You probably know that our lush, piedmont county is drained by two mighty streams, the Catawba River to our west and the Yadkin to our east, which changes its name to the Pee Dee when it flows into South Carolina.
I recall reading that the early European settlers of this area, the Scots-Irish and the Germans, who came here literally by the wagon-load beginning in the 1740s, recognized that these two waterways defined the region and referred to this area as “Mesopotamia,” Greek for “land between the rivers.” This word was also the term used by scholars to describe the lands between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, one of the birthplaces of civilization and the probable location of the biblical Garden of Eden.
There is an excellent book I would like to tell you about, which contains two accounts of voyages down the Yadkin by canoe. The first account, “A Voyage Down the Yadkin-Great Peedee River,” was written by minister and amateur historian Douglas L. Rights in 1928. In 1982, 54 years later, Floyd Rogers and four companions from Hamptonville made the same journey, also by canoe. The account of their trek is told in Rogers’ “Yadkin Passage.”
The Rev. Dr. Rights’ account of his trip was first published in the Winston-Salem Journal, the Twin City Sentinel and the Journal and Sentinel as occasional pieces between 1925 and 1928. The Rogers story appeared as 13 articles in the Winston-Salem Journal in the spring of 1982. The combined book, under the title, “Yadkin Passage,” was published in 1982 by the R&L’s sister newspaper, the Winston-Salem Journal.
The mighty Yadkin begins, or “rises,” in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and flows in a southeasterly direction to the river’s mouth at Winyah Bay of the Atlantic Ocean, east of Georgetown, South Carolina. According to Google, the Yadkin is 215 miles long and the Pee Dee is 232 miles long, making the total length of the Yadkin-Pee Dee to be around 447 miles.
More precisely, the Yadkin originates in the parking lot of the Green Park Inn, an inauspicious beginning. Floyd Rogers writes, “In one of its dining rooms, the Green Park has old photographs showing the hotel and a fancy little springhouse nearby that protected the Yadkin Spring. Now, where the spring was, there is a gravel parking lot and a rusting grate over a catch basin.
“When it rains, runoff from the parking lot collects in the catch basin and mingles with the spring water. A culvert carries the water to the edge of the parking lot and dumps it down the hillside, which is littered with beer cans and dead brush.”
In spite of its pitiful start, the neonatal Yadkin flows through a historically and geographically interesting area. Nearby is the Eastern Continental Divide, which is the eastern boundary of the Mississippi River Basin. Native Americans lived along the Yadkin for thousands of years; their artifacts can still be found in fields bordering the river. Daniel Boone lived and hunted along the Yadkin.
Now under the waters of the Scott Reservoir, once stood the stronghold of post-Civil War bandits, called “Fort Hamby.” This is also just upstream from Happy Valley and the Ferguson community, the old stomping grounds of Thomas C. Dula, better remembered as “Tom Dooley,” hanged in Statesville on May 1, 1868, for the murder of Laura Foster.
Of course, the Rogers group could not begin their voyage at the Green Park Inn, so they put their canoes in the water just below the W. Kerr Scott Dam, west of Wilkesboro. Rev. Rights was less explicit as to where he and a companion — “Let us call him ‘Tom’” — put their shallow-draft craft into the water.
All along the Yadkin’s course, from its head to its mouth, it is joined by tributaries which drain Wilkes, Yadkin, Surry, Davie, Davidson, Iredell, Rowan and other Tar Heel counties. The Yadkin itself is often the boundary between these counties.
The book’s 1982 publication was part of an effort to initiate a spirit of preservation for this great natural resource that we all, too often, take for granted. Besides being a great read on its literary merits, the book is as important today as it was 37 years ago.
The Iredell County Public Library main branch has a copy of “Yadkin Passage” which may be checked out. Copies can also be obtained via the library’s Cardinal System.
O.C. Stonestreet is the author of “Tales from Old Iredell County,” “They Called Iredell County Home” and “Once Upon a Time .... in Mooresville, NC.”