High Rock Ford

Today’s main activity marked the confluence of three things that I am most passionate about: nature, history, and teaching/learning (well, scifi is a passion of mine too, but aren’t we all multifaceted?). The Rockingham County Naturalist Club visited the High Rock Ford. This site occupies an important place in North Carolina’s and our nation’s history.

111917 federal historical registry

But, this site’s history neither begins nor ends with the noble General Nathanael Greene. First, though, a quick bio of Natty Greene: he led his rag-tag Revolutionary troops against the British Cornwallis at Guilford Courthouse. And was defeated, but dealt a devastating blow to Cornwallis. After a couple more skirmishes, Cornwallis lost at Yorktown and the rest is history.

What is this place anyway?

111917 high rock sluice

First, this is the rock which gives High Rock its name. While not impressive compared to parts west, it is nevertheless a preponderance in the locality. The gap to the left is the sluice – this is where water was engineered to pass through when the mill was constructed in 1753. The mill occupied the site immediately to the left of that…

111917 high rock mill

The doggo accompanied me, so I was unable to get closer for detailed shots, but there you have it. What was it that gave the mill its juice? That would be the Haw River:

111917 haw river from south

This is a view from the south (where the mill and High Rock are located). As can be seen, the northern bank is considerably lower. And the south bank’s incline is quite steep, making approach from the north that much more difficult.

The mill has a precedent prior to being a rallying point for Greene’s fighters. This is also where the Eastern Militia gathered/passed through before the Revolution. By 1771, North Carolina was already experiencing a bit of domestic unrest, even before Revolutionary stirrings led to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Here’s the set-up:  royal Gov. Tryon, seated on the east coast, lived a life of splendor, while those in the western part of the state lived in squalor. Taking their situation into their own hands, the westerners formed a group called the Regulators, and the governor responded in kind, by forming the eastern militia.

The governor later crushed the Regulator rebellion at the Battle of Alamance.


So, how could this have been a rallying point anyway? How did people come and go, transporting their grain? What about the ford? That’s where the colonial road comes in:

111917 colonial road

To the untrained eye (such as mine), this is another ravine in the woods. But, a little imagination and examination, and the floor of this gap is much flatter than a typical ravine. The sides, too, are steeper – they are the result of decades of traffic – people, horses, maybe even carriages. Indeed, this is likely part of the road that connected D.C. to Atlanta.  And it leads to the former site of the ford, straight as an arrow.

We’re not done yet – where’s the nature?

111917 cranefly orchid

111917 unknown with purple venation
Unsure what this is. A delightful little forb, consisting for the most part of two opposite leaves, three inches above the ground. Seems to form colonies.