Posts Tagged ‘Polecat Creek’

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.]

Howgill Julian’s Fulling Mill

January 27, 2009

A fulling mill illustrated in Theatrum Machinarum Novum, 1661

An advertisement in the Southern Citizen, published in Asheboro on December 9, 1837, announced that the Fulling Mill belonging to Howgill Julian was for sale.

The ad states that the mill was located “near the mouth of Polecat Creek, four miles above the Cedar Falls cotton factory.”

Between the time of Howgill Julian’s first purchase in 1830 (DB18:284) and his last purchase in 1861 (DB23:243), hundreds of acres of Deep River property passed through Julian’s ownership. Most of it appears to be located on the north side of the river between Polecat and Bush Creeks, and interestingly, adjoins the location of the Whetstone Quarry (I’m indebted to my fellow historian Warren Dixon for pointing out that the Whetstone Quarry is apparently located today somewhere on Randolph County tax parcel #7764893536, presently the site of the City of Randleman’s wastewater treatment plant).

Howgill Julian’s Fulling Mill was evidently located on a tract of 107 acres that Julian purchased from Tobias Julian on October 13, 1830. The tract description begins “on a Maple at the mouth of the Creek… then runs North and East to a branch, then “down the said branch to the mouth at the river… thence crossing sd. River… thence up sd. River on the W. bank… thence E. crossing sd. River to the Beginning.” So the fulling mill could have been located alternatively on Polecat Creek, Deep River or “the branch,” presumably Trogdon’s Branch which enters Deep River from the North opposite Worthville near the present-day bridge carrying NCSR 2122 across the river. At any rate, it was downstream of the Whetstone Quarry.

It may be that the sites of both the Whetstone Quarry and the Fulling Mill now lie under the waters of the Worthville mill pond, which impounds water just below the mouth of Polecat Creek.

The Worthville mill dam still stands just northwest of the site of the former bridge which carried NCSR 2128 across the river, just to the East of the Worthville cotton mill, originally known as the John M.Worth Manufacturing Company, and built in 1880. The mill at Worthville was built at a site know before the Civil War as “Hopper’s Ford” (See the entries at p. 128 of my survey book, entries R:48 and R:49).

By the way, a Fulling Mill was necessary to clean and thicken the weave of woolen cloth. Woolen cloth is a relative rarity in Randolph County today, but the presence of a woolen mill indicates that in the 19th century there were not only handweavers producing enough cloth that a mill could be profitable, but that farmers kept sufficient sheep to produce the wool needed to weave the cloth.  At a fulling mill, woolen cloth was washed in a nasty-smelling combination of boiling urine and fuller’s earth, to remove the natural grease from the wool; then the cloth was beaten in troughs by wooden hammers lifted and dropped by a water wheel.

This is the only Randolph County fulling mill of which I’m aware… do you know of others?

The Whetstone Quarry

January 21, 2009

A Greek Whetstone quarry,


In The Woodwright’s Companion (UNC Press, 1981), Roy Underhill quotes a hundred-year-old report by an obscure geologist L. S. Griswold, “Whet Stones and the Novaculites of Arkansas,” Annual Report of the Geological Survey of Arkansas for 1890 III (1892), which describes North Carolina whetstones as the standard to evaluate those in Arkansas.

“On the Salisbury Road in Randolph County, near Deep River, is a bed of similar kind [to McPherson’s Quarry in Chatham County], highly valued by the inhabitants” (The Woodwright’s Companion, p. 63).

On “the 29th day of the 8th month in the year of Our Lord 1796,” Levy Pennington of Randolph County sold to George Mendenhall of Guilford County, “for the Sum of Twenty Pounds Hard Money,” 20 acres of land on Deep River “Including the Whetstone Quarry” (Deed Book 8, Page 402).

George Mendenhall was the founder of the Guilford County village of Jamestown in 1800, and owned a number of mill sites and properties in the Piedmont, including at one time the future site of Franklinville. Mendenhall’s heirs sold a partial interest in the tract to a Robert Parrish of Philadelphia, PA, in 1811 (DB 12, Page 301), and another partial interest to Stephen Gardner in 1813 (DB13, Page 271).

The 20-acre whetstone quarry tract was cut off from Levi Pennington’s original tract, sold by his heirs in January, 1805, to William Watkins (DB11, Page 127). The larger parcel was described as 135 acres “in the fork between Pole Cat and Deep River… except a whetstone quarry which has been before supposed to be 20 acres…”

By drawing out the metes and bounds descriptions from these deeds, it appears that the whet stone quarry was (and should still be) located on the north bank of Deep River approximately 3600 feet upstream from its junction with the mouth of Polecat Creek.

If anyone has ever been there, please let me know!