Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Continued Series of Red Clay Hills or The Old Courthouse Road

The place known as Cheeks Crossroads - where NC10 and Buckhorn Road intersect in western Orange County - was once the home of Wesley Miles. Miles bought a part of Pollock Tract 1 from the Pollock Heirs, though the exact date is uncertain; the deed from Pollock to Miles is not in Orange County's Deed Books - lost, destroyed, or perhaps never recorded in the first place. Still, there is a survey of the land conveyed to Miles in the Pollock-Devereux Papers at the State Archives in Raleigh. This put Mr. Miles directly on the Native Trading Path, which was (and is) a public road.

The Old Courthouse Road

A generation or two later, James Miles bought part of Thomas Bradford's homestead at the other end of Pollock Tract 1 - "a tract of land on both sides of the main road leading from Hillsborough to Trollinger's Ford" - that is to say, what we now call Lebanon Road (Orange Deed Book 27, page 316).  In the colonial days, that road was known as the Old Courthouse Road because it led westward to the Haw River, near which stood the original Orange County Courthouse - not in Hillsborough, but in what is now the Town of Haw River.

In 1849 Benson Lossing traveled down this same highway while researching the Revolution. He wrote in his Pictorial Fieldbook of the American Revolution: "I think I never traveled a worse road than the one stretching between the Eno and the Haw." Though Lossing apparently found the adjacent countryside pleasing enough: "It passes over a continued series of red clay hills, which are heavily wooded with oaks, gums, black locusts, and chestnuts. Small streams course among these elevations; and in the summer this region must be exceedingly picturesque. Now every tree and shrub was leafless, except the holly and the laurel, and nothing green appeared among the wide reaching branches but the beautiful tufts of mistletoe which everywhere decked the great oaks with their delicate leaves and transparent berries."

Lebanon Road was not much better even 62 years later, as the Good Roads Institute of 1911 reported: "On leaving Hillsboro the road to Mebane is very hilly and rough, but a new location has been made and the new road should be finished within the next year," referring to what is now US-70, a bit south of the Old Courthouse Road. The 1911 report continues: "At Mebane is the plant of the White Furniture Company. This is the beginning of a series of furniture factories that will be observed in many of the towns from this point westward."

Miles, NC

A few years later the Miles family again relocated - buying land along US-70 as well.  There they opened a country store (as perhaps they had done in their previous two locations). And that is how the crossroads community at Buckhorn Road and US-70 came to be known as Miles, North Carolina.