Wilkes: Blackburn, Elk Spur, homesite, Stone Mountain
September 29, 2019
The Old Elk Spur Road
My great uncle told me the story about going to visit his grandparents to get a calf. Nothing was easy back in those days – it was probably the late 1930s. They lived up the mountain in Roaring Gap, and his grandparents were John F. Blackburn and Carrie Harris Blackburn who lived down the mountain in Traphill. This is a picture of John and Carrie, perhaps with one of their four daughters in the 1910s.
The way up and down the mountain was by using the Elk Spur Road. By our standards today, it might be a stretch to call it a road. It was a rough, dugout dirt path just wide enough for their old two-door Model A Ford. His mother Edith was driving, he and his brother (my grandpa) were in the back, and their little sister was up front. They all made it down the mountain, picked up their calf, and then started back up.
My great uncle and grandpa were maybe 12 and 10 years old. They were in the back holding onto the calf – not an easy thing to do when the car was making its way from one washed out rut to the next, bouncing up the road! At one point the car overheated, and they had to stop to put water in the radiator, but they eventually made it back to the top.
I recently discovered where my great great grandparents lived by searching through the deed books. John F. Blackburn bought 33 acres from Samuel M. Johnson in 1906. This tract was originally a 30 acre grant to Samuel’s father Leander Johnson in 1852. It was located about a quarter mile behind the Stone Mountain Country Store on the John P. Frank Parkway. This is the 33 acre property, partially bounded by the old Elk Spur Road. That is, this road was being called “the old road” in 1906.
Coincidently, I learned that there is a recently created trail that runs through their property. The Elkin Valley Trails Association is a volunteer group that has been working to create trails throughout the Elkin area, eventually creating a continuous trail that leads from Elkin to Stone Mountain. When I learned that one of these trail sections runs through the property of my ancestors, I knew I had to check it out and see if I could find their old house even though it’s been nearly 80 years since my family lived there. This is the Sawyers Trail with the Blackburn property shown in blue.
Below is a section of the Sawyers Trail near where my great great grandparents lived from 1906 until the early 1940s.
I found their home only a short distance off the trail. There are two chimneys separated by what’s left of a foundation. There was a cellar under the living room, but now it’s only a sunken hole in front of the fireplace. The picture below shows one full chimney on the left, and the bottom half of a chimney on the right.
This is a closer view of the full chimney. This was probably the living room fireplace, with the basement or cellar underneath the floor.
The house is close to an old road which is likely the remnants of one of the old Elk Spur Roads. There were multiple versions of this old road over its 200 year history, with perhaps each one being an improvement over the previous one as transportation methods changed from horses to wagons to cars.
It takes all kinds of information from a variety of sources to tell a more complete story, and this one has it all. It was a combination of oral history, trail creation from the EVTA, deed research to find the location, and genealogy research to learn more about this part of my family.
Visit the EVTA website to see maps and details about all the trails they’ve created in the Elkin area.