From John Preston Arthurs' "A History of Watauga County North Carolina With Sketches Of Prominent Families" written in 1915. Here is some historical information on the Cranberry Iron Mine. A few surnames mentioned, Averys, Duggers, Perkinses, Hardins, and others.
First Owners of Cranberry. -- Sometime about 1780 Reuben White took out a grant for 100 acres covering the Cranberry iron vein, and Waighstill Avery obtained four small grants surrounding White's grant (100 N. C. Rep. 1, 127 Id. 387). In 1795 William Cathcart was granted 99,000 and 59,000 acres in two tracts, covering almost all of what is now Mitchell and Avery counties. Isaac T. Avery inherited Waightstill Avery's interest in this land and to numerous 640 acre grants along the Toe River. John Brown became agent for the Cathcart grants, and as these conflicted with the Avery lands, a compromise was effected, under which I. T. Avery got a quit claim to about 50,000 acres in 1852, including the Cranberry mines, excepting the Reuben White tract, which had passed to William Dugger by a chain of deeds, he having contracted to sell to John Harding, Miller and another. Hoke, Hutchinson and Sumner got title from Hardin, but had to pay several thousands of dollars to Brown and Avery to settle their claims upon the Cranberry ore bank. The forge-bounty grant to these lands obtained by the Perkinses was sold by order of court for partition at Morganton and bought in by William Dugger; but before getting title to the land, Dugger agreed that I. T. Avery and J. E. Brown, son of John, should each have a one-third interest in the mineral outside the original grant to Reuben White. This agreement, however was not registered, and the Supreme Court at Morganton, under which the decree of sale for partition had been made, having been abolished after the Civil War, and the clerk of that court, James R. Dodge, having died, an ordinance of the State convention of 1866 empowered the clerk of the Supreme Court at Raleigh to execute the title which Dodge should have made to William Dugger, but made no reference to Brown's and Avery's interests therein. To still further complicate matters, William Dugger had sold his interest without excepting these equitable claims upon the mineral rights in the property. But Brown and Avery gave notice of their claims and compelled the purchasers to pay them for their interest in the minerals.
Iron Forges. -- There were three of these in what was Watauga County: Cranberry, Toe River and Johnson forges. The first grew out of the discovery of the Cranberry metallic
ore by Joshua, Ben and Jake Perkins, of Tennessee, who in a rough play at a night feast and frolic at Crab Orchard, Tenn., after a log-rolling, had attempted to remove the new flax shirt and trousers from Wright Moreland, and had injured him sufficiently to arouse his anger and cause him to take out a warrant for them. They escaped to North Carolina, where they supported themselves by digging sang. In search of this herb, they discovered the Cranberry ore, and having been concerned in the Dugger forge on Watauga River four miles above Butler, Tenn., constructed a dam about half way between Elk Park and the Cranberry Company's store, only nearer to the Boone Road than to the present railroad. Here they put in a regular forge with all the equipment used in that day, including the water trompe, furnace, goose-nest, hammer, etc. This was about 1821. Soon after they started heir forge Abraham Johnson, the agent of John Brown, the land speculator, built a forge on the left bank of the Toe River, three-quarters of a mile above the mouth of White Oak Creek and near the mouth of Cow Camp Creek. He got some of his ore from a deposit near by, but also hauled ore from the Cranberry vein. Still later on, William Buckhannon had a forge built by one Calloway one-half a mile above what is now Minneapolis, on Toe River, but he had little or no ore nearer than that at Cranberry, from which he also drew his supply. After the Perkinses had been at work some time they are said to have applied for and obtained a grant from North Carolina for 3,000 acres of land for having made 3,000 pounds of iron, but shortly thereafter John Brown, who kept a keen eye out for squatters and trespassers on what was then the Tate and Cochran land, though then claimed by him under a junior or Cathcart grant, convinced the Perkinses that he held a superior title to theirs, and they bought his title to the land. They then sold to William and Abe Dugger, who came from the old Dugger forge above Butler and operated the mine till Abe's death, when, being offended with his son, George, for having married Carolina McNabb, a perfectly respectable girl, left his interest in the mine to his three daughters, Mattie, who afterwards married Jerry Green; Nancy, who had married Charles Gaddy, and Elizabeth, who had married Joseph Grubb, leaving George only
fifty acres just below the law office of L. D. Lowe, Esq., at Banner's Elk. John Hardin became guardian of Mattie, then unmarried, taking possesion of the mine about 1850 and retaining it till sometime during the Civil War. With him went Peter Hardin, then twelve years old, who remained with the Cranberry mine longer than any other in its existence. Peter was the son of a Creek Indian whom Nathaniel Taylor, of Elizabethton, Tenn., had brought with him from the Battle of the Horse Shoe in 1814, and who was named Duffield, after an academy at Elizabethton, according to Dr. Job's reminiscences of that town. Jordan Hardin, son of John, took possession of the mine during the Civil War and worked from forty to sixty men, making iron for the Confederate government. This iron was in bars for the manufacture of axes and was hauled to Camp Vance, below Morganton, by Peter Hardin, one four-horse load every month, winter as well as summer. It was sometime during or after the possession of the Hardins that a man named Dunn had some connection with Cranberry, but exactly what could not be ascertained accurately. Thomas Carter, who had operated a plant for the manufacture of guns at Linville Falls during the Civil War, and Gen. Robert F. Hoke then obtained an interest in the Cranberry mine and forge, and General Hoke sold the property to the present company, Carter, in May, 1867, having agreed to convey his interest therein to Hoke for $44,000.00. When, however, Carter tendered Hoke a deed therefore, Hoke gave him a sight draft on a New York bank for the price agreed to be paid. This draft was not paid. The money to meet it was to have been provided by the sale of the property by Hoke to Russell and his associates, who refused to take it because Carter would not deliver the deed for his interest till he had been fully paid. Carter got an injunction against the sale, and the Supreme Court upheld Carter. (Carter v. Hoke, 64 N. C., 348.) Carter and Hoke soon effected a compromise and the title to the property was thus settled. After Hoke nd Company sold the property soon after the Civil War it remained in the control of Peter Hardin, who kept the hotel and looked after the property generally for many years. He was allowed to make and sell all the iron he wished and to operate a small
saw mill. When the present company began to build the railroad from Johnson City to the forge, Peter Hardin kept a store at Cranberry and was postmaster, keeping all the accounts of the employees of the company and delivering all the mail, etc., although he could not read a line, the clerical work having been done by his wife and her daughters by a former marriage. White people stopped at Pete's hotel and were well entertained by these care-takers. They still live near Elk Park, and have the respect and confidence of all who know them. They are called colored people, but their good names are as white as those of the best people in the State. Abram Johnson died at his home near what is now Vale, on the E. T. & W. N. C. R. R., in the house which stood where Bayard Benfield now lives, near the mouth of White Oak Creek, and is said to have been a soldier in the War of 1812. His wife died there August 18, 1880, and he October 15, 1881, aged about 107 years, according to the record of Jacob Carpenter, of Altamont.
Some Old Hammermen. -- Among those who worked at iron mines in this county were Jess Sizemore, at Johnson's forge, and Jack Mayberry, _______Grandire, Wash Heaton, Elisha Stanley and George Dugger, all at Cranberry.