SNOW HILL PLANTATION / FARM

Durham
NC
1700s

snowhill_aerial_1955_0.jpeg
1955 aerial

One of the earliest plantations in what would become northern Durham County, Snow Hill was established by William Johnston in 1763. He obtained several large tracts of land from Henry McCulloh.

David Southern notes:

McCulloh and Granville were mega-speculators with competing claims, and though they reached a sort of truce ultimately, the Snow Hill grant was from McCulloh’s agents without involvement of Granville’s agents. McCulloh controlled 1.2 million acres of the colony of NC in twelve tracts of 100,000 acres each. Most of these twelve great tracts were square in shape with each side having a length of 12.5 miles (or 1000 chains). The Snow Hill plantation was granted from the easternmost of McCulloh’s great tracts, being tract number 12.

Johnston established the Little River Store at the junction of the New Hope Road (later University Road) and the Indian Trading Path (later called Hillsborough Road.) This store became a well-known destination for travelers. Johnston offered Richard Bennehan a 1/3 interest in the store in 1768, and Bennehan began managing the store. Bennehan would go on to purchase many more acres, and build Stagville Plantation

David Southern provided me with further insight into the location of the store, and the map which follows:

The site of the Snow Hill complex was not on Johnston’s 400 acre grant from McCulloh but was on an older McCulloh grant to one James Rae (or Rea, or Ray, or Wray), issued on 25 March 1749. The original deed, and three others granting nearby tracts, are registered in Granville County deed book A between pages 166 and 171. On the map [below] you will see a drainage ditch or small creek that appears to run into the road near the buildings. This same ditch is evident today, and there are pits in the hillside there suggesting building sites and cellars. On the east side of Little River, you will see a T-intersection of Wilkerson’s Path and the Trading Path. At that site was located Boggan’s Ordinary. Patrick Boggan (pronounced Bogan, like Hogan or Logan) and James Rea acquired their grants—650 acres and 350 acres—in tandem, a 1000-acre square straddling Little River. The site of Boggan’s Ordinary has been carefully excavated by the Archaeology Department of UNC. There are at least two ancient documents that speak of Boggan’s hospitality. On the map, “ugh” signifies Road from Hillsborough, or Trading Path. The New Hope Road is as named.


Snow Hill Map, drawn 19th century.

There are eight buildings shown at the junction of the roads, and the larger building may have been the famous Snow Hill store operated by Johnston and his junior partner Bennehan. Richard Bennehan also operated a store at Fish Dam ford where Fish Dam Road crossed the Neuse River. Several years ago during an extreme drought, the Flemish bond foundations of several brick buildings were evident at that Neuse River crossing.

Walter Alves provided a paced-off description of the buildings at Snow Hill for a rough survey of Snow Hill he made with Richard Henderson in August 1812.

Field Notes Augt 1812

From the House door
to the Gate by the Barn due East 21 Chains
to lower Gate on the road continued 17
Total measure 38.75
thence following the road to
the ford of the river, in all Chs. 66.25

as measured by Rd Henderson
Wm Alves

—–

From the N. Bank of the Little River meandering down
Beginning at a small Sycamore & Elm above the ford on the
road 1 chain from the ford thence South 45° E. 12 chs. to the river
offsets in this line at 4 chains, offset 3 Chs 12 links
at 10 chs crossed Gut, 1 pole to mouth at River
Then S 62½° E, 2 Chs 50 links to the River, no offset
Then S 45° E, 4 Chs
S 60° E, 2 Chs
S 40° E, 2 Chs 75 to line, offset to Elm corner 1 chain

From Elm corner on the River
N 45° E, 44½ Chains to the Mill road
at 8½ Chs Old path
at 15 Chs foot of Rising ground
at 15½ Chs Plantation road
at 44½ Chains to a Small W. O. saplin N. side of the old Mill
Path then N 45° W 9 chains to a hic saplin W. side of the Main Road,
then along the same S 82° W 9½ chs, S 48° W 7½ chs, S 65° W 6½ chs
to corner of the fence, continued 14 chs S. 52° W. 9 chs, S 50° W. 8½ chs
to an Elm and Sycamore at the end of the Log in the Road & the Beginning

The Indian Trading Path runs through the plantation. First documented in 1670, the trading path once stretched 500 miles from a trading post near Petersburg, Virginia, to an area near Augusta, Georgia.

The Snow Hill land became part of the very large Cameron holdings northeastern Durham County. It eventually passed to Annie Collins, daughter of Paul Carrington Cameron and sister of Bennehan Cameron. This land was subdivided upon her death, per the October 1921 plat at Durham County platbook 5, pages 64 and 65:


A portion of the October 1921 plat, showing the area that contained the Snow Hill Plantation buildings

Portions of the farm remained in operation through the 1950s, managed by Durham businessman Richard Wright, II. Durham and Her People notes in 1951 that Wright was “engaged in farming on a large scale, operating the 1500 acre Snow Hill Farm at the old Cameron Plantation. In addition to tobacco, grain, hay, and other crops, he also [raised] the famous White-Face Hereford beef cattle.”


Richard H. Wright, II and Wallace Wade at the Indian Trading Path Ford across the Little River, 1950s
(Photograph by Duncan S. Heron; copied from Eno, 2001.

It was purchased as part of the Treyburn development, but never redeveloped. DR Bryan donated the land to the Triangle Land Conservancy in 2007. Abandoned early-mid 20th century buildings remain on the site, and the Indian Trading Path remains a well-worn ‘road’ through the woods.


Buildings at Snow Hill farm, 01.22.11


Indian Trading Path near Snow Hill Farm, 01.22.11
 

1900-1920s
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