the Coles

Anothy(sic) Cole and Susan Browning Cole. ca. 1875. Portrait of the owners of Cole Mill photo courtesy of the Durham County Library. All rights reserved.

excerpted from the January 1986 Calendar

In the hard times after the defeat of Culloden in 1746 many family groups, even whole villages, left Scotland for America. In the shipping lists of 1776 the McColes are prominent from Apine and Glenurchy in Argyll, Scotland. They sailed on the Jupiter and landed at Wilmington, NC. We have no evidence that these early Coles ever made their way inland to Orange County.

In the reminiscences of E.H. Scarlett, however, Levi Cole is said to have come from the English town of Leeds, home of the Scarletts and Allens (see June, below). Levi, who appears to have been the earliest identifiable Cole in the Eno Valley, may have been an older brother of Anthony Cole, the Eno patriarch.

Anthony married Susannah Browning in 1822 and had 14 children and at least 18 grandchildren, besides nephews and nieces by way of his brothers William, Solomon and Levi. Cole holdings on the Eno were extensive. They ranged down river from Holden’s Mill, purchased in 1887 by his sixth son Samuel; past a tract of 108 acres “on the waters of Enoe,” purchased by his nephew John Anderson Cole from James Pratt in 1881: past McCown’s Mill run by John A. Cole in 1867 and bought by him with 400 acres in 1874; to 77 acres on Forrester’s’ Mill Creek just upstream from West Point which were sold by his first son Thomas to his third son Stephen in 1857. There were other lands besides.

The family grew and multiplied. John Anderson Cole had 16 children. His sister Sarah Caroline Theodosia Cole had 11. Then came the Durham sickness,” typhoid from contaminated wells, which killed the Coles and others mercilessly. In 1908 their mulls were washed away by the hundred year flood. Their lands are now diminished by Durham’s development. Yet they are a continuing force, a central part of Eno River history.

The homeplace of Thomas Cole, Anthony’s first son, still stands, now in the Eno River State Park, in a thicket of trumpet vines, surrounded by field daffodils in the Spring. A family of buzzards lives on the second floor and a ghost has been photographed in the dogtrot.

-Margaret Nygard, 1986