Midway Filling Station/ ‘Mineral Springs’

This structure at 547 N.C. Highway 22 North (part of Franklinville but with a Ramseur mailing address) is currently dressed-up like a church, but started out life in the late 1920s as “Midway Filling Station,” an automobile service stop located halfway between Franklinville and Ramseur.   In addition to oil and gasoline, a grill provided hot dogs and hamburgers, and in the basement those in the know could purchase non-tax-paid liquid refreshment.  It was located directly across the street from the CCC Camp, which must have contributed mightily to its popularity with local young people.

A very interesting sidelight on Midway Station is provided by several notes from The Courier during the 1930s.

“A.C. McAlister has commenced work on a seven room bungalow on his farm on Highway 90 near the Midway Filling Station.  This will be a modern building, rock veneer with electric lights and water.  R.D. Garrison will have charge of building.” (7 November 1935) “A.C.” is evidently a misprint for “J.C.,” or Clayton McAlister, who completed the house at 595 N.C. Highway 22 North in 1936. Clayton’s wife Margaret McAlister was the chief secretary and administrative assistant to John W. Clark in the Randolph Mills office in Franklinville. R.D. Garrison (also known as “Pap”) was a well-known local contractor who served several terms as Mayor of Franklinville.

On April 28, 1936, the newspaper correspondent noted that “The Walter Clark Troop of Boy Scouts enjoyed an overnight camping trip at Mineral Springs, south of Midway Filling Station, Friday night.” The name Walter Clark had two meanings in this context; the local troop was named in honor of the father of John W. Clark, former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court Walter Clark, who had also been a very young officer in the Civil War. John W. Clark’s young son, Walter Clark, was also a member of the troop.

The most interesting part of the note is the reference to “Mineral Springs.” It appears to have been a well-known local landmark, as there is one earlier reference on December 6, 1934: “J.R. Johnson, of Candor, has bought from W.C. Burrow what is generally known as the Craven fish pond tract on North Brook, south of Franklinville, where he expects to build a home and in the mean time will occupy the residence of L.M. Curtis near Mineral Spring.”

No one I’ve asked remembers any reference to Mineral Springs. There were about 40 acres in the J.C. McAlister property, reaching from NC22 all the way south across the railroad to Deep River. The railroad right-of-way and riverfront were purchased by the Town of Franklinville years ago for its greenway project, but no springs are evident on that tract. The spring may be located near a small pond in the middle of the pasture directly south of the McAlister house, but that’s just my best guess.

These weekly Courier notes were penned by Cornelius H. Julian, the long-time Franklinville postmaster, who had been born in “south” Franklinville and had lived in the area his entire life. He knew names for many more local geographical features than anyone presently now recalls, and reading through his Courier notes is a window onto street names and landscape landmarks that are on the verge of extinction.

Here’s a very interesting link to an article about 19th-century “mineral spring” water bottles, many of which purported to cure various ailments and diseases. [http://www.sha.org/bottle/soda.htm ] People back then were almost as concerned with their water as people today, but the packaging was glass, not plastic, and their concern was more about the source of the water than its processing. This bottle from Guilford, Vermont, evidently was good for almost everything that ailed ya.

In these days of mass-marketed bottled water, we forget that discovery and knowledge of the location of clean, safe water for drinking and cooking was a constant concern before the mid-20th century. Consumers once were less concerned with labels marked “Purified,” “Distilled,” “Cholorinated,” and “Fluoridated”, all of which denote treatment processes which subtract or add things to the water; the primary concerns then all regarded the source of the water itself.

Well water and spring water both are found in the natural aquifers located under the soil. Spring water bubbles up naturally at certain places, while a well must be dug or drilled to reach the water at its natural underground level. Creeks, streams and rivers are natural tributaries where the ground level dips below the level of the aquifer, while springs usually are forced up under pressure between crevices in the underlying rock.

Mineral water can come from either a well or spring, but by definition must contain a some amount of trace minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, which taste good and promote good health. (“Iron” water is mineral water but looks dirty and tastes metallic and is used only as a last resort.) “Sparkling” mineral waters just contain some concentration of carbon dioxide which makes them naturally carbonated.

To be called a “Mineral Spring,” the water source here must have been a naturally-occurring spring which contains a higher concentration of minerals than the area’s regular spring or well water. The local people long ago would have been very familiar with the difference, so it’s rather sad that this site, and the distinction of its water, has been lost. Maybe someone can do more research than I have, and restore “Mineral Springs” to the local consciousness.

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One Response to “Midway Filling Station/ ‘Mineral Springs’”

  1. Carole Watterson Troxler Says:

    I’m a big fan of this website! Great images and careful entries and compilations. Thanks for your care.

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