Saturday, November 7, 2009


By Ebenezer Emmons

To His Excellency, Thos. Bragg, Governor of North Carolina:

Sir : In obedience to your instructions which I had the honor to receive in a note bearing date December 26, I herewith respectfully present the following special report, " on the advantages of the Valley of Deep River, as a site for the establishment of a National Foundry:"

In the first place, permit me to observe that this subject came up for investigation in 1854, and that I then addressed a note to your predecessor, Gov. Reid, in which I attempted to set forth the advantages of Deep River for the object above specified.

Since the date of the note alluded to, I have been still more confirmed in the views then expressed, inasmuch as Deep River, as a manufacturing region, has become still more important in consequence of additional discoveries. But I should remark in this place, that the opinions I have -heretofore expressed, and now entertain, are based upon certain premises, viz : that an eligible site for a National Foundry should combine in its location peculiar advantages, such, for example, as are connected with an ample supply of fuel of different kinds, abundance of the ores of metals, a full supply of timber, water power, materials for construction, a good climate, a spot accessible at all seasons of the year to government officials, and inaccessibility to an enemy without. To the foregoing I may add, that a good agricultural region which can furnish corn, wheat, and cattle, is certainly very desirable, and would confer great advantages over one which is comparatively unproductive.

It is not, however, supposed that Government will engage in the business of reducing the ores of the metals; but, I have no doubt, that the value of the site for the purposes contemplated will be greatly increased, if it is on a spot where private individuals or companies are engaged in this business, and where all the different qualities of the metals, - especially iron, are produced. They are then obtained At the least possible expense, and where, too, Government might well exercise a certain supervision, in order to secure those qualities which are the best for the use to which they are intended.

Similar remarks may be made respecting fuel; it is plain enough, that the fuel should be obtainable upon the spot. The necessity of transporting an article so much demanded, would be a great drawback upon any site where such a necessity as transportation existed; so also, in regard to timber and materials for construction; if these were to be obtained from a distance, the expenses entailed upon the institution contemplated, would form, as in the preceding case, a great drawback upon the eligibility of a site thus located.

It is in consequence of a combination and concentration of advantages, that gives to Deep River an importance over all other places known to the author of this report; such advantages, for example, as are derived from an abundance of fuel, of ores, of timber, and suitableness of climate and location, which have been intimated as the necessary requisites of a location for the purposes designed by Congress.

I shall now proceed to state the facts respecting the natural productions peculiar to the valley of Deep river, and which, I hope, will be found to sustain, in every particular, the premises which 1 have laid down in the foregoing preamble.

1. Fuel in the Condition of Coal.

Under this head the bearing of my statements will go to prove, both a great supply of this kind of fuel, and of a quality superior, in many respects, to any now in market, and which is especially adapted to manufacturing purposes.

The Deep river coalfield possesses all the essential characteristics of the better developed ones in this country, though its extent or area is comparatively small. Its outcrop of coal, or line upon which it has been proved to exist, is about thirty miles. This outcrop runs along the course of Deep river, and is rarely, if ever, more than a mile from it. On this line, there are eleven different places where either shafts, slopes, or pits have been sunk, and which have severally cut the main or six-foot seam.

These coal shafts or slopes begin at Farmersville, the lowest point upon the river where coal has been fully disclosed. From Farmersville, proceeding up the river, we find in succession McIver's Egypt, Taylor's, Gulf, Tyser's, and Tyson's, Carbonton, Mrs. Bingham's, Murchison's and Fooshee's. There is no doubt of the existence of coal beyond the extremities named; but these being as it were on the river bank, and all of them disclosing the existence of a continuous seam of coal, it is evident this segment of Deep river is the most important, and the one upon which capitalists must rely for their supply of this kind of fuel. Viewing this coal, then, only in the extent along which it has actually been developed, there seems to be no sufficient reason why doubts should be entertained of a supply for a long time to come. All doubts respecting a supply of coal will however vanish, when it is considered that from even one of the shafts enumerated, an ample supply may now be obtained; I allude to the Egypt shaft, as these works have been more fully carried out than at any other point upon the river. Here, there is a shaft 460 feet deep, and sunk 1,000 feet within the outcrop. It gives access to the main or six-foot seam as it is called, though it exceeds that amount.

Here, the arrangements are so complete that a ton of coal can be raised to the surface every two minutes during twenty-four hours. I need not go into a further statement of the quantity which Egypt alone can now furnish; and when the other pits are brought into an equal degree of forwardness, it is plain that Deep river will not only furnish all the coal required for manufacturers there, but an immense supply for distant consumption.

The quality of this coal is a matter of considerable consequence. Tested in the smith's shop, the uniform opinion is, that it is cheaper for all work at forty cents per bushel than charcoal at five cents. Smiths at Fayetteville have been in the habit of buying it at that price for several years. It contains a large proportion of volatile matter, at the same time it forms, during combustion, a firm, hollow coke, which makes it so much sought for by smiths, and within which it furnishes an intense heat, which especially fits it for the performance of very heavy work. In the next place it is a gas coal. This property having been fully tested in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, it might be inquired whether the residuum left is valuable as a fuel. On this point, too, it is fortunate that there is so much testimony of the value of its coke, for it is a singular fact that the coke of many gas coals is of little value. The late Prof. Johnson, whose investigations in the department of coals are so well known, gave a very favorable account of it, entertaining no doubt of its high heating as well reducing properties when employed for smelting the ores. In the region of Deep river the coke of the refuse coal will undoubtedly take the place of anthracite in the furnace and forge.
The composition of this coal, as determined by Johnson and Jackson, is as follows.

Fixed carbon . 63.6
Volatile matter 84.8
Ashes. 1,6
Specific gravity 1.8
Ash reddish brown.

This coal is also remarkably free from smutiness or dirt, as well as sulphur and other impurities which injure miner?' coals when employed for heating and reducing the metallic ores. Having, then, had this coal under examination for four years past, and having need it in a grate, and having observed its action in a forge, and having also the testimony of competent observers and experimenters as to its value for gas, as well as the value of its coke, there remains, as I conceive, not the shadow of a doubt as to its value when employed for melting iron, reducing its ores, or of its value for all manufacturing purposes where charcoal is not absolutely required.

2. Metallic Ores, Particularly Iron,

Five kinds of iron ore belong, geologically to the Valley of Deep river, and are known to be centralized upon that portion of it where the coal formation is perfectly developed. Two of the kinds form inexhaustible beds in the coal measures, and one is so immediately connected with the seams as to require removal when the coal is mined.

The hydrated argillaceous oxide exists in a bed from five to six feet thick, seventy feet above the first coal seam. Its position and connection is so favorable for mining that many tons may be thrown down every hour by a single miner. This ore is the kind which usually accompanies the coal measures of all countries. It possesses properties in common with the ores of this class, especially that of Pennsylvania and the carboniferous system of Wales. Its properties and value are too well known to require comment at this time.

The black band is the most important and valuable of all the ores of this formation. It first appears between the two proximate seams of coal, having a width of 15 inches. Below it is the twenty-two inch seam which is succeeded by about fifteen inches of black band, which rests on another seam of coal seven or eight inches thick. About thirty feet lower are two beds of black band, whose thickness is sit feet, separated by a seam of coal one foot thick, which is too ranch charged with the same ore as to admit of its use as a fuel. Both of these zones of black band are removed along with the coal, and being underlaid either by fire-clay or bituminous shale, is thrown down with little labor and expense. I speak of this for the purpose of showing that the cost of obtaining this ore is trifling, when the arrangements are once made. The black band owes its value to the carbon which is combined with it. When properly roasted the ore is left in an open porous state, and in the condition of a protoxide, a fact which is evident from its strong magnetic powers It is, therefore, a homogeneous ore, retaining still more carbon to aid in its reduction.

The composition of the black band ore is as follows:

Carbon and volatile matter 40.62
Per oxide of iron 47.50
Silex 9.00
Sulphur trace.

From the foregoing it is evident that iron can be cheaply made from the black band, and as the best Scotch pig is made from it, a kind so much sought for in this country, it maybe regarded as equally worthy of belief that the use of this ore will supply an article which has for a long time been imported, and thereby save as from the necessity of large expenditures for this kind of metal.

The black band is known to be co-extensive with the coal formation. It is therefore, inexhaustible, and its quantity is so great and so widely distributed, that its use can never become a monopoly by any company. An estimate of the cost of making pig iron from this ore, by an experienced and highly accomplished iron founder, was made at my request, and it appeared that pig, equal probably to the best Scotch pig, could be manufactured at a cost not exceeding nine dollars per ton.

I deem it will be sufficient to answer the purposes of this report to allude only to the specular, magnetic, and hematitic ores of Deep river. The nearest locality of the specular is about six miles northwest from the Gulf upon the plank-road leading to Graham. The magnetic is about six miles farther in the same direction, and the hematitic occupies an elevated point known as the Ore Knob, situated nine miles from the Gulf, and about the same distance from Carbonton. The latter was used in the time of the Revolution, and the castings then made are remarkable for their toughness and strength. These three kinds of ore possess the usual properties and characteristics, and being unmixed with foreign matter possessing injurious properties, it is conceived that they also are fitted for all the purposes to which these ores are usually put.

From the foregoing statements it will appear that in the neighborhood of Egypt, the Gulf, or Carbonton, there never can be any lack or want of raw materials for the manufacture of iron; and these several localities being concentrated in a limited region, it must strike every one at all conversant with this matter, that here is a rare combination of advantages for the manufacture of iron in all the forms and conditions which the present state of society requires.

3. Timber for Construction.

Deep river in its lower reaches skirts and passes through a belt of the long-leaved pine. This belt of pine is mostly on its southern bank. On the east, north, and northwest the oaks and hickories form the principal kinds of timber, intermixed, however, more or less, with the short-leaf pine. A great forest of white oak skirts the tributaries of the Haw river. This belt extends from the mouth of the New Hope to the vicinity of Chapel Hill. Its mouth is about three miles above the junction of the Haw, and Deep rivers. The Haw becoming navigable to the mouth, or near the mouth of New Hope, opens a way to this forest of many thousand acres occupied by this valuable tree. But as this, together with hickory, ash, and elm, grow extensively throughout the valley and upon the adjacent slopes skirting it, and, moreover, as the mild climate favors the rapid growth of all forest trees, it is a fair conclusion that there will be for years to come timber for all the purposes demanded for the construction of implements of war and of defence. It is to be recollected, in this connection, that the forests have never been thinned by manufacturing companies, as is the case in New England and New York, neither has the long-leaved pine been used for the extraction of turpentine.

4. Quarries of Free Stone, Granite, and other Stone for Construction.

The common rock of this coal formation is a red, brown, or cream colored free stone, which, however, is interstratified with tender, brown or reddish shades. Free stone, of various textures and colors, are the common products of the formation. One hundred years' exposure of this stone to the atmosphere proves it a durable material for building. The layers vary in thickness; they are soft and easily dressed when first removed from the quarry, but soon harden, when they become stable, and remain unchangeable. Grindstones, coarse and fine, are also of sufficient value to require a passing notice. Roofing slate may be obtained upon Rocky river, and granite of a superior quality at Buckhorn, on the Cape Fear.

5. Water Power.

It is a question which remains to be settled by others, whether, upon a coal mine, which must always furnish a large amount of fine coal, water should be employed for moving machinery, or steam. Whether this question is settled in favor of water or steam, it is certain that the water power of Deep, Haw, Rocky, and Cape Fear rivers are very important sources of power for moving machinery of some kind in this section of the State. On Deep river there are three falls; the lowest at Lockville, where the available fall is about sixteen feet, which may be taken into a race from which the water may be used twice. Another fall of about ten feet, and which is partly employed, exists at the Gulf, and another still at Carbonton. Three miles above the junction of the Haw and Deep rivers there is a valuable water power upon the former, which, as it is connected with the latter by navigable waters, may be considered as belonging to it. It is bordered by banks which may be safely occupied by mills of any description. The falls of Buckhorn, upon Cape Fear, six miles below Lockville, furnish by far the greatest power for moving machinery. If, therefore, water is required for any purpose connected with the business of a National Foundry, it may be obtained to an extent which a community of manufacturers may require.

6. Accessibility.

The navigation of Cape Fear and Deep rivers is already secured. An outlet to the Atlantic is thereby obtained. The distance to Wilmington from the coalfield is one hundred and fifty miles. Steamboats ascend now to Lockville, and will soon be able to reach Farmersville, Egypt, and the Gulf. In addition to the foregoing, I may state that a railway is now being constructed from Fayetteville to the coalfields, which will pass through them and intersect the Central Railroad at High Point. This road, when completed, will form an important chain of communication, which will put Deep river in immediate connection with the timbered sections of the State, and with the mineral region of the upper part of Deep river; and if continued to Salem, as contemplated by a railroad charter already granted, will also be connected with limestone, coal, and iron, upon the Dan river.

So, also, a link of thirty miles of road is yet to be constructed by which Deep river will be in connection with Raleigh, Weldon, Portsmouth, and Norfolk, or Petersburg and Richmond. Or, if another route to the Atlantic is preferred, it may be obtained by the Atlantic and Goldsboro' Railroad. . By these routes the seaboard is accessible in about twenty-four or thirty hours: 1st, by way of Wilmington; 2d, by Goldsboro' and Beaufort; and 3d, by Weldon and Portsmouth. Deep river may be reached in from twenty-four to thirty hours' travel from Washington.

It is scarcely necessary to say, that Deep river is inaccessible to an enemy from without.

7. Climate and soil.

Chatham County, through which Deep river flows, has a good climate, and its soil is adapted to the growth of wheat, corn and cattle.

In Conclusion I may very properly say that Deep river possesses those advantages which a National Foundry requires in an eminent degree:

1. In its abundant supply of bituminous and semi-bituminous coals of the best qualities.
2. In its vast resources for the manufacture of iron.
3. In its materials for construction in wood and stone.
4. Ample water power.
5. In its soil and natural productions.
6. In its climate and good water for domestic purposes; there is neither the extreme heat of summer, which debilitates, nor excess of eold in winter, which closes the navigation of its rivers, or interferes with the movements of machinery.

With the foregoing summary of leading facts, I submit this report to your Excellency's favorable consideration.

I am, sir, your Excellency's obedient servant,


Geologist to North, Carolina.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Landscape, Memory, and East54

I recently saw Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy give an interesting speech on the problem that everyone seems to think that Chapel Hill was just perfect right about the time they got there. Kevin is not the first person to have observed this, and he won’t be the last, but I thought it might be interesting to share this item I stumbled across while researching an unrelated topic. R. L. Gray wrote an essay on Chapel Hill in the News & Observer (reprinted in NC Journal of Law, Vol 1, pp 516-518, 1904):

"Let the man have been tarred with the University stick and he will tell you along with his after-dinner cigar that he has a notion of some day building a house at Chapel Hill – and there remaining to the end of the chapter in the one place where he believes he can obtain a large and perfect peace. There men cling to the town and its surroundings with a memory that is both tenacious and jealous of details.

"A friend was describing to one of these - a graduate before the [Civil] war – the site of the present Alumni Building. Suddenly the old graduate’s eyes flashed fire: “What!” he exclaimed. “You don’t tell me they’ve cut down the old college linden! I’d rather they’d have gone without that building forever than that they should have touched that tree!”

"And so it goes. Living in the hearts of its scattered children, each tree shrub and rose bush, almost each stone of its serried ranks of rough built walls, bears its own faint story; and it is the indefinable suggestion that seems in time to float out from the inanimate things that have brushed on human hopes that strangely strikes the newcomer at the moment he places foot upon the campus and brings to the returned a tingling of the blood and a half forgotten smell of the air that at once exhilarate and recall to half sad dreams of bygone days."

Gray’s argument is essentially that the landscape of Chapel Hill is a part of the experience of being young and full of life in Chapel Hill. Revisiting the landscape of your young adulthood brings back fond memories of days gone by. Or in other words, there’s nothing like walking down Franklin Street to make you feel young again, or at least bring back wonderful and powerful memories. And any change at UNC (or in Chapel Hill) detracts from that feeling. Gray is saying that the things that are new interfere with the evocation of that brief feeling of youthfulness, and you consequently dislike them.

Gray’s theory is meant to explain the experience of returning alumni, who for example are sometimes crestfallen to find that the Rathskeller is no more, or similarly are shocked to see Greenbridge rising on Chapel Hill’s western border. I am not sure that the experience is exactly the same for those who live in and near Chapel Hill and return to UNC and downtown on a regular basis, but it is at least part of that story.

Gray makes no remark on Carrboro in part because the village scarcely existed in 1904, but Carrboro is not immune to this same issue. Probably the greatest challenge facing our town is how to expand our commercial tax base without compromising the sense of place that is Carrboro. And I suppose such things are challenges for any community, but I think Gray is suggesting that this phenomenon is especially strong in Chapel Hill because so many people discover the town as 18-year-olds, entering the prime of life and for the first time living with new found freedom. This is true for Carrboro as well, although somewhat less so because Carrboro is less a part of the undergraduate experience for most students.

It is also interesting to note that Gray mentions that a part of this phenomenon is that the critic of change “has a notion of some day building a house at Chapel Hill.” Gray does not remark upon the irony of the critic at once lamenting any change to the Chapel Hill landscape and expressing his desire to change that same landscape by building his own house there. No doubt the critic feels that although change in Chapel Hill is bad, just one more house won’t hurt, as long as it is his.

From today’s vantage point, it also seems ironic that the critic would lament the construction of Alumni Hall:

Alumni Hall

Alumni Hall is in fact one of the buildings that gives secondary definition to McCorkle Place and has many beautiful architectural details. That anti-Alumni Hall sentiment seems particularly ironic in light of Davie Hall, which UNC went on to build only 200 yards away:

Davie Hall

The desire to return to a Chapel Hill that was known from earlier days goes still further back in UNC's history. William D. Moseley, a member of the UNC class of 1818, wrote a letter to his former professor Elisha Mitchell in 1853: “I know of no earthly pleasure which would afford me more heartfelt satisfaction than a short stay at that village [Chapel Hill]; where I could again refresh my memory with a review of the places and things that still remain as mementos of days that are past; when the future was looked to with hopes, never to be realized.”

At some level, none of this is lost on either the administration of the University or the government of the Town, for both have sometimes made wise choices about the preservation of the historical landscape. Among Moseley’s other comments in his 1853 letter: “I would like too to visit the Old Poplar, in the right of the path leading from the Chapel to Dr Caldwell's. Is it still living?” Not only was it still living in 1853, but it is still living today:

Davie Poplar

Moseley’s letter implies that the Davie Poplar was a noted landmark even when the University was young. And clearly it was called “the Old Poplar” even by members of the class of 1818. It was already at least 100 years old when Moseley graduated. The Davie Poplar is now at least 300 years old and some think it may be approaching 400.

But nothing in this world lasts forever, and UNC began preparing for the inevitable about 90 years ago by grafting a cutting of the Davie Poplar to create Davie Poplar, Jr., which grows in the shadows of the original. And more recently a seedling of the Davie Poplar was cultivated and planted nearby with the appellation Davie Poplar, III. It's right in front of Alumni Hall as it happens. While obviously no one is hoping for the day when the Davie Poplar falls, it is reassuring to know that UNC has long since begun to prepare for that day.

Likewise, no one hopes for the day when our community will face dramatic changes brought about by greenhouse gasses as well as the ever-increasing cost (and ever-decreasing supply) of petroleum. But we cannot bury our heads in the sand and hope that such challenges will never come. They will come and we all know it. At the local level, Carrboro, UNC and Chapel Hill can make only the most incremental changes to the composition of the atmosphere or the supply of available petroleum. But we can and we must prepare for the future that we know is coming.

Preparing for a world with fewer cars and less petroleum will partly involve technological breakthroughs in sustainable energy, but it must also involve dramatic improvements in energy efficiency. And one way for us to reduce our society’s demand for energy - a way that is entirely within the control of local government in North Carolina - is to change our built landscape – to create a more pedestrian, bicycle and transit friendly landscape. And that will involve a more compact form of development, focused on key transportation corridors.

One area that is appropriate for the new landscape that our community will need is the NC 54 corridor between Meadowmont and UNC, along the planned route of the Triangle’s light-rail system. Downtown Carrboro and downtown Chapel Hill are also areas where outstanding public transportation is already readily available and are appropriate places for more intense development. Yet, the importance of the landscape, the sense of place in these locations cannot be ignored.

How would Carrboro be Carrboro without these buildings:

east main street

On the other hand, some downtown Carrboro buildings seem considerably less essential:

300 E Main Street

To be clear these businesses are essential, but the buildings are not.

Likewise, the Best Western University Inn
was a pretty unremarkable building. The grassy areas out front were pleasant, but it was mostly a low utilitarian building with a sea of asphalt in front. The picture above was taken as a publicity photo and it still makes the building and lot look unremarkable (at best). East54's critics only ever acknowledge this reality when prompted to do so. Likewise there seems to be no public acknowledgement that the site of Greenbridge was not long ago a flophouse for crack dealers. Does any of this mean that East54, Greenbridge or 300 E. Main Street will be perfect? Of course not. But let’s be clear, what they are replacing was not so terrific as some would like to pretend.

Change is inevitable for Carrboro and Chapel Hill. The challenge is to keep the elements that are central to our landscape from the past, while creating a more energy-efficient and pedestrian friendly landscape for the future. Personally, I think that is something that Carrboro, UNC and Chapel Hill can do.