After driving for 45 minutes past green fields and farms that seemed to belong in a Western film, we parked beside the Deep River and set foot on Franklinville soil for the first time. There was no one in sight and it was extremely quiet despite it being a Wednesday afternoon. Oh well, we had known this would happen. It’s common, after all, for people in small communities to commute onto other places like the nearby town of Ashboro to work. And it’s not like Janee, Cassidy, Laura and myself minded having the town to ourselves for a bit. We were on a mission to find all of the town’s official historic sites.
Trudging through the vast expanses of grass and pebble roads that bordered the clay-colored river, felt almost like walking through a giant farm. And, more due to desire to enjoy the pleasantly sunny weather than to the utter lack of signage, it took is a while to find the first historic landmark in our list: Faith Rock, a huge bluestone outcrop which marks the setting for Randolph County’s most legendary Revolutionary War incident (May 2, 1782). The Andrew Hunter Bridge, a few feet away, was not hard to find after that. And from atop its metal structure we could easily spot out second historic landmark; Island Ford.
A link to Franklinville’s prehistoric origins, the silted-up peninsula is -to this day – still surrounded by the four stone pillars that once anchored the ends of Franklinville’s previous iron bridge (built in 1906, demolished in 1969). But one still has to keep their eyes peeled when looking for it, or else the vines covering the pillars will convince you there’s nothing there to be seen.
Once across the river, we came upon a short nature trail. A cute little thing, with not much else but a campfire-ish alcove at its end. So we backtracked across the bridge and walked back to the car, hoping to find other landmarks a we drove through the town. Which is when we saw the iron locomotive.
Very well-preserved, and mounted like a statue it was. And, though at first it reminded me of a hand-made, oversized toy, for a second there I think we all could not but feel sorry for it. Its age had passed, and there it was; still standing. Still a miracle of engineering. Why wasn’t it on our list? A thing to ponder indeed. Especially knowing that the rail road had helped keep the town alive since it reached Franklinville around the 1890’s
Anyhow…we kept driving through the town and finally found our third landmark: Hank’s Lodge. The sophisticated, white, wooden, Greek revival style building was the first Masonic Lodge in Randolph County (1850). And, near it, we found Franklinville’s Restaurant (the only existing place to eat local food), but it was already closed. So we looked around some more and left the town, hoping to find a few more items to our list before it was time to leave.
The Franklinville Roller Mill was not hard to find once we drove out past the old rail road. The three-story brick building’s ruins are still there – and in pretty good condition, if I might add. It was built in 1913, when the Franklinsville Manufacturing Company replaced the antique grist mill with a completely new, greatly enlarged operation to process locally-grown wheat. And, unlike its predecessor, which used grinding stones, the new Roller Mill used steel rollers grind the grain. Some very old, clearly abandoned silos were seen nearby, later on. But they did not seem to be in any way related to the Roller Mill and we quickly moved on.
What else was there for us to do? Many places were clearly off limits – marked as the way with Private Property signs. Which meant that surely a few historic landmarks were out of our reach. And the other ruins we had stopped to look at earlier could not be identified properly. The spindles filled with yellowed yarn on the floor told us only that they belonged to either the Franklinville or the Randolph Manufacturing Company.
And so we left to town behind, having identified 4 (ish) landmarks out of 14.
Not bad, right?.
Not bad, indeed.