Endor Iron Furnace, Sanford, North Carolina
The Endor Iron Furnace is a massive, ancient looking ruin buried in the forest along the banks of the Deep River. When I first visited the furnace, the trail and parking area were unmarked except for unconvincing no-tresspassing signs. Active preservation efforts are underway now and the trail to the furnace is marked. The parking area is at the dead end of Iron Furnace Road in Lee County. The furnace is about a half mile walk from the parking area through woods owned by the Triangle Land Conservancy.
Endor and the area around Endor are very unusual for the NC piedmont and historically significant. The iron furnace was built in 1862 to take advantage of coal being mined in the Deep River coal bed and especially in nearby Cumnock/Egypt. The coal mines in Cumnock were the only ones to produce significant amounts of coal in North Carolina ever, to my knowledge. Almost all industry in North Carolina at the time was water powered but iron production requires coal. Low grade iron ore came from small mines in the surrounding area. One of these mines may have been one who's traces were still visible in Carrboro when I was growing up. The Deep River coal bed has lots of naturally embedded methane. This gassy coal was responsible for several horrific explosions in the mines. The worst of these explosions killed 46 miners in 1895.
The only remains of the coal mining/iron producing era in this part of the piedmont that I know of are the Endor Iron furnace and the cemetery in Cumnock which contains the graves of several victims of the mine explosions. The Endor Furnace produced iron for barely 10 years after it was built. The civil war, resulting economic devastation and low quality iron ore were all probably contributing factors in it's demise. The mines in the Deep river coal bed continued producing coal periodically up to 1950. I've looked around for remnants of the coal mines but wasn't able to find any that were accessible. Much of the site of the former Egypt/Cumnock mine is on private property. The methane trapped in the coal seam that killed so many miners has recently become attractive to companies hoping to extract it via fracking. No wells have been drilled yet but they almost certainly will be in the near future.
The area around Endor is interesting to explore. Nearby Sanford is/was a railroad centric industrial town. Bynum grew around a classic and now abandoned water powered textile mill. Raven Rock State Park is a beautiful, lightly visited park on the Deep River bluffs.
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