Because the News and Observer just ran a piece on forgotten towns in Chatham County , I thought I would edit my notes about the former town of Lockville, NC on the Deep River in Chatham County.
Hydropower at Lockville
A 0.7 mile long falls concludes just below the present Lockville dam; it is most commonly known as Pullen’s Falls (sometimes also called Jones Falls; both are names of former owners of the mill). Much of Pullen’s Falls is covered by the backwater of the Lockville Dam.
In Revolutionary times, Lockville was known as Ramsey’s Mill for its builder, Ambrose Ramsay or Ramsey; the mill was later called Ramsey & Stokes’ Mill (Hadley 1970). Ambrose Ramsey’s grandchildren sold the mill to William Boylan in 1822 (Chatham DB Y, pg 151). John A Williams bought the mill in 1839 (Chatham DB AE, pg 410). Charles J Williams, John A Williams and Jonathan Harelson sold this mill to Richard Smith in 1844 (Chatham DB AF, pg 493) including the dam, mill, ferry boat & landing, and a slave named Jim. During Smith’s ownership, the mill was evidently leased to James Pullen (See Chatham Ct Min Feb 1846). Smith sold the mill to Alston Jones in 1852(Chatham DB AI, pg 11) including the boat, ferry landing, mill building and “a negro man, Jim the miller, aged about 40 years.” Chatham DB AL pg 271 (dated 1851, recorded in 1860) is an easement agreement between Alston Jones and the Navigation Company related to this site.
Before the Cape Fear and Deep River Navigation Company began improvements here, this dam was eight feet high. The CF&DRN raised the level of the dam to cover the upper part of Pullen’s Falls. The Navigation Company converted Pullen’s millrace into a canal that carried traffic half a mile below the dam. But there were constant problems with the workmanship here and the lock and canal, which had been undertaken in 1852, were not complete until 1859 (Hadley 1980). Consequently no river traffic passed from the Deep into the Cape Fear for the first 10 years of the Navigation Company’s existence. The Civil War halted work on the CF&DRN Company’s works and bankruptcy resulted.
During the 1870’s George G. Lobdell of the Lobdell Car Wheel Co. purchased an interest in Deep River Manufacturing Co. which then owned the dam at Lockville. Lobdell’s company brought the locks and dams between Endor and Buckhorn on the Cape Fear into working order. For some years, iron ore was mined at Buckhorn, shipped up to the furnace at Endor, and then down to Lockville to be loaded onto the railroad (Raleigh and Augusta Air Line). The steel operation was purchased by the American Iron and Steel Co. in 1876 and continued into the 1880’s.
The dam at Lockville collapsed in May of 1901 (Barringer v. Virginia Trust Co, 132 NC 409, 1903). In 1920, this site was turned into a hydroelectric plant by the Moncure Manufacturing Company. The hydroelectric plant is still in operation today.
Crossing the Deep at Lockville
In the 1700’s Ambrose Ramsey operated a ferry, which he sold William Boylan along with the mill in 1822. The ferry was still an important part of the entire mill complex when the property was sold in 1852 (Chatham DB AI, pg 11).
In 1781, following the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, Gen. Cornwallis re-grouped his troops at Ramsey’s Mill and built a bridge across the Deep River. The British moved across the river and fled south to Fayetteville, but the bridge was left behind. It was hurriedly constructed and presumably did not last too long thereafter.
Dr. Robert K. Smith began building a bridge in 1848 a mile below the Pullen Dam (Thompson 1848). Brien’s 1852 map of the Cape Fear shows “Pullen’s Bridge.” Curiously, the 1856 Emmons map shows no bridge here, so perhaps the Smith/Pullen bridge was washed out in a flood. Emmons does show “Harris Bridge” just below the mouth of Rocky Branch, a mile or so upstream of the dam; there are signs of old bridge pilings in the river still. Apparently the bridge below the dam was rebuilt prior to 1870 (Ramsey 1870) and various bridges have been there ever since. In 1877, the County bought this bridge from the American Iron and Steel Co (Chatham Road Records, State Archives).
The railroad trestle across the Deep River must have been built in the early 1870’s (Ramsey 1870; Chatham DB 31, pg 83). The early railroad trestle was a covered bridge (Swain 1899).