A FORGOTTEN HISTORY
The complex heritage of the Deep River region can be understood through five significant themes.
A Heritage of Manufacturing
The "New South" reformed the Old South by pulling people away from the agricultural life of small farms into the "public work" of cotton textile mills. From bale of cotton to bolt of cloth, from spinning frame to sewing machine, the Southern Side of the Industrial Revolution happened in small factories like the ones lining the banks of Deep River in central North Carolina. Beginning in the 1830s the Deep River was the moving force that created this pioneer southern industry. Thriving cotton mill villages grew along the river in Cedar Falls (1836), Franklinville (1838), Ramseur (1850), Randleman (1848), Worthville (1880), Central Falls (1881) and Coleridge (1882). Many of the mill buildings and mill village structures still stand in these villages.
The needs of cotton mills for wooden bobbins, sticks and shuttles created a new market after the Civil War for the regions timber resources. The states important furniture industry is the direct outgrowth of its forest riches, and the city of High Point near the top of the corridor is the nation furniture headquarters. The High Point area is home to showrooms and the Furniture Discovery Center which showcase the heritage, impact and future of the furniture industry, but other furniture-related sites can be found throughout the corridor
A Heritage of Faith
During the eighteenth century the region was home to a wide variety of the German sectarians so common in Pennsylvania. The Lutheran communities of Randolph and Guilford, and the Moravians of Forsyth, are the last survivors of this rich tradition. The village of Old Salem, in Winston-Salem, provides an in-depth look at the lifestyles and heritage of the Moravians, a religious minority which exercised a powerful influence. Widely acknowledged as one of the country's finest living history museums, Old Salem is a significant adjunct site to the Corridor.
Bishop Francis Asbury and a host of other "circuit riding" missionaries brought Methodism to the region in the 1790s. And some of the earliest and most important sites relating to the history of Southern Baptists can be found within the corridor. Sandy Creek Baptist Church near Liberty has been called the "Mother Church" of both the Southern Baptist and Primitive Baptist religious denominations. Both credit their origins to Elder Shubal Stearns and his "Separatist Baptist" community, established at the Sandy Creek site in 1755. Elder Stearns, who died in 1771, is buried in the adjacent graveyard. Efforts are currently underway to restore the early-19th century log church and document the history of the site.
A Heritage of Conflict
Despite its heritage of Quaker pacifism, the region has had its share of bloodshed and battlefields. As early as the 1771 the region saw the War of the Regulation, a taxpayer revolt against the colonial government which swept the Guilford, Randolph and Alamance county areas. During the Revolution the area was powderkeg of factionalism, seething with guerrilla warfare, political assassination and scorched-earth tactics. The "House in the Horseshoe" State Historic Site showcases this element of the history of the region, just as the Guilford Battleground National Historic Park illustrates the more official side of the war.
During the Civil War the area was notable for its pro-Union activities. Opposition to the policies of the state and Confederate government was so strong a force in Randolph County during the war that local government teetered on the brink of collapse. By 1864 the "outliers," draft-dodgers, northern spies and other disruptive elements had become so powerful that the county was virtually placed under martial law, with state and Confederate troops providing basic law enforcement and protection for the textile factories. After the war the Republican Party gained control of local politics, a distinction that has been maintained in the county to the present day.
Despite the unsettled politics of the region, many companies of troops were recruited from each county along the corridor. The textile mills of Randolph and Alamance were vital to the war effort, providing the cotton undergarments required by state troops to wear their wool uniforms both winter and summer. The mines of Randolph and Chatham counties provided iron ore to the war effort, and the mines of Cumnock and Gulf produced the coal necessary to steam blockade runners out of Wilmington. At the close of the war real devastation had come no closer than Shermans destruction of Fayetteville, but the surrender found elements of Johnstons army camped all across the central portion of the corridor, awaiting what would have been the final encounter between North and South.
A Heritage of Handicraft
A Heritage of Nature
The development of the Deep River Corridor will provide a much needed catalyst to identify, preserve and sensitively develop natural resources of local, regional, state and national significance. Natural landmarks, environmentally- sensitive areas and rare or endangered plant species must be identified throughout the corridor, and institutions such as the Piedmont Land Conservancy and the North Carolina Zoo have already begun compiling such natural heritage resource inventories for a few counties. Prime agricultural lands must be identified and, where possible, protected from urban development for the lasting benefit of both farmers and consumers. Protective "green ways" along floodplains and steep slopes should be created and maintained using conservation easements to provide buffer zones that improve water quality, decrease soil erosion and slow run-off. Finally, new opportunities for outdoor recreation near urban and suburban areas can be accomplished through creation of a series of riverfront parks by participating communities to ensure not just to the conservation of natural areas but provide for their enjoyment.
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