« AnteriorContinuar »
ARTICLES RELATING TO THE MOUNTAIN REGION OF NORTH CAROLINA.
[Having occasionally, for more than thirty years in the past, written articles in relation to the mountain region of North Carolina, owing to the intervals of time which had elapsed between the successive publications, and also because I had sometimes to reply to similar questions of different persons, there are repetitions in some instances, perhaps, of the statements.
In making the selections which follow, however, I have sought only to present such publications as might convey the leading facts of interest, with as little repetition as possible.]
To J. S. Skinner, Esq.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, February 3, 1844.
DEAR SIR: Your favor of the 30th ultimo was received a day or two since, and I now avail myself of the very first opportunity to answer it. I do so most cheerfully, because, in the first place, I am happy to have it in my power to gratify in any manner one who has done so much as yourself to diffuse correct information on subjects most important to the agriculture of the country; and, secondly, because I feel a deep interest in the subject to which your inquiries are directed. You state that you have directed some attention to the sheep husbandry of the United States, in the course of which it has occurred to you that the people of the mountain regions of North Carolina, and some of the other Southern States, have not availed themselves sufficiently of their natural advantages for the production of sheep. Being myself well acquainted with the western section of North Carolina, I may perhaps be able to give you most of the information you desire. As you have directed several of your inquiries to the county of Yancey, (I presume la the fact, well known to you, that it contains the highest misting in any of the United States,) I will, in the first place, turn my are hat county. First, as to its elevation. Dr. Mitchell, of our University, ascertained that the bed of Tow river, the largest stream in the county, and at a ford near its centre, was about twenty-two hundred feet above the level of the ocean. Burnsville, the seat of the court-house, he found to be between 2,800 and 2,900 feet above it. The general level of the county is, of course, much above this elevation. In fact, a number of the mountain summits rise above the height of six thousand feet. The climate is delightfully cool during the summer: there being very few places in the county where the thermometer rises above eighty degrees on the hottest day. An intelligent gentleman who passed a summer in the northern part of the county (rather the more elevated portion of it) informed me
that the thermometer did not rise on the hottest days above seventy degrees.
You ask, in the next place, if the surface of the ground is so much covered with rocks as to render it unfit for pasture? The reverse is the fact; no portion of the county that I have passed over is too rocky for cultivation, and in many sections of the county one may travel miles without seeing a single stone. It is only about the tops of the highest mountains that rocky precipices are to be found. A large portion of the surface of the county is a sort of elevated table-land, undulating, but seldom too broken for cultivation. Even as one ascends the higher mountains, he will find occasionally on their sides flats of level land containing several hundred acres in a body. The top of the Roan, the bighest mountain in the county except the Black, is covered by a prairie for ten miles, which affords a rich pasture during the greater part of the year. The ascent to it is so gradual, that persons ride to the top on horseback from almost any direction. The same may be said of many of the other mountains. The soil of the county generally is uncommonly fertile, producing with tolerable cultivation abundant crops. What seems extraordinary to a stranger is the fact that the soil becomes richer as he ascends the mountains. The sides of the Roan, the Black, the Bald, and others, at an elevation of even five or six thousand feet above the sea, are covered with a rich deep vegetable mould, so soft that a horse in dry weather often sinks to the fetlocks. The fact that the soil is frequently more fertile as one ascends, is, I presume, attributable to the circumstance that the higher portions are more commonly covered with clouds, and the vegetable matter being thus kept in a cool, moist state while decaying, is incorporated to a greater degree with the surface of the earth, just as it is usually found that the north. side of a hill is richer than the portion most exposed to the action of the sun's rays. The sides of the mountains, the timber being generally large, with little undergrowth and brushwood, are peculiarly fitted for pasture grounds, and the vegetation is in many places as luxuriant as it is in the rich savanna of the low country.
The soil of every part of the county is not only favorable to the production of grain, but is peculiarly fitted for grasses. Timothy is supposed to make the largest yield, two tons of hay being easily produced on an acre, but herds-grass, or red-top, and clover, succeed equally well; blue-grass has not been much tried, but is said to do remarkably well. A friend showed me several spears, which he informed me were produced in the northern part of the county, and which, by measurement, were found to exceed seventy inches in length; oats, rye, potatoes, turnips, &c., are produced in the greatest abundance.
With respect to the prices of land, I can assure you that large bodies of uncleared rich land, most of which might be cultivated, have been sold at prices varying from twenty-five cents to fifty cents per acre. Any quantity of land favorable for sheep-walks might be procured in any section of the county, at prices varying from one to ten dollars per acre.
The few sheep that exist in the county thrive remarkably well, and are sometimes permitted to run at large during the winter without being fed, and without suffering. As the number kept by any individual is not large enough to justify the employment of a shepherd to take care of them, they are not unfrequently destroyed by vicious dogs, and more rarely by wolves, which have not yet been entirely exterminated.
I have been somewhat prolix in my observations on this county, because some of your inquiries were directed particularly to it, and because most of what I have said about Yancey is true of the other counties west of the Blue Ridge. Haywood has about the same elevation and climate of Yancey. The mountains are rather more steep, and the valleys somewhat broader; the soil generally not quite so deep, but very productive, especially in grasses. In some sections of the county, however, the soil is equal to the best I have seen.
Buncombe and Henderson are rather less elevated; Asheville and Hendersonville, the county towns, being each about twenty-two hundred feet above the sea. The climate is much the same, but a very little warmer. The more broken portions of these counties resemble much the mountainous parts of Yancey and Haywood, but they contain much more level land. Indeed, the greater portion of Henderson is quite level. It contains much swamp land, which, when cleared, with very little if any drainage, produces very fine crops of herdsgrass. Portions of Macon and Cherokee counties are quite as favorable, both as to climate and soil, as those above described. I would advert particularly to the valleys of the Nantahalah, Fairfield, and Hamburg, in Macon, and of Cheoh, in Cherokee. In either of these places, for a comparatively trifling price, some ten or fifteen miles square could be procured, all of which would be rich, and the major part sufficiently level for cultivation, and especially fitted, as their natural meadows indicate, for the production of grass.
In conclusion, I may say that, as far as my limited knowledge of such matters authorizes me to speak, I am satisfied that there is no region that is more favorable to the production of sheep than much of the country I have described. It is everywhere healthy and well watered. I may add, too, that there is water power enough in the different counties composing my Congressional district, to move more machinery than human labor can ever place there; enough, certainly, to move all now existing in the Union. It is also a rich mineral region. The gold mines are worked now to a considerable extent. The best ores of iron are found in great abundance in many places; copper, lead, and other valuable minerals exist. That must one day become the manufacturing region of the South. I doubt if capital
* Since writing this letter I have discovered there the diamond, platina, blue corundum, in large masses, of brilliant colors, and the most splendent lustre, sapphire, ruby, emerald, euclase, amethyst; also, in various localities, zircon, pyropian garnet, chromo ore; and manganese, and barytes in large veins; likewise plumbago of the finest quality. This note was added five years later.
could be used more advantageously in any part of the Union than in that section.
For a number of years past the value of the live stock (as ascertained from books of the Turnpike Company) that is driven through Buncombe county is from two to three millions of dollars. Most of this stock comes from Kentucky and Ohio, and when it has reached Asheville, it has traveled half its journey to the most distant parts of the Southern market, viz: Charleston and Savannah. The citizens. of my district, therefore, can get their live stock into the planting States south of us at one-half the expense which those of Kentucky and Ohio are obliged to incur. Not only sheep, but hogs, horses, mules, and horned cattle can be produced in many portions of my district, as cheaply as in those two States.
Slavery is, as you say, a great bugbear, perhaps at a distance; but I doubt if any person from the North, who should reside a single year in that country, whatever might be his opinions in relation to the institution itself, would find the slightest injury or inconvenience result to him individually. It is true, however, that the number of slaves in those counties is very small in proportion to the whole population.
I have thus, sir, hastily endeavored to comply with your request, because you state that you would like to have the information at once. Should you find my sketch of the region a very unsatisfactory and imperfect one, I hope you will do me the favor to remember that the desk of a member during a debate is not the most favorable position for writing an essay.
With very great respect, yours,
J. S. SKINNER, Esq.
T. L. CLINGMAN.
To the Editor of the Highland Messenger.
You published a few weeks since an extract from an article in Silliman's Journal, contributed by Professor Shepard, in which he described a diamond sent him from this region a few months since. As that extract excited some interest in the minds of a number of my friends who are engaged in the mining business, I inclose you a letter from Professor Shepard, the publication of which I am sure would be acceptable to many of your readers. I may remark in explanation, that, within the last few years I have sent Professor Shepard some hundreds of specimens of minerals collected in this and some of the other western counties of the State. In some instances a doubt as to the character of a particular mineral, induced me to take this course, but more frequently it was done to gratify those of my acquaintances who wished to have their specimens examined by one in whose decision there would be absolute acquiescence. I knew, too, that I should by these means be able favorably to make known to the public the existence in Western North Carolina, of such minerals as might be valuable in a commercial point of view, or interesting to the scientific world. The letter which I send you, was received in reply to an
inquiry directed to Professor Shepard, as to what was his opinion generally in relation to the minerals of this region, and what he thought of the propriety of a more careful survey of it than has hitherto been made. The answer, though merely in reply to my inquiries, is of such a character that I feel quite sure that its publication will be alike creditable to the writer and beneficial to the public. Even should it fail to produce any such impression on the minds of our legislators as might induce them to direct a complete geological survey of the State, its publicity may in other respects prove beneficial.
I have been pleased to observe that the letter of Professor Mitchell, in relation to some of the minerals of this region, which appeared in your paper a year or two since, directed the attention of a number of persons to that subject, and has been the means of bringing under my observation several interesting minerals. By going (whenever leisure has been afforded me) to examine such localities as from their singular appearance or any peculiarity of external character, had aroused the attention of persons in the neighborhood, I have induced many to manifest an interest in such subjects, so that there is in this region a considerable increase in the number of individuals who will lay up and preserve for examination singular looking minerals. Others are deterred from so doing, lest they should be laughed at by their neighbors as unsuccessful hunters of mines. Doubtless they deserve ridi. cule, who, so ignorant of mineralogy as not to be able to distinguish the most valuable metallic ores from the most common and worthless rocks, nevertheless spend their whole time in traveling about the country under the guidance of mineral rods or dreams, in search of mines. But almost every one may, without serious loss of time and with trifling inconvenience to himself, preserve for future examination specimens of the different mineral substances he meets with in his rambles. He ought to remember that by so doing he may have it in his power to add to the knowledge, wealth and happiness of his countrymen. Partially separated as this region of country is by its present physical condition from the commercial world, it is of the first consequence to its inhabitants that all its resources should be developed. Opening valuable mines, besides diverting labor now unprofitably, because excessively, applied to agriculture, would attract capital from abroad and furnish a good home market to the farmer.
Should the proposed railroad from Columbia to Greenville, South Carolina, be completed, I am of opinion that the manganese and chrome ores in this and some of the adjoining counties would be profitably exported. Though the veins of sulphate of baryta in the northern part of this county, contain pure white varieties suitable to form an adulterant in the manufacture of the white lead of commerce, yet, for want of a navigable stream, it is not probable they will ever be turned to account in that way. They have, however, at some points, a metallic appearance at the surface, they lie at right angles to the general direction of the veins of the country, go down vertically, and being associated abundantly with several varieties of iron pyrites, oxides of iron, fluor spar and quartz, and containing traces of copper and lead, will doubtless at no very distant day, be explored to a greater or less extent.