Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

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.

New Market Inn

March 30, 2013
New Market Inn, from the southeast, circa 1950.

New Market Inn, from the southeast, circa 1950.

During the winter months I try to get out and investigate the parts of Randolph County that are not so accessible when the animal and vegetable elements of creation awake in the spring and summer. Saturday March 30th, 2013, was a beautiful warm and sunny day, and as I was driving down 311 I steered through that odd left-hand crook in the road in Sophia that I’ve wondered about a thousand times. Whether going north just past New Market Elementary School or south just past Marlboro Church Road, cars must jog left as 311 for some unexplained reason swerves in its path beside the railroad. As a historian I’ve long been aware that this is the site of the New Market Inn- the one colonial or federal inn that retained its identity into my generation. For some reason I’d decided or been told ages ago that the inn itself was on the lot where a garage and auto salvage yard now covered all the acreage, but this last Saturday B.U. (Before Undergrowth) seemed like a good reason to double back and check out what my friend Colon Farlow recently asserted to me: that the inn wasn’t on the garage lot, but on the adjacent lot just to the west, a wooded lot now for sale. Not only did I stop and hike that lot, I got the first tick of spring for my efforts, so here’s the story.

New Market Inn, circa 1940.

New Market Inn, circa 1940.

In my book Randolph County: Images of America, the New Market Inn is illustrated on page 70 (and shown above) in a photo taken in 1935. This and one other image of the building in the historic photo database at the county public library document the house after its demotion in status into use as a barn, and before it collapsed or was demolished circa-1960. They show a house that architectural historians would term “Georgian,” the style that takes its name from the 18th century kings of England and is usually reserved to structures built before 1810. Georgian style houses show a strong formal symmetry, often with a five-bay center-hall plan. Georgian proportions emphasize verticality, with tall, narrow windows and steep roofs and boxed cornices which are cut flush to the gable ends. In Piedmont NC such houses were always of heavy timber construction, as brick was too expensive to use for residential bearing walls until the 1830s. Interiors would have had simple finishes, with exposed floor joists, raised panels on doors, mantels and wainscots, and enclosed “dogleg” or “boxed” stairs.
Conversion of the house into a barn has removed most of the decorative information I usually use to date a structure, and there are no photos of the interior known, but exterior photos of the New Market inn definitely exhibit the Georgian vertical emphasis and the symmetrical five-bay plan. The entrance door has been expanded into a barn door, but on the second floor what appears to be an original door opening suggests that the house had a center-hall plan. Most of the windows have been removed and boarded up; the two remaining may have been reused from other locations, as they appear to be short 6×6 sash. Visible through the open center door is another window on the far side of the house; it is located where a door should be, but the shadow appears to indicated a repurposed 9×9 sash. At the lower southeast corner an assymmetrical door and window could be later changes to the original plan; they may also mark the location of a separate entrance to the inn’s tap room.

Sketch of the stone foundations

Sketch of the stone foundations

The second, slightly later photo is a valuable view of the eastern side, showing the steep roof pitch of 10 or 12 inches of rise to every foot of run. The attic floor has two narrow windows crowded into each side gable, leaving space for a large end chimney which, if it existed, has been removed. A shed-roofed one-story addition is visible to the north side; the large barn-like additions on the west which were visible in the previous photo are here hidden behind a large cedar tree. The later photo documents a catastrophic structural failure progressing in the west-central portion of the house, where the inward slump indicates that the floor joists have rotted or been removed.

Corn Crib

Corn Crib

On my exploratory hike, the only standing structure I found was this corn crib/ tractor shed combination, probably dating to the 1930s or 40s and of little interest. Much more unusual was the blooming carpet of purple “Grape” or “Roman” hyacinth, which covered at least an acre southwest of a stone foundation. The briars, brush and vines, even in their temporarily leafless state, did not allow close inspection, measurement or adequate photography of the foundation. By my analog paced measure, the fieldstone foundation is 10-12 inches above grade and measures approximately 30 feet wide by 45 feet long. A water-filled depression indicates a cellar under the western end of the structure, at least 15 by 30 feet. A flat 4 by 5-foot rectangular stone a foot thick lies near the center of the façade, and another one approximately 2 by 4 feet lies at the southeast corner. Both may have been step stones to the doors shown on the photos. Chimney bases are not discernible to the east or west, but a large pile of brick and stone inside the foundation could be the remains of a chimney positioned either at the west end or at the center of the house.

Foundation stones

Foundation stones

Like much 20th-century journalism, newspaper accounts of the house sell romance and nostalgia over actual history. “YE OLD TAVERN, LANDMARK OF PIONEER DAYS, STILL STANDING IN NEW MARKET,” spins an article dated April 24, 1938 from The Randolph Tribune:

A few miles above Randleman on the High Point Road in New Market Township stands one of the earliest landmarks of pioneer days in Randolph County. It is a symbol of the sturdy and cultured type of pioneers who set up well-built homes in a country hitherto uninhabited except by Indians. There is something about this old landmark that seems to shout, “Mine is an interesting story.”

Today the old tavern, known formerly as one of the best on the Plank Road, is a barn, sheltering the owner’s stock and housing the hay and fodder. The chimneys have crumbled to dust, the front door has been replaced by a big swinging barn door, and the steps are gone. An investigator will find that there were eight rooms downstairs besides the dining room and kitchen. On the second floor were a large hall and six bedrooms. At the top of the narrow stairway the third floor consisted of two big loft rooms. The remaining windows are very narrow, the ceilings are low, and the wood has been painted several different colors. There are several original handmade doors. The fireplace used eight-foot logs.   At one corner of the house is a huge, long rock which some say was an “upping block,” others a doorstep.

Hearthstone, Doorstep or Upping Block?

Hearthstone, Doorstep or Upping Block?

This is the only description of the interior, but the writer evidently included the additions and expansions of the house in his room count, as the original block could not have had ten rooms downstairs and six bedrooms on the second floor. It is also interesting that the writer notes only one fireplace.    The article goes on to state: “Just who built this huge house is uncertain, but the earliest known occupants were Sidney Porter and his wife, Ruth Worth Porter, who later removed to Greensboro.” Addison Blair’s 1890 history doesn’t discuss the house in particular, but of New Market itself he writes

This is an old settled place, and was the home of Capt. John Bryant, a Whig, who was shot in his old house by Colonel Fanning. The place afterwards came into the possession of Shubal Gardner, who had a store there and was regarded as a big man. He owned a number of lots in Johnsonville and at one time drove a heard of beeves to Philadelphia. Joseph Newlin bought the property in 1840 and called it New Market and for many years carried on an extensive store and tin shop.

(J.A. Blair, Reminiscences of Randolph County, Asheboro, 1890; p. 49)

In the 1960s, local historian Addison Wall (who lived only a half mile from the site) wrote The Randolph Story for the Randleman Rotary Club, and noted on page 106 that “The inn closed down some time after the Civil War and was converted into a barn.  The lower floor was used as a granary and storage by Mr. Snider who bought the farm seventy-five years ago.  The New Market elections were held for a number of years in the building…. The building was torn down about 1950.”

To fully examine all these personalities involved with the property will take additional posts!

The Underground Railroad in Piedmont North Carolina

February 22, 2010


Before the American Civil War, opposition to the institution of human slavery took many forms. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, Quakers and other thoughtful people opposed treating human beings as property on religious, philosophical, moral and ethical grounds. Some formed groups or “manumission societies” to urge individuals to free slaves; other raised funds and organized groups of “freedmen” to return to Africa through “colonization societies”; others promoted the outright legal and governmental prohibition of slavery as “abolitionists.” Randolph and Guilford counties, the heart of North Carolina’s “Quaker Belt,” had examples of all of these organizations. But by 1835, that kind of individual action had gradually come to be prohibited by new state laws put forward by slaveowners to protect their increasingly-valuable investment in slave property. It became illegal to free slaves, or for freed slaves to move freely around North Carolina, and this promoted clandestine resistance to slave laws by brave local residents who cooperated to smuggle runaway slaves to free states in the North. When Fugitive Slave laws were passed by Congress seeking to force the return of escaped slaves from free states, the slave-smuggler’s network was extended all the way to Canada. This cooperative network supporting the escape of southern slaves to freedom became known as the “underground railroad,” despite the fact that the system began operating years before the time actual steam-powered trains were invented.

The “Underground Railroad” was, first and foremost, secret.  That was what it took to protect the people who helped the slaves escape, as what they did was against the law, punishable by prison and fines, and in fact, the punishments increased almost yearly from the early 19th century to the civil war.  The secrecy of it all makes it very difficult to document. There are very few direct sources of information on underground railroad activities in NC, and only one makes a tangential connection to Randolph County: that is the actual route taken by Elisha Coffin (1779-1872, who built my house in Franklinville), with his sister and his father in March 1822, and described in detail in the autobiography of his first cousin Levi Coffin (1798-1877).


From Levi Coffin’s book it is clear that escaped slaves knew to head generally for the Quaker heart of North Carolina.  Escaped slave advertisements collected by UNCG Loren Schweniger clearly show that eastern NC slave owners assumed that escapees were headed west.  Fugitives coming through Randolph County might have gone toward the Friends meeting houses, or toward individual Quakers, but sooner or later they ended up around New Garden, where the Quaker families descended from Nantucket emigrants of 1771 pretty much headed up the underground railroad in North Carolina.  The Nantucket Quakers (including Levi, Bethuel and Elisha Coffin) were the majority of the active participants in the North Carolina Manumission and Colonization Society which was organized in 1816 and pursued fitful activities until 1832. Some of the largest slaveholders in the area, such as General Alexander Gray, were supporters of the organization until the state’s constitution of 1835 made such activities illegal.

The Coffin family, like most other local Quaker families, was seeing most of its younger generation emigrate West. Some of this was due to the availability of cheap vacant land in the “Northwest Territories” (Indiana, Illinois, Ohio); some of it was the desire to get their children away from the dominant slave-holding ethic. No matter what local Quakers taught their children about the equality of human nature and the evil of slaveholding, the law of the land and the culture of their neighbors promoted and protected the ownership and exploitation of Negroes. It was a conflict that could only be resolved by leaving North Carolina. By 1818, so many residents of Randolph County, NC, had relocated to the Indiana that a Randolph County was created in memory of the “old country”. One of Bethuel Coffin’s daughters had already moved her family to Indiana, and Bethuel himself would soon follow.


It is a glaring omission that Levi Coffin’s autobiography (Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, the Reputed President of the Underground Railroad: Being a Brief History of the Labors of a Lifetime in Behalf of the Slave, with the Stories of Numerous Fugitives, Who Gained Their Freedom through His Instrumentality, and Many Other Incidents. Cincinnati: Robert Clark & Co., 1880.) has not been more used as a source for antebellum NC history. The entire book has been made available online by the UNC-Chapel Hill Library at http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/coffin/menu.html . The first chapter of Coffin’s book recounts a number of incidents of slave mistreatment which nurtured his abolitionist views, and at least three appear to have involved legal action, which could be confirmed from historical records.


Chapter 2, the story of Jack Barnes, is a fascinating account of one of Levi Coffin’s first efforts to smuggle an escaped slave to freedom, and the fact that he enlisted his uncle and first cousins as co-conspirators illustrates the close-knit family nature of the underground railroad activities. Jack Barnes had fled “the eastern part” of North Carolina after the heirs of his owner refused to follow his will’s instructions to grant him freedom “for faithfulness and meritorious conduct”. He reached the vicinity of New Garden Friends meeting in the fall of 1821, boarding and working for members of the Coffin family. In March 1822 he “received the news that the case in court had been decided against him. The property that had been willed to him was turned over to the relatives of his master, and he was consigned again to slavery. The judge decided that Barnes was not in his right mind at the time he made the will… [Jack] was not to be found, and [the heirs] advertised in the papers, offering one hundred dollars reward to any one who would secure him till they could get hold of him, or give information that would lead to his discovery. This advertisement appeared in the paper published at Greensboro.” [p.33]


Putting Jack into hiding, Vestal and Levi Coffin devised a plan to smuggle Barnes to Indiana in a travelling party of Coffin relatives.


“Bethuel Coffin, my uncle, who lived a few miles distant, was then preparing to go to Indiana, on a visit to his children and relatives who had settled there. He would be accompanied by his son Elisha, then living in Randolph County, and by his daughter Mary. They intended to make the journey in a two-horse wagon, taking with them provisions and cooking utensils, and camp out on the way…. The road they proposed to take was called the Kanawha road. It was the nearest route, but led through a mountainous wilderness, most of the way. Crossing Dan River, it led by way of Patrick Court-House, Virginia, to Maberry’s Gap, in the Blue Ridge mountains, thence across Clinch mountain, by way of Pack’s ferry on New River, thence across White Oak mountain to the falls of the Kanawha, and down that river to the Ohio, crossing at Gallipolis.

“This was thought to be a safe route for Jack to travel, as it was very thinly inhabited, and it was decided that my cousin Vestal and I should go see our uncle, and learn if he was willing to incur the risk and take Jack with him to Indiana. He said he was willing, and all the arrangements were made…” [pp.34-35]


This trip was less than two years since 43-year-old Elisha Coffin had purchased the mill and several hundred acres of land on Deep River that later became Franklinville. He either had just been or was about to be elected a Justice of the Peace of the Randolph County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions (the equivalent of a modern County Commissioner), so it was truly a legal and political risk for him to make this trip. But my purpose here is to focus on the route from North Carolina to Indiana rather than on Elisha Coffin or the rather thrilling adventure of Levi Coffin, who was forced to follow the Coffins on horseback to thwart the efforts of a slave-catcher who appeared on their trail. [But all my readers should check out that story in the original—chapter 2,
http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/coffin/menu.html .]


It is an interesting aspect of modern scholarship of the Underground Railroad, as promoted by the National Park Service and dozens of local historical societies in northern states, that all the maps of “routes” out of the slave-holding states completely ignore the route from central NC to Indiana and Ohio called by Levi Coffin as the “Kanawah” road. In fact, most “maps” of the underground railroad only clearly define the route after it reaches a free state and starts toward Canada.

There is an internet-published record (“The Kanawah Trace Waybill”) which documents an almost identical route from New Garden to Ohio (its first stop appears to go west toward Winston-Salem (Clemmons) instead of north to the Dan River); see http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~maggieoh/Migrate/merle.htm .


The only Piedmont NC museum interpretation of the underground railroad of which I am aware is at Mendenhall Plantation, in Jamestown, Guilford County. See http://www.mendenhallplantation.org/. A false-bottomed wagon from the Centre Friends Meeting community some 15 miles southeast is the museum’s primary artifact of the underground railroad, and it too confirms the importance of the Kanawah route. The wagon was preserved by Centre historian Joshua Edgar Murrow (1892-1980), grandson of Andrew Murrow (1820-1908), who with his foster brother Isaac Stanley (1832-1927), used the wagon to transport runaway slaves to Ohio on the Kanawah Road [see http://www.mendenhallplantation.org/Wagon.htm ].

Given the numerous primary sources and confirmation of this route from the heart of Piedmont NC to Ohio and Indiana, and the confirmation of its regular use in underground railroad activities, why is it not listed on the National Park Service websites and maps? Neither is it common knowledge here in North Carolina, and I think both omissions stem from a common source—the fact that the antebellum history of Guilford and Randolph Counties, and its Quaker inhabitants, does not follow the popular “Gone with the Wind” narrative of the antebellum South. Our region was another story, not the romatic lost world of the plantation gentry, but a Shadow South, of abolition and manumission activities, of industry and internal improvements, and steady moral and political opposition to the status quo. Our history is much more nuanced and interesting than the standard black and white (or blue and gray) textbook version, and our culture is lessened by the fact that we forget and ignore the work and sacrifices of the men and women who fought against heavy odds to change the fundamental basis of the society they lived in.

Midway Filling Station/ ‘Mineral Springs’

May 1, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bridge over Deep River at Dicks Mills

April 13, 2009


Another Bridge petition from the Randolph County records in the State Archives in Raleigh…

This one is for the first bridge across Deep River at what is now US 220 Business in the City of Randleman; before 1868 it was known as Union Factory; at the time of this Petition it was still known as “Dicks Mills.” The “Dicks” of Dicks Mills was Peter Dicks, a merchant of nearby New Salem, a largely Quaker community which grew up in the early 19th century on the old Indian Trading Path.

The petition is undated, so I’ve tried to narrow down its time frame. First and most obviously, it not only has to date to a time before the construction of the Union Factory in 1848-49, but before the death of Peter Dicks in February, 1843. The petition is interesting because it’s not predominantly a local request, like the Dunbar’s Ford petition which was signed by western Randolph and eastern Davidson resident. The 84 signers here include obvious local people like Peter Dicks and his son James, Orlando Wood, Joseph Deveny and other northern Randolph names such as Coletrane, Clark, Chamness, Dennis and Hockett. It also includes several from western Randolph such as Daniel Bulla, Aaron Hill and Phineas Nixon; together with eastern Randolph notables such as Philip Horney, H.B. Elliott, and at least seven southern Randolph Hinshaws. But what really catches my eye is the number of Asheboro merchants and court officials. A.H. Marsh, Joseph Brown, James B. Moss and James Page were all storekeepers; Benjamin Swaim was a lawyer and publisher of the Southern Citizen, the local newspaper; Hugh McCain was the Clerk of Superior Court; Jonathan Worth was a lawyer and Clerk and Master in Equity; and John M. Dick was a Superior Court Judge.

Since only registered voters could sign the petition, it can’t date any earlier than the 21st birthday of its youngest signer. I haven’t checked them all, but James Dicks (son of Peter, b. 1804) and Jonathan Worth (b. 1802) wouldn’t have been legal voters until after 1823 and 1825. The key signer, I believe, is John M. Dick (1791- 1861), a prominent resident of Greensboro who served as Guilford County as a state senator in 1819 and 1829-1831. The only reason I can see that a Guilford County citizen would sign this petition is the fact that he was elected to the Superior Court bench in 1832 [John Hill Wheeler, Historical Sketches of North Carolina; Philadelphia, 1851], and then, as now, Superior Court judges travel from county to county in a circuit. So I believe that the petition was signed during a court session in Asheboro by lawyers and officials whose travel time back and forth to Greensboro would be significantly improved by a bridge in this location.

—–

[From C.R. 081.925.18, “Miscellaneous Road Records”]

State of North Carolina    )

Randolph County        )

To the worshipful the Justices of the Court of Pleas and quarter sessions, Greeting:

We of the citizens of the county aforesaid respectfully show to your worships that a large portion of your citizens of the County now do and long have labored under great inconvenience for want of a good and substantial Bridge over the Deep River at or near Dicks Mills in said County.

Your petitioners, knowing your worshipfull body to be well acquainted with the proposed site and surrounding country would deem it an useless waste of time to attempt to adduce all the many cogent reasonings that might be put forward in support of their petition; however we will just say that this is the rout[e] along which the U.S. mail passes 4 times each week on the rout[e] between Leaksville and Asheborough and is also the main or more direct road for the citizens in the northern part of the County to travel to and from the Court House of the County and also that travelled in passing to and from Fayetteville and other Eastern and Southern markets.

Hence the petition which your memorialists present with Confidence that you will hear and determine and grant such order to be made as in your wisdom may deem right and expedient, and such only would your petitioners even ask.

Wm. HINSHAW        Saml. COFFIN        A.H. MARSH

R. LAMB            Elijah POWEL        Joseph H. BROWN

Dr. George KIRKMAN    Joseph DEVENY        James PAGE

Marsh DORSETT        Orlando WOOD        Jos. LAMB

David E. FRITCHETT    Stephen ALLRED        John SCOTT

James DICKS            Richard RICH        H.B. ELLIOTT

Peter DICKS            Nathan STANTON        G. B. Winningham (?)

Wm. DENNIS        Nathan ELLIOTT        Thomas Thornburg (?)

Mahlon DENNIS        Sam. RICH            Joseph HENLEY

Jonathan LAMB        Enoch ROBINS        J. LAMB

Henry WATKINS        Wiley WALL            Hugh McCAIN

Charles S. DORSETT                        Saml. HILL

Seth HINSHAW                        R.S. MURDOCH

J. B. HINSHAW                        J. HUSSEY

Ezra KIMBALL                        Benj. SWAIM

William CLARK Jr.                        Benjamin HINSHAW

Nathan DENNIS                        James B. MOSS

Alexander CLARK                        John COFFIN

Joseph HODGIN                        Bryant RAGAN

Dougan CLARKE                        Tristram HINSHAW

W.B. LANE                            Joseph LEE

William COLTRAIN                        Joseph McCOLLUM

Nathan HENLEY                        Isaac LEE

Aaron HILL                            Hiram LAMB

Philip HORNEY                        J. HINSHAW

Solomon ELLIOTT                        Jesse HINSHAW Snr.

John McCOLLUM                        John Hockett

Joshua ROBINS                        Wm. CHAMNESS

John ROBINS                        Wenlock REYNOLDS

J.G. HINSHAW                        Daniel SWAIM

Francis REYNOLDS                        Albert LAMB

Job REYNOLDS                        Arthur McCOY

Nathan CHAMNESS                        Wm. DENNIS Jr.

Jesse MILLIS                            Jno. MOSS

William HINSHAW                        Jona. WORTH

Allen LAMB                            Peter W. RICH

Obadiah ELLIOTT Jr.                    P.N. NIXON

Marmaduke VICKORY                    William RICH

Aaron REYNOLDS                        Moses Ritch (?)

James Polk Senr.

Timothy CUDE

Jno. M. Dick

Danl. BULLA

William COMMONS

(84)

Bridge at Dunbar’s Ford, Uwharrie River

April 9, 2009


“Dunbar’s Bridge” was the name of this 1920s-era steel bridge over the Uwharrie at the time of my 1979 architectural inventory. A few years later it was the subject of a controversy when it was demolished by the Department of Transportation over the protests of local residents.  It has never been replaced, leading to the logical question of why it couldn’t have been left as a pedestrian bridge.  It continues to be a sort of controversy in the area, as neither printed nor online maps make it clear that the connection is broken and that the roads on each side of the river have become dead ends.

The origin of the bridge is found in the following petition of 132 southwestern Randolph and 31 southeastern Davidson residents, one of a number of similar documents located in “Miscellaneous Road Records,” North Carolina State Archives file C.R. 081.925.18. The petitioners are asking the county justices to spend county money on this project. A petition was the common method of the time to seek the construction of any public improvement, whether courthouse, jail, mill, road or bridge.  The Randolph County files at the state Archives in Raleigh have a number of such original petitions, given that our courthouse never burned and our courthouse personnel never threw anything away!

At the February 1832 term of court the county Justices appointed John INGRAM, James HODGIN, Jonathan REDING, John HENLEY and A. CUNNINGHAM to be commissioners for building a bridge at Dunbar’s ford.  Construction of the bridge was awarded to the lowest bidder John DUNBAR. When completed the bridge itself was 275 feet long; stone abutments on each end combined for a total length of 313 feet. The final report of the commissioners, filed February 5, 1833, showed the total cost of the bridge to be $600.00. The Justices took action based on the following petition asking them to spend county monies to build a bridge at that location. The petition was signed by 132 citizens of Randolph County, and interestingly, also by 31 citizens of Davidson County- virtually a census of the prominent taxpayer of southwestern Randolph.

I don’t know of any photograph of the Dunbar Covered Bridge; email if you do. The petition follows, after one last view of the steel bridge (both of these can be found in the Randolph Room collection at the Asheboro Public Library).


State of North Carolina

To the worshipful the Justices of the Court of pleas and quarter sessions for the County of Randolph: Greeting. We whose names are hereunto annexed having long Laboured under great inconveniance, and in common with divers others of the good citizens continuing to, and believing it not only to be within the power of the County Court, but your will, to redress the grievances of your fellow citizens wherever it may be expedient, respectfully show to your worships: that the river Uharie, a deep and rappid stream passing through the western part of the County, is often danger[ous], and commonly difficult of passage; that there is a portion of the citizens repectable for their numbers, residing in the western and southern part of the county, who feel the weight of the difficulties alluded to the more forcibly, being frequently prevented the privilege and advantage of attending at the seat of Justice for their own County, at times when it is necessary for them to do so. Much inconvenience is also experienced by the citizens on both sides of the Stream, in their common interaction one with the other.

Your petitioners would respectfully show to your worshipful body, that a good and substantial Bridge across said stream at some point at or near the place called Dunbar’s Ford, would produce a remedy for all their grievances. Further, we would show that there is an extensive and fertile section of county, embracing parts of the counties situate to the west of us, whose citizens labour under much inconvenience in the transportation of their produce to market, having the deep and rappid stream to pass, which is not susceptable of a Ferry, and yet not supplied with any Bridge. We would further show to your worships that a Bridge at the above point would produce a remedy for this; it being the most direct, and would then be the most commodious, rout[e] to Fayetteville, and other Eastern markets. It is also shown to your worships, that there is much inconvenience experienced by many persons traveling northwardly and southwardly. The road which of late is most traveled in that direction, leading directly down the Uharie on its Eastern side, being often obstructed where it passes the many small creeks near their conflux with the river, they being rendered impassable by the eddy in times of freshets in the river, which is frequent in the winter and all rainy seasons. If there [were] a Bridge at or near the aforesaid place, travelers would be spared this inconvenience, as they might pass the river here and proceed unobstructed.

Other cogent reasonings might be brought forward to how the great utility -and nesesity- of a Bridge at the aforesaid place, but without attempting to address them, you[r] memorialists beg leave to present their petition, with confidence that your worships will here and determine, and grant such order to be made as in your wisdom may seem right and expedient: And such only would your petitioners ever ask.

Apl. the 15th 1831.

Jeremiah JOHNSON                Z. RUSH

Jesse STEED                    David M. BURNEY

Jno. LEWIS                    Hezekiah ANDREWS

Robt. CHANDLER                Isaac KEERANS

Tristram COGGESHALL            Samuel G. WINSLOW

Henry HENLEY                [?] GOSS

Henry FULLER                Henry LYNDON

Stephen SCARLET

Thomas LOW

===

William Thompson                Thomas NANCE

E.M. (?) HARRIS                Wm. DENNIS

Peter STOUT                    Wyatt IVY

William F. WOOD                Mariedeth RIDGE

Allen KEERAN                James TAYLOR

John HALL                    Hudson NANCE Jun.

Solomon JACKSON                Marshel NANCE

Isaac JACKSON                Rowland ANDREWS

William JACKSON                Wilson HOWARD

Thos. LASSETER                John JACKSON

William INGRAM Jr.                Jesse GIBSON

Wm. ARNOLD                J{?} IVY

Isaac KEARNS Sn.                Eleazer WINSLOW

Silas KEARNS Sn.                Benjamin COOPER

P. WOOD                    D. WELBORN

Ivy KEARNS                    John HAMMON

Joseph TOLBERT (?)                Wood ARNOLD

Josiah KEERANS                Thos. BRANSON

Benj. JACKSON                Wm. BRANSON

Clement ARNOLD                Philip HORNEY

Whit ARNOLD                Benjamin BROOKSHIRE

Jonas K. WOOD                Z. NIXON

Edmond McGEEHE                D. GRAVES

Daniel THAYER                David HIX Sn.

Benjamin NANCE                Joseph LAMB

B.M. THAYER                Manaring BROOKSHERE

J.R. SEARY (?)                John LARSON (?)

John ARNOLD

===

Willus BROOKSHERE            Martin VUNCANNON

G. NIXON                    Daniel WILLIAMS Jr.

Jesse HUSSEY                Quintin LOWE

Thomas T. BROOKSHERE            Jesse DAVIS

James HALL                    A. FULLER

Allen SKEEN                    Stephen SCARLET

Cornelius LOFLIN                Davis HIX

David JACKSON                William BRANSON

John INGRAM                Davis HIX Senr.

Henry BOYET                Elijah JACKSON

John CRAWFORD                Joseph CONER

James M.A. DRAKE                John CONNER

Abner LEWIS                    Joel ROBINS

Hamon MILLER                Manaring BROOKSHER

Eli YORK                    William RIDGE

John JACKSON                P.N. NIXON

Penuel WOOD Junior                Thos. INGRAM

John KEERAN                Clement ARNOLD

Henry JACKSON                Joseph HENLEY

Thomas Low                    Alexr. GRAY

George W. GIBSON                Jno. HENLEY

Wyatt NANCE                Isaac THOMPSON

Miles FLOYD (his mark)

T. (?) HANCOCK

D. WILBORN

Jacob LUTHER

Michael LUTHER

(132)

===

A List of Petitioners Names

from Davidson County N.C.

R. HARRISS                    Solomon SNIDER

Ms. HARRISS                Z. YARBOROUGH

Calvin J. HARRISS                George GALLIMORE

Lewis SNIDER Jn.                Benjamin LENIER

Fras. DANIEL                John SNIDER

Jesse HARRISS, Snr.                Jesse GALLIMORE

James HUGS (?)                John HEDRICK Jn.

Simeon MORRIS                Philip GARDNER

David MYERS                Henry GARNER

Lewis LINIER                Redmond PIERCE

Sion HILL                    Samuel HUGHS

George GARNER                James WILLIAMS

Wm. A. GALLIMORE            Claton WRIGHT

Samuel SHORZ                Lewis WARD

Thos. KARNER

(31)

Mile Posts and Sign Boards

March 28, 2009


[Published in The Greensborough Patriot, Feb. 3, 1844]

” MILE POSTS, SIGN BOARDS, &C.

Riding across the county of Randolph recently, going and returning over different roads, we had occasion to notice that every mile was marked by a new post, neatly dressed and lettered. A magistrate of the county who was in company informed us that every public road in the county leading from the courthouse, or branching off from any of the courthouse roads, were thus measured and marked.

This brought to mind an order of the county court of Guilford made at August term, 1843, printed and conspicuously posted up at various places, requiring similar services of our overseers of roads to be performed previous to the succeeding term of the court in November. Has this order been attended to all over the county? We made the inquiry lately of some person who had travelled a good deal over the county, and he answered, saying, “sorter–in some places.”

In our sister county of Randolph we were likewise struck with the appearance of the sign boards at the forks of the roads. They were large and legibly lettered, so that he “who runs may read.” They occasioned the indulgence of a melancholy reflection upon the old shingles and strips of clapboards tacked up at various forks of the highway in our old dominion of Guilford, on whose dim and weatherbeaten surface, carved to all appearance with a rusty nail, may be deciphered some such mysterious heiroglyphics as these–“To G B”–“To J T”–“To O S”–“To K K R,” &c.,–meaning, in the opinion of the learned and such has have been brought up in a boarding school, “To Greensborough,” “To Jamestown,” “To Old Salem,” “To Kerner’s Kross Roads,” &c.

All which is nevertheless as intelligible as the red blazonry sewed upon the coat tails of a military company we wot of somewhere in these United States; that is, the letter V on the left skirt and T on the right. Shades of Bonaparte and Wellington! ghosts of Steuben and Lee! what would you suppose these characters, stiched in that conspicuous position, stand for? Why, for VolunTeer, ye bonentition! It is just as plain as that yf spells wife, according to the orthography of Dr. Franklin’s maid; or that &ru Jaxn spells the name of the old hero of the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson.

But we have some how got out of the road subject, owing either to the want of mile posts to show how far we had travelled, or of sign boards to indicate the proper fork to take, or, possibly, unconsciously allured to leave the track and take the field by the splendor of the muster doings…… J. T.”

(This is an English milestone.)

A year before the above article was published, the Justices of the Randolph County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions (the antebellum version of the County Commissioners), had ordered mile posts to be erected on all the main roads. Measurements were to begin at the intersection of Main and Salisbury streets in Asheboro (the location of the court house) and run to the county boundaries. It stated that “The number of miles shall uniformly be designated in the same order by the [Roman] numeral letters, I for one mile, V for five miles, X for ten miles, to be cut in the front side or face of posts made of durable wood or stone pillars neatly dressed, and that each and every post or piller shall contain also on some suitable and conspecious [sic] part thereof a number of notches or scores corresponding with the number of miles.” [Randolph County, 1779-1979, p. 63.] (The notches were obviously for those citizens who were unable to read Roman numerals!)

None of the mileposts and signs mentioned by the article above have survived to the present, though Randolph County continues to mark all of its local roads (and even private driveways) with substantial signs. This date from the institution of 911 addressing, begun in the early 1990s.

Tryon’s Ferry

February 11, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


CENTRAL FALLS

February 1, 2009

RANDOLPH COUNTY MILL VILLAGES: Central Falls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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