Archive for February, 2009

Historical Markers: Archdale

February 27, 2009


This State of North Carolina historical marker is found on the north side of NC311 at its busy intersection with NC62 in Archdale.    The marker is lost in a sea of signage in the parking lot of a branch bank of RBC Centura.  It reads:

General Johnston’s men paid off and mustered out near here, May 1-2, 1865, after surrender near Durham April 26.”

General Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appommatox Courthouse on April 9th, 1865, and on April 26th General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his remaining troops to Major General W. T. Sherman near Durham, North Carolina (now Bennett Place State Historic Site).   At the close of hostilities Johnston’s army was strung out all across northern Randolph and southern Alamance counties.


“Schoolmaster Yorke” II

February 18, 2009

Warren Dixon, retired Postmaster and well-known newspaper columnist, not to mention a Piedmont historian and my fellow member of the Randolph County Historic Landmark Commission, took an interest in my previous post on “Schoolmaster Yorke.” In fact, Warren found so much information that I decided to post it here.

Warren has identified ‘Schoolmaster Yorke’ as Robinson York. In “Hillsboro, Colonial and Revolutionary” (1903), author Francis Nash says “…Robinson York was probably clerk of the mock court whose entries upon the docket are still preserved in the courthouse here” (page 52).

Warren agrees with me that the faux-Faith Rock story about Yorke must be a later confusion with Andrew Hunter. But he writes that “Robinson is the only York indicted for riot in the Hillsborough incident.” The Colonial Records of N.C. (at page 399) record that in January 1771, “The House [of Commons] being informed that Robinson Yorke of Orange County is strongly suspected and charged with making and uttering the counterfeit Bills of this Province, On motion resolved that the Speaker issue his Warrant for apprehending the said Robinson Yorke and that he be brought to the Bar of the House to answer the said charge, and also for Darby Henly, Francis Thomas Richards, and Henry Pendleton to appear as evidences against the said Robinson Yorke &ca.”

There are no recorded land conveyances in Randolph County (1779 and forward) for Robinson York. Seymour (Semore) York was a much better known county resident, and he was also involved in the Regulation. In fact, both Seymour and Robinson York were captured at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge in 1776, along with James Hunter and other Regulators. Says Warren, “I think most of them laid low afterwards having been burned twice. As one said, ‘I have fought for my country and fought for my king and been whipped both times…’ ”

In Volume 10, at pages 594-603 of the Colonial Records the “Report by a Committee of the Provincial Congress Concerning British Militia troops, Apr. 20, 1776-May 10, 1776” and lists the “prisoners now in Halifax” in the aftermath of the Battle of Moore’s Creek:

“That John Bethune did actually take up Arms and march as Chaplain to General Macdonald’s Army for the purpose aforesaid.

“That John Piles did actually take up Arms and lead forth to War, as Captain of a Company Fifty men for the purpose aforesaid; that he is a Freeholder and lives in Chatham County.

“That John Piles junr did actually take up Arms and go forth to War for the purpose aforesaid.

“That William Bradford did actually take up Arms and go forth to War, for the purpose aforesaid.

“That Thomas Bradford did actually take up Arms and go forth to War as Ensign in Capt Garner’s Company for the purpose aforesaid.

“That David Jackson did actually take up Arms and lead forth to War as Captain of a Company forty four men for the purpose aforesaid. That he is a freeholder and lives in Guilford County.

“That Enoch Bradley did actually take up Arms and lead forth to War as Captain of a Company of Light horse thirteen men for the purpose aforesaid; that he hath entered and surveyed a tract of Land in Orange & Chatham.

“That John Downing did actually take up Arms and go forth to War as Ensign to Capt. Seymore Yorke’s Company for the purpose aforesaid; that he is a Freeholder in Guilford and Orange and lives in Guilford County.

“That Duncan St Clair did actually take up Arms and go forth to War for the purpose aforesaid.

“That Robinson Yorke did actually take up Arms and lead forth to War as Captain of a Company twenty seven men for the purpose aforesaid.”

The effect of the Regulation on the residents of Randolph and adjacent counties is a fascinating topic, especially the question of whether it directly or indirectly caused the Tory/Whig guerrilla war in the area after the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. There is a lot more work to be done to sort out all the local participants like Robinson York and Warren’s favorite, Rednap Howell.

Schoolmaster Yorke and the Tories

February 15, 2009


In researching Tryon’s Ferry and the history of the Regulators, I read through one of the very early sources of Revolutionary history, B.J. Lossing’s 1850 “Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution.” Benson Lossing (1813-1891), an artist and illustrator, was one of the first historians to travel to the sites of the war and record its historic sites. When he came to North Carolina in 1849 local guides took him all over the state. It is obvious that he and they considered the Regulation one of the first battles of the Revolution, and Lossing devotes considerable space to its story.

However, it is obvious that he relied greatly on local tradition, some of which was barely accurate. For example, he recounts the story of “Captain Messer,” the Regulator commander whose small child begged the Governor to spare his father’s life (Chapter 14, footnote 34). Lossing was actually referred to Benjamin Merrill, whose execution is told in the words of Governor Tryon at p.495 of the Regulator Papers.

I am wondering if the following is another example of garbled local oral history. Lossing writes at length of the Regulator disruption of the September, 1770 term of Superior Court in Hillsborough. A local resident reported that “We heard a Party or Parties of the said People called Regulators patrolling the Streets to the Terror of the Inhabitants,” “armed with Wooden Cudgels or Cow Skin Whips.” The “Regulators exasperated…did…assault the House of Colo. Fanning…break and destroy a considerable part of his Household furniture, Drink and spill the Liquors in His Cellar, and almost totally Demolish his House” (Regulator Papers, pp. 262-263). Lossing then writes:

When this violence was completed, they repaired to the court-house, and appointed a schoolmaster of Randolph county, named Yorke, clerk; chose one of their number for judge; took up the several cases as they appeared upon the docket, and adjudicated them, making Fanning plead law; and then decided several suits. As the whole proceedings were intended as a farce, their decisions were perfectly ridiculous, while some of the “remarks” by Yorke were vulgar and profane. The facsimiles here given of the writing of Fanning and Yorke are copies which I made from the original in the old record book. … Yorke was a man of great personal courage, and when, a few years later, the war of the Revolution was progressing, he became the terror of the Loyalists in that region. An old man on the banks of the Allamance, who knew him well, related to me an instance of his daring.

On one occasion, while Cornwallis was marching victoriously through that section, Yorke, while riding on horseback in the neighborhood of the Deep River, was nearly surrounded by a band of Tories. He spurred his horse toward the river, his enemies in hot pursuit. Reaching the bank, he discovered he was upon a cliff almost fifty feet above the stream, and sloping from the top. The Tories were too close to allow him to escape along the margin of the river. Gathering the reins tightly in his hands, he spurred his strong horse over the precipice. The force of the descent was partially broken by the horse striking the smooth sloping surface of the rock, when half way down. Fortunately the water was deep below, and horse and rider, rising to the surface, escaped unhurt. It was a much greater feat than Putnam’s at Horse Neck.*

The “Old Man of Allamance” appears to have given Lossing a garbled version of the story of Colonel David Fanning’s chase of Andrew Hunter down Faith Rock. I can’t believe there could be two so similar events in the same geographical area during the Revolution.

Supporting this is the fact that Lossing’s source knew no first name for Schoolmaster Yorke. “Robinson York” was indicted by the Crown Attorney in New Bern in March 1771, together with 61 other reputed Regulators (Regulator Papers, pp. 360-362). But available history is silent as to whether Robinson York might have been the Schoolmaster Lossing was told about. Certainly Randolph County has had its plentiful share of Yorks through history; one unattributed private letter from 1768 talks about troubles John York and Cemore York were having with their neighbors such as William Barten, John McGee and James Low (all of whom would today be placed in the Sandy Creek/ Liberty area, which is of course the historic York stomping grounds) (Regulator Papers, p. 151).

In regard to the greater history of Randolph County, I (as writer and therefore the arbiter of history) feel we must disentangle Schoolmaster Yorke from the story of Fanning and Bay Doe. Perhaps further research will enlighten us about the role Robinson York may have played in the Regulation, with so many of his near neighbors.

[*This is a story given by Lossing in Vol. 1, Chapter 18. General Putnam’s Continental forces were routed in West Greenwich, Connecticut (then called “Horse Neck Landing”). Putnam was obliged to ride for his life, making his escape by riding zig-zag down a steep cliff five miles east of Stamford.]

[Note on sources: The applicable chapter of Lossing can be found online at . The full title of his book is B.J. Lossing, Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution; or, illustrations, by Pen and Pencil, of the History, Biography, Scenery, Relics and Traditions of the War for Independence. New York: Harper Brothers, 1850. Volume One covers New York State, Canada, Northern New Jersey, Wyoming Valley (Pennsylvania), Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island; Volume Two covers Southern New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and the New York Metropolitan Area.]

Water Fences and Check Dams

February 14, 2009

Caraway Creek Dam

Caraway Creek Dam

Warren Dixon provided the photo above, which is of a dam on Caraway Creek he was called on to investigate by the property owner.

He was interested by the fact that it is virtually identical to another dam he’d recently seen on nearby Taylor’s Creek, and by the facts that, though both dams are intact, neither impounds a pond or lake due to the carefully-designed and engineered drain in the center of the stream bed, and that neither dam has an associated foundations of structures or a mill.

I told him they looked like what old timers used to describe to me as “water fences.”

A “Water Fence” as I understood the term is a stone structure that was built across a waterway to decrease the speed of stream flow and to allow sediments to drop from the water.

Caraway Creek Dam- view 2

I think the correct technical engineering term is a “check dam” or silt-retention dam.   Temporary ones are called “silt fences;” they are the ones built of logs or rocks or hay bales staked across ditches to trap soil particles in run-off water during construction.

I’ve always thought of them like sediment ponds that impound water so the silt drops out, but large permanent ones like this would also have a flood-control function to eliminate destructive floods that would scour out the stream channel. Everything but the center hole is exactly the same as a permanent dam.  The carefully engineered spillway doesn’t strike me as necessary for a check dam, but unless there is a head races coming off the dam somewhere, and a way to open and close the center hole, I don’t see how these dams could have functioned to power any kind of mill.

Unlike a regular dam, a check dam isn’t mean to impound water permanently.   I think the large hole in the center base of the dam is to insure that the stream channel remains open and doesn’t clog with silt behind the dam.    Even during floods, water would continue to come out the center hole, and even at times pour over the spillway on top.

At least, this is how it was explained it to me. But soil conservation and erosion prevention are legacies from the Great Depression, and I’m not sure how worried people were about it 100, 150, 200 years ago.

When it comes to the time, effort and expense of building a stone dam like these, did property owners really do all that just to fertilize the fields with the silt? The trapped silt would act like annual fertilizer, and the dam would allow it to spread across the bottom land instead of building up behind the dam.  Today we’d also recognize that it allows the water to stay long enough to recharge ground water. Maybe that would have made it worthwhile.

Caraway Creek Dam panorama

Caraway Creek Dam panorama

I know there are more dams like these around Randolph County. What did you all out there think?

Tryon’s Ferry II

February 13, 2009

William Tryon (1729-1788) was Royal Governor of North Carolina from 1765 to 1771, and served as the last Royal Governor of New York.  A professional soldier, he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina in 1764, and upon Arthur Dobbs’s death the next year he became Governor.  In 1757 he married Margaret Wake, a London heiress.  He rigidly obeyed the instructions of his superiors and rigorously enforced the dictates of the British government.  He made New Bern the provincial capital, and built there one of the finest governmental seats in the colonies– later called derisively, Tryon’s Palace.

Tryon inherited a province where settlers in the west were becoming progressively dissatisfied with the local officials appointed by the royal government.  Politicians from the numerous yet sparsely-settled eastern counties dominated the few large western counties where the population was booming. Local sheriffs supported by judges appointed by the provincial government had complete control over the “backcountry” regions. Many of the administrative officers appeared motivated solely by their own personal profit, and the entire system was believed to be corrupt. The effort to eliminate this system of government became known as the War of The Regulation, and opposition to the Royal Governor’s administration became known as the Regulators.

Present-day Randolph County was then roughly the western half of Orange County (now eastern Randolph) and eastern Rowan County (now west of Asheboro).  The Sandy Creek community was the home of the most active Regulators, including James Hunter, Benjamin Merrill, Peter Craven, Rednap Howell and Herman Husband.   The Holly Spring community was home to others such as Herman Cox and William Moffitt.  The creation of Guilford County in 1771 (including the area set off as Randolph in 1779 and Rockingham in 1785) was a political strategy to separate “the main Body of the Insurgents” from the rest of Orange and Rowan counties.

In June, 1768 a committee of Regulators met at Thomas Cox’s Mill (on Millstone Creek, downstream about 200 feet from the present Raymond Cox Mill near Buffalo Ford) to demand redress from the government.. At their request James Hunter and Rednap Howell journeyed to Wilmington, met with Governor Tryon, and presented the grievances of the backcountry. Tryon and the Royal Council summarily rejected the various petitions of the Regulators, and demanded that the inhabitants obey the law and pay their taxes. That summer Tryon took a personal tour of the backcountry, listening to the grievances of unhappy settlers but more importantly testing the loyalty of the county militias. (He scheduled musters of the local troops in Orange, Rowan and Mecklenburg counties, where he summoned the men to take the Royal Standard in place of their county flags.) Tryon left Hillsborough on August 17th and arrived in Salisbury late on the 18th—an extremely fast trip on horseback. His return trip was more impressive: the Governor, at the head of the Mecklenburg and Rowan militias, marched as one brigade through the heart of Regulator country on his way to Hillsborough. Tryon spent the night of Friday September 16th at “Deep River Camp,” with no note of how he crossed the river. His show of force overawed the disgruntled backcountry settlers, and put off the shooting war for three more years.

The long-delayed battle finally happened on May 16, 1771, and took 2 hours.  The disorganized Regulators lost to the professional soldier, and Tryon took as many of the ring-leaders prisoner as he could catch. After the battle Tryon and his army moved west, taking a southern route toward the Wachovia Settlement.

They apparently followed the trading path southwest to arrive on May 21st at the plantation of James Hunter on the upper reaches of Sandy Creek, where they burned his house and barns. (Hunter was the husband of Mary Walker, daughter of Samuel Walker, owner of Walker’s Mill)

That same afternoon they arrived at the property of Hermon Husband, who lived on Sandy Creek west of what is now Liberty. Governor Tryon stayed at Husband’s for a week, before leaving and burning everything.

While at the Husband plantation Tryon issued numerous orders, such as one proclaiming that Husband, James Hunter, William Butler and Rednap Howell were to be considered ‘Outlaws,’ meaning they could be shot on sight (Regulator Papers, p. 473).  Part of the delay was due to bad weather, but a larger part were the large numbers of residents crowding into the Governor’s camp to take advantage of his offer of pardon.

On May 26, Tryon wrote to General Hugh Waddell, then camped near the Yadkin, saying “As most of the Inhabitants on the North side of Deep River and many on the South side, in the whole amounting to above thirteen hundred have come into Camp and Submitted themselves to Government… I am to require you to join me as soon as possible with the Forces under your Command at the upper Ford of Deep River, where the Trading Path crosses.” (Regulator Papers, p. 468).

At the same time he sent the Orange Corps down the Peedee/ Crawford Rd. to Harmon Cox’s, where they requisitioned supplies from the Deep River/ Richland Creek Quaker settlements (Regulator Papers, p. 467).  That Corps then marched northwest up the Cape Fear Road (the road which went from Cross Creek toward Salem- the later Plank Road) while Tryon sent an advance party southwest down the Trading Path.

Sunday May 26th found the advance party (“the Rangers”) stopped 2 miles from Deep River by flooded Pole Cat Creek; they made a miserable camp the next two days through heavy rain with nothing to shelter them but tree limbs and bark.

On Wednesday May 29th the army crossed Pole Cat by felling a large log and walking Indian file, taking 5 hours. They camped that night on the northwest bank of Deep River, which was also flooded.  Evidently their bivoack was at the “upper” or Trading Path ford referred to in Tryon’s order (I am assuming the “lower” ford would be Island Ford where the Crawford/ Pee Dee Road crossed).

On the morning of the 30th the army crossed Deep River and moved to camp at “Kaiway” (Caraway). The order book is silent as to how they crossed the Deep, noting only that “The Waggoners to Harness their Horses at break of Day and cross the River immediately after.”

The next day they crossed the Uwharrie “at the ford” and marched to Flat Swamp (now Davidson County) where Tryon’s forces met up with General Waddell’s troops before moving north to Salem.

A busy May in Randolph, 1771—but no definitive evidence on the origin of the name “Tryon’s Ferry.”

My inference, however, is that some kind of ferriage was required to cross Deep River that day in its flood stage, if not for the majority of the army, at least for its wagons of supplies and its artillery. And perhaps, for the Governor of the Province of North Carolina and the Commander in Chief of the King’s Royal Army in Those Parts.

On June 30, 1771, barely a month after he crossed Deep River one way or another, Governor William Tryon departed North Carolina for his new job as Governor of New York.

[NOTE ON SOURCES:  the 1971 NC Department of Archives and History publication “The Regulators in North Carolina: A Documentary History, 1759-1776” (compiled and edited by William S. Powell, James K. Hunta and Thomas J. Farnham) is the source for all of the quotes, dates and transcripts of Tryon and the Regulators given here.  Sadly, no portrait of Gov. Tryon is known; one that was traditionally thought to be him has been shown to be an officer of another regiment.]

Tryon’s Ferry

February 11, 2009

Author Stewart Dunaway, who is currently researching Randolph County’s antebellum road and bridge petitions in the State Archives, recently sent me the following excerpt from a road petition dated 1813:

“[your petitioners] …pray that the road leading from Center Meeting House to Tryon’s ferry on Deep river on that part of it which reaches from the Guilford line to the Old Trading road be reestablished as a public road as we… humbly conceive it would be of singular advantage to the neighborhood and the community…”

I had to admit that I’d never heard of “Tryon’s Ferry” before; Randolph County’s waterways have seldom in the last 200 years run so deep that they couldn’t be forded most of the time. Ferries used flat-bottomed boats of various sizes to carry traffic across bodies of water too deep or fast-running to be safely crossed on foot. The one ferry I knew of is Waddell’s or Searcy’s Ferry, on the lowest part of Deep River in the southeast corner of the county. But this petition obviously refers to some part of the Deep presently located in north-central Randolph.

Only one major Deep River crossing comes to mind lying between Randleman/Union Factory/ Dicks’ Mill and Bell’s-Walker’s Mill on Muddy Creek, and that’s the ford of the Great Indian Trading Path, or Occanneechi Trail.

The Trading Path crossed the Deep somewhere under the present Martha McGee Bell Bridge which carried the I-73/I-74/ US 200 bypass across the Randleman Reservoir today. I know of no bridge that was ever located at this site before the interstate bridges were built in the 1980s. People in Randleman once told me that the ford of the Trading Path was called The Island Ford (which causes confusion with Island Ford in Franklinville, where the Pee
Dee Road crossed the Deep).

There is one other written account of a Deep River ferry I know of, and it’s generally in the right place. Early Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury travelled all over the United States preaching and converting sinners between 1778 and 1818.  His Journal and Letters have been published online at
, and meticulously record his every day’s journey.

Monday, July 24, 1780, p. 368: “Cool, like the fall; I am kept in peace; rose with a sense of God’s presence; have only time to pray and write my journal; always upon the wing, as the rides are so long, and bad roads; it takes me many hours, as in general I walk my horse. I crossed Rocky River about ten miles from Haw River; it was rocky, sure enough; it is in Chatham county, North Carolina. I can see little else but cabins in these parts, built with poles: and such a country as no man ever saw for a carriage. I narrowly escaped being overset; was much affrighted, but Providence keeps me, and I trust will. I crossed Deep River in a flat boat, and the poor ferryman sinner swore because I had not a silver shilling to give him.”

Tuesday, July 25th (p. 369) he noted “the people are poor, and cruel one to another: some families are ready to starve for want of bread, while others have corn and rye distilled into poisonous whiskey; and a Baptist preacher has been guilty of the same…. These are poor Christians… We forded Deep River, rode to White’s, within ten miles of the camp,
into a settlement of people from Pennsylvania, some were Quakers.”

When Asbury visited on January 30th, 1789 (p. 591) “the rain was great… Deep River was very high; and we had an awful time crossing it.” In 1790 he began a tradition of staying with the family of William Bell (proprietor of Bell’s Mill), step-father of John and William McGee, who were Methodist camp meeting ministers. On December 17, 1793, he left the McGees in the morning and… “crossed Deep River, in a flat, not without danger; thence down Caraway Creek to Randolph town [Johnstonville?]; thence to Uwharrie at Fuller’s Ford.  Here we were assisted by some young me with a canoe.  Thank the Lord, both men and horses were preserved!  The young me sometimes prayed and sometimes swore.”

Nov. 16, 1798: “We rode to Mr. Bell’s, on Deep River, thence 30 miles to Wood’s, upon Uwharrie River.  This day was very warm, and we had exceedingly uncomfortable roads.  Going at this rate is very trying, but it will make death welcome, and eternal rest desirable.”

Feb. 26, 1800: “We lodged at Mr. Bell’s; having ridden only 15 miles in 2 days…. My horse had hard work; my carriage was very loose in the joints by constant and long play; and myself much tired; but I revived when I saw the lawyers going to the Western courts.  I thought, if they toiled and suffered for justice and silver, how ought I to labour for truth…”

It’s a rare day in July nowadays when someone can’t walk across most of Deep River, let alone ride a horse across. (But then the long-suffering Bishop travelled in a carriage!)

Enough about the “Ferry”– more about the “Tryon” later.

Trinity College Civil War Trail Marker

February 10, 2009

In December Randolph County’s first Civil War Trail marker was installed in Trinity at the Trinity College Gazebo.

The NC Department of Commerce, through its Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development is funding the Civil War Trails project through a $1.1 million federal Transportation Enhancements grant. The monies are being used to develop, design, fabricate and install historical markers to interpret campaign sites and corridors of the Civil War.

Each marker will cost $5500 but communities will pay $1100 per sign matched by $4400 provided through the grant.  The City of Trinity paid the match on its marker. A future marker to be erected in Franklinville has been matched by the Randolph County Tourism Development Authority.

The markers on this battle route mirror those installed along the highly successful Civil War trail systems in Virginia and Maryland and are visually related to those trail markers by the same bugle logo.

The text of the marker reads as follows:


Hardee’s Last Headquarters


In the second half of April 1865, as Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s army retreated west from Raleigh, his forces scattered and the army became widely dispersed. By the time he formally surrendered on April 26, the troops under his authority were encamped in Charlotte, Greensboro, High Point, Salisbury, and here at Trinity College.

Confederate Gen. William J. Hardee had retreated with his corps to a point ten miles east of here by April 17. Before the end of the month, however, as Johnston negotiated at Bennett Place near Durham with Union Gen. William T. Sherman for the surrender of the Confederate army, Hardee moved his headquarters to the college. He pitched his tent near the main building, while his aides, escorts, and scouts erected their tents among the trees north of the structure. Most of the other men in Hardee’s corps camped in the vicinity of High Point and Greensboro. Early in May, as the Confederate army was being paroled and the men began their journeys home, Hardee left here for Salisbury to board a train for Alabama. In 1888, a newspaper published a romantic account of Hardee’s breaking camp and furling his flag at Trinity College: “His daughter, Miss Annie Hardee, accompanied by the staff and many weeping and tattered soldiers, while the college bell, nearby, tolled the requiem of the Southern Confederacy, and while officers and men stood uncovered, tenderly dismantled and forever furled this last long emblem of Southern chivalry and Southern bravery.”


The Carolinas Campaign began on February 1, 1865, when Union Gen. William T. Sherman led his army north from Savannah, Georgia, after the “March to the Sea.” Sherman’s objective was to join Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Virginia to crush Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Scattered Confederate forces consolidated in North Carolina, the Confederacy’s logistical lifeline, where Sherman defeated Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s last-ditch attack at Bentonville. After Sherman was reinforced at Goldsboro late in March, Johnston saw the futility of further resistance and surrendered on April 26, essentially ending the Civil War.

A group of Methodists and Quakers organized Brown’s Schoolhouse here in 1838; the North Carolina legislature chartered Union Institute Academy here in 1841, and the school changed its name to Trinity College in 1859. It relocated to Durham in 1892, where it became Duke University in 1924. During the Civil War, in May 1861, headmaster Braxton Craven organized the Trinity Guard from among the students here. In November 1861, the company was assigned to guard the new prison at Salisbury, where Craven served as commandant for a month. He remained headmaster here until his death in 1882.

Asheboro Colored Graded School

February 8, 2009

At the southwest corner of Central School, now known as “East Side Homes,” is a marble stone which predates the 1926 construction of Asheboro’s oldest existing African-American school.

The reuse of “Ashboro/ Colored Graded School/ 1911” marked not only the community’s joy in the new school, but its pride in its first. The stone was actually re-installed as the cornerstone of the 1926 building in a ceremony conducted by Zacharias Franks and other members of the Odd Fellows fraternal order. Mr. Franks was a brick mason and one of the first residents of “Moffitt Heights,” where Frank Street continues to bear a shortened version of his name.

Before the Civil War, education of black children was specifically prohibited by state law, but the Constitution of 1868 mandated free schools for all children between ages 6 to 21. Even before that time, Freedmen’s Schools were conducted in several places in the county, such as Middleton Academy between Cedar Falls and Franklinville.

It’s presently unclear what kind of serious funding black education received in Randolph County in the late 19th century. The only real reference to the subject is in Sidney Swaim Robins’ 1972 autobiography “Sketches of My Asheboro,” where he recounts his family’s friendship with William Ernest Mead. Mead, a native of Brooklyn, New York, was hired to serve as the principal of the black school in Asheboro. Mead, only 20 years old, arrived around 1882 to teach and run the school “as a sort of Quaker missionary” (p. 25).

According to Robins, the school was located on ” the Oaky Mountain Road… after you started down the red lane from the old courthouse [intersection of Salisbury and Main streets], crossed the wet weather brook on a low plant-bridge, and passed the Colored schoolhouse half way up the first rise to where the lane leveled off” (p. 44). Robins left Asheboro for Harvard in 1900, so his memory considerably predates the 1911 date on the preserved cornerstone date. The exact location of the school is shown on part of a map for “Beechwood” subdivision, developed in 1936. Lots 1 through 5 fronting on Brookside Drive include part of the school grounds; a later hand has drawn the outline of a building facing Old North Main Street just north of lots 1 and 2, on adjoining property labeled “School Lot” (see Plat Book 1, Page 289). So the site of the school can be found approximately at the present location of 309- 310 North Main Street.

The “Colored Graded School” was a public school established under the school improvement movement pushed by Governor Charles B. Aycock. The “Asheboro Graded School Trustees” in 1909 built a grand brick Graded School for white students on the old Male Academy lot on South Fayetteville Street (later named Fayetteville Street School), then in 1911 the four-room frame school on old North Main Street that older residents still remember.

Ruth McCrae, a long-time teacher in the Asheboro City School system, was a student in the 1911 school. She told historian Tom Hanchett, who prepared the nomination of Central School to the National Register of Historic Places, that “One the January day when the building was completed, students from the old Asheboro Colored School on Greensboro Road marched triumphantly down the hill to the new facility, each carrying a chair from the old building” (NR nomination, p. 5). McCraw also vividly recalled “we weren’t out of that building but three months—March—when the wind blew that school down! Just completely flattened it! There was nothing standing!”


February 2, 2009


From “The Maxi Page,” The Randolph Guide Senior Adult Newspaper Supplement, published December 31, 1980.

Randleman was founded by the Union Manufacturing Company in 1848. The stockholders were all residents of the nearby Quaker settlement of New Salem. The factory was sited near an earlier grist mill run by Peter Dicks, a successful farmer and merchant and one of the founders of Guilford College. Houses were built as residences for the mill agent, Superintendent, and eight families of workers in 1849. Several of these houses still stand, although the original factory building burned and was

In 1868 the mill was sold to John Banner Randleman and John H. Ferree. Randleman had been a factory superintendent for the Holt family of Alamance County, and formed his Randleman Manufacturing Company to compete with the Holts’ production of “plaids” gingham or checked material.

One of Randleman and Ferree’s donations to the community was the second St. Paul’s Methodist Church building, the first brick church in Randolph County. The interior of the church, built in 1879, was decorated by Forsyth County artist Jules Korner. Ferree took control of the company after Randleman’s death in 1879. When Union Village was incorporated on March 29, 1880, Ferree asked that it be renamed Randleman in memory of his partner.

Ferree was a shrewd businessman who had interests in all three of the town’s steam-powered mills, as well as the Naomi Falls village and the mills in Worthville and Central Falls. The Naomi mill and related houses were developed as a separate village just down river from Randleman. In an unusual ceremony in 1880, the Naomi factory and its machinery were dedicated “to the Glory of God, for the purposes of Christian Work,” by Braxton Craven, the president of Trinity College. Naomi is
now part of the City of Randleman.

In June, 1911, the Randleman and Naomi Falls water-powered mills were consolidated with the Plaidville and Marie Antoinette steam-powered mills to form Deep River Mills., Inc. This conglomerate owned 150 dwellings and employed 800 of the town’s 2500 residents. In 1930 the corporation collapsed in the face of the Depression, leaving workers jobless until other textile operations moved into the facilities after 1934. The 1933 auction of the Deep River Mills property effectively ended the historic textile operation. Today four of the mills are used as warehouse space; the Naomi Falls factory is operated by J. P. Stevens.


February 1, 2009


From “The Maxi Page,” The Randolph Guide Senior Adult Newspaper Supplement, published March 25, 1981

Central Falls, ca. 1970, as a Burlington Industries Plant

Central Falls, ca. 1970, as a Burlington Industries Plant

Central Falls was founded in 1881 as the home of the Central Falls Manufacturing Company. J.H. Ferree, part-owner of the mills in Randleman and Worthville, was one of the founders of the Central Falls firm, which also included prominent men and women of Randleman and Asheboro. The site was presumably named after Central Falls, Rhode Island, a major center of textile manufacturing. A brick mill as well as a community building and 25 houses were built, with the community building also housing non-demoninational church services. The building was sold to the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1882, and survives today under a brick veneer skin added after a minor fire in 1934.

The Central Falls factory employed 65 people in 1884, weaving 2,000 years of sheeting per day on 35 looms. In 1886 the Worth Manufacturing Company purchased the Central Falls plant and renamed it Worth Mill No. 2 (the Worthville factory becoming No. 1). One of Dr. Worth’s most unusual operations was freight and passenger service between the two villages via steamboat. Worth Manufacturing entered bankruptcy in 1913, and the Central Falls factory subsequently underwent several reorganizations. The factory is presently owned by Burlington Industries.

Construction of the new highway bridge, 1929, replaced the old covered bridge at Central Falls.

Construction of the new highway bridge, 1929, replaced the old covered bridge at Central Falls.

Central Falls was awarded a post office in 1882, but was never incorporated as a town. The village was included in the Asheboro Sanitary Sewage District in 1941 as the city’s discharge point into Deep River, and is now completely within the Asheboro city limits.

The village is still more than just another neighborhood of Asheboro, however, and suffers from something of an identity crisis. The most chronic complaint today concerns the condition of the community building, once the Central Falls School, which has been heavily vandalized and is unuseable. The community could greatly benefit from its renovation.