Archive for the ‘Bridges’ 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.


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.



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.


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: .  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: . 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.  


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: .  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: . 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.

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




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


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 (?)



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)




Michael LUTHER



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




February 1, 2009


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


January 31, 2009


From “The Maxi Page,” The Randolph Guide Senior Adult Newspaper Supplement, published November 26, 1980

The Cedar Falls Factory (“Sapona Cotton Mills”) and Covered Bridge, ca. 1940.

The first textile factory on Deep River was built at Cedar Falls. A group of Asheboro lawyers and businessmen began to promote development of such a factory in 1828; “The Manufacturing Company of the County of Randolph” was incorporated by the state legislature in February 1829. The Elliott family of Asheboro provided their grist mill site on the river to encourage investment, but the stockholders were unable to raise enough money to start construction until 1836. A wooden building housing 500 spindles was erected and powered by an overshot water wheel. The company was re-chartered in 1846 so that a new brick mill building could be built. At least two walls of this 3-story structure survive today.

In 1860 the mill operated 1500 spindles and 38 looms. producing both yarn and sheeting material. The company was one of the first in the state to use a brand name, “Cedar Falls,” on all its products. George Makepeace, a Massachusetts native, and his son, George Henry, were both superintendents of the mill during the nineteenth century. Governor Jonathon Worth one of the original 1829 incorporators, was president of the company at his death in 1869. His brother, Dr. J.M. Worth, became president and reorganized the company in 1877. At the same time Orlando R. Cox resigned his elected office of Sheriff of Randolph County to become general manager of the Cedar Falls Manufacturing Company.

On the steps of the Cedar Falls office: unknown, Orlendo R. Cox, Fletcher Cox, unknown, ca. 1890.

By 1884, under Cox’s leadership, the mill had grown to include 2,144 spindles, 30 looms and 90 employees. About 1890 he built his large Victorian home on the hill overlooking the mill; in 1895 he built a second factory, the “Sapona Manufacturing Company,” downstream from the original mill. Cedar Falls’ best-remembered period of management began in 1939, when Dr. Henry Jordan, brother of Senator B. Everett Jordan, bought the village. In 1978 Jordan’s heirs sold the property to Dixie Yarns, Inc.

Island Ford Steel Bridge

January 9, 2009

In 1901 the Virginia Iron and Bridge Company of Roanoke received a contract to build a three-span iron bridge across the river in Franklinville at Island Ford. It is shown above circa 1950 between the weave room addition and the Lower Dam.

The bridge was a gift to the citizens of FV by mill owner Hugh Parks, and was maintained for 68 years by the Town. It was demolished in 1969 in preparation for an expansion of the Lower Mill weave room, which never occurred due to the subsequent death of John W. Clark.

The bridge was more than 350 feet long, and spanned the river in five sections. Three were steel trusses about 85 feet long, with two shorter approach links that spanned the head race on the south and the opposite approach from South Franklinville. The horse and buggy in the first picture above are sitting above the stone pier at the junction of trusses two and three.

In comparison to modern bridges, it was of surprisingly light construction, as is evident from the photograph below. The lady is standing on the east side of the bridge at the junction of two spans. The west end of the Lower Mill is in the right middle ground. The wooden deck and safety railings were the parts of the bridge most subject to deterioration.

A modern view of the site shows that the four stone pillars which anchored the ends of each iron span are still in place, though overgrown with vines. The concrete footing in the river to the left of the abutment in the center is the foundation of the weave room addition to the Lower Mill which was built in the mid-1950s and demolished, along with the rest of the building, in 1985.