Yanasá – Buffalo • Alabama-Coushatta, dialect Muskogean; Spoken by North American Indians of the southeastern United States.
Ama – Waters, Ridge, Valley • Cherokee, dialect Iroquoian;Spoken by North American Indians in the eastern United States.
In September, 2014 Charlie and Shauna Rankin began a journey to breathe new life into a once forgotten house and land. The house, in bold disarray, lay nestled between three tall oak trees overlooking an overgrown patchwork of rolling green.
With the renovation of the house, came the question of time. Earliest tax records lead us to believe it was built circa 1900, yet various conversations and detail elude to earlier still. The deed for the land itself was measured ‘in chains’ with references such as “…beginning at a Locust tree in the Southern margin of the Carbonton road and running thence with the Southern margin of the said road…”. This place is literally dripping with history of the American story!
History of Land
The earliest known ownership of the land, other than natives, belonged to King Charles I who granted the lands along the east cost to Sir Robert Heath in 1629. Heath’s land consisted of the southern half of English land in America and stretched from the Pacific to the Atlantic. It was called the Province of Carolina which means “Land of Charles.” Sir Robert Heath failed at ever settling the Province of Carolina and in 1645, during the English Civil War Heath was stripped of his land and possessions for being a loyalist to the King.
In 1663 eight loyalists to King Charles II were granted the land to establish the colony of Carolina. These men became known as the Lord Proprietors and were the ruling landlords of the colony. Among them was Sir George Carteret who owned an area that included the land were Yanasa Ama Ranch now resides. The Lord Proprietors had to grow their colony quickly to attract enough men to fend off Spanish Rivalries from the south. They granted large tracts of land with 150 acres per for every head of slave imported to the colony. Their incentives attracted 6,600 colonists by 1700 which more than trumped the 1,500 in the southern Spanish colony.
Even then, the Lord Proprietors failed to protect their colony from invasion. During the Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713) the colonists drove French and Spanish invaders out of Charlestown and then again defended the land from Native Americans and Pirates between 1715 and 1718 without the assistance of the Lord Proprietors (their governing landlords). In 1719 the colonists petitioned to the King to have the proprietors replaced with the administration of the Crown. In 1729 the Crown bought out seven of the eight lord proprietors. The last remaining John Carteret, Lord Granville heir of Sir George Carteret refused to sell his land back to the crown.
Lord Granville worked with the King to establish the Granville District which included the region that started along the Carolina Virginia border and extended south almost the the South Carolina border. Although his southern border was often disputed by Crown authorities, a specific marker known as Line Creek named after the Kings Line ran along his southern border in Chatham County (Kings line separated the Crown from the Granville District). Prior to the Granville District Lord Granville was a significant diplomat for foreign affairs to the King but he had a lot of opposition. Part of his agreement to keep the Granville District was to exit from all government affairs of the Crown.
Today Line Creek is directly south of Yanasa Ama Ranch, which means the ranch was part of the Granville lands. The creek is more than just a stream trickling through the woods, it contains the tallest waterfall in the southeastern Carolinas. A final landmark of the earliest settlement disputes of the Lord Proprietors.
Lord Granville did more than just operate his own private nation free of the controls of the Crown. He granted the land to settlers under his own governing policies. The Granville Grants were given to anyone who could afford to pay for them and the only acceptation was that no one could own more than 750 acres. Granville used agents to administer the lands, however the recording of grants was fairly incomplete and land ownership disputes began causing considerable unrest after his death in 1763 when it became difficult for anyone else to decipher who’s was who’s. In 1777 the State of North Carolina claimed itself as sovereign over all the lands in North Carolina. The state honored grants given prior to July 4, 1776 but stripped away the rights of the remaining Granville owned lands and the land from all Crown supporters.
Yanasa Ama Ranch was part of Joseph Carruthers Esquire Sheriff of Craven County’s land granted in January 1958 containing 458 acres.
Industrial Revolution and the Rise of Yanasa Ama’s Homesite
During the Revolutionary war, the area became a great mining area. The Deep River coal mining boom began during the revolutionary war and exploded into the 1800’s, literally. The demon of Deep River rarely returned a profit for miners and proved to be the deadliest American industrial exploration ever.
During the civil war the railroad expanded along Deep River and it’s coal began supplying the Confederate Navy’s blockade runners. However the deep river demon had tricks up his sleeve for coal tackers, the Deep River coal had a unique yellow smoke when burned that cost the lives of many Confederate soldiers by unveiling their location for the Union Navy. The mining operations of Deep River failed to produce any profits during the war and were inevitably shut down. But a new mining boom start following the civil war and by 1895 the Deep River Mines began turning a profit. The Yanasa Ranch house was likely built during these times of economic mining growth. However, the Deep River demon struck back and hard against coal snatchers. In 1895 an explosion ripped through the Egypt Mine killing forty six of sixty seven men in the mine.
Miners didn’t give up. By 1923 the Carolina Mine was in full operation yielding more than double the production of the Egypt Coal Mine. In May 1925 the Deep River demon struck again, this time with explosions that could be felt for miles and poisonous yellow smoke that blocked the entrance for days. Fifty Three men died in the Glen Coal Carolina Mine Explosion marking the worst industrial accident in US history. In 1929 the Deep River demon flooded the mines. One attempt to reopen the mines in 1947 and 1951 was also eventually ended and the mines were flooded for a final time. The Deep River demon had his way and the coal beds remain.
Earlier generations called it ‘Spirit Hill’ but not for the reason you may think! These hills were piping out some of that good ol’ white lightning (Moonshine).
The decimation of the Egypt Coal Mine in 1895 and then Glen Coal Mine in 1925 crippled the local economy. However opportunity was never brighter for local entrepreneurs. In 1908 North Carolina had entered prohibition and on January 17, 1920 the United States declared national prohibition. Having entered prohibition 12 years earlier Carolina bootleggers had an edge on moonshine operations. With politicians in their pockets and modified vehicles to outrun less cooperative authority Carolina Moonshiners ran the largest Bootlegging operations in the country, competing only with Al Capone. Their gun slinger operations and cooped up autos famously gave rise to a whole new car racing industry we now call NASCAR.
When the United States exited prohibition in 1933, North Carolina remained in prohibition until 1937. Even after exiting prohibition the state remained dry in most counties and liquor was only sold in state stores known as ABC stores. It wasn’t until 1978 that North Carolina allowed the sale of liquor by the glass.
Remnants of the Past
During this time Spirit Hill, now Yanasa Ama Ranch was well known for it’s moonshining operations. Even after 1937 Moonshining remained a profitable market until the mid 1900’s. In the 1960-1970’s liquor was locally sold by the glass on Spirit Hill in a retro fitted section of the barn that had pine log walls and makeshift bar, currently Charlie’s workshop.
Inside the walls of the old house, two particularly interesting items were found as renovations were underway. The first, a tomahawk, the second, a bottle of Old Tom Gin from 1885. Among the acres, a 1958 Oldsmobile was found upside down half buried behind the dam of the back pond. A possible casualty of the shiner business? It’s story may never be known.
As time goes on and the Rankin’s continue their revival of the land, the vision continues to establish itself. A natural habitat for red foxes, bobcats, bees, cardinals, robins, blue jays, rabbits, opossums, snakes, whitetail deer, wood ducks, falcons, hawks, eagles, vultures, and coyote makes for a vivid and lively environment. Charlie and Shauna aim to co-exist without imposing on such a beautiful preservation of nature.
A huge piece of the charm yet challenge of the landscape is deciphering the trees and plants, watch out for that Poison Ivy! The last inhabitants vacated mid to late 1990’s leaving an overgrowth of what seemed like any and every thing. Acre by acre, an order is returning and with every passing spring, there is an excitement and admiration of the land that outlives us all.