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There is not a single county west of the Blue Ridge, that does not contain in abundance rich iron ores. In some instances these deposites are adjacent to excellent water power and limestone, and are surrounded by heavily timbered cheap lands. The sparry, carbonate of iron, or steel ore, of which a specimen, some years since, fell under the observation of Professor Mitchell, though he was not able to ascertain the locality from which it came, is abundant at a place rather inaccessible in the present condition of the country. It is not probable that in our day the beautiful statuary marble of Cherokee, both white and fleshcolored, will be turned to much account for want of the means of getting it into those markets where it is needed. Besides the minerals referred to in Professor Shepard's letter, some of the ores of copper exist in the western part of this State. I have the carbonate, (green malachite,) the black oxide, and some of the sulphurets. Whether, however, these, as well as the ores of lead and zinc, (both the carbonate and sulphuret exist here,) are in sufficient abundance to be valuable, cannot be ascertained without further examination than has yet been made.
Many persons are deterred from making any search, and are discouraged because valuable ores are not easily discovered on the surface of this country. This is not usually the case any where. Gold, it is true, because it always exists in the metallic state, and because it resists the action of the elements better than any other substance, remains unchanged, while the gangue, or mineral containing it crumbles to pieces and disappears, and hence it is easily found about the surface by the most careless observer. Such, however, is not generally the case with metallic ores. would, if exposed to the action of the elements, in progress of time be On the contrary, many of the best ores decomposed, or so changed from the appearances which they usually present when seen in cabinets, that none but a practiced eye would detect them at the surface. In the counties west of the Blue Ridge, there has been as yet no exploration to any depth beneath the surface of the ground, with perhaps the single exception of the old excavations in the county of Cherokee. According to the most commonly received Indian tradition, they were excavated more than a century ago, by a company of Spaniards from Florida. They are said to have worked there for two or three summers, to have obtained a white metal, and prospered greatly in their mining operations, until the Cherokees finding that if it became generally known that there were valuable mines in their country, the cupidity of the white men would expel them from it, determined in solemn council to destroy the whole party, and that in obedience to that decree no one of the adventurous strangers was allowed to return to the country whence they came. Though this story accords very well with the Indian laws which concondemned to death those who disclosed the existence of mines to white men, yet I do not regard it as entitled to much credit. At the only one of these localities which I have examined, besides some other favorable indications, there is on the surface of the ground in great abundance that red oxide of iron, which from its being found in Germany above the most abundant deposites of the ores of lead and sil
ver, has been called by the Germans the Iron Hat. Also something resembling that iron ore rich in silver, which the Spaniards called pacos, is observable there. It seems more probable, therefore, that some of those companies of enterprising Spaniards, that a century or two since were traversing the continent in search of gold and silver mines, struck by these appearances, sunk the shafts in question and soon abandoned them as unproductive. But which of these is the more probable conjecture, cannot perhaps be determined, until some one shall be found adventurous enough to reopen those old shafts. I am, however, keeping your readers too long from the interesting letter of Professor Shepard. T. L. CLINGMAN.
Hon. MR. CLINGMAN,
NEW HAVEN, CONN., Sept. 15, 1846.
Dear Sir:-To your inquiry of what I think of the mineral resources of Western North Carolina, it gives me pleasure to say that no part of the United States has impressed me more favorably than the region referred to. It is proper, however, to state, that my acquaintance with it is not the result of personal observation, but has been formed from a correspondence of several years standing with yourself and Dr. Hardy, and from the inspection of numerous illustrative specimens supplied to me at different times by my colleague, Dr. S. A. Dickson, of Charleston, S. C., and by the students of a medical college of South Carolina, who have long been in the habit of bringing with them to the college samples of the minerals of their respective neighborhoods. I may add to these sources of information, the mention of not unfrequent applications made to me by persons from North Carolina, who have had their attention called to mines and minerals, with a view to their profitable exploration. Nor shall I ever forget the pleasure I experienced a year or two since, on being waited upon in my laboratory by a farmer from Lincolnton, who had under his arm a small trunk of ore in lumps, which he observed that he had selected on account of their size, from the gold washings of his farm during the space of a single year. The trunk contained not far from twelve hundred dollars in value, and one of the specimens weighed two hundred and seventy-five dollars.
I have recognized in the geological formation of the southwestern counties of North Carolina, the same character which distinguishes the gold and diamond region of the Minas Geraes of Brazil, and the gold and platina district, (where diamonds also exist,) of the Urals, in Siberia. It is this circumstance, beyond even the actual discoveries made with us, that satisfies my mind of the richness of the country in the precious metals and the diamond. The beautiful crystal of this gem which you sent me last spring, from a gold washing in Rutherford, however, establishes the perfect identity of our region with the far-famed auriferous and diamond countries of the south and the east. Neither can there remain any doubt concerning the existence of valuable deposits of manganese, lead, crome and iron in your immediate vicinity, to which I think we are authorized to add zinc, barytes and marble. I have also seen indications of several of the precious.
stones, besides the diamond, making it on the whole a country of the highest mineralogical promise.
Enough has already been developed, as it appears to me, in the minerals of the region under consideration, to arouse the attention of prudent legislators to this fertile source of prosperity in a State. If a competent surveyor of the work were obtained, under whose direction. a zealous and well-instructed corps of young men (now easily to be obtained from those States in which such enterprises are just drawing to a close) could take the field, I have no doubt that numerous important discoveries would immediately be made, and that the entire outlay required for carrying forward the work, would in a very short time be many times over returned to the people from mineral wealth, which now lies unobserved in their very midst. But the highest advantages of such a survey would no doubt prove with you as it has done elsewhere, to be the spirit of inquiry which it would impart to the popula tion generally, producing among their own ranks an efficient band of native mineralogists and geologists, whose services in their own behalf, in that of their neighbors and the State at large, would, in a few years, greatly outweigh all that had been achieved by the original explorers. It is thus in the States of New England, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, that there are scattered every where through those communities, numbers of citizens, who having first had their attention called to the subject by the scientific men appointed by the legislature, have now become fully competent to settle most of the questions which arise relating to the values of the unknown mineral substances, which from time to time are submitted by their less informed neighbors for determination. A very observable impulse has in this way been given to the development of underground wealth; and many valuable mines are in the course of active exploration, which but for these surveys and the attendant consequences of them, would now remain not only unproductive but unknown. Nor is the mere mineral yield of these mines to be considered in determining the advantages that accrue to a coinmunity from such enterprises. The indirect results to the neighborhood in which the mines are situated, are often very great; such, for example, as those flowing from the increased demand for farming produce, from the free circulation of capital, the improvement of roads, and the general stimulus which is always imparted by successful enterprise to the industry of a country. I may be permitted to add in conclusion also, that an important service is always rendered true science, in restraining the uninformed from unprofitable adventures.
I have a wish to see the public survey of North Carolina undertaken, not only on account of its economical bearings, but from the conviction. with which I am impressed, that it will equally promote the progress of science, and elevate the character of our country at large.
I have the honor to remain very truly and obediently yours, CHARLES UPHAM SHEPARD.
To the North Carolina Land Company.
RALEIGH, N. C., April 7, 1869.
In compliance with your request, I proceed to give you a concise statement in relation to the western part of our State, viz: that elevated table land extending from the Blue Ridge to the Tennessee State line. Almost all of it was embraced in the Congressional district which I represented for more than a dozen years, and even after I became a Senator, I was frequently passing over it. In fact, I have ascended almost all the principal mountains, and, for the purpose of observing the geological and mineralogical features, visited most of its valleys. Its length, extending as it does, from Virginia to Georgia, is not less than two hundred and fifty miles, while its breadth varies from thirty to sixty miles, averaging probably fifty or thereabouts.
It has along its eastern border the Blue Ridge, by which name in North Carolina, is designated the mountain chain that divides the waters falling into the Atlantic from those of the Mississippi valley. Its western boundary is the great ledge of mountains called in different portions of its course, Smoky, Iron, Unaka, &c. Though this range is cut through by the streams running to the west, yet it not only has many points higher than any along the Blue Ridge, but its general elevation and mass are greater. There are also a number of cross chains of mountains, the most elevated of which are the Black and Balsam ranges. There are many points exceeding six thousand feet in altitude above the sea, while the lower valleys or beds of the principal streams in the central parts of the plateau, are from two thousand to twenty-five hundred feet above tide-water. To give one an idea of the general elevation of the surface, it may be stated that nineteen-twentieths of the land will be found between the elevations of eighteen hundred and thirty-five hundred feet above the level of the ocean. It presents therefore, a delightful summer climate, surpassing, I think, that of any part of Switzerland. The range of the thermometer in summer is from twelve to fifteen degrees Fahrenheit, below that of the northern cities, rarely going up to eighty-five degrees in the shade at any hour of the warmest days. The air is almost always bracing and exhilerating in a high degree, while no country is more healthy, being not only free from all miasmatic diseases, but favorable even in winter. Having a southern latitude and surrounded on all sides by lower and warmer regions, its winter climate is much milder than that of northern Virginia or Pennsylvania. It is unusual for the ground to be covered with snow for as much as a week at a time, and the deepest snows commonly disappear in two or three days on all those portions of the ground exposed to the sunshine.
In many instance persons threatened with consumption have found the climate of Buncombe, about Asheville, both in winter and summer, very favorable to them. A gentleman who has passed several winters both at Asheville and in Minnesota, says that the climate of the former place is quite as dry at that of the latter and much milder. The geological formation belongs chiefly to the older series of rocks, and they are generally well disintegrated. There is one remarkable
exception, however, in a belt of country extending from the Grandfather Mountain southerly, embracing the Linville and Table Mountain ridges. This consists mainly of strata of a more recent origin, quartzite, elastic sandstone, (the Itacolumite or diamond bearing rock of Brazil) and certain slates. The soil over this belt is thin, and covered chiefly with white pine, and such shrubs and plants as are found in poor, silicious soils. Outside of this comparatively small tract, the soil of the mountain region is remarkable for its fertility. The gneiss, mica, slate, syenite, and other honblendic and ferruginous rocks are well decomposed and have liberated in great abundance fertilizing ingredients. While no part of the section would be termed rocky in comparison with the New England States, yet there is more rock visible on the eastern border of the belt than on the side next to the State of Tennessee. In general the disintegration seems deeper and the soil richer as one approaches the western border. The Yellow and Roan Mountains in Mitchell, and the great Smoky Mountain in Haywood, Jackson and Macon, furnish striking examples of this fact. On those mountains, at an elevation of six thousand feet, a horse will often sink to his fetlocks in a thick, black, vegetable mould, and the growth, whether timber, grass, or weeds, appears to be as luxuriant as in the swamps of the low country. Even the balsam fir tree, which is usually of no great height, attains an altitude of one hundred and fifty feet on the southern side of the great Smoky, a mountain which from its bulk and general altitude, has been designated by Professor Guyot as "the culminating point of the Alleghanies." The fact that the mountains usually become richer as we ascend them, is doubtless due to the circumstances that being often enveloped by clouds, and kept cool and moist, the vegetable matter slowly decays, and is incorporated with the soil, as usually seen on the north or shady side of a hill.
There is no country of equal extent perhaps better timbered than this. Along some of the streams a good deal of white pine and hemlock are to be found, but the forests chiefly consist of hard wood. All the varieties of the oak are abundant and attain a great size. The white oaks in many places are especially large. So are the chestnut, hickory, maple, poplar, or tulip trees, black walnut, locust, and in fact probably every known tree that grows in the Middle and Northern States of the Union. There are a few treeless tracts on the tops of of several of the higher mountains (covered, however, with luxuriant grasses) which the aboriginal inhabitants regarded as the foot-prints of the evil one, as he stepped from mountain to mountain.
Among the most beautiful valleys are the upper French Broad and Mills River valleys of Henderson and Transylvania. The Swannanoa, in Buncombe, the Pigeon river, Richland, and Jonathan's creek flat lands in Haywood, and those of the Valley river and Hiawasse in Cherokee and portions of the upper Linville in Mitchell.
While all the counties contain large bodies of fertile land, perhaps the soil of Yancey and Mitchell is most generally rich, though the lands are more commonly hilly or rolling than they are in several of