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NC School of Science and Mathematics

2004 Student Intensive

The Search for Fish Dam Road

Notes from the field

Dan Wines, Student

Tuesday, March 30

  Hey Everyone,

We got Fish Dam Road of to a fantastic start this morning, with David Southern, Don Moffitt, and Jim Wise sending our slightly sleepy roadies off to the reconstructed Occaneechi village from Watts Circle.

When we arrived in Hillsborough, at the site of the village, we met John Blackfeather Jeffries, who was gracious enough to fill our minds with the wonderful, interesting, and sometimes sad tale of his people. He told us about the movements of his people, and talked about their technologies. He covered such topics as agriculture, weaponry, huts (surprisingly resilient to flooding), and how it was all recorded in the memories of the elders. This is why, we found out, certain European diseases that take out the very young and the very old affected the Occaneechi and other Native Americans so profoundly - they weren't just losing their people, but their collective knowlege and technologies as well. John talked with us long, and answered all of our questions; as well as presenting us all with feathers. Our Native American colleagues recieved hawk feathers, Joe recieved a blue heron feather, and the rest of us recieved turkey feathers. We were fortunate to have such an introduction, and we are very grateful to John for this act of generousity.

After John was done speaking, Tom Magnuson (a very accomplished road

hunter) led us out of the Occaneechi village, and talked with us at length about how to look for signs of and old road. He told us how old roads were created with fording the piedemont's many rivers in mind; you didn't go from town to town, you went from ford to ford. He told us how to tell the difference between different kinds of roads - old Native American roads are about one foot wide, and smooth; European footpaths are about 3 feet wide and deeper; horse trails are about 6 feet wide and level; wagon trails are about 10 feet wide and level; and if it has two ruts, someone drove a car there. He also told us how to find the marks of old houses: look for mom and pop trees, fence lines, broken chimneys, stacked stones, and plants not native to that area are all good indicators of a possible home site.

Tom then led us along the first portion of the road, up along the Eno to the horseshoe bend, over the Eno, across land both wild and developed to Cates Creek, where we forded and ended up at the intersection of Highway 86 and Business 70. There, the road merged with 70. We went on down beside 70, and discovered a lengthy portion of the road. On our way out and to our delectable boxed lunches, Jim Wise discovered a purse with no money, but with ID in it. Tom called the police, and they came and inspected the site.

When we finished lunch, Tom took his leave of us for the day, and we went up to the old racetrack, and payed our respects to Richard Petty. Then, we came back to NCSSM, and worked on our individual contributions.

Here's to an excellent start and many days of the same caliber,

Dan Wines