History of the

Cumnock Coal Mine

originally the Egypt Coal Mine and

Peter Evans Plantation.

also historical info on

Historic Camelback Truss Bridge

Egypt Nursery & Farm

John H. Kennedy Store

Egypt Improvement Company

Endor Iron Works

Coal Glen and Farmville Coal

Cumnock/Deep River Train Wreck 1911

also Old Gilliam Mill

and other local items of historical significance

The community located in northwest Lee County of NC at an altitude of 259 feet, was named Egypt because large crops of corn produced in the area brought buyers from outside as in the Biblical story of Joseph.  Post office name changed to Cumnock in 1895 for an official of the mine.

The Egypt coal mine operated from 1855 until 1928 and supplied coal for Confederate blockade runners.  In addition to the coal mine, there was an iron works.

Historical Timeline of Mining on The Deep River Coal Bed 

Extracted from "The Coal Demon of Deep River" by Michael Hetzer, The State Magazine, June 1987.

Horton Coal Mine operated near Gulf, NC for local needs.
George Wilcox builds forge near Cumnock.
1776 Declaration of Independence.
Mining of Deep River Coal near Gulf continues for local needs.
1830 Peter Evans changes name of plantation from LaGrange to Egypt and begins mining there.
1851 Egypt plantation sold to Brooke Harris.
1852 Main shaft of Egypt Mine sunk to depth of 460 feet.

*The Western Railroad of NC was chartered to build a 43 mile line from Fayetteville northwest to the coalfields of Egypt, about seven miles beyond Sanford.  Right-of-way was procured during a six year period, construction began in 1858, and trains were hauling coal to Fayetteville by 1861.

1854 Egypt Mine sold to Governors Creek steam and Transportation Co.
Slack-water navigation route construction begun.
Railway from Fayetteville to Egypt begun.
1859 Harper's Ferry.
1861 Lincoln Inaugurated; Civil War begins.
Deep River Coal shipped by rail to Fayetteville and to Wilmington by barge, where it kept locomotive and schooer boilers alive for the war effort.-- used to power Confederate Navy and blockade runners.




In 1865, as Union General William T. Sherman lead his "March to the Sea," it became apparent to the Confederate commander, Col. Childs, that Fayetteville was a major target. When Sherman reached Columbia, South Carolina, Col. Childs ordered the construction of earthworks for the defense of the Fayetteville area.

Resistance was given but the battered and weary Confederate forces were overwhelmed by the tremendous numbers and firepower of the invaders. Sherman entered Fayetteville on March 11, 1865 and took possession of the Arsenal (which had been stripped of its arms, munitions, and useful machinery by the retreating Confederates). The Harpers Ferry rifle manufacturing machinery was said to have been hidden in the Egypt, NC coal mines.


Lee surrenders at Appomattox.

*At the close of the war in 1865, the Western Railroad suffered great damage at the hand of Union troops under General Sherman.  They destoroyed twelve miles of track, shops, depots, and railroad buildings near Fayetteville.  However, the locomotives and rolling stock were spared, since the railroad had moved them to Egypt for safekeeping.  Luckily, Sherman chose not to go there.  The line was rehabilitated by 1868.

1870 Egypt Mine closes; bankrupt.
1873 Slack-water navigation begins on Deep River.
Iron ore shipped from Buckhorn to Endor Iron Furnace.
Dams and locks fail into disrepair on Deep River and slack-water navigation ends.
1888 Egypt Mine reopened by Egypt Coal Company; mine enters boom years.

The Cumnock mines in Chatham county are the only operating colleries in North Carolina. These mines, originally opened years since, were operated in a desultory and primitive manner prior to 1888, when Samuel A. Henszey, of Philadelphia, Pa., obtained possession, organized a company, and vigorously proceeded to re-open the mines upon an extensive scale, install a modern and efficient plant and introduce business methods, absence of which had accounted for previous indifferent success. Encountering many obstacles, the restoration and development proved slow and expensive, but by determined and persistent effort the property has been finally placed in a position that assures success. The underground works have been opened upon a large scale and in a most permanent manner for economical operation. The machine plant, both underground and on the surface, has been perfected with the most modern appliances for hoisting, pumping and ventilation, and every available safeguard for the protection of life and property has been introduced.

        The colliery is operated by two perpendicular shafts--one for ventilation only, measuring 8 × 10 feet, tapping the vein in the "rise" workings at a depth of two hundred and twenty feet, and the main working shaft, 8 × 12 feet, four hundred and sixty-four feet in depth. The present plant has a capacity of one thousand tons per diem. Direct connection is had with the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley railway at Cumnock and the Seaboard Air Line at Colon by means of the Raleigh and Western railway, an extension of which is well advanced toward a connection with the Southern railway system at or near Randleman, in Randolph county. The yield is a clean, shining bituminous coal, igniting easily, burning with a bright, clear combustion, leaving very little purplish, grey ash. It swells and agglutinizes, making a hollow fire.

The Cumnock company owns four thousand three hundred acres. The workable veins aggregate six feet in thickness, lying in two benches of four feet and two feet respectively, separated by two feet of black band iron ore, the point of contact being plain and admitting of clean mining. The specific gravity of these coals as ascertained by Dr. H. B. Battle, Ph. D., is for the upper seam 1.31 and the lower 1.43. Using this basis, competent authorities estimate 11,000 tons to the acres, or 47,300,000 tons within the land owned by this one company. The coal is equally suitable for manufacture of gas, generation of steam, blacksmithing and domestic use. The Greensboro Gas Company in a recent letter says: "This coal made nine thousand seven hundred cubic feet of gas, eighteen and one-half candle power, and forty-nine bushels of good, clean, hard coke." For locomotive use, Mr. William Montcure, now Superintendent of the Central Division Seaboard Air Line, made an exhaustive test some time since and in submitting the result said: "I made a test of your coal as compared with Pocahontas, using the same engine, pulling the same trains with the same crew, with the following result for the same service:--Pocahontas 52,000, Cumnock 40,000 lbs. As a blacksmith coal it is now being shipped to local points on the Norfolk and Western railroad. As a grate coal it is without a superior, burning with a bright blaze, emitting no smoke and with entire absence of soot.


1895 Mine explosion kills 46.
1900 Mine explosion kills 26.
1902 Egypt Coal Co. declares bankruptcy; mine closes.
1907 Lee County Founded from portions of Moore and Chatham Counties.NC's 98th county.
1915 Egypt Mine reopened by Norfolk Southern Railroad to supply railroad only; renamed Cumnock after Scottish mining town in hope of breaking Egypt coal curse.
1921 Carolina Coal Company formed to create Coal Glen Mine.
1922 Egypt Mine closed after repeated flooding by Deep River.
Coal Glen Mine shaft sunk.
1925 Coal Glen Mine disaster; 53 miners killed.
1929 Stock Market Crash.
1930 Carolina Coal Company declares bankruptcy; Coal Glen Mine closed.
1941 Bombing of Pearl Harbor.
1943 Egypt Mine entered; 25 tons of scrap metal retrieved for war effort; reflooded.
1947 Raleigh Mining Company reopens Coal Glen Mine.
1950 100 tons/day produced in Coal Glen Mine.
1951 Coal Glen Mine closed.



Area still filled with coal as well as legend

By Melissa Clement
Staff writer

Along the banks of the Deep River, seven miles from Sanford in Lee County, lies an estimated 100 million tons of coal.

Millions have been spent to bring it to the surface. More than 100 lives have been lost. Less than 1 million tons of Deep River Coal has seen the light of day.

mapOld-timers think there was a demon in the Deep River coal bed, guarding its black treasure from would-be profit-takers. According to a 1987 article in The State magazine, no one has ever made a profit from the Deep River coal.

It is unclear when mining started in the area, but records show that at least one mine, the Horton Mine, was in operation near the present town of Gulf. On land that is now the town of Cumnock, George Wilcox established a forge and forged cannon balls and shot for the Revolutionary War. Coal was mined in the area on a small scale for the next 75 years to supply local needs.

The Egypt Mine opened in 1855 and is said to have been the first commercially operated mine in the state. It was on the plantation owned by Peter Evans on Deep River. There is a story behind the name of the mine. When a drought parched the land, Evans’ farm was spared and produced abundant corn. One neighbor went to buy corn and quipped that it was like the biblical story of Joseph going to Egypt to buy corn. Years later, when the mine had earned a reputation as a jinx, the town and mine were renamed Cumnock for a town in Scotland.

In the beginning there was trouble transporting the coal on the narrow Deep River. An explosion caused the mine’s first three casualties. During the Civil War the mine was taken over by the Confederate army and coal was shipped by rail and river to reach the blockade runners in Wilmington. It was not a satisfactory fuel because it produced strong yellow smoke from the high sulfur content, smoke that betrayed the location of the blockade runners.

Some of the miners were Confederate soldiers who avoided combat by working in the mine. Other area mines began to operate, including The Black Diamond Mine and Taylor Slope. At the end of the war the mine was filled with debris to hinder enemy capture. Then the Deep River swelled and flooded the entire mine.

In the early 1890s the Egypt mine was reopened but closed again within the year because of fire. It was flooded and pumped dry again and again and another explosion took another life. On Dec. 12, 1895, a large explosion of dynamite left 41 miners dead and two missing. Families sued, miners refused to work and money ran short. On May 23, 1900, an explosion killed 23 and the company declared bankruptcy.

Then the Coal Glen Mine opened in 1921 across the Deep River from the Egypt. In 1925 an explosion took the lives of 53 men. The mine closed in 1929 when rain flooded the air shaft. It was pumped out but the mine flooded again in 1930 and was closed. Under the name of Raleigh Mining Company the Coal Glen mine opened briefly in 1947 and closed in 1951. The mine is also known as the Farmville Mine.

During World War II it was hoped that the iron shortage could be helped by mining the coal in the Deep River mines. It would be used for coke to smelt iron ore. But a study showed the coal would be more useful as fertilizer than for coke. There was some mining there in the 1940s.

In the 1970s the coal was expected to relieve the fuel shortage, but geologists reported in that because of high sulfur content, the coal probably wouldn’t meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s criteria.

The Deep River coal is difficult to mine because of the contour of the coal beds that makes them difficult to reach and there are geological faults in the coal seams.


Historical background

The presence of Deep River coal was first noted in print in 1820 in a letter to the American Journal of Science by Professor Denison Olmsted, chair of chemistry, mineralogy, and geology at the University of North Carolina. Olmsted, and later H. M. Chance in an 1885 report, noted that earlier uses of coal to meet local needs most likely dated to before 1775. The Deep River Coal Field is the only noteworthy source of coal in the state. There are some “sporadic deposits,” as Chance described them, in the Dan River region from the Virginia border southwest to Germanton on the border between Stokes and Forsyth Counties.

Attempts to develop commercial mining efforts in the Deep River Coal Field began during the early 1850s, and had a rocky history. The Western Railroad, chartered in 1852, was the first railroad to reach into the region. Completed in 1863, its purpose was to connect the coal mines centered at the village of Egypt (renamed Cumnock in 1895) to the riverside port of Fayetteville on the Cape Fear to the southeast. Coal was mined at three towns within a four-and-a-half mile band, all within close proximity of the Deep River: Egypt, Gulf (upstream to the west of Egypt) and Farmville (downstream and directly to the east of Egypt).

The mine at Egypt closed down in 1870 and remained flooded until 1888. Three years earlier, in 1885, H. M. Chance submitted his “Report on an Exploration of the Coalfields of North Carolina,” which identified two coal beds between Egypt and Farmville that might be worthy of thorough exploration, but doubted the likelihood of large scale production. Furthermore he did not believe further expenditures would be justified outside of the limited area. When Chance described Deep River Coal Field, he listed eight “Obstacles to Successful Mining,” he wrote:

In the Richmond coalfield great trouble has been caused by what is called spontaneous combustion. Judging from the similarity of the coals it seems possible that this same difficulty may obtain here. While this is a mere supposition, it is one that cannot safely be ignored.

The Egypt mine reopened in 1888 and ran continuously through 1902 after sizeable gas explosions in 1895 and 1900, and financial difficulties once again forced closure. In 1915, Norfolk Southern Railroad obtained the property and ran the mine under the name of Cumnock Coal Company, the word Egypt having become synonymous with explosions and failures. The company supplied coal primarily for railroad purposes and was a small operation. In September 1922 the Erskine Ramsey Coal Company purchased the company with plans to significantly enlarge the enterprise and its output. Around 1921, the Carolina Coal Company developed a mine on the site of the old Farmville village on the Chatham County side of the Deep River, less than two miles east of the Cumnock Mine.

There is some confusion over the name of the event. The News and Observer called the event the “Cumnock Mine Disaster” in its initial coverage and a negative envelope in the Ben Dixon McNeill Collection carries the same title. The Cumnock Mine, however, was not the mine where the accident occurred. Farmville was later renamed Coalglen, or alternately Coal Glen at a date not readily available. The disaster has since been referred to in association of one of these three nearby locations. The dateline in the New York Times is from Coal Glen.




It is estimated by authorities on this subject, that with a specific gravity of 1.31. for the upper seam and 1.43 for the lower, that there are 11,000 tons to the acre, or a total of 47,300,000 tons in the land owned by the mining company.  The quality of coal secured from this mine is most excellent.  Mr. Wm. Moncure , an official of the Seaboard Air line, tested the coal from this min as compared with caol from the Pocahontas, with the result that 40,000 pounds of Cumnock coal did as much work (on the same engine) as 52,000 pounds of Pocahontas.



Number of tons in 1890                9,163

Number of tons in 1891                18,164

Number of tons in 1892                5,963

Number of tons in 1893                15,178

Number of tons in 1894                22,232

Number of tons in 1896                 6,976



A Southern Railway Shippers Guide from 1916 indicates the following industries were located in Cumnock and using the A&Y for delivering and receiving products by rail (although some may have used the station or team track rather than having a dedicated siding). I will add other industries as I receive information about them:


Goods Shipped/Rec'd

Company Name

brick factory kiln-burned brick Goldston Brick Co.
cotton gin cotton Egypt Imp. Co.
flour and grist mill corn meal Egypt Imp. Co.
livestock cattle Egypt Imp. Co.
sawmill pine and oak rough Egypt Imp. Co.
sawmill pine and oak rough J.R. Burns
sawmill pine and oak rough Gough & Arnold Bros.
sawmill pine and oak rough Henry Shaw
sawmill pine and oak rough W. H. Gilmore
sawmill pine and oak rough J. M. Wilcox


As General Sherman approached in 1865, the rifle manufacturing machinery was shipped from Fayetteville and hidden in the Egypt, North Carolina, coal mines.




CIVIL WAR Period,  As General Sherman approached in 1865, The rifle manufacturing machinery from the Arsenal was shipped from Fayetteville and hidden in the Egypt coal mines.

1855 Fayetteville Arsenal



The Coal Glen Mining Disaster

Farmville, Chatham County, N.C.

May 27, 1925


The State Magazine 

June 1987 Issue


The Coal Demon Of Deep River

Tragedy and failure have plagued miners' efforts for 200 years, but men are ready once again to try their luck.


      Near the banks of the Deep River, six miles northwest of Sanford, a cycle is about to begin anew.  There is coal here, 100 million tons of it, geologists estimate.  For more than two hundred years men have been trying to bring it to the surface.  Millions have been spent, more than a hundred lives have been lost and for all the cost less than 1 million tons of Deep River Coal has seen sunlight.  Today a new generation of men with a new generation of tools are ready to try again.  Strip mining operations by the Chatham Coal Company are scheduled to begin here in the near future.

      There is a demon in the Deep River Coal Bed--or so we might believe.  The history of mining here, the site of the only major coal mining operation in North Carolina history, is one of tragedy and failure.  No one has ever made a profit from Deep River Coal.  The demon has guarded its black treasure with all the ferocity of a dragon atop its mound of jewels.  The graves that surround the Old Egypt and Carolina Mines can attest to that.

The Great Age Of Dinosaurs

      The story of Deep River Coal begins 200 million years ago during the great age of dinosaurs.  All the land masses of Earth were then joined in the super-continent of Pangaea.  Much of the land that is today North Carolina was then blanketed by enormous swamps and chains of shallow lakes.

      The climate was warm and humid.  Plant life, especially ferns, thrived.  But the normal cycle of plant decay / fertilization was being short-circuited in the soupy ground of the swamps.  Fallen plants did not decay; they fossilized, storing in the ground the energy they had collected from the sun.  These beds of fossilized plant matter grew in depth as century after century of plant life took root in the peat formed by its ancestors.  These peat beds were the predecessors to all of the world's great beds of coal, including the Deep River Coal Field.  All that was needed to convert the peat to coal was pressure.

      It came in the form of weight.  As time passed and the reign of the dinosaurs ended, a layer of sediment covered the peat, perhaps washed down some ancient river.  This overlaying sediment was, itself, covered later with new sediment Pressure began to mount on the ancient bed of peat, now buried far underground.  The peat was turning to coal.

      In the beginning it was a very soft coal: sub-bituminous, geologists call it.  But as the pressure grew it was squeezed even tighter into bituminous and then finally into anthracite coal.  The western part of the Deep River Coal Bed was anthracite, the best coal.  The eastern part was the lesser bituminous coal.

      The Deep River Coal Bed awaited the coming of man.

Mining Begins

      It is unclear when mining began on the Deep River Coal Bed.  it seems certain though that by 1775 at least one mine, the Horton Mine, was in operation near the present town of Gulf.  Nearby, on land that is now the town of Cumnock, George Wilcox established a forge and bloomers along the Deep River.  There is a report that Mr.  Wilcox forged cannon balls and shot for the Revolutionary War but this has been questioned.  What seems more likely is that the coal was mined in the area on a small scale for the next seventy-five years to supply local needs.

      In 1852, with the Civil War just eight years away, the first attempts at high production mining along the Deep River began.  The main shaft of the Egypt mine was sunk.  It struck a vein at 430 feet and mining operations were started.  The market for the coal was mainly to the east so work began on a slack-water navigation route through the Deep River.  A railway was also begun from Fayetteville.  The future looked bright indeed as the first coal from the Egypt mine was brought up in 1855.

      But the coal came up slowly, transportation along the Deep River never materialized and the railway line was behind schedule.

      Then came the Civil War.  The Confederacy, in need of coal, expedited construction of the railway and brought it within two miles of the Egypt mine.  Egypt coal finally had a market.

      Day and night shifts were instituted in the mine.  Miners were actually Confederate soldiers who could avoid combat by working in the mine--a job considered as dangerous as fighting.  Other mines were pushed into operation as well: The Black Diamond Mine, the Taylor Slope and the Carolina Mine--the mine that would, in another sixty years, be the scene of the worst industrial disaster in North Carolina history.

      The Endor Iron Furnace was built along the banks of the Deep River to forge cannon balls and shot for the Confederacy.  The Furnace still stands today, crumbling from assaults made on it, not by Union Soldiers, but by flood waters of the Deep River.  It can be found by following a short trail off the end of Iron Furnace Road.  Squirrels and snakes now find refuge within the walls that have not known the glowing heat of molten iron for more than a century.

      Deep River coal failed to live up to its early promise.  Transportation costs drove up its price to a point where it couldn't compete on the open market.  The coal that did find its way to Fayetteville was used by the Confederate Navy's blockade runners.  But the coal had an unfortunate property: it left a trait of yellow smoke when burned.  Stories abound of sailors who lost their lives after their location was disclosed by the dreaded yellow trail of Deep River coal.  It would seem the wrath of the demon extended even into the Atlantic.

      In 1870, after nearly twenty years of operation, the Deep River Coal Bed had failed to yield a profit.  Less than a hundred thousand tons of coal had been produced.  The Egypt mine closed, a failure.

Boom Years

      But just eighteen years later the mine was reopened by a new company with new ideas.  The mine began immediately to turn a profit.  The mining town of Egypt, NC was proposed, looking like so many other mining towns in Pennsylvania.

      The mine employed some eighty miners.  Wages were considered good and miners from the great mines of Pennsylvania and West Virginia moved south into the promising town of Egypt.  About half the miners were black and another quarter were foreigners who came from Scotland, England, Italy and Poland.  It may seem strange now, but the town of Egypt (later Cumnock) once had a very cosmopolitan air.

      Many of the miners were "loaders."  It was their job to shovel into carts the coal that blasted free with dynamite set by the engineers.  Rooms were hollowed out and the coal carried away in carts pulled by mules.  After a miner filled a cart, he affixed a tag which identified him to the clerks up top.  Pay was by the cart load.

      In 1895 the mine produced a personal record of $41,350 worth of coal.  Then the demon struck back.

Egypt Mine Disasters

      At 8:30 a.m.  on December 19, 1895 an explosion ripped through the Egypt Mine.  There were sixty-seven men in the mine at the time.  The cause was almost surely natural gas ignited by a flame in a miners helmet.  The dreaded after-damp, the miner's name for the suffocation that occurs after a mine explosion, did the rest.  Forty-six men lost their lives that day.

      The disaster crippled severely the Egypt Coal Company and it nearly went under.  But the company limped along, its Coal of 500 tons per day still unachieved, when the demon struck again.

      On May 22, 1900 an explosion similar to the one in 1895 killed another twenty-two miners.  The set-back was too much for the ailing company.  In 1902 the Egypt coal mine was closed once again.

      The mine never again achieved the modest prosperity it knew during the few short years before the disaster of 1895.  It was reopened in 1915 and operated in a small way by the Norfolk Railroad to supply the railroad until it was closed--this time for good--in 1922.

      All that remains today of the Old Egypt Mine is a small crater located about five hundred yards from the Cumnock Bridge off Cumnock Road.  The story of the Egypt Mine will end once and for all when it is swept away by strip mining operations this spring.

The Short Lived Carolina Mine

      In 1921 one of the most important events that ever occurred on the Deep River Coal Bed took place.  The Carolina Coal Company was formed with the intention of developing a mine near Farmville across the river from the Egypt Mine.  The mining town that would arise was to be called Coal Glen.  The Carolina Mine is often called the Coal Glen Mine, or the Farmville Mine.

      The Carolina Mine was the most ambitious mining operation ever begun on the Deep River Coal Bed.  In 1923, its first year of full-scale operation, its output more than doubled the best of the Old Egypt Mine.  Once again the future looked bright for a mine on the Deep Rivet- Coal Bed.  But the profits never came.  In 1925 the demon dealt its most vicious blow ever.

      At seven in the morning on May 25, the morning shift, numbering seventy-four miners, descended into the dark of the Carolina Mine.  Two and a half hours later the first of three terrific explosions tore through the mine.  Its vibrations were felt as far as a mile away.  Families and company officials rushed to the mine entrance Poisonous, yellow gas billowed from the mine entrance, making rescue impossible.  It took five days to pull all the bodies from the mine.  The story made front page news all across the country.

      Fifty-three men died that morning.

      The Carolina Mine closed four years later.  Ironically, it was not a mine explosion that closed the mine, but water and human carelessness.  Rains swelled the Deep River in 1929 and the mine began to flood through an air shaft.  The water was pumped free, but no precautions were taken against subsequent flooding.  The mine flooded again in 1930 putting an end to the Carolina Mine, after less than mine years of operation.  The flood waters, the prohibitive cost of transportation, the accidents, and the market crash of 1929 had conspired to bankrupt the Carolina Coal Company.  Another Deep River mine had closed in failure.

      The Carolina Mine was opened again between 1947 and 1951 but failed to turn a profit and was allowed to reflood.  It has not been opened since.

The Demon And The Future

      The entrance to the Carolina Mine can be found today in the parking lot of the General Timber Lumberyard off Farmville Mine Road.  It has been incorporated into a garden near the company's office building.  All that can be seen inside the shaft is some old equipment and a track disappearing into water about fifteen feet down.

      The real testament to the tragedy history of mining on the Deep River Coal Bed is located three hundred yards from the Carolina Mine shaft, at the entrance to the lumberyard.  It is the Farmville Cemetery.  Miners who fell victim to each of the three major explosions are represented there.  There is a plaque, dedicated to the victims of the Carolina Mine disaster, standing among the graves.  Its engraving begins with the terrible date: May 27, 1925 .  .  .

      Now men stand ready once again to mine the Deep River coal; drawn back by the black wealth formed there in the swamps some 200 million years ago.  Will they succeed where so many others have failed?  Will the demon allow it?

      There are geologists who think the curse will continue.  They cite the same problems that have always existed with this coal: abundant natural gas which is highly explosive, an unfortunate dip in the contour of the coal bed making it difficult to reach, and geological faults in the coal seams.

      The Chatham Coal Company, like others before them, are confident they can surmount these problems; that they can best the demon of Deep River Coal.  Maybe they will.  For there will be no further tunneling into the coal bed here.  This time the coal will be brought up using modern strip mining techniques.

      We are left to wonder: What will the demon think of that?


Cumnock, NC Coal Firedamp Explosion, Dec 1895





Raleigh, Dec. 20. -- At 9 o'clock yesterday morning, shortly after the day force, numbering 67 men, had gone on duty at the Cumnock Coal mines, six miles west of here, a terrible firedamp explosion occurred with disastrous effect. Upon hearing the report the people of the village and relative of the entombed miners hastened to the scene, but for some time they were unable to gain any tidings from below.
After pumping fresh air into the shafts several miners were prevailed upon to venture down and investigate. They found and brought out 24 men from shafts Nos. 2 and 3. Five or six of them were badly wounded and some of them will probably die; others were slightly wounded. A mule and two men were killed in slope No. 2. After considerable delay the searching party entered slope No. 1, where they were greeted by a most horrible and ghastly sight. Dead men fearfully mutilated were found, some of them partly covered with pieces of coal, timber and other debris.
The searching party came up and reported what they had found. At 4 o'clock, 10 or 12 miners went down to bring up the dead bodies, but were soon compelled to return to the top on account of the afterdamp and up to the present time none of the dead have been recovered.
It is believed that 48 men were killed. Several of them were negroes and foreigners, and the rest natives of North Carolina. Several had families living at Cumnock. Eight of the dead miners were from Pennsylvania and expected to return to that state tomorrow to visit relatives.
The names of some of the dead miners are unknown, but so far as learned are as follows:
All these are white.
The following are colored:
The scene around the shaft is indeed a pitiful one. Women who yesterday morning were happy wives are now widows and their children orphans. Mothers, wives and sisters are around the mine, weeping and wringing their hands with grief, expecting every minute to see the lifeless forms of some loved one brought up.
Two men who escaped from the shaft called to two friends who were not more than 20 feet away to come up, but they were already dead, or unable to make a reply, and were left by their companions.
The coal mines are the largest in North Carolina. They are owned by the Langdon-Heshey Coal Mining Company. The mine consists of four tunnels and is 450 feet deep.
A quantity of dynamite was in the mine and it is believed that it accidentally exploded.

Daily Herald Delphos Ohio 1895-12-21

Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler. Thank you, Stu!




Cumnock, NC Coal Mine Explosion, May 1900





Raleigh, N.C., May 23, -- Twenty-two miners, ten white men and twelve negroes, lost their lives in an explosion at Cumnock Coal Mines, Chatham County, North Carolina, yesterday afternoon. The explosion occurred at 4:30 o'clock, and it is supposed to have been caused by a broken gauze in a safety lamp. The accident was in what is known as the East Heading, and between forty and fifty men were in the mine at the time. Five were brought out alive from the east heading, while none of the men in the other parts of the mine were injured.
The names of the dead follow:
JOHN CONNOLLY, mine superintendent.
About fifty people from Seaford, a town six miles from the mine, when the news of the disaster was received, went to assist in the work of rescuing the dead and attending to the injured.
Within an hour after the explosion the work of rescue began, and by night all the bodies, except one, that of SLIM McINTYRE, had been brought to the top.
JOHN CONNELLY the mine superintendent, leaves a wife and three small children.
This is the second explosion this mine has had within the past five years the former one having occurred on December, 28, 1895, when forty-three men lost their lives.
The bodies were prepared for burial last night, and the funeral took place today.

Galveston Daily News Texas 1900-05-23

Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler. Thank you, Stu!


Map of the Deep River Coal beds, Cumnock and Coal Glen.


Egypt Mine, Circa 1862

Early working of the Egypt Coal Mine, Circa ?


Egypt Store

This view of the town of Egypt (Cumnock) is from the early 20th century.  Local leader John H. Kennedy operated the Egypt Store.  A sign over the door says "Oliver Plows."  John H. Kennedy bought the Egypt Store in 1913 and operated it for the miners until the mine closed in 1922.  Kennedy issued tokens for use in the community store.  A sample token appears below.



The two story store was replace by a single story building (still standing).  The foundation for the water tower and the deep well pump still remain.

John H. Kennedy is listed from 1921 through 1935 as a lumber manufacturer and general store. This business began as Snipes and Kennedy, a lumber manufacturer in 1920. John H. Kennedy was an active investor in local businesses. He owned stock in Egypt Improvement Company, The Sanford & Glendon Railroad and The Sanford & Troy Railroad.


Plans are to restore the old company store and use as a museum of the area. 

The old store building was also used as a start up location for the local Baptist Church approx 30 years ago.

Several items of historical significance have been donated to the museum already.  If you have items that would be of interest


please contact us.

Old Metal Sign from the Egypt Farms & Nursery Days




Historic Deep River Camelback

 Truss Bridge


This pin-connected, 8-panel Camelback Pratt through-truss structure once carried highway traffic over the Deep River, at the Chatham-Moore County line. The highway has been re-routed, and this bridge is now open to pedestrian traffic, only. It is several hundred feet in length.

To reach from US-421 at the Deep River, go southeast and take a left onto Cumnock Road. Follow the road to the county line. As you cross the river on the new bridge, look to your left for a view of the truss bridge. Continue 0.1 mile north to an intersection with Everett Dowdy Road, and the park entrance, on your left.

Originally constructed in 1908 to span the Cape Fear river at Lillington it was washed out in a flood in December of 1930.  John H. Kenndy convinced the state to relocate one section to Cumnock to replace the covered bridge that had burned, the bridge spans the Deep River. It underwent many reconstructions and renovations until 1992 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the North Carolina Transportation Hall of Fame. Located at Deep River Park (forty acres with picnic tables), which provides a scenic view and is a wonderful place for a picnic. Canoe access, picnic areas. Bridge is lighted at night.

N 35° 34.254 W 079° 14.478


Historic Camelback Truss Bridge, Cumnock NC, Taken during the big snow of 2009

From the Lee County Side looking North to Chatham County 2009

This was the original covered bridge.  It was destroyed by fire in 1930.  Soon thereafter John H. Kennedy moved one span of a steel camelback bridge to the location over the Deep River.  That one-lane bridge was uses until the late 1990s, and it is now part of a park located next to a new bridge.

Original foundation from Chatham County Side of Deep River.  Appears to be original to the original covered bridge.

From the Feb 2010 Flood, The River has just slipped back into the banks following a couple of dry days.




Large smelting furnace provided iron, 1862-65, to Confederacy.  Reopened 1870 & ceased to operaate 1896


     The Deep River valley in Chatham and Lee Counties, situated strategically at the head of navigation on the Cape Fear River system, has been mined regularly for its coal and iron deposits. TheWilcox Iron Works was an important source for munitions during the Revolution. The Egypt Coal Mine operated intermittently from 1855 to 1928. During the course of the Civil War the deposits became increasingly important as the output from Virginia dwindled. In April 1862 the Endor Iron Company was chartered. Two months later the investors purchased the Deep River plantation of Alexander McIver and constructed thereon a smelting furnace. That structure, which stands to this day, is built of reddish-gray rough cut stones, stands thirty-five feet tall, and is thirty-two feet square at the base. On each side is a large round-arched opening. 

It is likely that the furnace furnished supplied the Confederate arsenal at Fayetteville in addition to small nearby arms factories. In 1864 the Wilmington businessmen who chartered the company sold their interest to local buyers. They emerged from the war heavily in debt and in 1870 their holdings were sold at auction. George Lobdell of Delaware, a manufacturer of railroad car wheels, was the buyer for $1,000. With his partner J. M. Heck of Raleigh, Lobdell formed the Cape Fear Iron and Steel Company and invested over a half million dollars. By 1872 there was in place at the site one of the South’s largest and best equipped iron furnaces along with a rolling mill and foundry. 

     Two years later operators were forced to conclude that the local mineral deposits were smaller than had been estimated. In addition the system of dams and locks necessary to reach the port of Wilmington were never satisfactorily completed. By 1876 the operation had ceased and most of the machinery was dismantled and removed. The furnace continued in operation until 1896 on a much smaller scale but served only local manufacturers. 

Brent D. Glass, ed., North Carolina: An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites (1975) 
Lester J. Cappon, “Iron-Making—A Forgotten Industry of North Carolina,” North Carolina Historical Review (October 1932): 331-348 
Malcolm Fowler, “The Endor Iron Furnace,” The State, April 11, 1941 
Sanford Herald, April 7, 1962 
National Register of Historic Places nomination (1974) 
Chatham County Deeds, North Carolina State Archives 

The Endor Iron Furnace is a Civil War and Reconstruction-era structure located on the Deep River in northern Lee County.  The nationally significant Furnace is among the few such structures in North Carolina.  However, it is badly in need of repair.

The Railroad House Historical Association - Lee County’s historic preservation group – is leading the effort to restore the Furnace, working with the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources (the owner of the Furnace), the N.C. Department of Transportation, the Triangle Land Conservancy, and Lee County.  We also plan to create a park on 426 surrounding acres.  This effort has been under way for more than 5 years, and nearly three-quarters of the required $2 million has been raised.

The Endor Iron Furnace is an impressive sight.  It will be even more impressive when it is restored to its original appearance.  Along with the surrounding property  – all publicly owned – the restored Furnace can be the centerpiece of a beautiful park with miles of walking trails, canoeing, access, and other recreational activities.  

ENDOR UPDATE AUGUST 2014 - We visited the site this weekend to see work underway on the recording and reconstruction.  Its an awesome sight to see. 


Cumnock Union Church - (According to some) Located at the Geographical Center of the State

Heritage (courtesy of Cumnock Union Church)

One hundred twenty years ago, Cumnock was a thriving coal-mining town named Egypt. People came from England, France, Scotland, and from all over the United States to work in the mines. Seeing a need for a place to worship, these pioneers began services in what was known then as the old Red Store near the former Cumnock Post Office. Christian, (now Congregational Christian), services were held in this store by the late minister, Rev. J. W. Wellons.

Then about 1886, the James Kissells arrived from Devonshire, England and settled in Egypt. James helped found a Christian church known as “Kissell’s Chapel”. The church was built on a lot owned by the late Jacob Whistler about 100 feet from the present church location. Many people gave Materials, labor, and money to build the church; however, James Kissell is remembered as the founder.

        "The story goes that the church was jacked up and put upon round logs and pulled to its present location by mules."

Around 1914 the building was moved and placed on the present site to make it accessible to Cumnock Road. Mrs. Ralph Beal (Irene Beal) remembers her father, Herbert Kennedy, helped to move the church to its present location. “Mr. Herbert also provided the maintenance to the church and Mr. Tom Beal would arrive 30 minutes early every Sunday to ring the church bell.

The headline of the Sanford Herald dated Wednesday, November 22, 1939 reads, “Union Church at Cumnock Unusual. Quoting from the article it states,“The building itself is owned by the Methodists, but the Presbyterians have an organized church body which uses the church and which shares church administrative tasks with the Methodists, Baptists, Christians, Friends, and other denominations taking part in church affairs and attending services.

This unique situation has worked well over the years with cooperation and Christian love the most important contributions of the members. A large union Sunday School contributed greatly to the discipleship of the young people and to the upkeep of the church.





Original Mill built 1850 washed away in 1928

Present mill completed in 1979

up the creek from the original site. It is a faithful reproduction of the of the original Gilliam Mill.




My goal is to continually research and provide updates regularly. 

      We have accumulated lots of photos and information that we are sorting through for inclusion.   

If you have any corrections or pertinent information to share about the Egypt/Cumnock area history, I would appreciate you contacting me at pdhsc@pdhsc.com


Several items of historical significance have been donated to the museum already.  If you have items that would be of interest

please contact us.


Link to DEEP RIVER (at MONCURE) USGS Flow Rate, Instant and historical data back to 1930


Drainage area 1,434 square miles

Reference Notes:

1916-1917 John H. Kennedy, On Board of Directors of Bonlee and Western Railway Corp.  (Bonlee, NC to Bennett NC, 11 miles)

John H. Kennedy listed as auditor for Durham and Charlotte R.R.



Records of Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations: Peter Evans Smith Papers, 1738-1869, Halifax County, North Carolina

Letters from 1822 to 1849 chiefly document the agricultural and other business concerns of Peter Evans of Egypt plantation in North Carolina, and his son-in-law William Ruffin Smith, Jr. of Scotland Neck in Halifax County, North Carolina...Correspondence and financial and legal materials offer only a piecemeal impression of plantation development. Nevertheless, these materials contain significant information about slaves, including their sale and hire and skills, various slave lists, and related labor contracts with freedmen.


Peter Evans Plantation Originally called La grange, renamed Egypt

Peter Evans 1781-d

Ann Evans 1789-d  wife of Peter Evans

Susan Evans Smith 1810-1895 daughter of Peter and Ann evans, wife of William R. Smith (m.1828) owner of Smith Plantation,


Note:  Looking for information on the Railroad accident where the train fell back into the Deep River when crossing the trestle? Reported on June 11th 1913,

Actually happened on June 3rd, 1913 as reported by the June 4th Raleigh News and Observer..




in Cumnock





Cumnock Bridge Gives Way - Train Plunges into Deep River - Three


 Men Killed - Seven Injured


The most fatal railroad accident that has ever occurred in this immediate section happened on Tuesday afternoon of last week when a mixed train on the Raleigh, Charlotte and Southern railroad broke through the bridge and Cumnock (formerly know as Egypt) and plunged into the Deep river, causing the death of three men and injuring seven others.  The dead are: Bowden Stewart (baggagemaster). R. C. Blalock (the engineer), and his brother George Blalock, all white.  The injured are; Conductor Beacham of Biscoe, seriously hurt in the back, legs and head; Fred Burns (formerly of this county) seriously hurt, and Gus and Milt Johnson of Cumnock, hurt in back and legs but not seriously, these last three being white passengers.  In addition to the above the colored injured are:  Arthur Leak, fireman, scalded on head and severe gashes on head; Spencer Tyson, arm broken and hurt in head, not fatal; Fletcher LeGrande, leg hurt, not seriously.  The three were train hands.  All the injured except Burns and the two Johnsons were carried to Sanford Tuesday night on a special train and at once placed in the hospital there for treatment.  A negro train hand named Conway was riding on the cow catcher of the engine and as it went down he grabbed the end of a broken T iron and crawled to safety and started to Cumnock to give the alarm.  J. H. Kennedy superintendent of the Cumnock farm, who was working a crowd of hands in a nearby field, hearing the crash of the falling bridge started to the scene when he was met by Conway and the terrible tragedy confirmed.  Arthur Leach, colored fireman, who was on the running board of the engine, was slightly scalded and foot mashed but went to the rescue of Engineer Blalock, who was being scalded by the escaping steam, but was forced to give up the effort by the heat.


Why all the passengers were not killed or drowned is a miracle and nothing but Providence sparred them their lives.  Bowden Stewart flagman, is said to have been firing and in the act of throwing in coal when the bridge went down.


We copy the Sanford Express the following extracts relative to this fatal wreck.


The Wreck occured at six o clock Tuesday evening and was caused by the bridge giving away, precipitating the train into the river.  The train, No. 10 was a mixed passenger and freight running between Mt. Gilead and Colon and was composed of the engine, three box cars and a coach.  The engine passed over safely and had reached the abutment on this side of the river when the structure collapsed, carrying the entire train down with it.  How anyone escaped death is a miracle.  The passengers and some of the trainmen escaped by breaking the glass and crawling through the windows of the coach.  Some of the cars, the tender and part of the fire box are submerged, while most of the engine is above water.


"George Blalock, who was riding on the engine with his brother, Engineer Blalock, fell into the river within five feet of the bank, but he was so badly hurt and confused that he turned and swam across the river to the bank on the other side, where he was rescued.  He was brought to the Central Carolina Hospital at Sanford and everything that physician and nurse could do was done, but he died Wednesday afternoon.


The bridge was an iron structure with wooden foundations.  It was formerly owned by the Seaboard Air Line Railway and was bought by the Durham and Charlotte Railway Company along with the old Raleigh and Western road which extended from Cumnock to Colon.  It finally became the property of the Raleigh, Charlotte and Southern when that road bought out the Durham and Charlotte.  We understand that this bridge was to be used only a week or two longer, as the company is about ready to send its trains over the new bridge.


The body of Baggagemaster Stewart, who was killed, was taken from the river Wednesday.  He was subbing for Clarence Smith, who was married last Sunday.  Mr. Smith escaped death by being off on his wedding tour.  It is reported that the dead man himself was to have been married this month.  He was a member of the Carthage Camp, Woodmen of the World.


Superintendent Boyd of the Raleigh, Charlotte and Southern Railway, came to Sanford Wednesday and visited the injured men at the hospital.  Everything possible will be done for their comfort, the expenses to be met by the railroad company.



The Chatham Record


Vol.XXXv, No. 44 Wednesday


Pittsboro, Chatham County, NC June 11, 1913




One Killed and Nine Injured When Train Leaves Bridge and Plunges into Deep River.


Sanford - Train Number 10 of the Raleigh, Charlotte and Southern railroad was wrecked at Deep River bridge near Cumnock, the entire train going into the river.  The train was a mixed passenger and freight running between Mount Gilead and Colon.  The engine, tender, three box cars and one coach fell into the river, killing one man and injuring a number of others.


The dead is Mr. Bowden Stewart of Hemp.  The injured are Fred Burns, Osgood.  Seriously hurt: R.C. Blalock, engineer, burised and scalded on arms and back; Gearge Blalock, brother of Engineer Blacock, seriously scalded; Conductor Beachman, of Biscoe, seriously hurt in back, legs and head;  Gus Johnson and Milt Johnson, passengers, hurt back and legs, not seriously; Arthur Leak, colored fireman, scaled on head and severe gashes on head; Spencer Tyson, colored, arm broken and hurt in head, not fatal; Fletcher LeGrand , colored, leg hurt, not serious.  The last three are trainmen.


As soon as news of the wreck reached here Dr. Charles L. Scott left in an automobile for the scene and later a special train over the Southern Railway carried aid.  It is not known what caused the accident.  A special train over the Southern brought the injured to the Central Carolina Hospital at Sanford, where every attention is being given to them.



Thanks for the help of the JR Moore and son General Store for the articles.


Note from Mike Tilley

I am always looking for more interesting photos and historical information for the Cumnock area.  If you have anything you would like to share please contact me at mike@goshoot.com






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