Island Ford

Island Ford in Franklinville was an important ford on the prehistoric trade route south from the Great Indian Trading Path to the Pee Dee River at Cheraw, S.C. The trail, known as “Crafford’s Path” or “Crawford’s Road,” left the trading path near Julian and meandered south to cross Deep River upstream from the site of the Randolph Mfg. Company.

Braxton Craven, born in the Buffalo Ford area but raised as an orphan by George Makepeace of Franklinville, wrote that the natives called the Island Ford “Threntauna.” See Braxton Craven, “Randolph in Olden Times,” Evergreen, Vol. I, No. 5 (May, 1850).

Craven was the President of Trinity College, and The Evergreen was his rather self-conscious attempt at a literary fiction magazine. “Randolph in Olden Times” is part of a series titled “Fabulous History” which included Craven’s “Mary Barker” and “Naomi Wise” novelettes.  Many of the facts given are notoriously unreliable; for example, 1688 is given as the date of Quaker settlement in the Holly Spring area!

If authentic, “Threntauna” would be the only known record of any Indian language place name in the Franklinville area.  Indian names are hard to come by in eastern Randolph– settlers came in the 1730s and 40s, and the Indian names weren’t recorded (Not even Deep River has a certain aboriginal name– many sources argue it was called ‘Sapona,’ but Lawson calls the Yadkin ‘Sapona’ and doesn’t have any name at all for the Deep).

The village of Island Ford was situated on the hill above the ford where Mulberry Street (now Academy Street) ran south down the ridge toward the river. The geography of the area has been so altered by the hands of men over the past 200 years that it is difficult now to decipher the prehistoric lay of the land. My study of the area has me believe that the actual ford lay just in front of, or under, the Lower Mill Dam. I believe this is so because the south bank of deep river is a steep bluff in all but a few spots in the Franklinville area. The area at the south end of the dam appears to be a place where the ford could have climbed the bank and followed the trail south toward Ogle’s Creek.

The post card above shows the area about 1900, with Franklinville to the upper right (the farthest white building is Hanks’ Masonic Lodge, on its original 1850 site. Next to it on the left is the track of the “Factory Branch” of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway, built into Franklinville in 1884. Farther left is the river road between Upper and Lower Mills, and then the river.

What appears to be a long, narrow island at the lower left is actually the bank of the head race from the dam, built around 1846. No real island is visible in the area today; stone rubble in the river regularly snags driftwood, accretes a sand bar and sprouts trees, but nothing like the Island at Cedar Falls is present.

The photograph below shows the same area during a flood in the early 20th century. The impoundment behind the Lower Dam was called “Marengo Bay” by early local historian Cornelius Julian (perhaps a reference to the 1800 victory that eventually made Napoleon the ruler of northern Italy). The dam was no more than a dozen feet high, and funneled a good bit of the river through the head gates of the power canal running diagonally across the foreground.

The photograph below shows the modern view of the head gates and the dam, which washed out in a spring flood in 1984.

Here is a detail of the dam profile, showing the stone rubble core capped by concrete.


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