/Longitude 79º 1′ 31.11″ W
How to get there:
DRIVING DIRECTIONS to Holden’s Mill Road Settlement from I-85 North, Exit 170: at the bottom of the ramp, merge onto Hwy. 70. Immediately move into the left lane and make a U-turn using the median cut-through. You are now heading west on Hwy. 70. Move into the right lane. Turn right at the first light onto Pleasant Green Road. You will pass the Pleasant Green Access and cross over the river. In 2 miles, turn left onto Cole Mill Road. You will reach the Few’s Ford Access of Eno River State Park in less than 1 mile. The physical address is 6101 Cole Mill Road, Durham NC 27705. Take the second right after passing through the park gates. Park here at the Piper-Cox House parking lot.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS to Holden’s Mill Road Settlement from I-85 South, Exit 170: at the bottom of the ramp, merge onto Hwy. 70 West. Stay in the right lane and turn right at the first light onto Pleasant Green Road. You will pass the Pleasant Green Access and cross over the river. In 2 miles, turn left onto Cole Mill Road. You will reach the Few’s Ford Access of Eno River State Park in less than 1 mile. The physical address is 6101 Cole Mill Road, Durham NC 27705. Take the second right after passing through the park gates. Park here at the Piper-Cox House parking lot.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS to Holden’s Mill Road Settlement from I-85, Exit 173: at the bottom of the ramp, turn right and head north on Cole Mill Rd. away from Hillsborough Rd. Stay straight on Cole Mill Rd. for approximately 4 miles. You will cross the river and come to a stop sign at the Pleasant Green Road intersection. Continue straight and in less than 1 mile you will reach the Few’s Ford Access of Eno River State Park. The physical address is 6101 Cole Mill Road, Durham NC 27705. Take the second right after passing through the park gates. Park here at the Piper-Cox House parking lot.
HIKING DIRECTIONS to Holden’s Mill Road Settlement: Take the Buckquarter Creek Trail (blazed with red dots) from the Piper-Cox House parking lot. You will quickly reach the river at Few’s Ford. Take the small footbridge to your right and follow the Buckquarter Creek Trail upriver. Stay on this trail until you reach the bridge over Buckquarter Creek. Turn left and cross the bridge. On the other side of the bridge, turn left onto the Holden Mill Trail (blazed with yellow dots). Follow the Holden Mill Trail along the creek then upriver.
Shortly after crossing the powerline, you will come to Onion Rock, a large rock outcrop at the river’s edge. Here you will have to blindly scramble down the backside of the outcrop. Be careful and be aware that sections of the trail can sometimes be underwater during high water events. Past Onion Rock, the trail will come to Tranquility Creek where you will have to cross the shallow creek. Do not cross during high water events!
After you cross the creek, continue straight along the river. In 100 yards, the trail splits. Go right and stop at the first step. Turn to your right; you should see a dry streambed off-trail. Follow this drainage uphill. You will come to a place where several drainages come together. Look for a flat roadbed above the convergence. Climb out of the drainage and turn right onto the old road. Follow the old road for approximately ½ mile. On the right side of the road, you will pass a standing tobacco barn, crumbling chimney and ruins of a hunting lodge. Shortly after the barn, an impressive two-story cabin will come into view. These buildings and ruins are cultural resources and are not to be disturbed; this includes entering standing structures. Take only pictures, leave only footprints!
Once you are finished at the cabin, retrace your path back to the Holden Mill Trail. Turn left and make your way back across Tranquility Creek. Here, you can either follow the river back the way you came (to the right) or take the upper, ridge side of the Holden Mill Trail (to the left). The round trip hike from the Piper-Cox House parking lot is approximately 5 miles.
About the Holden Mill Road Settlement
Not much is known about the history of the buildings you see along the Holden Mill Road. Ironically, more is known about an earlier time in the history of this area—the Holden’s Mill era. The era begins in 1811, when Isaac Holden constructs a flour, corn and saw mill five miles downriver of Hillsborough (this site is just past the spot where you turn off the Holden Mill Trail). Nine years later upon his death, Isaac passes ownership of the mill to his son Thomas. Under Thomas Holden’s leadership, the mill operation grows to include an oil mill, threshing machines and a cotton gin. Holden’s Mill becomes the largest enterprise in the valley with 300 acres of land, multiple dwelling houses and a schoolhouse. It employs eight hands, a wagoner and miller. At some point before 1845, Thomas takes on a partner, his son-in-law John F. Lyon. Holden eventually moves his enterprises to Milton, NC and gives up ownership of the mill to Lyon in 1851. After financial difficulties, Lyon loses the mill in 1868. The mill reopens sometime after 1882 under the ownership of Samuel A. Cole and ceases operation after his death in 1893. Much of the mill remnants are destroyed in the 1908 flood.
Although the mill operation was significant and had a great impact on the local community, a more lasting connection exists between the mill and national politics. That connection is William Woods Holden, the illegitimate son of mill owner Thomas Holden and Priscilla Woods. Out of his lowly circumstance, W.W. Holden would go on to become famous in state politics, first as a newspaperman and later as governor of North Carolina. However, what makes him most notable is that he became the first governor in the United States to be impeached and removed from office.
To find out more about his interesting life, visit these websites:
http://ncpedia.org/biography/governors/holden – biography and picture of W.W. Holden
http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/broadsides_bdsnc031689/ – his proclamation establishing the first official Thanksgiving holiday in NC
http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/03/15/1054180/clearing-the-gov-140-years-later.html – recent news article about Holden and a possible pardon from the legislature
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/murder-in-the-courthouse-jim-wise/1111080308?ean=9781596297555 – a book by local writer Jim Wise about Holden and his impeachment
The bottom right photo (by Ken Hermey) is of an old rusty wagon (believed to be a Hoover Wagon http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/back0709.cfm) that was abandoned along the Holden’s Mill Road. It is off the left side of the road as you are heading north toward the cabin. If you attempt to locate it and get lost, just remember to head downhill to the river, then downriver to get back to the Holden Mill Trail.
The bottom left photo (by Christopher Ammon) is what remains of the Holden’s Mill Road. This is what you should look for as you come out of the drainage and what you should follow as you head north to the cabin.
Have you been there? We are having a contest to see who can make it to all 12 locations in 2014. If you go, bring a camera and upload a photo to our Flickr photostream. Tag your photo as “Hidden Gems of the Eno” (you must use quotes around it!) and be sure to title each photo with your first name and last initial. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you are participating in the contest. We will honor those who make it to all of the locations at our annual calendar celebration at the end of the year and give you a special gift!