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Wilkes: spring, Wagoner, grants

September 16, 2020


Big Rock Spring

Itís exciting when todayís discoveries support information that was recorded long ago.There are certain landmarks that are so noteable or unique that even the earliest settlers were inclined to reference them in their documents.The fact that we are able to visit these same landmarks today provides us with a link to the past.


One of the most obvious examples of this is Stone Mountain in Wilkes County.Early land records referred to it as the ďGreat Rock MountainĒ, but soon the concensus became ďThe Stone MountainĒ.Another example that I recently discovered is the ďBig Rock SpringĒ.I hadnít heard of it before joining two other hikers to go see it in the northwest corner of Stone Mountain State Park.


When we arrived at the site, it was clear how it got its name:itís a big rock with a spring flowing from the bottom of it.The rock base is split wide enough for a stream of water to flow through.This is part of the headwaters of Harris Creek.



And a view looking up the spring to the base of the Big Rock.



When Iím hiking I always think about who the early landowners were.Whose rock spring was this before it became part of the state park?I pulled up my map to the general area and zoomed in on the original land grants.On the map below, the dark line at the left is the county line.Garden Creek is at the right.The Big Rock Spring is marked with a tree toward the bottom.


To my surprise my own map had a reference to this natural feature!The yellow, hexagon-shaped grant was entered by Samuel Hawkins in 1854.It consisted of 58 acres on the waters of Harris Creek, ďnear the Big Rock SpringĒ.



A larger version of the map is available to make it easier to read the text.The southwest corner of the property was marked by a chestnut near the Big Rock Spring, and that boundary headed north to another chestnut.Just 100 yards to the east are indications of an old cabin and homesite.Another 100 yards southeast is a small cemetery with at least four markers as shown below.



So who might be buried in this cemetery?Could it be the Samuel Hawkins family?He bought the land in the 1850s as the first landowner, but I found that there were several other landowners in the following decades.


On 3/14/1860, Samuel Hawkins sold it to Charles Hawkins who must have been a relative.But Charles didnít keep it very long.The next year he sold it to John Willey.Five years after that, in 1866 John Willey sold it to Martin Willey.Within a 6 year span, there had already been four different landowners!


Martin Willey kept it for eighteen years.In 1884 he sold these 58 acres to Louisa Wagoner.On that same day she mortgaged the property to pay for it, borrowing from Adam J. Moxley.


On 6/27/1890 Louisa Wagoner sold the rights to the timber to G. W. Hinshaw who would was, or would soon be, the president of the Winston Land and Improvement Company.Between 1890 and 1910, George Hinshaw and his company bought thousands of acres around Stone Mountain and the Gamelands for the timber and minerals.By the mid 1900s, the company wasnít using the land and much of it was obtained by the state leading to the creation of the state park.


By 1894, Louisa Wagoner no longer owned the land.Either she had died, or there was a deed thatís been lost from the records.The next deed I found was on 2/9/1894 where John A. Wagoner sold the land to Floyd H. Wagoner.At that time, adjoining property owners were William F. Caudill and Adolphus Spicer.I wasnít able to quickly find out how Louisa, John, and Floyd were related, but Iím confident that they were.


Floyd Wagoner (c1862 -1945) owned several tracts in the area between the 1890s and 1920.In fact, the remains of his homesite are located 0.4 miles northeast of the Big Spring Rock.Sometime after 1910, Floyd moved 4 miles northwest, to the other side of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Whitehead according to the census.This is a picture of a foundation or retaining wall at his homesite.



Back to the question about the cemetery, I donít think itís old enough to belong to the Hawkins family.Maybe it belonged to John Willey or Martin Willey, but my guess is that it belonged to the Wagoners since they owned the land the longest.Since Iím not sure what happened to Louisa Wagoner between 1890 and 1894, maybe one of these graves is her.We need more clues to solve the mystery.


My thanks to Steve and Rick for letting me join them on the hike.We got to enjoy nature, get some exercise, and learn a little history, too.