because we can actually see the buckets; if the wheel were moving they’d be a blur, due to the slow speed of 1890s photography. And we also know it’s stopped because most of the water is flowing over the side of the tail race behind the wheel, indicating the head gates are closed beside the man (the miller? The sawyer?) standing beside the gate atop the wheel.

I wish this photograph had a location more helpful than “located in the neighborhood of the county seat of Randolph County.” That covers a lot of territory! And I would love to be able to go to this place and compare this photograph with what remains in place, where ever it was. But at least we’ve rediscovered the picture, so as to remind us that we once had a landscape with saw mills such as this.

Dicks’ Mill

April 15, 2009

[Circa-1960 photo of Dicks Mill from North Randolph Historical Society, http://www.stpaulmuseum.org/exhibit_randleman.htm]

The original name of Randleman was Dicks Mill, after the merchant flour mill shown here, built by Peter Dicks about 1830. The mill was built on Deep River above the modern U.S. 220 Business highway bridge, but about 1900 was moved downstream to stand near the Naomi mill. At one time it included not only wheat and corn stones but an oil mill. It was demolished about 1965. Architecturally the building is too big to be an 18th-century mill, and the many large windows (nine over six sash, unusually large) are early-19th century at best. It is the size of what was called a “merchant mill,” a mill that not only ground corn into meal and wheat into flour, but graded the flour through bolting and sifting machinery to produce a more refined white flour.

Peter Dicks (b.1771 – d.1843), the subject of the last few posts here, was a farmer and a merchant who operated a general store in the then-thriving village of New Salem. He served in many public capacities, including being one of the commissioners of New Salem (incorporated 1816), who sold lots and laid off streets; he was a Justice of the Peace (what we now call a county commissioner); he also served as Clerk of the Court of Equity. He was one of the founders of New Garden Boarding School, now Guilford College; throughout his life remained a trustee of the school and was an active member of the Society of Friends in both Centre and New Salem Monthly Meetings. Peter Dicks and wife Nancy Ann Hodgson tombstones in New Salem Methodist Ch/Cem.

Even though it is historically clear that Peter Dicks’ mill on Deep River was the focal point around which the village of Union Factory and the City of Randleman subsequently coalesced, there is confusion over when that actually happened.

Some sources say 1800 (“Peter Dicks built a grist and oil mill, on Deep River in 1800.” (library http://www.randolphlibrary.org/historicalphotos.htm ; also Randleman city website http://www.randleman.org/History.aspx). Other sources say 1830 (Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randleman,_North_Carolina , no citation). Pioneer local historian J.A. Blair in his “Reminisences of Randolph County” (1890) finesses over the question by saying “Away back in the shadowy past Peter Dicks had a grist and an oil mill at this place.”

I’ll say they’re all wrong, it was even earlier than that. Grandfather Peter Dicks (ca. 1720-1796), brought the family down from York County, PA to Guilford County in 1755, settled in the Polecat Creek area near Centre Meeting. At some point soon thereafter he built a mill on Deep River which became the family business. In the Rowan County Court Minutes, (McCubbins, ed., Book 1: 1753-1772, p. 1), we read:

“On petition of hickory Creek and Russell’s Runn and Poulcatt [Polecat]for a Road to Mill and Market, from Pennington’s Mill through Hickory Creek Settlement the best and nearest way to Peter Dick’s Mill and from thence to the Trading Path, the convenient way to Market on Cap Fair [Cape Fear], and that Peter Dicks, James Green, James Wilson, William Arafield [Armfield], Robert Lamb, George Hodgins, Robert Hodgins, Mathew Osborn, Daniel Osborn, John Osborn, Robert Fields, and William Fields be a jury to lay off the same and make return thereof to our next county court, and that James Green be appointed Overseer for the Lower Part and Abraham Cook for the upper part. Granted.”

Pennington’s Mill and Hickory Creek were in southern Guilford County, with the creek heading on or about the present Sedgefield golf course and running into Deep River below Freeman’s Mill (now under the Randleman Reservoir). “Russell’s Run” or Creek runs into Deep River between Freeman’s Mill and Coletrane’s Mill. Polecat Creek rises in southern Guilford and runs into Deep River below Randleman. So this road ran roughly from Sedgefield to Groometown Road near Jamestown to the Trading Path Ford near modern Randleman. [For more information on this petition and Pennington’s Mill, see http://penningtonresearch.org/resources/articles/Pages%2014-15-PP0602.pdf ). It appears that Peter Dicks either applied for permission to build a mill, or bought an existing mill site, just as soon as he came to North Carolina in the early-to mid-1750s. And if that mill on Deep River wasn’t located at the modern Randleman, I don’t know where else it could have been.

When Union Factory was built just upstream in 1848, it made use of the Dicks Mill dam. James Dicks (1804-1883), owner and operator of the grist mill at that time, became a stockholder of the cotton factory along with a group of fellow Quakers. When the Naomi Manufacturing Company was built in 1879-1880, a new dam was built downstream at the site of the Naomi Falls, and the new dam backed water into the tail race of the grist mill, making it inoperable. Dicks Mill was thereupon disassembled, moved to a site below the Naomi Factory, and reconstructed just beside the new bridge over the ford below the mill. The mill is clearly visible in several photographs of that side of Naomi factory, including one where it is in the background as the steel bridge is being replaced in 1959. The mill remained in business on that spot until it was demolished in the mid-1960s.

The final years of Dicks Mill were chronicled in this article by Ruby K. Marsh, published on Monday, March 28, 1960, in The Greensboro Record. This is one of the last descriptions of an operating grist mill in Randolph County.


Century-Old Mill Still Grinding Corn

Randleman, March 24—

The Old Naomi Roller Mill—grinding corn and wheat for over a century– is still running, using the same machinery re-installed in 1880 when the mill was moved down river for lack of water to operate.

Naomi Manufacturing Company (now J.P. Stevens Co.) built a new plant that year—just below the old grist mill, using up the available water supply to generate power for the cotton mill. The grist mill was torn down and relocated below the Naomi Falls plant where it still stands today- just as it has stood for 80 years.

Hand-hewn beams and rafters from the original mill were used to build this sturdy, three-story plant which is completely furnished with machinery for grinding flour and corn meal as well as other feeds.

The “old corn rock” is still in use with the original boards which were shaped by hand to surround the round rock which grinds corn. The boards were neatly mitred at the four corners, put together with large wedges of wood and look as though they would last another century if needed.

The woods are polished from the passage of corn over the surface over the years. The floor too is polished as slick as though freshly waxed. Here wide pine boards of about two-inch thickness were used, the floor being as solid today as it was when placed there despite vibrations from the heavy machinery.

Just when the mill converted to electricity is not definitely known by present owner W.C. Routh, but he thinks about 40 years ago. The old mill race has been filled in, and boards cover the opening where water flowed underneath.

Six different processes were required before flour could be finished. In the old roller mills section—now idle—elevators carried wheat from one floor to the other, dropping the ground flour down through bins where pure Japanese silk screens bolted the flour—sending any coarse materials back into the elevator to be carried back to the roller where it was reground, then redropped into the screen for sifting. Waste materials went out a separate chute. Some of these old silk screens are still hanging on the wall, though they are now yellowed with age.

Up on the third floor the pan to mill self-rising ingredients is still sitting on top of the scales, just waiting to be used once more. The mixing bins where the flour and self-rising soda baking powder and salt- were added now have dirt-dobbers nests inside. The old wooden barrel which once held three or four bushels of corn is sitting idly by.

Corn was brought up from the wagon outside by a windlass which a man could pull with one hand. About 200 lbs. of corn could be carried up with one hand on the large four-foot wheel with a rope 1 ½ inches thick, being located out under the eave of the roof.

In front of the mill old dutch doors with a long slide wooden latch locks the door at night. The upper half is kept open during the day so people can see the place is open for business.

In the office the old box-type desk was nailed to the wall—right where it was located 80 years ago. The stool, made of two-inch pine, is polished from the millers sitting to tally up the price of a sack of corn meal or flour.

On the wall is a sign telling everyone to beware of the loaded rifle, kept to shoot rats which become troublesome sometimes. Little boys became meddlesome so Mr. Routh put up this sign.

Corn cobs are used to keep the office warn. They are burned in a tiny laundry heater.

On one of the large bins, names of the millers since 1900 are inscribed for posterity. Among them are five names of the seven Routh boys.

Routh and a brother operated a mill down in the borders of Chatham County just outside of Randolph at Bennett before Routh was born at Grays Chapel not far from his present home above the mill.

The mill site has long been a trading center. Indians traded with white settlers long before the Revolutionary War. It is also the site famed for the murder of Naomi Wise by her lover—for whom the mill is named.

Since he is partially retired Routh does not mind the slow pace which his mill now has—selling a little egg mash and other feeds and custom grinding corns for his friends, many of whom delight in going to visit him while he grinds corn on the ‘old corn rock.’

Peter Dicks House

April 14, 2009

Formerly in the village of New Salem, now destroyed.

Rom Ward moved to the village of New Salem in 1918, bought an old house and remodeled it into a stylish bungalow; bought a little old house and turned it into a workshop, and bought yet another old house and turned it into his barn. Both of these photos of the Rom Ward barn were taken by me during the 1978 architectural inventory of Randolph County. This was one of the earliest houses I found, probably dating to the 1780s or 1790s, and I still regret that it wasn’t subsequently preserved. The county is a poorer place for having lost almost its entire 18th-century built environment.

The structure once stood approximately behind the workshop building and further back in the field behind the Ward house; Mr. Ward had moved it closer to New Salem Road (SR 2115).

Only 20 by 25 in plan, it originally had two floors and a finished attic. When I made its acquaintance it was in a neglected state, but it had a number of special details which indicated that it had once been a house of rather high quality.

The exposed ceiling joists of the ground floor (being the floor joists of the second floor) were fully chamfered, and stopped with lamb’s tongues. The exposed ceiling joists of the second floor (the floor joists of the attic) were simply beaded. No mantels survived on the ground floor, but a three-panel board-and-batten door with iron strap hinges survived under the rear shed. The first floor had remnants of vertical wood paneling, a simple wooden molding ran around the ceiling and joists, and there were several areas where a wide-board floor remained, fastened down with wooden pegs, not nails.

The second floor window openings were about 18 inches wide, and were crowned with a simple wooden cornice. This would not be so remarkable today, but circa-1800, it would have been unusual to find cornices over the ground floor windows, let alone the upper stories.

The gable trim was flush with the siding, which on the eastern end apparently used very early “riven” clapboards, split instead of sawn. The framing of the house indicated a fireplace on the western end. The only remaining piece of exterior trim was a section of dentil molding under the box cornice- dentils produced by angled cuts in a wood strip almost identical to what furniture connoisseurs call “chip carving.”

An early issue of the defunct North Randolph Historical Society Quarterly, (vol. 2, #3, published in June 1968), printed the descriptions of early buildings from long-time New Salem residents. On page 40, it says

“The old Dicks home stood… to the right of the closed well that used to serve [Rom Ward's] house. Mrs. Hayes [a neighbor] can remember an addition in the back that was four bedrooms and the kitchen joined the end near the well. It had a large fireplace and then stairs going up to the second floor and then a closed staircase from the second to the third floor, which was finished. The yard was very different from any around. It was completely covered with large white rocks, laid side by side, with no filling in between, no flowers or shrubbery. Where the rocks came from, no one ever knew. Mrs. Hayes has two in her front yard.”

New Salem was founded around the year 1815, when streets were laid off and lots were sold by Town Commissioners Benjamin Marmon, Jesse Hinshaw, Moses Swaim, William Dennis and Peter Dicks. Until Franklinsville was founded and became the county’s manufacturing metropolis, New Salem was for about a quarter century the largest municipality in the county. Two acres at the east end of the village was sold to the Society of Friends, who established a meeting house. After the Civil War the dwindling Quaker congregation merged with Providence monthly meeting a few miles away, and their meeting house was sold to the current Methodist congregation.

Across the street from the Dicks house was (and still stands) the home of Dr. C.W. Woolen, whose father in law was the Abolition preacher Daniel Worth. Further back behind the Woolen house is a water source known as Adams’ Spring, notorious since 1808 as the place where Naomi Wise met her lover Stephen Lewis just before her death.

The Dicks family were long-time Quakers, and can be traced with some difficulty through Hinshaw’s “Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy” (I say ‘difficulty’ because each generation had at least one “Peter Dicks,” and sometimes more than one). To confuse matters even further, the Dick family in north central Guilford County (remember Judge R.P. Dick, signer of the Dicks Mill petition a few days ago?) was not related to the Dicks family of south central Guilford and Randolph.

According to the records of Centre Friends meeting, once right on the border between Guilford and Randolph, and now firmly in Guilford), our Peter Dicks was born May 13, 1771 (or “13th day 5th month 1771″ according to the Quaker terminology used in Hinshaw (Volume I, p. 652). He was the son of James Dicks (b. 1748, York Co, PA, died 16 Nov 1830, and buried at New Salem Meth. Ch.) and wife Rachel Beals. Father James was himself the son of another Peter Dicks (b. ca. 1720 in Chester Co., PA; died 2 Jan. 1796 in Guilford County) and his wife Elizabeth. That Peter Dicks and his family moved their membership in Warrington Monthly Meeting of Friends in York Co., PA, to New Garden Monthly Meeting in Guilford County on August 30, 1755. Grandpa Peter was evidently the immigrant to North Carolina I remember hearing Edgar “Josh” Murrow of Centre speak of as if they were old school buddies. That Peter Dicks, said Josh, moved to the wilds of Polecat Creek, kept at that time burned to a grassy savannah by the Indians; he built a lean-to under an enormous Chestnut tree, and fed himself by shooting the abundant wild turkeys. (Josh learned all this by reading the diary of Peter Dicks, subsequently destroyed in a house fire). The family business may have been milling, as the immigrant Peter Dicks is listed in court records as owning a mill as early as 1753.

Our Peter may have been a potter, as when neighbor William Dennis sold out and moved west in 1832 his pottery tools were purchased by Peter Dicks. Our Peter, however, earned his living in sales, and may have made pottery and built his grist and oil mill on Deep River to supply the needs of his store in New Salem.

On October 26, 1797, our Peter Dicks married another Friend, Nancy Ann Hodson at Centre meeting. Peter and Nancy Ann are buried in the cemetery at New Salem Methodist Church, which at the time of his death in November, 1843, was New Salem Friends Meeting (Nancy outlived him to August 4, 1850). Their tombstones are now so eroded by weather and abrasive lawn maintenance that they are virtually unreadable.

Their children did quite well. Son James continued to live in Randleman, run the family mill, and was a founder and stockholder in the Union Factory. Daughter Sallie Dicks married John Milton Worth, a physician and brother of Governor Jonathan Worth. Dr. Worth and wife Sallie built a substantial house where the Asheboro Public Library now stands. Daughter Annie Dicks married Jesse Walker, a merchant and investor in several other cotton mills.

Bridge over Deep River at Dicks Mills

April 13, 2009


Another Bridge petition from the Randolph County records in the State Archives in Raleigh…

This one is for the first bridge across Deep River at what is now US 220 Business in the City of Randleman; before 1868 it was known as Union Factory; at the time of this Petition it was still known as “Dicks Mills.” The “Dicks” of Dicks Mills was Peter Dicks, a merchant of nearby New Salem, a largely Quaker community which grew up in the early 19th century on the old Indian Trading Path.

The petition is undated, so I’ve tried to narrow down its time frame. First and most obviously, it not only has to date to a time before the construction of the Union Factory in 1848-49, but before the death of Peter Dicks in February, 1843. The petition is interesting because it’s not predominantly a local request, like the Dunbar’s Ford petition which was signed by western Randolph and eastern Davidson resident. The 84 signers here include obvious local people like Peter Dicks and his son James, Orlando Wood, Joseph Deveny and other northern Randolph names such as Coletrane, Clark, Chamness, Dennis and Hockett. It also includes several from western Randolph such as Daniel Bulla, Aaron Hill and Phineas Nixon; together with eastern Randolph notables such as Philip Horney, H.B. Elliott, and at least seven southern Randolph Hinshaws. But what really catches my eye is the number of Asheboro merchants and court officials. A.H. Marsh, Joseph Brown, James B. Moss and James Page were all storekeepers; Benjamin Swaim was a lawyer and publisher of the Southern Citizen, the local newspaper; Hugh McCain was the Clerk of Superior Court; Jonathan Worth was a lawyer and Clerk and Master in Equity; and John M. Dick was a Superior Court Judge.

Since only registered voters could sign the petition, it can’t date any earlier than the 21st birthday of its youngest signer. I haven’t checked them all, but James Dicks (son of Peter, b. 1804) and Jonathan Worth (b. 1802) wouldn’t have been legal voters until after 1823 and 1825. The key signer, I believe, is John M. Dick (1791- 1861), a prominent resident of Greensboro who served as Guilford County as a state senator in 1819 and 1829-1831. The only reason I can see that a Guilford County citizen would sign this petition is the fact that he was elected to the Superior Court bench in 1832 [John Hill Wheeler, Historical Sketches of North Carolina; Philadelphia, 1851], and then, as now, Superior Court judges travel from county to county in a circuit. So I believe that the petition was signed during a court session in Asheboro by lawyers and officials whose travel time back and forth to Greensboro would be significantly improved by a bridge in this location.

—–

[From C.R. 081.925.18, "Miscellaneous Road Records"]

State of North Carolina    )

Randolph County        )

To the worshipful the Justices of the Court of Pleas and quarter sessions, Greeting:

We of the citizens of the county aforesaid respectfully show to your worships that a large portion of your citizens of the County now do and long have labored under great inconvenience for want of a good and substantial Bridge over the Deep River at or near Dicks Mills in said County.

Your petitioners, knowing your worshipfull body to be well acquainted with the proposed site and surrounding country would deem it an useless waste of time to attempt to adduce all the many cogent reasonings that might be put forward in support of their petition; however we will just say that this is the rout[e] along which the U.S. mail passes 4 times each week on the rout[e] between Leaksville and Asheborough and is also the main or more direct road for the citizens in the northern part of the County to travel to and from the Court House of the County and also that travelled in passing to and from Fayetteville and other Eastern and Southern markets.

Hence the petition which your memorialists present with Confidence that you will hear and determine and grant such order to be made as in your wisdom may deem right and expedient, and such only would your petitioners even ask.

Wm. HINSHAW        Saml. COFFIN        A.H. MARSH

R. LAMB            Elijah POWEL        Joseph H. BROWN

Dr. George KIRKMAN    Joseph DEVENY        James PAGE

Marsh DORSETT        Orlando WOOD        Jos. LAMB

David E. FRITCHETT    Stephen ALLRED        John SCOTT

James DICKS            Richard RICH        H.B. ELLIOTT

Peter DICKS            Nathan STANTON        G. B. Winningham (?)

Wm. DENNIS        Nathan ELLIOTT        Thomas Thornburg (?)

Mahlon DENNIS        Sam. RICH            Joseph HENLEY

Jonathan LAMB        Enoch ROBINS        J. LAMB

Henry WATKINS        Wiley WALL            Hugh McCAIN

Charles S. DORSETT                        Saml. HILL

Seth HINSHAW                        R.S. MURDOCH

J. B. HINSHAW                        J. HUSSEY

Ezra KIMBALL                        Benj. SWAIM

William CLARK Jr.                        Benjamin HINSHAW

Nathan DENNIS                        James B. MOSS

Alexander CLARK                        John COFFIN

Joseph HODGIN                        Bryant RAGAN

Dougan CLARKE                        Tristram HINSHAW

W.B. LANE                            Joseph LEE

William COLTRAIN                        Joseph McCOLLUM

Nathan HENLEY                        Isaac LEE

Aaron HILL                            Hiram LAMB

Philip HORNEY                        J. HINSHAW

Solomon ELLIOTT                        Jesse HINSHAW Snr.

John McCOLLUM                        John Hockett

Joshua ROBINS                        Wm. CHAMNESS

John ROBINS                        Wenlock REYNOLDS

J.G. HINSHAW                        Daniel SWAIM

Francis REYNOLDS                        Albert LAMB

Job REYNOLDS                        Arthur McCOY

Nathan CHAMNESS                        Wm. DENNIS Jr.

Jesse MILLIS                            Jno. MOSS

William HINSHAW                        Jona. WORTH

Allen LAMB                            Peter W. RICH

Obadiah ELLIOTT Jr.                    P.N. NIXON

Marmaduke VICKORY                    William RICH

Aaron REYNOLDS                        Moses Ritch (?)

James Polk Senr.

Timothy CUDE

Jno. M. Dick

Danl. BULLA

William COMMONS

(84)

SANDY CREEK BAPTIST CHURCH

April 12, 2009

Sandy Creek church from the Southwest

Sandy Creek church from the Southwest

Liberty Township; east side Ramseur-Julian Road.

[Sandy Creek Baptist Church was this month approved to be designated as a county Landmark; the description below was written years ago, but I updated it to take note of the recent loving improvements done by members of its congregation.  It is not yet listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is not only deserving of that designation, it should by all rights become Randolph County's first National Historic Landmark.  For a a look at the complete Landmark application, check it out on the Landmark Commission page on the county website.]

Sandy Creek Baptist Church is both the oldest organized church and the oldest surviving religious structure in Randolph County. A recognized landmark in religious history, it is noted by the nearby state historic marker as the “Mother of Southern Baptist Churches.” The congregation at Sandy Creek was founded by the “Separate Baptist” minister Shubal Stearns (1706-1771), a Boston native who led a group of eight families into the area in 1755. Most colonial or “Particular” Baptists were members of the Philadelphia Association and advocated a strict Calvinist theology of “what will be, will be.” Separate or “New Light” Baptists broke with this practice and proposed active campaigns to win converts with Sunday Schools, revivals and missionary work. Stearns’ efforts to awaken the religious impulses of the back country were wildly successful, with his original congregation of eight families mushrooming into 606 members by 1770.

In June 1758 Stearns formed the Sandy Creek Association, an organization including not only the original church but three nearby offshoot congregations. The association soon grew to include members all over the South, and as far west as the Mississippi. Baptist historian Morgan Edwards noted in 1772 that “It, in 17 years, is become mother, grandmother and great grandmother to 42 churches, from which sprang 125 ministers, many of which are ordained and support the sacred character as well as any set of clergy in America.” In 1830 the Sandy Creek Association backed the creation of the new Southern Baptist Convention, and the two organizations soon combined. Sandy Creek Church itself, centered in the area of most active opposition to the colonial government, suffered greatly during the War of the Regulation. Edwards estimated that 1,500 families left the region after the battle of Alamance in 1771. This combined with the death of Rev. Stearns in November of the same year, soon caused the membership of the church to dwindle to a mere fourteen.

Nationally, the Separate Baptists combined with the Regular Baptists in the early 19th century, but the merger was not popular. In 1836 discontent was so profound at Sandy Creek that part of the congregation broke away and formed the nearby Shady Grove Baptist Church, leaving the old building to the ‘Primitive’ (or anti-missionary) Baptists who maintain it today.

The existing Sandy Creek Church is the third building to house the congregation. The first building burned about 1785, and the second, built across the road, was blown down by a storm. The third, according to strong local tradition, was built in 1826. The log building is approximately 20 by 25 feet in size.

Interior looking west toward Bible rail

Interior looking west toward Bible rail

The church is one of the best examples of antebellum meeting houses left in North Carolina.  It still features the original pulpit, or “Bible Rail,” and some original benches.

Interior looking northwest

Interior looking northwest

Raked “galleries” or balconies around three sides of the interior were removed in 1936, but have recently been expertly reconstructed.

Detail of Corner Notching

Detail of Corner Notching

The log church was weatherboarded in 1870 and covered with asphalt siding in 1953; both coverings were removed in 2007 when several rotten structural timbers were replaced.   It is good to see one of the county’s most important historic landmarks is being well maintained by its congregation.

Historical Markers: Sandy Creek Baptist Church

April 10, 2009

Located on the south side of Old Liberty Road (NC 49A), just east of its intersection with the Ramseur-Julian Road, at what is called the “Melancthon” intersection (because it’s just north of the Melancthon Lutheran Church).

Three different churches are clustered together just east of the Sandy Creek cemetery which grew up around Elder Stearns’ grave, now marked by a marble obelisk.

The graveyard itself is located just across the street from the Northeast Randolph Middle School built in the early 21st century.

4

The oldest church, subject of another post, is marked by this bronze plaque:

Bridge at Dunbar’s Ford, Uwharrie River

April 9, 2009


“Dunbar’s Bridge” was the name of this 1920s-era steel bridge over the Uwharrie at the time of my 1979 architectural inventory. A few years later it was the subject of a controversy when it was demolished by the Department of Transportation over the protests of local residents.  It has never been replaced, leading to the logical question of why it couldn’t have been left as a pedestrian bridge.  It continues to be a sort of controversy in the area, as neither printed nor online maps make it clear that the connection is broken and that the roads on each side of the river have become dead ends.

The origin of the bridge is found in the following petition of 132 southwestern Randolph and 31 southeastern Davidson residents, one of a number of similar documents located in “Miscellaneous Road Records,” North Carolina State Archives file C.R. 081.925.18. The petitioners are asking the county justices to spend county money on this project. A petition was the common method of the time to seek the construction of any public improvement, whether courthouse, jail, mill, road or bridge.  The Randolph County files at the state Archives in Raleigh have a number of such original petitions, given that our courthouse never burned and our courthouse personnel never threw anything away!

At the February 1832 term of court the county Justices appointed John INGRAM, James HODGIN, Jonathan REDING, John HENLEY and A. CUNNINGHAM to be commissioners for building a bridge at Dunbar’s ford.  Construction of the bridge was awarded to the lowest bidder John DUNBAR. When completed the bridge itself was 275 feet long; stone abutments on each end combined for a total length of 313 feet. The final report of the commissioners, filed February 5, 1833, showed the total cost of the bridge to be $600.00. The Justices took action based on the following petition asking them to spend county monies to build a bridge at that location. The petition was signed by 132 citizens of Randolph County, and interestingly, also by 31 citizens of Davidson County- virtually a census of the prominent taxpayer of southwestern Randolph.

I don’t know of any photograph of the Dunbar Covered Bridge; email if you do. The petition follows, after one last view of the steel bridge (both of these can be found in the Randolph Room collection at the Asheboro Public Library).


State of North Carolina

To the worshipful the Justices of the Court of pleas and quarter sessions for the County of Randolph: Greeting. We whose names are hereunto annexed having long Laboured under great inconveniance, and in common with divers others of the good citizens continuing to, and believing it not only to be within the power of the County Court, but your will, to redress the grievances of your fellow citizens wherever it may be expedient, respectfully show to your worships: that the river Uharie, a deep and rappid stream passing through the western part of the County, is often danger[ous], and commonly difficult of passage; that there is a portion of the citizens repectable for their numbers, residing in the western and southern part of the county, who feel the weight of the difficulties alluded to the more forcibly, being frequently prevented the privilege and advantage of attending at the seat of Justice for their own County, at times when it is necessary for them to do so. Much inconvenience is also experienced by the citizens on both sides of the Stream, in their common interaction one with the other.

Your petitioners would respectfully show to your worshipful body, that a good and substantial Bridge across said stream at some point at or near the place called Dunbar’s Ford, would produce a remedy for all their grievances. Further, we would show that there is an extensive and fertile section of county, embracing parts of the counties situate to the west of us, whose citizens labour under much inconvenience in the transportation of their produce to market, having the deep and rappid stream to pass, which is not susceptable of a Ferry, and yet not supplied with any Bridge. We would further show to your worships that a Bridge at the above point would produce a remedy for this; it being the most direct, and would then be the most commodious, rout[e] to Fayetteville, and other Eastern markets. It is also shown to your worships, that there is much inconvenience experienced by many persons traveling northwardly and southwardly. The road which of late is most traveled in that direction, leading directly down the Uharie on its Eastern side, being often obstructed where it passes the many small creeks near their conflux with the river, they being rendered impassable by the eddy in times of freshets in the river, which is frequent in the winter and all rainy seasons. If there [were] a Bridge at or near the aforesaid place, travelers would be spared this inconvenience, as they might pass the river here and proceed unobstructed.

Other cogent reasonings might be brought forward to how the great utility -and nesesity- of a Bridge at the aforesaid place, but without attempting to address them, you[r] memorialists beg leave to present their petition, with confidence that your worships will here and determine, and grant such order to be made as in your wisdom may seem right and expedient: And such only would your petitioners ever ask.

Apl. the 15th 1831.

Jeremiah JOHNSON                Z. RUSH

Jesse STEED                    David M. BURNEY

Jno. LEWIS                    Hezekiah ANDREWS

Robt. CHANDLER                Isaac KEERANS

Tristram COGGESHALL            Samuel G. WINSLOW

Henry HENLEY                [?] GOSS

Henry FULLER                Henry LYNDON

Stephen SCARLET

Thomas LOW

===

William Thompson                Thomas NANCE

E.M. (?) HARRIS                Wm. DENNIS

Peter STOUT                    Wyatt IVY

William F. WOOD                Mariedeth RIDGE

Allen KEERAN                James TAYLOR

John HALL                    Hudson NANCE Jun.

Solomon JACKSON                Marshel NANCE

Isaac JACKSON                Rowland ANDREWS

William JACKSON                Wilson HOWARD

Thos. LASSETER                John JACKSON

William INGRAM Jr.                Jesse GIBSON

Wm. ARNOLD                J{?} IVY

Isaac KEARNS Sn.                Eleazer WINSLOW

Silas KEARNS Sn.                Benjamin COOPER

P. WOOD                    D. WELBORN

Ivy KEARNS                    John HAMMON

Joseph TOLBERT (?)                Wood ARNOLD

Josiah KEERANS                Thos. BRANSON

Benj. JACKSON                Wm. BRANSON

Clement ARNOLD                Philip HORNEY

Whit ARNOLD                Benjamin BROOKSHIRE

Jonas K. WOOD                Z. NIXON

Edmond McGEEHE                D. GRAVES

Daniel THAYER                David HIX Sn.

Benjamin NANCE                Joseph LAMB

B.M. THAYER                Manaring BROOKSHERE

J.R. SEARY (?)                John LARSON (?)

John ARNOLD

===

Willus BROOKSHERE            Martin VUNCANNON

G. NIXON                    Daniel WILLIAMS Jr.

Jesse HUSSEY                Quintin LOWE

Thomas T. BROOKSHERE            Jesse DAVIS

James HALL                    A. FULLER

Allen SKEEN                    Stephen SCARLET

Cornelius LOFLIN                Davis HIX

David JACKSON                William BRANSON

John INGRAM                Davis HIX Senr.

Henry BOYET                Elijah JACKSON

John CRAWFORD                Joseph CONER

James M.A. DRAKE                John CONNER

Abner LEWIS                    Joel ROBINS

Hamon MILLER                Manaring BROOKSHER

Eli YORK                    William RIDGE

John JACKSON                P.N. NIXON

Penuel WOOD Junior                Thos. INGRAM

John KEERAN                Clement ARNOLD

Henry JACKSON                Joseph HENLEY

Thomas Low                    Alexr. GRAY

George W. GIBSON                Jno. HENLEY

Wyatt NANCE                Isaac THOMPSON

Miles FLOYD (his mark)

T. (?) HANCOCK

D. WILBORN

Jacob LUTHER

Michael LUTHER

(132)

===

A List of Petitioners Names

from Davidson County N.C.

R. HARRISS                    Solomon SNIDER

Ms. HARRISS                Z. YARBOROUGH

Calvin J. HARRISS                George GALLIMORE

Lewis SNIDER Jn.                Benjamin LENIER

Fras. DANIEL                John SNIDER

Jesse HARRISS, Snr.                Jesse GALLIMORE

James HUGS (?)                John HEDRICK Jn.

Simeon MORRIS                Philip GARDNER

David MYERS                Henry GARNER

Lewis LINIER                Redmond PIERCE

Sion HILL                    Samuel HUGHS

George GARNER                James WILLIAMS

Wm. A. GALLIMORE            Claton WRIGHT

Samuel SHORZ                Lewis WARD

Thos. KARNER

(31)

“Free Persons of Color”

April 7, 2009

The February 12, 1909 edition of The Courier, published in Asheboro, printed the following news article under the eye-catching headline “Killed With an Axe”:

Liberty, N.C.– Alex Heath, an old colored man who lived about 2 ½ miles east of here, just over in Alamance County, was found dead in bed on the morning of Feb. 7th. Someone had gone there the night before and killed him with an axe. He was struck right over the eye and his skull broken in. It appears that the old man had gone to bed and was asleep when he was killed. Uncle Alex, as we all called him, was a good, honest old man, and his word was his bond. He had many friends among his white neighbors. He had always been a free negro. Quite a number of Liberty people went down to see him last Sunday, and they said he was the most pitiful sight they had ever seen. He had a negro man and his wife living in the house with him and they had some words the morning before and the man and his wife spent the night at a neighbor’s house about a quarter of a mile distant. He was away from the house two hours or more and suspicion was so strong he was put under arrest.

I have thought for some time that the meanest man on earth was the one who wrote letters and signed no name to them and slipped them under doors at night with the purpose of causing hard feelings among neighbors, but I reckon the man who killed Alex Heath was just a little meaner, and if we had the right man I think he ought to be beheaded and let the devil get him before his feet get cold.

I have always heard that “hell broke alose in Georgia,” but I think it was North Carolina this time. On last Sunday morning some negroes who were cutting wood for Will H. Matthews got into a free-for-all fight and one negro struck another on the head with a skillet, planting the legs of the skillet in his head and then made for Greensboro. Deputy Sheriff Marley is after him and you may expect another boarder in Asheboro soon.

–Liberty Correspondent.

The murder itself is sadly, not that unusual—it could be “ripped from the headlines” still yet today, with the only difference being that it might also soon come back to life as episode of Law & Order. The reason I’m sharing it is the passing note that Uncle Alex Heath “had always been a free negro. “

“Free Persons of Color” was the 19th century legal term for the people historians now call ‘free blacks’ or ‘free negroes.’ They’ve long interested me because the vast majority of North Carolinians—even the vast majority of its living African-American citizens– assume that every black person is the direct descendant of slaves. This just isn’t correct; in fact it’s part of the dumbing down of history which results from schools teaching only what the standard textbooks recite.

On the eve of the Civil War, the 1860 census recorded that North Carolina had a total of 30,463 free negro citizens. That census showed Randolph County as having 432 free blacks, and Alamance with 422. It’s really interesting that the Census of 1800 found North Carolina with a population of just 7,043 ‘free persons of color’- the population had increased about 500% in half a century, despite the fact that after 1826 it was illegal for slave owners to free (“manumit”) their slaves, and even before that it often took a special act of the legislature to accomplish it.

In 1826 the legislature amended the slave code to declare that “It shall not be lawful for any free negro, or mulatto to migrate into this State” or else “he or she shall be liable to be held in servitude, and at labor for a term of time not exceeding ten years…” (chapter 21, section 1). In 1830 a series of amendments restricted the ability of an owner to free any of his slaves by will or otherwise. Any slave whose master did manage to follow the law and legally free him was required to “within ninety days after granting the prayer of the petitioner to emancipate him, her or them, leave the State of North Carolina, and never afterwards come within the same…” (chapter 9, section 1). Any slave so freed who failed to leave the state, or who subsequently returned, could be arrested and sold back into slavery (chapter 9, section 5).

Interestingly, Warren Dixon of Liberty tells me that “ According to the 1900 Federal Census for Alamance County, Alexander Heath was born March, 1831″— that’s the year of the notorious Nat Turner uprising in southern Virginia. The widespread public hysteria in the aftermath of the Turner rebellion led to a number of laws restricting the rights of free negroes, but before that time in North Carolina, there was no legal distinction between white and black “free men.” As such, they were entitled to the privilege of trial by jury, the rights of habeas corpus; of ownership of property (even to own slaves); to prosecute and defend suits in court, even against whites. There were some restrictions: a free negro was not allowed to bear arms or to have weapons in his possession unless he had a license from the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions [Revisal of 1855, ch. 107, p. 577]. In Virginia, ‘freedmen’ were not only forbidden to own a gun, they were not even allowed to own a dog!

North Carolina had never followed its neighboring states in restricting the rights of free negroes. Even after its constitution was rewritten in 1835, North Carolina remained the only slaveholding state which still permitted free negroes the right to vote (Virginia had disenfranchised its free blacks in 1723!). The regressive laws of the 1830s were designed to prevent interaction between free negroes and slaves: they were forbidden to gamble with one another; they were forbidden to preach; they were not allowed to buy or sell spirituous liquor [Revisal of 1837, ch. 111, p. 590 and Laws of North Carolina, Session 1858-59, ch. 31]. After 1855, the marriage of a free negro and a slave was absolutely prohibited by law [75 Revisal of 1855, ch. 107, p. 577].

An ongoing project of the history department at UNC-G is compiling the public records of free negroes, and contains two interesting petitions from Randolph County seeking the legislature’s approval to emancipate local black families. In 1801, eighteen residents of the county petitioned for freedom to be granted to “Sarah Bagnall and Hannah Bagnall,” “two Mulato Children whose mother is also dead” and whose deceased father, John Bagnell, “left no will in writing.” The petitioners were “fully satisfied that he own’d sd. Children to be his & wish’d them to injoy the little property he was possessed of”, and asked the General Assembly to “Entitle them to freedom & to inherite what little property may be found.” [North Carolina Department of Archives and History, Raleigh, North Carolina; General Assembly, Session Records, Emancipation Petitions, November--December 1801, Box: 3.]

In Randolph County on November 14, 1818, a free man of color named George Sears asked that an act be passed “to Emancipate & Set free his said Wife Tillah Sears and his two daughters Patsey Sears & Polly Sears…” He stated that William Bell (former Sheriff) emancipated him in 1809 as executor of the will of Richard Sears. George, a blacksmith, married Tillah, a slave he had purchased from Bell for $300, mistakenly thinking that she and all of their future children would be free by virtue of her marriage to a freed man. Now he realizes that his family are “considered slaves unless they are Emancipated by an act of your Honourable body.” Any action taken by the legislature on his petition is not known. [North Carolina Department of Archives and History, Raleigh, North Carolina; General Assembly, Session Records, Petition of George Sears and Certificate of Alexander Gray, W. Hogan, et al., [11-14-1818].



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