McCrary Eagles Baseball

July 29, 2009

It has been too long since I posted here- both because of the length of my textile processes posts, and because it has been the height of summer, and the yard, the garden, vacations and birthdays have taken up my time. Sorry!

In line with both textiles and summer is the topic of baseball; particularly the textile league team of Asheboro’s Acme-McCrary hosiery mill. The 1937 McCrary Eagles team is pictured above, because in that year the team won the North Carolina semi-pro state title and went to the national championships in Wichita, KS (they lost there). Pictured above are (left to right, and front to back): Pat Short, Hayes Harrington, Sam Lankford and Jack Underwood (bat boy); Mal Craver, Guy Clodfelter, Neely Hunter (Manager), John Griffin, Jack Cox and Bob McFayden; Paul Cheek, Lester Burge, Hal Johnson, Mike Briggs, Gates Smith, Hooks Calloway, Tom Burnett, Red Norris and Charlie Barnes (Trainer).

Baseball goes back a long way in Randolph County—Trinity College was playing UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State as early as the 1880s. The Deep River textile communities joined in the “Deep River League” at least by the turn-of-the-century, and the games between those communities were cut-throat contests for community pride and pecking order.

The McCrary Eagles baseball team was assembled starting in 1933 or 1934; by the 1940s there was also an Eagles basketball team. I’m being vaguer than usual on these dates because I’m really writing here about a group of artifacts, not the team as a whole.

In May of 2007 I met a very nice guy from Troy, Jerry Parsons, who played American Legion baseball in Asheboro on the fabled teams of 1967-1970, with players who were legends at the time- Jimmy Dollyhigh, Scott Rush, Mike Voncannon, Keith Green, Larry Hollingsworth, and Tommy Raines. Jerry walked into my office and offered to sell me a virtually complete McCrary Eagles uniform. He had bid it in at the estate auction of Bud Scarboro in the 1980s. Bud was the long-time operator of the Gulf Service Station in Wadeville, NC, and had been born in Mt. Gilead.

Fifty years before his death, Bud Scarboro played on the 1934 and 1935 McCrary Eagles teams. Like many southern boys of the time, baseball ran in his blood, and in his family. His brothers Ray and Junior also played for the Eagles at some point, and his cousin Ray Scarboro pitched for the White Sox and for the Yankees in the 1952 World Series.

Along with the uniform came eight snapshots processed by the “Flying Film Company Inc.” of San Antonio Texas. They were apparently taken in 1934 or 1935 (both dates are written on the photos) at a game played in Randleman between the Eagles and a team from Oak Ridge.

In the first group of three, Bud Scarboro poses for the camera in his Eagles uniform, the same one I bought from Jerry Parsons. I have everything shown except the cap, the belt and the shoes, and what the real thing best illustrates is how much black and white photographs bleed the vivid life out of the scene.

The actual uniform is a surprisingly thick, scratchy cream-colored wool; the lettering, stockings and Eagle arm patch add vivid blue and red accents to the ensemble.

(The stockings I received are obviously not the solid blue or red ones worn by the team in all their pictures, but these have been well worn all the same.)

The uniforms were top quality- made by Spalding, supplier of Major League uniforms. Bud was a size 42- large even by modern standards, but positively chunky by the measure of Depression-era scrawny Southern boys.

4 Not pictured in any of the action photos, but being worn in Wichita by Mal Craver and Hooks Calloway is the warm-up jacket, a heavy weight wool jersey with brown trim and an elaborate blue eagle on a red circle.

The eagle clutches gear and lightning bolt symbols which show that it was modeled, if not stolen outright, from the National Recovery Administration Blue Eagle. The NRA was a New Deal Agency created by one of President Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933.  It was led by Hugh Samuel Johnson, a retired US Army general and businessman, who saw the NRA as a national crusade to increase employment, reduce “destructive competition,” and regenerate industrial production. The program was ruled unconstitutional in 1935 by the US Supreme Court, but most of it reappeared later that year in the National Labor Relations Act.

The NRA was popular with workers because it set the first minimum wage laws. The Blue Eagle (said to be a stylized Art Deco version of the tribal American Thunderbird) was part of a successful publicity campaign which made “voluntary” membership in the NRA effectively mandatory. Since any business that supported the NRA could put the symbol on shop windows and packages, businesses that didn’t were often boycotted. Branding its baseball team with the name and symbol was obviously meant to show that Acme-McCrary was a big supporter of the NRA!

Cotton Textile Manufacturing Processes

June 23, 2009

What follows is an illustrated outline of the stages and processes involved in manufacturing cotton textiles. I worked it up to support a lecture I’m giving to the N.C. Humanities Council Teacher Institute in Chapel Hill, which is this year studying the theme “The Culture of Textiles in North Carolina.” All of the historic photographs illustrating the processes were taken in Randolph County; most of them in the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company. George Russell, the superintendent of that mill from 1905 to 1925, created a remarkable album of his own amateur photographs in and around the mill, circa 1916.

Raw Material: Cotton Agriculture.

Randolph County has long been known as the foremost county in the state for wheat production, while its tobacco and cotton crops have always been minimal. It is ironic therefore, that this iconic postcard photograph of North Carolina cotton agriculture illustrates a farm near Asheboro. The photograph was taken by the state’s best known female photographer of the early 20th century.


FMC Teamsters, 1915. Mule teams were the usual choice to draw heavy loads such as these 500-lb. Bales of cotton. The Randolph Mfg. Co. on the east side of Franklinville used oxen instead.

The Cotton Gin .

The cotton Gin, whether located near the cotton field or the cotton mill, was the beginning point in processing the cotton boll into cotton cloth. Farmers brought their cotton to the gin, where the seeds were pulled from the fiber by the teeth of tiny “saws,” and the cotton fiber then pressed into five hundred pound bales. The gins were located in the upper floor of the two-story frame building at left; wagons bringing cotton from the fields unloaded sacks underneath, and the ginned cotton was baled at an adjacent screw press. This photo is probably not of the original gin, which was located beside Elisha Coffin’s grist and saw mill. The cotton gin also operated at a site on the head race east of the dam near the ox barn and and horse stables, and this may be a photo of that operation. In the early twentieth century the gin was moved to a location behind the new company store on Main Street, now the site of the Franklinville Volunteer Fire Department.

The Cotton Warehouse.

Before the factory was in operation, farmers hauled the bales to larger cities for sale; later the cotton bales were stored in a cotton warehouse until needed by the factory or until transport by railroad to some other factory. Until the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway opened service to Staley in May 1884, raw cotton and finished products had been carried to Greensboro by wagon. On November 15, 1886, the shipping point was changed to Millboro, northwest of Cedar Falls; by May 17, 1890, regular rail freight and passenger service was available in Franklinville. Frame cotton houses were used throughout the nineteenth century, until the pictured brick warehouse was built in the summer of 1900.

The Opening Room/ Picker or Lapper House.

The ties binding a bale of cotton were cut in the Opening Room, and cotton from several different bales mixed together in the middle of the floor, as shown. Handfulls of cotton were then thrown into the hopper of a Opener-Feeder, where large metal teeth shredded the compressed cotton and fans blew out some of the leaf fragments and trash. A moving belt then fed the cotton into the Picker, or Lapper, which created a flat lap, or roll of cotton. These rolled laps were taken off the end of the picker and hung on racks, ready to be rolled into the Card Room.


Carding Engines.

These are the Saco-Pettee revolving flat top cards installed in 1907. In the background the gear end of a set of slubbers is visible, with cast lettering that says “Saco-Pettee/ 1911.” Examples of both of these machines survive in the mill today. The laps were cleaned and condensed on the carding machines and twisted into “sliver” or ‘roving’ (about the size and shape of rope) that was coiled into the roving cans shown.

Drawing frames.

The cans were next taken to “Drawing Frames” (pictured above) where sliver from multiple cans were twisted together and coiled into another can, which was then taken to Roving Frames, starting with Slubbers (shown below) where multiple cans were again twisted into roving, about the size of a pencil, and wound onto large wooden bobbins. The roving bobbins would be carried to the spinning room by the card room hands.


The Card Room Hands (1915).

As shown, all the card room hands were men and boys. The work was mostly heavy lifting.

The Spinning Room.

In the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company of circa-1910, the Weave Room (and separate Opening Room and Slasher Room) was on the first floor, the Card Room was on the second, and the Spinning Room was on the third floor. Two types of spinning frames were required, one set to produce coarse warp yarn, and another to produce finer filling yarns. Warp yarns were spun onto stubby wooden bobbins, which could then be transferred to larger packages in the warper creel, taken to the dye room for dyeing, or spooled off and warped into skeins for sale as bundle yarn, or twisted together to make packing twine. Finning yarns were spun directly on to the pointed “quills” which snapped into the Draper filling battery on a loom.

The Spinning Room, Franklinsville Mfg. Co., before 1915.

The Spinning Room

Most spinners were women, although the supervisors were male, and “Bobbin Boys” “doffed” the full bobbins, throwing them into waiting buggies for transport to the next stage.

The Warper Room and Drawing-in Room. The woman is standing beside the warper and warping creel. To the far left may be a drawing-in stand, or it may be part of a warp-tying machine, which was a later advance on drawing-in a pattern by hand. Filling yarns were “drawn in” to the desired pattern through reed and harnesses in the “Drawing-in” Room; the loom’s entire “tackle” could be taken to the weave room to change the pattern on a loom. In the foreground are full warp beams waiting to be taken to the weave room.

The Drawing-In Hands, 1915.

The Dye House.

Colored cloth could be made by weaving with colored yarns or by dyeing natural cotton finished cloth by the yard. Colored yarn could be made either by dyeing the raw cotton before it was spun (often the method of choice for denim production), or by dyeing the natural yarn after spinning. In the 19th century only the signature red, blue or brown stripes in seamless bags needed to be dyed, so the dye house was a small addition to the back of the boiler room. In the 20th century, a bleachery was built at the Lower mill and flannel was dyed and printed in multi-colored patterns. Plaids were woven in many other Deep River and Alamance County mills, but never in Franklinville. A very simple one or two-color check could be woven on a plain or Draper loom, but multi-color plaids required a “box” loom with multiple shuttles carrying the different colors. Crompton and Knowles, or “C&K,” made the most popular American box looms.

The photograph above shows a view of the Central Falls Manufacturing Company dye house around 1900. Raw cotton is being forked out of the dye kettle; it would next have to dry completely before it could be picked, carded and spun. The blue indigo yarn used in Denim twill was usually “dyed in the raw” like this because the twill weave also used a natural white filling yarn; dyeing the denim after weaving would have colored both warp and weft yarns blue.

The second photograph shows a different dyeing process about 40 years later. Women’s hosiery at Acme-McCrary corporation in Asheboro was dyed after the knitting process was complete but before inspection and packing.

The Slasher Room.

Even coarse cotton warp yarn was too delicate to weave on mechanical looms without special treatment. Each individual warp thread was strengthened by dipping it into a vat of hot starch, or “sizing,” and then pulling it around a steam-heated copper drum to dry, before wrapping it onto a warp beam. The Franklinville mills used two circa-1900 Lowell Machine Shop slashers when they closed; the machines were perhaps the oldest then in use in any American factory. Because of their size (each the size of a tractor trailer) they could not be easily salvaged when the lower mill was demolished. Slasher room hand was one of the heaviest, hottest and stickiest jobs in the mill. From here the iron beam of warp yarn could be taken to the floor of the weave room and tied directly onto a working loom, or stored for future use.


The Weave Room (1915). The bag looms used in the Franklinsville mill throughout the nineteenth century were made by the Lewiston Machine Works of Lewiston, Maine. The first bag was woven in 1872 by Kate Russell, the daughter of Weave Room Overseer J.B. Russell. Most weavers were women. Men who learned to weave usually did so to learn how to repair the looms, and ultimately became “fixers” and supervisors. Weavers and Fixers were the most skilled and highly-paid floor employees in the mill. The bag looms used in the Franklinsville mill throughout the nineteenth century were made by the Lewiston Machine Works of Lewiston, Maine. Before 1915, weavers were paid by the number of bags that were woven on each machine per day. After the change to sheeting production, weavers were paid by the “cut”, or number of yards woven per day. In 1909 four bag looms were purchased from the Draper Company of Hopedale, Mass., because the company’s “Northrup battery” was revolutionizing the process of weaving. Draper’s innovative battery (the revolver-like cylinders shown to the right) automatically replaced empty bobbins in the shuttle with a new bobbin full of yarn. This automated one of a weaver’s most time-consuming tasks, and made it possible for a worker to double, triple or quadruple the number of looms he or she could operate. Labor activists later referred to this as “the Speed-Up.” When the changeover to sheeting manufacture was made in 1916, all 160 new looms were purchased from the Draper Company. The Draper “E” model looms shown were introduced in 1898 and became the workhorse of the southern textile industry. They were made in various sizes up to 1930. The standard width of cloth woven in 1915 was just 28 inches; forty inches or more in width was considered a ‘wide’ loom. A dozen 40″ or 42″ looms remain at the mill in Franklinville.

The Weave Room Hands, 1915.

(Hugh Buie, Weave Room Boss, 4th from left).

Parks-Cramer Humidifier, or “Air Conditioner”

The Parks-Cramer Company involved one of the outstanding figures in the development of the southern textile industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Charlottean Stuart Warren Cramer. The company was founded in 1918, when the G.M. Parks Company, manufacturers of industrial piping, heating, and ventilation systems based in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, purchased Cramer’s business interests. The new company established business operations in Fitchburg, Boston, and Charlotte. Stuart Warren Cramer was one of the principal inventors and entrepreneurs promoting the growth of southern cotton textiles. Born in 1868 in Thomasville, North Carolina, he attended the United States Naval Academy and the Columbia University School of Mines. In the early 1890s Cramer was chief engineer and manager of the D. A. Tompkins Company in Charlotte, the South’s foremost distributors of cotton-mill machinery and supplies. Its owner, Daniel Augustus Tompkins, was a major builder of cotton mills and a leader of New South industrialization. Cramer soon established his own textile engineering and contracting firm in Charlotte.

Cramer’s specialty in industrial engineering was in the humidification systems for textile factories, and it is said that Cramer coined the term “air conditioning”. In 1904, he introduced an electrically operated heat and humidity control mechanism, and in 1905, an automatic hygrometer. These instruments were predecessors of the Psychrostat, a humidifier control instrument, which injected a fine mist of water into the air, to moisten and “condition” the cotton fibers. Cramer’s best known patent was for the “Cramer System of Air Conditioning,” not just a method of cooling air, but automatically regulating temperature and humidity (high humidity static electricity and made cotton fibers adhere together and spin better).

The Cloth Room.

The Bushnell Baling Press is in the left foreground. In the center background is an automatic cloth folding machine. Sheeting is being packaged for sale here, although seamless bags were baled up and shipped in a similar fashion. From the cloth room, bales would be taken to the warehouse for storage until shipping out on the railroad.

The same Bushnell Press, in the ruins of the Columbia Factory, 2004.

Seamless Bags.

From 1872 to 1915, the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company made woven tubular “seamless” bags. The process of weaving a tube was invented by Cyrus Baldwin, a supervisor in the Amoskeag Machine Shop, and the bags were first woven in the huge Amoskeag Company mills of Manchester, NH. The Franklinsville mill was one of the first factories in the south to import the technology after the Civil War. By 1890 several dozen mills in the US were weaving the bags, which were widely used for shipping flour, corn, seeds, and frozen meat on railroad and steamships. Their popularity was due to their strength (no side or bottom seams to burst) and their durability (seamless cotton bags were returned to the processer, washed, and reused many times). The product suffered a precipitous decline after 1934, when the Pure Food and Drug Act prohibited re-use of food product packaging. Some mills retooled to produce a revised product, “pillow tubing”—actually seamless bags made of much lighter count yarn, and used for craft embroidery of decorative designs. The Franklinville mill retooled in 1915 to switch production to sheeting and other plain weave products. The last seamless bag was woven in the mid-1970s in Alabama by the Bemis Company.

Franklinsville Manufacturing Company: A Pictorial History

June 22, 2009
Franklinsville Manufacturing Company

Franklinsville Manufacturing Company

(This was partially written years ago as part of a walking-tour brochure of Franklinville, but I revised it recently to put a better face on the rather sad present condition of this historic factory, which is now Randolph County’s 3rd designated historic landmark.)

The 140-year story of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company has one of the best-documented visual histories of any North Carolina cotton textile factory.  Portrait photographs of stockholders are known dating from the mid-1850s, the same time a professional artist, David L. Clark, lived in the community and left an extensive written account (although none of his sketches have been found).  A daguerreotypist is listed in the 1860 census, and F.L. Ellison operated a photography business in the community during the latter 1800s.  At the turn of the century, both Hugh Parks, Jr., the mill owner, and George Russell, the mill superintendent, were amateur photographers.  Their work is now indistinguishable, as the oldest Franklinville photographs all descended among members of the Parks and Makepeace families, who were related to both Parks and Russell.  Approximately the time of the 1923 sale of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company to Randolph Mills, Inc., George Russell compiled a an extensive written and photographic history of the mill in identical scrapbooks, one kept by him and one given to Hugh Parks, Jr.  The Parks scrapbook descended to Carrie Parks Stamey, the middle daughter of Hugh Parks, Jr., and was copied in 1985.  Mrs. Stamey also possessed a number of unique individual photographs, which were also copied at that time.  The George Russell scrapbook descended to Margaret Williams of Franklinville, and was given to Mac Whatley in 1987.  Most of the following pictures come from those scrapbooks, although various individual views are used from other sources now found in the Whatley collection.  The quoted passages are taken from the written history of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company as found in the scrapbooks and compiled from the original corporate records, the location of which are now unknown.

Faith Rock. The power of water falling over a series of stone ledges in the path of Deep River is the whole reason manufacturing grew up at the place which became known as Franklinsville. As the river flows from Guilford County through Randolph County its level drops some five hundred feet. As it reaches Franklinville it strikes a huge stone outcropping known as Faith Rock and turns, creating a dogleg bend in the river. In 1782 Faith Rock was the site of a Revolutionary War confrontation between the pro-British Colonel David Fanning, who chased the Whig Andrew Hunter along the ridge and into the river. Soon after the spot was recognized for its industrial potential, and several speculative owners purchased land around the falls before the site was developed as a mill seat.

Coffin’s Mill on Deep River. Flour milling is Franklinville’s oldest activity. Tradition credits construction of the first mill to Christian Moretz (or Morris) in 1801. The 2 ½-story frame building shown here was about 30 x 30 feet in plan, and housed a wooden water wheel that powered three mill stones and a minimum of flour-processing machinery. By 1802 Morris was being taxed for the operation of a large cotton gin, and he also operated a saw mill and wool carding machine. The availability of such a variety of products and services led to the formation of a lively rural trading community even before Elisha Coffin bought the property in 1821. Much if not all of the building pictured must dated from the time of Coffin’s ownership, as the oversized twelve-over-twelve window sash are appropriate to the 1830s. The southern wall of the Boiler House is visible in the left background. In 1912 the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company replaced the antique grist mill with a greatly-expanded modern operation which used steel rollers instead of stones to grind the grain. That three-story “Roller Mill” opened in 1913, operated until 1990, and burned in 1992.

Elisha Coffin (b. 11-23-1779, d. 5-22-1870). Elisha Coffin was born in the New Garden section (now Guilford College) of Guilford County. He was the son of Quaker emigrants from the island of Nantucket who moved to North Carolina in the late 1760s and early 1770s, and both his father and grandfather had served as crew members on whaling voyages to the Arctic. Elisha Coffin learned the trade of a miller and millwright, buying and building a number grist mills in Guilford and Randolph. For 60 years Coffin’s family of Nantucket Quakers served as the liberal backbone and conscience of Piedmont North Carolina, spearheading the fight against slavery. The very year Elisha Coffin purchased the mill on Deep River, he and his father assisted nephew and first cousin Levi Coffin, “the President of the Underground Railroad,” in transporting escaped slave Jack Barnes to freedom in Indiana. Coffin ran the various mills on Deep River until 1838, when he allowed the new Randolph Manufacturing Company corporation to purchase the operation as an adjunct to textile manufacturing.

Island Ford Manufacturing Company, built 1846. No photograph or drawing of the original Randolph Manufacturing Company mill is known, but the Island Ford mill half a mile downriver was built 7 years later by Elisha Coffin, George Makepeace and a very similar group of investors. The two mills probably looked much alike, although the Island Ford mill was built of wood while the Franklinsville factory was of brick. (The two-story weave shed in the foreground was added to the Island Ford mill in the 1850s.) Construction began on the Franklinsville factory in the summer of 1838, and spinning and weaving operations started in March, 1840. The monitor roof effectively gave the mill four usable floors; in the Franklinsville factory it appears that this was used as the “dressing room,” where hot starch was applied to warp yarns. It was there that the fire started which destroyed the building on April 18, 1851.

Franklinsville Manufacturing Company. 1874. Samuel Walker, Agent. The west side of the mill, with all the employees lined up for the camera. A ladder leans against the gable roof. A Greek Revival-style bell cupola covers the northern gable peak, while a chimney stack rises from the southern end. Lighter-colored brick are clearly visible up to the level of the second floor joists, marked by cast iron tie-rod ends; this indicates where the original 1838 walls were found to be solid enough to build upon. There are at least forty workers posing on the ground, three on the tall ladder, and one sitting in a third-floor window. From March 21, 1859, the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company had been a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Cedar Falls Company, under the supervision of George Makepeace. Ten looms designed to weave seamless cotton bags were installed in April, 1872, and ten more were installed in July, 1874. George Makepeace having died in December, 1872, the mill was now under the management of Samuel Walker.

George Makepeace (b. 9-19-1799, d. 10-9-1872). Makepeace learned the textile industry in small mills around Wrentham, Massachusetts, on the Rhode Island border not far from the birthplace of the textile industry in Pawtucket. Makepeace was hired by the Franklinsville company to install the machinery and train the workers. He was en route to Randolph County on December 25, 1839, when his daughter Lucy was born in Petersburg, Virginia. For many years Makepeace was one of the region’s only skilled experts in textile manufacturing, consulting with mills all around the Piedmont and training the next generation of North Carolina’s textile management. During the Civil War the Cedar Falls Company under Makepeace’s management was the largest integrated textile manufacturing operation in the state, processing raw cotton into yarn, cloth, and clothing. In 1862 he reported that the Company “had been furnishing the State Government for the past year with a large amount of its manufactures for the use of the Army and is now under contract to supply fifty thousand shirts and drawers for the army.”

Franklinsville Mfg. Co. (1876). Taken from the northwest, with the northern gable end clearly visible, although the sun reflecting off what appears to be a metal roof is hiding the bell cupola in its glare. The lighter-colored brick of the original first floor is still visible, as are the two chimneys at the south end. Wooden board sidewalks are provided across gulleys and muddy tracks. There are approximately 35 people posing on the ground, and at least two looking out of third-floor windows. The factory had undergone three ownership changes in the previous two years. The Cedar Falls Company had sold the mill to the Randleman Manufacturing Company on July 28, 1875, but less than a year later, on the Centennial day of July 4, 1876, the partners Hugh Parks, Benj. Moffitt and Eli N. Moffitt bought the property for $24,500. Hugh Parks was then the Mayor of Franklinsville and the primary owner of the Island Ford mill downstream. “At this time the mill was a three-story brick building, 40 x 80 feet, with picker room, 34 x 40 feet, built of stone and some distance from the main building. The mill was then equipped with twenty looms for weaving seamless bags, and the necessary preparatory machinery. The only bag made then was a 16 ounce bag, branded ‘Franklinsville,’ which had both double warp and double filling. Hugh Parks and Benj. Moffitt took charge of this mill at once, keeping James F. Carter, Overseer of Carding; Nathan A. Fergerson, Overseer of Spinning; and Jesse P. Arledge, Overseer of Weaving. It was only a short time until Hugh Parks put in Matthew Sumner [as] Superintendent, who was also Superintendent of the Island Ford Manufacturing Company.”

Stockholders of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company, 1876. On January 26, 1877, the three partners formed a corporation, contributing $30,000 of capital in shares valued at $500 each. The first stockholders meeting was held March 28, 1877, at which Hugh Parks was elected President, Benj. Moffit Secretary- Treasurer, and Eli N. Moffitt, director. The new capital was used to modernize the mill’s equipment.

Franklinsville Mfg. Co. (1883). Hugh Parks, Sr., Pres. Benj. Moffitt, Sec. & Treas. Baling Room Completed. The factory has undertaken a major expansion in the intervening 7 years. In July 1879 the old throstle spinning frames were replaced with ring spinning frames purchased from and erected by the Lowell Machine Shop. A spooler was installed at the same time. In February, 1880, new railway heads, drawing frames and speeders were erected, and in December 1880 and January 1881 a new picker and eighteen cards were installed. A two-story addition was built to the mill in July 1882. Called the Wheel House or Engine House, this wing was much more elaborate architecturally than the old mill, having brick quoins at each corner and gothic-style hood moldings over doors and windows. The wing provided space for a new water wheel and the first steam boilers and engine, which were installed and started for the first time on November 24, 1882. The smokestack for the boilers is visible at the south end of the Wheel House. At some undisclosed time the 1850’s gable roof was replaced by a flat roof with paneled brick parapets. This was undoubtedly done to qualify for insurance protection by one of the Factory Mutual insurance companies based in New England. The Factory Mutual companies had determined that the wooden trusses of gable roofs were fire hazards, and promoted replacement by flat roofs built with “slow-burn,” or solid tongue-and groove decking, construction. The one-story Baling Room housed the printing, sewing, baling and shipping operations of the mill. The Baling Press was operated by the rope-drive pulleys punched through the walls of the mill and separate Baling Room wing. A new picker, eight more cards, a spooler, a warper, and ten more looms were also installed at this time. This new equipment heralded the weaving of the first 14-ounce bags, having a double warp and single filling. The new product was branded “Parks,” in honor of the company’s President, Hugh Parks.

Group Employee Picture, Franklinsville Manufacturing Company, ca. 1885. The group is assembled in the mill yard between the oil or waste house and the mill, facing the company store, where the photographer stands. Oil for lubrication and lamps was housed in a separate building from the factory, as were rags and cotton waste used for cleaning.

Franklinsville Mfg. Co. (1886). Taken from the southeast, with the 1838 stone Picker House in the foreground. The Wheel and Engine Houses are still just two stories, and it is obvious that the boilers are fired with wood. Four different weights of seamless bags were now made in the mill, the increase having been made possible by the addition of a slasher, which made lighter weights of yarn suitable for weaving by strengthening them with starch. “In February 1884 the first slasher was put in, which was known as a hot air slasher and was made here in the mill. It was in March of the same year when the first single warp bags were made. They were a 12 ½ ounce bag branded ‘Chapman,’ and an 11 ounce bag branded ‘Dover.'” These products proved popular, and increased the demand for bags beyond the mill’s capacity to spin lower counts of yarn. Therefore, in 1887, a 17×40 foot addition was made on the west side of the Picker House, “and five new Lowell spinning frames and a new spooler were added, and the manufacturing of Chain Warp began, by use of the Circular Mill.” In October 1888 the Baling Room was expanded and the first cylinder slasher was installed. By 1893 the demand for seamless bags was such that ten more looms were installed, and in 1894, as the orders for single warp bags increased and those for double warp bags lessened, it became necessary to add two more cylinders to the slasher. The first self-feeder and opener was installed in the Picker House in February, 1896.

Franklinsville Mfg. Co. (1892) Hugh Parks, Sr., Pres.; Benj. Moffitt, Sec. & Treas. Tower Completed. The most obvious new feature is the brick tower positioned at the northeast corner of the original building. “Up until 1892 all the roving and yarn were carried in bags, up and down the steps, by boys; but after the tower was built and the elevator installed, the task was made much lighter.” A separate tower for stairs was another requirement of the Factory Mutual companies, as the old open stairways inside the mill could act as chimneys during a fire. Besides new stairs and an elevator, the tower also supported a wooden water tank feeding the new sprinkler system. Even though the scrapbook label clearly states that the above picture dates to 1892, when the tower was completed, it appears that it actually dates to 1895, as a third story is obviously present atop the 1882 Wheel and Engine House. “In 1895 the third story was built on the engine room; and two new Hopedale twisters were put in, replacing the old ones, for making selvage for bags and twine for hemming.”

Employee Group Picture, ca. 1895. The employees are assembled in front of the stair tower, facing the company store.

Smoke Stack. Built 1897. “In October 1896 J.E. Duval started the first dynamo in this mill, and then tallow candles and kerosene lamps became a thing of the past.” But the boilers and draft stack of 1882 proved inadequate to handle both the increased production of the mill and the new technology of the 1890s. “In 1897 a new engine room, 19×36 feet, an addition to the boiler room and a new smoke stack were built, and a new boiler and engine were installed and started on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1897, by Benajah T. Lockwood of Providence, R.I.” The double door under the shed roof led into the boiler room. The steam engine was located in the wing to the left of the door. The dynamo was evidently a D.C. generator, as the subsequent 1920 turbine boiler powered the first AC generator. “The old No. 1 Keeler boiler was sold and delivered to Kersey-Carr Company on February 23, 1921.”

1897 Franklinsville Mfg. Co. Corliss-type steam engine. The original steam engine installed by the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company in 1882 had been purchased from the William A. Harris Company of Providence, Rhode Island. Harris had worked with the original George Corliss company before starting his own factory, and specialized in large mill engines using the highly-efficient Corliss valve gear. The original engine had a 14″ diameter piston with a 36″ stroke; its flywheel was 11 feet in diameter. On July 29, 1897, the Franklinsville company ordered a new engine having an 18″ piston, 42″ stroke, and 13-foot flywheel designed to carry a 24″ leather belt to power the mill’s lineshafting. After installation the engine was used continuously until December 23, 1920, after which the mill was renovated for electrical drive. On July 21, 1921 the engine was sold and removed to C.R. Preddy of Builder’s Sash and Door Company of Rocky Mount, N.C. On April 5, 1933, it was again sold and moved to Williams Lumber Company of Wilson, N.C. Williams Lumber was bought out by Stevenson Millwork in 1965, and the engine operated until that business was liquidated in 1972. It was disassembled and stored in a field in Smithfield until 1977, when it was purchased by Shell Williams of Godwin, N.C. Williams moved the engine to his home on U.S. 301 in northeast Cumberland County and re-erected it on a concrete block foundation. It was located there in 1995, and identified from the original W.A. Harris records now in the possession of the New England Museum of Wireless and Steam. Inside the upper half of the flywheel is faintly visible, in red paint, “Franklinsville Mfg. Co., Franklinsville, N.C.”

Unloading Water Wheel (1909). The mill’s original power undoubtedly came from one or more wooden water wheels, probably of the breast (or “pitch-back”) type. The type of “new” water wheel installed in 1882 is unknown. In the major expansion of the mill of 1899, a 44-inch Leffel turbine wheel was installed and started August 14, 1899. The dynamo which provided lighting in the mill was run by this wheel until 1901, when a separate steam engine was installed for that purpose. In 1909 the old water wheel and water house was torn out, and a 285-horse power horizontal turbine wheel was installed by D.J. Heiston and Jake Lindemuth of the S. Morgan Smith Company of York, Pa. After conversion of the mill to electric drive in 1920, the turbine was used as back-up power for emergency pumps until about 1940. The wheel housing visible on the railroad car still exists in place under the mill, although the runner wheel appears to have been removed.

Seamless Bags made by Franklinsville Mfg. Co., 1901. “The double warp bags were discontinued this year, as the demand was for a single warp and single filling bag; this required more slashing, and a new two cylinder slasher was installed in August, 1901. This year the brands were changed; the 16 ounce bag was branded “Atlantic;” and the 14 ounce bag, “Lone Star.” In 1915 the corporate secretary wrote, “Some months ago Hugh Parks, Jr., saw the destiny of seamless bags, and after visiting Baltimore and New York, decided that the best thing to do was to make a complete change and to manufacture sheetings instead of bags. It was decided to build an addition (52×73) to the weave room and install 160 looms, for weaving sheetings, and the necessary preparatory machinery. In January, 1916, all the bag looms were thrown out; and the last bag was woven by Arthur Ellison on January 30, 1916. Arthur Ellison gave up his position in the weaving room January 30, 1916; when Hugh B. Buie was put in charge of the room. The last bags (22 bales) were shipped November 16, 1917 for the account of Amon Green & Co., Baltimore, Md., to Carleton Dry Goods Co., St. Louis, Mo. These bags were sold April 19, 1915.

Franklinsville Mfg. Co. (1913). Benj. Moffitt, Pres. Hugh Parks, Jr., Sec.-Treas. Taken from one of the wooden bridges which crossed the head race, this view looks northeast toward the south sides of (from left to right) the Picker House (now two stories); the Baling House (in the center, now also two stories and housing the slasher, the drawing-in room, the warper room, and spooling); the main mill; the Wheel House (now three stories); the Engine House (one story); the Boiler Room (one story, but having a gable roof with clerestory). The shed porch on the far right belongs to the new Roller Mill, out of sight.

The Franklinsville Mfg. Co. Roller Mill, circa 1920. Built in 1912 and put into operation in 1913, the roller mill made Excelsior brand flour. Later the Excelsior brand was limited just to whole wheat flour, and the new Dainty Biscuit brand was given to more refined white flours. Its drive wheel shared the head race water with the cotton mill until conversion to electric drive.

Construction of the Feed Mill, 1936. This is a detail taken from a larger view from Faith Rock across Deep River, looking northeast. A major expansion of the roller mill operation in the late 1930s provided for increased sales of chicken, rabbit, horse, mule, goat and hog feeds. The terra cotta tile silos were built for wheat storage. The three-story 1899 wing of the cotton mill and the one-story 1915 weave shed are visible in the center of the picture.

Expansion of the Card Room, circa 1944. During World War II John W. Clark received special permission for extensive remodeling and repair of the 100-year-old facility. Steel girders and I-beams recycled from other buildings were used to create a new support structure for the mill, completely independent of the exterior brick walls. The Opening, Picker and Card Rooms were expanded into the court yard between the old wings by bulldozing the intervening hills.

The “Upper Mill” area of Randolph Mills, Inc., circa 1950. Taken by Aero-Pix of Raleigh, this aerial photograph shows the entire complex of the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company. The original mill, as expanded in 1899, is at left center; the Baling Room wing to its right and the Picker House just about that. Across the road is the 1884 Company Store, then serving as the machine shop. Directly above it is the 1919 Power House and Smokestack (125 feet, 2 ¾ inches of radial brick on a fifteen-foot-deep foundation of crushed stone and concrete, demolished about 1975). Heading west from the Power House is a house used by the company as a hotel, now the site of the company garage. From there to the dam was the original location of the company stables and barn, and the cotton gin. On the opposite side of the head race just below the dam is the Peanut House; across the road from there is the Chicken Hatchery; adjoining it is the antebellum residence of the President of the Company; then the Feed Mill and Roller Mill.

Naomi Wise

June 3, 2009

Tomorrow is my 22nd annual walk and talk on Randolph County history for the Asheboro-Randolph Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber’s “Leadership Randolph” program was the whole reason I started this blog several years ago, and the reason I developed the Randolph County Chronology and Bibliography that are attached to the blog. In my attempt to get things down in writing that I’ve spoken to the class about for years, I’ve written more here this year than in all the other years combined. Some major topics I have avoided, however, because they really need a modern, in-depth treatment—more than I can usually justify on this site.

Naomi Wise is one of those topics. The nutshell version is that Naomi Wise, an unmarried Randolph County girl, was supposedly drowned by her lover, Jonathan Lewis, in a lover’s quarrel in April 1807. Beyond that, details vary, but over the years the story was set to song, and became very popular. The song is now considered the oldest American murder ballad, and its music is actually the living landmark of the event.

The murder on which the song is based really happened in Randolph County more than two hundred years ago, yet sadly, little physical evidence remains. The tombstone shown above is located in the graveyard at Providence Friends Meeting, on Providence Church Road west of New Salem Road in Providence Township, Although a hundred or more years old, the stone is not original; it moreover bears an inaccurate date of her death. Perhaps that makes it the perfect emblem of the story of Naomi Wise.

I’ve told the story for Leadership Randolph, and lately in the computerized multimedia age I’ve played the 60s Doc Watson version on CD through my Jeep speakers. Here’s the 21st-century equivalent, the embedded YouTube video of the Doc Watson recording-

Doc Watson is just the most contemporary artist who has sung a version of this song. Folkorists such as Bascom Lamar Lunsford and others have collected and recorded other versions, with widely-varying lyrics. As discussed at length in the most recent publication on the subject [NAOMI WISE: Creation, Re-Creation and Continuity in an American Ballad Tradition,” by Eleanor R. Long-Wilgus (Chapel Hill: The Chapel Hill Press, 2003)], the many versions of the ballad occurred as a lost original version was gradually passed down from singer to singer since the actual events occurred.

(a copy of the ballad of Naomi Wise in the handwriting of Miss Laura Worth, on a 1920s voter registration form)

The “standard” version of the ballad is the one attached to the 1851 narrative story by Braxton Craven entitled “Naomi Wise: Or, The Wrongs of a Beautiful Girl.” Craven, the headmaster at that time of the Normal College, soon to be Trinity College and ultimately Duke University, romanticized the story so as to make Naomi Wise an innocent victim and heroine of the story in a fashion that is still familiar with the Lifetime movie channel, Nancy Grace and Greta van Susteren on cable TV. In Craven’s story, the innocent virginal 18-year-old orphan girl was lured to her doom by a dastardly sexual predator who was ultimately caught and punished for his crime. That’s the version perpetuated in the ballad text printed by Craven, and in its numerous reprintings and transfigurations over the years. It’s a version that was probably written to conform with the age-old English song tradition of “Murdered Girl” ballads.

A story I’ll tell you

About Naomi Wise,

How she was deluded

By John Lewis’ lies….

He promised to meet me

At Adams’ springs;

He promised me marriage

And many fine things…

I got up behind him

And straightway did go

To the banks of Deep River,

Where the water did flow…

“No pity, no pity,”

The monster did cry;

“In Deep River’s bottom

your body shall lie.”

The wretch them did choke her,

As we understand,

And threw her in the river,

below the mill dam….

(The Story of Naomi Wise was once considered the signature event of the Randleman area, and for several years high school students acted it out in a spring pageant on the riverside. But the bicentennial of the event in 2007 passed without notice.)

As Eleanor Long-Wilgus discusses briefly in her much longer analysis of the ballad lyrics, the true story is, as usual, much less black and white. A detailed analysis of the history behind the ballad can also be found in “Omie Wise: The Ballad as History,” by Molly Stouten, published in Spring 1997 issue of The Old-Time Herald magazine. Hal Pugh, owner and operator with his wife Eleanor of the New Salem Pottery, are modern Randolph County’s guardians of this story, and have done more research than anyone else I know about Naomi Wise (publish! Publish!) In recent years an early 19th century document has been discovered in the Special Collections of the UCLA Library which is the only contemporary account of the event. Entitled “A true account of Nayomy Wise,” it is a lengthy poem found in a penmanship copybook belonging to Mary Woody and her brother Robert Woody.

“To Such as here [hear] and Wants to Know

A Woman Came Some years ago

Then from a Cuntry named by hide [Hyde County, in eastern NC?]

In Randolph after did reside

And by Some person was defil’d

And So brought forth a bastard Child

She Told her name neomy Wise

Her carnal Conduct Some did despise

It was not long till She’d another

That might be Call’d a basturd’s Brother…”

The actual story appears to be that unmarried Naomi Wise was in 1807 already the mother of Nancy (b. 1799) and Henry Wise (b. 1804), and was probably pregnant by Jonathan Lewis, a well-to-do store clerk employed by Benjamin Elliott, the Clerk of Superior Court and future owner of the Cedar Falls cotton factory. The “Bastardy Bonds” for Nancy and Henry can be found in the Randolph County papers at the NC State Archives (for years they were hidden by local historian Laura Worth, who disapproved of the facts). Following the child support law of the time, Naomi charged each father with “begetting a child on her body;” each man then posted a bond publicly insuring that the county would never have to pay to support their children.

(Cost sheet from November 1810 term of Superior Court, showing the expenses of arresting and holding Jonathan Lewis for trial.)

Apparently the argument between Naomi Wise and Jonathan Lewis arose when she revealed her pregnancy, but demanded that Lewis marry her rather than post a Bastardy Bond. Lewis was in fact charged with her murder, jailed after the inquest, but escaped before trial. He fled to Elk Creek Indiana, where he was eventually re-arrested and extradicted back to Randolph County. Jonathan Lewis was tried and acquitted for the murder of Naomi Wise in 1811 (all of these court records are in the state Archives).

What physical evidence remains beyond the site of her grave?

“He promised to meet me at Adams’ Springs” — Adams’ Spring is located on the west side of Brown Oaks Road, about a hundred yards south of the Woolen House (NS:11, p. 116 of my architecture book) which fronts on New Salem Road.

The local school was once located near the spring, which was for many years marked by a gazebo. Nothing marks the spot now, save oral tradition.

To the left of the shed in the grainy newspaper photograph above is a piece of paper tacked to an almost-invisible stump—the very one, it was said, used as a mounting block for Naomi Wise to mount Jonathan Lewis’ horse and ride to her death. This is the kind of local landmark once a common part of every historic site, but gradually lost to the passage of time and the deaths of all those with first, second or third-hand knowledge of the event. Compare the open landscape of the early-20th-century photo with the modern view of trees, weeds, scrub pines and brambles…

Finally, the site of the murder survives: Naomi Falls, taken near dusk from the Naomi bridge over Deep River. The camera position is just west of the site of the remodeled Peter Dicks Mill (see that entry), and the distant rocks in the center water mark the site of the falls and ford once covered by the dam impounding water to power the 1881 Naomi Cotton Mill. Here it is in daylight….

And here, a hundred years ago- Victorian picnickers at the site of the murder….

(from the historical photograph collection of the Randolph Room, in the Asheboro Public Library.)

There you have it—Randolph County’s most famous murder.  Both more, and less, than local history recognizes.


Here’s the wikipedia link: .  The article perpetuates some errors but includes a good general overview of the topic.

Here’s an internet transcription of the classic Manley Wade Wellman retelling of the tale in his book Dead and Gone; it is by far the most readable version of the story: .

Local historian Calvin Hinshaw says that he was told back in the 1950s by New Salem resident George Newman Hinshaw that the narrative poem first printed by Braxton Craven was written by Levi Beeson and his mother soon after the event.  The format of the poem copies a traditional “ballad of experience,” which always begins with a call to the audience (“Come all ye-“) and then proceeds to explain the sad story of the subject victim.

There are MANY different versions and printings of the original Craven story, and even more versions of the ballad.  The original ballad, reconstructed by Eleanor Long-Wilgus, was said to have been sung to the hymn tune “How Firm a Foundation,” composed in the 18th century by Anne Steele (It works- try it with the Craven ballad transcription).   Two of the most recent singers to try out the ballad are Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello- quite a journey from the banks of Deep River in 1807!

Franklinville Methodist Cemetery

May 24, 2009

Franklinville M.E. Church Cemetery, ca. 1900; taken by George Russell?; author’s collection.

On this Memorial Day weekend I am speaking to the good people attending the Homecoming Services at the Mount Tabor United Methodist Memorial Chapel in Jackson Creek, and in a few days I’ll post pictures of that interesting little church and cemetery.

Appropriately, Memorial Day was originally (in 1868) begun as a way to honor the Yankee war dead, as family members “decorated” their graves with flowers. I’m offering here my favorite historic photograph of a cemetery, to illustrate the MASSIVE changes that have taken place over the past hundred years in our attitudes about honoring the dead. (The name wasn’t changed to Memorial Day until 1882, and for historical completeness I will note that Confederate Memorial Day in North Carolina occurred each May 10th, the anniversary of the death of Stonewall Jackson).

This photo shows the Franklinville Methodist Church Cemetery, part of the original 1830s village. It now crowns the hill top across from my home, the Coffin-Makepeace House, built originally by Elisha Coffin and for generations the home of George Makepeace family (for a thumbnail sketch see – someday I’ll have a much longer post).

The “Factory House” in Franklinville was in full operation by March, 1840 [ Southern Citizen, 21 January 1840]; also in operation by that time was the Franklinville Methodist Church. On August 14, 1839, Elisha Coffin deeded a 1.64 acre tract to Phillip Horney, Alexander S. Horney, Elisha Coffin, Bethuel Coffin, and J.M.A. Drake, “Trustees for the Methodist Episcopal Church…who shall erect thereon a house or place of worship.” [Deed Book 24, page 190, Randolph County Registry]. The Quarterly Conference of the Randolph Circuit was held in the Franklinville Church on March 2, 1840, the church having been rapidly completed over the winter.  The congregation was five years old before a cemetery became necessary.  The oldest known burial is that of William Arnold (1786-1844), just east of the brick cemetery.  That grave, however, was not included in “half an acre laid out for a burying ground” deeded from Elisha Coffin the Phillip Horney, Alexander S. Horney, Benjamin F. Coffin, John M. Coffin, John Miller, John Hendricks, Joshua Pool, Trustees of the Franklinsville Methodist Church, on November 2, 1844.  The next oldest known burial is that of “Marcara” McCuiston Coffin (1778-1845), wife of Elisha Coffin.  Mrs. Coffin’s grave was specifically included in one-quarter of an acre deeded by Elisha Coffin to members of his family on July 5, 1848, and now known as the “Brick Cemetery”.

The Brick Cemetery, enclosing the grave of Marcara McCuiston Coffin, the Horneys, and the Makepeace family.

The Brick cemetery (a 4-foot-tall brick wall about 15 by 30 feet) isn’t visible in the historic photograph, but it is an example of the first rule of pre-20th century cemeteries: they were all enclosed with walls or fences, to keep out the horses, cattle and swine which ranged free across the landscape up to the time of the enclosure votes of the 1890s. The “Stock Law” votes reversed the ancient custom of stock ranging free on the ‘common lands,’ and thereafter livestock were required to be kept inside their owner’s fence. The wooden pale fence that still enclosed the entire Franklinville cemetery in 1900 is visible in the upper right background, and was the only part of the cemetery that was maintained by the church; by the 1920s it had been removed.

Maintenance of a cemetery has always been the responsibility of the “owner,” but the conception of who owns a cemetery has changed during the 20th century. At the time of the photograph, Franklinville residents would have said that the family of the deceased owned the plot that their loved one was buried in. Therefore, it was the family’s responsibility to keep the plot properly maintained. This picture shows us what proper maintenance looked like in the 19th century: 1. Each burial plot is individually marked with both headstone and footstone; 2. Each burial plot is properly mounded with dirt, to hide the inevitable sinking of a plot as the coffin and its contents decomposed; 3. The marble markers are kept clean and polished; 4. No weeds or grass are allowed to desecrate the surface of a grave.

At least once a year, but especially around Decoration Day, families would assemble in the cemetery to whitewash the fences, straighten the stones, repair or replace wooden markers (since only the wealthy could afford store-bought marble and granite), haul in extra dirt to top off the mound, and hoe out the invasive grass and weeds. That grew into a tradition of returning to the old family church for Homecomings and Dinners on the Ground, a tradition of country churches all over the South now coupled to Mothers Day or Fathers Day instead of Memorial Day (now more the starting gun for summer vacation than for remembering our war dead).

Franklinville Methodist Cemetery, May 24, 2009. Taken by the author from the same position as the historic photo above. The camera position is just off the southwest corner of the brick cemetery, looking west from the driveway separating the brick cemetery from the Victorian section of the grave yard.

As Americans became more mobile in the 20th century, families no longer lived in the community and attended their traditional family church. Gradually the church itself began to assume responsibility for maintaining the cemetery, and maintenance by committee revolutionized the look of country cemeteries. The first and the biggest change was in the grass- or actually, in the end of the complete and total lack of grass. Modern cemeteries are maintained, a great expense in time and energy, in the same fashion as 20th-century lawns came to be maintained- as open monocultural fields of non-native perennial grass. This resulted in shaving away of the mounds of dirt above each plot, and the loss of all footstones, so that lawnmowers didn’t have to negotiate these hazards. (Such things aren’t allowed on a golf course, so obviously they shouldn’t be allowed in a cemetery- right?) And as push mowers became riding mowers, and as riding mowers became bigger and bigger, even headstones were considered hazards. (This is why modern “memorial parks” require headstones flush with the ground, so mowers can ride right over them), and examples of these can be found right beside the brick cemetery).

More and more, headstones in cemeteries are considered obstacles to traffic, and only certain approved types of markers are allowed. The cast iron, painted wood and pottery markers that many Randolph County cemeteries once sported are long gone (some of the pottery markers have been preserved in museums, ironically).

Another change began in the 1980s, as shrinking small engine technology produced light-weight string trimmers (a/k/a “weed eaters”). This has also been deadly to tombstones, especially the oldest slate and soapstone markers, stones which were chosen because they were soft enough to be easily carved in the days before mass-market marble and granite. In any contest between soft stone and weed eater, the centripetal force of the nylon string will win. Early string trimmers ran between 3000 and 5000 RPM; 21st century trimmer commonly turn 10,000 or more RPM.

The result is ancient monuments being worn away where the base meets the ground surface, until they look like sharpened pencils. Then the weakened stones become even more vulnerable to riding lawnmowers driven like bumper cars.

There are of course people who argue against treating historic cemeteries like golf courses; the National Park Service recently hosted a national conference about cemetery preservation ( ). But even well-meaning people can go off track: I think of a large church cemetery north of Franklinville which raised money to sandblast its collection of headstones. It cleaned the mildew and moss off the marble, making them pearly white in the sun. But sand-blasting eroded the carving so that many markers are now almost impossible to read. Discolored marble can best be cleaned with a mild abrasive hand cleaner, a plastic bristle brush, a bucket of water, and some effort. Lichen and mildew can be killed by brushing a Chlorox solution on the stone.

I know of no historic cemetery which has been ‘restored’ in the way buildings have been, but it’s not impossible. We would just have to recover an appreciation for what our ancestors considered respect to the dead and responsibility to our ancestors. Instead we homogenize our cemeteries to remove all of their historic character.

NOTE:  Here is a blog showing the ongoing restoration of the old First Presbyterian cemetery in Greensboro, now the back yard of the Greensboro Historical Museum.  It is a fascinating read, and just the kind of thing I wished to see above.  The restoration company, Stone Setters Gravestone Repair [ ] are doing fantastic work.  I wish I had the money to set them loose on our Franklinville Methodist cemetery! (August ’09)

Coffin’s Mills

May 21, 2009

Coffin’s Mills, 1912, from the George Russell album of Franklinsville Mfg. Co. Author’s Collection.

Flour milling is Franklinville’s oldest activity. Since at least 1801 the falls of the river there powered a grist and saw mill which had in turn nurtured a small community of shops and houses. In 1821 those mills were acquired by Elisha Coffin; from him the settlement took its name, “Coffin’s Mills,” and became the site of one of North Carolina’s oldest textile factories.

That’s Franklinville history in a nutshell, but the answers to the basic “who, what, when and where” questions of the town’s founding are all more complicated.

The first person known to have held title to the site of Franklinville was Jacob Skeen, who in 1784 received it as a grant from the State of North Carolina [See Randolph County Deed Book 2, p.136 (State to Jacob Skeen, 2 Nov. 1784) and Book 4, p.108 (Skeen to daughter Jane, 23 Sept. 1790)]. In 1795 Skeen’s daughter and heir, Jane Safford, and her husband Revel Safford, sold the 400-acre tract to George Mendenhall, who in turn sold it to Benjamin Trotter, both of whom could recognize good mill real estate [Book 17, p.226 (Jane & Revel Safford to George Mendenhall, 9 Sept. 1795) and Book 8, p.401 (Mendenhall to Benjamin Trotter, 28 July 1797)]. Both men were millers, but it is unclear whether they made any use of the site, and their intentions may have been purely speculative. Mendenhall owned the substantial mill on Deep River now known as Coletrane’s Mill, and he seems to have acquired sites for other mills as investments. In 1801, Trotter sold the property to Christian Morris; that deed refers to “Benj’n Troter of Randolph County and State of No. Carolina (Miller).” [Deed Book 8, p.441 (Trotter to Christian Moretz, 15 Oct. 1801)].

Either Mendenhall or Trotter could have been the first to utilize the property as the site of a grist mill. Local tradition, however, states that the first mill at the site was built by the 1801 buyer, Christian Morris (or Moretz), a member of the German community in northeastern Randolph. [J.A. Blair, Reminiscences of Randolph County, 35 (Greensboro: Reece & Elam, 1890)].

Whether or not Morris built the first mill, by 1802 he was being taxed for the operation of a large cotton gin (verbal shorthand for ‘engine’). Invented by Eli Whitney in 1793, the unpatented invention spread quickly around the South, and Randolph County had five gins subject to taxation the year Morris erected his machine. [“Return of the Cotton Machine for the Year 1802,” in Randolph County Miscellaneous Tax Records, C.R. 081.701.5, North Carolina State Archives]. Morris’s was one of the larger machines, featuring 30 saws designed to pull the cotton fibers from the seeds. Since Morris also operated a wool-carding machine and saw mill at the mill, it appears that the site rapidly acquired the characteristics of a rural trading community. At the tiny frame mill a farmer could have his corn and grain ground into flour, have his timber sawed into lumber, gin the seeds from his cotton, and have the wool from his sheep carded for his wife to spin into yarn.

Morris died about the year 1812, and his extensive property holdings were divided among his children by the county court. Morris’ oldest son, John, received the mill tract, but since he had moved to Lincoln County, North Carolina, someone else must have run the mill until it was sold to James Ward in 1818. [Deed Book 14, p.124 (John Morris to James Ward, 2 April 1818)].

Elisha Coffin, taken about 1855.

Elisha Coffin (23 November 1779 – 22 May 1870) was a son of Nantucket Quakers who moved to the New Garden community (now Guilford College) in the 1770s. In 1816 he purchased a mill site on the Uwharrie River (Deed Book 13, Page 127), but soon sold that and purchased the Deep River mill from Ward [Deed Book 14, p. 531 (Ward to Elisha Coffin, 25 Dec. 1821)]. Owner and operator of several other mills in Guilford and Randolph Counties mills, Coffin was also a farmer, merchant and politically active Justice of the Peace. He organized a group of investors under the name of “The Randolph Manufacturing Company,” with the aim of building Deep River’s second cotton factory. [Southern Citizen (Asheboro), 3 March 1838], and ambitiously named the small community to honor Jesse Franklin, then the governor of North Carolina. It continued to be known locally, however, as “Coffin’s Mills on Deep River” until the name “Franklinsville” was officially recorded in the town’s 1847 legislative act of incorporation. [Chapter 200, Private Laws of 1846-47, ratified 18 Jan. 1847]. Coffin sold his property in 1850 after pro-slavery interests took control of the factory (Deed Book 28, Page 479), and purchased 345 acres on Richland Creek (Deed Book 28, Page 480) from Thomas Lucas—probably the mill site now known as “Kemp’s Mill.” He eventually moved back to Guilford County, ending his career as proprietor of the “College Mill” at New Garden.

Much if not all of the building pictured must dated from the time of Coffin’s ownership, as the oversized twelve-over-twelve window sash are appropriate to the 1830s. It is probable that the original windows were closed only by sliding wooden shutters, as in the Walker/Nixon mill and Dennis Cox mill. The dormer window lighting the attic floor is even later, probably added around 1880. The steeply-pitched roof of the building provided space for grain storage, and the north-facing lucam in the gable allowed wagons to be unloaded between the cotton factory and grist mill, and the grain sacks hoisted into the attic. An earlier photograph suggests that the lucam might have been remodeled, and could have been enclosed originally as at the Walker/Nixon mill.

The 2 ½-story frame building shown above is the smallest, and probably the oldest, Randolph County grist mill in any surviving photograph. The photographer is looking northeast, at the western and southern walls of the building. The grist mill shown here was about 30 x 30 feet in plan, and was situated about 75 feet west of the river and 25 feet from the south wall of the cotton factory boiler house and smokestack. At that location the building was sitting approximately 15 feet above the level of the river, and judging from the water level of the race the water wheel under the shed must have been a “pitch-back” style breast wheel. The flowing water would have hit the buckets of the wheel somewhere between 10 and 11 o’clock, causing the wheel to rotate counterclockwise. The shed roof to the right (or southern end) of the building covered the water wheel, and to its right, out of frame, was a sash sawmill. The head race is dry while the crew rebuilds it, but the mill operates even without the water power. The smaller shed roof to the left, at the northwest corner, is attached by piping to the vertical steam boiler visible at left, and exhaust steam spraying out of the pipe just above the jib boom crane indicates that the engine must be running.

1885 Sanborn map (the 1888 map is identical). The boiler and engine house of the cotton mill is just to the north.

According to the 1885 Sanborn Insurance Company map of Randolph County, the mill was heated by an open grate fireplace and lit by candles. It featured three “run” of mill stones on the first floor, with a “smutter” machine and “bolting chest” on the second floor. From this we can reconstruct the entire operation of the mill. A farmer delivered his harvest to the base of the north wall, where the windlass in the lucam hoisted the grain into the attic, called by millers “the sack floor.” From there the grain dropped by gravity to the “bin floor,” where the grain was cleaned and stored in large wooden bins. The smutter and bolter
mentioned by the insurance agent were on bin floor, and were the minimum machinery required to produce high quality flour. A smutter is an enclosed fan which cleans the raw grain by blowing mold, rust, fungus and dirt particles off the kernels. A bolter is an inclined, revolving wooden cage covered with silk; flour conveyed into the bolter was sifted by the silk, with the smallest particles falling through the silk at the high end to make the finest quality flour, the next grade through the silk in the center called the “middlings,” and the coarse bran collected from the bottom as breakfast cereal and animal feed.

To start the grinding operation, a wooden chute was opened to funnel grain from the bin floor to the “stone floor,” where it fell into the “hopper,” held in place by the four-legged “horse” atop the “stone case,” a circular wooden frame enclosing the working pair of millstones. From the hopper grain vibrates into the “shoe,” a tapering wooden trough through which the grain is fed into the stones. The turning upper stone, or “runner,” does the grinding work against the fixed “bed” stone. The ground meal or flour worked its way to the center or “eye” of the bed stone, where it was channeled through a spout into a bin or bag on the “meal floor,” at ground level, or conveyed back to the sack floor for bolting or further storage.

Grist mills with just one or two stones were considered “custom” mills, because they ground to the personal specifications of the farmers who patronized the mill. What the farmer brought in (wheat, rye, barley, oats or corn) was what he got back, in a different form (flour, meal, bran), less a portion retained by the miller as his fee (the toll”– no money changed hands). The bolter was another step in refining the finished product, and allowed the miller to collect an additional toll. A “merchant” mill had three or more “run” or pairs of stones and operated year-round, packaging the flour in 100-lb. bags and 196-lb. barrels for sale to the general public. Although a single pair of stones could be used to grind any kind of grain, one stone was usually reserved for grinding wheat and one for corn, and the stones were furrowed in a way that worked best to grind each type of grain (no one bothered with 5-lb. Bags then!). Many mills used an expensive “buhr” stone imported from France for grinding the best quality white flour, while corn could be ground on American granite or sandstone. In a merchant mill, the third stone was sometimes used to clean grain or de-hull oats, barley, or buckwheat; but by 1885 it is likely that the third stone was being used to regrind the middlings, producing higher quality flour. That procedure was called “new process” milling, and it was developed to compete with the new “roller mill” technology developed in the late 1870s which used grooved porcelain or toothed steel rollers to pull the grains apart rather than grind them. Roller milling was the biggest technological change in the milling process in 2,000 years. The invention of roller mills not only outmoded grist mills, but caused a complete shift in the types of wheat that were produced by American farmers.

In 1912 the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company replaced this antique grist mill with a greatly-expanded modern roller grinding operation. That three-story “Roller Mill” opened in 1913, operated until 1990, and burned in 1992. When their picture above was taken in 1912, the gang of men were building wooden forms for the concrete walls of the new roller mill head race, or “forebay.” At least eight of the fifteen men in the photo appear to be African-Americans; they are not the ones white shirts, vests and ties. At this time the only jobs in or around the factory for black workers were the ones requiring heavy lifting, usually in the mill “yard,” loading and unloading wagons or managing the 500-pound bales of cotton in the opening room. Here the construction crew digging and forming up the new race appear to be entirely or predominately black.

Nixon’s Pond/ Husbands’ Mill

May 7, 2009

The more complicated the history of a tract of land, the more likely it is to be known by a multiplicity of names. This gets especially confusing with the sites of grist mills.

Where Old Liberty Road in Liberty Township crosses the main branch of Sandy Creek in the present-day community of Melancthon (named after the nearby German Lutheran Church) is a mill known to those few who actually remember the building pictured above as “Nixon’s Mill.” Demolished in the late 1940s, the mill was known in the 20th century more for its recreational picnic and swimming grounds. But history associates it with one of Randolph County’s best-known historical characters, the Regulator Herman Husband.

Cornelius Julian, the Franklinville correspondent of The Courier, opens a window for us on Nixon’s Pond in the 1920s when the annual picnic of the Franklinville “Betterment Society” was held there.

A Picnic at Nixon’s Pond [August 17, 1922]

“On Thursday, August 10, the Franklinville Betterment Society held its annual picnic at Nixon’s Pond on Sandy Creek which is an ideal place for a day’s outing. Bathing, rowing, and games were enjoyed by both children and grown people. A tempting dinner was spread on the ground, and all were invited to help themselves. Soon after dinner a watermelon feast was provided, the melons being raised in Randolph County, which raises the best.

“About 250 people enjoyed the picnic which not only afforded a good time, but also made everybody feel better for having spent a day in the great outdoors. The Betterment Society, by inviting the entire community to join in its picnic, increased our interest in the community and made us all feel that community fellowship is very beneficial.”

Community Picnic at Nixon’s Pond [August 30, 1923]

“The annual picnic of the community under the auspices of the Betterment Society, was held at Nixon’s Mill Pond on the state highway, a short distance east of Gray’s Chapel, Friday. The Randolph Mills closed down for the occasion and a large crowd attended. Fifty or more automobiles conveyed the crowd out to the picnic grounds. At 5:30 dinner was spread upon the grounds in real picnic fashion. During the evening quite a number of games and contests were participated in. At 6:00 about three-fourths of a ton of watermelons, which were furnished by John W. Clark, were cut, adding very much to the enjoyment of the evening. Some of us want an annual picnic every week.”

They went at least once more, cited in advance on July 31, 1924: “The Betterment Society will go on their annual picnic to Nixon’s Pond, Sandy Creek, Friday afternoon, August 15th. Everybody is invited to go and take a basket of rations. They expect to leave the Academy at three o’clock PM.”

It wasn’t just the Franklinville worker’s club who used mill grounds; on August 11, 1927, one of North Carolina’s best-known recording stars was to attend and perform: “A reunion of the Poole family will be held at Nixon’s Pond, Sandy Creek, on State highway 62, Thursday August 11.  A picnic dinner will be served.  All relatives and friends of the family are urged to attend.  Charlie Poole, of near Leaksville, promises to have his string band at the reunion.  Mr. Poole’s band has recently been playing for records for the Edison Phonograph Company, and have been in New York City for some time on this mission.”

The father of the present owner purchased the mill in September, 1943 (DB 370, P519) from the Thomas Nixon estate. Thomas Nixon obtained part of it in 1912 from A.T. Nixon (DB282, P40), and the mill itself from Quentin Nixon (see 234/556). The recreational nature of the site was acknowledged in a five-year lease in March 1924 (DB205, P197), when Nixon rented to Charles Melvin “all that body of water known as Nixon’s Mill Pond… together with such portions of Sandy Creek flowing into or out of said Nixon’s Mill Pond… together with the right… to the reasonable use of the banks of the said mill pond and the said Sandy Creek for the purposes of fishing in the said waters…”

Old Liberty Road, looking east at Sandy Creek.

The two-and-a-half-story mill illustrated above stood on the south side of the current one-lane concrete bridge, with the dam on the north side of the bridge impounding a 10-acre lake. The present owner says that during a hurricane in the 1950s (possibly hurricane Hazel), “the county broke the dam so high water didn’t wash away the bridge.”

Grist mills once came in many sizes. Alexander Spencer, born on Fork Creek near what is now Seagrove, wrote that his “Grandfather used to own a little tub mill two miles down Little River from where he lived.” [Seagrove Area, 1976, p.82]. A tub mill was the smallest and most primitive kind of mill, a one-story building no larger than 15 feet square. A horizontal wooden wheel under the mill was directly connected by a vertical wooden shaft to a single pair of grindstones, and stream water was funneled onto the wheel from above, similarly to a modern turbine water wheel. A step above this was a two-story grist mill with both corn and wheat stones, and simple wheat cleaning and flour processing machinery. The 1801 Moretz/ Coffin Mill in Franklinville was an example of such a mill. More elaborate where the 3- or 4-story merchant mills, with multiple grindstones and more elaborate processing machinery; the Dicks Mill, Bell-Walker Mill, and Dennis Cox Mill on Little River (all built circa 1830) were examples. After 1880 boxy, multistory Roller Mills began to replace all previous grist and merchant mills, and were built in urban areas closer to the demand for white biscuit flour.

The mill here was larger than the Moretz-Coffin Mill; it was smaller, and probably older than, the Dicks, Bell/Walker, and Dennis Cox mills. Like the Cox and Walker mills, Nixon’s Mill had vertically-sliding wooden shutters instead of glass windows. Like all of those mills it has a steep gable roof, providing useable attic space, but without any dormer windows. One unusual feature of Nixon’s mill is the “lucam” running the full height of the attic gable, a survival from medieval European mills.  A lucam is a projecting bottomless enclosure at the peak of the gable which shelters the wooden windlass used to hoist grain sacks out of wagons on the ground up to the top floor storage areas. Vestigal lucams all exist in the larger merchant mills, but have become more of a minor roof extension or cover than a fully-formed space.


What now remains at the site is the antebellum miller’s house, a circa-1930-vintage service station, and one of the only (if not THE only) surviving two-seat privies in Randolph County. The privy stood just to the rear of the mill, and is visible in the documentary photo at the head of this page. The service station and attached pool hall have been remodeled into the 1950s-era home that currently fronts the road.

Miller’s House, 2009.

The miller’s house stands between and behind the other structures, about 75 feet south of the road. One local story says that the miller during the Civil War hid grain from local deserters and outliers, and from the Confederate soldiers who camped in the area at the end of the war, by filling all the framing spaces between the exterior weatherboards and interior wainscoating with grain. Coincidentally, this also would have insulated his house better than the average dwelling at the time!

Mill circa-1948.

Herman Husband (1724-1795) moved to the area from Maryland in 1751 (and settled on the east side of the Ramseur-Julian Road “where W.P. Fox, Esq., now lives” said J.A. Blair in 1890). This mill site would have been about a mile south of the site of Husbands’ dwelling. Although local tradition says that this is the site of “Husband’s Mill,” Herman Husband owned a number of mill sites, and more than one just in this area of Sandy Creek. A surveyor by training, Husband purchased thousands of acres of land in the Piedmont (more than 10,000 acres, say some sources). There are 18 separate grants from Earl Granville to Husband: 1 on Horsepen Creek and 1 on Alamance Creek, tributaries of Haw River; 8 of them on Sandy Creek; 2 on Sandy Creek and Rocky River; 2 on Love’s Creek (a tributary of Rocky River); 4 on Deep River (one at “the Cedar Falls” and 3 near Buffalo Ford, not far). from his miller brother-in-law Harman Cox. One tract on Sandy Creek “called the Mill Falls” was entered by Husband in July 1760, and sold in 1768 to Jacob Hinshaw, “weaver.” In August 1768, Husband mortgaged 8 tracts containing 3,688 acres to Jacob Gregg, “millwright” (Orange County Deed Book 3, Page 522). Gregg’s loan to Husbands of “1500 pounds Virginia money” for 20 years was very unusual by colonial standards- unusual that Gregg would have so much cash, and unusual that Husbands would borrow and use his property (Husband’s “Cabbin” tract and adjoining property) as security. This may have been part of a plan to protect Husband’s property and investments during the Regulation period, where Husband was more than once arrested and imprisoned.

Mill house in the 1950s.

In the aftermath of the Battle of the Alamance, Governor Tryon and the militia forces camped on Husband’s “plantation” for more than two weeks, and must have used Husband’s Mill to supply the needs of the troops for fresh flour and meal. It appears that all of Husband’s property was either confiscated or destroyed by Governor Tryon, and it isn’t clear whether Gregg’s mortgage was respected. Husband himself had left the state before the battle, and made his way to western Pennsylvania, where he was later involved in the Whiskey Rebellion (their version of the anti-tax Regulation revolt).

Within just a few years after his arrival Husband planned and built a grist mill, which was at that time considered a public utility and was regulated by the County Court.  He was given “leave to build a public Grist Mill on his own land on waters of Deep River” in September, 1759, by the Justices of the Orange County (Abstracts from ORANGE CO NC COURT MINUTES 1752-1761, by Weynette Parks Haun).   This section of modern Randolph was then part of Orange County, and Sandy Creek is a tributary of Deep River, so this could date this mill site to circa-1760.

If Tryon burned the colonial mill in 1771 it’s unclear when it was rebuilt. The mill pictured would have been built, in my estimate, circa-1820. It might have been earlier, but without seeing anything more than these two photos, that’s my best guess. Herman Husband’s son William (b. 1763) was evidently a miller; when he moved to Christian County, Kentucky in 1801 he purchased “a water grist mill on the Barren Fork of Little River” (Deed Book A, Page 133 of Christian County, KY, dated 9-21-1801). William Husband had inherited some of his father’s property, including “60 acres on South side of Deep River, known by the name of Cedar Falls” (sold to Joseph Hodgin for $15 on Sept. 20, 1797 in DB7-280); and 243.75 acres on Sandy Creek sold to John Brower, Jr., for 927 pounds, 10 shillings on October 13, 1800 (Deed Book 6, Page 252). The large sale price indicates substantial improvements, so may have included this mill, or could be the site presently known as “Kidd’s Mill,” which was once also known as Brower’s Mill.

A lot of work remains to be done to untangle Herman Husband’s history in Randolph County. In 1975 I received a $250 grant (large for those times) from the Sophia and William Casey Foundation of New York, to assemble materials about Herman Husband and to determine whether I could write my undergraduate thesis at Harvard on him. I used the money to travel to Somerset, PA, where Husband lived the last quarter century of his life, and to copy his material in the NC State Archives and the Secretary of State Land Grant Office. I ultimately decided that it was too big a project for a 100-page thesis; I’d like to take this first opportunity in print to thank the Casey Foundation, belatedly, for their support!

P.S.— I forgot to mention that the photographs came to me in a circuitous way.  They were taken by local historian Calvin Hinshaw, who took them in the late 1940s/ early 1950s.  Calvin gave them to local historian Warren Dixon, who gave copies to nearby business owner Ed Christenbury, of ChrisCo Machinery, who emailed them to me.Warren notes that Calvin told him “ ‘First building was built for Herman Husband and was burned in 1771. 2nd mill was known as Walker’s Mill during the Revolution.’ (Everyone takes for granted that Tryon burned the mill, although Tryon says nothing about it.  It stands to reason that he would, although historically mills were left alone because of their value to the community.) ‘In 1830 the Browers bought Sam Walker’s Mill.   A slave sent down to the mill one night used a burning pine knot for light and caught the mill on fire.  The 3rd mill, Nixon’s Mill, was built about 1850, and was known as York’s Mill during the Civil War. ‘”  Note that Calvin’s dates based on local tradition are 20-30 years more recent than my dates based on the photos.

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. [ ] 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.

Civilian Conservation Corps Camp

April 27, 2009

On the north side of NC 22 halfway between Ramseur and Franklinville are these two quartz columns that mark the one-time entrance to Randolph County’s only Civilian Conservation Corps camp.

The western column has a carved stone inserted in the quartz which appears to be something more like soapstone; the carved writing has deteriorated and been partially vandalized, but seems to read “Civ Co C/ 340 C/ NC.SCS 20G/Ramseur.N.C.”

If those hieroglyphs were all we had to go on, we might still be wondering if this was any more than a standard entrance to the modern subdivision that now stands down “Camp” Road.  There are no other structures still standing to tell a story.  Luckily, a couple of notes in the Franklinville section of The Courier (published in Asheboro), explain further.

Randolph County gets a C.C.C. Camp.  This camp will be located on 90 highway, on a 10 acre tract of land opposite Central Service Station, midway between Ramseur and Franklinville.  The camp will consist of 11 buildings, including an office, commissary, and barracks, and will accommodate 226 men.  The houses will be built by local carpenters and are expected to be ready for camp by July 15 at which time they want to begin work if the farm erosion extension is officially confirmed.  We are glad to have this camp in our community, which is centrally located in the new erosion extension.” (June 6, 1935)

The camp was apparently built on a 5-acre tract which the federal government must have leased from J.H. Burgess, who had inherited it after the dead of his father John H. Burgess in 1905. In 1962 Burgess sold the 4.89 acres to W.M. Cox, proprietor of Ramseur Building Supply, who subdivided it into twelve lots known as “Forest Hills” subdivision (Plat Book 10, Page 120). Camp Street runs along the western boundary of the property, and Forestview Street marks the eastern boundary.

A note from the May 12, 1936 Courier tells us that the camp had been built and was in operation doing soil conservation work :

M.F. Cheek has done much work on his farm two and a third miles south of Franklinville. This farm was formerly known as the George York place and joins the late A.J. Curtis home place. Since Mr. Cheek bought this property about eight months ago, more than 20 acres have been cleared. By private work and the aid of the CCC camp, the farm has been mapped, terraces run, pastures built, and land selected for the most suitable crops. The farm is on the headwaters of Curtis Creek and several acres will be run in pasture. Mr. Cheek expects to build a dwelling house and a large feed barn this summer.

M.F. Cheek bought the first of three tracts in this property from the heirs of George York in September, 1935 (DB 268, P425). When he sold out in June, 1943, there were three tracts totaling 124 acres (DB372/459). The 1978 deed in the chain describes the property as being “in Franklinville Township…approximately two miles west of the town of Ramseur, on the road known as Holly Springs Road…”

I’m sure that somewhere (probably in the National Archives) there is a lot more information about this camp, and maybe someone else will track down its entire history one day.

Trinity College Bell

April 26, 2009

The Bell on display under the Trinity College gazebo on the site of the original Trinity College and High School was made by the Henry McShane & Co. Bell Foundry of Baltimore, MD, in 1879.

The Bell and the Gothic style papyrus-leaf columns that the gazebo stands upon are the only surviving Trinity College artifacts in Trinity. Both appear to date to the post-Civil War renovation and expansion of the original 1855 brick Trinity College building.

The photo above, from the Duke University Archives, shows the building from the south in 1861, with President Braxton Craven and the all-male student body posing in their new role as commander and cadet corps of the “Trinity Guard.” The three-story brick building appears similar to any of the five cotton mills built on Deep River from 1838-1850, and in fact the college building was the focal point of Trinity in exactly the same manner as the factory was the raison-d’etre of any mill village. One major difference is that the windows of the college are much larger than the windows in any factory.

Organizing the home guard unit was Craven’s last-ditch effort to keep his student body from enlisting in the army en mass; during the war, however, he and the students were put on active duty guarding the Confederate prisoner of war camp at the former Salisbury Cotton Mill.

The 1855 college building was expanded between 1872-1874 with a large wing that fronted the road which is now NC62. The new wing set at a cross-angle to the 1855, so that the whole made a T-plan. The new wing contained classrooms and a chapel; the balcony of the chapel was supported by the papyrus columns which were re-used in the 1924 Trinity High School building.

The 1874 college building’s pointed windows and door openings gave it a vague Gothic Revival style which was popular for educational buildings and would be carried to its pinnacle in North Carolina in the 1924 West Campus at Duke University in Durham.

My favorite picture of Trinity College is the only one that shows the campus and grounds, a drawing on the cover of an 1883 commencement program. Whether this garden actually existed is unclear (the photo above only shows a field or wild flower meadow), the 1883 drawing shows a lively Victorian knot garden, with extensive flower beds and gravel walks.

When Trinity College was moved to Durham in 1892, the old college buildings were turned into a private college preparatory school, which became a public school in the early 20th century. In 1924 a special school tax district was established in Trinity and a new elementary school and high school building was built on the site of the college. That was in turn torn down in 1981, and the historic site is now a parking lot. The gazebo is squeezed between NC 62 and the fence around the lot.


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