Posts Tagged ‘Crawford’s Path’

Tryon’s Ferry II

February 13, 2009


William Tryon (1729-1788) was Royal Governor of North Carolina from 1765 to 1771, and served as the last Royal Governor of New York.  A professional soldier, he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina in 1764, and upon Arthur Dobbs’s death the next year he became Governor.  In 1757 he married Margaret Wake, a London heiress.  He rigidly obeyed the instructions of his superiors and rigorously enforced the dictates of the British government.  He made New Bern the provincial capital, and built there one of the finest governmental seats in the colonies– later called derisively, Tryon’s Palace.

Tryon inherited a province where settlers in the west were becoming progressively dissatisfied with the local officials appointed by the royal government.  Politicians from the numerous yet sparsely-settled eastern counties dominated the few large western counties where the population was booming. Local sheriffs supported by judges appointed by the provincial government had complete control over the “backcountry” regions. Many of the administrative officers appeared motivated solely by their own personal profit, and the entire system was believed to be corrupt. The effort to eliminate this system of government became known as the War of The Regulation, and opposition to the Royal Governor’s administration became known as the Regulators.

Present-day Randolph County was then roughly the western half of Orange County (now eastern Randolph) and eastern Rowan County (now west of Asheboro).  The Sandy Creek community was the home of the most active Regulators, including James Hunter, Benjamin Merrill, Peter Craven, Rednap Howell and Herman Husband.   The Holly Spring community was home to others such as Herman Cox and William Moffitt.  The creation of Guilford County in 1771 (including the area set off as Randolph in 1779 and Rockingham in 1785) was a political strategy to separate “the main Body of the Insurgents” from the rest of Orange and Rowan counties.

In June, 1768 a committee of Regulators met at Thomas Cox’s Mill (on Millstone Creek, downstream about 200 feet from the present Raymond Cox Mill near Buffalo Ford) to demand redress from the government.. At their request James Hunter and Rednap Howell journeyed to Wilmington, met with Governor Tryon, and presented the grievances of the backcountry. Tryon and the Royal Council summarily rejected the various petitions of the Regulators, and demanded that the inhabitants obey the law and pay their taxes. That summer Tryon took a personal tour of the backcountry, listening to the grievances of unhappy settlers but more importantly testing the loyalty of the county militias. (He scheduled musters of the local troops in Orange, Rowan and Mecklenburg counties, where he summoned the men to take the Royal Standard in place of their county flags.) Tryon left Hillsborough on August 17th and arrived in Salisbury late on the 18th—an extremely fast trip on horseback. His return trip was more impressive: the Governor, at the head of the Mecklenburg and Rowan militias, marched as one brigade through the heart of Regulator country on his way to Hillsborough. Tryon spent the night of Friday September 16th at “Deep River Camp,” with no note of how he crossed the river. His show of force overawed the disgruntled backcountry settlers, and put off the shooting war for three more years.


The long-delayed battle finally happened on May 16, 1771, and took 2 hours.  The disorganized Regulators lost to the professional soldier, and Tryon took as many of the ring-leaders prisoner as he could catch. After the battle Tryon and his army moved west, taking a southern route toward the Wachovia Settlement.

They apparently followed the trading path southwest to arrive on May 21st at the plantation of James Hunter on the upper reaches of Sandy Creek, where they burned his house and barns. (Hunter was the husband of Mary Walker, daughter of Samuel Walker, owner of Walker’s Mill)

That same afternoon they arrived at the property of Hermon Husband, who lived on Sandy Creek west of what is now Liberty. Governor Tryon stayed at Husband’s for a week, before leaving and burning everything.

While at the Husband plantation Tryon issued numerous orders, such as one proclaiming that Husband, James Hunter, William Butler and Rednap Howell were to be considered ‘Outlaws,’ meaning they could be shot on sight (Regulator Papers, p. 473).  Part of the delay was due to bad weather, but a larger part were the large numbers of residents crowding into the Governor’s camp to take advantage of his offer of pardon.

On May 26, Tryon wrote to General Hugh Waddell, then camped near the Yadkin, saying “As most of the Inhabitants on the North side of Deep River and many on the South side, in the whole amounting to above thirteen hundred have come into Camp and Submitted themselves to Government… I am to require you to join me as soon as possible with the Forces under your Command at the upper Ford of Deep River, where the Trading Path crosses.” (Regulator Papers, p. 468).

At the same time he sent the Orange Corps down the Peedee/ Crawford Rd. to Harmon Cox’s, where they requisitioned supplies from the Deep River/ Richland Creek Quaker settlements (Regulator Papers, p. 467).  That Corps then marched northwest up the Cape Fear Road (the road which went from Cross Creek toward Salem- the later Plank Road) while Tryon sent an advance party southwest down the Trading Path.

Sunday May 26th found the advance party (“the Rangers”) stopped 2 miles from Deep River by flooded Pole Cat Creek; they made a miserable camp the next two days through heavy rain with nothing to shelter them but tree limbs and bark.

On Wednesday May 29th the army crossed Pole Cat by felling a large log and walking Indian file, taking 5 hours. They camped that night on the northwest bank of Deep River, which was also flooded.  Evidently their bivoack was at the “upper” or Trading Path ford referred to in Tryon’s order (I am assuming the “lower” ford would be Island Ford where the Crawford/ Pee Dee Road crossed).

On the morning of the 30th the army crossed Deep River and moved to camp at “Kaiway” (Caraway). The order book is silent as to how they crossed the Deep, noting only that “The Waggoners to Harness their Horses at break of Day and cross the River immediately after.”

The next day they crossed the Uwharrie “at the ford” and marched to Flat Swamp (now Davidson County) where Tryon’s forces met up with General Waddell’s troops before moving north to Salem.

A busy May in Randolph, 1771—but no definitive evidence on the origin of the name “Tryon’s Ferry.”

My inference, however, is that some kind of ferriage was required to cross Deep River that day in its flood stage, if not for the majority of the army, at least for its wagons of supplies and its artillery. And perhaps, for the Governor of the Province of North Carolina and the Commander in Chief of the King’s Royal Army in Those Parts.

On June 30, 1771, barely a month after he crossed Deep River one way or another, Governor William Tryon departed North Carolina for his new job as Governor of New York.

[NOTE ON SOURCES:  the 1971 NC Department of Archives and History publication “The Regulators in North Carolina: A Documentary History, 1759-1776” (compiled and edited by William S. Powell, James K. Hunta and Thomas J. Farnham) is the source for all of the quotes, dates and transcripts of Tryon and the Regulators given here.  Sadly, no portrait of Gov. Tryon is known; one that was traditionally thought to be him has been shown to be an officer of another regiment.]

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Island Ford Steel Bridge

January 9, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Randolph Manufacturing Company, circa 1900

January 8, 2009

Since I was speaking about my collection of original unpublished antique photographs of Randolph County, here’s a great one.

This is the back side of the Randolph Manufacturing Company, built in 1895 on the site of the wooden 1846 Island Ford Manufacturing Company. The photo is obviously taken on a cold winter day, probably circa-1900, but nothing much would change from the viewpoint of this picture before 1925. From the position of the shadows, falling down the size of the mill at about an 85-degree angle, the time of day must be around 11 AM.

The camera is looking at the south side of the building, from a position at or near the front yard of the Joe Dan Hackney house. (I have a great picture of that I’ll show one day.)

The Island Ford mill was positioned just under the smokestack. The two-story, 7-window-bay section under the smokestack seems to include original brick basement and the three-bay section is the wheel house of the Island Ford Factory. The 10 windows of that section are a different size than the tall 1895 windows of the expanded mill, and the C-shaped plan of the 1895 structure is added on just to the west end of the Island Ford foundation.

The archway just under the plume of steam is where the tail race water exits from the turbine wheel; originally one or more wooden or iron water wheels would have been located in the wheel house there.

The free-standing brick structure immediately to the right of that section is a cotton warehouse. Directly on the other side of it runs the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway, and above that is the river road (now East Main Street) winding towards Ramseur. The wooden structure up the hill just above it (about 2:00) is the Lower Company Store, which was later transformed into a community house and movie theater by Randolph Mills.

Across the street from the factory and arrayed on the opposite hilltop are about a dozen mill houses, part of the island Ford mill village which was also situated up and down Mulberry Street (now Academy Street) just out of the picture to the left. The hilltop crowned by the Dave Weatherly House is likewise just out of the frame to the left. Only one of the mill houses on the side still stands, and likewise one on the right side. Both are in poor condition. Just above the company store, and across the street, was the mill owner’s home. At the time of the picture, it was the home of Hugh Parks, who had come to Franklinsville from the Parks Cross Roads area in the 1850s to work as a clerk in the Island Ford Company Store. During the Civil War he became the superintendent of the factory, and after the war he gradually acquired a controlling interest in both factories, and ran them until his death in 1910. Until the 1890s Parks’s house had been the home of Alexander S. Horney, one of the town’s original settlers. A.S. Horney and his father, Dr. Phillip Horney, were partners in the original 1836 Cedar Falls factory with Henry Branson Elliott and his father Benjamin Elliott. Dr. Phillip Horney lived at that time in what we now call the Julian House on West Main Street, the oldest (1819) surviving home in Franklinville.

The identity of the man playing a banjo in the mule-drawn wagon in the foreground is unknown, but his rig is headed toward the Island Ford steel bridge over Deep River, just behind the small house in the left foreground.

To confuse matters, “Randolph Manufacturing Company” was the original 1838 name of the Upper Mill company that took the name “Franklinsville Manufacturing Company” when it was rebuilt after the 1851 fire. To muddy the waters even further, the name of the very first local cotton mill corporation chartered by the state legislature in 1828 was “The Manufacturing Company of the County of Randolph.” The name “Randolph Manufacturing Company” replaced the original name “Island Ford Manufacturing Company” when the new brick building was built in 1895, and continued to be the official name of what locals called simply “the Lower Mill” until the two separate companies were merged into Randolph Mills, Inc., in 1923.