Archive for the ‘Deep River’ Category

The Power of Water: Hurricane Florence in Randolph County, September 2018

July 24, 2019

Hurricane Florence from space- NASA.

People often ask me why we don’t have a Randolph County museum. The short answer is that a decent museum would cost a lot of money and need staffing, neither of which the county wants to sponsor. Even private efforts take a lot of time just trying to raise money for one exhibit, as the following story will show. This is the text of a grant application I wrote to the NC Humanities Council last fall seeking to get the right to host a Smithsonian Institution travelling exhibit on “WaterWays.”  It would have been a great way to jump start a museum gallery and major exhibit in Randolph County, specifically in Franklinville, as the text indicates. It was tied to the amazing display of water power we all witnessed in September 2018 as Hurricane Florence blew through the area. Like 12 out of the other 14 applications I wrote last year, it was denied with a one paragraph letter. But the application is a bit of modern history that I am proud of writing.

Franklinville footbridge across Deep River, Sept. 18, 2018 (Tom Allen).

Preface

Recent events have underscored the fact that North Carolina cannot ignore the impact of water on human activity. According to radar estimates from the U.S. National Weather Service the slow passage of Hurricane Florence during the weekend of September 14-17, 2018 dropped 8.06 trillion gallons of rain on the state. That’s almost enough water to completely fill Lake Mead, the reservoir behind the Hoover Dam in Nevada.

When the Florence floodwaters peaked in Randolph County that Monday about noon, the Cedar Falls and Franklinville communities had water at or near the 500 year flood level- yet 160 year-old mill buildings and 140 year-old railroad bed were “high and dry.” Being just 30 miles from the source of the river, those communities were fortunate: as high as the waters rose, the flood actually came and went in less than 24 hours. By Tuesday the cleanup was underway in Randolph County, but the same hurricane waters wouldn’t find their way back to the Atlantic for at least a week.

Drone shot of the Deep River at the Upper Mill, Franklinville, showing the mouth of Walnut Creek where it enters the River. (Tom Allen)

Over three days Hurricane Florence put about six inches of water into rain gauges in Franklinville, where the average annual rainfall is 46.6 inches. That more than a month’s worth of rain fell in those 4 days was not in itself catastrophic: the greatest single day total in state history was the 21.15 inches of rain that fell on the town of Highlands in Macon County on July 29, 1879. Communities in Craven, Carteret and New Hanover counties received more than 30 inches of rain from Hurricane Florence, and then over the next ten days were forced to cope with even more water flooding down the estuaries of the Cape Fear toward the sea.

Florence floods Englehard, NC.

While it lasted, the blocked roads and flooded parks along Deep River attracted hundreds of spectators, looking out at scenes not seen in more than 50 years. One of the most common questions was “Why did they ever build a factory beside a river? That was stupid!” The vivid answer was in front of them, but 21st century residents have become so divorced from their history that the lesson was invisible. The river was the entire reason these mill communities came into existence: to harness the power of flowing water.

The Upper dam during Florence- the head of the dam is about 35 feet above the grist and cotton mill a quarter mile downstream. (tom Allen)

Head

To calculate the power of a river, we need to know the height it falls from source to exit point (the ‘head’) and the amount of water that travels down the stream channel in a given period of time (the flow rate). How much water is in a river depends on the land area which slopes toward the river; the drainage basin or catchment area describes the area that collects surface water and channels it toward a single discharge point into the ocean. The flow rate varies with both the amount of water in the channel, and the slope of the channel from point to point.

Deep River alone is 125 miles long; its twin the Haw River begins in northeast Greensboro and flows through Alamance, Orange and Chatham counties for 110 miles. The Deep and the Haw converge at Mermaid’s Point near Haywood in Chatham County, where they form the renamed Cape Fear and flow an additional 80 miles to meet the ocean at Bald Head Island.

The Deep, the Haw and the Cape Fear estuaries together make up the largest watershed in North Carolina, containing 27% of the state’s population. The name Cape Fear comes from the 1585 expedition of Sir Richard Grenville, and marks the southernmost tip of Smith (now Bald Head) Island. It is the fifth-oldest surviving English place name in the U.S (after Roanoke, Chowan, Neuse and Virginia.) Spanish explorers had named it ‘Rio Jordan’ in 1526, and the English tried renaming it the Charles River (1664) and the Clarendon River (1671), before reverting to the original name.

The Deep and Haw Rivers unite at Mermaid’s Point to form the Cape Fear River, which enters the Atlantic Ocean at Southport.

Deep River heads in a spring near a runway at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, elevation 925 feet above sea level. In 202 miles the water merges with the Atlantic Ocean.

It leaves Guilford County below Jamestown, where the reservoir lake level is maintained at a constant elevation of 675 feet from there to the Randleman Dam. After the dam, the river’s elevation is 600 feet at the US220 bridge in Randleman; at the Old Liberty Rd. bridge at Central Falls, it is 575 feet; at the lip of Cox’s Dam it is at 560 feet; and it descends to 500 feet by the time it reaches the Loflin Pond Bridge at Cedar Falls. Water flows over the Upper Dam at Franklinville at 475 feet; the Lower Dam at 450 feet; and at the US 64 bridge just below the mouth of Sandy Creek the water level sinks to at 439 feet.

The US Geological Service monitoring station at Gabriel’s Creek, the river’s only flow monitor in Randolph County is located just upstream of the Brooklyn Bridge in Ramseur, where the water is 425 feet above sea level. The drainage area above this point includes 349 square miles. From there the river continues to fall gradually; reaching 420 feet at Buffalo Ford; 400 feet at the Coleridge Dam; and 325 feet at the Moore County line just north of Howard’s Mill.

At Gulf in Chatham County the water level is 270 feet; at Moncure 213 feet; at the Buckhorn Dam at Lockville, where the Deep meets the Haw River to form the Cape Fear, the level has sunk to 160 feet above sea level. The drainage area above this point now encompasses 3,157 square miles. At Fayetteville the river elevation reaches 213 feet; at Lumberton 131 feet; until at Wilmington it is just 38 feet above the ocean. Southport, where the fresh water of the river reaches the Atlantic, is less than 15 feet above sea level. More than 9,000 square miles of North Carolina, 17% of the state’s total land area, drains into the Atlantic through the mouth of the Cape Fear.

Trash backs up behind the bridge at High Falls in Chatham County during Florence.

Flow

The power of flowing water is measured in cubic feet per second. The US Army Corps of Engineers maintains a gauge at Gabriel’s Creek near Ramseur that has been operating continuously since 1985, and can be checked in real-time on the internet. This monitoring station can record floods of up to 26 feet above normal river level, and discharge rates of up to 20,000 cubic feet per second. The median daily flow at the Gabriel’s Creek usually finds 60 cubic feet of water flowing downstream every second. The daily flow varies according to drought and rainfall; in 1943 the lowest recorded flow was just 6.5 feet per second at the meter; the largest flow in the last 60 years was 2,410 cubic feet per second in 1960.

Whiteville, NC.

The night of September 16, 2018 saw records broken at the Gabriel’s Creek station: both the flow and the height of the river exceeded the operational limits of the monitoring devices. The US Geological Survey Service estimates that the river that day crested at more than 31 feet above flood stage, with an estimated discharge of 32,000 cubic feet per second.

Power

The theoretically available power from falling water can be expressed as Pth = ρ q g h, where

Pth = power theoretically available (W)

ρ = density (kg/m3) (~ 1000 kg/m3 for water)

q = water flow (m3/s)

g = acceleration of gravity (9.81 m/s2)

h = falling height, head (m)

Fayetteville Police Dept. camera showing the flood cresting at the railroad bridge over the Cape Fear. The bridge is normally more than 40 feet above the water.

After converting cubic feet to cubic meters, we can estimate that on September 16th the 1,225 cubic yards of water flowing down Deep River, falling 100 feet from the Gabriel’s Creek station to the county line, represented 1,081,553 kilowatts of energy. Since a megawatt is 1,000 kilowatts, the flood waters of Hurricane Florence equaled a thousand megawatts, or a gigawatt of energy flowing through Randolph County; gathering force and heading into eastern North Carolina.

For scale, a gigawatt is enough electricity to power 700,000 homes, and in 2017 there were just over 62,000 housing units in Randolph County. Using another scale: a single modern nuclear reactor can generate about 1 megawatt. The largest nuclear installation in the United States, with multiple reactors, generates 4,000 megawatts. This means that, if harnessed to generate electricity, the 2018 flood waters of Hurricane Florence flowing down just one North Carolina river, would have equaled the output of a million nuclear reactors.

A sobering fact: since record-keeping began in 1901, Hurricane Florence is only the third highest flood peak on Deep River, slightly below Hurricane Hazel of 1954, and far below an unnamed storm in September 1945, when the peak flow at Gabriel’s Creek was estimated to have reached 43,000 cubic feet per second, or nearly 1.5 gigawatts of energy leaving the county.

This was the reason mills were located along rivers. The power of falling water, harnessed mechanically, can do the work of many men and many animals- even many nuclear power plants.

Franklinville Industrial History is powered by Water and Steam 

The new S. Morgan Smith waterwheel being delivered to Franklinville Manufacturing Company in 1909.

Our community’s history has been intertwined with the power of the river from its very beginning, and still today Deep River powers local businesses.  A large part of Franklinville was included within the National Register Historic District in 1985, and dozens of structures dating from antebellum times still stand in the town. Our new branding motto is that “History Lives Here.” But when we consider the community’s relationship to the river, we might just as well say “History Works Here.”

When Deep River ran free toward the sea, shad, herring and sturgeon were commonly caught here.  Fish such as these lived their lives in the ocean, but came upstream to lay their eggs in freshwater rivers and creeks. About halfway between Island Ford and Sandy Creek, an aboriginal fish weir, used to funnel fish into woven baskets, can still be seen at low water.

A medium-sized Atlantic sturgeon caught in the Pee Dee River in 2017.

Prehistoric native Americans left the Deep River area before settlers began to arrive and record Indian names and legends, but geography can hint at their travel patterns. From Bush Creek to Sandy Creek on either side of Franklinville the river drops sixty feet in a series of rapids and shallows that created two crossings used by natives for hundreds or thousands of years. At the lower (downstream) crossing known as Island Ford, “Crawford’s Path” ran from the Great Indian Trading Path near Julian South to Cheraw, South Carolina. The “Ellison Road” crossed at the upper ford, branching off Crawford’s Path and running west towards Asheboro, Salisbury and Charlotte.

Settlers began arriving in what is now Randolph County in the 1740s, when the area was part of Bladen County. In 1752 it became Orange County, which in 1771 became Guilford and in 1779, Randolph. The earliest known settler in the Franklinville area was Solomon Allred, who in March 1752 applied to purchase 640 acres “at the mouth of Sandy Creek, including his improvements.” To the West, Herman Husbands in November 1754 entered 402 acres on Deep River “called the Cedar Falls.” In between Hercules Ogle, a blacksmith, received permission to build a grist mill on his property near Solomon Allred in 1759.

The first settler on the actual site of Franklinville was Jacob Skeen, who entered title to 400 acres on Deep River including the mouth of Bush Creek and “his mill seat” in December 1778.  This is the first indication that the obvious waterpower potential of the falls above Island Ford was already being developed, using the kinetic energy generated by falling water to grind corn and wheat, gin cotton, card wool, saw wood, and smelt iron ore. Another miller, Christian Moretz, rebuilt the mill in 1801, and Elisha Coffin, another miller, bought the property twenty years later. The community which grew up around this mill became known “Coffin’s Mills on Deep River,” and later Franklinsville (the final ‘s’ was dropped in 1918). The wheat and corn mill survived until 1913 when it was replaced by a roller process mill. The ‘Roller Mill’ made both plain and self-rising flour, sold under the “Dainty Biscuit” brand name until a year before the mill burned in 1987.

The three oldest cotton textile mill villages on Deep River are Cedar Falls (1836), Franklinville (1838) and Island Ford (1845), all located within three miles of one another. When Franklinville was incorporated by the legislature in 1846 it was North Carolina’s first textile mill community to become a municipality. The original Franklinsville factory was spinning yarn by late 1839, and began to weave cloth in February 1840. Another cotton mill was added at Island Ford in 1846, apparel production lines cut and sewed undergarments for soldiers during the Civil War, and for a time wool spinning and sock knitting took place. Textile production continued in Franklinville until the mills finally closed in 1978.

The mill first installed a supplement to the river’s power in 1883, when a wood-fired boiler began to run a mechanical steam engine. A later 1898 Harris Corliss engine still exists.

Worthville Covered Bridge abutments after the bridge was washed away, 1912

The river was first used to turn an electric generator in Worthville about 1886; Franklinville acquired a generator and put electric lights in the mill in 1895. In 1919 a steam turbine generator station fired by coal began supplying electricity to the entire Franklinville community. Deep River Hydro, headquartered in Franklinville, even today operates low-head hydroelectric generators there and in Coleridge which send electricity to the Duke Energy grid. The cotton mills may have closed in 1978, but Deep River is still powering homes, businesses and industry in North Carolina today.

Pier destroyed at Wrightsville Beach by Florence.

Our Pitch

From the 1770s to the present, Franklinville has been putting Deep River to work. This is why we want to host Water/Ways. 2018 is the 240th anniversary of the first known use of waterpower in our community. 2020 will be the 180th anniversary of using the river’s energy to weave cotton cloth. There is no county history museum or exhibit gallery in Randolph County; several communities have tiny local museums but none has any space appropriate for hosting a SITES display. Hosting Water/Ways would be a huge vote of confidence in our effort to brand Franklinville as the home of history in Randolph county.

Randolph Heritage owns 15 acres on Deep River including the site of the grist mill and 1838 cotton mill. The 1919 Power House located at 1295 Andrew Hunter Road includes a 1400 square foot space with 20-foot-high ceilings that can be configured to house the SITES show and additional exhibits. The Power House is part of a complex of buildings that we plan to configure into a visitor’s center and gallery space to tell the story of Franklinville and its water-powered industry. There are also plans to rebuild the adjacent Cotton Warehouse into four large multi-purpose spaces.

The Power House complex is located on the Deep River Rail Trail, a hiking and biking trail being built on the former right-of-way of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway. It also adjoins the Deep River Blueway, a state paddle trail, and a kayak and canoe access point is planned for another part of the Randolph Heritage property. All these points are planned to be connected by a string of wayside signage marking significant points in Franklinville’s relationship to the river—the dams, the head and tail races, the sites of water wheels, wool carding machines, cotton gins, and saw mills.

Local exhibits will make use of the Randolph Heritage collections, which include oral history recordings, archival photographs, historic textile machinery, and historic water wheels and turbines.

We are creating a special collection of Hurricane Florence images, including spectacular aerial drone video of Deep River in flood through Franklinville on Monday September 17, 2018.

A sailboat is shoved up against a house and a collapsed garage Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, New Bern, N.C. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

In conjunction with the exhibit, the Town of Franklinville and Randolph Heritage plan to construct a series of tours, lectures, events and programs that will allow the visiting public to explore water from both scientific and cultural perspectives. Our purpose here is to begin to reconnect local residents to the value of the waterway, and so give them the ability to be better guides and ambassadors for the heritage of the river. We hope to build a core group of engaged parties who will work together to reclaim, restore and reinvigorate our waterside communities. We will create these programs and activities in collaboration with local schools, 4H clubs, the Franklinville Public Library, the Franklinville Volunteer Fire Department, the Randolph County Public Health Department, and others.

Florence flooding the Cape Fear in downtown Wilmington.

Potential program and event topics include:

*Engaging students water quality monitoring, watershed ecology and environmental stewardship;

*The hydrology of water power, from dam to tail race.

*The power of steam.

*Tours of the Sandy Creek drinking water treatment and the Franklinville wastewater treatment plants

*The history of Busk Creek ironworks and exploring how it used water power to smelt iron ore

*Exploring the local history of alcohol production from moonshining apple brandy to brewing beer

*A fishing tournament at Sandy Creek- discuss what lives in the river, licenses needed, etc.

*How clean/dirty is our river water? Are there toxic legacies in Deep River mud and sediment? Randleman, Asheboro and Franklinville all at times used river water to bleach, dye and finish cotton cloth. Older residents remember when the river would run blue, green, yellow and red, based on what colors were being used upstream.

North Carolina National Guard soldiers sandbagging a bridge near Wilmington.

We believe that hosting Water/Ways will be an appropriate way to open our renovated gallery space and to kick start our campaign to bring the history of Franklinville and Deep River to vivid life. We hope that the Humanities Council and SITES will to partner with us to champion the incredible ongoing story of the power of water in North Carolina.

A Cajun Navy air boat rescuing a family near Kinston, NC during Florence.

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Notes to Independence Day, 1842.

August 3, 2015

IMG_2397Published in the Raleigh Register, Friday, 15 July 1842–

The Raleigh Register and North-Carolina Weekly Advertiser was published weekly in Raleigh beginning in 1799, and in various formats and title variations to 1852.  Its publisher, Joseph Gales, was a well-known British immigrant who was sympathetic to the French Revolution and Thomas Jefferson.  It was a leading poltical voice in North Carolina, first for Jefferson’s Republican Party and later for the Whig Party.  Gales became one of Raleigh’s leading citizens and advocated for internal improvements and public education.  He privately favored the emancipation of slaves and publicly advocated for the American Colonization Society.  He served several terms as Mayor of Raleigh, and was doing so when he died, 24 Aug. 1841.  His son Weston Gales was editor and publisher of the newspaper in July 1842.

Upper Mill before 1946 (no laboratory, b. 1946)

Upper Mill before 1946 (no laboratory, b. 1946)

“Celebration at Franklinsville, Randolph County”–

The writers had to be specific, as most readers in Raleigh and the rest of the state would not have been familiar with the tiny community, less than 4 years old.  Modern Franklinville is made up of two initially independent mill villages, Franklinsville and Island Ford, separated by about three-quarters of a mile of Deep River.   The original Franklinsville mill village was developed by the mill corporation beginning in 1838, on property adjoining the grist mill on Deep River belonging to Elisha Coffin.  Coffin, a miller and Justice of the Peace, purchased the property in 1821. [Deed Book 14, p.531 (Ward to Elisha Coffin, 25 Dec. 1821)] Coffin was the initial incorporator of the factory, and developed the new town on the slope between his house and the mills.  The community formerly known as “Coffin’s Mills on Deep River” had “assumed the name of Franklinsville” by March 8, 1839.   Officially named to honor Jesse Frankin, a former N.C. Governor and Congressman from Surry County, unoffically Coffin and his anti-slavery family and investors apparently meant to honor Franklin  for his crucial vote to keep slavery out of the Northwest Territory (now Ohio, Indiana and Illinois).  “Franklinsville” was officially recorded in the town’s 1847 legislative act of incorporation.[ Chapter 200, Private Laws of 1846-47, ratified 18 Jan. 1847].  The community surrounding the factory was the largest urban area in Randolph County until 1875.

“The Visitors… amounted to 1200 or 1500”-
The entire population of modern Franklinville is less than 1500;  the 1840 census of Randolph county found the total population to be 12,875 people, so if 1500 people actually attended this event, that would have constituted about 11% of the residents of the entire county in 1842.

OSV Marines 1812

OSV Marines 1812

“The Franklinsville Volunteer Company of Light Infantry”-
The state militia, organized by county and divided into “Captain’s Districts,” had been the foundational political body in North Carolina since colonial times.  The militia had been reorganized in 1806 (Revised Statutes, Chapter 73) to allow “Volunteer”companies raised by private subscription in addition to the official “Enrolled” companies made up of “all free white men and white apprentices, citizens of this State, or of the United States residing in this State, who are or shall be of the age of eighteen and under the age of forty-five years…”   Enrolled companies were known by the name of the commanding Captain, and Randolph County was divided geographically into about 12 Captain’s Districts, which functioned much like modern voting precincts.  Each district had its own “muster ground,” and four times each year were required to assemble and practice military drills.  One of the annual musters was usually also election day, and the men voted by district.

NC Militia Officer 1840

NC Militia Officer 1840

Prior to the creation of the new town of Franklinsville, men of that area of Deep River were considered to be part of the “Raccoon Pond District,” unusual in the fact that it was named after a geographical feature and not after its Captain.  As Captains often changed, making the location of muster fields and districts hard to pin down, this distinction allows to us pinpoint the area of the Raccoon Pond District, even though the pond has over the years silted up and is no longer known as a modern landscape feature.  Raccoon Pond (by the account of Robert Craven and other local residents) was situated at the base of Spoon’s Mountain, south of the modern state road SR 2607 and west of its intersection with SR 2611, Iron Mountain Road.  The Spoon Gold Mine was located in the area later in the century, and probably helped to silt up the pond.  The enrolled militia of the Raccoon Pond District in 1842 was evidently headed by Captain Charles Cox.

IMG_2393
Volunteer militia companies were considered the elite of the citizen army and their members were exempt from service in the enrolled companies.  Because they were organized and equipped by those who could afford to raise their own private company, volunteer companies enjoyed preferential placement in reviews, and were often the last to see actual service.  Volunteer companies also functioned as social organizations, sponsoring dances and suppers to entertain ladies; could dress themselves in elaborate uniforms, and were usually known with impressively martial names such as “Dragoons,” “Light Infantry,” or “Grenadier Guards.”  The “Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry,” formed in 1793, is a unique survivor of this type, and  is known as “North Carolina’s Official Historic Military Command”  They provide an honor guard at special events, funerals and dedications.
http://www.fili1793.com/  The Washington Light Infantry (WLI), organized in Charleston in 1807, is another of these old original militia units, named in honor of George Washington.

Independence Day OSV 2

Independence Day OSV 2

Technically, light infantry (or skirmishers) were soldiers whose job was to provide a protective screen ahead of the main body of infantry, harassing and delaying the enemy advance. Heavy infantry were dedicated primarily to fighting in tight formations that were the core of large battles.  Light infantry sometimes carried lighter muskets than ordinary infantrymen while others carried rifles. Light infantry ironically carried heavier individual packs than other forces, as mobility demanded that they carry everything they needed to survive.  Light infantrymen usually carried rifles instead of muskets, and officers wore light curved sabres instead of the heavy, straight swords of regular infantry.
The name “Franklinsville Volunteer Company of Light Infantry” was evidently a cumbersome mouthful, as it was officially reorganized in 1844 as the “Franklinsville Guards.”  See the Session Laws of the General Assembly of 1844/45:  The legislature went into session on 18 Nov. 1844, and Henry B. Elliott of Cedar Falls was accredited to represent Randolph County (Senate District 35).   (Thurs. 11-28-44) “Mr. Elliott presented a Bill, entitled A Bill to incorporate the Franklinsville Guards in the County of Randolph, which was read the first time and passed.” (p57). The Bill was passed a second time by the Senate on Monday 2 Dec. 1844 (p78); and passed and third time, engrossed and ordered to be sent to the House on Tuesday 3 Dec. (p84).  The House of Commons received the engrossed bill and a note “asking for the concurrence of this House” on 23 Dec.; it was read the first time and passed that day (p277), and was passed the final time on Jan. 1, 1845 at 6:30 PM. (p652).

Alexander S. Horney, circa 1870.

Alexander S. Horney, circa 1870.

Captain Alexander Horney”-  
Alexander S. Horney (26 March 1815 – 19 July 1891), was the son of Dr. Philip Horney (1791-1856).  Both sides of his family, the Horneys and the Manloves, were well-known Guilford County Quaker families. Like Elisha Coffin, Dr. Horney may have been forced out of communion with Friends by his marriage to Martha (“Patsy”) Smith (?-1871).  The small wooden factory which opened at Cedar Falls in 1836, was owned in partnership between the Horneys and Benjamin and Henry Elliot, father and son lawyers. Alexander S. Horney married the daughter of Elisha Coffin; their son Elisha Clarkson Horney was mortally wounded at Gettysburg.  Their daughter Mattie married Robert Harper Gray, the son of General Alexander Gray.  Robert Gray was the captain of the Uwharrie Rifles, a volunteer company raised in 1861 in the Trinity area.  He died in service in 1863.  Alexander S. Horney served as chairman of the county commissioners for many years after the war.

Muster Ground?

Muster Ground?

the area skirting the North side of the Factory”-
This must refer to the company muster ground, but I think that the writers must have meant the area to the East side of the factory, which was (and is) a level area of bottom land.  The area to the north would not have provided more than 50 feet of manuvering space.  Franklinville is sited on a penninsula bordered on the South by Deep River, on the east by Sandy Creek, and on the West by Bush Creek.  The land rises toward the northwest from the floodplain of the river, where the mills were located which provided the economic backbone of the village, together with their ancillary warehouses, storehouses, and barns.  On a level about ten feet above the mill to the north were located the company store and company boarding house; to the south and across the mill race were the homes of the miller and company president.  North of the store on a terrace about fifteen feet higher was the “Cotton Row,” housing built by the mill for the workers.   About ten feet higher still, and trending northwest up the hillside, were located the larger homes of tradesmen, craftspeople and professional men such as Dr. Phillip Horney.  The lots higher up the hill had been sold privately to friends and family members by Elisha Coffin, promoter of the factory and owner of all the acreage around the mill.   Lots for public institutions such as the school, meeting house, cemetery and town hall were located near the top of the river-front arm of the hill, with stores fronting the road leading north toward Greensboro.   At the crest of the hill was situated Elisha Coffin’s own house, surrounded by its community of “dependencies”—office, kitchen, smokehouse, well house, icehouse, dairy, animal sheds, stable, barn, and servant houses.

George Makepeace circa 1850

George Makepeace circa 1850

the Grove fronting the residence of Mr. Makepeace”-

George Makepeace (1799-1872) was a textile manufacturer and millwright born in Norton, Massachusetts.  He and his brother Lorenzo Bishop Makepeace had been owners and operators of a cotton mill in Wrentham, Massachusetts, which failed in the mid-1830s.  Lorenzo Makepeace was hired to work in a factory in Petersburg, Virginia, and Elisha Coffin may have heard from him about the availability of George Makepeace during his trip “to the North” on company business in 1838. Makepeace and his family were on their way to Randolph County when his daughter Ellen was born in Petersburg, Virginia, on Christmas Day, 1839.  As a skilled expert in textile technology, Makepeace was much in demand around the Piedmont.
The location of Makepeace’s residence in 1842 is unclear, as he rented from the factory corporation.  Given the description of the Coffin house as being “on the opposite hill” from the Makepeace house, I am assuming that one of the homes on the east side of Walnut Creek is indicated.  It could have been one of the three mill houses on the hill south of the modern Quick Check, or it could have been the Lambert-Parks House at East Main St., which at some time also became the residence of A.S. Horney.

Summer gowns 1840

Summer gowns 1840

unknown Franklinville girl, circa 1850.

unknown Franklinville girl, circa 1850.

The Young Ladies, all dressed in white, were arranged in a line”-

The majority of the employees of the factory were women and children, as one important reason for founding the factory in this age was to provide for the social welfare of widows and orphans who had no “breadwinner” to pay their room and board.  Though even at this early date women who worked in cotton mills of England were considered debased and lower class, the “mill girls” of New England had a reputation for being intelligent, well-educated and virginal.  Even Charles Dickens was shocked at the difference between the mill girls he met at Lowell, Massachusetts, and the slovenly illiterate workers he knew from the British workhouses.  The good character and morality of the workers along Deep River was one of the important selling points for the antebellum factory owners in attracting residents and new employees.

Mill Girls from the Weave Room

Mill Girls from the Weave Room

The historian Holland Thompson, whose mother worked in the mills in Franklinsville, and whose grandfather Thomas Rice was a contractor who built the factories and covered bridge, wrote: “Upon Deep River in Randolph county… the Quaker influence was strong. Slavery was not widespread and was unpopular. The mills were built by stock companies composed of substantial citizens of the neighborhood.  There was little or no prejudice against mill labor as such, and the farmer’s daughters gladly came to work in the mills.  They lived at home, walking the distance morning and evening, or else boarded with some relative or friend near by.  the mill managers were men of high character, who felt themselves to stand in a parental relation to the operatives and required the observance of decorous conduct.  Many girls worked to buy trousseaux, others to help their families.  They lost no caste by working in the mills.”  [Holland Thompson, From the Cotton Fields to the Cotton Mill.  MacMillan, 1906]

As the primary product of the factory was white or unbleached cotton “sheeting,” it is probable that the factory provided the raw materials for the dresses and the flags.

Regimental Flag 2nd Cavalry

Regimental Flag 2nd Cavalry

“beautiful white Flag”-

It was a tradition for young women of the community to design, sew and present to the militia company a banner which would identify the company when in formation with the battalion.  They usually were embroidered with inspirational and patriotic slogans or mottos.  In 1861 a group of young ladies presented a similar silk banner to the Randolph Hornets, organized by the Cedar Falls Company to represent both Cedar Falls and Frankinsville.  The banners mentioned in this article have been lost, but the Hornets banner is preserved in the Asheboro Public Library.

folk art Quilt

folk art Quilt

IMG_2389

presented… through James F. Marsh”-

In 1842 James F. Marsh (1920-1902) was evidently the “Agent,” or business manager, of the Cedar Falls Company.  He was newly wed, having married Mary Ann Troy (1825-1856 on January 27, 1842.  That made him a son-in-law of Franklinsville company President John B. Troy.  Marsh founded a business turning wooden bobbins for the factories in Cedar Falls in the later 1840s. The relationship of James F. Marsh and merchant Alfred H. Marsh  of Asheboro is unclear.  Genealogists state that James F. Marsh was the son of Robert H. Marsh of Chatham County, who has no apparent relationship to Alfred Marsh.  But Alred Marsh seems to have treated like a son, whatever their relationship.  JA Blair says that the original Cedar Falls partners were Benjamin Elliott, Henry B. Elliott, Phillip Horney, and Alfred H. Marsh.  James F. Marsh became a Director of the company in 1847.  Marmaduke Robins lived in the former Alfred H. Marsh house in Asheboro, originally containing 52 acres. Sidney Robins says the ell was added to the house for the wedding of “young Jim Marsh” (Robins, Sketches of My Asheboro.)  The county issued a Peddler license in 1845 to “Marsh, Elliott & Co.” (Randolph County 1779-1979, p43).  Alfred H. Marsh was listed as “merchant” in 1850 & 1860 censuses of Asheboro; he signed on to the 1828 Charter for the Mfg Company of the County of Randolph; was a Trustee of Asheboro Female Academy, 1839 (Southern Citizen, 6-14-39).  James F. Marsh moved to Fayetteville around 1850 and was involved in a number of businesses, including a wholesale freighting business with his father in law, a steam boat line on the Cape Fear, and supervising construction of the Fayetteville and Western railroad.

Coffin's Grove today, at 722 West Main Street, Franklinville.

Coffin’s Grove today, at 722 West Main Street, Franklinville.

proceeded to [the stand at] MR. COFFIN’S Grove, on the opposite hill”-

Mr. Coffin’s Grove was and is at the top of the hill leading up from Walnut Creek, known as Greensboro Road and West Main Street.  His house, built about 1835, is now my house.  There was an extensive grove of large oak trees, dating back to the 1770s, on the crest of the hill between the house and the school and meeting house across the street.  Only two oak trees survive from the grove; 3 have died since I came to town in 1978, and the depressed spots in the yard where several others stood can still be seen.   When the property became the home of the Makepeaces, residents began to refer to the “Makepeace Grove,” and the Courier newspaper in the early 20th century still mentions the church having entertainments and ice cream socials in the Makepeace Grove.

Elisha Coffin, circa 1860.

Elisha Coffin, circa 1860.

Coffin's House, with part of the oak grove, circa 1940.

Coffin’s House, with part of the oak grove, circa 1940.

Elisha Coffin (1779-1871) was a member of the well-known Quaker family of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.  His father had emigrated to North Carolina after beginning a career in whaling, and married Hannah Dicks, the daughter of a Quaker preacher.  In North Carolina Elisha’s sea-faring father became a miller, and Elisha too learned to follow that trade. In 1807 he married Margaret McCuiston, also perhaps a miller’s child, and also something worse: a Presbyterian.  Such an alliance was not sanctioned… Elisha was disowned “for marrying out of Unity.”  He was never again officially a Friend, but never does he seem to have strayed far from their influence.  This seems to have been especially true in regard to the Friends’ testimony against negro slavery.  During the ‘teens and ‘twenties Elisha was several times a delegate to the meetings of the North Carolina Manumission Society, an organization which sought to gradually “manumit,” or free, slaves.  At times he took a more active role, according to Levi Coffin, Elisha’s first cousin and the so-called “President” of the Underground Railroad.  While he was engaged in purchasing the Franklinville property in the fall of 1821, Levi writes that Elisha, his father and his sister smuggled an escaped slave named Jack Barnes from Guilford County into Indiana, trailed all the while by Levi and the angry slaveowner.
Coffin was presiding Justice of the county court in 1833 and 1834, and was involved in several schemes for the improvement of transportation and education.  When pro-slavery investors Led by Hugh McCain took control of the governing board of the Franklinsville factory in 1850, Coffin sold his home and property to George Makepeace, superintendent of the cotton mill.  See Deed Book 28, pages 479 and 483.  Coffin bought what is now known as “Kemp’s Mill” on Richland Creek about 5 miles south of Franklinville.  See Deed Book 28, page 489.  His son Benjamin Franklin Coffin lived not far away.  Elisha Coffin subsequently seems to have turned back towards the Friends of his youth; in 1857 he sold his rural Randolph County mill and moved back to New Garden in Guilford County, the community of his birth.  See Deed Book 30, page 515, Randolph County Registry, and Deed Book 37, page 670, Guilford County Registry.  There he ran the college grist mill until his death in 1871.

Fife Drum OSV

Fife Drum OSV

led by their Band of Musicians in the front”-

Milita companies of the time would have had boys playing fife and drums, which were used to keep up a marching rhythm and beat.  In a light infantry company, orders were sent by bugle or whistle instead of drum, since the sound of a bugle carries further and it is difficult to move fast when carrying a drum.  There were many tunes written and performed by fife and drum bands.  “Huzza for Liberty” by George K. Jackson (1796) was rousing song used by militia men on marches.  Old Sturbridge Village, which recreates the period of the 1830s and 1840s New England, maintains such a band for regular performances. See the following:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPd3L5QJQT4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlBasZfmD2I

Fa sol La Mi

Fa sol La Mi

the Sacred Harp

the Sacred Harp

a Hymn was read and sung”-

For a hymn to be “read and sung,” it would have been done in an ‘a cappella’ call-and-response manner, as in shape-note singing. In that style of singing a Song Master “sang the notes” pitched to his set of tuning forks; then “read out” the words to the group, line by line, with the group alternately responding by singing the hymn, line by line. The practice of singing music to syllables designating pitch goes back to about AD 1000. Shapes to indicate the tone of a note were developed in New England, and used as early as the 1698 edition of the Bay Psalm Book (first published in 1640 and the first book printed in North America).  They were designed to facilitate community singing at a time before hymn books, and for people who could not read standard musical notation. The system that became most popular in the South was the “Sacred Harp” tradition (first published in 1844) of four shapes — triangle-oval-square-diamond–  corresponding to the “fa-sol-la-mi” syllables of the C-major scale.  After 1846 a seven-shape notation grew in popularity.

The familiar hymns of today were just beginning to be sung in the 1840s.  One of the earliest known printings of the tune for “Amazing Grace” is an 1831 shape note hymn book published in Winchester, Virginia.   It is titled “Harmony Grove” in The Virginia Harmony and is used as a setting for the Isaac Watts text “There Is a Land of Pure Delight”.  The modern “Amazing Grace” text was not set to this melody until the 1847 Southern Harmony, where the tune was called “New Britain”.

For this occasion, I assume that a ‘patriotic’ hymn was the order of the day.  “America the Beautiful,” now widely considered as the American patriotic hymn, was not published until 1910.  “Chester,” written by William Billings (1746-1800) of Boston and first published in 1771, was unofficially considered the national hymn of the American Revolution, so I offer it in this place:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqQrWKfLNcw

Minister OSV

Minister OSV

a Prayer delivered by the Rev. MR. HENDRICKS”-

Hendricks must be the person previously referred to as “the Chaplain,” but the “Rev. Mr. Hendricks” is something of a mystery. The “Preacher in Charge” of the Franklinsville Methodist Church from its creation in August 1, 1839 until his transfer in 1847 was T.R. Brame.  A John Hendricks was one of the named Trustees of the Franklinsville Methodist Church when Elisha Coffin deeded them land “for a burying ground”, on November 2, 1844.

John Hendricks (1796-1873) was listed as living in Franklinsville (adjoining Elisha Coffin, Leander York, Philip and Alexander Horney) in the census of 1840. In 1817 he was to married Nancy Macon (1800-1853), daughter of Gideon Thomas Macon of the Holly Spring area.  Their son Thomas Alston Hendricks (1823-1879) was one of the 15 initial stockholders of the Island Ford mill in 1846.  Thomas A. Hendricks md. Permelia Johnson, 1 March 1845, and his bondsman was Dr. Alfred Vestal Coffin.  The census of 1840 lists 15 residents of his home, 5 of whom worked in manufacturing.  This indicates that he may have operated the factory’s boarding house, although the 1850 census lists 12 family members by name.  That census lists John Hendricks occupation as “carpenter” and his son Thomas as “manufacturer.”

The tombstone of Nancy Macon Hendricks in the Franklinsville Methodist cemetery reads “Nancy/ wife of Rev. John Hendricks/ born March 30, 1800/ died March 18, 1853.”  There is no other record of John Hendricks as a recorded minister.

Fife Drum OSV2

Fife Drum OSV2

A National Air was then played by an excellent Band”-
Our current “National Air” or anthem is of course The Star-Spangled Banner, but it probably was not the song played in this position on the program.  President Woodrow Wilson ordered first ordered the SSB to be played at military and naval occasions in 1916, but it was not designated the national anthem by an Act of Congress until 1931.   Before that time, “Hail Columbia” had been considered the unofficial national anthem.  The words to “Hail Columbia, Happy Land!”   were written in 1798 by Joseph Hopkinson (son of Francis Hopkinson, composer and signer of the Declaration of Independence), and set to the tune of “The President’s March,” a tune composed by Philip Phile for President George Washington’s inauguration.  ‘Hail Columbia’ is still used as the official song for the Vice President of the United States of America.

Independence Day OSV

Independence Day OSV

The Declaration of Independence was read”-

[Of course this was the whole point of the day, reminding the crowd of the founding of the country 66 years before.]

Norfolk Guards QuickStep Sheet Music

Norfolk Guards QuickStep Sheet Music

after Music” the Orator spoke-

Whether vocal, instrumental or military, there is a wealth of American Independence Day music that could be inserted here.  “The Liberty Song”, written by Founding Father John Dickinson in 1768 and set to the music of William Boyce’s “Heart of Oak” was perhaps the first patriotic song written in America. The song contains the line “by uniting we stand, by dividing we fall…”  Others written in the 18th century were “Ode for the 4th of July” and “Ode for American Independence” (1789).  “The Patriotic Diggers,” published in 1814 was popular in the period. If it was another ‘patriotic hymn’ read and sung, “The American Star” is a good possibility because it is one of the few non-religious songs published in the original Sacred Harp hymnal (#346, 1844 ed.).  The first publication of the song was in an 1817 collection entitled The American Star, which was inspired by the War of 1812 and also included the first printing of the Star Spangled Banner.   White and King’s “The Sacred Harp” was first published in 1844, but it was based on William Walker’s “Southern Harmony” (1835).

Henry Branson Elliott, circa 1850

Henry Branson Elliott, circa 1850

“the Orator Henry B. Elliott”-

Henry Branson Elliott (11 Sept. 1805- 14 Jan. 1863) was one of the most progressive figures in antebellum Randolph County.  His father Benjamin Elliott (1781- 27 Feb. 1842) had been Clerk of Superior Court and the commanding Lt. Colonel of the enrolled militia.  Elliott graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 1826 and did post-graduate work at Princeton (Mrs. Laura Worth, History of Central Hotel, August 1940).  The Raleigh Register noted on March 14, 1837 that “Messrs. Elliott, Horney and others have been for some time actively engaged in erecting a Cotton Factory at the Cedar Falls on Deep River… we understand they are making rapid progress, and likely to get the machinery into complete operation some time during the prssent spring.”  By mid-June the 500-spindle factory  was making “superior quality cotton yarn” for sale to hand weavers. (Southern Citizen, 17 June 1837).  In November 1838 the Elliotts purchased the ownership interest of the Horneys, who had invested in the factory in Franklinsville (Deed Book 22, Page 89), and in December of that year they sold a one-quarter interest to Alfred H. Marsh, an Asheboro merchant, and their son- and brother-in-law.   Elliott was elected to a term in the state Senate in 1833, and campaigned across the state in favor of the first public school referendum in 1839.  He served as Clerk and Master in Equity in 1841 while Jonathan Worth campaigned for Congress, and in 1842 was elected to replace Worth in the state Senate.  In the Senate Elliott served as chairman of the committee on the State Library, and of the committee “on the subject of a state Penitentiary,” a state-funded prison which was proposed as a progressive alternative to the stocks, pillories, and whipping post.  Of his service in the Raleigh Register noted that “Mr. Elliott, of Randolph, is one of those industrious, hard-working members, who, though qualified to shine in debate, seldom occupies the time of the house in displays of that kind, but is content to pursue the even tenor of his way, in discharging the not less useful, but less attractive, duties of a thorough business committeeman.” (Greensboro Patriot, 18 Jan. 1845, quoting Raleigh Register).  Elliott continued to own and operate the Cedar Falls factory until a series of financial reverses in the 1850s.  He moved his family to Missouri in 1859, and in the census of 1860, his occupation is listed as “Tobacconist.”

Mark Antony's Funeral Oration for Caesar (c) Hartlepool Museums and Heritage Service; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Mark Antony’s Funeral Oration for Caesar (c) Hartlepool Museums and Heritage Service; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

As a candidate for the state Senate, it was natural for Henry Branson Elliott to agree to speak to such a crowd, even at short notice (the speech was “hastily prepared”).  As a graduate of the state university and of Princeton, Elliott would have been familiar with preparing and delivering classical orations as a normal and typical part of the educational process.  Even in modern classrooms the oratorical model is still used as a persuasive model for argumentative papers.  The text of Elliott’s speech is unknown, but its format would have been clear to every educated man in 1842.  Any classical oration consists of six parts:

Exordium: The introduction
Narratio: Which sets forth facts of the case.
Partition: Which states the thesis of an argument
Confirmatio: Which lays out and supports the argument
Refutatio: Which examines counter arguments and demonstrates why they aren’t compelling.
Peroratio: Which resolves the argument and makes conclusions.
[http://www.public.coe.edu/wac/classicalessay.htm ]

Orations were a staple of antebellum Independence Day celebrations.  One of the most famous was delivered by the lawyer Francis Scott Key (1779-1843), in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on the 4th of July, 1831.  The author of the poem “The Star Spangled Banner” addressed a city divided by the policies of President Andrew Jackson and counseled moderation and a focus on the history of the day.  “The spectacle of a happy people, rejoicing in thankfulness before God and the world for the blessing of civil liberty,” said Key, “ is no vain pageant.”
Another historically significant oration took place on the same day at nearly the same time that Elliott was speaking in Franklinsville.  Horace Mann (1796-1859), educator and statesman delivered the annual oration at Fanueil Hall in the city of Boston, on July 4, 1842.  Mann broke with the traditional oratorical expectation that the speaker would glorify America, and instead stressed the importance of educational reform and the principle that effective self-government depended on a well-educated populace.  Mann’s oration runs to 44 printed pages, printed as part of a July 4th tradition that began in 1783 and continues to this very day.

https://archive.org/details/orationdelivered00mann

Shape Note Choir

Shape Note Choir

A patriotic Song was then sung  by a Choir of Ladies and Gentlemen selected for the purpose”-
As distinct from the hymn “read and sung” by the entire crowd, this was apparently a group concert performance.  I submit that the appropriate ‘patriotic song’ here would have been “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, also known as “America”, which served as one of the de facto national anthems of the United States during the 19th century.  Its lyrics were written by Samuel Francis Smith, and the melody used is the same as that of the national anthem of the United Kingdom, “God Save the Queen.” The song was first performed in public on July 4, 1831, at a children’s Independence Day celebration  in Boston. It was first published in 1832.   Interestingly for the anti-slavery background of the Franklinsville crowd was that additional verses of an Abolitionist nature were written by A. G. Duncan in 1843.  Jarius Lincoln, [ed.] Antislavery Melodies: for The Friends of Freedom. Prepared for the Hingham Antislavery Society. Words by A. G. Duncan. (Hingham, [Mass.]: Elijah B. Gill, 1843), Hymn 17 6s & 4s (Tune – “America”) pp. 28–29.

$10 gold piece

$10 gold piece

the following Resolutions were offered”-

A resolution is an official written expression of the opinion or will of a deliberative body, proposed, considered under debate and adopted by motion.  To modern politicians resolutions have become a rote and usually pointless part of the parliamentary process which merely states something obvious and has no legal impact or meaning.  But in antebellum America the process of considering a voting upon a resolution, even as simple and seemingly pointless as this one thanking the speaker for his address and the village for its hospitality, was a vital and important part of the Independence Day celebration.

Why?  Because the Declaration of Independence itself was actually  the Resolution of Independence, ratified by the Continental Congress in 1776 as a public statement by the 13 American colonies expressing their consensus that they were now independent of the British Empire.  What became known as the “Lee Resolution” was was an act of the Second Continental Congress first proposed by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia on June 7, 1776.  Jefferson’s draft of a formal declaration was presented to Congress for review on June 28. Lee’s resolution was actually adopted on July 2, 1776; Jefferson’s edited Declaration for final signing on July 4.
The process of adopting the sense of the assembly in the form of resolutions was a reminder to all attending of the process and procedure of democracy.  Even though the civics lessons were part of formal schooling, going through the formal process of proposing and adopting resolutions was a tangible reminder, at least annually, of the mechanics of government.

IMG_2391by John B. Troy, Esq.”-

Likewise, appointing a committee to complete additional business of the meeting was a another part of formal parliamentary procedure.
John Balfour Troy of Troy’s Store (now Liberty) was the grandson of Revolutionary War hero and martyr Colonel Andrew Balfour.  He made an extensive investment in the founding of the Franklinsville factory and was elected President of the company.  Troy was a Steward of Bethany Church near Liberty, built on the site of the former “Troy’s Camp Ground.”  His son-in-law  James F. Marsh was already on the program; his other son-in-law J.M.A. Drake was one of the founding Trustees for the Frankinsville Methodist Episcopal Church.  James Murray Anthony Drake (ca. 1812-?) was a lawyer and married Eliza Balfour.  Drake later served as county jailer and operated a hotel in Asheborough.

IMG_2383John R. Brown”-
Apparently this was John R. Brown (17 Jan. 1811 – 30 October 1857), son of Samuel Brown (1762-1843), both residents of the Holly Spring Friends Meeting community.  Brown was one of the 15 signers of a petition to the Randolph County court dated January 8, 1842, which attested that William Walden and his four sons, “free persons of colour” and residents of the county, were of good character and were recommended to be allowed to carry fire arms.  [Randolph County, 1779-1979, p. 73.]

IMG_2394
Wm. J. Long”
William John Long received a degree from UNC Chapel Hill in 1838; born in Randolph County in 1815, he was the son of Congressman John Long of Long’s Mills, north of Liberty.  A lawyer, he served as a member of the General Assembly in 1861.  He died in Minneapolis, MN in 1882.   His brothers were James Allen Long (1817-1864) UNC AB 1841, a “journalist,” and John Wesley Long (1824-1863) UNC AB 1844, MD, Univ. PA.

Dinner on the grounds

Dinner on the grounds

A large number set down to a sumptuous dinner, prepared by MR. HENDRICKS, and many others shared the hospitality of the Citizens of the place.”-
With 1500 people in attendance, I am assuming that perhaps only the invited guests who took part in the program were fed by Hendricks (perhaps in his boarding house?)  Everyone else would have scattered all over town.  There is no indication that there was a massive outdoor barbecue or “ox roast,” but that is a possibility.

the upper Mill, circa 1875

the upper Mill, circa 1875

The Factory building is a large and imposing brick edifice.”

The three-story factory was modeled on the typical “Rhode Island Plan” factories of New England.  It must have been imposing to the visitors, as it was larger than the courthouse or any church in the county.  Both the factory and the Coffin mansion were built of brick made in the village.  The foundations of the factory, and the “Picker House” where bales of cotton were opened, were made of stone quarried from the bluff at the mouth of Bush Creek.  No larger factory was built until the Cedar Falls mill was remodeled in 1847, and the “Union Factory” (now Randleman) was built in 1848.  The Island Ford factory (1846) and the Columbia Factory (Ramseur, 1850) were about the same size.

Boston Mfg Co.mill at Waltham, Mass., shows the type of  dormer windows used on the Franklinsville factory.

Boston Mfg Co.mill at Waltham, Mass., shows the type of dormer windows used on the Franklinsville factory.

“between the dormant windows”-
This is an archaic form of the word “dormer;”  referring to the small windows which lit the fourth or attic floor of the mill.   In 1806, the British House of Commons paid for repairs to the slates, “valleys and flashings to dormant windows” of Dr. Stevens’s Hospital (Journals of the House of Commons, Vol. 61, p755)
Accounts of the April, 1851 fire that destroyed the factory noted that the fire began on this floor of the mill, in the “Dressing Room.”  The dressing machine (later called the “slasher”) was a machine that brushed hot starch, or “sizing,” on the cotton yard which was to be used as warp in the looms.  The liquid starch was then dried by hot air or steam, meaning that a source of heat had to be present.

Folk Art flag

Folk Art flag

a white flag…upon which was painted a large Eagle… protector… of industry”-
The American Eagle was perhaps the most common motif in early American political art.  Early labor unions often portrayed an Eagle draped in or “guarding” a flag and gear wheel, to indicate that America protected and supported its nascent industries.

Temple of Venus and Rome

Temple of Venus and Rome

“the lamp of freedom… the sacred altar of liberty… more favorable auspices…”-

The flowery language of the final two paragraphs was a very common peroration or exhoration in public speech of the time, and might even have been copied from Henry B. Elliott’s oration of the day.  All of the images were intended to invoke the history, mystery and splendor of Imperial Rome, very familiar to the audience from school lessons.  “Taking the auspices,” for example, referred to the process which a civil priest, the Augur, interpreted signs and omens from the observed flight or internal organs of birds. The Roman historian Livy stresses the importance of the Augurs: “Who does not know that this city was founded only after taking the auspices, that everything in war and in peace, at home and abroad, was done only after taking the auspices?”  The general sense is all that omens indicate a bright future for the United States as long as the present generation respects previous generations such as those who signed the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence in Charlotte in 1775, or Herman Husband of Liberty and his fellow tax protestors who fought the War of the Regulation at Alamance Battleground in 1771.

 

Independence Day, 1842.

July 30, 2015
John Lewis Krimmel, "Fourth of July Celebration in Centre Square", 1819. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

John Lewis Krimmel, “Fourth of July Celebration in Centre Square”, 1819. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Raleigh Register, Friday, 15 July 1842, p2.

COMMUNICATION.

FOR THE REGISTER.

CELEBRATION OF THE 4th of JULY.

MR. EDITOR:— the undersigned, having been appointed a Committee, to prepare for publication, the Proceedings of the late Celebration of the 4th of July at Franklinsville, Randolph Co., respectfully solicit a small space in the columns of your useful and widely circulated paper.

The Visitors commenced collecting at an early hour, and continued coming in until 12 o’clock, when the number amounted to 1200 or 1500.

The Franklinsville Volunteer Company of Light Infantry, commanded by their efficient Captain, ALEXANDER HORNEY, was drawn up on the area skirting the North side of the Factory, and was carried through many manoeuvres evincing the skill of the Officers, and exhibiting the thorough discipline of the Men. The Company then marched to the Grove fronting the residence of Mr. Makepeace, and formed a straight line. The Young Ladies, all dressed in white, were arranged in a line facing the company, about 8 paces distant. A large and beautiful white Flag, with the inscription “Franklinsville Light Infantry,” on one side, and the American Eagle with the Latin motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” on the other , was presented to the Captain by the Citizens of Franklinsville, Cedar Falls, and those in their vicinities, through JAMES F. MARSH, accompanied by some appropriate remarks, which elicited an appropriate response. The whole assembly then proceeded to MR. COFFIN’S Grove, on the opposite hill, in the following order: The Military Company, led by their Band of Musicians in the front, were followed by the Chaplain, the Orator, and the Reader of the Declaration. To these succeeded the Young Ladies marching two abreast; then came the remainder in perfect order and decorum.

On reaching the stand, the company being comfortably seated, a Hymn was read and sung, and a Prayer delivered by the Rev. MR. HENDRICKS. A National Air was then played by an excellent Band. The Declaration of Independence was read by JAMES F. MARSH, in an audible and impressive manner; after Music, the Orator HENRY B. ELLIOTT, rose and delivered an Oration, which, for its classic purity of style, originality of sentiment, happy illustration, and ease and gracefulness of delivery, is seldom surpassed by efforts thus hastily prepared. A patriotic Song was then sung by a Choir of Ladies and Gentlemen selected for the purpose; after which the following Resolutions were offered by J.B. TROY, Esq.

1St, Resolved, That the thanks of the audience by tendered to Mr. Henry B. Elliott, for the appropriate and patriotic Address delivered by him.

2Nd, Resolved, That the Visitors render to the citizens of Franklinsville their grateful acknowledgments for their kindness and liberality in providing them such simple accommodations.

Both of which were unanimously adopted. It was then moved, that a Committtee of two be appointed to prepare the proceedings of the day for publication and forward the same to the Raleigh Register, with a request for the other papers of the State to copy; whereupon, John R. Brown and Wm. J. Long were appointed. The company then separated.

A large number set down to a sumptuous dinner, prepared by MR. HENDRICKS, and many others shared the hospitality of the Citizens of the place.

The whole scene was quite flattering to the pride of our County. The Factory building is a large and imposing brick edifice. Between two of the dormant windows, was extended a white Flag, upon which was painted a large Eagle that seemed, while it guarded with uplifted wings our stars and stripes, also the protector of this important branch of American Industry.

The unanimity of feeling that seemed to pervade the bosoms of all who were present, was truly gratifying. Our people, though firm and inflexible in their political tenets, yet when occasion demands, can bury the hatchet of party warfare, and unite heart and hand either to breast the storm of adversity, or to share with liberal generosity the genial breeze. It is fondly hoped, that this laudable effort will serve to encourage our Citizens, ever to pay a tribute of respect to this glorious anniversary.

And why should they not? If to Mecklenburg belongs the distinguished honor of originating the first Declaration of Independence, to Randolph* must be awarded the meed of applause for giving to the Regulators, a small but gallant band, to who is now accorded the imperishable renown of giving the first impetus to the ball of the Revolution. The lamp of freedom lighted up by them at the sacred altar of Liberty has continued to burn with fervor and glow with brilliancy, while many, kindled under more favorable auspices, have long since ceased to flicker in the socket.

JOHN R. BROWN. )

                                    ) Committee

WM. J. LONG.         )

July 5, 1842.

_______

*Randolph embraces in its Territory, that portion of Guilford, in which the celebrated Harman Husband resided.

 

From Galvanized Yankee to Race Car Driver

December 14, 2014
R.V. ("Bob") Toomes with his grandson Richard Petty

R.V. (“Bob”) Toomes with his grandson Richard Petty

Randolph County’s heritage of resistance to secession and support of the Red String has been amply documented by the late, lamented Bill Auman in his book The Civil War in the North Carolina Quaker Belt.  But the stories of those opposed to the war have not been documented with as much attention to detail as those who enlisted and served in the army of the Confederate States.  Wally Jarrell’s The Randolph Hornets in the Civil War is a meticulous history of Company M of the 22nd NC Infantry Regiment, one of three Randolph County companies in that regiment. [i]

Southern "Volunteers".  Currier and Ives illustration, Library of Congress.

Southern “Volunteers”. Currier and Ives illustration, Library of Congress.

The most complete roster of Randolph County’s Confederate veterans was compiled by Gary D. Reeder of Trinity, and published in The Heritage of Randolph County, North Carolina (Vol. 1), published in 1993 but now out of print.  Reeder found records of 1,921 individuals who served with the Confederate forces, but does not consider that an exhaustive list.   Eighty-six of those were with Robert E. Lee at Appomatox, and 132 others signed the Oath of Allegiance in Greensboro after the end of hostilities.

One hundred of those were killed in battle; 7 were reported as missing in action; 74 died of wounds; 345 died of disease.  616 were prisoners of war, and 76 of those died while interned.   489 were wounded; 73 of those were wounded twice; 12 were wounded 3 times and two, four times.[ii]

Not all of those who served did so willingly.  Bill Auman points out that Randolph County in 1861 had the third-lowest volunteer rate in the state.  The enlistment rate for North Carolina as a whole was 23.8%; in Randolph it was 14.2%.  As the war went on, conscription acts were passed by the CSA to force men into service; 40% of the state’s draftees in 1863 came from the recalcitrant Quaker Belt counties, with Randolph contributing 2.7% of its population to the draft that year.  North Carolina as a whole contributed about 103,400 enlisted men to the Confederate Army, about one-sixth of the total, and more than any other state.  But this does not mean those troops were all loyal Confederates; about 22.9% (23,694 men) of those troops deserted, a rate more than twice that of any other state.

Executing a Deserter, 1862.  Harper's Weekly.

Executing a Deserter, 1862. Harper’s Weekly.

The Confederacy did not publish statistics on desertion, but Reeder states that at least 320 of Randolph’s nearly 2,000 men deserted from their regiments, with 32 deserting twice, five deserting three times and one deserting five times!  Forty-four of these deserters were arrested, 42 were court-martialed, and at least 14 were executed.  196 captured Confederates took the Oath of Allegiance to the Union before the end of the war, with 67 joining the Union Army.[iii]  These new Union recruits were derisively called “Galvanized Yankees” by their old comrades.

As the Confederacy was gradually mythologized and romanticized  after the war, a history of desertion, however well supported by friends and family during the war, was not a heritage that was proudly maintained even in Randolph County.  Certainly we never hear anyone boasting about their Galvanized Yankee ancestors.  But the fact remains that many of those who served, served involuntarily.

A case in point is the service history of Frank Toomes.     William Franklin Toomes (Jr.) was born October 25, 1838 in the Sumner community of Guilford County, less than a mile north of the Randolph County line.  He was the son of William F. Toomes (b. 1808) and Sarah (“Sallie”) Jenkins (b. 1812).   The elder Toomes was a blacksmith.  In his Apprentice Indenture, dated August 25, 1824, Abraham Delap agreed to teach William “to read, write, & cipher thro the Rule of Three, and learn the Blacksmith Trade and give him a sett of Tools at $55” when he reached the age of 21 years.  Well before that time there were problems between apprentice and master, as seen in the  advertisement placed in the Greensboro Patriot of October 11, 1825 by Delap:  “Ranaway from the subscriber, three apprentices to the Blacksmith’s Business, named William Toombs. Willis Parish and Henderson Parrish…”  [iv]

Blacksmith and apprentices

Blacksmith and apprentices

According to family tradition, Frank followed his father into the blacksmithing trade, and when the Civil War broke out, both of them were working as blacksmiths in Cedar Falls or Franklinsville.  (The wartime pay records of the Cedar Falls factory exist but do not show either Toomes as an employee, so they must have worked at the nearby Franklinsville or Island Ford factory downstream.)  As blacksmiths, the Toomeses would have been exempt from conscription when the Confederacy first established the draft in April, 1862.  Male employees of the Deep River cotton mills and ironworks qualified as exempt “indispensable” employees until late in the war.  No lists of cotton mill exemptions are known, but one for the Bush Creek Iron Works in Franklinsville exempts 30 male employees.  Exemptions were granted (or not) by the regional Enrolling Officer, who at some point decided the cotton mill could do without one of its blacksmiths.  Again according to family tradition, when the Enrolling Officer came to the mill, Frank Toomes would hide, submerged in the mill race, breathing through a straw until the coast was clear.

On December 2, 1863 (perhaps when it was too cold for a swim), Frank Toomes was discovered; he was forcibly drafted into Company E of the 58th North Carolina Infantry regiment on December 25, 1863 at Camp Holmes in Raleigh.[v]  Within days Toomes must have been sent to the western front, because his very meager Confederate record bears the single remark, “Deserted Jan. 10, 1864, near Dalton.”  [vi]

Nashville TN State Capitol 1864

Nashville TN State Capitol 1864

On or around February 1, 1864, 23-year-old Frank Toomes entered the Union lines, surrendered and was taken prisoner to Nashville.  On February 12th, he took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and was assigned to Company H of the 10th Tenn. Cavalry regiment.  Within a week, Toomes was hospitalized with the measles- at that time, a life-threatening disease.   Toomes was admitted to Hospital No. 19, where he recuperated until February 25, when he was transferred to Bed #61 of “G.H.” (General Hospital) No. 8, for treatment of scurvy.

Nashville's Masonic Temple was one of the 3 buildings that made up Hospital No. 8.  It had 368 beds.

Nashville’s Masonic Temple was one of the 3 buildings that made up Hospital No. 8. It had 368 beds.

Occupied by Federal forces in 1862, Nashville had become a major resupply center for the Union army, with numerous railroad, blacksmith and transportation units.  At least 24 separate military hospitals had been created from the comandeered public buildings of the city, each with a specialty.  Number 11, for example, was the “Pest House” (720 beds for contagious smallpox patients).  Number 16 was reserved for the U.S. Colored Troops, and Number 17 for Officers.  Those hospitals were well documented at the time by photography, and in modern times by the Internet.

First Presbyterian Church at the corner of 5th and Church Sts. in Nashville was one of 3 buildings of Hospital No. 8.  It had 206 beds.

First Presbyterian Church at the corner of 5th and Church Sts. in Nashville was one of 3 buildings of Hospital No. 8. It had 206 beds.

Cumberland Presbyterian Church was the 3rd building of Hospital No. 8.  It had 144 beds.

Cumberland Presbyterian Church was the 3rd building of Hospital No. 8. It had 44 beds.

A visitor in 1864 wrote “The Masonic Hall and First Presbyterian Church [and the smaller Cumberland Presbyterian Church] constitute Hospital No. 8… As we enter the Hall, we find a broad flight of stairs before us, and while ascending, perceive this caution inscribed upon the wall in evergreen: ‘Remember you are in a Hospital and make no noise.”  up this flight… other cautions meet us, such as ‘No Smoking Here” – “Keep Away from the Wall,’ &c.”

Union Hospital Ward

Union Hospital Ward

The 540 beds of Hospital No. 8 were under the supervision of Medical Director Dr. R. R. Taylor, originally a surgeon with the 4th Iowa Cavalry.  Miss Annie Bell was the Matron (nurse) of the Hospital.

Nurse Annie Bell, Nashville hospital matron

Nurse Annie Bell, Nashville hospital matron

Private Toomes was “transferred to Louisville,” on April 6, 1864, where he recuperated at Brown General Hospital (a 700 bed unit) until he returned to his unit in May.

Union army blacksmiths working on a portable forge

Union army blacksmiths working on a portable forge

It isn’t clear what duties Pvt. Toomes may have had, but it is possible that he was one of the regimental blacksmiths.  A cavalry unit traveled with a portable forge, as horses needed constant hoof care and shoe replacements.

The 10th Tennessee Cavalry was organized and began recruiting in August 1863.  Company H mustered in on February 12, 1864, formed of “men mostly from other states.” [vii] It was under the command first of Capt. Jonathan Haltall, and then of Capt. J.L.N. Bryan.  The regimental history says-

“During the summer and fall of 1864, it was engaged in arduous duty in Tennessee.  Late in the fall [Oct. 13] it was sent to northern Alabama, to watch the movements of Hood’s army, and had an engagement with a largely superior force of Rebels at Florence [October 30; 4 other Union regiments were engaged at nearby Muscle Shoals and Shoal Creek at the same time].  Overpowered by numbers, it was compelled to fall back to Nashville.  [where it was on the front lines at the Battle of Franklin, Nov. 30.]  On the first day’s battle before Nashville [Dec. 15, 1864, when Hood tried to break Sherman’s supply line from the city], it lost severely in officers and men.” The four-day Battle of Nashville was also a debacle for Hood, marking the effective end of the Army of Tennessee.

union-quartermasters 9th army corps petersburg 1864

The Regiment spent the winter of 1865 in camp at Gravelly Springs, Alabama, and the conduct of some of its men at that time shows that the unit must have been a tough and unruly group.  Brig. General Richard W. Johnston, commander of the 6th U.S. Division, reported from Fayetteville, TN, on February 8, 1865 that “The troops under my command have killed 18 guerillas and captured 12 since my arrival here, not counting a number of men belonging to the 10th and 12th Tennessee Cavalry Regiments (U.S.A), who had deserted and become guerrillas of the worst type, who have been captured and forwarded to their regiments.”

The 10th Tenn. moved to Vicksburg, Miss., in February; was sent to New Orleans in March, and was in Natchez until May.  It returned to Nashville June 10, 1865.  [viii]

Colt Dragoon Cavalry Revolver, Model 1848.

Colt Dragoon Cavalry Revolver, Model 1848.

Frank Toomes apparently became a good soldier with the 10th Tennessee, as he was promoted to 1st Duty Sergeant of Company H on July 16, 1864.  His file for December 1864 notes that Sgt. Toomes had “Lost 1 Army Revolver @ $2.00.”

Sleeve Chevron of US Cavalry Company Quartermaster Sergeant

Sleeve Chevron of US Cavalry Company Quartermaster Sergeant

Toomes was promoted to “QM Sgt” (Quartermaster Sergeant) on June 30, 1865.  When the regiment was mustered out of service on August 1, 1865, Toomes’ pay for the year (he had last been paid on December 31, 1864) was $275.00, after deductions made for his uniform and clothing.

A US Army Quartermaster Sergeant, ca. 1864

A US Army Quartermaster Sergeant, ca. 1864

Toomes made his way back to Guilford County, where on September 5 1867, he married Susan Thompson.  [Marriage Bond Book 03, Page 451].  His wife must have died within the next two years, for the census of 1870 finds Frank Toomes living with his brother Alpheus.  Alpheus Toomes and his young family were close neighbors to George Watson Petty (b. 1837), another farmer living near Westminister Post Office, Sumner Township, Guilford County.

Toomes Petty House 2013

House built on Branson Mill Road, Level Cross, NC, by R.V. Toomes, 1924-25.

In 1874 Frank Toomes travelled west to Howard County, Indiana, well beyond the battlefields of 1864, where he married again, to Annie E. Davis (b. 1858) on May 17, 1874.  On their return to North Carolina, Frank and Annie settled in the Level Cross community of New Market Township of Randolph County, no more than 2 miles south of his brother, where they had ten children.  Frank carried on blacksmithing, farming, and distilling to provide for his family.  He was successful enough to loan money to neighbors who needed help buying property (see Randolph Deed Book 100, Page 437, where in May 1895, he loans $60 to buy 11 acres).

Toomes Children on the porch, ca. 1930

Toomes Children on the porch, ca. 1930

Frank Toomes died February 21, 1913, 49 years after deserting one army and joining another.  His son Robert Vernon (“Bob”) Toomes (24 Feb. 1886- July 8 1945) followed family distilling business.  In 1924 he built a modern “bungalow” house on Branson Mill Road in Level Cross for his wife Allie Hodgin (1888-1947) and their eight children.  Bob and Allie Toomes’ daughter Elizabeth (1917-2006) married Lee Arnold Petty (1914-2000), a grandson of George Watson Petty of Sumner Township.  Lee Petty and Frank Toomes’ great-grandsons Richard Lee Petty (b. July 2, 1937) and Morris Elsworth Petty (b. 22 March 1939) are all members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Toomes Reunion at the Toomes-Petty House, Level Cross, Nov. 1913

Toomes Reunion at the Toomes-Petty House, Level Cross, Nov. 1913

SOURCE NOTE: When I say “family tradition,” that indicates the information came from the family’s historian Howard Toomes, son of William Howard Toomes, brother of Elizabeth and grandson of Frank Toomes. Family photos and more information came from Brenda Toomes Williams and Rose Toomes Luck (daughters of Frank’s son Ralph V. Toomes), all of whom live within a mile of the Toomes-Petty House on Branson Milll Road. Thanks to Richard Petty and his daughter Rebecca Petty Moffitt for allowing me to research stuff like this while I supervised the move of the Petty Museum back to its old home.

[i] Full disclosure: I contributed photos and information to Wally’s book, but don’t let that keep you from buying it!

[ii] The Heritage of Randolph County, North Carolina (Vol. 1), p.108.

[iii] Ibid, p.109.

[iv] Guilford County, NC Apprentice Records, NC State Archives.

[v] All of the quoted Frank Toomes service records, both Confederate and Union, were accessed through http://www.fold3.com/, a website that specializes in historical U.S. military records.

[vi] Dalton is in the far northwest corner of Georgia, 27 miles east of Chickamauga and 32 miles south of Chattanooga.  It lies at the south end of Mill Creek Gap, a strategic railroad passage through the mountains from Tennessee into the interior of Georgia.  After the Confederate rout at Missionary Ridge in November 1863, Braxton Bragg made his headquarters at Dalton, where he was replaced by General Joe Johnston in December.  There was no further action around Dalton until Sherman began his march into Georgia in May, 1864.

[vii] http://www.tngenweb.org/civilwar/rosters/cav/cav10/memo.html

[viii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/10th_Regiment_Tennessee_Volunteer_Cavalry

Last Ride on the Underground Railroad

October 16, 2014
Florence Stockage, from the Virginia Historical Society

Florence Stockage, from the Virginia Historical Society

As early as 1786 George Washington complained that one of his runaway slaves had been assisted to freedom by a “society of Quakers, formed for such purposes.” Estimates of the number of fugitive slaves who escaped the South along the Underground Railroad network from 1800 to 1860 range from several hundred to two thousand annually.

Despite Levi Coffin’s claim in his autobiography that he was the “President” of what before the age of steam was just the “Underground Road,” the escaped slave assistance network was a classic example of leaderless resistance. Many individuals, both white and black, under no central command, cooperated house to house and neighborhood by neighborhood to pass fugitives along points of safety.

Over his 40-year career, Levi Coffin and his community of Nantucket Quaker emigres in New Garden, Guilford County, NC, smuggled more than 3,000 runaways “contrabands” along the Kanawah Trail, across the Blue Ridge Mountains and through Virginia and Ohio to the Quaker settlement at Richmond, Indiana.

The advent of war in 1861 slowed but did not stop the network’s activities. It did, however, make one important alteration: white federal soldiers, escapees from prisoners of war camps, could also follow the well-worn trail to freedom. Perhaps the last documented escape took place in late 1864.

Prisoners in the Stockade at Florence SC

Prisoners in the Stockade at Florence SC

With the fall of Atlanta and the approach of Sherman’s forces in September, 1864, Confederate forces evacuated the Andersonville prison camp by rail. Eight thousand federal prisoners spent three days in stock cars without food or water before arriving at Florence, South Carolina, a sleepy railroad crossing on the Pee Dee River 110 miles west of Charleston and 107 miles southwest of Wilmington.

The Florence National Cemetery

The Florence National Cemetery

Their arrival on September 15th was a surprise to the local guard detail, a single Reserve company of men over 45 and boys under 18. Without food, water, shelter or even a stockade ready, the prisoners themselves were set to work alongside slaves to build their own new prison.

William S. Burson, a 31-year-old native of Salinville, Ohio, saw a chance to escape when prisoners began tearing down rail fences and ranging farther and farther from the camp. Gaining a guard’s permission to “gather firewood,” he triggered a “Race to Liberty” that broke the guard line as 400 prisoners stampeded into the woods and swamps along the river.

A swamp around Florence, SC

A swamp around Florence, SC

Burson, a private of Company A of the 32nd Ohio Infantry, had been captured July 22nd in the fighting around Atlanta. With two other 29-year-old escapees, Benjamin F. Porter, of the 10th Ohio Cavalry and John Henson, of the 31st Illinois Infantry, Burson built a raft and crossed to the far side of the Pee Dee with no idea of where to go. They were found hiding in a cornfield by a Negro overseer named Will, who fed them and “told us to stay in the woods till night, when he would come back… and put us on the road that would carry us straight to North Carolina; and said we need not be afraid of the darkies, as they were all friends to us. And so we found them to be.”

POWs living in a "shebang" at Florence

POWs living in a “shebang” at Florence

For a week the trio struggled through central South Carolina, chased by bloodhounds, enduring torrential rain without blankets or shelter and suffering diarrhea from eating raw corn. Stumbling blindly through forest and field in moonless, rainy nights, they were frequently aided by negroes who provided them with matches, sweet potatoes, corn bread, chicken and bacon, and risked severe punishment for trading them civilian clothing for their federal uniform jackets.

A long leaf pine savannah

A long leaf pine savannah

By Sept 28th the group made across the state border to the turpentine forests of the North Carolina Sandhills. It was still raining, and Burson, nursing a broken rib and already weakened by two months at Andersonville, was in the grip of a fever and bronchitis so severe that he could barely whisper.

Collecting Rosin in the turpentine forest

Collecting Rosin in the turpentine forest

Three days later, friendly local negroes guided them to a trustworthy member of the Home Guard, who advised them against trying to join the Union forces at New Bern, NC. Instead he directed them to follow the Plank Road northwest to “a large settlement of Quakers in Randolph County,” where “a secret organization” of Union men, would help them through to Tennessee.

This man, though dressed in rebel garb, was Union at heart, and I found that the Jeff Davis was government was losing more by such soldiers than it was gaining.”

Joseph Newlin 1797-1865

Joseph Newlin 1797-1865

When they reached the Randolph County settlements in they were taken under the wing of 67-year-old Joseph Newlin, a well-known Quaker who had almost certainly partnered with the Coffins to help fugitives along the Underground Road. For at least a week the three prison escapees would stay in the county, hidden among various local supporters.

Randolph County, a 30-mile square in the heart of North Carolina, had been gripped by internal guerilla warfare during the Revolutionary War, and old grudges were revived to fuel revenge taken 80 years later. A correspondent in August 1864 wrote that “we are getting right in to war at home, neaighbour against neaighbour.”

Rural Randolph was teeming with “outliers” (draft dodgers) and “recusant conscripts” (deserters) hiding in the woods, ‘caves’, and hills. Today’s site of the state Zoo, Purgatory Mountain, took on that name during the war due to its surrounding haze of concealed campfire smoke. Outlawed and hunted by sheriff, home guard and regular army, these roving bands of young men were a constant source of civil strife. Civilian government came close to collapse, unable to enforce the law or protect local citizens. Troops from Raleigh were frequently called in to round up deserters, punish local collaborators, and guard the factories and polling places.

A civil war deserter

A civil war deserter

Randolph had also been at the heart of anti-slavery activism. The home of more Friends meetings than any other county in the state, it had been the headquarters of the Manumission Society. Daniel Worth, an anti-slavery missionary, had been tried there in 1859 for distributing “incendiary literature.” Residents of the county had voted against secession in 1861 by a ratio of 57 pro-Union voters to every single Confederate. The editor of the Fayetteville Observer explained the vote by saying that the people of Randolph “are attached to the Union, and they felt that the Union was in danger.”

Despite these sentiments, when North Carolina reacted to Lincoln’s call for troops by seceding, Randolph County’s governing elite enthusiastically responded. In 1861 eight companies of troops were raised by the sons of the wealthy farmers and lawyers. At least some county residents also joined the opposing forces at the same time. Howell Gilliam Trogdon, a native of Franklinsville, joined 8th Missouri Zouave regiment and led the “forlorn hope” attack on the Stockade Redan at Grant’s siege of Vicksburg in 1863. Trogdon became the first North Carolinian to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor- gaining the Union’s highest military award for fighting his southern brethren.

In 1862 the draft forced more county residents to serve the Confederacy, but even then they couldn’t be made to stay. The desertion rate for the 8 Randolph companies was 22.8 percent, as contrasted with 12.2 percent for North Carolina as a whole. In October 1864 alone, Confederate officials reported 150 deserters in the county.

A prime example of a local deserter was a great-grandfather of Randolph County’s best-known modern resident, Richard Petty. William F. Toomes, a 26-year-old blacksmith, initially avoided Confederate service as a vital employee of a Deep River cotton mill. Drafted into the 58th NC Infantry in December 1863, he was sent to the Georgia-Tennessee front. Within two weeks Toomes had deserted his Confederate regiment and joined the U.S. Army, serving with the 10th Tennessee Cavalry through the end of the war.

The war would prove devastating to the county’s political structure, wiping out most of the next generation of the antebellum power brokers. This first became evident in the election of 1864, held just 6 weeks before Burson arrived in the county, when Peace Party candidates had swept the local vote. Referring to the unsuccessful candidate for governor, a correspondent wrote that “every old Bill Holdenite in the county is elected, and old Bill beat Vance in Randolph!”

William Burson, recovering from his illnesses, was housed near Franklinsville with “a strong friend of the Union, and of course a bitter enemy of the so-called Confederacy.” His host grew to trust Burson, and initiated him into the lodge of the “Secret Order” modeled on the Masons, “the mysterious order H.O.A., which organization was doing almost as much injury to the rebel cause as an invading army.” The HOA, or “Red String,” referring to the Biblical cord of Rahab which allowed Joshua to infiltrate the city of Jericho, had been a major issue in the state elections held in August. The “President” of the order told Burson he had been in the southern army in Virginia, but had “turned his steps homeward, and at once opened a station on the Underground Railroad.”

Franklinsville, like the rest of Randolph County, had been split by the war. One of the state’s premier cotton mill villages, and the largest urban community in the county, its first factory had been founded in 1838 by Levi Coffin’s cousin Elisha, who sold stock in the company to Quakers and anti-slavery activists. The town had been named after Jesse Franklin, an obscure governor and congressman venerated by abolitionists for voting to keep slavery out of the Northwest Territory. In 1850 a Wesleyan, or “Abolition Methodist” meeting house had been established there by missionaries from Indiana.

In the 1850s slaveowners took control of the factory in a hostile takeover, and with the advent of war production was almost entirely diverted into weaving and sewing undergarments for the military. The populace remained pro-Union, however. As early as June,1861, pro-government citizens had warned that Franklinsville had “Abolitionist and Lincolnite among us who defy the home guards”.

Franklinville was one of a number of communities, said an irate Confederate in 1863, “that are thoroughly abolitionized… Those people… read the New York Tribune before the war [Horace Greeley’s antislavery newspaper]…. They wanted a Lincoln electoral ticket- & because they could not get it, many of them refused to vote at all. Go into their houses now & you will find the Tribune and other abolition Journals pasted as wallpaper in their rooms.”

The “President” of the HOA around Franklinville was probably Reuben F. Trogdon, a cooper and post-war Republican sheriff of the county. Burson noted that the Trogdon family was “widely known as being very hostile to the cause of Jeff Davis… so closely watched by the rebels that they… did not dare sleep in their houses at nights. I found among them men who had not slept in their houses for two years, and some who had not eaten in their houses for six months. They were compelled to camp out in the woods, in order to hide from the rebel soldiers who would frequently make raids on the Union men, and if caught… they would, in almost every case, murder them outright.”

The Blue Ridge from Wilkes County, NC

The Blue Ridge from Wilkes County, NC

Burson’s HOA contacts helped him map out a route to join the Union army in Tennessee that took them through all of the pro-Union “Quaker Belt” counties of North Carolina: Guilford, Stokes, Yadkin, Wilkes, Watauga, and Ashe, where HOA contacts could guide them along the way.

Ashe County, NC

Ashe County, NC

In Ashe County they lost their way and Henson and Porter were recaptured and sent back to the Confederate prison at Salisbury. Burson managed to escape on foot, only to be intercepted by more Home Guards while trying to cross the New River. He was taken to the town of Boone, where he escaped with the aid of another HOA member. From Blowing Rock, NC, suffering more trials and tribulations, he made it through Cumberland and Unicoi counties, TN, to the Union lines at Bull’s Gap, in Hawkins County.

Election Day

Burson had walked more than 400 miles in 55 days since escaping from Florence. His first act upon reaching Union lines on November 8th was to vote. It was Election Day, and the Underground Railroad had delivered a vote for Abraham Lincoln from the Unionists of Randolph County, NC.

Boys in Blue

On the Waterfront

October 3, 2014

 Worthville 9011lowres

A hundred and more years ago, Randolph County’s mill villages were intimately attuned to the waters of Deep River. A good strong flow meant regular work as the mill’s water wheel or turbine turned the lineshafts and pulleys that powered the machinery. A drought meant the mill must stop until there was enough water to get it going again- an enforced vacation that was not always welcome. Floods on the other hand could push the wheels too hard, damaging the delicate machinery and again forcing the mill to stop for repairs.

Worthville Cov Br washed away 2879lowres

The river and its mill ponds also provided transportation links in times when roads were primitive and poorly maintained. A powered flatboat regularly ran between the mills at Central Falls and Worthville, carrying raw cotton and finished goods. A passenger boat similarly once ran between Franklinville and Ramseuri. Even in leisure time, mill village residents looked toward the water. Picnics and community gatherings were held in mill-owned parks along the river, and at least in Franklinville and Worthville, organized paddle recreation in boats of various descriptions was common.

Worthville Covered Bridge looking south toward factory

Worthville Covered Bridge looking south toward factory

In a 1976 interview, 88-year –old Randleman resident Mrs. N.B. (Sophronia H.) Pickett told the Randolph Guide that “on Saturdays and Sundays the flatboats were used for recreational purposes, and she was sometimes a passenger on this ferry to Central Falls to attend ball games or other social events… In 1903, while the Worths were operating the Worthville mill, a beautiful park was created… for the pleasure of the residents, Mrs. Picket recalls. ‘The park, now long gone, was a favorite meeting place of the young people and a source of great enjoyment. Gravelled walks were shaded by age-old trees. There were swings, benches and a beautiful boat landing where one could get a canoe for a ride up or down the shady river.’” ii

Worthville Boat House, ca. 1912

Worthville Boat House, ca. 1912

Contemporary accounts note the care the Worths gave to the mill pond. “A new coat of paint has been put on the boats belonging to the park…” said the Worthville correspondent in March 1908.iii “The Worth Manufacturing Company are spending lots of money preparing for a picnic and boat races July 3rd,” he wrote in June 1909.iv Randleman also may have had such a facility, but the only reference is to its destruction. “The floods of last week are perhaps without parallel in all the history of this section…” says the courier in March 1912. “At Randleman… a small boat house and boat were carried off.”v

From several historic photographs of Randolph County boaters, I’ve identified three separate types of simple, flat-bottomed boat designs, well suited to the quiet waters of Piedmont rivers, ponds and lakes. All three can be seen in the following picture of the Worthville covered bridge, probably dating to circa-1900.

Worthville Dory

In the boat to the left a man is rowing a group of four in a skiff, a flat-bottomed boat with a pointed bow and square stern. This is a particularly large skiff, probably at least 16 feet in length. Two women in hats share the stern bench, with the rower in the middle and another man in the bow, facing aft. Given the large size of the boat, it was probably not a local product.

Man in Dory Wville

To their right is a man in a bowler hat rowing what looks something like a canoe, but on close inspection is probably a dory, given how the rower is using oars in an oarlock, not a paddle.. The boat is tapered at both ends, which rise from the lower middle where the oarlocks are positioned. The rower is facing the stern, which appears to be slightly square, while the bow is pointed. This is the case with a dory, a lightweight, shallow-draft boat from 16 to 23 feet long.

The dory is a simple design with high, raked sides, a flat bottom and sharp bows, a hull shape defined by the natural curve of sawn, overlapping planks. Dories are one of the oldest traditional forms of fishing boats used in both coastal waters and in the open sea, known to be both seaworthy and easy to row. This one is a long way from the ocean, but is just as suited to the calm waters of the Worthville mill pond. Other pictures of the Worthville boathouse show multiple dories, which were probably purchased elsewhere by the mill when the park was created. They were most likely professional products.

Scow beached in background

Scow beached in background

Worthville Scow with oars

On the extreme right, pulled up on the shore near the end of the bridge, almost obscured in the shadows and cropped out of two other versions of this picture I have seen, is yet another style of boat. Undoubtedly a local homemade product, it is one of the simplest of all boats, known as a scow. Made of entirely of standard size straight planks, nailed or screwed together, the scow was as easy to build at home as a wooden box.

scow_fig

The most common size was 3 feet wide and 12 to 13 feet long, with a 5-foot flat bottom amidships and the bow and stern tapering (“rising”) to square end pieces only 4 inches high. Most scows were entirely symmetrical, with no clearly defined bow or stern. Scows were utilitarian work boats, designed for hauling the maximum amount of cargo, passengers or fish. Most early ferries were built using the scow design.

Fishing from a scow

Fishing from a scow

Punt or Scow, Cold Spring NY

Punt or Scow, Cold Spring NY

Very similar in design was another type of quiet-water, flat-bottomed boat, the punt. Known today almost entirely from pictures of Cambridge and Oxford students languorously punting along the Cam and Cherwell, punts were originally workboats used for fishing and hunting on shallow ponds and lakes. Instead of being propelled by rowing, punts are normally dragged along by the punter using a 16-foot-long pole pushed against the river bottom.

Punting

Punting

A scow and a punt are visually almost identical, with a punt measuring several feet longer than a scow, and sometimes more narrow. Recreational punting at British universities became popular in the 1870s, but punts were commonly used in the United States for duck hunting on shallow coastal sounds before gasoline engines were cheaply available.

BoatCFranklinville mill pond

The final style of boat used in 19th century Randolph County appears in two photographs in my collection from Franklinville. I believe it to be another skiff, much smaller than the one in the Worthville photo, and home-made product that required more complicated construction techniques than the dory or scow. The first photo shows the boat drawn up on the shore of one of the 3 Franklinville mill ponds. The Upper Mill, the Lower Mill, and the Ironworks all had separate impoundments, but this one is so narrow that it is most likely the Ironworks pond on Bush Creek, also known as “York’s Pond.”

Fville scan0011

This small skiff is very sharply pointed toward the bow, and probably could only safely hold two people. The homemade nature of this boat is evident from the second photograph, which clearly shows the rough-cut lumber. The sides are single 1-inch-thick planks at least 12 inches in width; a passenger seat braces the nose, and rudimentary “knees” or side braces stiffen the vertical plank sides. The bottom deck is made of six planks of varying widths, tied together by a batten running the width of the deck near the bow. The deck was probably built first, with the sides bent and nailed using the shape of the deck as a form or pattern.

Construction of a Bayou Skiff

Construction of a Bayou Skiff

The hydrodynamic V-shape of the Franklinville skiff may have made it easier to row than a scow, and clearly illustrates the evolution of boat-building from the square bow of the scow to the sharp prow of the dory. All of these 19th-century forms have roots in the Anglo-American watercraft traditions.

dugout NC White

There undoubtedly were  examples in Randolph County of native watercraft traditions such as the canoe and kayak, but no photographs of them are known. In eastern North Carolina, some examples of native dug-out canoes have been recovered by archeologists, but so far, nothing like that has been found in Randolph County.

i “C.F. Moon operated a gasoline boat between this place and Ramseur last week for the convenience of the Piedmont Association held at Ramseur. “Franklinville News,” The Courier, 20 Aug. 1908.

ii The Randolph Guide, 21 July 1976, page E-12.

iii The Courier, 26 March 1908.

iv The Courier, 3 June 1909.

v The Courier, 21 March 1912.

Denver Allred on Worthville

August 31, 2014
Denver Allred

Denver Allred, at home in Worthville, from the Courier Tribune, September 3, 1984.

One of the reasons I started this blog is that, having collected information on Randolph County history for more than 40 years now, I find that I’ve reached the point where I can’t remember everything I’ve found out.  I have have files I haven’t opened in a quarter century, and while I vaguely remember things people have told me over the years, I forget the specifics.  Here is an example.

In preparing the next post here, on mill village boating, I knew that at some point the Worth Manufacturing Company, owners of the mills in Worthville and Central Falls, operated a cotton barge on the river between the two mills.  But how did I know that?  Where did I find that out?

Happily my son Vlad has been helping me reshelve and clean out my office, which has gradually become the place where all the stuff goes when I won’t let him throw something away.  Able to open the farthest file cabinet again, I found a file labeled “Allred, Denver (Worthville).”  Inside was a surprise, an affidavit I made for Denver in 1985, which I had completely forgotten.  

I was in law school at the time, not yet a lawyer but already a notary, and as part of an investigation into the “navigability” of Deep River, I was asked by Ed Bunch (already a lawyer, and in solo practice) to interview Denver Allred about this question.  [The legal question was whether the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had jurisdiction over Deep River; federal law says that they regulate electricity produced on “navigable” waters.  FERC prevailed; that’s why the Randleman Dam Authority has to pay the low-head hydro operators along the river for the 8 million gallons a day diminution of the flow of the river.]

The Worthville mill pond was briefly drained of water when the cleanout plug failed.  From the Courier Tribune, June 19, 2013.

The Worthville mill pond was briefly drained of water when the cleanout plug failed. From the Courier Tribune, June 19, 2013.

This is a lesson in itself regarding history, when the historian himself can’t remember the daily details of his own life 29 years later.

Here is the document.  Afterwards, I’ve added from my notes in the file the parts of my conversations with Denver on other topics, who was a wealth of information. [He was the father of Worthville historian Becky Bowman, and I use her book on Worthville regularly.  Maybe she could add a lot here!]  I don’t think I ever tape recorded my conversations with Denver, but I might have, and have forgotten even that.  I have a lot of tapes stored away that I haven’t fully transcribed, especially if they weren’t all about Franklinville.

Affidavit

According to my notes, I spoke with Denver Allred on February 1, 1985, from 1:00 to 3:30 PM.  

He told me he was “the oldest man in Worthville.”  He was born in Gray’s Chapel, but his family moved here in 1903.  He said he went to work in the mill when he was ten years old, carrying drinking water to the hands in the spinning and carding room.  He did lots of other jobs, for every company that ever owned the mill.  More women worked in the mill than men; women were weavers and spinners, and the men’s did maintenance work, heavy work.

[The photos marked “Proof” are historic photographs of Worthville restored by photographer Darrell Dennis of Patrick Springs, VA, and available for purchase on his website: http://pictures.embarqspace.com/# .  He has done a great job restoring these old photos, so buy copies from him directly!]

[The photos marked “Proof” are historic photographs of Worthville restored by photographer Darrell Dennis of Patrick Springs, VA, and available for purchase on his website: http://pictures.embarqspace.com/# . He has done a great job restoring these old photos, so buy copies from him directly!]

 

He started working for Hal Worth, when Hal Worth lived in a house at the ballfield.  He worked for J.D. Williamson, who bought the mill from the receivers after the bankruptcy.  He worked for Wiley Ward, who took over after the Depression, when the town was in bad shape, he said he’d take up the financial slack if the town would dis-incorporate.  He worked for Fieldcrest, until they made him retire at 65.  Then he worked some for Baxter-Kelly-Foust after they bought from Fieldcrest.  He was an electrician, a fixer, a bricklayer, and worked once for Simon Varner, a contractor.   

The Worth house was torn down and rebuilt into a house near the cemetery, near the house Cicero Hammer lived in.  The second house across the road from the cemetery.  His wife’s father built the house we were talking in- had it built, by Cicero Hammer’s father, in 1885.  Cicero Hammer, the congressman, was raised in Worthville.  His father was a preacher, and built houses.  

Worthville_Mill_dam_Deep_River

He said the mill in Worthville ran on two turbine water wheels and a Corliss steam engine with more than a hundred horsepower.  It had an eight-foot flywheel and ran the shafts with a 30” leather belt.  He ran the Worthville turbines until they shut it all down.  They were still using the same old turbines.  The belts didn’t work as well as electricity, but it worked.

The mill back then mainly made “Hickory” sheeting and cottonade; most of it went to South America.  They made some seamless bags from waste cotton- sweepings and etc.  The bag looms would weave the bottom in them when they were through; that was sort of a curiosity.  A gadget would flip up, weave the bottom, and flip down.  The bottom was like a selvage, where they could cut the bags apart.  Most of the looms were Stafford looms; Draper looms came later.   

Stafford Bag Loom

[The standard Stafford looms were installed in July, 1915 (Bowman, p. 90) and junked and replaced with automatic Draper looms in August 1937. See Bowman, p. 166.  These first Stafford loom replaced in part the seamless bag looms that had been used since the 1880s.  The Franklinville factory was the first to manufacture seamless bags in North Carolina, starting in 1872.  Their looms were made by the Lewiston Machine Company, Lewiston, Maine, as were the original ones at Worthville.  Stafford also made bag looms, as seen here, but I believe Worthville was out of the bag business by the time they installed Staffords.]

J.A. Williamson was Secretary-Treasurer of the mill after Ervin Cox bought it from the receiver.  Mr. Williamson put in Stafford Automatic Looms; that was a curiosity too.  They used 6 or 8 shuttles stacked up in there; the loom would stop and change shuttles all by itself.  That was the curiosity.  People would come see that work.  Before that, the weaver had to change shuttles, start the loom up by hand.  The weaver had to put in a new quill and restart it.  The filling yarn was on the quills.  

This was the standard loom made by the Stafford Company, of Readville, Mass., after 1900.

This was the standard loom made by the Stafford Company, of Readville, Mass., after 1900.

The Worths here paid the best on the river.  Ramseur was a good town and all, but they just didn’t pay the money that they did up the river here. Weavers were paid by the cut, by the length of cloth on the roll. They’d fold the cloth up in bolts, put a big sticker on it- a Big Game Rooster.  Put it in big packing boxes lined with waterproof paper.  There was a big cheat in that.  They’d fill the bolts full of clay and tallow to make it weigh more.  Clay and tallow put on by a finishing machine.

Cotton came to Randleman or Millboro on the railroad.  They sent it to Central Falls to have it dyed; they dyed the raw cotton; dyed it every color of the rainbow.  Dyed it for yarn for shirting, checks and plaids, and cottonades (that was like gingham).  

It was Mr. Williamson’s idea to run the cotton barge between Mill #1 and Mill#2.  It took the raw cotton down, and the dyed cotton back up.  Then they’d spin it in Worthville.  Williamson brought the idea from Roanoke Rapids, where he was from.  The barge stopped before the first world war.  It quit when the mill company went broke.  

[From Deed Book 159, Page 11: The Worth Manufacturing Company was duly adjudged bankrupt by U.S. District Court on OCtober 30, 1913.  The auction of valuable assets held at Worthville on December 9, 1913 listed “one motor boat.”  C.J.Cox was the high bidder for the property, Mill #1, 57 “tenement houses,” all the machinery and cotton in process.]

The park was “down below the cemetery”, with a concession stand that made and sold ice cream and rented row boats by the hour.  There was a motor boat for rent, too.  But the cotton barge landing was down the river from the park, below the dam and covered bridge.  There was a foot walk across the river until the covered bridge washed out in 1910 or ‘11.  He saw the old covered bridge wash away.  Hopper’s Ford was where the foot bridge was, and that’s where the new bridge is now.  

Worthville Dam with bridge abutment

This bridge abutment on the north side of Deep River was evidently used by both the covered bridges and the steel bridge, all of which were washed away by high water.

[The Worthville covered bridge washed away in the storm of March 15, 1912.  G.E. Hill recalled when a new concrete bridge was under construction in 1939 that he left the mill that morning for his home on the opposite side of Deep River.  “An early spring rain had caused the river to rise to such an extent it appeared dangerous… Mr. Hill was on the bridge when it washed from the piers and when the the structure broke in the middle, Mr. Hill… was dragged from the waters before it was too late…”  Bowman, p. 201.]

The Central Falls dam backed water up to the site of the new bridge.  The barge landed just about where the bridge is.  There was a dock built on a canal, about a hundred feet from the river.  It was a flat-bottomed barge run by a gasoline engine.  There was a cab with a man on top to steer- two men operated it.  They’d run excursions on Sundays, so we could ride to Central Falls and back for a dime.  It was a big Sunday attraction.  One time some courting couples were on it, and a gar fish jumped out at them and scared everybody.  

When the river was up, the water was swift.  The boat would get away from them, and run onto the back.  Once it ran on the rocks and stuck.  They got men from the mill to pull it off on a long rope; Williamson was the boss, directing the operation.  The rope broke and everybody fell except one man.  “Why didn’t you fall, too?” Williamson said.  It was ‘cause he wasn’t putting out!

[The photos marked “Proof” are historic photographs of Worthville restored by photographer Darrell Dennis of Patrick Springs, VA, and available for purchase on his website: http://pictures.embarqspace.com/# .  He has done a great job restoring these old photos, so buy copies from him directly!]

[The photos marked “Proof” are historic photographs of Worthville restored by photographer Darrell Dennis of Patrick Springs, VA, and available for purchase on his website: http://pictures.embarqspace.com/# . He has done a great job restoring these old photos, so buy copies from him directly!]

Mr. Williamson had the first car in town- a big old Buick side-cranker.  When he drove it they’d wear dusters, goggles and hats.  Williamson got the telephone lines laid from Millboro to Worthville and into Randleman.  He was a big man.  So was Hal Worth.  Ervin Cox, who bought the mill from the court.   He owned both places, Worthville and Central Falls; lived at Central Falls.  He built Cox’s Dam, between there and Cedar Falls.  Whoever ran the mill- their politics would sway a lot of people.

The superintendent lived in that big house on the hill.  The first post office was in the Boarding House, below the standpipe- the two-story house on the right.  There was a mail slot in the door to the basement.  The Dowdys lived in the house across from him.  They later went to High Point, started Mann Drugs.  The school was where the Methodist Church is now.  The Union Church was near the office and the store, and the mill.  The Madison Williamson house was right there, too.  It burned in the early 1900s.  There was one big boarding house up behind the stand pipe.  There were three or four others at first.  During the first war, a Dorsett ran a boarding house, ran 3 shifts.  They’d change the sheets on the beds, and another shift would come in and sleep.  

There was lots of entertainment.  Joe Giles, a farmer, would have big corn shuckings, and have all grades of stuff to eat- pie, cakes, chicken stews.  If you shucked a red ear, that meant you could kiss the girl beside you.  He had four children, one boy.  He lived at Franklinville, married and lived at the Fentress place- his wife was a Fentress.  He was a slasher man, put the starch and sizing on the warp.  The Slasher Man was paid most of any machine operator- that was a big responsibility.  His brother Reuben also worked up here; was the Master Mechanic at Worthville.  John Bray was another Master Mechanic; he was a powerful fiddler.  

Lots of people played music then.  Charlie Ward; he was a powerful fiddler and guitar player.  He’s 90; he’s in Asheboro in the rest home.  Mark Johnson, he was a Worthville banjo picker, and a farmer.  He was some relation to Daner Johnson, the banjo man.  It was a special treat to hear Daner Johnson play.  He played anywhere and any time he took a notion.  Nep Johnson was his brother; lived up on the edge of Randleman; was a farmer and auto mechanic.

From the announcement of the annual Worthville Reunion, to be held May 3, 2014, in the  Courier-Tribune, 5 April 2014.

From the announcement of the annual Worthville Reunion, to be held May 3, 2014, in the Courier-Tribune, 5 April 2014.

“Blockading”: The oral autobiography of Dove Coble

October 24, 2013
Ready to run the Blockade.

Ready to Run the Blockade, from http://www.louisville.com

This is about half of an oral history interview I recorded with Dove Coble (1900-2000) at his daughter’s house on 1 March 1997.  Dove was a delightful fellow who remembered just about everything that had ever happened to him.  I had a great time talking with him, and it was the only interview I ever did with someone willing to talk about the business of running moonshine, a big part of the economy of the county in the late Nineteenth and the first half of the Twentieth centuries.

The long and colorful tradition of moonshining in Randolph County ran from Black Ankle on the Montgomery County border, through Seagrove and Millboro all the way north to Level Cross.  After the Civil War the federal government established a system of licensed distilleries in which Treasury Agents would collect a tax on each gallon of whiskey produced.  There were many “Government Stills” established across Randolph, but for each legal still there were at least two illegal producers.  Moonshiners refused to run a “government still” and pay the excise tax.  In Prohibition days (and afterwards) running the illicit liquor from the stills deep in the Randolph County countryside up to the thirsty markets in the North was a major source of cash income.  Though glass “Mason” jars were invented before the Civil War (many were produced up into the 1900s with the mark “Patent Nov 30th 1858”), moonshiners kept many a Randolph and Moore county potter in business up until World War II.  And transporting those containers to the ultimate buyers was the province of the “Blockade Runner,” or “Blockaders,” a very conscious reference to the Civil War “greyhounds of the sea” which ran the federal blockade of southern ports to supply the Confederate war effort. 

Dove Coble died just a few weeks short of his 100th birthday, and was buried in Gray’s Chapel, or “York Town,” as he called it.

My name’s William Dove Coble.  Senior.  That’s my boy at Eastern Randolph [his son, Dove Coble Jr., was a teacher at ERHS].  I was born the 11th of June, 1900.  If I live to see June I’ll be 97.   I was born over there on Sandy Creek; Brower’s Mill.  It’s Kidd’s Mill now, on Sandy Creek, back in the woods there. My daddy, Rossie Coble, died in 1917, and was buried over at Gray’s Chapel, and I’ve been there ever since.  There was five of us boys and three girls.  I was the oldest child.  They’ve all gone but me and my youngest brother, Truman Coble, lives there in Ramseur.  Seventeen years younger than me.  My daddy died in March, and in June I was seventeen, and then Truman was born after that.  My father lived in the country.  Shelly Coble was my daddy’s brother, and Will Coble, and Clem Coble, they’re buried this side of Town, there where Joe Buie’s father is buried.  Charlie Coble and Ham Coble, they’re my closest kin.  I lived over here at Gray’s Chapel, not at the schoolhouse, but on up the road where that dairy barn is, at the rock wall.  Hackett Road.  That’s where Dove Jr. lives.  My wife passed away and I’ve been over here at Opal’s [his daughter in Asheboro] since ’82, when Curtis Coble passed away….

I never did get no education, never got to seventh grade.  I get more now out of the Upper Room than I can the Bible.  The stories, you know; I ain’t got no education.  I can read, and write my name.  I started off at Patterson’s Grove.  The schoolhouse was on what you called the Ferguson road, the road from Ramseur to White’s Chapel.  I went there four years, and then over to White’s Chapel, at a little schoolhouse there, didn’t go there but one.  Just five or six years.  I moved all over the country.  I wasn’t doing nothing but running around.  We just drug up, to tell the truth about it.  I’m lucky to be here.  I lost my daddy, and I wasn’t 17; there was nine of us, and no welfare nor nothing.  It was Hoover days.  Can you imagine how I lived?  Just drug up.

I lived over there in the country when the war ended, close to Brower’s Mill.  My daddy died in 1916, and the next year I had to register.  I was up plowing corn there in the back yard, plowing around saw logs in the field.  Momma come out in the field and waved at me; we heared the bells and whistles blowing at Franklinville.  We didn’t have any telephones.  They tied them whistles down; you can imagine the racket.  Both mills sounded the same; they both had whistles; you couldn’t tell one from the other.  I registered for the war in Ramseur.  I.F. Craven ran the draft board.  He lived in a big house behind the drug store beside Fred Thomas, who run the broom shop.  I’ve got that little card; it’s the only thing I’ve got to know when I was born; didn’t get no birth certificate.

My grandpaw W.H. Coble, William, is buried right there in that old cemetery, Old Salem.   I never remember any church there, I don’t know where it fell down or what.    He’s where the William come from.  Leeshy, my grandmaw, that’s where they got the Dove;  from Dunc Dove’s crowd; my grandmaw was his sister.  They lived up towards White’s Memorial.  Dunc and his son Tracy lived there on the hill next to Dr. Fox, on that street above Burnice Jones.  My grandpaw come down on a wagon and we went to that old wooden store [the lower company store]; went and got molasses out of a fifty-gallon drum with my grandpaw.  That was back before I went to school, Nineteen Five.  The Company stores were just old country stores.  They had everything in the world you wanted in there.  But I didn’t buy nothing.  Didn’t have to buy nothing.  Wasn’t nothing I could buy.  I didn’t have no money; what could I buy?

1924 Open Cab Express Body Model TT- Ford's first pickup.  Before that model year Ford only provided the truck chassis, and local wagonmakers purpose-built the bodies.

1924 Open Cab Express Body Model TT- Ford’s first pickup. Before that model year Ford only provided the truck chassis, and local wagonmakers purpose-built the bodies.

I come there to Franklinville in Twenty.  Ed Routh, Ernest’s daddy, and Paul, and Iula, found out I needed work.  I drove a truck, the first one they ever had in Franklinville.  One ton Ford truck, open bed, to haul flour and feed and everything they made.  Had a cover for it, but it was open, open bed.  Open cab, no glass.  I hauled flour to Seagrove and Siler City, and loaded it on the train.  They shipped it to the college up there.  Women’s College bought the flour direct from the mill, and had it shipped up there.  It was too far to drive then.  Wasn’t no such thing as a hard surface.  64 wasn’t built.  No road down to Ramseur, or anywhere.  Did without ‘em.  Parks Buie told me that Joe would order five gallons of oysters of a morning, tell them to put them on the train down on the coast, and they’d come to Greensboro and down to Franklinville on the second train, that run after dinner, and he’d get it of an evening.  Five gallons of oysters for a dollar and a quarter.  The train went up in the morning, met the trains and stuff in Greensboro, and come back after dinner.

Guess how much I made in six days.  Ten dollars a week for six days, ten hours a day.  All day.  Went in six in the morning, stayed till five in the evening.  An hour out for dinner.  If they didn’t fix for me I walked back to the house for dinner, next door to Burnice Jones, where he lives now.  That house above it.  I lived with my great aunts, Bell and Lizzie and Effie Luther.  They’re all buried around there.  They worked in the mill before I went down there. My aunts were fine people, but they was old then.  They was retired.  Two of them never married.  Old widow women.  They looked after me, they was good. I maybe paid $5 a week; if I wanted to pay them anything I did, but I didn’t have to.

Ed Routh was the head knocker and manager.  He was the flour man.  Bascom Kinney ground the corn meal.  Old Davis, across the river, he was there part of the time.  They’re all gone.  They bought the truck while I was there.  I was the first driver they had, anyway.  I could drive anything then.  The first job I had, I helped put flour in the sacks, meal, flour and everything.  Corn meal went in little bitty bags, ten pounds.  Plain corn meal. They didn’t have no self-rising to start with; they put it in after I went down there. Excelsior was the plain flour; Dainty Biscuit was the self-rising.  I bagged that flour, and Ernest helped before he went on the road.  Ten pound bags; twenty-five; and them big bags is what they shipped.  They put ninety-eight pounds in them.  The college got maybe ten bags in a shipment, every week, or whenever they needed it.  I first hauled stuff through the wooden bridge, the covered bridge.  Mr. Routh lived right up there by the mill.  Basc Kinney lived next door, that worked for Ed as a miller.…

[I] Went to work in the roller mill.  Me and Ernest worked there, and his daddy.  Ed Routh done the most of the work.  He could do most anything, kept everything just as clean as a woman.  He kept us wore plumb out to keep the spider webs and things cleaned up. That mill, it run by water then.  The water wheel was in the lower end, the back end.  The race run around behind the mill, and a chute come out of there, going under to the water wheel, and the shaft run back under the mill and the belts went on up.  All of it was ground by water then.  Didn’t have no lights to start with; they finally got up to date, and got electricity.  And the cotton mill run by water then, too….

I had an old T-model, $150 copper head T-model, ‘Fifteen.  I got Joe Buie to let me have a little money, maybe a hundred dollars, and my aunt give me some. There wasn’t no bank, they put that in after I went there.  That store opened up, and the office for both mills.  I didn’t have to have but two or three hundred dollars, but I didn’t have none.  I got it the first year I was down there.  Twenty-one.  $150; drove it; kept it for five years, and I got that much out of it when I sold it.  Then when the A-Models come out, I got another one.  I had a A-Model when I got married….

1927 was the first production year for the Model A Ford.

1927 was the first production year for the Model A Ford.

[John] Clark changed everything [about Franklinsville in 1923].  But of course I was blockade running around all over the country, wasn’t married or nothing; didn’t stay down there much.  I was maybe in Siler City one night and somewheres else the next.  But I still worked every day, ten hours a day.  Back then, the hours weren’t nothing. Bob Craven, who lived in that last house by the trussell, said he could remember me going by there of a morning at daylight, going to the mill.  He said, “You was crazy as hell, then.”  I said, I didn’t have no choice.  I stayed at home there, piddled around so we didn’t starve.  You know what we had.  Just nothing.  Hoover Days.  I don’t care what your politics are. If you lived through Hoover Days, you won’t forget it, if you live to be a hundred.  I sold liquor of a night, when I was driving the truck [for the roller mill]; me and Benton Moon.  Did you know him?  Fanny Burke was his wife, and Roy Holliday married her later.  Me and Benton would go over in York Town and get a case every night.  All of them around there, Doc Cheek, that run the drugstore, he’d drink it just like water.  That’s what Franklinville was like when I went down there.

You could buy liquor anywhere you wanted it. There were a few government stills around, but I never did go to none of them. Over here in Lineberry where I live now, George Allred had one back up in the woods there.  And there was one there at Shady Grove.  Sharp Kivett, he’d give you the history of that.  Fletcher Pugh, owns that sawmill on that road, he could tell you the truth about it.  Sharp Kivett and George Allred, that’s the only two government-mades I ever went to, knew where the places were.

From the New Georgia Encyclopedia

From the New Georgia Encyclopedia

But I went to all these others, all over the country.  We had plenty of it around White’s Chapel. York Town, or White’s Chapel, it’s all the same to me.  People there made blockade whiskey, it wasn’t government liquor.  My daddy made liquor all his life.  Old man Warren Langley over here at Staley, down close to the government still at Staley; his boy Clarence died here last year;  Warren Langley was number one.  The Toomeses were good up in Level Cross.  But if you wanted good liquor, back in below Seagrove, down towards the river, old man Lucas was the one. Cross the railroad and go back down there by Luck’s, and wind around not more than a mile back over in there.  If he had bad liquor he’d tell you so.  He’d say, “I ain’t got nothing for you this week.”  I wouldn’t buy no burnt liquor.  And he

had enough sense, if had a little burnt liquor, he wouldn’t put it off on one of his customers.  You know, the mash, what makes the steam off the whiskey, if it stuck to the bottom of your still, it burnt.  It ain’t nothing to brag about, but they’d take me when I was little, and they’d poke me there after the fire was took out, and have me clean that still out.  I’ve been in one many a time.   If you make it right, you had copper from where you put it in the still.  Then it went to the wooden doubler, and then it went up in the cooler, and when it went on out down there where you catch it in a jug, it was liquor.  If it come out there, and there weren’t no bead on it, they wouldn’t save it.  You’d check the temperature by looking to see if it beaded up on the copper.  You’d shake it.  If it’s right fine on you, it ain’t rig

ht.  It all used to be made out of corn; they made out of sugar later.  That man in Staley, to start off with, he wouldn’t have no sugar liquor.  He made corn liquor.  Oscar Langley was one of Warren’s boys.  He used to play ball in Ramseur and he was drunk as a fool, and they couldn’t tell it.  He was a pitcher, I believe.  It’s all behind me, but I’ve seen lots of things in my time.   There ain’t a place between here and Staley, creek or branch or road nor nothing else that I ain’t been.  I’ve been down to a still on that Hickory Mountain road, from Siler City to Pittsboro.  It ain’t nothing to brag about, but I’ve been there.  It was the way to make money.  But I didn’t drink none of it.  I found out, it was to sell, not to drink.  I’ve never been drunk in my life.  My brother, he took enough for me and him both.  It just ruint him.  But you can’t convince him of that, even now.

Not many people would fool with brandy.  Some of them made it, and some didn’t.  I had the most brandy that’s ever been over in there.  I had twenty gallons up there in Lineberry, in the barn.  Clark Millikan made it for me, the first brandy he ever made in his life. That was R.C. Millikan, who died here recently.  I went to the mountains and got a whole load of apples, put it in the barrell, and kept it till it worked over.  Made cider.  Put them in a barrell, put your sugar in it, or after it sours you can make it without if you clear it up.  While it’s working you can’t still it.  It’s got to work over.  Clark made a little money.  But he died over here with his britches open [in the nursing home], just like me and you’s gonna do.

Moonshine run, from serbianforum.org

Moonshine run, from serbianforum.org

I could make $10 in a night.  That’s the reason I went home; I told Ed Routh I could make more than that by going to York Town one day a week.  Well, he said, you just come on and work for me while you’re here, and I’ll pay you as much again as you’re getting.  They paid me five out of the mill and five out of the Company.  It all went to different names.  Roller mill got credit for this; the mill got the other.  I still run around everywhere, but he didn’t know it.  I didn’t ever fool with it around there [the roller mill].  Ed would take a drink, but I didn’t know till after he was Register of Deeds that he ever did.  He wasn’t a drunkard, but after he’d come back to Ramseur, he told me, when you get some good, you can bring me half a gallon once in a while.  But politics didn’t change that man.  He didn’t change because he had an office job.  If you’d started down there where I did, barefooted, no daddy, you’d know about how you’d feel.  Then when you’d get up a little, you’d get above it.  But Ed was number one, and Joe Buie was just as good.  He wouldn’t tell you no lie, nor cheat you either.  And that old Spoon boy, one armed man, the banker there, run the bank beside the office; if I didn’t have a dollar I could go in there and get it.   The Sumners lived in that house across the road.  John, and George, the county doctor.  And two girls.  Dave Sumner let me put my new car in that shed behind the house, wouldn’t charge me a cent.  Edison Curtis lived up on that hill on Depot Street, and Henry Curtis, and Polly Newsom, and Will Thomas lived down through there.  There wasn’t anybody in Franklinville or between here and Staley I didn’t know.

A quart Kerr jar of white liquor.

A quart Kerr jar of white liquor.

Sometimes you’d pay $5 for six gallons; you’d take it and peddle it out; people would buy it, and you could double it.  I took it right down town there [Asheboro], where the bank used to be [Bank of Randolph], and people would give me orders to take some to Greensboro.  They couldn’t get blockade liquor in Greensboro.  They had to come out somewhere else and get it.  They could buy liquor, but they didn’t want that.  That man at the bank would say, “You go take Ben Cone five gallons.  He lives out there toward White Oak.  Just drive on out there like you own the place.  Drive in there like you have groceries.”  I had pretty good nerve then.  But they never caught me.  Tommy Brookshire that lived at Randleman was the deputy here one time.  I was going to town one night, right down here where the hospital is; I was in one of those A models.  Well, he just drove up to me and was gonna stop me, and I just turned round and went down that side street, and didn’t see him any more that night.  And he didn’t see me.  That’s as close as anybody ever caught me, but I didn’t stop.  Them days is all gone.

I stayed there till the last day of Twenty-five.  Got married, and never did work any more down there.   I moved up here to Lineberry, Acie’s Store up above Gray’s Chapel.  I didn’t have no land, and I bought that schoolhouse for $200.  Put a new roof on it, and rented it since I’ve been over here.  I give it all to the young’uns, where Acie Lineberry’s store was.   And that Highway from Asheboro to Liberty wasn’t built then.  They built it with horses. That’s how long I’ve been there.  I met my wife over here at Grays Chapel.  She was a Hackett.  She come from over at White’s Chapel.  I got married the last week of the year.  Went up there and still run around all over the country and everywhere else after I was married.  Siler City and Seagrove, or below Seagrove, was as far as I ever went.  You know what they call Black Ankle?  I used to take to a store back in there, ten miles back on that river.  Mandy’s Store.  I’ve been in there and bought liquor since I been big enough to go back.  See, I stayed down there, sold liquor, peddled liquor, and everything else.  I don’t mind telling you.  All around Franklinville, and Black Ankle, and everywhere else.  I got pretty good on my feet then.  In 1928,  I had a little money I’d saved, and I got an A-model.  Paid for it peddling liquor.  But I went in debt building this bridge here in Central Falls in Twenty-eight.  That’s where I went in debt.  I made enough to get out there, but went in debt $500, and had to give my bootlegging car away.

But I had an old truck. Do you believe I drove an A model from Greensboro to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in one day?   I had that truck, and I knew a boy that had business up there, and he helped me buy a new truck here, and I went to South Carolina and sold liquor; earned enough to pay for my land over yonder in two years.  Now, then, what can you do in two years?  Go in debt, that’s all you can do. But there was money in trucks, if you worked it out.  I had to work it out; it wasn’t give to me.  I went to Greensboro and I told them, I gonna mark me a route to Pennsylvania.  He laid down a sheet of paper and said you just follow this highway till you hit the mountains.  You don’t go round them mountains, go right on through them till you get to Pennsylvania.  It’s seventy miles from where the President is over to Lancaster.  I drove up there from 8:00 till 9 that night.  I went by myself.  My old truck was up there; kept my new one here, and went to South Carolina.

When I got out of debt I quit fooling with it.  Old man Jewell Trogdon, a preacher here in town, he was the one caused me to get out.  He just told me, over here in Gray’s Chapel Church, “What if the Lord would take these two girls away from you?”  He knowed I was running around here and yonder and everything else.  Old man Trogdon showed me where I was wrong.  So I told the man over here who built this bridge, “Ed, you better make good of this liquor.  These two cases is the last.”  He said, “What do you mean?  You can’t quit!”  I said, “Yes, I have, I’ve done quit. You can drink it, but I ain’t even gonna sell this.”  I stayed and got enough to pay for my land off what I done that year.  I had $2,000 when I got done.  I got my first truck in ’28, over here at Central Falls.  And then went down there and got enough to pay for my land.  And I went on to carpentry work, and never fooled with no more liquor.

I know time changes everything, but I’ve seen a lot of things since ‘seventeen.

The History of Water

September 22, 2013
Lassiter Mill Dam on the Uwharrie, destroyed 9-4-2013 to open the river to the annual shad run.

Lassiter Mill Dam on the Uwharrie, destroyed 9-4-2013 to open the river to the annual shad run.

Before there were counties, before there were towns, before there were road names and 911 addresses, there was geography.  In the past as in the present, local landmarks of whatever description oriented residents as to time and place, (how often do we say something like, ‘Turn left where the Hardees used to be”?).   Before the advent to sophisticated surveying instruments, let alone aerial photography, satellite images and Google Maps, residents depended on their intimate and granular knowledge of local geography.  This big rock or that big oak tree was known to be the corner between one landowner and his neighbor in the medieval English common law system inherited in the eastern United States, known as “metes and bounds” surveying.  The Metes, or measurements, carefully established the unique directions, distances and calculated angles of the boundary lines; the Bounds, or terminal points, delineated the extent of the tract of land described.

The Bounds also oriented the description in larger segments of time and place, from the largest to the smallest extent, with the growing recognition of political boundaries.  A tract of land purchased by an immigrant could be located in North America (before 1492); the United States (1776); Carolana (1629); North Carolina (1691) ; Randolph County (1779); Asheborough (1792); Back Creek Township (1868).

The natives and earliest explorers and colonists, of course, had few or none of these reference points.  Dr. John Lederer (b.1644) a German immigrant and explorer, first travelled from Fort Charles, (now Richmond), Virginia into Carolana in May 1670.  Lederer’s party of 20 white men and 5 Indian guides had dwindled down to just 4 people by the he returned to Fort Henry (now Petersburg, VA) in July 1670.  But during that 90 day period Lederer had become the first recorded European visitor through Piedmont NC, all the way to the Catawba River near what is now Charlotte.  His expedition journals were translated into Latin and published, forming the first guidebook for subsequent travelers.

Moseley Map, 1733

Moseley Map, 1733

In 1701 Swiss explorer John Lawson visited the area and first gave us many of the landmark names we still use today.  He lived with the Keyauwee Indian tribe (now spelled Caraway) and crossed the Heighwaree River to get to them (now spelled Uwharrie).   Lawson evidently heard no local name for the other major local watercourse, which he only noted as “two pretty Rivers, something bigger than Heighwaree, but not quite so stony. We took these two Rivers to make one of the Northward Branches of Cape-Fair River, but afterwards found our Mistake.”  One of these “two pretty Rivers” was certainly Deep River, which is in fact a “Northward Branch” of the Cape Fear.  Early explorers, however, had the impression that the Deep was a tributary of the Uwharrie; Col. William Byrd, in his “History of the Dividing Line” (1728), says in tracing the route of the Trading Path that the Deep is “the north branch of the Pee Dee.”  The error was first inaccurately mapped on the 1733 Moseley map of North Carolina, where the Deep and “Uharee” merge and flow into the “Sapona or Yadkin River”. [Byrd’s book is the first recorded use of the name “Yadkin.”]

The lack of a received native American name for the Deep has also provided much confusion to historians and local residents; for more than one hundred years it has been accepted in Randolph and Guilford counties to claim “Sapona” as the Indian name for the Deep.  This is incorrect, as Lawson clearly refers to the “Sapona” native town as being on the Trading Ford of the Sapona River, some 20 miles west of the Keyauwee town.  However, Lawson himself had confused the issue by stating that the Sapona was “the west branch of the Clarendon, or Cape Fair River.”

In the present era of satellite photographic maps from space, it is too easy to dismiss these early errors as stupid mistakes.  It was a difficult matter in the 17th and18th centuries to track a watercourse from its source to the sea.  The amazing thing to a historian is that local residents had in fact such an intimate acquaintance with each body of water that they knew where it flowed.  Up until the Civil War, the most familiar landmarks of Randolph County were natural, physical, environmental distinctions of water, earth, wind and fire.  Everyone was familiar with them, and every body of water, no matter how large or small, shallow or deep, had a name.

The junction of Sandy Creek with Deep River at the Wildlife boat landing

The junction of Sandy Creek with Deep River at the Wildlife boat landing

Before there were county names, the name of the major local river was the primary landmark in any deed.  “Waters of Deep River” sent the reader to the east side of what became Randolph; “Waters of Uwharrie” directed them to the west side.  From 1752 to 1770, Deep River waters were in Orange County, St. Matthew’s Parish, and Uwharrie River waters were in Rowan County, St. Luke’s Parish.  In 1770 parts of Orange and Rowan were combined to create Guilford County, which was itself divided in 1779 to create Randolph.

Each tract could be and usually was further subdivided to pinpoint the location:  “Sandy Creek, waters of Deep River,” or “Caraway, waters of Uwharrie” indicated particular areas of each watercourse.  Muddy Creek, Polecat Creek, Solomon’s Creek, Bush Creek, Sandy Creek, Gabriel’s Creek, Mill Creek, Brush Creek, Richland Creek- all are major tributaries (or “Forks” or “Prongs”) of the Deep.  Little Uwharrie, Caraway, Back Creek, Bettie McGee’s Creek, Little River, are all major tributaries of the Uwharrie.   Each creek was further subdivided into numerous “Branches,” and each branch could be divided into “Runs” or “Brooks.”  A “wash” or “draw” was a dry creek bead, only intermittently or seasonally wet.

“Spring Branches” were the head sources of a watercourse, where natural springs bubbled up from the ground.  These were highly sought-after pieces of property, and often a spring retained the name of its first owner long after that person had departed.  “Adam’s Spring,” for example, is in New Salem, a tributary of Polecat Creek, and was the place where the doomed heroine of the ballad “Naomi Wise” met her alleged killer, Jonathan Lewis.  “Mineral Springs”  indicated that the water from a particular spring had dissolved substances that provided a particular taste, often thought to have healthful or healing qualities.  “Hot Springs” were naturally heated, and were developed into spas and resorts.

Shelter built over Adams' Spring, New Salem (now gone)

Shelter built over Adams’ Spring, New Salem (now gone)

The smallest and most personal branches were those that began or “headed” on a homeplace, where the residents carried water for their animals and washing.  Sidney Swaim Robins (1883- 1979) wrote of his boyhood at 177 South Main Street in Asheboro that the branch behind his house was named after them, then their neighbors. “Below our place the Robins Branch became first the McAlister Branch, then the Penn Wood Branch, on its way to make Haskett’s Creek, which we used to cross on a covered bridge about four miles out on the road to Randleman.  Of course we fished that creek all the way from Ed Walker’s line [now the site of Central Methodist Church, 300 S. Main at Academy St.] way down past “Eck’s” dam [unknown] to the place where Garland Pritchard grew up [647 E. Pritchard St., now an Acme-McCrary factory, but once Garland Lake Dairy].  We caught suckers, sun perch, catfish (after rains), now and then an eel, a few of them big enough to eat.  I knew the small pond on the McAlister place to freeze over thick enough for skating only about three times in my real Asheboro years.” (Sketches of My Asheboro, 1880-1910, p. 2)  The branch he describes now runs between Elm and Randolph streets, flowing roughly north toward Haskett’s Creek.

Penn Wood Branch to Haskett's Creek

Penn Wood Branch to Haskett’s Creek

In 1793 Jesse Henley conveyed two acres of land on Abram’s Creek to the Justices of Randolph County for use as a courthouse.  This land covered what is now the intersection of Salisbury and Main Streets, in Asheboro, and the nearest watercourse is the one to the northwest, which headed in what became Dr. J.M. Worth’s cow pasture, now the location of the 2002 Randolph County Courthouse.  Before the county demolished the houses that sat in the present parking lot, a stream ran diagonally through that lot and crossed Salisbury Street at the intersection with Cox.  Now buried in a culvert, the stream emerges east of Cox Street behind 236 North Cox Street and runs east, merging with Penn Wood Branch near 214 North Elm Street.  J.A. Blair wrote in 1890: “When Henley entered this land [1786] there was a small cabin on it, near the spring a little north of where the old Hoover House now stands, and an old man lived there by the name of Abram.  He had a small patch cleared around his house and lived chiefly by fishing and hunting and, it is said, could stand in his door and shoot deer and wild turkeys.” (p43)

Abram's Creek area

Abram’s Creek area

The point here is that the tributaries of Deep River were “heading” on the east side of Asheboro, and flowing downhill and northeast into the river.  Whether Robins’ or McAlister’s or Penn Wood’s Branch, the stream that now flows along Elm and Meadowbrook started at a spring behind 835 South Cox Street in Asheboro, meandered its way into Deep River, and eventually flowed into the Atlantic Ocean through the Cape Fear River at Southport, NC.

The 1851 Plank Road (now Fayetteville Street) followed the Ridge Line through Asheboro.

The 1851 Plank Road (now Fayetteville Street) followed the Ridge Line through Asheboro.

On the west side of Fayetteville Street, any rain drop that hits the ground goes in a different direction.  Back Creek is the tributary of the Uwharrie that drains the western half of Asheboro.  The first reference I have found to Back Creek itself is in the 1763 Survey Book of Henry Eustace McCulloh (see my 1895 Architectural History of Randolph County for a more detailed discussion of McCulloh).  Back Creek Friends Meeting is first referred to in 1775; Back Creek Mountain is first referred

to in 1786 (Deed Book 2, Page 223); and Back Creek Township was established in 1868.

Back Creek

Back Creek to its junction with Caraway Creek

“Cedar Fork” is described as a tributary of Back Creek in a 1786 deed of Thomas Winslow (DB2, Page 230).  Google Maps shows it as running between Bunting Road and Lexington, which would make it the major feeder stream from downtown Asheboro.  The primary prong of Cedar Fork heads in the parking lot of the State Employees Credit Union, 1036 S. Park St., and then meanders northeast almost to the railroad track to the intersection of Cooper Street, Armfield Avenue and Hammer Avenue, where it turns northwest.  From there it runs in a culvert under Memorial Park tennis courts, runs between Spencer Avenue and West Kivett Street; crosses Uwharrie Street at Occaneechee Street and then runs through a deep ravine to cross under the I-73/74 Bypass at Old Farmer Road, just south of East Street.  It continues through the ravine at the end of West Street, and intersects another tributary of Back Creek just west of the dead end of Northridge Drive.

The source of Cedar Fork of Back Creek

The name of this second stream, which runs north from an area behind Klaussner Furniture, crosses Old Farmer Road at Register Street, and crosses Bunting Road running north, is not clear from any records I have seen.  A third stream runs north parallel to the second from two ponds located north of Old NC Hwy 49 and south of US 64, west of Cranbrook Circle; this crosses US 64 just east of Westside Circle and flows north parallel to Jarrell Drive to the end of Bunting Road, where it enters Lake Bunch, one of the City of Asheboro’s original 1920s-era raw water reservoirs.  Another, Lake McCrary, was created by damming a fourth tributary of Back Creek which heads north of Westchapel Road and flows north parallel to Westminister Court.  Lake McCrary overflows into Lake Bunch, which meets the main prong of Cedar Fork near the dead end of Little Lakes Trail, just west of the intersection of a sixth stream, which runs south across Old Lexington Road from its source between Berkeley Lane and Viewmont Drive just south of Northmont Drive.

The many 'prongs' of Back Creek south of Dave's Mountain

The many ‘prongs’ of Back Creek southwest of Dave’s Mountain

The names of these six streams are currently not known with certainty, but could possibly be recovered from a detailed historical search of land titles.  For example, the 1929 deeds (DB 234, P99 and DB250, P514)into Sulon Stedman who built a house at 745 Lexington Road (now Robert C. Shaffner) state that the property is bounded in part by Malley’s or Mallie’s Branch and Bunting Road- a large area which encompasses the main fork of Cedar Fork but could describe yet another branch (#7) which flows from the Episcopalian Church on Mountain Road, across Old Lexington Road and around the City of Asheboro Water Treatment Plant at the end of Bossong Drive to intersect with Cedar Fork.  At the same time, however, there is still some confusion- one of the deeds (DV144, P258) into the City of Asheboro for the property which became Lakes McCrary and Bunch says that the land lies “where Cedar Fork and Mollie’s Creek unite, about 1 ½ miles west of the Town of Asheboro.”  So, Mollie’s Creek or Branch could be either of the two tributaries (#3 and #4 above) which formed the old city lakes.

For good measure, let me mention that yet another tributary of Back Creek was involved with the creation of a third Asheboro city lake, Lake Lucas.  Lake Lucas was created in the late 1940s by damming Back Creek itself, but one of the acquisition deeds (DB 384, P499 and Plat Book 4, Page 77) refers to 16.35 acres bisected by Moulder’s Branch, “North of Maple Grove Dairy.”  Most of the dairy pasture land is now under water, but the Maple Grove Dairy house itself still stands at 2882 Old Lexington Road.  Since the head of the main fork of Back Creek runs north almost all the way to US 311, it may be that “Moulder’s Branch” is the tributary which runs west out of Back Creek Lake, crossing Lake Country Drive, Northmont Drive and I-73/74 to head just west of North Asheboro School Road, just west of Balfour Elementary School and North Asheboro Middle School.

Every area of Randolph County could benefit from detailed analysis of historic deeds to determine the names of the neighborhood watercourses.  This commonplace information has been lost to the present generation, which since the 1930s has been more concerned with automobiles, roads and street names than with geography.  But Randolph County is rich with the forgotten history of water.  Just tell your friends you know a shortcut that allows you to walk from the Pee Dee River to the Cape Fear River in fifteen minutes or less.  Then take them on a walk from 1036 S. Park Street to 835 South Cox Street.

The walking route

The walking route: Green Pin Pee Dee; Red Pin Cape Fear.

Ches Thrift’s Pickling Pear Tree

February 1, 2010

[Chess Thrift, date unknown, from Robins, Reminiscences of My Asheboro.]

Researching and writing local history often runs up against the veil of Time, which is often much more of an iron, not a lace, curtain. We have no real idea of the aboriginal name of Deep River, for example, and no real way to ever find out. Agricultural history is another area where information was such common knowledge it was seldom written down. One of these days I’ll write here about Greeson Wheat, our once-premier local variety of winter wheat. But here’s the story of one adventure in identification: Chester Thrift and the Pickling Pear Tree.

For many years my way to and from work took me past an elderly and not-very-healthy-looking tree growing on the north side of Old Cedar Falls Road in Asheboro. For most of the year it was nondescript and virtually invisible, but for a couple of weeks in late March it sported a striking cloud of white blossoms; and I confess I ignored it because I thought it was yet another Bradford Pear, that darling of 70s and 80s landscapers. I call them lolly-pop trees, because they have that perfect shape for preschool artists; they’re pretty twice a year, when they flower and when the leaves turn red in the fall, and they are sterile so they never have fruit. Bradford Pears are originally native to Korea and China, grow really fast, and rarely live more than 25 years without limbs splitting off. Plant a real tree, people, not Bradford Pears.

But then one September I noticed the tree was raining hundreds of mottled yellow fruits the size of ping pong balls.

The first time I stopped to investigate this phenomenon, I discovered that what I thought were yellow crab apples were actually some kind of pear: exquisitely sweet, miniature round pears profusely dropping from a scrawny, thorny tree. I never knew there were such things, and when I investigated, I found that the tree shouldn’t exist. Only wild pears have thorns, I discovered; they taste bitter and are only used to provide the rootstock for the usual named varieties: Bosc, Seckel, Keifer, etc. Because, like roses and apples, all of the historic named varieties of these plants are perpetuated by grafts, so that each Old Blush rose and each Macintosh apple is literally a clone of the ancient original of that name.

My tree on Old Cedar Falls Road was too elderly to tell if it had once been grafted; it had been cut back and pruned repeatedly, and had sprouted out time and again from an old stump. I asked the neighbors, but that intersection was in transition, and no one knew the story of the tree, but they did know its name: The Pickling Pear Tree.

Another gap in my knowledge revealed: I’ve seen plenty of pickles from cucumbers; I’ve heard of pickled peppers, pickled beets, pickled eggs; pickles from watermelon, okra and crabapples—lots of odd things, but never pears. But there it was on the internet: not just one but many recipes for pickling pears [http://www.cooks.com/rec/search/0,1-0,pickle_pear,FF.html ], especially Seckel pears, which are usually considered the smallest variety of pear (about the size of a tulip blossom). The end result was a sweet, spicy dessert treat that I’m told people ate like candy.

The whole point of pickling, historically, was to preserve perishable food so that it was available in some form during the winter months. Without refrigeration or freezing, drying and canning were the best ways to make the glut of the summer vegetable and fall fruit harvests last until the next year. Pickling can be accomplished by anaerobic fermentation using salt or salty water, which is how beef and pork were pickled to feed sailors on long voyages. Fruits and vegetables are usually pickled by marinating them in vinegar, often with added herbs like garlic, mustard seed, cloves and cinnamon, which have antimicrobial properties. Any kind of pear could be pickled, but larger pickles required peeling and slicing, which makes the finished product fragile and mushy, and reduces the shelf life. So these tiny bite-sized pears would have been the perfect size to core and pickle like crab apples.

It was only by chance that I found out anything more. One day while talking with Miss MacRae, an elderly teacher I had known since elementary school, I mentioned my pickling pear tree. “I don’t know about that tree,” she said. “People used to have pickling pears, used to put up quarts and quarts of them. But the only one around here who had pickling pear trees was Ches Thrift. He had apples, pears, peaches, all sorts of trees in his garden. He had a pickling pear tree.”

What little I knew of Chester Thrift (c.1853-1929) came from Sidney Swaim Robins, the first boy from Asheboro to go to Harvard, back before World War I. When I went to Harvard he was still living in Wayland, Massachusetts, and several times I went to dinner with Sidney at the instigation of Marion Stedman Covington, his cousin. Sidney was the author of a number of books, most of them related to his profession as a Unitarian-Universalist minister. His little book, “Sketches of My Asheboro, 1880-1910,” (published by the Randolph Historical Society in 1972) is an invaluable source for anyone interested in the daily life of 19th century Asheboro. “…’Chess’ Thrift was a mighty cook, often sent for to help in putting on and serving banquets. You often saw him around with white cap and apron, dressing the part of a chef. For a considerable time he served as major domo for Hal M. Worth” [p.37]. “Cooks were known and appreciated in Asheboro. It seemed that each one had a special receipt and routine to be famous for. And of course they ran loose in the branch of famous desserts. I have spoken of Chester Thrift as a famous cook (I wondered if Chess cakes were named for him), and I guess there were as many well-known ones among the colored people as among the whites. In fact, they had the more professional cooks anyhow” [p. 40].

An unpublished source has even more information. Walter Makepeace Curtis (1867-1955 ) was born in Franklinville and served as the President of Greensboro College in the 1940s.  His grandfather, George Makepeace, lived in my house. In 1940 Curtis wrote his autobiography, a manuscript copy of which was given to me by his daughter Marion Moser.   On page 9 of the manuscript, Curtis writes:

“One of my Negro friends during my boyhood days was ‘Ches’- Chester Thrift. He worked for my uncle, G.H. Makepeace, and I often saw him when I was with my cousins, which was a good deal of the time. Ches was also frequently at my home. He was easily amused, and his laugh was hilarious. He would often lie down on the floor and roll over several times with uncontrollable laughter. Ches was a good cook and was famous for his cakes. He was often called upon to bake cakes for weddings, and years later when his home was in Asheboro, scarcely a wedding occurred there without cakes furnished by Ches. Years later when my oldest daughter graduated at Greensboro College, Ches, then an old man, was there. Lucy had sent him a commencement invitation and he came up from Asheboro, bringing with him cakes which he make especially for the occasion. Lucy invited her classmates into our home, Ches served, and all present had a good time. Ches preached occasionally, but I never had the pleasure of hearing him. His hobby was educating young Negro girls who never could have gone to school without his aid. A large number of girls were recipients of his generosity.”

I discovered even more in a circa-1913 Courier note entitled “Uncle Chester Thrift Gives Interesting Item of History.”

“Uncle Chester Thrift, one of the town’s oldest and most respected colored citizens, was in The Courier office last week and told of some interesting bits of old history.  Uncle Ches went to Franklinville last August, where he lived in childhood.  His mother, Annie Thrift, belonged to Isham Thrift, who lived where the hotel now stands [the Grove Hotel, or “The Teacherage,” stood facing Deep River in Franklinville just north of what was the Randolph Mills Office building].  Aunt Annie took her two sons, Solomon and Chester, to a secluded place there each Sunday morning to pray.  The place then used for her ‘prayer spot’ is now the site on which Franklinville’s new M.E. church stands [built 1912].  Uncle Chester feels very kindly toward the church and feels it was built on holy ground.  It would be well if more of the mothers in this day and time would take time to teach their sons to pray.”

And my final discovery was his obituary, published in the Greensboro Daily News on December 24, 1928:

HEART ATTACK CLAIMS “UNCLE” CHES THRIFT /  Former Slave Negro Had Been Servant to Many Prominent Families/ RESPECTED BY WHITES.

“Asheboro, Dec. 23.– ‘Uncle’ Chester Thrift, ancient, honorable and much beloved negro man of Asheboro, died in his home here last night from a heart attack.  He was a familiar figure on the streets, and was out yesterday afternoon greeting his white friends, and carrying a large split basket that he always had with him.

“Uncle” Chester was born about 75 years ago in New Orleans, he and his mother being bought in Louisiana by Isham Thrift of Franklinville Township, and brought here just prior to the Civil War.  After the war was over and the negroes were freed, Chester’s mother lived with the Makepeace and Curtis families of Franklinville until Chester was 15 or 16 years old.  When Chester was just a boy, he went into the homes of the Worth and McAlister families of Asheboro, serving them almost continuously until his death.  He was the servant of H.M. Worth for more than twenty years on a stretch.  He also served the families of Curtis, Foust, Penn, Kelly and McAlister of Greensboro, and the Worth families now of Durham.

“He was one of the most expert cooks North Carolina ever produced, especially being noted for his cakes, persimmon puddings and pies.  He was an authority on cooking possum.  He has probably baked more wedding cakes than any other cook, his services being in demand in many cities of the state when a fine meal was to have been prepared.  His cakes and persimmon puddings have been sent all over the United States.

“Uncle Chester was one of the few of the old school, and was a welcome visitor in any home in Asheboro, or elsewhere where he was known.  He was deeply religious and philosophical, and gave much sound advice to the younger generation, both white and colored.  He lived in North Asheboro [north of Salisbury Street and east of Fayetteville Street] in a comfortable little cottage that was kept immaculately clean, and was nicely furnished with things that his white friends had given him.  At Christmas times “Uncle” Chester was the recipient of loads of gifts from his innumerable white friends.  He went home last night with a load that had been given him while he was down town.  He lived alone, with the exception of a negro boy that he furnished a room for company.

“Funeral services will be held Christmas day at two o’clock and interment made here [Asheboro].  Services will be in charge of the local negro Odd Fellows, of which he was a member, together with his white friends.  He had always requested that he be buried three days after his death, as the Saviour rose the third day, and he expected to.  The third day now falls on Christmas.”

That’s quite a tribute, especially for a black man in the 1920s, published in an out-of-town newspaper.  There’s no doubt Chester Thrift was one of the most respected members of the entire Randolph County community.

I can’t say that my Cedar Falls Road pickling pear tree was actually one of Chester Thrift’s pickling pear Trees. But it was someone’s, because fruit trees only survive if someone grafts new ones before they die. That’s why, last fall, I got some water sprouts from the tree and sent them off for grafting. This spring, I’ll be able to plant my own Pickling Pear Trees at the house where Chester Thrift once worked for G.H. Makepeace, and when I do, I’m calling them Ches Thrift’s Pickling Pears. You can’t tell me I’m wrong.