Deep River Landmarks

History of Franklinville, NC: Steam Power Machine

The Steam Power House

The Steam Powerhouse was built in 1919 as one of the last actions of Hugh Parks as CEO of the Franklinville Manufacturing Company.  Superintendent George Russell created a coal-fired steam turbine generating station that not only supplied electricity to both cotton mills, but to the entire village of Franklinville.  Coal was brought in on the railroad and fed into two huge boilers. This powered a Westinghouse steam turbine to generate electricity. The expense of the installation, completed in 1921, caused a reduction of stock dividends which let to the shareholder revolt in 1923 that sold the company to David and John Clark, founders of Randolph Mills, Inc. By 1925, the local coal-fired powerhouse was made obsolete by the availability of power transmitted to Franklinville through the Carolina Power and Light distribution system.  The cost of purchasing power was much cheaper than generating steam and electricity locally, and the powerhouse was closed. The chimney was demolished in 1975.

Community Information for Franklinville, NC: Faith Rock

Faith Rock

Location: Franklinville, south side Deep River, looking east from the SR 2235 bridge. The concrete storage silos of the former roller mill are to the left.

Today, Faith Rock is a favorite spot for visitors and town’s people alike. It offers several levels of walking/hiking trails, which can be as easy or as challenging as you wish. Visitors can access the trails from the footbridge at the west end of Riverside Park. While walking or hiking, enjoy the wonder of nature that will surround you. A picnic area, located near the river, is perfect for a relaxing lunch with family and friends. Our regions’ distinctive four seasons, provides stunning, scenic views, from various elevations, and allows you to see up and down Deep River. From the top of Faith Rock, visitors can see for miles around. The beauty of the area gives amateur and professional photographers the opportunity to capture some amazing photos, so bring your camera along. Faith Rock is open from dawn to dusk every day of the year. The Town of Franklinville is fortunate to have this beautiful and historic spot in our community and we would love to share it with you.

Rising out of Deep River several hundred feet upstream of the site of Elisha Coffin’s grist mill and textile factory is Franklinville’s major geological landmark, a huge bluestone outcrop known as Faith Rock. It was the setting for one of Randolph County’s most legendary Revolutionary War incidents.

While taking a wagon of produce to trade for salt at the Pedee River market on May 2, 1782, local resident Andrew Hunter was captured by the notorious Tory guerrilla leader David Fanning. Facing immediate execution, Hunter made a desperate escape. In Fanning’s words, Hunter “sprung upon my riding mare, and went off with my saddle, holsters, pistols, and all my papers… We fired two guns at him; he received two balls through his body, but it did not prevent him from sitting the saddle and make his escape.” [David Fanning, The Narrative of Colonel David Fanning (Spartanburg: The Reprint Company, 1973; pp. 59-62.]

Enraged, Fanning plundered Hunter’s home, holding his pregnant wife hostage for the return of the horse, “a mare I set great store by, and gave One Hundred and Ten guineas for her.” [ibid.]  However, Fanning’s guerrilla band was forced to release Mrs. Hunter and ride out to join the British evacuation of Charleston, South Carolina.

But Fanning risked a final return to Randolph on September 5, 1782, solely in an attempt to recover his mare. The incident at Faith Rock must have occurred at this time. Hunter “was riding the Bay Doe, on the high ground south of Deep River, and not far above the …ford; but found they were heading him in that direction. He then turned his course up the river, but they were there ready to receive him. The only alternative was to surrender, which would be certain and instant death, or to make a desperate plunge down a precipice, some fifty feet high into the river. He chose the latter… It was such a daring adventure that his pursuers… stopped short, in a kind of amazement, and contented themselves with firing two or three pistols after him. As there was no level ground at the bottom of the descent, he plunged right into the river… sometimes swimming and sometimes floundering over rocks, until he found a place where he got out on the north side and made his escape.” [E.W. Caruthers, Revolutionary Incidents and Sketches of Character Chiefly in the “Old North State.” Philadelphia: Hayes and Zell, 1856; pp. 280-281.]

Fanning left the country in frustration on September 22, neither recovering his horse nor gaining revenge.

Local wisdom in Franklinville has always repeated the claim that Bay Doe’s hoof prints can still be seen, embedded in Faith Rock.  The truth of that, as well as the likelihood that any horse and rider could jump off a 60-degree slope into a river normally as shallow as Deep River, must be left to the opinion of visitors.

Several generations of Eagle Scouts have established and maintained a rough trail from the Andrew Hunter footbridge in Franklinville, up to the top of the rock.  In this 21st-century, there are said to be “geo-caches” stashed around Faith Rock which game-players may discover with their GPS locators.

Island Ford Mfg. Co.

On September 5, 1846, Elisha Coffin and three of his sons and nephews, along with A.S. Horney, George Makepeace, Thomas Rice and nine other men and women, incorporated the county’s third textile mill, the Island Ford Manufacturing Company.  The factory “went into operation in 1848, supplied with the latest and most approved machinery. The dam and canal, factory house and houses for the operatives, store house, cotton house and all necessary appendages (were) constructed by experienced workmen and in the most elegant and durable style.” The four-story story “House” was essentially the same size and plan as the Franklinville factory just upriver, but at Island Ford a wooden superstructure was built upon a brick first floor, and a fourth floor was lighted by a clerestory monitor roof. This last feature was widely used in English and New England factories, and foretold the spread of mainstream industrial technology into the infant Deep River manufacturing community. The corporation prospered for a few years, but deteriorating economic conditions forced the company to declare bankruptcy on July 14, 1856.  By October 1859 the property had been sold to a group of local investors including A.S. Horney, Reed Creek merchant Isaac H. Foust and Foust’s store clerk Hugh Parks. In 1862, following Foust’s death, a revised partnership was incorporated as the “Randolph Manufacturing Company.”  The corporation at that time had capital stock worth $30,000, seventy employees, and consumed 850 bales of cotton to produce 3,000 yards of 4-4 sheeting.

In 1895, the “Cotton Mill Edition” of the Raleigh News and Observer wrote of the Island Ford mill, saying that “the fates have decreed that it shall not stand to see the flowers bloom again, for the architects and brick layers are building long, new brick walls all about it, and so soon as new floor space is ready, the quaint old wooden building will tumble to the the of the new order of things…” The new factory was built immediately to the west of the Island Ford structure, which was located approximately where the present engine room and smoke stack stand.  The 1895 factory straddled the existing mill race, the only trace of the antebellum mill which is still evident. The building’s central three-story stair tower was accessible only by a bridge over the race, and was capped by a very unusual bell cupola. The stair tower was destroyed in the mid-1950s when new construction filled the central courtyard area, leaving the gable ends of the east and west wings the only visible parts of the 1895 factory.