"The State publications tell us, with well founded pride, that North Carolina was the first government in America to order a geological survey. Can she, on that account, afford to be the last state to publish a full exposition of her geological structure and mineral resources?"- "Heart of the Alleghanies," page 198.
WHERE TO GET THE FACTS AND FIGURES. North Carolina no longer deserves this reproach, as Bulletin No.18 of the North Carolina Geological and Economic Survey, published in 1909, is a bibliography of North Carolina geology, mineralogy and geography, with a list of maps. It contains, with an admirable index, 428 pages, and is devoted exclusively to an alphabetical arrangement of the names of authors, their writings on geology and mineralogy, mining and other matters connected with minerals, etc., of this region. It was prepared by Dr. Francis Baker Laney, Ph.D., assistant curator of geology of the U. S. National Museum, and Katharine Hill Wood. It is thorough and exhaustive.
In addition thereto Professor Joseph Hyde Pratt, State Geologist, and Professor Joseph Volney Lewis, formerly of the Survey, but now of Rutgers College, N. J., are the authors of Volume I of the Reports of the North Carolina Geological Survey, which contains a description of the corundum and the periodite deposits of Western North Carolina. It also was published in 1905, and contains maps, drawings, pictures and designs illustrative of the subjects treated. It contains, with the index, 464 pages, and either or both of the above volumes will be sent on application, if accompanied with the postage.
There are also several others of great value, among which are Economic Paper No. 22, on forest fires and their prevention; Economic Paper No.3, on talc and pyrophyllite deposits in North Carolina; Economic Paper No.1, on the maple sugar industry; Economic Paper No.20, on the wood using industries of North Carolina; Economic Paper No.23, on the mining industry in North Carolina during 1908, 1909 an 1910, and No.15 on mineral waters.
AVAILABLE SCIENTIFIC AND POPULAR DESCRIPTIONS. A scientific explanation of the formation of the Asheville quadrangle will be found in the Asheville Folio, No. 116, U. S. Geological Survey; and an interesting dissertation on the geological formation and age of the Grandfather mountain is contained in "The Heart of the Alleghanies"; and in the same volume is a reference to Mr. King, the artist, who made a journey through these mountains in 1874, and gave a description of their mineral possibilities in Scribner's for that year. September 15, 1864, Prof. Charles Upham Shepard of Yale gave his views as to what minerals and metals might be discovered here, among which are gold and diamonds, and he is quoted in Gen. Clingman's "Speeches and Writings."
The State of North Carolina is divided into three physiographic divisions, which have been designated as the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont Plateau, and Mountain Region. That part of the State lying to the west of the Blue Ridge is in the Mountain region. This includes the Blue Ridge and the Great Smokies and the country between, which is cut across by numerous cross ranges separated by narrow valleys and deep gorges. The average elevation of this region is about 2,700 feet above the sea level, but the summits of a great many ridges and peaks are over 5,000 feet, while a considerable number of peaks have a height of over 6,000, the highest of which is Mount Mitchell with an elevation of 6,711 feet. Over the larger part of this region are to be found the older crystalline rocks, gneisses, granites, schists, and diarite that are of pre-Cambrian age, which are greatly folded and turned on their edges. On the western and eastern borders of this mountain region, approximately along the line of the Blue Ridge and Great Smokies, there are two narrow belts of younger sedimentary rocks, consisting of limestone, shales, and conglomerates, and their metamorphosed equivalents, marbles, quartzites and slates of Cambrian age.
The sedimentary rocks have been formed from sand, gravel, and mud which have been deposited as the result of alteration and erosion of the older rocks.
By the present position of the rocks we are able to obtain records regarding the order in which the rocks of western North Carolina were formed, and thus obtain a geological history of the Mountain section. All the rocks of western North Carolina are amongst the oldest geologic formations, although there is considerable variation in the time at which the various rocks encountered were formed. The oldest rock formation is known as the Carolina gneiss, which consists of large areas of mica, and garnet schists; and mica, garnet and cyanite gneisses. The exact origin of this rock has not been definitely determined it may have resulted from the metamorphism of a granite rock. Mount Mitchell and the other mountain peaks of the Black mountains are of Carolina gneiss, as are also Gray Beard, the Craggies, Sunset Mountain, Pisgah, Great Hoghack (Toxaway), and Standing Indian (Clay county).
The next oldest rock formation of Western North Carolina is known as the Roan gneiss, which is not as extensive as the Carolina gneiss, but forms much smaller areas and, as a rule, forms long narrow bands cutting the Carolina gneiss. They are also much less altered and are undoubtedly younger. Roan, High Knob, Big Yellow Mountain, Cocks Knob, the eastern slope of Craggy Dome and Bull Head Mountain, Nofat mountain, and part of Caesar's Head, are all of Roan gneiss. These mountains are, therefore, younger formations than those mountains composed of Carolina gneiss.
Another granite formation has been intruded into the Carolina and Roan gneisses, forming rather small areas in the northwestern portions of the mountains. These granites, known as the Cranberry and Beech granites, are observed in the vicinity of Blowing Rock, Beech mountain, Rich mountains, and part of Pumpkin Patch mountain. A similar granite, known as the Henderson granite and of approximately the same age, is found over a considerable area of southeastern portions of Transylvania and Henderson counties and southwestern portions of Buncombe county.
All these rocks referred to above are of deep-seated or and the lapse of time between the formation of the different ones was undoubtedly very great. They formed mountain ranges that were much higher than now observed, but these have been subject to erosion which has brought them to their present outline.
The next formation was the lava rocks, which were poured forth upon the surface of the Archean rocks. These lava flows are of considerably later period than the granites and gneisses and are older than the overlying Cambrian sedimentary rocks, and they may belong to the Algonkian age. Some of these rocks were undoubtedly of volcanic nature, the intrusions coming to the surface as flows of lava and spreading out over the Carolina and Roan gneisses and the Cranberry and Beech granites. There was a very long interval between the formation of the last of the Archean rocks before the volcanic activity; and during this period these old Plutonic rocks were subject to very excessive erosion. This volcanic activity probably extended into the Cambrian time, and many of the lava flows were probably at the surface when the Cambrian strata were laid down. The indication of this is the finding of sheets of basalt conglomerate interstratified with the lower strata of the Cambrian. Rocks of this period include metadiabase, found just north of Linville and to the east in Grandmother gap and crossing the Yonahlossee road at several places; blue and green epidotic schists, which have probably been altered from basalt, such as are to be seen in the vicinity of Pinola and Montezuma, Avery county, and Hanging Rock, Caldwell county; a gray and black schist probably formed by the alteration of an andicitic rock, which is to be observed on Flat Top mountain and Pine Ridge, Watauga county; and metarhyolite, such as is found on the slopes of Dugger mountain, Sampson mountain and in Cook's gap, Watauga county.
These Archean rocks, with the volcanic formations, were then subjected to a long period of erosion, and the sea at the same time encroached upon large areas of the dry land. The sediments deposited formed the rocks which are known as the Cambrian. Portions of the Archean rocks were submerged and at times uplifted, and there was not a continuous series of these sedimentary deposits.
These sedimentary rocks, formed from the erosion of the Archean and Algonkian rocks and from salicious and calcareous material deposited from animal life found in the sea, consist of conglomerates, sandstones, shale, limestone, and their metamorphic equivalents, quartzite, slate, and marble. These are observed very extensively over considerable areas of western North Carolina, but principally, as stated above, near the western and eastern sections of the mountain region. Grandfather mountain is composed of one of these conglomerates of the Cambrian age, as is also Grandmother mountain, a large part of the area around Linville, and just to the east of Pinola. A narrow strip of these rocks is to be found extending across the extreme western part of Buncombe county, across Henderson and Transylvania counties. Brevard is situated in an area of these rocks, as is also Boylston, Mills River, and Fletcher, Henderson county. Practically all of Cherokee and Graham counties is composed of Cambrian rocks and the western parts of Clay, Macon, and Haywood counties. Swain county is composed largely of these Cambrian rocks, with the exception of an area of Archean rocks that is exposed around Bryson and for some distance to the northeast. West of Asheville these Cambrian rocks are observed in the vicinity of Stackhouse, Hot Springs, and Paint Rock. They include all the limestones, such as are being mined at Fletchers, Mills River, and other places in Henderson and Transylvania counties; the limestones of Madison county; and the marbles of Cherokee, Graham, and Swain counties.
From the above it will be seen that the larger part of the area of western North Carolina is composed of the Archean rocks, representing the oldest geologic formations.
Associated with the rocks described above are various minerals of economic importance, the history of which may be of interest in connection with the geologic history of western North Carolina. The precious metals occur very sparingly in nearly all the counties of this section of the state, but in only a very few places has any attempt been made to systematically produce them, and this has been largely by placer mining. Both the rocks of the Archean and Cambrian ages apparently contain minute quantities of gold, but in none of these have deposits been found of sufficient richness to be profitably mined. In the early history of a western North Carolina it was customary for many of the inhabitants to pan the various streams for gold and to pay their taxes in native gold. Just how much gold has been taken from western North Carolina in this way is not known; but it evidently was several hundred thousand dollars.
Iron was discovered in western North Carolina almost as soon as the country began to be settled, and the manufacture of iron dates back before the Revolutionary War. These early iron works consisted of the primitive Catalan forge blown by the water trompe. Such forges were in operation in Ashe, Mitchell, and Cherokee counties, and as late as 1893 one of these, the Pasley forge on Helton creek in Ashe county, was in operation. These early forges supplied iron for all local uses and the forges in Cherokee county shipped a good deal into Tennessee. The most celebrated iron mine of western North Carolina is the Cranberry, and this iron was worked in Catalan forges as early as 1820. The following forges made fron from the Cranberry ore:<a href="#1" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 1
From "The Iron Manufacturer's Guide," 1859, by J. P. Lesley.">
"Cranberry Bloomery Forge, on Cranberry creek; built in 1820; rebuilt in 1856; two fires and one hammer; made 17 tons of bars in 1857.
"Toe river Bloomery Forge, situated five miles south of Cranberry forge; built in 1843; two fires and one hammer; made about four tons of bars in 1856.
"Johnson's Bloomery Forge, six miles east of south from Cranberry; built in 1841; had two fires and one hammer; made one and one-half tons of bars in 1856."
This ore made an excellent quality of iron and soon became known and attracted a great deal of attention throughout the United States. Since 1882 the mine has been worked almost continuously, and the ore was treated in a modern blast furnace.
Similar grades of iron ore are found in Ashe county, and the following is a summary of the history of the Catalan forges that were operated on these Ashe county magnetic ores:
"The Pasley forge was built by John Ballou at the mouth of Helton creek in 1859; in 1871 it was rebuilt by the present owner, W. J. Pasley, and is now sadly in need of repairs.
"Helton Bloomery Forge, on Helton creek, 12 miles N. N.W. of Jefferson; built in 1829; two fires and one hammer; made in 1856 about 15 tons of bars. Washed away in 1858. Another forge was built one and one-fourth miles lower down the creek in 1902, but did not stand long.
"Harbard's Bloomery Forge was situated near the mouth of Helton creek; built in 1807 and washed away in 1817.
"Ballou's Bloomery Forge was situated 12 mile. N. E. of Jefferson, at the falls of North Fork of New river; built in 1817; washed away in 1832 by an ice freshet.
"North Fork Bloomery Forge was situated on North Fork of New river, 8 miles N. W. of Jefferson; built in 1825; abandoned in 1829; washed away in 1840.
"Laurel Bloomery Forge, on Laurel creek, 15 miles west of Jefferson; built in 1847; abandoned in 1853.<a href="#1" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 1
From "The Iron Manufacturer's Guide," 1859, by J. P. Lesley.">
"New River Forge, on South Fork of New river, one-half mile above its junction with North Fork; built in 1871; washed away in 1878."
The brown hematite ores of Cherokee county which occur in the Cambrian rocks were worked in forges as early as 1840, supplying the surrounding country with bar iron. We have record of the following forges:
"Lovinggood Bloomery Forge, situated on Hanging Dog creek, two miles above Fain forge; built from 1845 to 1853; two fires and one hammer; made in 1856 about 13 tons of bars.
"Lower Hanging Dog Bloomery Forge, on Hanging Dog Creek, five miles northwest from Murphy; built in 1840; two fires and one hammer; made in 1856 about four tons of bars.<a href="#1" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 1
From "The Iron Manufacturer's Guide," 1859, by J. P. Lesley.">
"Killian Bloomery Forge, situated one-half mile below the Lower Hanging Dog Forge; built in 1843; abandoned in 1849.
"Fain Bloomery Forge, on Owl creek, two miles below the Lovinggood forge; built in 1854; two fires and one hammer; made in 1856 about 24 tons of bars.
"Persimmon Creek Bloomery Forge, situated on Persimmon creek, 12 miles southwest from Murphy; built in 1848; two fires and one hammer; made in 1855 about 45 tons of bars.
"Shoal Creek Bloomery Forge, situated on Shoal creek, five miles west of the Persimmon Creek Forge; built about 1854; one fire and one hammer; made in 1854 about one-half ton of bars."
With the exception of the blast furnace at Cranberry which uses the magnetic iron ore from the Cranberry mine, no other furnace has been erected in western North Carolina for the treatment of iron ores; and when the Pasley forge on Helton creek went out of commission, there was no other point in western North Carolina, except Cranberry, where iron was being made. A small amount of ore has been shipped from time to time from various localities.
Copper mining at one time was a prominent industry western North Carolina; and while I have no definite data as to when copper mines were first operated in western North Carolina, we do know that copper properties were worked before the Civil War, principally in Ashe and Alleghany counties. The most noted mine was the Ore Knot, which is in the southeast corner of Ashe county near the top of the Blue Ridge and about two miles from New river. This mine was first opened sometime before the War, but it was not until some years after the war that it was developed to any great extent. The ore deposit was worked to a depth of 400 feet by means of numerous shafts and drifts. The mine was equipped with a smelter for producing a high grade of copper. The amount of copper produced and shipped from January 1879 to April 1880, which was the time the mine was fully operated, was something over 1,640 tons. The cost to produce and market this copper was ten and thirty-nine one-hundredth cents a pound. The mine has not been worked since about 1882. Other copper properties that were worked were the Copper Knob or Gap Creek mine in the southeast part of Ashe county; the Peach Bottom mine on Elk creek, Alleghany county; the Cullowhee mine on Cullowhee mountain, and Savannah mine on Savannah creek, Jackson county.
Another mineral for which western North Carolina is noted is corundum. In 1870, Mr. Hiram Crisp found the first corundum that attracted attention to the present mining region of North Carolina, at what is now the Corundum Hill mine. A specimen was sent to Prof. Kerr, then state geologist, for identification, and considerable interest was aroused when it was discovered that it was corundum. In the same year Mr. J. H. Adams found corundum in a similar occurrence at Pelham, Massachusetts.
In 1870-71 much activity was displayed in the search for corundum in the periodite regions of the southwestern counties of North Carolina, and new localities were soon brought to light in Macon, Jackson, Buncombe, and Yancey counties. About this time Mr. Crisp and Dr. C. D. Smith began active work on the Corundum Hill property, and obtained about a thousand pounds of corundum, part of which was sold to collectors for cabinet specimens. Some of the masses that were found weighed as much as 40 pounds.
Systematic mining for corundum did not begin until the fall of 1871, when the Corundum Hill property was purchased by Col. Chas. W. Jenks, of St. Louis, Missouri, and Mr. E. B. Ward, of Detroit,: Michigan, and work was soon begun under the superintendence of Col. Jenks. This was the first systematic mining of common corundum, as distinguished from emery and the gem varieties, ever undertaken, while the first mining of the emery variety of corundum in America was at Chester, Massachusetts. The Corundum Hill mine produced corundum almost continuously from 1872 to 1901. Other mines that have produced corundum are the Buck Creek mine in Clay county; the Ellijay mine in Macon county; the Carter mine in Madison county; and the Higden mine and Behr mine in Clay county.
Mica mining in North Carolina began about 1870, and for the first five years practically all the mica mined was handled by Heap and Clapp, and was obtained from the mines of Mitchell and Yancey counties. Mica has continued to be mined almost constantly since that time not only in Yancy and Mitchell counties, but in Ashe, Buncombe, Haywood, Jackson, and Macon counties. There are a great many old workings on these mica deposits, and before they had been investigated and the mica discovered they were supposed to be old workings of the Spaniards who were hunting for silver. It is now supposed that these old workings were made by the Indians for these sheets of mica; and it is known that mica has been found in Indian mounds and was used by the Indians who inhabited what is now Ohio in the manufacture of their beads. North Carolina mica is still known as standard mica, as it was reckoned from the beginning.
Several other minerals should be mentioned in connection with the descriptions given above, as they were first identified in North Carolina. The mineral that stands out most strikingly is the rhodolite, a gem mineral which was discovered in Macon county about 1894 and was given its name from the resemblance of its color to that of certain rhododendrons.
MITCHELLITE, a variety of chromite, was discovered near Webster, Jackson county, in 1892, and was named in honor of the late Prof. Elisha Mitchell of North Carolina.
WELLSITE, one of the minerals of the zeohte group, was discovered in 1892 at the Buck Creek mine, Clay county, and was named in honor of Prof. H. L. Wells of Yale University.
The following, belonging to the vermiculite group of minerals, have been found associated with corundum, and were described by Doctor Genth; they were all discovered about the same time in 1872 or 1873; Culsageeite, a variety of Jefferisite, found at the Corundum Hill mine and named for a postoffice near that place; Kerrite, found at Corundum Hill mine, and named in honor of Mr. W. C. Kerr, former State Geologist of North Carolina; Maconite, found at the Corundum Hill mine and named after Macon county; Lucasite, found at the Corundum Hill mine and named after Dr. H. S Lucas, who owned the Corundum Hill mine; Willcoxite, found at the Buck creek (Cullakeene) mine, Clay county, and named after Joseph Willcox of Philadelphia; Aurelite, found at the Freeman mine, Green river, Henderson county, about l888--it is a thorium mineral, and was named for Dr. Carl Auer von Welsbach; Hatchettolite, a tantalium-uranium, was found at the Wiseman Mica mine, Mitchell county, about 1877, and was named after the English chemist, Charles Hatchett; phosphuranylite, a uranium mineral, found at the Flat Rock mine,. Mitchell county, about 1879, and named from the chemical composition of the mineral; and Rogersite, a niobium mineral, found at the Wiseman Mica mine, Mitchell county, about 1877, named after Prof. W. B. Rogers."
NOTE: The United States Geological Survey has ready for distribution, upon the receipt of 25 cents each, the following geologic folios each of which contains descriptive text, topographic map, areal geology map, economic geology map, structure motion sheet and columnar section sheet. All information as to the geology and mineralogy of the quadrangles treated can be found in these folios:
Cranberry Folio, No. 90, issued 1903.
Asheville Folio, No. 110, issued 1904.
Mount Mitchell Folio, No. 124, issued 1905.
Nantahala Folio, No. 143, issued 1907.
Fisgal Folio, No. 147, issued 1907.
Roan Mountain Folio, No. 151, issued 1907.