Resources of South-west Virginia
Showing the Mineral Deposits of Iron, Coal, Zinc, Copper and Lead
Also The Staples of the Various Counties Methods of Transportation, Access, Etc.
By C. R. Boyd, E. M.
Published by John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1881
Pages 268 – 321 of the original text are reproduced here.
This county scarcely needs any other introduction than an allusion to its character as the great copper county of Southwestern Virginia; a character which has been established, really, for years; but, until recently, through the publicity given to the facts, by the author of this work, in various lectures in the Eastern cities, and by publication in Hotchkiss’ able periodical (The Virginian), these vast deposits have remained comparatively unknown. It is true they may have been alluded o both by Professor Rogers and Professor Lesley; but at that early day there were so few developments as to afford only the most meager data upon which to base statements.
Carroll, being rich in other resources–in iron ores, timber, fine streams, mineral springs, etc.–must be regarded, each succeeding year that her unquestionably important resources are developed, as one of the most valuable of the brilliant gems that go to make up the remarkable series of mineral counties known as Southwest Virginia.
In fact, so great is the body of sulphurated ores alone in the county, that they, with plentiful means of transportation, must form the basis of industries on a large scale, the extent of which it would be difficult, now, even to approximate. Thus, when the great West shall have exhausted the virgin strength of its soil, and becomes a much larger purchaser than now of good fertilizers, these heavily sulphurated ores will have been brought into easy communication with other valuable constituents–both those of South Carolina and of Carroll’s sister counties–and will become, in the time of the country’s greatest demand, one of the heaviest manufacturers of cheap and efficient fertilizers, perhaps in the world. It would be curious and interesting to show how such industries could be established; what ingredients, such as potash, etc., could be brought together, and how they could be made into excellent and cheap fertilizers; but the fact that the lines of transportation are still wanting, as well as space, admonishes us to leave the subject for future consideration. In that time, no doubt, some cheap means will have been found by which those feldspars of Grayson and Carroll, holding fourteen percent of potash, can be used in connection with the sulphur of the abundant Carroll County ores. It is true, this is somewhat generalizing; but it will be only the uncandid mind which will be slow to admit the almost certainty of the above reflections, not to speak of the gigantic operations in the reduction of copper even now seriously contemplated by some of the most experienced and capable men in that line of business in the country. That Carroll County, with adequate means of transportation, will develop mines of lasting and permanent value, there can be no doubt; and that this county will form one of the most considerable factors in the solution of the State’s future prosperity, is beyond a question. It is able, by means of its vast hidden wealth, to bring lines of railway through the county, and will inevitably increase the tax-paying power of its own and surrounding communities to so great a degree as to render it a fit comparison to say, that that capacity will have improved a thousand fold.
Carroll is separated from Wythe and Pulaski on the north by the Iron Mountain range, locally termed here the Poplar Camp Mountains; northeast by Floyd County; southeast and southward it is divided from the county of Patrick by the main Blue Ridge; and touches the North Carolina line. Westerly it is bounded by Grayson County.
Carroll is watered by New River and some of its considerable tributaries, Big and Little Reed Island Creeks and their headwaters, Poplar Camp Creek, Chestnut Creek, and some minor streams. All of those being bold and regular in their flow throughout the year, give to the county a name of being well watered.
The geological features of the county are nearly identical with those of Floyd and Grayson, except that Grayson has such an immense quantity of granite, which neither Carroll nor Floyd seem to have. The geology may, then, be said to be comprised between the Laurentian gneissoid series, near the heart of the Blue Ridge, and the Huronian, inclusive. The dip of the rocks has that general appearance of being monoclinal southwardly, or rather southeastwardly, common to most of the rocks of this region; but in places there were once great folds or anticlinals, the crests of which have been denuded and swept away in the lapse of time since they were so folded, leaving both sides of the fold with the same general average inclination.
Beginning in the Blue Ridge, we have generally a gneissoid formation; but, about the main crest, talco-mica, hornblende, and chlorite slates and schists and soapstone alternating with each other. In all these strata there are occasional heavy bands of quartz. The gneissoid formation prevails until you pass the general location of the Southern Copper Lode, as represented on the cross section. Then, in about half a mile north of this southern lode, you cross a broad band of hornblendic slates, schists, etc.; then soapstone; then slate, schists, and quartz veins; then, when within three miles of Hillsville, on the south, you touch upon the trappean rocks in which is situated the native copper lode; then, within a mile of Hillsville, alternations of hornblendic with mica slates and schists; then about Hillsville, the continuation of the strata which hold the northeastern extension of the Peach Bottom Copper Lode, here mostly gneissoid; then, for more than a mile, hornblende; then, for three miles, going northwardly across the great Northern Copper Lode and its branch vein the Dalton, through talco-mica slates, chlorite slates, and sometimes slightly hornblendic slates; then across several miles of a reputation of hydro-mica slates, etc., to the foot of Poplar Camp or Iron Mountain; then through the heavy quartzose and slightly felspathic bands composing the mountain on the south side, ending the section at the county line on the crest of the mountain.
Following the plan adopted for the other counties, an attempt will be made to describe the iron ores first, although the importance of the copper ores, comparatively, would rather suggest the propriety of their being treated first. The Iron Ores of Carroll, it may be submitted, cannot be regarded as the least important of its resources. Not only do they exist in very great quantity, but they are generally pure, except where they retain a little too much copper. It will be understood that the greater part of these ores are derived from the decomposition of iron and copper pyrites; even the magnetic and semi-magnetites may be thus derived; hence it is not to be wondered at that copper will be found in the iron ores.
Of the Brown Ores there are vast beds and deposits existing of gossan along the outcrops of the different pyritous veins, or lodes, of copper and iron. It would be difficult to estimate the quantity which occurs on the southern or Ore Knob Toncray Lode, as its greater distance from the railway transportation has caused it to be less explored than the more northern veins. A description of the location of this lode just here would rob it of that interest which would attach to it in its character of a copper lode; but it is not deemed to have that character for copper in Carroll County which it possessed either at Ore Knob Mine on the southwest, or at the Toncray Mine in Floyd County on the northeast. It is so far as known in Carroll County, of more value in its character as an iron vein. This may be applied both to its massive exhibits of gossan, or brown and red oxide, here and there, and to the masses of undecomposed sulphurets existing below. This is observable where this lode crosses Snake Creek. The vein here exposed had not been fully opened as to give a satisfactory showing of its true character when visited by Dr. Curry in 1859, since which time no work of consequence has been done in the way of development on the lode; but enough has been done, and the outcroppings are sufficiently abundant throughout, to make evident the vast quantity of both gossan and sulphuret it is capable of yielding.
It is nearly twenty-seven miles long in Carroll, with a variable thickness between twelve and twenty feet thick, lying in the gneissoid system, just north of the Blue Ridge, dipping southwardly, generally at high angles. It has been interesting feature of uniting with the Native Copper Lode somewhere near the head of Laurel Creek, in the boundary line between Carroll and Floyd. Of this fact, however, the writer is not positively aware, as it was not our of his power to follow up the Native Lode to the supposed junction; and it is a matter of regret, also, that he was not able to give the Southern Lode as thorough an inspection in Carroll as he gave it in Floyd and Ashe, or that he has given to the Great Northern Lode, the Peach Bottom, and the Native Lodes.
The next great bodies of Brown Iron Ores are found on the Great Northern Lode and its branch veins in the northern central portion of the county. The vast gossan outcrops of this lode, which passes, near Cranberry Plains, from the southwest to northeast through the county, have been mentioned by Dr. F. A. Genth in his report of the “Wistar Copper Mining Company” in 1876; Dr. Dickenson in his report to “The Dalton Mining Company” in 1857′; by Dr. Curry in his “Visit to the Virginia Copper Region” in 1859, recently quoted by Hotchkiss’s “Virginias” and were described by the author in several lectures delivered before meetings of the “The American Institute of Mining Engineers.” Beginning at the southwest end, bodies of this gossan, or hydrated peroxide of iron, are noticeable as the lode, after crossing New River for the last time, passes in to the county from Grayson, about three miles north of Old Town. Here, near the Leonard Mine, the Clifton Copper and Silver Mines, the lode begins to show those surface brown ores of iron which assume such vast proportions a miles or two northeast at the Great Outburst. It is possible that at the Great Outburst, and on Chestnut Creek property of Wistar Copper Mining Company, the ore is more than 150 feet thick by an average of 30 to 35 feet. Dr. Genth, in speaking of the 6,800 feet length of the lode, which he examined in 1876, says: “Taking the average width at 45 feet, and the depth of the limonite (gossan) workable as a valuable iron ore at 30 feet, and the weight of one cubic foot of this limonite at 150 pounds, the Chestnut Creek property contains at least a body of 586,000 tons of available iron ore, yielding about 50 percent of pig metal.”
Again, the Copperas Hill, on Crooked Creek, where the great lode appears to divide into two great veins, going northeastwardly, through all the old workings–on the lands of the Wythe Lead and Zinc Mines (which also own copper property), Vaughan, Ann Phipps, Wild Cat, Cranberry, Dalton mines, Ann Eliza, and Betty Baker mines–you find a tonnage of brown iron ores in the shape of gossan which will go up into the millions of tons.
These ores–as at the Betty Baker mines–often present the appearance of highly valuable ochreous deposits. And the value of the whole is now only a question of cheap transportation.
The pure ores of this variety are not as yet found in very large quantities in Carroll, though five veins are strongly suspect in this series of rocks. Near Thompson’s Mill, on a hill north of a small creek which runs into Little Reed Island Creek, there is specular ore combined with magnetite in a vein not yet fully developed, but supposed to be six feet thick.
Magnetic iron ore is found in many localities in Carroll; it is found to follow a line just north of the Southern Lode; and again another series of outcroppings is observable both north and south of the strike on the Great Northern Lode, as well as in many other localities. Unfortunately a want of transportation has prevented the citizens from taking sufficient interest in these ores to have them developed.
The magnetite as showing in surface pieces is usually very good; and there isn’t enough titanium–as rutile–showing on the surface to warrant the belief that it is heavily impregnated with that impurity. As has just now been said, magnetite exists with specular ore in a vein which crosses a hill not far north of Thompson’s Mill. Should this vein be six feet thick, as suspected, the quantity of ore it will yield throughout its length above water level would be very great, the hills being usually 180 at their crests above water in the creeks. Nearer the Great Northern Copper Lode, on the northern side, as well as on the southern side, the ores picked up are a purer magnetite; but no satisfactory data have been collected yet as to the thickness of the deposits.
To speak of the iron pyrites fully, again anticipates the description of the great metalliferous lodes carrying copper, which would seem more properly to belong to the chapter on copper.
Iron Pyrites in Carroll is found in many of the rock strata. Nearly every quartz lead has more or less of it. It is the great basic material of the Southern Copper Lode. It forms the greater mass of the Northern and Dalton Lodes, besides the minor ones it would be tedious to mention. To form even the most distant idea of its quantity, it is only necessary to imagine a length of 54 miles, by a thickness of 30 feet, of an unknown but very great depth. Much of this, strictly, is pyrrhotite or polarized pyrites. A proportion of it is also arsenical; the quantity of arsenic may assume, at points, large proportions. In all probability, the quantity of arsenic in the Southern Lode is much greater than in any other, judging from the constituents it shows in Floyd County.
The iron pyrites, under favorable conditions of cheap transportation, would become an important basis for large chemical works, including the manufacturers of fertilizers on a large scale. Much of it being above water level, it could be mined with great facility.
Besides the humble efforts of the author, Lieut. Maury, Dr. T. S. Hunt, Dr. F. A. Genth, and other gentlemen eminent in scientific pursuits have had something to say about these veins. To these may also be added the efforts of Dr. Curry and Dr. Dickeson. To. Dr. Curry may be ascribed the first effort to map out these veins, and illustrate them and the general geology of the country with proper cross sections; and the errors which he may have committed, here and there, are more than compensated by the mass of really reliable information which he gave at so early a day as 1859.
Taking the Southern or Ore Knob Toncray Lode into consideration first, it derives more of its importance as a copper lode from the splendid showings at Ore Knob, on its southwest extension, and the Toncray Mine, on its northeast extension, than from anything known of it in Carroll County; but it may be assumed that it must, at greater or less depths, at many places in Carroll, contain rich ores of copper. It is a matter of regret that its greater distance, along here, from railway transportation, has prevented it from being more thoroughly developed.
Next, going northwardly, is encountered the remarkable lode of native copper, which is known to run for eighteen miles in a direction which cuts diagonally across the general strike of the other veins. It was stated in the author’s paper recently read before the New York meeting of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, that this lode had a direction from northwest to southeast. This was putting it strongly, to show the difference between its course and that of the Great Northern Lode, which is from southwest to northeast. The true course of the Native Lode is more east and west. It is apparently perpendicular in attitude–6 feet of close, hard schistose material, holding native copper, having walls of tremolite and hornblendic trap, in some places yielding beryl.
Its location, as determined by actual survey, is shown on the large map accompanying this book. It will be seen from that, that it intersects the Peach Bottom Lode near Woodlawn, and traverses the formation in the direction of a point where the Southern Lode crosses the boundary line between Carroll and Floyd. It may be submitted that there, on the head- waters of Laurel Creek, valuable discoveries may be anticipated.
No estimated has as yet been given of the percentage of copper in the vein above eight per cent. The vein can be seen exposed at James Early’s, south of Hillsville, and at the point where it crosses Reed Island Creek besides other places.
The Peach Bottom Lode
This lode can be clearly traced from the southwest side of the county, very distinctly, as far as Hillsville. It passes close on the south of Woodlawn, and there on lands of that vicinity it shows plainly in nearly perpendicular leges of micaceous schists interlaminated with quartz. These rocks are gneissoid in structure as you approach Hillsville; and there they are in such workable ledges that some of the stone containing copper pyrites are now in the foundation of the court-house. It will be as well to repeat here what is said in the description of the Peach Bottom Copper Mine, that the ore of this vein, everywhere it has been examined, is copper pyrites, with some carbonate of copper near the surface, resulting from decomposition of pyrites, and, for the greater length of the vein, silver-bearing galenite. It is almost impossible to give a correct idea of its thickness or value in Carroll. So little has its presence been suspected by the mining world that sufficient developments have not as yet been made by which to judge correctly.
A quartz lode containing pyrites of iron and copper, in distinct crystals, of large size, is next found between the Peach Bottom Lode and the Northern Lode, lying nearer the latter than the former. It is not probable that it will prove of value, as the quartz forms too large a percentage of the measure.
Next north of this is the Great Northern Lode of copper and iron pyrites.
It may be an error to call of these metalliferous veins by the technical term lode. As to this one, it has the appearance just west of Chestnut Creek of occupying a perpendicular fissure in a dipping stratification; while at a point near Early’s, at Cranberry Plains, it dips 45 degrees about, in a direction southeastwardly. At the latter it would be regarded as distinctly a bedded vein; at the former, a fissure vein or lode.
This great vein or lode, coming from the direction of Ducktown, makes its appearance in Carroll County about three miles north of Old Town on the Carroll-Grayson line, and extends, without intermission, twenty-five miles, northeastwardly, to the Carroll-Floyd line.
Its first southwestern opening of any consequence is at the Leonard opening, sometimes called “The Clifton Copper and Silver Mine,” so named because of a flattering analysis returned by an Indianapolis chemist, in which he ascribed to this part of the vein the remarkable quality of holding (besides sulphur, iron, and copper), nickel, silver, and arsenic. A great many persons do not credit this analysis, which was made for Mr. Edward Shelley, of Wytheville; but when the chemist was applied to, he persisted in saying that the ores sent him gave the results reported. It is somewhat singular that Dr. Genth did not find silver of nickel in the ores about Chestnut Creek, two and a half miles farther northeast. Mr. Dean, of Indianapolis, reported one mass of the ore sent him to contain over $450 to the ton in silver; but as the matter is entirely too important to be left to any degree to conjecture, no fuller report will here be given of the analysis, the hope being entertained that selected samples of the ores may be forwarded to different competent chemists for thorough assay. Net to the Clifton Mine is the Great Outburst–a name applied to an immense surface exhibition of gossan–on the western boundary of the tract of the Wistar Copper Mining Co.; then going east less than a mile you are on the main mining ground of this company, of which Dr. F. A. Genth made a very close and exhaustive examination of 6,800 feet of the lode near Chestnut Creek, in 1876, at which examination the author was present.
Although Dr. Genth says the vein is “between 30 and over 60 feet,” it is believed to be, at one place, over 150 feet thick.
Dr. Genth says:
“The geological formation consisting of mica slates and schists, graduating into chloritis and talcose. Their average dip is about 45 degrees southeast, with a strike between north 30 degrees east and north 45 degrees east.
“A very large mineral deposit between 45 and 65 feet in width coincides in its course with the strike of the inclosing rocks; from the developments made by Shaft No. 1, the ore deposit seems to intersect the rock-strata, and to be nearly perpendicular, corresponding in this respect with similar deposits in the same range of mountains, for instance, with that at Ore Knob, Ashe County, N.C.
“The ore deposit has been developed by numerous shafts and several tunnels, many of which have been made long ago, and are at present inaccessible.
“About 3,400 feet from the southwest boundary line of the property, Shaft No. 1, or the Pyrites Shaft, has been sunk to a depth of 105 feet altogether in the vein. At the bottom of it in a tunnel has been started toward the southeast wall, which, however, was not reached.
“This shaft was started in the decomposed part of the vein, the so-called ‘gossan,’ a hydrous ferric oxide or limonite. At the depth of ten feet this was occasionally stained with green carbonate of copper or malachite, which sometimes occurred even in larger masses.
“At a depth of between 20 and 25 feet the limonite was penetrated, and a bed of black copper ore of about three feet in thickness was reached. This consisted chiefly of black oxide of copper, copper glance, and small quantities of copper pyrites. The analysis of samples of this ore yielding and 21.08 and 28.09 percent of metallic copper.
“At a depth of 25 feet the oxidized ores had been completely disappeared, and were replaced by the undecomposed sulphurets, mostly pyrrhotite or magnetic pyrites, with some iron pyrites and small quantities of copper pyrites.
“These developments show that the vein was divided by interlaminated talc into three seams; that near the hanging wall and foot wall containing a far smaller percentage of copper pyrites than the central seam, which latter is about 10 feet in thickness, the total thickness of the vein being here about 30 feet.
“Although not free form copper pyrites, the ores in the other seams consist mostly of pyrrhotite. The central seam, with a considerable admixture of copper pyrites, was struck by the shaft between 40 and 50 feet depth, and was again cut by the tunnel at 105 feet, showing the same character, but with a decided increase of copper pyrites at the lowest depth reached, from which it is safe to presume that this most valuable and reliable copper ore will, in greater depth replace the leaner sulphurets of iron.
“As in the developments made by this shaft the ores had not been kept separate, I have selected with great care, from the ores on the surface, a sample representing the lowest yield of the same. It was found to contain 1.70 per cent of copper; ores from the central seam and the southeast tunnel yielded 9.36 per cent of copper. It would have been easy, if this had been desirable, to select ores yielding from 30 to 35 percent of copper.
“Near this shaft, on the west side of the vein, a tunnel was started, by which developments, however, no additional information could be gained.
“Ascending the hill toward northeast, the Shaft No. 2, or Whim Shaft, is reached at a distance of 1,500 feet. This shaft was inaccessible, being full of water. Ores which had been raised from it, and which were lying on the surface, showed the character of the deposit.
“After the penetration of the gossan or limonite, rich black ores were found at a depth of about 40 feet, in a layer of about 14 inches in thickness, accompanies by about 2« feet of leaner ores, consisting of pyrrhotite, copper pyrites, a little black oxide of copper associated with talc and actinolite, and yielding about 10 percent of copper. A sample of the black ore from this shaft by analysis 51.53 percent of copper.
“This shaft has not been sunken deep enough to reach to undecomposed sulphurets.
“Here the vein has been stripped across for 45 feet, but had not reached the walls.
“At a distance of 414 feet from Shaft No. 2 is another one, and 24 feet further on a fourth , and 96 feet northeast from this a fifth, the latter of a depth of 80 feet. They are all inaccessible, and in part caved in.
“There are several other shafts and tunnels on the 1,350 feet of vein between the last-named shaft and the northeeast boundary line, neither of which could be examined on account of their inaccessibility.
“By these developments the character of the ore deposit has been shown to be the same throughout; large quantities of rich black copper ores have been removed by these workings.
“There is another point of importance to which I wish to call your attention, namely, to another copper deposit, which lies southeast of the main ore deposit at a distance of about 80 feet.
It has been proved by a shaft and tunnel, No. 3, not to be connected with the main vein. I could see in the tunnel only a small part of that which was left from previous workings, which was a body of black ore about 18 inches thick and 15 feet in length. A sample, apparently representing a fair average of the ore, yielded by assay 10.24 percent of copper.
“It is not improbable that this deposit originates from the reprecipation of the copper, leached out, when the upper part of the main vein was decomposed and converted into limonite, and it may extend the whole distance of the main vein and parallel with it.
“I consider it of great importance to make developments to ascertain the value of this suggestion, as the ores from this deposit can be easily mined.
“Summing up the observations which have been made on the main vein, we find the following data:
“The length of the vein through the Chestnut Creek property is proved for a distance of over 6,800 feet. The outcrop of limonite or so-called gossan. The thickness of the vein is between 30 and over 60 feet.
“According to the elevation, the oxidized ores, mainly limonite, free from sulphurets and with traces only of copper ores, form the upper part of the vein to a depth of from 20 to 40 feet.
“Below the limonite is invariably found a rich layer of copper ores from one to three feet in thickness, and yielding from ten to over fifty percent of copper.
“Below this occur the undecomposed sulphurets, principally pyrrhotite or magnetic pyrites, the latter increasing as a greater depth is reached, from which fact is reasonable to suppose that this ore may soon be found in paying quantities.
“Based upon the above data, the following will be seen to be a low estimate of the valuable ores at present existing in the main ore deposit of the Chestnut Creek property, leaving out consideration of the sulphurated ores.
“Taking the black ores only at one foot in thickness, there are over 300,000 cubic feet of copper ore, representing about 20,000 tons of ore, yielding not less than 4,000 tons of fine copper.
“From these data, and the fact that the undecomposed sulphurets show a decided increase in the yield of copper pyrites in depth, the great value of your property is self-evident.”
Then, passing on northeastwardly through numerous good properties along the lode, such as the old Lineberry, Copperas Hill, Wythe Lead and Zinc Company’s copper lands, Vaughan’s and others, we come to the old J. Early property, now owned by the Baltimore firm of Clayton & Williams, as well as being owners of about nine miles’ length of the lode either way from this property. When Dr. Curry visited the property in 1859, the shafts and tunnels were then in better condition for exploring the vein than they have been ever since. In fact, little or no work has been done since then of a reliable nature: that is to say, very intelligently directed.
Dr. Curry says:
“The property, extending one half mile on the lead, was opened in 1854, and the work pushed to a greater extent than on any other property. This property is composed of an elevated ridge, which rises like a crest over-looking the Wytheville Turnpike, and well adapted to the tunneling to which it has been subjected. The total drivage of levels amounts to 800 feet, opening upon a mineral vein about 60 feet below the surface, and running north 54 degrees east, with a dip of 60 degrees to southeast. The entire vein, in all its length through the property, is estimated at not less than 10 feet thick and 25 feet wide. There are about nine shafts sunk on the lead, for ventilating mainly, their total depth being 250 feet, though the deepest only reaches 45 feet. Neither the depth nor the width of the mineral vein has been fully ascertained. Cross-cuts have been made from the main tunnels, and parallel levels driven, but still along the mineral lode. The works on this property exhibit very markedly the order of superposition of the various ores of these mines. After penetrating through the gossan crust, which here is strongly deposited, the carbonates and oxides are found occupying the upper portions of the veins. To these succeed, in the second galleries, the decomposed bisulphurets or black ores; and, in the lower gallery, the gray and blue bisulphurets, beneath which lies the mundic rock. These galleries are separated by thin floors of rock, or of plank, and beautifully illustrate the system of mining (1850) in following the vein downward. A deep shaft has been also sunk in the valley at the base of the ridge, and near the turnpike, which, after passing through a hard, quartzose slate, opened upon a vein of the yellow sulphuret. This shaft, in our opinion, would have yielded handsome results, had it been located a few paces farther to the south. It also establishes the fact, that below the mundic comes the yellow sulphuret in the vein rock, which would grow richer as the depth increased.
“There have been 700 tons of ore shipped from this mine, consisting of the usual varieties of carbonates, oxides, and sulphurets, and averaging 15 percent.”
Going, then, northeastwardly, over several valuable openings on the lode, the Betty Baker Mine is reached, of which Dr. Curry says:
“Entering the levels opposite the Anna Mary Mines, we pass in for 40 feet at right angles to the lode, where it is reached. It is then followed 300 feet, with some two or three cross-cuts and parallel drifts, exposing, throughout its entire length, a splendid view of the vein, from which the red and black oxides are mined, yielding 22 percent. Since the 1st of May last, 130 tons of 20 percent ore have been taken out and shipped to Baltimore. Here, as in the Cranberry Mines, the richer ores occupy the upper vein, while the poorer lie upon the mundic rock, beneath which no explorations have been made (1859).”
Since that time (1859), however, very extensive explorations have been made by Mr. James E. Clayton of Ore Knob, and the yellow sulphuret found below, as is usually anticipated in veins which show such a quantity of decomposed ores nearer the surface.
It may be remembered, in speaking of iron pyrites, it was state that this Northern Lode seemed, in going northeastwardly, to divide at Copperas Hill, and to present from there two veins. The southern of these two is called the Dalton vein. In fact, during the time when copper was commanding a high figure in market, previous to 1861, the excitement here was so high that everything containing the slightest trace of copper was magnified into a vein or lode; hence, we are informed, by some of the old reports still in existence, that in the vicinity of Cranberry Plains there were three distinct veins, known as the Early, Dalton, and Dickeson leads. Dr. Dickeson, then of Philadelphia (1857), in reporting to the “Dalton Mining Company,” says:
“The geology of this mining property belongs to a somewhat complicated series of rocks. The lodes are contained are contained between walls of talco-micaceous slate, belonging to the Silurian epoch or period, but the metamorphic influence they have been subjected to has greatly modified its character. The summits of the hills we find composed of primordial rocks, consisting of imperfect granite, mica slates, talcose slates, and immense quartz rocks. On the western descent we meet with a series of shales sandstones and slates, all of a metamorphic character. Descending into the valley and ravines, the rocks partake of the graywacke and conglomerate series, with alternating layers, varying in composition and color from an ashy gray to a pale blue tint.
“On the southwestern slope the gossan outcrop is very remarkable for its bright red color, and the disintegration, caused by atmospheric action, produces a beautiful and permanent pigment, that might be applied to many useful purposes. Two large quartz veins occur on the property, and in places large masses are scattered about in great confusion, completely intermixed with the gossans. Three well-defined metalliferous leads coursing north 24 degrees east, and nearly parallel to each other, may be traced upon the surface by the gossan outcrop; and, by the depression of the exposed strata, the angular dip was ascertained to be 35 degrees.
“Along the sides of the ravines numerous prospecting openings have been made, and each, as far as the character of the lode is concerned, shows the same deposit of copper ore. There are two large veins of quartz on the Dalton property, which I have found to be identical with the matrix or gangue stone of the yellow sulphurets exposed in other workings upon this lead. This rock, by comparison with that of the east side of these leads, differs in not being liable to the same decomposition by exposure. This gangue I have traced for several miles above ground, and it seems to lie contiguous to the iron lead (Great Northern Lode), which follows nearly the course of the mountainous ridge.
“The average width of the quartz veins is about five feet, and, if we should include the numerous ramifying branches that set off from innumerable points, it might be state much wider. Farterh on, we find a coalescence of all of these ramifications; and, if we are to take the mining rule for granted, there must exist, at no great distance, a heavy deposit of ore.
“The Dalton Mine is situated upon the lead of the same name, and consists of seven regular shafts, sunk about 35 feet in depth, cutting the lode of smut ore, which enveloped considerable bodies of black, gray, and red oxides of copper. From these shafts there have been driven four horizontal galleries or levels of variable lengths, from 40 to 150 feet, the lode in these dipping at an angle of 45 degrees from the horizon.
“There are four shafts, which have lately been sunk under the direction of Henry Anserote, who now has charge of the workings. The southern shaft was sunk 42 feet, through a bed of light gossan, and at this depth it coppered over the entire shaft; north, from the above-named shaft, at the depth of 36 feet, a fine body of copper ore was cut. They sank on the north wall, drove east, and exposed an immense lead of copper ore. Four hundred yards north a prospecting shaft was sunk 25 feet through gossan, and at that depth struck the lode; this shaft was 40 feet off the lead; beyond this, some 250 yards northeast, they cut through 25 feet of gossan and struck copper ore; but here the water came upon them and drove them out.
“A shaft has also been sunk on the large quartz vein to the depth of 40 feet, where numerous nests and bunches of the yellow sulphuret of copper were found, in every respect resembling that the Fentres and McCulloch Mines, Gilford [sic] County, N.C. From the observed course of this pyriteous vein, I found it to be that of north 24 degrees east, with a dip that seemed strongly tending to vertically. It is very desirable that these veins should have a vertical dip, as all mining operations are much more simple on erect than flat veins, for there is less cross-cutting required, and fewer winzes have to be sunk in the levels. Seams of white quartz, interlaid with seams of chlorotic green-stone, occur very often along the vein, forming small feeders, and invariably indicate a greater deposit of ore where they unite. This vein does not exactly conform to the gossan outcrop lying north of it, nor does it entirely agree with the other quartz veins in the vicinity; and, from the appearance of the gangue in the 40-feet shaft, I should judge the sulphuret to be not far off.
“A table of Analysis Upon Samples of Ore Obtained From the Different Shafts and Openings Upon the Property of this Company.”
Mines Copper Ores Percentage Dalton Red Oxide 63.04 Dalton Black Oxide 54.02 Dalton Smut 25.12
It may be possible that enough has been thus shown to prove the inexhaustible richness of these metalliferous veins, under a proper system of mining, aided by cheap transportation.
It would tax the patience of the reader too severely to give more detail of mining operations on the Great Northern Lode; but enough work has been done, along its whole length, to prove that it has great thickness– sometimes reaching 150 feet; and that is sufficiently charged with copper to render it one of the most noted copper veins in the world
Gold and Silver
No well-ascertained information has been obtained, as yet, concerning gold and silver. Gold is strongly suspected in the Huronian series, occupying the southwestern prolongation of the Brush Creek Rocks, which are now yielding gold in Montgomery County. Silver is reported to exist in large quantities in the ores of the Clifton Mine, in a vein about eight feet thick; but silver mining would seem incredible. The same may be said of nickel and arsenic.
No mines, yielding large mica, have been opened yet in Carroll, though large mica is known to exist in the southern part of the county. Asbestos is also known to exist, but is not yet explored.
The granite and gneissoid rocks in the southern part of the county afford fine building materials; some of the granite has been used with satisfaction for millstones.
About Hillsville fine ledges of gneiss afford good building stone. The soapstone ledges are also called into requisition, from which to make linings to fireplaces, jambs, etc.
The mineral waters of Carroll have been known throughout this section as among the most curative in Virginia.
The old Grayson Sulphur Springs, on the north bank of New River, twenty miles south of Wytheville, has four springs, “all of which issue from a slate rock; three of them have openings near each other, within an area of thirty fee diameter, one of the springs, situated immediately under bluffs, and at all times preserving its perfect transparency and limpidness, in the small basin which has been excavated around it, flows off through a channel; upon which, immediately after leaving its basin, it commences to deposit the peculiar white material from which the characteristic title of White Sulphur is derived. The next, which is similarly arranged, throws down a reddish-brown color, hence the name of Red Sulphur is given it. The other two appear to be chalybeate. The temperature of these springs, which appears to be between 47 and 48 degrees, is so low, that besides furnishing a cool and refreshing draught, they are able to contain their gaseous contents much longer in a state of combination, thus giving them a decided advantage. Owing to the presence of carbonic acid gas, the water is found to be what is called in familiar terms, ‘a light water;’ a term designated to express that several glasses may be taken without experiencing any sense of oppression.”
These waters have the powerful adjuvants of wild and romantic scenery; river and mountain combining to render a lovely scenery more attractive, and a fine and inconceivably bracing air giving a zest of enjoyment which cannot possibly be equalled. If that were not enough, the fine trout streams of the vicinity afford noble sport, and the hills still contribute a deer now and then for the chase.
This county is well supplied with extensive forests of all the trees known to the latitude except fir. Toward the southern side of the county the timber areas are vast–almost unbroken. There are very good bodies of white pine in the northwestern section of the county, and in other portions. A great deal of the northern half of the county has been cut over, and the timber made into charcoal, to supply the iron furnaces and the lead mines in Wythe County; but there is enough remaining to supply a large demand for years to come.
If the water power of Carroll could ever be utilized, there is enough of it surely to supply an almost unlimited requisition. The fall of New River, as it passes through the county being fully fifteen feet per mile in some places, would give a power calculated upon a discharge of 1,150 cubic feet per second in very low stages. Chestnut and Crooked Creeks discharge about 50 feet per second, and fall rapidly. Big Reed Island Creek, discharging for a great part of its length 100 feet per second and having a good average fall, would supply fine powers; Little Reed Island Creek, of about two-thirds the volume of Big Reed Island Creek, offers many fine sites for mills, etc. Poplar Camp Creek likewise offers a good many mill sites, though it is much smaller than the above named. These creeks, with their larger tributaries, supply every section of the county with ample water facilities of every kind except navigation.
At this time Carroll may boast of an iron forge or two, and a few carding machines; but beyond these its want of transportation has retarded its movements in the direction of manufacturing. No doubt the writer of a few years hence will have to record a large number of various kinds of works, strewn along the river and the great metalliferous lodes, if the well-known existence of great resources is any incentive.
The soil of Carroll, like that of Floyd County, is fertile where the underlying rock strata do not partake too heavily of manganiferous epidote and slate. All leges partaking of trap in their composition, when decomposed, leave a rich and permanent soil; hornblende schist usually follows the same rule. Talco-micaceous rocks usually leave a soil easily washed, which is not regarded for strength. The absence of the great granitic masses, which mark the northern side of Grayson County, and make it so rich, leaves the northern part of Carroll not so well off in agricultural as in mineral wealth. The southern half of the county seems to possess by far the largest areas of strong lands, except where the lands are sufficiently level, as those near Woodlawn, to intercept all fertilizing material and hold it.
In many places in the county there are good grass lands, even to the crests of the high hills. Wheat usually does well, perhaps better than corn. Buckwheat, rye, oats, and potatoes make never-failing crops. Cattle, sheep, horses, and swine do well in the county, as a general thing, being raised at very small cost.
In various parts of the county the scenery is wild and picturesque. About the river many beautiful views meet the eye. Throughout the county the number of wild and romantic dells, nearly always having cascades and waterfalls, is almost beyond belief. The county cannot be said to be lacking in this particular.
Carroll, like Grayson, is a good apple county; but, as to other fruits, it is subject to the same risks, as to constancy of yield, that neighboring counties are.
Grapes could be made a specialty in the county with success.
Bees form an important feature and thrive well.
Fish will soon be numerous in all the streams as soon as the improved varieties recently placed in New River become more numerous. Speckled trout are quite common in the streams, proving the character of the streams for fine fish.
Trade in Cattle, Sheep, Etc.,
Of cattle there are 3,000 head sold annually, of which 2,500 head are stock cattle and 500 head are fat cattle. Many of them go to Danville and Salem for shipment.
There are 100,000 pounds of bacon annually sold at Winston, N.C., about 50,000 pounds to other points, 300 horses annually, and 50 mules. Of sheep there are about 3,000 sold annually, and 25,000 pounds of wool, some of which is consumed at home.
Lines of Transportation
The U.S. Government has had the river examined with a view to its improvement; and the officer in charge has made a report favorable to the scheme.
The Altoona Coal and Iron Co., of Pulaski, are contemplating an extension of their narrow-gauge railway through the county.
The Pittsburgh Southern Railway, if extended, may pass along the western side of the county, following the river.
Also, the New River Railroad, now being constructed between Hinton, Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad and New River Depot, Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad, may be continued up the line of New River, through Carroll, on its way to North Carolina.
Towns and Villages
Hillsville is the county site, nearly in the center of the county. It contains, besides the court-house, churches, hotels, stores, a good county newspaper, smith shops, repair shops, schools, etc.
There are numerous good trading posts in different parts of the county, but there are no places as large as Hillsville elsewhere in the county. Its manufacturing facilities will, no doubt, one day cause a great change in this particular.
Public schools will hereafter fare better in Carroll County; the principal obstacle heretofore has been irregularity in the State appropriation to the schools; hereafter that point is met by stringent enactments of recent legislatures.
While Southwestern Virginia can boast of two or three good counties located on the plateau of the Cumberland Mountains, carrying with them all that reputation for wealth in coal which the name Cumberland usually implies, she can point with equal pride to the counties lying on the Blue Ridge Plateau, with their almost immeasurable wealth of copper ores, magnetic iron ore, gold, and that numerous list of valuable minerals nearly always found in the metamorphic series of rocks.
Grayson County occupies an enviable position in the list of Blue Ridge counties, albeit some of the geographers of the day try to throw the Alleghany Mountains to the South of this unquestionable Blue Ridge system.
Grayson, with its lofty, picturesque mountains, high waterfalls, beautiful rivers and streams, fine grazing and farming lands, ores and minerals and noble forests, is not second to any in the promise of the fine future.
It will be regarded as a fortunate circumstance if even partial justice can be done to Grayson in this work; but this need not be expected, for it is one of those subjects upon which a volume can be exhausted and still the bulk of the story remain untold.
Grayson is separated from Wythe, Smyth, and Washington counties on the north and northwest by the Iron Mountain Range, which is the true southwest prolongation of the north-lying bifurcation of the Blue Ridge, the rocks being identical with those described by Prof. Fontaine as marking the Blue Ridge farther east in Virginia. On the south side id the State boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina; east it is bounded by Carroll County, and west there is a small length bordering with the State of Tennessee, being separated from it by irregular ranges of lofty mountains belonging to the Unaka system. In this series, but not at the corner of the States of Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, as has been supposed, is the well-known “White Top,” which rears its crest nearly 6,000 feet above sea level.
Grayson is well watered by New River and tributaries. It gives rise to no other waters, except perhaps a few of the head springs of Laurel Creek–a tributary of Holston River. It may be considered one of the best watered counties in the State. Not only does New River carry at all seasons sufficent water for even navigable purposes, if improved; but its numerous tributaries, flowing from new failing springs, supply a wealth of fine water for every purpose.
There is a difference of opinion among geologists as to the exact classification of the rock formation in Grayson. It may be stated here with confidence, that the assertion will be finally sustained, that the southern side of the county is in the gneissoid system, belonging to the Laurentian rocks, and that the northern side of the county is marked by the rocks of the Huronian epoch. The trend, or direction of the outcrop of the strata is between north 45 degrees east and north 65 degrees east. The dip is usally southwardly, or rather, at right angles to the trend. It is apparently monoclinal, that is, the ledges all seem to dip in one direction at greater or less angles, and do not now show the evidence of any folding in the earth’s crust there, other than a close similarity in the appearance of many of the ledges, and an evident recurrence of the same mineral-bearing series. From the latter circumstance it may be inferred that anticlinal folds have occurred, though to make out now, in these partially metamorphosed rocks, any distinct order of stratification or superposition would be impossible. The rocks of Grayson undoubtedly belong to that long period of transition between the unstratified Azoic and that series whcih, more than any other, has the right to be called the first of the fossil-bearing rocks–the Lower Potsdam, or the first of the Cambrian or Lower Silurian. Therefore the mineralogist may not be surprised at finding the following list of minerals, though the existence of some of them is more suspected than positively ascertained as yet:
Garnet, hornblende, kyanite, corundum, and staurotide, all of which are known to exist. Labradorite, magnetite, trap, oligoclase, orthoclase, albite, chloritis, manganesian, epidote, rutile, talc, actinolite, mica (phlogopite, biotite, muscovite), quartz, limestone, tourmaline, beryl, asbestos, steatite, granite of several varieties, including porphyritic grantie, syenite, and such metalliferous ores in quantity as copper and iron pyrites, magnetite (as mentioned), specular ore, bron iron ore, and occasionally arsenic, antimony, silver, lead, and gold, with the existence of nickle strongly suspected.
At least two cross-sections would be desirable; but one will be sufficient to give a very fair idea of the general position of the rocks, the trend being somewhat uniform throughout.
Beginning on the south, about where the Peach Bottom Mountain crosses the Virginia line, we encounter a band of hornblende, slates, steatites, then mica and talc schists, quartzites, etc., which lie between the great Ore Knob Copper Lode and the Peach Bottom Copper Vein; then going north, when in the vicinity of the last-named vein, you encounter talco-mica slates- -a broad band–occasionally interstratified with mica schists; then at about half a mile more, over occasional bands of gneiss, with some manganiferous epidote to a broad ledge soapstone; then over gneissoid strata and a succession of talco-mica slates and schists to the great iron and copper pyrites lode, which makes such extra-ordinary surface showings in Carroll County. Then for six or eight miles, over a succession of talco-mia slates and schists and manganiferous epidotes and slates in almost any order of succession, with some soapstone, we reach the southern limit of the great grantic bands whcih show on so large a scale in Buck Mountain, Point Lookout, and that range of rocks. These are about six miles in thickness, then they begin to give way to rocks whcih are less grantic for the more purely felspathic series, which in turn give way to the hydro-mica slates capping the Huronian system in Iron Mountain; in the last four or five miles crossing that system, which is now yielding gold in interesting quantities farther northeast in Montgomery County.
The iron ores of greatest importance in Grayson are the magnetites. Brown ores exist toward the southern and southeastern part of the county; but mainly as gossans or hydrated peroxides, resulting from the decomposition of pyrites. The same veins of iron and copper pyrites, which show such immense beds of gossan on the surface in Carroll County, do not present so great a surface showing, in that way, in Grayson. Notwithstanding this fact, there are very flattering indications of brown ores herre and there along the pyrites vein in the neighborhood of New River, and on the Southern Copper Lode in the extreme southeastern part of the county.
Specular ores are found in quite a number of localities in the county. One vein, somewhat less than six feet thick, shows in the south slope of Iron Mountain. Its purity has not yet been determined; but the quantity of the ore must be very great, as the measure, no doubt, extends for a great many miles. There are, occasionally, micaceous looking pieces of specular ore found; but no positive data have, as yet, been gathered relative to the quantity and the various localities in which it shows most prominently.
The magnetic iron ore of this county is found in veins that may be said to lie in the northeastern prolongation of the celebrated beds of Mitchell County, North Carolina. There are three distinct measures running parallel with each other, from a locality on the State line a litte south of the mouth of Wilson, pursuing a direction north 75 degrees east through the Billings land and to the south of Independence, and on to the eastern limit of the county, crossing New River, the last itme, about three and a half miles north of Old Town. Along the course of these very valuable veins they hold very different measures; eleven feet, one of them, at the Billings Mine; another, to the south of that one, reported nearly one hundred feet thick; agian, as you approach the eastern line of the county, near the river, neither of the three exceeds three and a half feet in thickness. It is hardly necessary to go into a more full description of each place at which the ore of these veins is exposed. Any one can take the map and readily find the general locality in which they occur. It might be of interest to descibe fully the showing at Billings, as from it a better idea may be had of the rock material accompanying that vein, which appears here to be the northward vein of this series. The vein at Billings, or the Brush Creek Mines, fourt miles southwest of Independence, is eleven feet thick, having on one side of it pyrites of iron and copper in valuable proportions (perhaps nickel), roof of hornblende, schists, and slates, floore of same, quartz predominating. In this floor is a seven inch vein of spar, apparently fluor spar. The dip here is 60 degrees southeastwardly, and the tends whcih is local at this place is nearly northeast. The vein matter will yield thirty percent of fine ore. Now and then fragments of fine magnetite are found in line to the north of this series, as at Mason’s of Elk Creek, but no developments have as yet proven the thickness of the vein. The prospect of a fine body or ore being found on the river within three or four miles of Old Town is very good. The character of the fragments obtained there–for instance near Cherry Grove– is of the highest order; and, judging from the size of the pieces lying on the surface, the veins must be of good dimentsions. Two forges in the county have been or are now using ores from these veins; one of Little River southwest from Old Town, and the other, perhaps discontinued now, on New River, eight miles southwest from Independence. Running along with this series of veins, in places, is a seam of specular ore, not yet found over eight inches thick.
It would be interesting to know the number of ledges of rock, besides well- recognized veins and lodes in Grayson, which are more or less heavily impregnated with pyrites. That some of the pyritous bearing subjects carry gold in good quantity, and now and then nickel, there can be but little doubt.
The strictly iron pyrites, however, is a largely preponderating constituent in three of the great metalliferous measures of the county, namely, the Northern Copper Lode, the Peach Bottom Copper Lode, and the Southern or Ore Knob Lode, which cuts into the extreme southeastern corner of the county.
The Northern (or Iron Lode) is from nine to fifteen feet thick, and shows, as at Hampton’s, a pyrotite and copper pyrites combined; in some parts of the vein givinig an average of five percent of copper, the rest being iron and sulphur having the appearance of holding nickel.
The course of this lode is, for a part of its way, through Grayson, northeast. Coming into the county, at a point a mile or two southwest of Dowten’s [sic] Ford, it continues on by Hampton’s close to the mouth of Little River, thence on by a point somewhat more than a mile north of Old Town, in the direction of the great outburst in Carroll County, about fifteen miles length in Grayson. That this sulphureted vein would become an important commercial feature in the county, in case of cheap modes of transportation, there can be no doubt. The openings made at Hampton’s and other places amply prove it continuity and size. Along it there is not so much gossan as on the Southern Lode.
The Peach Bottom Lode is charged, for the most part, with copper pyrites only, and its iron pyrites is really too small in amount to require mention.
The Southern Lode seems altogether, in places, to be composed of iron pyrites when you get down low enough below the decomposed ores to strike it. This lode being sometimes forty feet thick, the quantity of ore in it may be imagined.
There are localities in which pyrites is sometimes a large consitutent of the rocks–on Elk Creek, Fox Creek, Wilson Creek, and on the streams in the western part of the county in the slopes of the Balsam and White Top Mountains. This is the range of ores which is most likely to yield gold in paying quantities.
Manganese is a large consitutent in many of the rocks, but is not developed in any distinct veins in sufficient quantities to pay for mining.
Lead is found interjected wth the copper ore in the Peach Bottom Lode, and may be valuable on account of the silver it is known to carry.
It is also known to exist in rock having the appearance of trap, which trends trough about two and a half miles south of Elk Creek Post Office.
It is highly probable, if this were followed up, it would led to something valuable.
This is an unsatisfactory subject to treat, so little is known of the great veins which hold it–at any depth.
Copper pyrites can be detected in a great many of the ledges of rock in the county; but the probability is that it is likely to be found in paying quantities in the Northern Lode passing Hampton’s, the Peach Bottom, or Middle Lode, the Southern Lode, and in one of the sides of the Brush Creek or Bilings Vein.
In the first or Northern Lode it has already been found to yield, in some places, and average of five percent of copper, though this may not hold as a rule. In the Peach Bottom Lode, in this county, no developments of any consequence have, as yet, been made; and it might be premature to assign to it the same character it has at the Peach Bottom Mine in Alleghany County, N.C. On the Southern or Ore Knob Lode in Grayson, it has been inferred, from the live character of the gossan, that there must be a good percentage of copper below.
So important a statement as that there are immense quantities of the precious yellow metal in the county should no doubt, be made with a great deal of caution; yet such is the opinion advanced here, after an investigation of some length.
That the gold exists in the parent rock in sufficient quantities to pay for extraction is rather a premature statement to make; but that the disintegration of these Huronian rocks has, through the ages, left paying quantities in the derbris and drift among the streams, is confidently believed. The region of Elk Creek participates in this distribution. In all likelihood a line parallel with the course of Iron Mountain, about the distance from that mountain that Elk Creek Post Office is, clear through the county, would be in a gold bearing series. The gold, it may be submitted, results from the decompositon of a pyritous quartz and felspathic band, which seem to follow this line, showing with some distinctness, also on the bank of New River, a few miles above the old Grayson Sulphur Springs on the line between Grayson and Carroll.
Elk Creek, however, in the beautiful valley that looks, in spring time, like a jewel from heaven, on the north side of Point Lookout, is the district most likely to pay the intelligent prospector.
The question may well be asked, if this be true, why should so valuable a metal have lain there so long without being found out long ere this? The same might be said with equal propriety of the Brush Creek gold belt in Montgomery, which the miner, only the other day, never even so much as suspected to contain gold. Now it is attracting universal attention.
Silver has been found by close analysis to exist in the ores of the Peach Bottom Lode; in what quantities, however, it has not been determined. Also, in the Northern Copper and Iron Pyrites Lode one chemist found it. It is highly probable that deep mining only on these veins will find it in paying quantities.
Then we may also hope that these veins, following the habit of similar ones in Cornwell, will also yield tin.
Only one ledge of limestone is known to show in the county. That crosses the turnpike leading from the Mouth of Wilson to Marion. It is in sufficient quantities to be highly valuable.
There are apparently all the varieties of felspar in this county, the scientific names for which are orthoclase, oligoclase, and albite, comprising the important kinds, such as labradorite, etc. Orthoclase, which was distinctly the potash variety, is quite abundant, sometimes in measures eight feet thick, as at Elk Creek, in several places on the road from Blue Springs Gap to Independence, and at many other points east and west. From the decomposition of this rock, which contains about 14 pounds of potash to the 100 pounds of rock, and other felspathic varieties, Elk Creek owes the exceeding fertility of its soil.
From these ledges of pure felspar a fertilizer may yet be devised which, if used in connection with the gypsum from the inexhaustibe beds in Smyth County, will render it possible at a very moderate expense to bring up worn- out or unproductive lands to a high state of fertility.
Granite and Syenite
Granite of every variety is found in Point Lookout and Buck Mountains. It may also be found in the spurs of the Balsam and White Top Mountains, and again far to the east near the eastern side of the county; but its positions of the greatest purity and compactness seems to be Point Lookout and Buck Mountains, and their vicinity, evenb the black and white being there, the porphyritic, and that which graduates into the syenitic, finally showing true syenite. As a building or ornamental stone there are great masses of it which could not well be excelled.
This mineral exists in some quantity along a belt just south of the Northern Copper Lode. It has been found in handsome specimens on Little River and below Hampton Mine. It is reported also from Black’s, in the western section of the county, not far from Grant.
There are great masses of good soapstone following the range north of Peach Bottom Mountains, extending for many miles through the county; also in beds still further north. It will be found useful in furnace lining and for building purposes.
There is a great variety of fine trees in Grayson. White pine is abundant in the south spurs of Iron Mountain, Balsam Mountain, and White Top and points along the river. White oak, chestnut oak, chestnut, etc., are very plentiful. Timber is so abundant in nearly every part of the county that some easy means of getting it out would insure a bountiful supply of very cheap charcoal to the furnace men for years to come.
On account of the invariable flow, at all seasons, of a large number of fine streams, over rapidly descending beds, this county must be regarded as having fully as much water power as any in the State. Including the river, which here and there has sufficient fall, any force, from 1,000 cubic feet per second down to 10, can be had with but little outlay–Little River, Elk Creek, Wilson Creek, Fox Creek, Peach Bottom Creek, Bridle, the upper ends of Little and Big Helton Creeks, Grassy Creek, Brush Creek, Knob Fork, and two or three others in different parts of the county. It would be idle, as well as unfair, to institute a comparison between, or to attempt a description of, particular locations. All of these creeks afford excellent powers every mile or two for all the purposes of milling and manufacturing, which, taken in connection with the constancy of the streams, renders the county, in this respect, the superior of nearly all the counties in the State.
There are few manufactories in the county, except a carding machine or two, and the Little River Forge, now in operation. There are the usual grist and saw-mills in every neighborhood; but, for want of facilities of transportation, there has been no inducement to build any extensive factories of any kind, though the people are sufficiently enterprising.
The different parts of the county are very diverse in their agricultural features. Whereever the granitic, or more felspathic series predominates, the soil seems stronger and more capable in every respect. Where the streaks of manganiferous epidote and the more easily decomposed talco- mica slates are, there you find an unsatisfactory soil; but happily, as to the great body of the lands, the latter are in the smallest proportion. It is plain to be seen that the soil throughout is the results of the decomposition of the rocks in each locality; wherever the rocks have been chiefly composed of alumina (or clay material), silica, and potash, soda or lime, there are the finest soils. Elk Creek is a good example of this. Nowhere in Virginia can a more beautiful scene be found than Elk Creek Valley affords, looked at from any of its matchless character of the material composing its soil. With but little attention, here and there, in the steep portions, these lands would never lose their fertiliity. On the contrary, they ought to increase in productive capacity each succeeding year.
But Elk Creek is not the only beautiful gem in Grayson. The hills often steep, are crowned with that growth to the summits which indicates the strength of the soil. Frequently upon the tops of ridges nearly 4,000 feet above sea level some of the finest corn-fields are to be seen. Beginning on the Upper Heltons, Grassy Creek, and coming over each succeeding creek and ridge until you reach the eastern limits of the county, there are thousands of acres of land, at from $5 to $15 per acre, which would prove far more productive than twice the same quantity in localities farther east. There is nothing raised in this latitute which these lands are not capable or producing in abundance.
A valuable collection of fine views could be obtained in this county. Whether landscape scenery, such as that presented by the incomparable scope along Elk Creek, or extended views from high mountains, or the fine picutres made up by waterfalls over 100 feet high in mountain dells strewn with massive rocks, all the same could the lover of the beautiful nature find every sense gratified. The river, as it winds back and forth between the high hills, offers many lovely views. There are few localities in the county that cannot produce some well-known point of interest in the line of scenery. Many of them if painted and exhibited would command the admiration of the most experienced and critical observers.
The apples of Grayson have commanded for years a very wide fame in the surrounding country for their flavor and excellence.
While the apple seems to be in its native home here, the peach, quince, pear, cherry, and plum are regarded as sure to make a crop each year in Grayson as in any other locality.
Grape culture could be carried to high perfection in the county, judging from the abundance of native varieties. There has been but little effort made to improve the old or to introduce new varities. Diseases of any kind seem never to have attack the grape in Grayson. No doubt the soil, and the large area of southern exposures, would make grape culture very successful if native varieties were used.
Bee culture could be brought to a high state of perfection on account of the large number of flowering plants and trees, and the abundance of moist places for the bees to use in the hollows.
Fish culture, after the county is rendered more accessible by railways, will become an important feature, not only for mere sporting purposes, but from an economic point of view. The streams are peculiarly well adapted to every species of game fish. The mountain trout is now very common in nearly all the streams, and in some of them affords excellent sport. The New River catfish reaches its highest perfection in this county. Unlike his namesake in the western waters, he is here regarded fully equal ot the best table fish in excellency of flavor and all other good points.
Trade in Cattle, Sheep, Wheat, Corn and Tobacco
The possible trade of this county in all the staples would be difficult to approximate under the favorable conditions of cheap and abundant transportation. Besides being naturally a good cattle and farming county, Grayson is capable of making good tobacco. The record of the number of cattle and sheep now annually sold is no just estimate of her capacity; for, with the stimulus resulting from increased means of transportation, without clearing any more land even, the county would increase its revenues from all classes of produce fully tenfold, if not more.
There has been great improvement of late years in cattle and sheep. Elk Creek and Bridle Creek seem to have led off in this direction. Shorthorns in cattle and Cotswold and Shropshire-downs in sheep, seem to be the favorites.
The county sends about 1,100 cattle every year, which, directly or indirectly, make their way to European markents, and her total sale of:
Cattle annually is about 3,800 head.
Sheep annually is about 4,000 head.
Wool, mostly used up at home, about 9,000 pounds.
The quantity of wheat, corn, and tobacco now being exported is scarcely worthy of notice.
Grayson sells anually a large quantity of bacon; but is now doing but little with horses, except improving the stock in some quarters.
Towns and Villages
The county site is Independence, situated somewhat east of the center of the county. It has the usual number of hotels, churches, stores, saddleries, smith-shops, etc. The Grayson Clipper, a progressive weekly newspaper is published there. Old Town, once the county site before the county was divided, near the Carroll County line. It is about one mile south of New River, and is the center of a good trading and mining region. There are stores, churches, a hotel, and post-office there. Mouth of Wilson, Elk Creek, Bridle Creek, Greer’s, Carsonville, and one or two other points are good trading posts, and now anually collect and send off, besides other produce, a large tonnage of medicinal herbs, roots, etc.
The public schools are being better protected by the State government, and are gaining greatly in the estimation of the people.
It would ill become any one to attempt to give a thorough resume of the mineral resources of any part of North Carolina, after that work had once been done by such men as Kerr, Hunt, and Genth; but, as the counties of Ashe, Alleghany and Watauga [sic] are directly in a continuation of the great and massive belts which pass through Floyd, Carroll, and Grayson in Virginia, a feeble attempt to show this continuation may well be excused.
Ashe County seems to exemplify all of the best that may be said with respect to the series of rocks of which it is composed, besides presenting a rich and charming scenery of unsurpassed loveliness in its lofty lone mountains and romantic gorges. Lying as it does at the head of nearly all the great rivers that flow in every direction from it, its elevation gives it a summer climate unequaled for health, to which crystal freestone water from thousands of never-failing springs lends a security far beyond the conception of any one who has never felt its influence.
Ashe lies in the plateau of the Blue Ridge and Unaka Ranges, having one on the south and southeast boundary, and the other on the northern and western sides, having Grayson, Va., on the north, Alleghany, N.C., on the east, Wilkes and Watauga, N.C. on the south, and Johnson County, Tenn. on the west.
The county is excellently well watered by the North and South Forks of New River, which yield a water power for every mile of their course of great reliability, and of any desirable volume.
To use distinctions which are more or less arbitrary, Ashe shows the rocks of the Laurentian and Huronian epochs, sometimes placed under the general appellation of the metamorphic series.
They include granite, gneiss, syenite, quartz, hornblende, mica and talc, chlorite, mica and talc schists and slates, gray soapstone, epidote, felspars of all varieties, trap, zeolites, actinolite, and many others, the lithology of which would be entirely obscure to the general reader. Pure granite is rare in the county; but, toward the southern side principally, there are broad bands of gneiss, as those showing about Ore Knob. As you go north of this there are extraordinary bands of hornblende, followed by mica and talc slates, soap stones, epidote, etc., in recurring series, all pursuing a course nearly north 70 degrees east and south seventy degrees west, with a dip varying between 30 degrees southwardly on the north side to the perpendicular toward the south side of the county. In the gneissoid system, nearer the Blue Ridge, are the copper veins in which Ore Knob and Copper Knob are situated; while, following the hornblendic series near the northern middle part of the county, are the copper veins in which Elk Knob Mine and Phoenix copper ores are situated. toward the northern side, on and near the North Fork of New River, are the great bands of magnetic ore in the epidotic series in part, and in the gneissic and hornblendic running along with it and just south of it.
The copper range in Ashe is admittedly one of the best and most reliable in the world. The Ore Knob Mine has sufficiently demonstrated this point, the quantity of cement copper and ingot produced since 1872 not being far from 25,000,000 pounds; last year having shipped 2,436,392 pounds of ingot copper. The energetic and efficient management there having erected, in a surprisingly short space of time, a singularly efficient and entirely satisfactory plant, including machinery and furnaces, the capable mine soon began and continued to yield returns that have fallen at only rare intervals below the expectation resulting from the thoroughly practical tests of the mangement, sustained by the no less excellent investigations of Dr. Hunt.
This mine lies in what is familiarly known in Virginia as the Southern Lode, its continuation in Virginia showing excellent copper ore at the Toncray Mine in Floyd County, Va., and immense quantities of gossan near Sparta. Again to the southwest of Ore Knob, at one or two points, as Mulatto Mountain, this lode shows strong surface indications. Some persons are rather inclined to the belief that Copper Knob, or Gap Creek Mines, is also in this lode; but a creful examination proves it to lie south of the Ore Knob Lode.
This vein or lode, as it shows at Ore Knob is declared by Kerr to be the most remarkable of the many copper veins showing in North Carolina. He says:
That though it was opened before the war, it was not until it fell into the hands of the present owners, in 1871, that it began to show its real character.
“These gentlemen have opened the vein by a series of shafts and tunnels, and have been repaid by the discovery of a body of ore which is not equaled by any mine I know of outside of Ducktown….
“The rock of the region is a gray and usually thin bedded gneiss, with mica schists and slates. These have a prevalent strike a little east of northeast, and dip east at a tolerably high angle; though both dip and strike are subject to considerable variation. The walls of the copper vein are micaceous gneiss and mica slates, with a strike north 57 degrees east, and dipping southeast at an angle 40 degrees or 45 degrees. The copper vein is coincident in strike with the rocks, but is vertical in dip, cutting across the strata, so that it is a true fissure vein, and not bedded like those at Ducktown. It is tracible by an outcrop of gossan for more than a mile, and has been proved by trial shafts and trenches for nearly 2,000 feet. The breadth of the lode varies from 6 to 15 feet (is stated to measure 20 in some cases, which is true), averaging about 10 probably.”
Prof. Kerr then goes on to speak of the number of shafts then sunk at the time of his visit, etc. Not there are eight shafts over a length of about 800 feet, the principal of which are the Engine Shaft on the crest of the hill, and Nos. 2 and 3 south. The mine has been carried to a depth of 350 feet. Prof. Kerr goes on to say:
“There is, properly speaking, no gangue stone, the whole breath of the fissure being filled with ore. The gossan, which is decomposed oxidized ore, extends to an average depth of over 50 feet in the different shafts, the lower half containing, however, a valuable percentage of copper in the form of oxide and malachite. Below this level of oxidation the ore is sulphuret of copper.”
Dr. Hunt gave the gossan yield at 14 to 22 per cent of copper, and the sulphurets or iron and copper were last winter yielding an ore which assayed fully as much. An inspection of the sketch and section on the adjacent pages may perhaps lead to a better understanding of the immense amount of work done at this mine. The nearest furnace showing in the sketch is a reducing furnace, the next one (near the end of the railway) is a reducing furnace, and also holds the refining furnace. The large building at the upper end of the railway is the ore-house, holding the crushing machinery, etc., while beyond it is the sky- house, which is erected over the engine shaft.
The operations about this mine for the last nine years have had the effect of creating an immense business throughout that region on a paying basis. The amount of money annually put in circulation for labor and supplies must be very great.
Copper, and Gold, and Silver
The ores taken in Mulatto Mountain, from what has been commonly accepted as the southwestern continuation of the Ore Knob Lode, yield an average as follows: Copper, 3 per cent; gold $2.05 per ton; silver $2.80 per ton. These ores were taken from a vein 5« feet thick; but it is barely possible that this vein lies about a half mile to the north of a point where the Ore Knob Vein should be, if continued. Mulatto Mountain is ten miles southwest from Ore Knob.
Copper Knob Mine, situated in the Blue Ridge, near the Ashe-Watauga line, was found, upon a close examination, to agree very fully with Kerr’s description, which is as follows:
“This is a quartz vein, or rather a group of them; the principal one carrying variegated copper, with a little chalcopyrite, malachite, chrysocolla, specular iron pyrite, together with visible free gold and silver. The vein is in a large body of hornblende slate, though the prevalent rock of the section is a gray gneiss, with a strike north 60 degrees east, and dip southeast 40 degrees. The vein is a true fissure, with a direction north 35 degrees west; dip, northeast 45 degrees. Dr. Emmons, who visited the mine when it was open, says, ‘This is a true vein, and has a perfect regularity in direction, as well as in its walls.’ The width is variable, being 18 inches at the surface, and from 12 to 24 inches at different depths below ground.”
The ore, analyzed by Mr. Manross, gave “gold 1 3/4 ounces and silver, 18 ounces per ton of mixed rock and ore.” Handsome specimens of purple copper ore from the center of the vein, showing much free gold to the eye, yielded about $2600 in gold to the ton.
The next great series of copper deposits in Ashe lies four miles north of, and nearly parallel with the Ore Knob Lode, about the middle of the county. This line of ores is in the southwestern continuation of the Peach Bottom Lode; chiefly shows in a decomposing micaceous gneiss, and toward Elk Knob in hornblendic strata.
Near Jefferson, at Weaver’s, and at Foster’s, near Phoenix Mountain, there are fissure veins cutting the strata. They are accompanied with quartz, and often show a thickness of nine feet. The average yield of these veins is very hard to determine from present workings, but much of the mass is very pure sulphuret of copper. Occasionally, copper glance is found.
Elk Knob Copper Vein, really in Watauga County, seems to be nearly at a point where the Peach Bottom continued that way would strike, but is is in an entirely different kind of rock from Peach Bottom Vein. Elk Knob Vein has been very well exposed by the owners in several places, and is at different points variable in thickness; in one deep ravine being seven feet, and, at another point sixteen feet thick. The vein seems to be largely composed of mundic; but yields fine specimens of gray copper ore and copper pyrites, all mixed with a low percentage of gold and silver.
This vein is undoubtedly a valuable copper vein, but has been badly prospected. If due regard had been observed as to the carbonate of copper showing in the gossan at different points, and the shafts sunk accordingly, much more satisfactory results would have been achieved. As it is, the work was done wherever the vein was most accessible, and, unfortunately, the poorer alternations in the vein were thus exposed. There are extraordinary surface indications along this vein for some miles in length- -mostly gossan or oxidized ore.
Then, again, on the north side of Phoenix Mountain, there are evidences of the southwest continuation of what is known in Virginia as the Northern, or Hampton Copper Lode. No developments of consequence have ever been made on it in Ashe; although, now and then, gossan may be detected along it in considerable quantities.
There are other places in the county where copper ores have been found, sometimes in flattering quantities, as at Witherspoons, the Old Meat Camp Mine, etc.; but the thickness of the veins has generally not been sufficient to warrant much outlay.
The iron ore in Ashe of greatest value is found in the magnetic bands on, and north of, the North Fork of New River. At Ballou’s, on North Fork, the great magnetic vein was found to be massive ore, accompanies with hornblende, talc, mica, and occasionally, tremolite-trap and quartz as insoluble constituents, in the proportion of nearly 20 per cent of the vein, at a point where the vein is 30 feet thick; trend, north 55 degrees east. Just south of this vein, about 250 yards, is another vein of the same ore separated from the first vein by a material which is mainly hornblende schists, mica slate, and schist and gneiss, general trend being south 55 degrees west. This vein is 5 feet thick; while the larger, though for 300 feet 30 feet thick, in generally not over 15 feet–sometimes 12. These veins are continuous, either way, for many miles. These ores contain about 0.026 of phosphorus, and no titanium, by John Fulton’s analysis.
Then again, in the gneiss, etc., of Helton and Horse Creeks, are massive ores, coarse, granular, and highly magnetic.
Professor Kerr says, on Helton Creek, six or eight miles east of the Horse Creek ores, “are still larger deposits of very pure magnetic ore which has been long used in the forges of the neighborhood. The ore is a close grained and very pure magnetite, one of the beds of which is reported to be eighteen feet in thickness, and another nine feet.”
Toward the junction of the North and South Forks of New River, in the northeastern prolongation of the Ballou veins, a forge has been running for some time, making a bar-iron of the highest quality.
Limonites, of great purity, are common in the gossans of the different copper veins. Ore Knob, Elk Knob, and the northside of Phoenix Mountain show very considerable deposits. The south flanks fo the Balsam and White Top Mountains show specular ores, but the quantity is not easily ascertainable.
Large-sized mica is found abundantly in Ashe, in a line of dikes composed of felspar, quartz, and mica, pursuing a course through the central part of the county, northeast and southwest, at an angle with the strike of the rocks. The largest developments yet made are at the Little Mine on the South Fork of New River, at Harden’s, and at places on the head of Three Top Creek. There are also large pieces of mica reported from the south spurs of Balsam Mountain and White Top. The two veins at the Little Mine are respectively 30 and 18 feet thick, and are apparent for about one eighth of a mile, though there is no doubt of their continuation for miles either way.
Fine kaolin, resulting from the decomposition of albite in these mica veins is very plentiful.
Felspar–Very pure felspars exist in large quantities in the dikes holding large mica.
Asbestos is found in a line of rocks three miles north of Jefferson, the county site, but the quantity is not great. In the south spurs of White Top Mountain, near Black’s, it is said to be in quantity and of good quality.
A nearly pure talc or statite is found in many section of the county, but that found in the east face of Elk Ridge is preferred at Ore Knob Copper Mine for furnace lining. It is easily sawn into blocks of any desirable size.
Timber and Charcoal
The timber of the county is of every conceivable variety known to the latitude, and in forests of unlimited extent. Charcoal, except in the immediate neighborhood of the copper furnaces, could be had in great abundance for years to come at a merely nominal figure.
The lines of transportation through Ashe, as to railways are only as yet projected. Possibly the Statesville and Virginia Railroad may, at some early day, be built, passing near Ore Knob; and there may be others of which the writer knows nothing.
This county is much like Ashe in its geological features; lying just east of Ashe, it holds the northeastern continuation of its copper veins.
The Peach Bottom Copper Lode shows to best advantage at Peach Bottom Copper Mine and Elk Creek in this county. It now shows about nine feet of ore in walls of a highly micaceous gneiss, or mica slate, sometimes talcose. The ore is usually copper pyrites; occasionally purple copper ore, with a considerable admixture of galenite. It is claimed for this mine that it will yield largely, also, in nickel, antimony, and arsenic. This vein has a dip southwardly approaching the perpendicular, and a strike east of northeast. It is continuous for miles. Has been actively developed to a depth of over 150 feet within the last year.
On the Ore Knob, or Southern Lode, south of Peach Bottom Mountain, are the great deposits of gossan or limonite, hundreds of feet in extent. They are close to Sparta, the county site.
Nearer the northeastern border of the county are valuable deposits of asbestos.
Augusta County, 1738, from Orange County. Comprising all west of the county of Frederick and west of the Blue Ridge. This territory, of which nearly all of the counties of Southwest Virginia are now composed, and our southwestern counties, made a part of the territory alluded to by Gen. Washington, when he spoke of “the mountains of West Augusta.”
Fincastle was formed in 1772 from Botetourt, and was extinguished in 1776 by the formation of Washington, Montgomery, and Kentucky Counties.
Montgomery, 1776 from Fincastle County.
Wythe, 1790 from Motgomery
Grayson, 1793 from Wythe.
Washington, 1776 from Fincastle County.
Russell, 1786 from Washington County.
Lee, 1792 from Russell County.
Tazewell, 1799, from Russell and Wythe.
Giles, 1806 from Monroe and Tazewell.
Smyth, 1831 from Washington and Wythe.
Floyd, 1831 from Montgomery.
Carroll, named after Charles Carroll of Carrollton, 1842, from eastern part of Grayson.
Wise, 1855, from Lee, Scott and Russell.
Buchanan, 1858 from Tazewell and Russell.
Bland, 1861 from Wythe, Tazewell and Giles
Dickenson, 1880 from Buchanan and Wise
Population of the counties by the census of 1880 compared with that of 1870, from information kindly supplied by Gen. Walker, Superintendent of Census:
County 1880 1870 Montgomery 16,693 12,556 Pulaski 8,750 6,538 Wythe 14,318 11,611 Smyth 12,159 8.898 Washington 25,203 16,816 Giles 8,794 5,900 Bland 5,004 4,100 Tazewell 12,861 10,791 Russell 13,906 11,103 Scott 17,233 13,036 Lee 15,116 14,100 Wise 7,772 4,785 Buchanan 5,694 3,775 Floyd 13,255 12,000 Carroll 13,323 9.147 Grayson 13,068 9,597