Dec 29, 2007, 06:27 PM
Gypsyheart~ Queen of Rust
You can still see part of the boiler room and a few intact boilers from the old cotton mill in Mortimer if you know where to look. There's also a white maintenance building built by the CCC during the 1930s, and some other CCC building foundations remain behind it. Today these silent remnants welcome hikers and campers at the entrance to the Mortimer campground in the Pisgah National Forest. What a story they hide!
Mortimer, NC had been built rapidly to house workers for the Ritter Lumber Company, which had bought the land for timber in 1904. Ritter Lumber Company's sawmill and a small textile mill provided jobs for the community's 800 residents. Substantial logging took place between Wilson and Steel Creeks, and the trees were hauled to the mill via Ritter's narrow gauge railroad, which followed Wilson Creek much of the way before ending in the village of Edgemont. The Hutton-Bourbannis Company operated various other narrow gauge logging railroad lines fanning out from Mortimer.
There was a company store, a blacksmith's shop, a church, a school, a hotel, and numerous houses. By 1906, the newly incorporated town even had a motion-picture facility and the Laurel Inn, which Teddy Roosevelt reportedly visited.
Then disaster struck. In 1916, a fire burned from Grandfather Mountain to Wilson Creek, and was immediately followed by a flood, which destroyed the logging railroad and the Lake Rhodhiss Dam, and devastated the Ritter Company's operations. The company left the town entirely about a year later. The flood is considered to be the worst in Caldwell County history.
United Mills Company, a cotton mill, opened in 1922 and revitalized the town for a brief period. The Civilian Conservation Corps opened Camp F-5 at Mortimer during the Great Depression, and by 1933, had repaired many buildings damaged in the 1916 tribulations. In 1934, O.P. Lutz started a hosiery mill in the cotton mill buildings, but it never really succeeded. The Carolina & Northwestern Railway brought in mail every other day, but closed in 1938.
Then, on August 13, 1940, Wilson Creek jumped its banks again (this time prompted by a coastal hurricane.) The creek reached a flood stage of 94 feet and engulfed the town. This second flood, coming only 24 years after Mortimer's first horrific experience, was enough to drive most remaining families from the area.
The CCC hobbled along until the arrival of World War II in the 1940s. The railroad that used to run through Mortimer was taken up during WWII and melted down for the war effort. After the railroad was removed and the CCC left, the valley was left essentially unchanged for the next several decades.
Today, there are only about 16 permanent families living along the stream. Much of the mountain property in the northwestern part of Caldwell County is public land held by the U.S. Forest Service.
I go a great distance,while some are considering whether they will start today or tomorrow
Jan 03, 2008, 10:04 AM
Re: Mortimer, NC
This topic is very close to home for me as I do own a home on Wilson Creek in Edgemont. we have had a home on Wilson for almost 35 years and have witnessed many horrific floods, but none as destructive as the early years. I can remember being able to see the old ruins of mortimer as we drove up the old RR bed and the old factories. The factory with the big boiler at one point was used by the special forces as a base of operations and on upper wilson creek was a barrier dam to slow the flow of the creek. Today the barrier sits in the woods approxamitly .5 miles from it's orignal positition. The whole wilson area is fasciinating with a wonderful history.
Feb 27, 2009, 08:18 PM
Re: Mortimer, NC
Thank you for the post...my greatgrandfather was a blacksmith for the Ritter lumber company in Mortimer..I had some realitives that lived there and Kanawa(Harpers Creek)..I still live in Jonas Ridge..
Mar 01, 2009, 01:07 PM
Re: Mortimer, NC
from personal experience and long ago contacts i can also add that at one time some of the best white lightning in the state came from the area around mortimer.....goldman i have been planning a trip to poke around jonas ridge for years..used to camp along wilsons creek in the area from brown mountain beach north towards linville...spent many a summer there, swimming around lady hole and sliding down slickrock.....always camped across creek from road along base of jonas....are the old rumors of devil worshippers on the ridge still alive there ?......gldhntr
Mar 01, 2009, 03:02 PM
Re: Mortimer, NC
There has always been some on the devils side up here...but I have 4brother in laws that are hell fire n brimstone preachers..I think some were crocked outa their gourds by the White Lightning..not the preachers that is...but some of them were on the other side before.....my dad us to make it and a lot of my uncles and cousins....lol...of course this was for medicinal purposes only
Mar 02, 2009, 10:34 AM
Re: Mortimer, NC
Cool post. I spent many days of my childhood hunting fishing and camping in this area. Some of the best trout fishing in NC can be found in the streams that feed Wilsons creek.
Oct 03, 2009, 08:41 PM
Re:Mortimer , NC
i live about 20 mi or so from hear and it is a good place to go and look around the last time i went to Mortimer was about 2 years back i stop an looked around and i drove up to rose boro i thank the road in frount of the church is state road 989
that gose to rose boro it is a dirt road about 10 mi or so and the old cc camp house is on hy 90 at the old store and the last time i was up the store was open and the old cc camp was a forest ranger office and it has a camp ground good fishing on the road up to rose boro and if you go and you go up the brown mt road you can stop a the old walker store that man has loads of info on the area
some good old info
this is a pic of a old house in rose boro
Don't follow your dreams; chase them.
Some make it happen, some watch it happen, and some say, "What happened?"
Sep 02, 2010, 08:02 AM
Re: Mortimer, NC
Here's a picture I took of the old cotton mill with the stacks for the boilers (the boilers themselves are hidden by the bushes in this shot.) Definitely going back again (maybe later this fall when the leaves change, or in the winter when the leaves are gone and the buildings show better.)
And here's a few other pictures from the trip, taken along the creek.
Nov 21, 2012, 12:35 PM
I recently learned from my father that my paternal grandmother was born in Mortimer in 1908. Her father, my great grandfather was Charles Whitlow and was a bookkeeper for Ritter Lumber Company. So a few days ago I took my family on a 4 day vacation to the Western North Carolina mountains via the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. On our way home, we made an attempt to locate the old Mortimer site. We found the Mortimer Campground off Brown Mountain Beach road. I wish I had seen this page, and others, first and I would have tried to find the Walker Store to speak with the owner there if he's still living about the area. Maybe on the next trip. I'd like to bring my father next time. Question: Is the campground sitting on what used to be Mortimer? If so, what about the white frame, half-standing building just above the road at the entrance? Was it built during this time?
Jun 26, 2013, 09:39 PM
I'm new to using the metal detector and still very unsure about where to go. But this forum caught my attention. My family and I frequently visit the Mortimer and Wilson Creek area but I've never used my detector there. Is it ok to use it here? I would love to use it around where the old hotel was or around the old mill area but was unsure since some of the area is part of the Pisgah National Forest.
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