New River Symposium 1984
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Mrs. Jesse A. Reeve
West Jefferson, N.C.

"Ashe County is the best county in the state", to use the words of the Honorable Charles B. Aycock, who made the statement in 1900, the same year he was elected Governor of North Carolina.

This was at the time Ashe County was little more than one hundred years old, for it was in 1799 that interested citizens had brought about legislation creating a new county from the section of Wilkes County lying west of the extreme height of the Appalachian Mountains. It was named for Samuel Ashe, Revolutionary patriot and Superior Court Judge, who had recently finished his third term as Governor of North Carolina.

In November 1800, fifty acres of land were selected as a site for the county seat. This selection was made almost momentarily with the election of Thomas Jefferson as president of the United States. Since Thomas Jefferson was truly the most conspicuous of American apostles of democracy, it was both fitting and proper that when the town was laid out, it was named Jefferson, thus becoming the first in the nation to bear his name.

At the time Ashe County was created it covered an area of 977 square miles. At the present time the area is 427 square miles, since much of the present County of Watauga was taken from Ashe in 1849 and in 1859, 230 square miles were cut off to form Alleghany County.

Truthfully Ashe County was very isolated in the early days of its history. The first means of access to other sections of the country was by an old turnpike that followed the streams and wound around the hills rather than over them. The Blue Ridge Mountains separated it from Wilkes County, while the Virginia state line was the northern boundary and the Tennessee state line the western boundary.

In spite of this isolation the early settlers were largely ambitious, honorable, patriotic people who took pride in self preservation, land ownership, and law enforcement. Many of them had already proved their patriotism as their Revolutionary records in the Archives in Washington, D.C. show. They were enterprising people who with the possible exception of small mining interests started out with a determination to live frugally and well largely through agricultural endeavors.

Early church records attest to their religious convictions. The history of the larger plantation owners would not be complete without recording that they were so fired with the solemnity of God's teachings they built long, log buildings to serve as "Meeting Houses" when ministers of the gospel came through to hold services. These were built near refreshing springs from which water was carried in a large vessel and was usually made available to the public by the use of one gourd or dipper to serve the entire congregation.

With ths passing of years, the time came when a visitor from Johnson City, Tennessee commented as follows about Ashe County: "One is actually surprised to find, after traveling through Ashe, so many evidences of good living and modern civilization. Kentucky throughbreds graze in peaceful pastures and short horns and Jerseys stand knee deep in the crystal streams or graze in meadows as rich in herbage as the blue grass fields of central Kentucky. Many of the farm houses are veritable mansions, all of them neat and clean."

The above description was made nearly three quarters of a century ago, but it points up to present day standards in that it is illustrative of the fruits of an ambitious heritage.

The same article referred to Ashe as having once been the "center of learning and culture in western North Carolina, the Athens of the mountains." As evidence of the desire to place the educated and learned at the top round of the ladder was their reaction to the Act of the General Assembly in 1881, requiring the election of a superintendent of schools in every county in the state. The first two, who served a period of five years each, were "two eminent lawyers who devoted time and talent to the poorly paid and exceedingly difficult job and who set high standards for their successors to follow." Today all schools in the county are under the jurisdiction of the county school board and include three large consolidated high schools, and seven elementary schools.

The panoramic view of Ashe County can rarely if ever be surpassed. Mount Jefferson State Park is all that it was in 1827 when, then as Negro Mountain, it afforded Dr. Elisha Mitchell, an outstanding geologist, a view that in his opinion had never been surpassed in beauty. At the present time it affords more, since the North Carolina Department of Conservation and Development is preparing to construct a park residence and service building and its promotion as a State Park is progressing.

In the August 1, 1872 issue of "Mountain Messenger", edited by Robert M. Dickey, Jefferson, North Carolina, the following reference was made concerning the beauty of White Top Mountain: "It is the most beautiful scenery ever beheld in Western, North Carolina. The beauty and grandeur is unsurpassed. There are several hundred acres of cleared land on the top of the mountain; it derives its name from the peculiar shade of the grass which looks white in the distance. The Corner-stone of North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee is on that mountain; it is a great place of resort in summer time for the pleasure seekers of three states; and is visited by a large number of them every year."

Currently, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee are striving with renewed effort to put forth a program for the development of that area as a regional recreation center. When this is done, Ashe County will benefit from the program.

Whether it is the hope that comes with viewing a verdant landscape in the spring, perhaps at apple blossom time, the perfectness of one of Lowell's rare June days, the variety of color viewed during the proverbial "Indian Summer", or the magnificence of the snowcapped mountains that claims the artist's eye in winter, Ashe County is a corridor of unspoiled beauty.

Actually the extreme northeasterns part of North Carolina, particularly the section that became Ashe County in 1799, lay in what was for years disputed territory.

The truth is that the commonwealth of Virinia failed to get her rightful share alloted her by the King's Charters and the first constitutions of Virginia and North Carolina.

Charles McDowell, Jr., in an article in the Washington Post some years ago suggested a suitable slogan. It was "Thirty-six Thirty or Fight", for the U.S. Geological Survey said "The intention had been from the earliest colonial times to establish the boundary upon the parallel of thirty-six degrees and thirty feet. This is the wording of every legislative act relating to it. [1]

Various sections of the North Carolina—Virginia line were surveyed consecutively by the remarkable William Byrd, Peter Jefferson, father of Thomas Jefferson, Col. Joshua Frye and Dr. Thomas Walker. The result of these surveys created a section of land that was disputed territory for years and many historians have played up the fact as having furnished a refuge for criminals, tax evaders and traitors.

A reference was made last spring in Mr. Bennett's article on the "New River System" and I quote, "with the closed conditions in Ashe County it is not surprising if a researcher begins to wonder if an ancestor might not be his own grandpa". unquote.

As a contradiction to this statement one has only to turn to Theodore Roosevelt in his "Winning of the West" at which time he spoke of the pure Anglo Saxon blood that flowed through the veins of the early pioneers and commented favorably on their bravery, loyalty and independence of character. [2]

Unfortunately, a number of erroneous statements have been made about the early Ashe County records. First Ashe County was largely formed from the 8th, 10th and 16th companies of the 1790 census of Wilkes County. The late Col. A.L. Fletcher in his "Ashe County, a History," mistakenly gave it only as the territory contained in the 8th company. Records show that my ancestor Capt. John Cox in 1800 was apparently the richest man in Ashe County. He had 13 slaves which would represent unheard of wealth in the mountains at that time. The 1815 Tax list also shows he was by far the largest land owner 81,887 acres. He was in Co. 16 in Wilkes Co. Census 1790. [3]

Another misstated record is that a fire destroyed Ashe County records in 1865. I assume the reference is concerning Stoneman's Raid — our deed books prove that there was no fire. Our jail was burned but certainly a Daughter of the Confederacy would not want to give more credit to such depredations than actually happened. The only will book missing is Book 1 recently taken to the Department of Archives and History to be rebound. Truthfully, in recent years, a certain period of Marriage Records were either loaned and they were not returned or have become lost. Hopefully copies may be found somewhere in the future. But this much is true no fire destroyed them in 1865.

We want to regress back more than two hundred years to the year when Major Andrew Wood and his exploring surveyors crossed the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains and discovered a river running north that no one ever heard of. It was only natural that for a little while they called it Wood's River, but after thinking it over and studying its meanders, they learned that the newly discovered river was once part of the mighty Teays River, it is therefore North Carolina's oldest river and the only large river in America to flow north. Doubtless it was at this day named New River, because of its recent discovery and the realization that it, with both its North Fork and South Fork tributaries, a scenic panorama prevails.

By 1750 war was being waged between the Cherokee and Shawnee Indians and the Creek Indians were also disturbed from hunting.

Bishop Spangenberg, head of the Moravian Church in America was here, not in Ashe, Wilkes, Surry or Rowan Counties but in Anson County. For it was December 1752. It was mid-winter and no time for even "God-fearing" people to face death in an expedition at that time and place. The Bishop and his party followed the South Fork of New River and observed meadow land suitable for cattle raising. But before leaving the Bishop recorded in his diary, "the river (the New River) runs north, now south, now east, now west, in short to all points of the compass."

The years just before the Revolutionary War the white settlers were here. David Helton, William Walling and William McClain, from Montgomery County, Virginia were here on a hunting expedition and were so enthusiastic about the country they planned to build permanent homes.

James Baker became the first white man to acquire title to land in what eventually became Ashe County. [4] This was verified to me in a letter from the late Wade E. Eller in the 1950's Mr. Eller was an authority on the early settlement of this area. He described James Baker's deed as being the first title to land, other than a tomahawk deed. Since that time other historians have agreed with his statement. Hugh Smith's will was filed in both Surry County and Wilkes County and records show that he had improved his land after settling here. The will was witnessed by James Baker and Andrew Baker and named his three sons and his son-in-law Morris Baker. We know that Hugh Smith listed as a Carolina Planter was living near the Dickson's and the Dicks, therefore it is just as reasonable to believe that Morris Baker's father, James, had done likewise — previously improved his land. When James Baker came his brother-in-law, Captain Thomas Calloway of French & Indian War fame and William Ray soon followed. These families once lived in Culpepper County and Amelia County, Virginia.

When the American Revolution began, Col. Benjamin Cleveland was captured at his Old Fields plantation. [5] His brother, Captain Robert Cleveland with the help of patriotic friends and neighbors rescued him. Captain Thomas Calloway set up a garrison at his plantation adjoining Col. Cleveland's Old Fields. His five sons and two sons-in-law; James Baker's five sons, William Ray's son, Jesse Ray were ready to fight for the cause of the Patriot in the Revolutionary War.

Religion played a great part in the lives of our pioneers. Believing that God gives man the wisdom to preach, educated ministers were not to be around for a long time. The Reverend George McNeil, like the Rev. Nathaniel Vannoy and the Reverend Andrew Baker were active in the American Revolution. He was well educated in Scotland and had come here as a Presbyterian minister, but Rev. Andrew Baker convinced him he should join the ranks as a Primitive Baptist in order to gain the faith of the pioneer. Little did they dream that years later, Paschall would write a history of the Baptists and would pen the following: "The Rev. Andrew Baker was the wisest, ablest and most influential minister in Wilkes County and the adjoining section of Virginia." [6]

By 1798 efforts were being perfected for the formation of Ashe County from Wilkes County. It had been twenty years since Morris Baker, a son of the first man to hold title to land here, was served with a writ to show why he failed to attend as a juror at Wilkes County court. [7] Morris Baker lived on fine bottom land on the South Fork of New River and he intended to stay on New River. His absence was excused since a very heavy rain had fallen, New River was out of its banks — therefore his absence was caused by an act of God. New River was so high he could not ford the high water and he was excused but Morris Baker resented the writ. He had worked for twenty years to get Ashe County with Jefferson as the county seat established. Three pioneer settlers were appointed to decide upon the location of the county seat: Jesse Taliferro (later Toliver), John Bower and Nathan Horton. Taliferro and Horton were Revolutionary soldiers. Bower was an "exhorter" among the Dunkards — he would not take up arms neither would he own slaves.

Abe Stiener, a traveling Moravian preacher, visited John Bower in 1804 and found him to be an exhorter but he stated that he spoke in such a manner about religious matters and with such a strain he was unable to understand him. While there Stiener's horse got loose and Bower and his sons, Absalom and George, caught the horse. The wilderness was too much for the Moravian divine so he went on his way back to make a pre-arranged visit to the land of the Creek Indians rather than journey into the Three Forks area. One of Bower's sons showed him the best place to ford the New River. [8]

The next few years brought about changes in the lives of Bower and his sons. John Bower, who had instigated the deal for the land where on the town of Jefferson was built, soon became a slave owner. His son, Absalom Bower, enlisted in the War of 1812 and his other son, George Bower, later to be known as Col. George Bower, was to become Ashe County's largest slave owner and was to be elected State Senator from Ashe County more than any other man.

It would be remiss to fail to mention the early Lewis Family that settled in this area early on the North Fork of New River near the Peak Mountain with its 5,196 feet, the highest in Ashe.

At the time of one of the last surveys made in 1772, Robert Henry mentions in his diary that one Gideon Lewis led the surveyors from the White Top Mountain into the Watauga settlement. [9]

There were several Gideon Lewises here early. The late L.F. Tucker once stated that members of the Lewis families stated that one Gideon Lewis was in the area hunting before 1750. This probably accounts for a later one designating himself "Gideon Lewis of Virginia."

Edward King's Revolutionary record states he married Felicia Lewis while living in what was then Wilkes Co. (probably Rowan) in 1767. [10] Edward King lived next to Gideon Lewis. The Lewises were great hunters.

The Legislature of North Carolina in 1788, passed an act by which 3000 acres of vacant land "not fit for cultivation and most convenient to the county seats was granted for every set of iron works as a bounty from this state to any person or persons who would build and carry on the same." Iron works were to be erected within three years. Then when 5,000 pounds of ore were mined the grant was issued.

The progenitor of the Ashe County Ballou family, Meredith Ballou, was listed in the first Ashe County census, which was taken in 1800, only one year after the formation of the county, with one son and one daughter between the ages of one to ten years. His wife was between the age of sixteen and twenty-six and he was in the age bracket between twenty-six and forty-five.

The family record that was passed on by Napoleon Bonaparte Ballou, son of Meredith and Polly Baker Ballou, gave Meredith Ballou's birthday as having been the twenty-ninth of September 1766. Family tradition indicates that, he was born in the valley of the James River in what was then Amherst County, Virginia. [11]

In a recent history of Ashe County, Col. A.L. Fletcher recorded Meredith Ballou as having come to the Ashe County area in 1800, [12] but the fact that he was married to Mary (Polly) Baker, whose father and grandfather were residing in the section in the 1770's and that she was known to have been born in the locality, seems ample evidence that he came sometime between 1790 and 1795, the latter date having been the year of his marriage.

Whether he came to this remote section seeking a wife, who incidently was a daughter of one of the leading men responsible for the formation of the County of Ashe and the granddaughter of the first man to hold title to land in this area, or whether he was merely a prospector for mineral, he found both, apparently liked what he found and spent the remaining years of his life here. However, it would be reasonable to surmise that he may have made extended journeys back to his native Virginia and this is substantiated by his descendants particularly during the later period of his life.

There are numerous records that give evidence that Meredith Ballou was an enterprising citizen. He acquired a vast amount of property and would today have been considered an active real estate dealer. Most of his land deals show that he obtained all mineral rights and that he retained them for himself and his heirs even though he sold the land at various times.

To make an interesting story, any writer might describe him as a man who definitely had iron in his blood. So much so that he handed strains of it down to succeeding generations of his family.

Meredith Ballou's name appears in many records pertaining to the early history of Ashe County. His name was listed in numerous places of activity. He frequently did jury duty but in 1826 he was excused from such duty due to deafness. Whether he was handicapped by lack of hearing from that time on or if so, was it caused from injury brought about through blasting at an iron mine is not known. Since records also show that he was very active as a land surveyor, it is reasonable to believe that he could have damaged his ear drums simply from bodily exposure while carrying out his duties as a surveyor during inclement weather.

In 1827 Meredith Ballou renewed his own bond as county surveyor and that same year Thomas Calloway renewed his own bond as Clerk of Court, with Meredith Ballou as surety. [13]

Thomas Calloway, the grandson of a French and Indian War captain by the same name and the son of a Revolutionary soldier who was also named Thomas, was a man of prominence in early Ashe County. In August 1806 he served as foreman of the grand jury and was the third man to serve as Clerk of Court, his term of office having stretched over a quarter of a century. His wife was Elizabeth (Betsy) Ray, eldest daughter of Col. Jesse and Eleanor Baker Ray. Jesse Ray, served as a Private and later an Orderly Sergent in the Revolution. He was commissioned a Colonel of the Militia by the governor in 1800.

Thomas Calloway was a man of considerable wealth and was one of the first recipients of land from the state of North Carolina for the specified purpose of erecting iron works and the cultivation of iron. [14] This grant was for 3000 acres of land that had been considered by a jury of twelve persons of good character as not fit for cultivation. Iron works were to be erected within three years and when it could be showed that 5000 weight of iron had been made, the grant was issued. The date, according to Ashe County Deed Book D, p. 88, was November 21, 1807. Thomas Calloway died intestate, July 1835 and his estate gave evidence that it was one of the largest estates to be settled in Ashe County up to that time. His inventory included thousands of acres of land, numerous slaves listed by name, notes and the usual personal property required to operate a large plantation twenty-five years before the War Between the States.

The fact that Meredith Ballou was his only bondsman on occasion would suggest that he, too, was a very substantial citizen. One could also conclude that a spirited friendship existed between them since both obviously had ardent and wide mining interests.

Mention was made in "The Iron Manufacturer's Guide" in 1859 that as early as 1817 Ballou's Bloomery Forge, at Falls of North Fork of New River, twelve miles northeast of Jefferson, was built. Many land transfers concerning mineral rights were witnessed by Thomas Calloway and his sons.

While not all deeds were recorded currently and a complete check on those that were recorded by Meredith Ballou was not made, a partial list follows:

Ashe County, North Carolina Deed Book C, Meredith Ballou from State of North Carolina (Grant), Meredith Ballou from Hiram Baker (Deed), Meredith Ballou from Philip Curley (Deed), Meredith Ballou from Daniel Daugherty (Deed), Meredith Ballou from Daniel Daugherty (Deed), Meredith Ballou from Daniel Daugherty (Deed), Meredith Ballou from Daniel Daugherty (Deed), Meredith Ballou from Levi Pennington (Deed). [15]

The first State Grant to Meredith Ballou was for land adjoining Morris Baker's corner. Morris Baker was his father-in-law. It was entered 28th of November 1826 and registered the 8th of January 1827.

The deed made by Harrison Baker to Meredith Ballou was for two hundred and forty one acres of land lying on Long Shoal Creek, a branch of the North Fork of New River. The line began at a white oak in Nicholas Gentry's line. The transaction was witnessed by James Smith and E. M. Herbert.

One deed made to him by Philip Curley was for four hundred acres of land lying on Crab Fork of Little River. The deed was witnessed by Thomas Calloway and Bennet Rector.

It would seem that Meredith Ballou felt as if he had already found mineral on the land he bought of Levi Pennington before he bought it. When Levi Pennington made the deed to him on the third of September 1820, it was for "all the iron ore either in the ground or above the ground that is contained on a certain tract of land containing one hundred acres."

Daniel Daugherty transferred land to Meredith Ballou that lay on Helton Creek. At least one deed was witnessed by Sam Cox and Thomas Calloway.

There were various other properties, either registered or unregistered, belonging to Meredith Ballou as a close check of the deeds made by his heirs following his death, show.

One unique deed made by the heirs of Meredith Ballou is recorded in Ashe County Deed Book R - p. 506. The following appears:

Heirs of Meredith Ballou Deed to Jessie B. Rives (Reeves), 50 acres.

This indenture made this 10th day of April in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and forty eight, between James Ballou, Leonard Ballou, Blake M. Ballou, Baker Ballou, Thomas C. Ballou, Hugh Ballou, Edward Weaver and David Smith, Heirs of Meredith Ballou, Deceased of the one part and Jessie B. Rives of the other part all of the County of Ashe and State of North Carolina.

Withnesseth that they the said Heirs of Meredith Ballou, Deceased, for and in consideration of the sum of Eleven Dollars to them in hand paid the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged and themselves fully satisfied and paid hath granted, bargained, sold and conveyed and confirmed unto him the said Jessie B. Rives, his heirs and assigns forever a certain tract or parcel of land containing fifty acres, the same being in the County of Ashe and the State of North Carolina.

Beginning at a chestnut on the west side of the iron ore knob running north 63 poles to a chestnut oak then east 128 poles to a Spanish oak then south 63 poles to a stake then to first station. Uniquely the price paid was $1.00 per person.

This day and date above written, assigned, sealed and delivered in presence of, T. C. Ballou, Blake M. Ballou, Baker Ballou, Hugh Ballou, James Ballou, Leonard Ballou, N. Ballou, Edward Weaver, John Ballou, Tamson Weaver, David Smith, Ester Smith. Test.: Hiram Calloway

An interesting description of Meredith Ballou is found in the diary of Rev. Elisha Mitchell, D.D., bearing the date of July 1828. Dr. Mitchell was born in Washington, Connecticut the 19th of August 1793. He was graduated from Yale College in 1813 and four years later was appointed to the chair of mathematics in the University of North Carolina. He was active in the scientific departments there for almost forty years. His death took place the 27th of June 1857 while he was attempting to climb the mountain which he believed to be the highest east of the Rocky Mountains and is now Mount Mitchell named in his memory. Dr. Mitchell had been sent to Ashe to explore for valuable minerals. His diary gives the following:

"Mounted my horse and rode to the North of Helton ten miles and fording the stream thirty-two times in the distance and then down North Fork to Col. Meredith Ballou's."

"Fell in a dispute with him about an ore of iron (the micacious oxide) which he asserted to contain lead.:

"He tells me that the first forge in this county was built on Helton Creek a little above where he lives, about twenty years ago by one Harbert. Shortly after another was built a little higher up the same creek, fourteen years ago; that on Little River, four or six years ago."

"----- After dinner Ballou rode with us two or three miles to see his ore banks, which are numerous and rich. Indeed, I judge the range of greios heretofore spoken of to be full of ore."

"Ballou inquired whether I was a professor of religion — said he was not himself, but of the two sects into which the county was divided, he was most inclined to the Baptist. He spoke of the Methodist camp — meeting held annually near Timothy Perkins where I attended meeting." [16]

In 1954, The Skyland Post asked Robert L. Ballou to write an article of Meredith's Ballou's interest in mining in Ashe. The article follows:

It may be interesting to know that the development of the iron ore of this county dates back to the spirit of development shown by Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia when he and a courageous band of pioneers crossed the Blue Ridge in Virginia over two hundred years ago and established homes and infant industries in an undeveloped section of that state. It was there that the order of the "Knights of the Golden Horseshoe" was organized and the iron mines opened and iron furnances erected for the manufacture of iron. The pioneers had to have wagons, horseshoes, axes, mattocks, hoes, shovels, plows and other implements necessary in their new home — things that could be made in their blacksmith shops. My great grandfather, Owen Meredith Ballou was among those pioneer Knights who cleared the forests, established homes and learned the art of manufacturing from the native ore for the use of the people, and later when the spirit of adventure led him into what is now Ashe County he found a fertile land with iron ore and water power possibilities — an ideal place to erect an iron furnace.

He soon met another enterprising young man by the name of George Bower, later known as Colonel George Bower, and gave him one thousand silver dollars to build a catalan forge on the North Fork of New River at a place known as The Falls, about two miles below Crumpler post office, the first such iron furnace ever to be built in this section of North Carolina. This was about the time of President Washington's administration, and it was said that Col. Bower used that $1000.00 to build the old brick building that still stands in Jefferson, just across the street from W.B. Austin's office. [17] At this small manufacturing plant Meredith Ballou made iron from ore taken from the near-by iron mines and supplied the manufactured iron to the citizens of this section of North Carolina. And when he had accumulated a considerable surplus of iron, which was made into long bars suitable for wagon tires and general shop work, he would send it by six-horse wagons to Charleston, South Carolina where he found ready sale for it, and where he purchased such imported goods as he could sell on the local markets here in Ashe County, thus giving him a load on the return trip. It took six weeks to make the trip — and how such a trip over hills and mountains and innumerable rivers, with no bridges, and over such roads as the pioneers had in those days, could be made is more than we can understand.

But the pioneer knew no such thing as defeat. Meredith Ballou kept up the manufacture of iron until the time of his death, about the middle of last century, and supplied the manufactured iron to the trade over this entire section of North Carolina. Soon thereafter one of his sons, John R. Ballou, built another forge near the mouth of Helton Creek, where Dr. Ballou's milling property is located, and kept up the manufacture of iron for a great many years. During the war between the states he furnished the Confederacy with bar iron for making gun barrels for the army, and it was said they made the best rifles in the army. Finally, my father, J.U. Ballou, purchased the Helton Forge property and continued to manufacture iron for the benefit of the people until in the nineties, when the work was finally discontinued, and it has been said that this catalan forge near the mouth of Helton was the last one to be operated in the world. In the early days there were other like forges operated in the county and the state would make a grant of 3,000 acres of unappropriated land to the citizen who would erect and operate a forge in the state. It was a state policy looking to development. The iron made in these catalan forges where the native ore was smelted by heat from charcoal was of superior quality, and when a sample of ore from the Piney Creek vein was sent to the World Fair at Paris, France for exhibit it took first world prize. The State of North Carolina still has this same sample of ore and has sent it to various fairs for exhibitions where it has been noted for quality, and where it has taken prize after prize.

These Ashe county ores are found in three separate veins — the Ballou or river belt, the Red Hill or Piney Creek belt, and the Titaniferous or McCarty belt which extends from the Virginia line in a northwest direction through the county with outcroppings on the headwaters of Grassy Creek, Helton Creek, and Horse Creek, respectively. The extent of these various viens and iron deposits can only be determined by extensive investigation, but it is thought that there is enough high grade iron ore in the county to command the attention of the iron and steel manufacturers of the country. That was the considered opinion of my father, J.U. Ballou, and he was thought to be the best local authority on matters of that kind and was appointed by Governor Aycock to represent the State of North Carolina in the National Mining Congress. It may not be out of place to note that he thought there was other valuable minerals besides iron ore, in the county, and the discoveries made later in the county seem to justify his opinion.

Aside from the iron ores it has long been known that there are valuable copper properties in this section, notably the Peach Bottom copper mines, Ore Knob copper mines, Gap Creek copper mines, and the Elk Knob copper property. Meredith Ballou owned Ore Knob at the time of his death a hundred years ago, and at that time he told his sons, "Hold on to Ore Knob. There is a rich copper mine there." His judgment has been proven to be correct. From what we now know, and have long since known, Ashe County is certainly worthy of careful consideration. Not only from the minerals standpoint, but from our fine mineral springs as well.

Doubtless we would all be amazed if we could only know "What God Hath Wrought" in this good county of Ashe. We will never know until sufficient development work has been done by competent geologist and engineers. And where valuable minerals are found I hope our good people of Ashe County will receive a fair and just price for what they have to offer to industry. It would be wonderful if the local owners and the investing industrial companies could and would be fair with each other. That would insure a pleasant and workable union of interests. It would be like unto an organization of KNIGHTS OF FAIRNESS, where the Golden Rule would be the guide in their mutual dealings. How much better this would be than unconscionable expliotation so frequently practiced in new development work in what we sometimes call backward sections of a county where people are not trained to the ways of commercialism.

So it was that Meredith Ballou, the forefather of the Ashe County Ballou family, was also the prime prospector of his day. Jesse Ray received 600 acres of land between Naked Creek and Buffalo Creek in December 1802, and later other property for the purpose of mining. There were a few other state grants but he was never as well to do as numerous people seemed to believe.

In November, 1851 W.P. Waugh of county of Wilkes and state of North Carolina made an indenture to Edward S. King of Ashe County for "a tract, piece or parcel of land, situated, lying in being a part of bounty land granted to Jesse Ray and afterwards granted to Edward King the 14th day of October, 1837 (no. 7849)." [18]

Conclusively the three earliest Ashe County citizens with extensive mining interest were Thomas Calloway, Jesse Ray and Meredith Ballou. However, Meredith Ballou outlived Calloway and Ray and his grandson Jerome Uriah Ballou obviously inhereited the mining tradition for he willed all the mining interest he possessed to his ten children and to be passed on to his children's children.

Recently a daughter of his late son Robert L. Ballou told me she is paying tax on the mineral rights on 50 acres of land in the Grassy Creek community.

In 1960 Harriete Simpson Arnow, wrote and had published under copywrite, "Seedtime on the Cumberland". She brought forth the idea of the things that shaped our lives — the land and the river.

Before I go further may I emphasize, the land and the river. But I want to tell you she referred to "Grandpa Dick" and other grandfathers of "how many" generations back.

Later she referred to "my own people seemed to have been big hominy people, all the way back and my great-grandmother, Permelia Jane Dick born in 1819 probably made it as did her great-grandmother on New River in 1750." [19]

I have always felt gratified that the late historian, Wade E. Eller, had given my late paternal grandfather Marshall Baker's pioneer heritage at the time of his death mentioning Captain John Cox, Thomas Dickson, and John Dick whom he credited with having built the first house in what eventually became Ashe county.

I entered into correspondence with Mrs. Arnow and she shared my interest and acknowledged there was a family connection.

In Ashe County owning a good farm with a big stretch of bottom land and a fair boundary of timber gave a good birthright to a family.

It was land and water — the river, running water was the seen of activity. The subject to write about. The creek or the river was where baptism took place, the most sacred rite. Plans were often delayed because "the creek was up", wedding births and deaths, the mail, all hedged about by the risen creek with overturned buggies and swimming horses.

I can imagine that the Ballou's and others frequently rode rafts on New River.

Certainly, three sons of the late Jerome Uriah (J.U.) Ballou, namely James Larkin Ballou, Robert Lucine Ballou, and George Newton Ballou built their own boat called the Cadetta, launched it with their belongings to make a trip to West Virginia by navigating the New River and on into the Kanawha. Mr George Newton Ballou kept the following log of the trip; Thursday, September 17, 1901 (the three Ballous) left by boat to West Virginia on their way to school; James L. Ballou to medical school at Nashville, Tennessee, Robert L. and G. Newton to Eastern College at Front Royal, Virginia.

Reached Grayson Sulphur Springs Saturday, the fourteenth at 11:45 A.M., had lunch with Dr. G.W. Kernadle at Riverside Inn, across the river from the health resort. Left the inn at 3:00 P.M.; at 3:33 P.M. arrived at the rapids, a fall in the river of twelve to fifteen feet.

It was at the rapids the picture of the Ballou brothers and boat was made.

The picture which was taken of the three Ballou brothers reveals three well dressed young men. Each was wearing a black derby hat which Mr. G. Newt Ballou, in his ninetieth year related "proved to be quite an asset when in rough water we would get water in the boat and would be compelled to bail it out with our derbies. They were used more than once. Quite an experience!".

In conclusion, may I say along with Ella Wheeler Wilcox in her poem entitled "Will"

One ship drives east and another west
With the self same winds that blow;
Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
Which decides the way to go.

Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate
As the voyage along through life;
Tis the will of the soul
That decides the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.


1. Roosevelt, Theodore, Winning of the West. p 228

2. Roosevelt, Theodore, Winning of the West. pp 1-31, p 53

3. Fletcher, Col. A.L., Ashe County, A History. p 49

4. Sharpe, Bill, The State Magazine, August 28, 1954 Vol. 22, No. 7 also Roosevelt, Theodore, Winning of the West. p 53 — "Cabin right" p 133 - "Tomahawk deed"

5. Draper, Lyman C., L.L.D., King's Mountain and Its Heros. pp 438-443

6. Paschal, Dr. George W. History of the Baptist. Vol. III, p 242

7. Hayes, Johnson Jr., The Land of Wilkes. p 34

8. Moravian records regarding Abe Steimer

9. Arthur, John Preston, Western North Carolina, A History. 1730-1913 pp 41-523

10. General Services Administration, Edward King's Revolutionary Pension Papers No. R5942

11. Reeves, Eleanor Baker, James Larkin Ballou, Physician and Surgeon. p 81

12. Fletcher, Col. A.L., Ashe County, A History. p 222; also Ballou A. The Ballou Family. part CA — 1880's

13. Ashe County Court Records, Book 1

14. Ashe County Deed Book, Grant No.

15. Ashe County Deeds

16. Dr. Elisha Mitchell's Diary, pp 26, 27, 28

17. Note — Unfortunately this building no longer stands (EBR).

18. Ashe County Deeds, Grant No. 7849

19. Arnow, Harriette Simpson, Seedtime on the Cumberland. pp 4, 396

20. Skyland Post, Eller, Wade E, Obituary of Marshall Baker, March 28th Issue

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Last Updated: 08-Jul-2009