Archive for January, 2009


January 19, 2009
The mouth of Sandy Creek where it meets Deep River.

The mouth of Sandy Creek where it meets Deep River.

Though the American army under Baron DeKalb camped for weeks at Buffalo Ford in the summer of 1780 on its way to Camden, and Lord Cornwallis in 1781 spent several days after the Battle of Guilford Courthouse at Bell’s Mill on Deep River, by and large the official history of the Revolutionary War bypassed Randolph County. Far more active and far more destructive was the guerrilla war which took place in the county between neighbors of opposite political persuasions.

Some extensive military operations were mounted at various times after Guilford Courthouse in an attempt to stop the depredations of the British Loyalist troops. Although little documentary evidence exists concerning the details of the battles with the Tories, it appears that one of the major skirmishes took place in July 1781 at the mouth of Sandy Creek, where several roads crossed at a ford across Deep River.

In the 1980s, Randolph County historian Barbara Newsome Grigg discovered the only records of this battle, contained in pension applications in the National Archives. In June 1832 Congress had passed a bill authorizing pensions for any surviving veterans who could provide proof of Revolutionary War service. All over the country aged vets made their way to county courthouses where they could be deposed by local judges and provide the sworn statements required by Congress. None of the three veterans who recount battling the Tories in Randolph County even lived in the county when they made their statements. All were recounting events from more than 50 years before, so details are sketchy.

For the fully transcribed pension applications of each man, see my entries for November 11, 12, and 13th, 2008.

Henry Morgan (born in 1758 in what is now Randolph County) fought with the state militia from 1779 to 1781. James Morgan was born in Maryland in 1760 but soon moved to the area and first volunteered for service in 1781 in Randolph (his relationship to Henry Morgan is not yet clear). Edward Beeson was in 1834 unclear even about his own birthday (estimated to have been in 1756), and thought he entered military service about the year 1778 in Randolph.

Henry Morgan provides the most detail about the area’s primary battle with the Tories, and even names it “the Battle at the Mouth of Sandy Creek.” James Morgan provides only a brief outline of events. Edward Beeson is very shaky on dates and places, but very good about names and people.

Henry Morgan served with the Randolph Light Horse, under the command of Col. John Paisley, Major John Nalls and Lt. William York. James Morgan was in the Randolph militia under General Butler, Col. John Collier, Captain John Hines and Lt. William York. Beeson, who was apparently in a different unit (“a Company of Foot in the Randolph regiment of militia”), was under the command of General Butler, Colonel Thomas Dougan, Major Robert McCanna, Lt. James Woods, Captain David Brower, and Sergeant William Brown. Beeson served the company as “Ensign”.

Their individual accounts of the summer of 1781 are as follows:

In 1781 Henry Morgan was “engaged in dispersing the tories wherever collected; that he was in three battles, one in July 1781 at the mouth of Sandy Creek in which we & Lieutenant William York of our company were wounded and three men David Brewer [Brower], David McMasters & Joel Benje were killed, & in August after or September we had another battle at Linleys mill in which the tories were defeated, Major John Nalls was killed here & four or five others.” [The third battle was apparently later that summer near Wilmington.]

James Morgan “was called out by Colonel Collier and placed under Captain John Hines & Lieutenant William York and marched down to Chatham county after the enemy, and says at this time he was sent out against a party of Tories and had an engagement with them, and was defeated with the loss of three men killed and two wounded among the latter was his Lieutenant William York, and says they took a good many prisoners during the time he was out in this tour. But how long he was out he cannot say precise, but believes it was seven weeks, or more.–“

Edward Beeson says “Their objective was the destruction of the Tories. Next day, after they left Johnstonville, their place of rendezvous, their Captain and three men were killed by the Tories who waylaid them. The Tories were commanded by Major Rainey, and fired on them from a steep hill on the side of Brush [Sandy?] Creek. After Brower was killed, Woods became Captain and this deponent became Lieutenant. They pursued the Tories about forty miles to Fork Creek and there besieged them in a house belonging to one John Needham. In the morning before they got to Needham’s, their Colonel (Dougan) joined them.

“This deponent was ordered with half of his company to attack the back of the house under the concealment of an orchard, while the rest were to attack in front. This deponent’s company were the first who took possession of the same, those in front having feigned a retreat to draw out the Tories, which accordingly succeeded. Twenty-one were killed, seven at the house, and fourteen at the place where they kept the horses, the Tories having fled there, to where they were concealed on the bank of a Deep River, where Colonel Dougan had himself gone with a detachment, to surprise them if they should be driven from the house.

“They then marched down to… the Brown Marsh near Wilmington, where they again had a battle with the Tories on open ground. They there again defeated them, who being reinforced by the British from their shipping at Fort Johnson, returned and defeated us in return.”

Their combined account of events can be assembled as follows:

After the battle of Guilford Courthouse in March, 1781, the local militia forces in Randolph County were engaged in fighting local Tories. In July, while moving from Johnstonville towards Chatham County, the Whig forces were ambushed at or near the mouth of Sandy Creek where it enters Deep River. Tory forces, perhaps under the command of “Major Rainey” (Raines?) “fired on them from at steep hill on the side” of the creek (the western side of Sandy Creek is a bluff fifty to seventy feet above the water level). Three Whigs were killed, and several wounded. In the Morgan’s company, Henry Morgan and his lieutenant William York were wounded; in Beeson’s company, his Captain David Brower was killed. Henry Morgan says that the others killed were David McMasters and Joel Benje.

If Beeson can be trusted, the Battle at the Mouth of Sandy Creek was followed by another battle on Fork Creek within a day or two (he says it occurred 40 miles away, which would have taken at least a whole day to ride on horseback) which killed 21 Tories and captured a number of prisoners.

This piecemeal account, while historically threadbare, can actually be confirmed by Rev. Eli W. Caruthers, our primary source for Piedmont North Carolina’s Revolutionary War history. More on that later.

Sunset Avenue, Asheboro

January 18, 2009

There are a number of early photographs of Sunset Avenue in Asheboro, but this crumpled snapshot dating circa 1920-1925 is one of my oldest.

Though the steet is full of model Ts and other classic vintages of automobile, it doesn’t appear to yet be paved; a dog is lazily ambling down the center of the street not far behind a horse-drawn wagon.

After World War I the original 1880s wooden “boomtown” storefronts were replaced by substantial brick buildings. At the east end of the street, the three buildings visible are, left to right: the Presbyterian Church, facing Worth Street and the courthouse, but visible between the P.H. Morris General Store at 100 Sunset Avenue and the Bank of Randolph at 15 South Fayetteville. My law office at 19 South Fayetteville is next; at the time it was the grocery and general mercantile business of W.D. Stedman and son Sulon Stedman.

The only other identifiable business is the Old Hickory Café, a restaurant started by the cooks of Asheboro’ s Company K upon their return from France in World War I. Company K was part of the Old Hickory Division during World War I; hence the name.

The Old Hickory began as a kind of diner, but gradually evolved into the “nice” place to eat downtown, when it moved to the Stedman building, to the 19 S. Fayetteville storefront, next door to the Capitol vaudeville theatre and several doors down from the Central Hotel. There it was a white-tablecloth-and-heavy-hotel-silver kind of place, where black waiters in white jackets served southern food cooked on woodstoves in the kitchen. The Old Hickory closed in 1956.

Its site on Sunset Avenue was taken over by Hasty’s Café, an establishment run by the Hasty brothers which had a dubious reputation because they also served alcohol (which was legal in Asheboro from the repeal of prohibition in 1933 to the passage of “local option” about 1953).

“Hasty’s Beer Joint” moved regularly, and had several locations in this general area. The last one was under 100 Sunset Ave., in the basement. Trade Street was back then the street of bars, which a bad reputation for shootin’s and stabbin’s.

There was a soda fountain in the Walgreen’s drug store where the Randolph Art Guild is now (a blur to the far right). The side of Walgreens actually opened on Sunset– it then fronted on the railroad tracks, facing the passenger station where Christians United Outreach Center is now.

Randolph Manufacturing Company Interior

January 17, 2009
Randolph Mfg. Co. Interior

Randolph Mfg. Co. Interior

Before we leave the east end of Franklinville, here’s my only interior view of the 1895 Randolph Manufacturing Company mill.

It’s the spinning room, but the weave room boss, Oliver York, is the mustachioed gent second from the left.   Mr. York must be visiting for the photographer, either George Russell, the superintendent of the upper mill, or “Jack” Parks (Hugh Parks Jr.), the son of the mill owner, both of whom were amateur photographers at the time.

The spinning room ran the length of the 2nd floor of the longest section of the building, between the stair tower and the river.  The weave room was on the first floor, below, as was common in every factory (looms vibrated, and hundreds of looms running in sync vibrated enough to shake a building down, unless they were situated on the lowest floors).

The spinning frames were manufactured by the Lowell Machine Shop, one of the oldest makers of American textile machinery.  The company began as the in-house machine shop of the Merrimack Mfg. Co. in Lowell, Mass., and later merged with the Saco Mfg. Co. of Biddeford, Maine, to become Saco-Lowell.   These are “ring spinning” frames, a technology invented in the 1820s but not embraced by manufacturers until the 1850s.  Early spinning frames used revolving “flyers” to draw the yarn out into thinner and thinner lenghts, and to build cones on a bobbin, and were called “throstles” because the high-speed whirring sounded like birds.  Ring spinning replaced the flyer with a tiny steel ring, or “traveller,” which slipped over the yarn and created a drag when it ballooned out while spinning.  Doffing full bobbins and replacing the travellers were common jobs in the spinning room.  The buggies in the foreground are full of bobbins.

The machinery is being powered by a system of overhead shafts and pulleys, connected by ropes on the far end to the water wheel and steam engine, and by leather belts to the actual spinning frames.  Hanging from hooks along the center row of wooden columns are metal fire buckets full of sand.  The mill had its own electric dynamo from its construction in 1895, but the single clear light bulbs hanging from individual wires throughout the room are almost lost among all the power shafts and pulleys.  Sprinklers and humidification pipes aren’t yet visible, but would be installed by World War I.

The amount of lint on the floor gives an idea how dusty a spinning room always was, but nothing can show the usual high noise level of the spinning room, or the even more deafening sound of the weave room.  At the time of the photo, obviously, the room would be quiet– all the machinery has stopped, shown by the fact that the pulleys aren’t blurred by motion.

Joe Dan Hackney House

January 16, 2009

I said a week or two ago that I’d share photos of the Joe Dan Hackney House as part of my Island Ford photos, and I almost forgot.

It was a beautiful house with a two-tiered, two-story porch like a number of others around Franklinville, and probably built by the same carpenter or group of carpenters. Those homes include: the Benner (Lewis Curtis) house on the same side of the river; the Horney-Parks house (now destroyed); the Dennis Curtis/ Joe Buie house; the Makepeace house. Of all of those, the Hackney house is most similar to the Curtis-Buie house on West Main Street at Buie lane.

Joe Dan Hackney was a local character, and everyone in Franklinville when I moved there had a story about him. As a change of pace, I’m sharing partial transcripts of some of my oral history interviews that mention him.

  1. From a conversation I had with Clyde Jones, Henry King, and Carrie Parks Stamey in 1981:

CJ: the Benner house (the Lewis Curtis house)… and the Joe Dan Hackney house were quite similar to one another. The Hackney house was well taken care of. It was a beautiful place. Mr. Joe Dan Hackney was a drummer during the Civil War, and he’d get up some afternoons in his balcony and get his drums out, and you could hear him all over this town beating those drums. He was a preacher, a talker, but not an ordained minister. He’d hold services over there, get a little bit out of line on his issues, and get called down.

HK: The Hackney house was the first house on the left after you crossed the steel bridge; Hobe Long lived in it when I came to town.

CJ: When I was growing up Mr. Hackney lived over there, and he had a stable and barn back in there with some horses and cows, and I think he done some farming. I don’t know that he ever worked in the mill. And he probably picked up some money from preaching. The only church I remember Mr. Hackney preaching in is now the community building [i.e., the old First Baptist Church].

CS: I know he handled baptisms, down there just behind the lower dam; I saw him from the meadow. I was sitting up along the railroad tracks and saw him baptize a whole lot of them down there in the river. So he must have been ordained…


  1. From a conversation I had with Belvin and Dorothy Curtis, 1997:

Belvin: Used to be a two story house down here – Joe Dan Hackney house. It had a veranda up there. Come out of a evening and beat drums. Man you could hear that thing all over. Had prayer meeting, us boys would go over there. He’d beat his drum just to be beating it I reckon.

Dorothy: It was dry one summer, and they had prayer meeting and he’d walk over in town. Course they’s a bridge down here then, and he’d go over to the church ever evening. They’d meet about two o’clock, and they’d pray for rain. And one day he went and carried his umbrella when he went. And they wasn’t any clouds up there; but when they come out of church they all went home in the rain.

Belvin: Pouring down rain.

Dorothy: He’s buried up there in the Baptist cemetery. He wasn’t a preacher.

Belvin: He’s good as one though. Yes sir. I don’t know what he done. I never did hear of him working in the mill.

Dorothy: I guess he’s retired from something, but I don’t know what.

Belvin: You could hear him blow his horn. Me and Elvin, Tate Williamson, Hook Rich(?). Have prayer meeting, we’d set with him. That house’s put together with pegs. It had a two story porch.

Dorothy: Joe Hackney’s had a front porch that went all around on his.

Blevin: Hoag(?) Long lived down there and let the thing catch afire. Go up here at the highway, go down the there road apiece. They’s trailers down there. Get off the highway, get on that dirt road and go straight, you’ll go where it used to be, right straight across that other old road. It was close enough you could see it easy from across the river. Joe Dean Hackney lived there a long time. All the houses were around here.

  1. From a conversation with Homer Patterson, 1997:

Now, when we lived over here [bleacher pond hill], now I’ve set there on that porch many a time in dry weather, and old man Joe Dan Hackney would get his drum and come out on that little upstairs porch over yonder and beat his old drum and pray for rain. Yeah, Joe Dan Hackney, I can remember him mighty well; he’s buried over here at the Baptist Church. Seems like he blew on a horn, too, I know he beat on an old drum, and prayed for rain. If it did rain, I just don’t remember whether it did or not. His was a big old house, we’ve been there many time on Sunday evening when me and Momma we lived over there in the country; we’d go over there and see Mr. Hackney and his wife. It had a porch all the way round there and one of those old wooden swings that set on the floor; I used to go over there and get in it and swing backwards and forwards. Miss Hackney, she’d go back in the house, back in a room in there, and come out with a stick or two of candy, and give us some candy. They was good people. All back in there below the house, it’s grown up today, but back then there was land to be farmed back down in there. Who farmed it, I just don’t remember about that. But I know Joe Dan Hackney and his wife had, I don’t know where it was two boys and a girl or three boys and a girl… I don’t know as I ever seen ere one of them boys. They left from around here and went over round Charlotte. One got killed when a train run over him in Charlotte, and it seems like there was one or two left. But their daughter married this man out here in Ramseur up above Service Distributing where that great big tree just come down in the storm, it blowed over and hit that house there and tore it up some. That’s the old John Ward place, and their daughter married John Ward. It’s been all worked over now since the storm and the tree hit it. That’s where the Hackney’s daughter lived, and she looked just like her mother.

When you went over here and crossed the steel bridge the road curved around and went up a terrible steep old rough hill right there; went up across there and around this away, and on down and there was a big hollow and another bridge down there, there wasn’t no creek, just where rain water would come from back up in yonder from the old Prevo place down through by Belvin Curtis’. I’ve been over that old bridge many a time, but they finally tore it down and filled it in, you know. Then it went right straight through there between the Hackney house and the Grose house over here. Daniel Grose, Gladys’ husband Phillip Grose’s daddy, was raised over at that place. So then it just went on down the road like it does now, on by Pumpkinville, down and around, cross that branch, and on out. I don’t know if I ever heard the name of that branch; I’ve been meaning to ask Burnice Jones about that. There’s a branch somewhere back in there that runs into the river that they call the Upton branch; I remember hearing them call it, said that’s the Upton branch, you know. I don’t know where that come from, whether it’s back up here or down in there somewhere. The Lewis Curtis house up on the hill there, it’s still standing now. I guess that’s who grandpaw Moore bought that land from over yonder. I guess he did. There was a fellow lived there, a Luther fellow owned that house, don’t know if he had it built or nothing about that. Way on out there, back in here from Cabbage Head’s place somewhere, was the old gold mine, they called it.

And this house that sits right down back behind the Walls, that was the house there that old man Parks had that his colored folks lived in, that waited on him. They was Allreds. Two of them: John Allred, and Dosie Allred. They’re both dead now. Dosie’s place is still standing, but John’s place caught afire and burnt down. Back down on the other side of where the Walls have put a trailer. Velma Ausley and her husband lived in it several years.


Busing and Randolph County School Consolidation

January 15, 2009

Franklinville School: Dave Weatherly, Principal, ca. 1918.

To research the history of our newly-acquired early Randolph County school bus, Dremia Meier, Beverly Fowler and the very accommodating staff of the Randolph County Schools Administrative Office allowed me to inspect some of the earliest Minute Books of the Randolph County Board of Education.

Book 4 begins with the 1920-21 school year, when the statistical report showed that there were 123 rural school houses in the county- 104 for white students and 19 for “colored” students- with a total of 184 classrooms (161 white, 23 African-American). Only two of those school houses were of brick construction, and 83 of them housed all grades in one classroom. (Vol. 4, pp.6-7)

Those statistics did not include the four ‘urban’ schools in the county- Asheboro, Randleman, Ramseur and Franklinville all were funded by special tax districts. But the combined schools of Randolph County served 8,490 black and white students in that 1920-21 school year, with a total of 178 teachers. Two “autotrucks,” were that year used “for public transportation of pupils” – 52 white pupils. (ibid, p. 7).

“Autotruck” was soon shortened to “truck,” which remained the preferred term until the state of North Carolina took over student transportation funding in the late 1930s. The term “bus” appears first in December 1928, when the new state law setting a 25 mile-per-hour “school bus speed limit” was referenced (p. 252). Trucks are not commonly called “buses” until after August 1939, when the superintendent reported that “25 buses [are] painted and 15 remaining unpainted but will be gone over by the time school starts.” (p. 494).

It is very clear from these BOE minutes that school busing was the catalyst to consolidate the county numerous one-room rural schools into larger centralized schools. Randolph County was at that time divided into literally dozens of independent school districts, each with its own governing committee and taxing power, all as authorized by the state Constitution of 1868. “Standard” high schools, with a full 3 or 4-year curriculum, were first authorized by the state legislature in 1907. “Farm Life Schools,” modeled on Virginia’s 1908 agricultural high schools, were authorized in 1911 to provide boarding school instruction in agriculture and domestic science. That same year Moore County established a Farm Life School at Vass, and Guilford County established three, in Jamestown, Monticello and Pleasant Garden, but Randolph County’s first accredited high school appeared in 1913, in Asheboro.

One busload of students was the equivalent of one classroom teacher at any small school, and had rippling consequences in classroom scheduling and administration.  In August, 1926, “Application was made for Cedar Grove School, Liberty Township, to be transported to Liberty.  There was objection… In order to give those desiring better school opportunities a chance, it was agreed to put on one truck, providing as many as 20 pupils could be secured who would ride the truck, thereby eliminating one teacher” (p.200).  It quickly became apparent that the success of busing could cause difficulties as well as opposition:  “Piney Grove, Concord Township, was allowed two teachers with the understanding that no one shall go to Farmer on the truck below the 8th grade, as it seems that so many went to Farmer last year… that attendance was reduced to one teacher” (Sept. 5, 1927, p. 220).

Consolidated classes with a larger school was the most cost effective way a small school committee could provide better quality education for its students. For example, on October 2, 1922, “A delegation of citizens from Marley’s Mill District came before the Board and asked that the children be transferred to the Staley District. It was decided after consideration that the children be transferred, provided, the [Marley’s Mill] district furnish the truck” (p. 41). By April 1923, the Marley’s Mill, Shady Grove, Kildee schools had all been drawn into the Staley District (p. 93), and a year later the “Patrons of Marley’s Mill District” asked the county to assume the costs of “a truck to transport children to Staley….” The Board therefore “Ordered that Marley’s Mill School be abolished and a truck placed there to transport the children beginning with the fall term of school” (p. 93). By October, 1924, local “patrons” had become so dissatisfied that the school closings were reconsidered: “Such opposition was made against putting trucks at Kildee, Marley’s Mill, Pine Hill and Gold Hill that the Board agreed to place a teacher at each one of the schools and operate a truck in Marley’s Mill and Kildee sections for any students who want to go to Staley” (p. 118).

Farmer School, built 1924.

Farmer School, built 1924.

Having more students bused to a school allowed the county to build more elaborate facilities. In 1924 the county solicited plans from Winston-Salem architect W.C. Northrup for new brick schools in Trinity and Farmer. The Farmer School (which is still standing), was to have 11 class rooms, an auditorium, and a modern “heating and lighting plant” (p. 101). J.R. Owen was the low bid at $40,400, and construction began in June 1924 (p.103). Construction of the new Trinity School, a more elaborate 2-story building, waited on the demolition of the old Trinity College building, which was accomplished and the new foundations laid in August (p. 111).  In July, 1926, a new facility was approved “to be established two and a half miles north of Asheboro on Highway 70 [now 220 Business] to be called Balfour School…” (p.195).

New school construction went hand-in-hand with the need for more ‘trucks.’  At the end of the 1922 school year, there were still only two trucks in service, carrying 52 students (p. 37).  But the next two years minutes are full of entries such as the following:  “Ordered that a truck be placed at Red Cross for transporting children to Liberty.  Ordered- truck be placed at Kildee for transporting children to Staley” (July7, 1924; p. 105).  “Ordered- purchase a truck to transport children from Pine Hill district, Columbia township, either to Staley or Ramseur high schools;  Ordered- a truck to be placed on the road from Garner’s Store to Seagrove and transport that portion of Cox’s District which desires to be at Seagrove” (August 1924, p. 113).  “Ordered that a truck be put on at Fair Grove District to transport students to Franklinville school” (October 6, 1924, p. 118). “Ordered that a truck be placed on the highway, north of Asheboro, to haul children to school at Asheboro (October 6, 1924, p. 118).  “Ordered- two Ford trucks, to transport children of Miller School, Trinity Township, to Trinity” (July 6, 1925, p. 145).

Trinity School, built 1924.

Trinity School, built 1924.

By the August 1925 statistical report to the school board, the county system had shrunk to 105 school houses, but the bus system had expanded from 2 to 16 “Autotrucks” transporting 448 pupils per day an average of 280 miles per day (p. 153).   In 1926 there were 97 schools and 26 trucks operating an average of 149 days, carrying 711 pupils 494 miles per day (p. 197).    By 1927, 34 trucks served 10 schools, operating 145 days hauling 1,104 pupils an average of 676 miles per day (p. 217).  In the school year 1930-31 45 trucks served 45 white schools and 1 truck served 12 black schools, hauling 2,034 students 1,256 miles per day for 160 days (p. 281).

After the rapid expansion of the system in the 1920s, the thirties showed a slow but steady increase:  47 trucks hauling 2307 pupils (1932, p. 311); 49 trucks hauling 2735 pupils (1933, p. 334); 50 trucks hauling 2,958 pupils (1934, p. 353); 52 trucks hauling 3,188 pupils (1935, p. 376); 53 trucks hauling 3590 pupils (1936, p. 416); 58 trucks (3 serving black schools) hauling 4,154 students (1937, p. 434); 59 trucks hauling 4,460 pupils (1938, p. 498); 65 trucks hauling 5,085 pupils out of a total system of 8,513 students (1939-40, p. 506). As the old one- and two-room “Field” schools were closed, buses were added, transporting students from farther and farther away to fewer and fewer schools.

When the state of North Carolina began to take over financial responsibility for public education in 1932, the “State Equalizing Board” in Raleigh proposed a reorganization of the county schools (May 2, 1932, p. 312). The combination of state funding with improved transportation led to a corresponding increase in new school construction. Bids for a new high school in Seagrove were solicited in the summer of 1934 (p. 347). The county commissioners issued school bonds sufficient for the construction of new schools at Asheboro, Ramseur, Staley, Archdale, Coleridge, New Market, and Tabernacle in June, 1935 (p. 374). In 1940, new construction was authorized at Providence, Gray’s Chapel, Seagrove, Farmer, Balfour and “Asheboro City Colored” (p.510). By 1941 the county school system had diminished to 21 “administrative units” (i.e., school buildings), a total which included the separate Asheboro City schools (p. 543), but more than half the total had been built in the previous 7 years.

From 1920 to 1940 Randolph County reduced its population of school buildings from127 to 21, an 83.5 % decline. It had increased its fleet of buses from 2 to 65, a 97% increase. Yet its student population had only grown from 8,490 to 8,513, a 0.2% increase. The urge to centralize and modernize the infrastructure, not an increase in the student population, had driven the expansion and completely reorganized education in the county.

A modern student transportation system had been the key to creating a modern educational system. In just twenty years Randolph County had transformed a system of one-room schools that would have seemed familiar to Abraham Lincoln into the system which still serves 21st-century students.


January 14, 2009

Location: Franklinville, south side Deep River, looking east from the SR 2235 bridge. The concrete storage silos of the former roller mill are to the left.

Rising out of Deep River several hundred feet upstream of the site of Elisha Coffin’s grist mill and textile factory is Franklinville’s major geological landmark, a huge bluestone outcrop known as Faith Rock. It was the setting for one of Randolph County’s most legendary Revolutionary War incidents.

While taking a wagon of produce to trade for salt at the Pedee River market on May 2, 1782, local resident Andrew Hunter was captured by the notorious Tory guerrilla leader David Fanning. Facing immediate execution, Hunter made a desperate escape. In Fanning’s words, Hunter “sprung upon my riding mare, and went off with my saddle, holsters, pistols, and all my papers… We fired two guns at him; he received two balls through his body but it did not prevent him from sitting the saddle, and make his escape.” [David Fanning, The Narrative of Colonel David Fanning (Spartanburg: The Reprint Company, 1973; pp. 59-62.]

Enraged, Fanning plundered Hunter’s home, holding his pregnant wife hostage for the return of the horse, “a mare I set great store by, and gave One Hundred and Ten guineas for her.” [ibid.]  However, Fanning’s guerrilla band was forced to release Mrs. Hunter and ride out to join the British evacuation of Charleston, South Carolina.

But Fanning risked a final return to Randolph on September 5, 1782, solely in an attempt to recover his mare. The incident at Faith Rock must have occurred at this time. Hunter “was riding the Bay Doe, on the high ground south of Deep River, and not far above the …ford; but found they were heading him in that direction. He then turned his course up the river, but they were there ready to receive him. The only alternative was to surrender, which would be certain and instant death, or to make a desperate plunge down a precipice, some fifty feet high into the river. He chose the latter… It was such a daring adventure that his pursuers… stopped short, in a kind of amazement, and contented themselves with firing two or three pistols after him. As there was no level ground at the bottom of the descent, he plunged right into the river… sometimes swimming and sometimes floundering over rocks, until he found a place where he got out on the north side and made his escape.” [E.W. Caruthers, Revolutionary Incidents And Sketches of Character Chiefly in the “Old North State.” Philadelphia: Hayes and Zell, 1856; pp. 280-281.]

Fanning left the country in frustration on September 22, neither recovering his horse nor gaining revenge.

The incident at Faith Rock is the only event of the Revolution in Randolph County that has received extensive historical examination. In the years after the war, the exploits of Colonel Fanning were investigated by some of North Carolina’s earliest historians. One of these was the Rev. Eli Caruthers of Greensboro, a portion of whose 1856 two-volume history of the Revolution was quoted above. Judge Archibald DeBow Murphey, legal tutor of Governor Jonathan Worth, extensively researched “the Adventures of Colonel David Fanning” and some of his notes were published in the North Carolina University Magazine in 1853 (Vol. II, pp. 72-80).

On May 31, 1847 the Salisbury newspaper Carolina Watchman published “Incidents of the Revolution in North Carolina,” an extensive account by Alexander Gray of Randolph County written in the form of a letter to Professor A.M. Henderson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Gray, a retired General of the War of 1812, was the county’s largest slaveowners and one of its first historians.

Gray may also have been the anonymous author (“76” is the only signature) of the earliest known account of Andrew Hunter’s escape from Fanning, published in The Southern Citizen, Asheboro’s local newspaper, on August 24, 1838 (and reprinted in the Greensborough Patriot on August 10, 1844). Entitled “Fanning’s Mare,” the short story is more self-consciously literary than the later historical accounts, but it shares with them the name of Fanning’s horse: “He called her Red Doe, from her resemblance in color to a deer.”

All of the earliest accounts agree that the name Fanning’s mare was “Red Doe,” although Carruthers without explanation changes the name to “Bay Doe.”   For more than 150 years thereafter, the name “Bay Doe” has been the preferred name of Fanning’s mare.  Here’s one possible explanation: “Red” is not an accepted name for equine hair color; “chestnut” or “sorrel” is the proper term for a horse with an all-reddish coat, mane and tail.   The shade usually considered “bay” is a bright red hair coat, also called “blood bay.”  “Bay,” however, is a generic term for coats that vary from light reddish brown to dark mahogany brown, but always with black “points” (mane, tail, feet or legs).   (For more on equine genetics, check out ).

So the name “Bay Doe” tells us that “Red Doe” was not only bright red, but bright red with black “points.”

Local wisdom in Franklinville has always repeated the claim that Bay Doe’s hoof prints can still be seen, embedded in Faith Rock.  The truth of that, as well as the likelihood that any horse and rider could jump off a 60-degree slope into a river normally as shallow as Deep River, must be left to the opinion of visitors.

Several generations of Eagle Scouts have established and maintained a rough trail from the Andrew Hunter footbridge in Franklinville, up to the top of the rock.  In this 21st-century, there are said to be “geo-caches”  stashed around Faith Rock which game-players may discover with their GPS locators.

Colonel David Fanning and the Piedmont Guerrilla War

January 13, 2009
Clay stove tiles excavated in 1976 from the Mt. Shepherd Pottery.

Clay stove tiles excavated in 1976 from the Mt. Shepherd Pottery.

Piedmont North Carolina during the Revolution and again during the War Between the States experienced chaos and a complete breakdown of civil order which is hard to imagine from our 21st century perspective.

The situation here in the early 1780s and 1860s can only be compared to the late 20th-century Yugoslavia or Somalia, where government and civil order collapsed in the face of personal, political and religious anarchy.

Taking a political stand then literally meant risking one’s life and property, and being willing to die for making a personal choice. We’re unaware of the enormity of our own history because the passage of time has healed these private and family grievances. In other parts of the world- Ireland, Palestine, India/Pakistan—history never seems to end, and old wounds still fester.

Historical amnesia also occurs without any kind of permanent record—without letters, diaries, memoirs, journalism of some sort- no full account of history is possible. Systematic collection of oral history is a process that only began with the New Deal’s WPA Writer’s Projects, where intellectuals were paid to investigate and record the history of the uneducated and illiterate.

In NC, the closet containing the historical record of the Revolutionary War is not bare, but what we have gives a distorted picture. In an inversion of the aphorism that ‘history is the story written by the winners,’ the Revolutionary history of the Piedmont is primarily known from the extensive written account of one of its biggest losers.

Colonel David Fanning (1754-1825) was born in Johnston County, NC. He ran away from an apprenticeship circa 1772, and ended up in Laurens District, SC, living among the Catawba Indians. After being mistreated (in effect, mugged) by a group of pro-Whig supporters, Fanning became virulently anti-Whig/ pro-Tory. After May, 1780, he became a companion and deputy of South Carolina’s Tory guerrilla leader “Bloody Bill” Cunningham. Fanning moved back to North Carolina just before the battle of Guilford Courthouse, and assembled a body of guerrillas who terrorized the Whigs of central NC from a base near Cox’s Mill on Deep River near Buffalo Ford. With the defeat of Cornwallis at Yorktown and the withdrawal of the British from Charleston, Fanning fled to Florida, and finally to Canada, where he lived until his death in 1825.

Fanning’s career in the Piedmont had first been examined by Wheeler in his History of North Carolina, published in 1851, and by the Rev. Eli W. Carruthers of Guilford County, who in 1854 published one of the first local history books, The Revolutionary Incidents and Sketches of Character, chiefly in the old North State. But the earliest accounts of Colonel Fanning’s exploits in Randolph County are letters written from General Alexander Gray of Trinity to Dr. Archibald Henderson of the University of North Carolina, dated March 30th, 1847. The existence of Fanning’s own handwritten manuscript memoir (evidently penned before June, 1790, according Fanning’s date in the preface) was unknown to scholars until it was copied by a researcher from the Massachusetts Historical Society. Even that copy was barely known until it came into the hands of prominent early American historian George Bancroft, who allowed North Carolina historian John H. Wheeler to publish it, with annotations by former Governor L.D. Swaim, in 1861. (see Wheeler’s Introduction to Fanning’s Narrative). Since that time it has been republished several times, and has become the standard outline of our knowledge of the Whig-Tory guerrilla war that took place in North Carolina in 1781-82.

One of the most memorable local incidents was the ambush and murder of Andrew Balfour, colonel of the local Whig Militia. Fanning confirms this in detail. Another was his guerrilla raid on northwest Randolph, attacking the courthouse in broad daylight, assassinating several Whig leaders, and burning the homes and barns of numerous Whig families. This was confirmed by local interviews conducted by Dr. Carruthers.

Another significant local event mentioned by Fanning’s Narrative is the escape of Andrew Hunter on Fanning’s stolen mare, Fanning mentions it in his memoir; the earliest printed newspaper accounts of Fanning’s exploits speak of the event, and it is known in a variety of forms dating back to stories collected by Judge Archibald DeBow Murphey.

The Whig and Tory war during the Revolution in North Carolina cries out for additional scholarship. Piecing it together won’t be easy. But every newly-discovered document reveals unknown events and details. Perhaps the most surprising unknown story is the Battle at the Mouth of Sandy Creek, in July 1781. Information about this battle was first discovered by local historian Barbara Newsome Grigg while researching 19th-century pension applications. The three Revolutionary veterans who mention the battle put it on a par with the much-better-known Battle of Lindley’s Mill in Alamance County. Another area of local interest needing further research is the Quaker community and grist mills surrounding Buffalo Ford, from the summer of 1780, when the Continental Army until the command of Baron DeKalb was bivouacked there awaiting its new commander General Gates, to 1781 and 1782, when Fanning made his headquarters there and controlled much of the Piedmont.

Crafford’s Path or Crawford’s Road

January 12, 2009

Here’s a 1947 aerial photo taken high above the Lower Mill and Island Ford. The Island Ford road leads from the steel bridge southeast out of the bottom of the photo; Mulberry Street (now Academy) T’s into Main Street just above the end of the dam. At one time the two roads were connected by a ford which crossed the river diagonally through the site of the dam.

In 1782 Andrew Hunter was bringing a wagon of salt back from Cheraw when he was captured by David Fanning and his men. The road he was following was a trail south from the Great Indian Trading Path to the Pee Dee River, known locally as Crafford’s Path, or Crawford’s Road.

Crawford’s Path left the Trading Path near Climax and Julian, roughly following NC22, the ridge road, crossed Deep River at Island Ford, and went south across US 64. It could have followed SR 1004 (known variously as Pleasant Ridge Road, Holly Spring Road and Erect Road) all the way down to Jugtown Pottery, but to get to Cheraw it would have needed to turn southwest toward Seagrove somewhere, but I don’t know where.

This route is confirmed by what few ancient deed references I have been able to come across, and by the 1771 Collett map.

The first mention I’ve found is in a grant of land on Bush Creek waters from Lord Granville to Robert Willson, 30 Jan. 1750. “The Crafford Road that goes to the Pee Dee River” ran through the property, which Willson sold to William Ellis, and Ellis sold to Semor York in 1782 (see Deed Book 2, Page 45).

Next comes the will of William Cox, probated in 1767: “I give to my five sons… two tenths of the land and mines and tools, Equally Divided, lying on Crawford’s Road on the Round Mountain.”

A 1789 from Hodgins to Mincher Littler (Deed Book 4, Page 11), references land “on Richland Creek on the Crafford Road.”

County court road dockets (13 Sept. 1793, published in the Randolph Geneaological Journal, (Vol.IV, #1, p. 44) mention “Crawford’s Ford on Deep River” (and the “road to Duncan’s Ford”), along with adjoining property owners Allred, York, Kivett, and Samuel Trogdon.

An 1807 deed from Cox to Lane (Deed Book 11, Page 231), conveyed property “on Cox’s Mill Creek by Deep River waters and both sides of Crawford’s Old Road.”

The source of the name “Crafford” or “Crawford” is yet unknown, but the 1820 Randolph County tax list records that a Sarah Crafford owned 130 acres on Sandy Creek in Captain Cole’s district, valued at $200.

Randolph Manufacturing Company III

January 11, 2009

The 1895 Randolph Manufacturing Company was one of Randolph County’s most visually impressive Victorian mills.

This view, taken from the hilltop front yard of the Dave Weatherly House, shows the north front of the factory.

The plan of the building is that of a block-E, where the center cross is the stair tower and the top and bottom lines are wings that extend over the head race on brick arches.

The Wheel House is that of the original Island Ford factory, located under the smokestack to the far left.

One of the most interesting features of the factory is the wooden bridge over the race to the main stair tower entrance.

The body of water directly in front of the mill is the “Bleacher Pond,” providing water for bleaching, printing and dyeing processes.

The aerial photo below, taken in the 1950s, shows the factory after numerous 20th-century additions. The stair tower has been removed, and the entire hollow center of the “E” has been filled in. An expanded weave room extends west to the steel bridge; the bleachery, print works, fleece napping, and sanforizing process are contained in the new wings to the east that replaced the old cotton warehouse.

Only the 1950s-era wings east of the smokestack survived the 1984/85 demolition of the rest of the building.

Island Ford

January 10, 2009

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.