Friday, January 30, 2009

The Hills of Orange County

Here's a little gazeteer of the named hills and "mountains" of modern Orange County, NC. They are listed alphabetically by name with approximate latitude and longitude, as well as a brief note on the source from which I got the name and location. Some of these names may not be that old.

If you know anything more about any of these (or if you know of ones that I missed) then please comment below.

Ball Mtn – On Duke Forest property just east of Union Grove Church Road; approx. N 35° 58’30”, W 79° 07’; 1918 Soil Map.
Big Hill – Just south of Ball Mtn, northwest of Calvander and east of Union Grove Church Road; approx. N 35° 57’, W 79° 07’; USGS.
Blackwood Mtn – Off Millhouse Road, near Orange County Landfill; approx. N 35° 55’, W 79° 05’; USGS.
Mount Bolus – On Mt Bolus Road behind Chapel Hill Police Station; name taken from Diabolus - a naughty nickname for UNC Pres. Jos. Caldwell; approx. N 35° 56’, W 79° 03’; USGS.
Chapel Hill – The hill that UNC sits atop, originally New Hope Chapel Hill; approx. N 35° 55’, W 79° 04’; USGS.
Clover Hill – Across NC86 from Mt. Bolus; approx. N 35° 56’, W 79° 03’; 1918 Topo & Battle's History.
Mt. Collier – Apparently a mistaken interpretation of McCauley Mtn; approx. N 35° 53’ 30”, W 79° 06’; 1918 Soil Map.
Collins Mtn – Close to Terrells Mtn, SSW of Carrboro; mostly in Chatham County; approx. N 35° 51’ 30”, W 79° 13’; USGS.
Couch Mtn – Off Couch Mountain Road, northeast of Carolina Friends School; approx. N 36° 01’, W 79° 00’ 30”; USGS.
Cox Mtn – Near Pleasant Green Road in Eno River State Park; approx. N 36° 05’, W 79° 01’; ERSP Website.
Crawford Mtn – On the east side of Cane Creek Reservoir; approx. N 35° 58’, W 79° 13’; USGS.
Crawford Mtn – A name sometimes (mistakenly?) applied to Mitchell Mtn; approx. N 35° 57’ 30”, W 79° 14’; 1891 Tate.
Currie Hill – Just south of Scarlett Hill, east of Old NC 86; approx. N 36° 01’, W 79° 06’; USGS.
Grampian Hills – A small range of hills leading W into McCauley Mtn; ranging approx. N 35° 56’, W 79° 03’ to N 35° 53’ 30”, W 79° 06’; 1918 Soil Map.
Gravelly Hill – Between Cheeks Crossroads and Efland; approx. N 36° 04’, W 79° 11’ 30” ; 1891 Tate.
High Hill – Off Mt. Carmel Church Rd, almost on Chatham County Line; approx. N 35° 52’, W 79° 02’; USGS.
Iron Mine Hill – W of Estes Drive Ext and Seawell School Road in Chapel Hill; present site of Ironwoods subdivision; site of former Iron Mine marked with plaque; approx. N 35° 56’, W 79° 04’; USGS.
Iron Mountain – Battle's History gives this name for Iron Mine Hill.
Iron Ore Hill – Southeast of Mt. Willing; presumably Thunder/Thompson Mtn; approx. N 35° 58’, W 79° 13’; 1891 Tate.
Laurel Hill – East of Morgan Creek, southwest of Calvander; approx. N 35° 55’, W 79° 01’; USGS.
McCauley Mtn – Just west of University Lake; approx. N 35° 53’ 30”, W 79° 06’; USGS.
Mitchell Mtn – Northwest of Cane Creek Reservoir; called Crawford Mtn. on Tate map; sometimes called Ward’s Mtn; approx. N 35° 57’ 30”, W 79° 14’; USGS.
New Hope Chapel Hill – Old name of Chapel Hill; approx. N 35° 55’, W 79° 04’; New Hope Chapel was on site of present Carolina Inn.
Nunn Mtn – Site of the water tower in northern Chapel Hill, just east of NC 86; approx. N 35° 57’ 30”, W 79° 03’; USGS.
Occoneechee Mtn – Just south of Hillsborough; approx. N 36° 03’ 30”, W 79° 07’; USGS.
Pickards Mtn – NW of Carrboro; approx. N 35° 58’, W 79° 09’; USGS.
Piney Mtn – North of New Hope Creek, near intersection of Mt. Moriah Road and Friends School Road; approx. N 35° 59’, W 79° 01’; USGS.
Piney Prospect – A point of land next to Gimghoul Castle in Chapel Hill; not really a hill unto itself; aka Point Prospect; approx. N 35° 55’, W 79° 02’; 1918 Topo.
Point Prospect – A point of land next to Gimghoul Castle also called Piney Prospect; approx. N 35° 55’, W 79° 02’; 1918 Topo.
Poplar Ridge – Off US 70A, just north of the Triangle Sportsplex; approx. N 36° 05’ 30”, W 79° 05’; USGS.
Scarlett Hill – East of Old NC 86, just south of I-40; approx. N 36° 01’ 30”, W 79° 05’ 30”; USGS.
Stony Hill – South of Lake Hogan Farms in Carrboro, just north of Homestead Road; approx. N 35° 56’ 30”, W 79° 06’ 30”; USGS.
Terrells Mtn – WSW of Carrboro; about half in Chatham County; approx. N 35° 52’, W 79° 10’; USGS.
Thompson Mtn – North of Cane Creek Reservoir; now commonly called Thunder Mountain; also once called Iron Ore Hill; approx. N 35° 58’, W 79° 13’; USGS.
Thunder Mtn – Southeast of Mt. Willing and north of Cane Creek Reservoir; aka Thompson Mtn or Iron Ore Hill; approx. N 35° 58’, W 79° 13’
Wards Mtn – Northwest of Cane Creek Reservoir; another name for Mitchell Mtn; approx. N 35° 57’ 30”, W 79° 14’; 1918 Soil Map.
Mt. Willing – N of Oaks, off Mebane-Oaks Road; approx. N 36° 00’, W 79° 15’ 30” ; 1918 Soil Map.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Orange County Church Histories

An Undoubtedly Incomplete Checklist of Orange County Church Histories

Compiled for a meeting of the Chapel Hill Historical Society 1/25/2008

Most of these booklets and pamphlets are available at the Carolina Collection at UNC. I have no doubt at all that there are many others that I did not cover – especially regarding the churches outside of Chapel Hill. Many times church histories are published as part of the program of an anniversary church service and are little more than a glorified version of the usual Sunday program. Consequently these publications do not always find their way into the Carolina Collection and readers are therefore encouraged to keep an eye out for this type of material and asked to consider donating anything of this kind to UNC if it is not already in the Carolina Collection. You will be helping to preserve the history of our community. I don’t mean for this list to be exclusively cover Protest Christian churches; those are the only ones I found.

MacCalman, Duncan, The Families Which Built White Cross, N.C. and Antioch Baptist Church: 200th anniversary, 2003.

Strowd, Annie, Bethel Baptist Church History, 1993.

Humber, John L., The Ordeal and Tragedy of Binkley Baptist Church, Chapel Hill, 1992.

Smith, Courtland Victor, Olin T. Binkley Memorial Baptist Church: A twenty year view, 1958-1978, 1979.

Howell, Almonte Charles, A History of the Chapel Hill Baptist Church 1854-1924
Chapel Hill, N.C., 1945.

Habel, Samuel Tilden, Centennial Monograph: Celebrating the first 100 years of the Baptist Church at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, Orange Printshop, 1954.

Ephesus Baptist Church: 1891-1966, 75th anniversary, Chapel Hill, 1966.

Maddry, Charles E., History of the First Baptist Church of Hillsboro, North Carolina, Raleigh, Edwards & Broughton, 1953.

Sparrow, Mrs. L. W., A History of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, Chapel Hill 1803-1953, Chapel Hill, 1953.

A celebration of 250 years of Anglican and Episcopal witness in Orange County: September 19 to 21, 2003.

Video: Chapel of the Cross: A witness to the presence of God, Chapel Hill.

Rees, Philip A., The Chapel of the Cross: An architectural history, UNC Thesis, 1979.

Henderson, Archibald, The Church of the Atonement and the Chapel of the Cross at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Hartford, Church Missions Pub, 1938.

Stoudemire, Mary Arthur, Chapel Hill's Oldest Church: The story of its buildings, Chapel Hill, 1981.

Browning, Hugh Conway, Information related to St. Mary's Chapel, 1996.

A History of Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1955-1991, Chapel Hill, 1991.

Green, Fletcher, The Chapel Hill Methodist Church: A centennial history, 1853-1953, Chapel Hill, 1954.

Lloyd, Pauline & Allen, Hillsborough Methodist Church, 1807-1961, Hillsborough, 1961.

Facing Tomorrow, Understanding Yesterday: A history of Orange United Methodist Church since 1832, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Dallas, Taylor Pub, 1992.

A Brief History: Orange United Methodist Church, 1832-1989, Chapel Hill, 1989.

The Fiftieth anniversary celebration of the present church building of the University United Methodist Church, May 1926-May 1976, Chapel Hill, 1976.

Watson, Christina Ross, Intellectualism, Action, and Fellowship: The history of the Wesley Foundation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNC Thesis, 2000.

The First Hundred Years: The Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church, 1849-1949, Chapel Hill, 1950.

Ellis, Mrs. A. A. and Annie H. Hughes, History of the Eno Presbyterian Church, Cedar Grove, NC . . . brought up to date by Annie H. Hughes, 1955.

Murphy, Barbara A., Journey to New Hope: The history of New Hope Presbyterian Church, 1756-2006, Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill Press, 2006.

Craig, David Irwin, A historical sketch of New Hope Church, in Orange County, N.C., Reidsville, 1886 and 1891.

McLendon, William W., University Presbyterian Church, Chapel Hill, North Carolina: A brief history, Chapel Hill, 1999.

Johnson, George Arthur, Churches in Orange County, North Carolina, south of Interstate 85 from 1756 to 2000, Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill Historical Society, 2000.

Lloyd, Pauline and Allen, History of the Churches of Hillsborough, N. C., 1766-1962, Hillsborough, 1962.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Jones Saw Mill on Bolin Creek

I have looked at the 1792 Daniel map of the UNC area a number of times before. And of course, I noted the Jones Saw Mill shown on Bolin Creek:

Jones Saw Mill 1

I had always assumed that the Jones Saw Mill was the same mill site that was located about where Martin Luther King Blvd crosses Bolin Creek (that is, the A J Brockwell Mill as shown on the 1891 Tate Map of Orange County).

But just this morning I was experimenting with superimposing some of the later maps of UNC onto the 1792 Daniel map to see what that might reveal. I was surprised to realize that the road next to the Jones Saw Mill is not MLK Blvd, but rather Franklin Street. It should have been obvious because the map identifies that road as going to Oxford, which would make it essentially US-15. Franklin Street is US-15-501 business and in that sense it goes to Oxford (among other places. Also MLK Blvd goes to Hillsborough, not Oxford.

Here's what the two maps look like when pieced together (shown at a slightly different scale than the map above):

Jones Saw Mill 1852-1792

So apparently there was an additional mill site on Bolin Creek: The Jones Saw Mill. That site was at the Franklin Street bridge over Bolin Creek, about where the Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen is today.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The New Hope Chapel and Chapel Spring Branch

I have been looking at some old maps of UNC – I got started on them while looking for some sign of the Meating-of-the-Waters Mill, about which I posted not long ago. While these maps don't really reveal anything about that milldam, they did tell me a little more about "Chapel Spring Branch."

Here’s a detail from the 1795 “Plan of the Situation of the University” map:

Chapel Spring Branch 1795

The legend of the map says:

“A. the old chapel spring
B. & C. springs which ye Commissioners
intend to improve for ye University
Lot 2= contains ye President’s house
The Avenue is to pass over Point Prospect.”

Okay, so let’s do a little interpreting of this map. It shows Columbia Street, coming south to Cameron Ave, but it does not show Columbia continuing past Cameron. Instead lots 1 and 2 meet with no road between them. Cameron is only about two blocks long and a proposed extension is shown which is akin to what is now Cameron Avenue/Country Club Road/Gimghoul Lane, as it was to pass over “Point Prospect,” which I believe is the name of the Rock outcropping just east of Gimghoul Castle, (incidentally that spot gives an excellent view of Durham’s Triassic Basin to the east - hence the name Point Prospect). The three buildings in the center of campus are, of course, South Building and Old East and Old West.

Chapel Spring Branch

So this clarifies the origin of “Chapel Spring Branch.” It was, of course, called that after the spring that served the Chapel. That would be New Hope Chapel, which gave its name to Chapel Hill. It is interesting that the map refers to the spring as “the old chapel spring.” I wonder if the mapmaker was implying that either the spring or the chapel had already been abandoned by 1795?

The New Hope Chapel

I have often heard it said that the New Hope Chapel for which Chapel Hill was named was located about where the Carolina Inn is today, and now I see what the evidence for that is. The “old chapel spring” is clearly shown arising on Lot 1 on this map. Naturally the New Hope Chapel would have been somewhere nearby. I can therefore see why the assumption would arise that the Chapel was on the adjacent Lot 2 (which is where the Carolina Inn is.)

But, looking at the map, I think it is also possible that the New Hope Chapel may have been on Lot 1, which would put it about where Peabody Hall is today, rather than the Carolina Inn.

Lot 2= is about where the Scuttlebutt used to be, at the northeast corner of Columbia Street and Cameron Avenue. The map seems to show a building there already in 1795 and the maps states that Lot 2= “conatins” the president’s house, presumably implying that the president’s house was already built at that time, rather than merely being proposed for that site. So figure that the president’s house was not built on the same lot with the New Hope Chapel.
I wonder if any of the histories of UNC address the location of the New Hope Chapel based on some other evidence?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cox Mysteries Revealed

Here’s how the vicinity of Cox’s Mill in Randolph County is shown on four different maps:

cox mill small

There are two different Cox’s Mills shown. One is much more prominent and is on Mill Creek, west of the Deep River (William Cox’s Mill, later Thomas Cox’s), shown on all four maps. The other mill is on Millstone Creek east of the Deep River (Harmon Cox’s Mill), shown only on the later two maps.

The Heritage of Randolph County, NC (1993) says that there were two Cox’s Mills – one owned by Harmon Cox and the other owned by Harmon’s father William Cox. On the Asheboro Chamber of Commerce website, Emily Cox Johnson writes: “One of the gristmills was located west of Deep River on Mill Creek and run by Thomas Cox . . . A second was located less than a mile away on the east side of Deep River on Millstone Creek and run by Harmon Cox, a brother of Thomas Cox.”

William Cox

William Cox received a land grant in Nov 1757 on the head of “Cox Mill Creek” waters of Deep River on both sides of Crawford Road, clearly implying that William Cox’s Mill was already in existence in 1757. Cox Mill Creek is almost certainly what we now call Mill Creek on the west side of the Deep River, a conclusion made more clear by reading William Cox’s will.

Thomas Cox

In William Cox’s will (Orange Co. Will Book A, page 53), he left Harmon Cox “that whole tract of land, on the East side of Deep River, whereon he now lives” and he left Thomas Cox “the mill.” This will was dated Jan 1767 and proved Feb 1767. So it appears that the mill was not on the east side of the Deep and it appears that there was just one mill at that time. That is to say, Thomas inherited the mill in 1767.

Harmon Cox

In 1782, Capt. Matthew Ramsey wrote to David Fanning telling him that "Hammond [Harmon] Cox's Mill to be the center of your bounds." This does not appear to be a mistaken reference to William/Thomas Cox’s Mill, as General Butler made reference shortly thereafter to the fact that there were “two Coxe's mills.” (State Records of North Carolina, Vol. XXII, pp 216 & 219.) So it appears that Harmon Cox’s Mill on Millstone Creek was built between 1767 and 1782, and probably at the earlier end of that range, as it is not likely that the mill was built during the Revolution. So the Harmon Cox Mill was probably built c. 1770.

Cox’s Shoal

George Swain’s 1880 and 1899 reports on southeastern waterpower mention Cox falls or Cox’s Shoal about 3 miles above Coleridge, which would be near the mouth of Mill Creek. Based on the above information, I concede that there probably was never any mill at Cox’s Shoal. If there had been a dam at Cox’s Shoal, it would have backed water into Mill Creek, which have interfered with William Cox’s Mill, unless Cox’s Shoal is above the mouth of Mill Creek. But there is no real evidence that such a mill existed so I think my prior theory was wrong and there was never a dam at Cox’s Shoal – except perhaps a fishtrap. However, Mac Whatley's comments on the prior post on this said: "On that east side of the river can be seen the foundations of at least one mill site and at least three bridges" near the Hinshawtown Road bridge.

Fanning’s Headquarters

Many works of both Revolutionary War history and local history mention the headquarters of the Loyalist raider Col. David Fanning. This site is commonly referred to as “Fanning’s headquarters at Cox’s Mill on Deep River.” But I haven’t found any informed sources that tell us which Cox’s Mill it was.

The NC Highway Historical Marker in Ramseur is also somewhat equivocal, stating that Cox’s Mill was “4 ½ miles southeast, near site of present ‘Bean’s Mill.’” Bean’s Mill is on Mill Creek near Mill Creek Road, a short distance above the confluence of the creek with the Deep River, which would essentially be the William Cox Mill site, but the marker only asserts that it was near there. However Mac Whatley pointed out on the prior post on this topic: "Raymond Cox ran the mill until his death in the 1980s. He always said that an earlier Cox's Mill was located closer toward Deep River from the present mill, where a depression (supposedly the wheel pit) can be seen. I've walked all around there, and while this is possible, there is no stone work or artifact to confirm or deny it."

Because the William Cox Mill site is shown more prominently on all of the above maps, it seems logical that Fanning’s Headquarters were at William Cox’s Mill (by then owned by Thomas). But, it is interesting to note that the Matthew Ramsey letter above tells Fanning that Harmon Cox’s Mill is to be the center of his bounds. Perhaps this was meant to be the center of his bounds because it had always been the base of his operations. Ramsey mentions specifically that this is consistent with Fanning's request.

In his memoirs, Fanning repeatedly refers to his headquarters as being at “Coxe’s Mill” and “on Deep River.” At one point he says that he had 140 men at the site and refers to it as “the Fort of Deep River, at Coxe’s Mill.” This makes it sound as though they had built some actual fortifications at the site. Shortly thereafter he writes: “the two rebel parties had joined, being about 400 in number and encamped at Brown’s Plantation, about 2 miles up the river and on the opposite side.” But Fanning never makes it clear which side of the river he was on.

However, as a general matter, it seems that his raids were to the north and east side of the Deep and Cape Fear Rivers, whereas his more relaxed travels were through the evidently safer territory on the south and west sides, so it seems logical that he would set up his fort on the southwest side of the Deep, which would place Fanning’s headquarters at William Cox’s Mill on Mill Creek. Also, William Cox’s Mill was very low on the creek and therefore could much more logically be said to be “on Deep River” than Harmon Cox’s Mill.

But in the end, it is just hard to say. Perhaps some close on-the-ground inspection of the area would reveal more.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Clapp's Mill on Alamance

The Revolutionary War histories about the southern campaign tell the tale of a skirmish known as the Battle of Clapp's Mill. A recent recounting of the entire battle was written by Stewart Dunaway and can be purchased here:

Naturally, I have wondered where Clapp's Mill was and it seems like a good blog post to cover that issue. Stewart Dunaway and I have come to the same conclusion about the question, though independently. The histories uniformly refer to this mill as being "on Alamance," however looking at the various former mills on Big Alamance Creek (or Great Alamance River as it was once known), there does not appear to have been a "Clapp's Mill."

The 1893 Spoon Map of Alamance County shows a couple of candidate sites for Clapp's Mill:

Clapp Mill

And there was another Clapp Mill in Guilford County as seen here:

Now, Stewart has made a much more thorough investigation of this matter than I have, but he concluded from actually inspecting the old road beds etc. in the area that the actual site of the Battle of Clapp's Mill was the site on Beaver Creek that Spoon shows above as "Clapp's Old Mill."

I had actually jumped to the same conclusion simply by virtue of the fact that Spoon does not show very many former mill sites. The fact that he took note of this particular one suggested to me that he though this abandoned mill site was notable - and so it was because of its role in the Revolution. Also, of the different Clapp sites, "Clapp's Old Mill" on Beaver Creek is the one that is most nearly "on Alamance" Creek.

This Saturday morning, Stewart Dunaway and I went looking for the J. W. Clapp Mill shown by Spoon on Stinking Quarter Creek. We definitely found the right vicinity (the Clapp Mill Road bridge), but despite a bit of tromping along the banks, we were unable to locate any remains of the actual mill.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Meeting of the Waters

Meeting of the Waters is the spot where two spring branches converge, one (no name?) originating about where The Pit on UNC campus is and the other (Chapel Spring Branch?) about where Venable Hall is. Meeting of the Waters Creek drains from there into Morgan Creek just above the OWASA treatment plant.

Meeting of W Ck

I went for a walk down near the mouth of the creek today (and a hike up onto Laurel Hill), and noticed that very near the mouth stands this:


Quite evidently an old stone milldam! I was surprised because I have read up about this area a lot and never before seen a reference to it. But there it is (or was). It appears that the dam was at one time determined to be too small and was then used as the foundation for a much taller earthen dam. The stone dam used to be about 8 feet tall, but the earthen dam that was laid on top must have been 16 feet high or more.

We could see that the hillside above the bank of the creek had been significantly excavated and it appears that the soil and rock was used to build the earthen dam. The mill race appears to have been on the south bank, so the mill building must have been on that side as well. This former dam is on public property, either OWASA's or the Botanical Garden's, I am not sure which, but it is not on any Bot. Garden trail and OWASA appears to be in the process of fencing off the area to keep people out of the treatment plant property.

It looks like it will still be possible to get there by scrambling down the bank from Old Mason Farm Road.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

TPA Little River Hike

Sunday was the Trading Path Association's First Sunday Hike. This month the hike was in the vicinity of the Little River, just upstream of the US-501 bridge in Durham County. We saw some old road beds and a gradually disappearing homestead, high above the north bank of the river. I saw David Southern there among about 12 or 15 others.

In preparation for the hike, I inspected old Durham County maps and also the Tate map of Orange County. I noted that there are quite a few old mills in the area, which is not surprising, but which I had never really looked into. Here's what I quickly found on the mills of the Little River:

Mills on the Little River

Orange Factory
About the time of the Revolution, William Johnston owned a mill in the vicinity of the Little River and Cabin Branch, which must have been the original mill developed at this site. In 1852 John H. Webb and John C. Douglas built a water-powered textile factory on the Little River in what was then Orange County. The Orange Factory as it was called grew to be surrounded by a village of the same name. It is said that Confederate uniforms were made from cloth produce at this mill, although that is probably true of every textile mill that was in operation at that time. In 1864, William Willard bought the factory and he and various family members Willard Manufacturing Co. for decades. In 1899, G. A. Swain reported that the mill operated 8 or 9 months of the year on waterpower using a 22’ high dam and a 1200’ long race. In 1905, Albert Gallatin Cox bought the mill and formed the Little River Manufacturing Co. In 1916 the operation was sold to J A Long and renamed the Laura Cotton Mill. The site was bought by Roxboro Cotton Mills in 1938, but used more for the housing in the village than for the mill. Today, Little River Lake has flooded the site.

Terry & Lloyd’s Mill
In the late 18th century, John Wade’s Estate sold land that bordered on both Mountain Creek and the Little River, including a gristmill. This may have been the first incarnation of Terry & Lloyd’s Mill. The mill stood just downstream of US-501 on the right bank. It is also flooded by Little River Lake.

Johnson Mill
About 1795 William Cain established a gristmill here. Thomas Cain took over the operation in 1856 and partnered with Samuel H. Johnson, to whom Cain soon sold his half interest. Parts of the millrace and dam are said to still be visible. This appears to be the mill shown on the McRae-Brazier map of 1833.

Mills on the North Fork of the Little River

Little River Park Mill
I don’t know what the name of this mill was, but there is distinctly an abandoned mill site at the upstream-most end of the Little River Regional Park on the North Fork of the Little. It is stated in the interpretive materials for the park that there was a tub mill here at one time, which was later replaced by a waterwheel driven mill. The former dam and raceway are plainly discernable. Little River Park staff said that they do not know who operated the mill.

Turner’s Old Mill
This site is shown on the 1891 George W. Tate Map of Orange County. The remains of the blown out dam can be seen by looking upstream from the New Sharon Church Road bridge in Orange County.

Turner’s Mill
I don’t know who Mr. Turner was, but he must have been busy. This mill is also shown by Tate and must have been near where NC 157 crosses the North Fork of the Little, although no sign of it could be seen from the bridge.

Mills on the South Fork of the Little River

South Lowell Mill
The earliest mill on this site was George Newton’s (1777). By the 1850’s, the gristmill here was being run by John Leather. In 1846, John A. McMannen purchased the rights to manufacture a machine that would sort out wheat that was infected with the fungus known as smut; he commenced manufacturing the machine at Leather’s Mill. McMannen named the area South Lowell after the famous industrial town in Massachusetts. Eventually McMannen got over-extended in the real estate market and was forced into bankruptcy. By 1915 this was Russell’s Mill.

S. P. Gear’s Sawmill
This mill is also shown by Tate in 1891, near New Sharon Church Road in Orange Co. Just upstream of the bridge there are remnants of some destroyed structure in the riverbed, but it is hard to say whether the ruins are of a bridge or a dam. Presumably this refers to Durham businessman Solomon Geer, but no relevant deeds were found.

Woods’ Sawmill
Tate shows this mill, probably somewhere between Wilkerson Rd and Walnut Grove Church Rd in Orange County on the South Fork. John L. Woods conveyed this mill to William D. Woods in 1859 & 1868 (ODB 49, pg 259&260).

Hawkins Mill
No relevant Hawkins deeds were found in Orange County.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Otho Williams's Retreat to the Haw

A couple of years ago I thought about writing an account of the Battle of Weitzel's Mill, which happened March 6, 1781 between the forces of Cornwallis and some of Greene’s forces under the command of Col. Otho Williams and Harry “Lighthorse” Lee among others. But recently I found that my new friend Stewart Dunaway has written one already: One of the issues I struggled with, back when I was reading up on the matter, was the question of where Col. Otho Williams retreated to when he left Weitzel’s Mill?

Many modern writers suggest that Col. Williams crossed the Haw at High Rock Ford (see, for example, Thomas J. Edmonds' excellent booklet The Tactical Retreat of Gen. Nathaniel Greene), but when Col. Williams wrote to Gen. Green immediately after the battle, Williams made it sound as though his location was NOT at High Rock Ford.

Col. Williams wrote from “Camp near the Old Bridge on the Haw River” on March 7th, 1781: "We continued to retire about five miles, where we encamped, and were refreshing ourselves, when Major Burnet delivered the instructions from you, which induced me to cross the Haw river, and take post here."

Gen. Joseph Graham’s account of these events mostly agrees. He says that Williams sent a messenger to Greene to ask "whether it is his will that I file off to the right at a place he mentioned. Tell him that I shall keep along the road until I receive orders." Graham personally delivered this message to Greene and so we can assume that it is as accurate an account of the message as possible. Graham continued: "After examination it was decided that Colonel Williams's cavalry, and all of the light troops should file off at the place proposed, which led to Carthy's Bridge on Troublesome Creek, which they crossed about midnight and encamped."

Graham’s assertion that they crossed the river and camped about midnight is entirely consistent with William’s description (Williams was ready to camp south of the river, but moved across the river after hearing from Maj. Burnett, who presumable accompanied Graham). The only major inconsistency is that Graham says they crossed Troublesome Creek, but this is probably just a mistaken recollection on Graham’s part, as Troublesome Creek would have been much too far away to be correct. Also, Graham was writing decades later, whereas Williams’s letter was contemporaneous.

Late the day after the Battle of Weitzel’s Mill, Col. Williams wrote from “Rob Marlay’s”, to say that his men remain where Gen Greene left them because it is the only place in the area where they can get forage for the cavalry horses and that he has sent out parties to investigate a report that an enemy party “this afternoon” was near “the Old Bridge.”

So, it appears that Williams was camped at Rob Marlay’s, near the “Old Bridge” (which Graham calls Carthy’s Bridge, rightly or not). So where is that? It doesn’t seem like it would be at High Rock Ford because: 1) I don’t think there was a bridge there; it was a ford. 2) I think they would have called it High Rock Ford if that is where they were speaking of. 3) If Williams had asked whether to “file off to the right” and was ordered to do so, then he would have turned off of the road to High Rock Ford – to the right, i.e. to the East. So where was he?

I think he must have turned off along what is now more-or-less Troxler Mill Road and that they crossed the Haw at an old bridge that stood in that vicinity. Perhaps it would be informative to search for old deeds bearing the name Rob Marlay (or Marley) to see where he lived (if any such deeds exist).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Merritt Railroad Crossing

This is a reworked version of an post regarding a little pedestrian controversy that happened in Carrboro in the summer of 2008. Alas, neither the Town of Chapel Hill nor the Town of Carrboro were able to do much about that situation. But the issue brought to light a little bit of Carrboro history that I though folks might be interested in:

Area residents are concerned about the new fence blocking access between Estes Park Apartments in Carrboro and Village West Townhouses in Chapel Hill. The management of Estes Park erected a fence and gate, which is padlocked. The fence is 8' tall with three strands of barbed wire at the top. It blocks a traditional connection between the two neighborhoods and by extension connections from each neighborhood to downtown Carrboro and Chapel Hill.

Alderman Dan Coleman and I went out in July to look at the fence and realized that it blocks the driveway to the Leo Merritt property. Leo Merritt was a senior citizen who lived across the railroad tracks in a house that was built in the early 20th century. He got to his house by driving through Estes Park and across the railroad tracks. It was an odd set-up, but it had obviously been that way for a long time. It occurred to me that Mr. Merritt probably had an easement of some sort that allowed him to do this. And then I remembered that the Town of Chapel Hill bought Mr. Merritt's property (and therefore whatever easements he had) a few years ago as part of a major open space initiative.

So I spent a dusty afternoon in the Register of Deeds Office in Hillsborough and at the Carrboro Planning Department. A review of historic aerial photographs of Carrboro revealed that the Merritt railroad crossing has been there for a lot longer than Estes Park Apartments has. In fact, Estes Park clearly acknowledged the access point in 1971 when the apartments were built, as aerial photos show that there was a well-developed, formal crossing of the tracks there in 1973. My title search showed that Leo Merritt's father, J C Merritt, bought that property in the 1920's (Orange Co Deed Book 103, page 259). The house was probably built about that time.

merritt crossing 1938

The Merritt railroad crossing is plainly shown on an aerial photo from 1938. And the photo also shows that this crossing was at that time accessed from what is now Pleasant Street in Carrboro. The connection to Pleasant Street demonstrates that the current popular, but infromal connection from the end of Pleasant to Estes Park Apartments (on the opposite side of the property from the fence) is actually a very old and well established connection as well. Also, the photo shows that this route was at one time the primary access road for the old slave cemetery in Chapel Hill, which can still be seen just across from Village West on Village Drive.

merritt crossing 2008

So it seems clear that Estes Park Apartments is blocking a traditional right of way that has existed for more than 70 years, possibly more like 100 or 150 years. While I am sure that Estes Park Apartments is trying to address some valid security concerns, I believe that they are blocking an important and traditional footpath that has been in place for 70+ years.

Unfortunately, it turns out that like so many African American landowners, Mr. Merritt probably had his access on the strength of a handshake. We never found any recorded easement and there doesn't appear to be much we can do to re-open this path.

A Lost Ford on Morgan Creek

Here’s a detail of the 1890 Tate Map of Orange County, showing the area where Carrboro is today:

Carrboro 1890

Clearly what is now Greensboro Street existed at that time, as did Old Fayetteville Road and Jones Ferry Road. Notice that Old Fayetteville Road crosses Morgan Creek and continues south. If you were to trespass on OWASA property, you could see the last remnants of this dilapidated bridge just below the University Lake Dam. This map shows a school house along Old Fayetteville Road a bit north of Jones Ferry. I don’t know where that was, but it must have been near Chateau Apartments. Also there’s an African-American schoolhouse on Jones Ferry, presumably at the present-day location of Old School Road just past University Lake.

Calvander is shown as a slightly more complicated intersection in 1890 than it is today. It is where it says W. R. Lloyd Store. There’s an extra road coming off to the southwest and crossing Morgan Creek. This road does not exist today, but it crossed Morgan Creek somewhere south of Dairyland Road and north of NC-54 (which is totally absent from this map because it was built in 1928 or so).

Carrboro 1918

This is a 1918 topographic map of the Chapel Hill area. I zoomed in on Carrboro and darkened in the roads so that you can read it better. Notice, first that at “D” the bridge is now gone and Old Fayetteville Road no longer crosses Morgan Creek. Marker “C” shows where Jones Ferry Road is, but on this map there is also a similar road to the north. Road “B” is apparently West Poplar Avenue. Weaver Street and Part of West Main Street seem to be in place as well.

Marker “A” points to a mystery road. There’s no road there now as far as I know, and it appears to pass through what is now McDougle School. As it crosses Old Fayetteville Road, that road becomes what we now call Russell Ford Road, which certainly implies that there was once a place on Morgan Creek called Russell Ford, this is presumably where the 1890 road coming SW out of Calvander also went. I think I know just where that was and I’ll explain a little more below.

Carrboro 1938

This is a detail of the 1938 NC Highway Department Map of Orange County. In this map, West Main Street has become much more prominent, as has the rest of NC Highway 54. Now Old Greensboro Highway (OGH) shows up, veering off of Jones Ferry Road. The OGH bridge over the Haw was built about 1913, although OGH is not shown in the 1918 map above.

Now looking at the bodies of water shown, notice first, that University Lake has formed. The dam was built in the 1920’s on the former McCauley Mill site (first developed as a mill before 1800). Also in the northwest corner of the map there is a smaller pond. This is a site that I call the Lloyd Mill. The remains of the dam that formed this mill pond are still quite discernible along that banks of Morgan Creek near where the powerline crosses Morgan Creek a mile or so north of Highway 54. The raceway coming form the dam is apparent as well. I am not exactly sure that the Lloyd’s owned it, but I think so. The Lloyd family conveyed a mill on Morgan Creek which I can’t link up with any other site, so I assume it was this one. I also reckon that this is where Russell Ford Road came to, right at the end of the millrace. If you walk back there, you can see a spot that still looks somewhat fordable today. Here’s a picture of the old road bed leading to Russell Ford from the west:

old road near morgan creek

It can be hard to photograph the ruins of an old dam, but here is my attempt. In the foreground you can see the west shoulder of the dam. On the east side, the dam terminated in a large rock outcropping, which is only barely visible in this shot:

old dam on morgan creek

I don’t know how well you can make this out, but below is a shot of the abandoned millrace. The race is basically just a ditch that conveyed water along the bank, as high as possible above the creek, down to the mill, which stood right next to Russell Ford. This picture is taken looking northward up the millrace: