Fishing in Deep River, 1922

Here is an anonymous letter to the editor dealing with what the writer believes is the unappreciated patriotic history of Bell’s Mill and the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.

It’s something I found while reading the September 28, 1922 edition of The Courier, published then in Asheboro once a week.

What interests me more than the over-wrought history is the author’s description of recreational fishing and picnicking in the ’20’s; it has been a while since a net or a seine was standard equipment for fishing on the Deep.

That’s why I’ve coupled it to the above photograph, also probably dating to the 1920s or 30s, which has lost any identification other than it came out of a handful of snapshots I bought in an Asheboro second-hand store.

The photo at least can serve to illustrate this happy, long-gone day at Walker’s Mill.

Here is a transcription of the article (typos corrected):

Fishing in Deep River.

Some days ago quite a number of the people in the community of Walker’s Mill, on Deep River, met at the mill for a day’s fishing. It was one of those days that come occasionally in life that makes us feel glad that we are permitted to be present. The day was lovely, and there was that unmistakeable evidence of hospitality and good will among the entire number present that caused those of us out of the community to know that we were welcome. Some time near 12 o’clock the ladies began to fry fish as they were brought in from the men handling the seines. This was kept up till near three o’clock, when they quit fishing, after having caught more than two bushels of fish, some of them weighing as much as six pounds.

Under a table groaning with other good things to eat, and then piled up with fried fish, it was all that any human could ask.

In looking around the place I was told by one of the citizens there that this place was once known as the Bell Mill. It then quickly dawned on me that this was the place where Cornwallis marched his army the next day after the hard-fought battle at Guilford Courthouse. The effect of which was to break down the English power in our state, subdue the Tories and was the blow that broke the chain of tyranny which bound our country to England. For a month the American people had been in breathless anxiety. Cornwallis had sought eagerly a trial by battle with Gen. Greene, but after this he avoided any other conflict with the American army.

I would not help but compare in my mind, the happy and peaceful spirit which characterized the social gathering on that day, with the troublesome times, which the people must have undergone, when there was encamped on the very same ground that well-trained and dangerous foe to American freedom, the British army under control of the skilled and brave Lord Cornwallis.

It was a pleasure to be with these people on the day first referred to, and to know that they have in their veins the very same blood that marked their ancestors as people of pure patriotism, unsullied devotion to liberty, and unyielding opposition to every form of tyranny. The Bell old mill has been replaced by an up to date roller mill, which is now owned by Mr. Will Coletrane, Mr. Routh, and I think one other.

May the people of that section live long and happy, and again meet at their annual fishing place.

-VISITOR.

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2 Responses to “Fishing in Deep River, 1922”

  1. Derek Says:

    Please write me back as to more info on the General Cornwalliss retreat from Guilford Courthouse. I have some insight and a possible unknown historical landmark I believe may have been from this period. I need to know how far Bell mill or Walker Mill is on the Deep river from Worthville area Randleman as I have a theory as to thats where Cornwallis set up a retreat camp to gather his thoughts! By horse back and walking troops it would take about 10 hrs to walk 30 miles after that you would definately want to rest up and make camp! And do you have any historians that could come to the site who have knowledge of English warfare tactics, Did they build stone walls dig trenches etc. And were those practices seen and later used by us During the Civil War! I believe the walls and fox holes were of English battlefront tactics, need to research more as to how Cornwallis fought! Write me back!

  2. Gary Strader Says:

    Derek, I have no way to know if your questions got answered, but in short, Bells Mill was farther North than Worthville, nearer Hwy 220 ByPass, where the Martha McGee Bell Bridge is today. The road that went to the actual Mill was once known as the New Walker Mill Rd, and ran parallel Hy 220. The road now dead ends at Randleman Lake. The actual Mill site is under water today.
    When Cornwallis left here he did follow the river for some distance and may well have passed through Worthville. I rather doubt there would have been any reason for him to have marked the site for any reason, as his plan was to withdraw to Wilmington.
    As for warfare practices, the European methods employed by Cornwallis did not involve digging trenches or building fortifications. His army were invaders, and with their supply lines going all the way back to England, the army kept on the move, relying on the local resources for food.
    It was food that had caused Cornwallis to visit Bells Mill in the first place. The encampment lasted here only a few days, long enough to commandeer the Mill and grind corn for the troops to eat.
    European warfare called for the army to line up in ranks, with the lead rank firing their weapons, then kneeling to reload, as the next rand steeped forward in front of the first rank, then opening fire. Each rank did this in turn till the army was close enough to engage the enemy in hand to hand combat, with the British Army using their bayonets which was affixed to the musket barrel.

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