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.

1 comment:

  1. Last Sunday about a dozen Tading Path Association members and Randolph County local history buffs assembled at Harmon Cox's farm, now owned by Bill Johnson and Emily Cox Johnson where we toured the former homesite, the Deep River, an old ford just above the mouth of Mill Creek, the Harmon Cox Mill site on Millstone Creek, and Bean's Mill on Mill Creek! All in all a great afternoon.

    While legend and history seem to collide a bit regarding some of the details, it is clear that:

    1) there was no mill on the Deep River in this area,

    2) the Harmon Cox Mill was just below NC22 on Millstone Creek and parts of the dam and old bridge abutments are still standing,

    3) Bean's Mill is still standing, although the dam is washed out, and

    4) the Cox family had their a private ford just above Mill Creek, even though Buffalo Ford was only a mile or so downstream.

    I had to leave at 4pm on the dot and did not get much of a chance to inspect Mill Creek below Bean's Mill and can't say whether there is any sign that the William Cox Mill was further downstream or not, but I will assume for the moment that the William Cox Mill was in a slightly different location, but fundamentally occupied the same millsite as Bean's Mill.