Friday, April 1, 2016

Granville Under the Ground.

             Ten years ago I visited the “Gillis Copper Mine,” and, of course, Mr. Gillis, the noted geologist. I found the venerable Scotchman seated by a table covered with rocks; his books, hammer, and glass, were at hand. When he found that I was willing to hear him he told me where his rocks were found and how they got there. He told me where the waters flowed “before the mountains were brought forth,” and before the earth received its present shape. I listened with rapturous delight while he dwelt upon the wisdom and goodness of God in so wisely distributing wood, water, coal, rocks, and metals.
             On leaving him he said, “I am glad to find in Granville a young man who has a taste for geology, and feels an interest in the wealth under the ground. The present generation follows fame and fashion, and walks blindly over the riches which nature has placed so abundantly under our feet. Granville is rich above, but richer still below the surface. Our hills are swelling with ores—our streams are washing the precious stones—our sands are glittering with gold. God has not bestowed these bounties for naught. A change will come—you may see it. I cannot. My days are few, I am hastening to the grave. Farewell.”
            His words made a deep and lasting impression upon me. Mr. Gillis is gone to enrich with his body, that earth whose riches he so much admired. But is Granville, under the ground, as rich as Mr. Gillis supposed? Let the facts speak for themselves.
Copper Ore

            A bed of syenite* underlies the greater part of this county, and crops out on the hillsides. Many of the hill-tops are crowned with syenite bounders.—Gravels of syenite lie in abundance on the soil.—This rock drinks rain, dew and vapor, and the water freezes and thaws, gradually reducing the rock to powder. This powder contains a sufficiency of every element for ordinary crops, sulphur and lime excepted. Hence Granville land has the power of manuring itself, and if our farmers will throw up high beds in the fall, and apply “Plaster of Paris” in the spring, the same fields may be cultivated with success for several years in succession. High beds will promote freezing and thawing, “Plaster of Paris” will furnish the needed sulphur and lime. In this way syenite—our most abundant rock—is a “treasure hid” in almost every field.—Syenite, when kept dry, is also a good material for building. The Capitol at Raleigh is built of syenite, and not of granite, as some suppose. But Granville contains “brown iron sandstone,” both beautiful and durable.
            An excellent quarry is found on the Raleigh road, three miles from Oxford. If, therefore, a Granville man shall desire to build him a stone house, he will have choice of splendid material. At Lyon’s mill on Tar river, he may also find verd Antique marble to decorate his house and furniture.
            At Ramsey’s mill there is a mine of magnetic iron ore. Dr. Emmons found that the Chatham coal extends to Tar River on the land or Mr. W. B. Crews. The Gillis copper Mine has been described by Dr. C. T. Jackson. Copper ore is abundant. Tabb’s creek and its tributaries wash golden sands, and gold in small quantities is found from Salem to Kittrell’s. Soapstone for ovens, furnaces &c., is found in various parts of the county. I have found two kinds of marl in Granville. One kind excellent in quality, but very limited in quantity; the other kind is abundant on the lands of Dr. Lewis and Mr. J. H. Davis. With this marl I have made a single experiment, the result of which is so surprising that I am unwilling to publish it until confirmed by additional experiments.
            In the North-Western part of the country is also found an extensive bed of roofing slate of very respectable quality.
            But the wealth of Granville like “Old John Brown lies mouldering in the ground.” These underground storehouses are now waiting for enterprise to know at their doors, which are ready to open.
            Specimens from various parts of the county may be seen, at any time, in my cabinet, and at any leisure hour, it will afford me pleasure to accompany geologists to the various localaties.

NOTE: The Gillis Mine was actually in Person County. It was in the north-east corner of Person, near the Granville line and only about five miles from the Virginia line.

* a coarse-grained gray igneous rock composed mainly of alkali ffeldspar and ferromagnesian minerals such as hornblende.

[Taken from The Daily Standard (Raleigh, NC) 29 Sep 1865]

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