“Historic location of Neely’s Ferry and the start of Duke Power….”
City Directories and History: The Herald reported on Feb. 1, 1899 – “A bill was introduced in the legislature to authorize the Catawba Power Company to build a dam across the Catawba River at or near the India Hook Shoals in York County. The following men are ready to apply to the Sec. of State for a charter for the Catawba Power Co: W.G. Wylie, R.H. Wylie, W.L. Roddey, F.C. Whitner and W.C. Whitner.”
The Herald reported on June 28, 1899 – “Survey, Mr. W.W. Miller, assisted by C.G. Sayre of Anderson, J. Lyle Black, Edgar Matthews and W.M. Carothers completed the survey of the Catawba River for the Catawba Power Company. The survey included the river and its banks from Neely’s Ferry to the upper point of Farris Island, five miles north of the Ferry. The Catawba Power Company will be in position before long to begin work on the dam.”
The RH Herald of Aug. 19, 1899 – “Mr. T.M. Carothers of India Hook has sold fifty acres to the Catawba Power Water Company. Much of this land will be underwater. Mr. Carothers says , their is an expert engineer on the site now from Anderson by the name of Chreitzberg. He will decide which of two sites will be used for the dam. One site is above the old Mill site and other below Neely’s Old Ferry.” (From the Yorkville Yeoman)
The Herald reported on Jan. 6, 1900 – “The Catawba Power Co., has applied for a charter with the Sec. of State. The commissioners are: Dr. W. Gill Wylie, and Dr. R.H. Wylie of New York City and W.C. Whitner and F.C. Whitner. The capital stock will be $100,000. The purpose is to produce water power at Neely’s Ferry.”
The Herald reported on July 6, 1900 – “A.C. Wright and Co., of Richmond, Va., who have the contract to erect the Catawba Power Co. dam across the Catawba River are now erecting shacks and construction sheds in preparation for the commencement of the dam work. All the rock is expected to be obtained on the site. The contractors have until Sept. 1, 1901, to complete the work.”
The Herald reported on March 6, 1901 containing a legal notice: “The stockholders of the Catawba Power Company. They will meet in the Office of the company in Rock Hill on March 23, to decide on an increase in the capital stock from $100,000. to $150,000. by issuance of 500 prefered shares. They will also vote on creating a bonded debt of $250,000. to be secured by mortgage of rights, franchises, and property. Signed F.C. Whitner, Sec.”
On April 17th, 1901 the Herald reported that the construction of the dam by the Catawba Power Co. has been delayed by high water. For the 4th time this winter the coffer dam was covered by water. Work on the dam should be completed by the end of the year.
The Herald reported on Aug. 17, 1901 – “That the big wagon belonging to the Catawba Power Company (originally Southern Power Co.), has arrived. It is designed to haul some of the heavy machinery to the new power plant. The heaviest piece of machinery weighs 28,000 lbs., and will take twenty mules to haul.”
The Herald contained an editorial on April 4, 1900 on the organization of the Catawba Power Company – “Investors are listed as Dr. Gill Wylie, his brother Robert Wylie, Whitner Brothers, W.J. Roddey. The company has bought over 2,500 acres of land.”
The Herald reported on Sept. 11, 1901 – “That the RH Electric Company is arranging to remodel its plant and will put in new dynamos, and make changes so as to receive power from the electric plant of the Catawba Power Company when that enterprise shall be placed in operation. Representatives of General Electric, Stanley and Westinghouse companies will be in Rock Hill today to sell the equipment needed. The company has employed J.H.D. Maxwell of Anderson, an expert electrical engineer. Mr. S.T. Frew will retain his place as the company’s manager.”
The Herald reported on Sept. 18, 1901 – “That the United Confederate Veterans Association will have a picnic at the new dam to view the water power, a new and great enterprise now in the process of construction.”The Rock Hill Journal reported on Nov. 2, 1901 – “That contractors, A. and C. Wright, have given up their contract with the power company, and the work of building the dam is going forward under the direction of VP – W. Harry Wylie, who has been on the ground since the beginning. The heavy rains of last summer repeatedly and frequently flooded the base of operations so that the contractors lost heavily, their loss is about $35,000.”The Herald reported on Nov. 16, 1901 – “That the Catawba Power Company states that it has made an offer to sell power to Charlotte, when the plant at India Hook is completed, probably within a year. The offer was extended by Pres. W. Gill Wylie.The Yorkville Enquirer of May 14, 1902, reporting from a Rock Hill Herald article of May 10th stated – “There will be a meeting of stockholders of the Catawba Power Company on May 24, to vote on increasing the capital stock from $150,000. to $650,000. and increase the bonded indebtedness. “The Herald reported on May 17, 1902 – “The first steps toward locating the proposed new road leading northward from Rock Hill was taken Wednesday, when the route was surveyed by Mr. W.W. Miller by direction of the county commissioners. From a point near the Berry House in the northern part of town, to the Matthews Mill, thence to a point about a mile east of the Dutchman Creek bridge, where the creek will be crossed, thence to the Neely’s Ferry Rd., near the India Hook school house. This will satisfy many people in the India Hook section.”The Herald reported on May 21, 1902 – “A visit to the works of the power company shows wonderful advancement under the management of W. H. Wylie and Supt. Mr. Briggs. About half the stone work of the dam and two thirds of the power plant are completed. About 300 workers are employed. Some of the huge machinery is being placed. Many of the heaviest pieces have yet to be hauled to the site from Old Point. Six pieces weight 18,000 lbs each and four pieces way 25,000 lb. each. Trucks will be made especially for this purpose and the bridges must be strengthened and widened. The power plant will be 40 – 180 ft., and will have ten mammoth turbine wheels. The engineer in charge is Mr. W.C. Whitner, who drew the plans. He is assisted by Mr. C.K. Chrietzberg. Mr. Sims Wylie of New York is in charge of the books and Mr. Will McFadden is in charge of the commissary.”The Herald reported on Dec. 14, 1901 – “Mr. S.S. Ardway, a contractor with headquarters in Danville, Va., has arrived in Fort Mill and will begin work on that part of the dam of the Catawba Power Company, which Mallow and Boggs contracted for but left unfinished.”
On Dec. 18 1901 – the Herald reported on a fight which occurred at the workcamp at the Catawba Power Company Dam construction site. The fight occurred after a game of cards and six men were wounded by gunshot.”
On June 4, 1902 the Herald reported that Anthony Barnette and Ed Williamson, employees of the Catawba Power Company were drowned last Saturday afternoon while engaged in work at the dam.
The Herald reported on June 4, 1902 – That thieves attached Mr. Sam Barron last Saturday. He has two stores, one at his home, and the other near the dam of the Catawba Power Company.
The Herald reported on Oct. 11, 1902 – “There was an explosion at the dam site about 75 lbs of dynamite and nine boxes of powder exploded last night at the Catawba Power Company Dam. The explosives were kept in a magazine. The explosion was heard in Fort Mill and Rock Hill, and glass was broken in nearby windows. No one was hurt.”
The Herald reported on Oct. 15, 1902 – “Jim Pettus, colored, an employee of the Catawba Power Company, was killed Monday while at work in the quarry across the river in Fort Mill. A rock, weighing perhaps 50 lbs, fell from an embankment and struck him on the back of the head, he died within the hour. Pettus is the first person to be killed at work on the dam since operations began nearly two years ago.”
The Herald reported on Nov. 22, 1902 – “A stockholders meeting of the Catawba Power Company will be held at their office in Rock Hill on Dec. 29 to vote on increasing the capital stock from $650,000. to $750,000. W. Gill Wylie is president and F.C. Whitner is Sec.”
The Herald reported on Jan. 10, 1903 – “Reported on two accidents at the India Hook Dam. Claude Creighton and four workers were crossing the river in a batteau, when for an unknown reason one end of the boat sank, and the five men were spilled into the water. All were able to save themselves except Mack Morrow, a colored carpenter of this city. His body has not yet been recovered. He leaves a wife and several small children. The next day, the boom of a derrick fell on Dave Durham, a colored workman, injuring his head, neck, and spine so severally death was instantaneous.”
The Herald reported on March 21, 1903 – “Mr. J.B. Mendenhall has been employed for several months at the Catawba Dam and is now moving to Greenville to take a position with a brick manufacturer.”
The Herald reported on April 29, 1903 – “Work on the Catawba Power Co. dam has been delayed over the winter because of cold weather and high water. About 150 men are now at work, but that number will soon double. Mr. W.S. Lee is the new Superintendent.
The Herald reported on May 27, 1903 – “A party of twenty seven African American laborers arrived in the city yesterday from Anderson. They have secured employment at the works of the Catawba Power Company.”
The Herald reported on June 10, 1903 – “J.W. Moore was seriously and hurt for life in an explosion at the dam on May 23. He has been in the city hospital and was recently discharged and left for his home in Marietta N.C., he is now totally blind.”
The Fort Mill Times reported on Sept. 9, 1903 – “That the two wings of the Catawba Dam have approached near enough to force the entire river through a gap about 30 ft wide.”
The Rock Hill Record reported on Feb. 5, 1904 – “That Dr. Gill Wylie was here to inspect the dam of the power company. One of the large generators is in operation. The Rock Hill Water and Power Company has purchased a transformer in order to use the power. Several textile mills have contracted for power and several others are under consideration. The Victoria, Arcade and Manchester mills will be able to use power in two – three months when they have completed installing transformers. Dr. Wylie says the water has been backed up behind the dam to the expected level based on survey lines. Bids are to be taken by the Catawba Power Company to provide Charlotte lighting for street lamps.”
The Fort Mill Times of March 21, 1907 – “The water was turned into the big dam of the Catawba Falls power plant last Monday. The pond was only filled after the river flowed into it continuously for 36 hours.”
The Rock Hill Record reported via the Charlotte Observer – “The Southern Power Company is headquarters in Charlotte. It is backed by J.B. Duke and B.N. Duke, the tobacco kings. The company owns nine sights in the Piedmont. (This article contains a long quotation from Dr. Gill Wylie on how the business was started.” Nov. 25, 1907
The Herald reported on Oct. 1, 1918 – “An accident occurred at the Catawba Station of the Southern Power Company last Saturday. Joseph Grier Oats, 20, son of Mr. and Mrs. T.M. Oats was killed stringing wire from Rock Hill to the power plant.”
Dr. Wylie induced James B. Duke, one of his patients, to invest in the further development of water power in the Catawba Valley, saying, “Why there must be enough energy going to waste in the rushing waters of the Piedmont to turn every cotton mill in America, to power interurban trolleys, to light great cities.” The Catawba plant, with Duke’s investment and the Duke millions behind it, “became the nucleus for the Duke Power system.” The Carolina Power Company succeeded the Catawba Company, and this, in time, became the Duke Power Company.
With the backing of Duke’s fortune a series of dams and hydroelectric plants were built on the Catawba, – four in North Carolina and seven in South Carolina. Engineering experts say that the Catawba River has more hydroelectric dams than any other comparable stream in the world. As one commentator remarked, after Whitner had perfected and applied a revolutionary theory, all anyone had to do was to build dams and then some more dams. The plant built at India Hook in 1904 marked the true beginning of the industrial expansion in the Catawba Valley. This one power-house generating 8,000 horsepower, which was distributed over forty miles of lines and served Rock Hill, Fort Mill and Charlotte, was but the starting point.
In 1945 the power system had grown to embrace several plants, producing four billion kilowatt hours which are transmitted over 35,000 miles of lines to vast sections of both Carolinas. In 1905 less than 175,000 spindles in fifteen mills were being run by power from the Catawba dam; in 1911 a million spindles were being turned. In 1927 more than three hundred cotton mills were being driven by power from the Duke Power Company. In 1945 approximately seven million textile spindles in North and South Carolina were operated by this power, and three hundred communities received electric service. This number continues to increase yearly. In 1953 an expansion program of ninety-four million dollars has been set by the Duke Power Company. A visit to the dam at India Hook and a view of the giant dynamos there leave one with the consciousness of a tremendous power-a power whose ultimate potentiality can only be guessed. The end is not yet.” (Information courtesy of the City Without Cobwebs, Summers Brown, 1952)
THE NEELY FERRY (The following letter is a response to an Yorkville Enquirer article, published 15 June 1934, in A.M. Grist’s column “Just A-Rollin’ Along the Way.” S. V. Neely of Arkansas had inquired about Neely’s Ferry and Grist had said he did not know. A reader, S. L. Garrison sent an answer to Neely’s question.) “Dear Sir, “My grandmother, Ann Faris, was born in 1776 in York County, Pa, and moved to York county, S. C., with her parents in 1780. Her father, Jesse Faris, built the house now standing on a hill on the east side of the Catawba river, and at his death this was sold to the father of Josiah Faris, between 1800 and 1810, and then it was sold to Mr. Madison Neely in the early 1840s. He had a flat built and operated the ferry there himself as a hobby. He was a man of means and owned many slaves. He died in the early 70s, and this place is now owned by the Southern Power Company, where the big India Hook dam was built. “Tommy Neely was an elder in Ebenezer church for many years and his brother, Starr, was an elder in Big Steele Creek Presbyterian church. They and father were about the same age having been born between 1800 and 1810. All three of the Neelys— Madison, Tommy and Starr—were influential men, but I do not know as to whether or not the Neely brothers, Tommy and Starr, were akin to Madison Neely. My grandfather, David Garrison, married Ann Faris in 1801. I don’t know who was the father of the Neely brothers. This is from recollections of my father, Mark Garrison.”
Also: (The following was found in “The Family History Book,” compiled by Fay Johnston Kerr, in the Public Library Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. This is not really a book as much as it is a scrapbook containing newspaper clippings, letters and genealogical charts of the Faris and Kerr families, that was bound by the library, ca 1980.) In the recent issue of “Rolling Along the Way,” feature published a letter from Mr. S. V. Neely of Marion, Arkansas, in which among other things, he inquired about “Neely’s Ferry.” The writer of the “Rolling Along” sketches could not answer that question, having never having heard of this ferry, but along came good friend S. L. Garrison, native of York County, now a resident of Gastonia [NC], and answers Mr. Neely’s question quite fully as follows: Dear Sir: Mr. S. V. Neely of Ark. and his inquiry about Neely’s Ferry: ‘My Grandmother, Ann Faris, was born in 1776 in York County, Pa., and moved to York, S. C. with her parents in 1780. Her father, Alexander Faris, built the house now standing of a hill on the east side of Catawba River, and at his death this was sold to the father of Josiah Faris (William Faris), between 1800 and 1810, then it was sold to Mr. Madison Neely in the 1820s. (Information courtesy of and from: YCGHS – The Quarterly Magazine)
R&R NOTE on the following article: Thomas Foster (―Dockey‖) Wood. He was born Jan. 14, 1849, and died in 1912. During the years 1903 and 1904 Saturday afternoon was waited for all week. The backyard was alive with Negro workers waiting for their pay, and Sawyer and I also got in line for our weekly nickel from Dockey.
The first dam on the Catawba River was built about 1904. Dockey had the job of hauling all the big machinery either from Rock Hill or Old Point, S. C., the railroad station in Ebenezer, to the site of the dam. The names of two of Dockey‘s workers were ―High Diver‖ and June Massey. Dockey worked with Mr. Harry Wylie, and the dam was built by Southern Power Company, organized by J. B. Duke and Dr. W. Gill Wylie, a brother of Mr. Harry Wylie. Mr. Jack Ward was superintendent of construction. When the 1916 flood came, the powerhouse and dam held, although the water filled the powerhouse. The new dam was built on the foundation of the old one, and the powerhouse was filled with concrete and became a part of the new dam. I remember going many times with Dockey to the dam and going into the powerhouse. (Courtesy of Along the Lands Ford Road, Vol. II, Author Wm. B. White, Jr.)
The following article is taken from the Rock Hill Record of November 25, 1907, which credits it to W. E. Curtis, a Washington correspondent writing in the Charlotte Observer.
Dr. Wylie Talks of His Work
The Southern Power Company is a $10,000,000. corporation with headquarters in Charlotte, and is backed by J. B. and B. N. Duke, the tobacco kings. It already has the largest electric plant in the United States, except those at Niagara, and is now carrying out projects that will develop 200,000 horsepower from the Catawba river. It owns nine separate sites in the piedmont section, where rapids occur in that river between the foothills and the lowlands, covering a distance of 110 miles and a fall of nearly 1,000 feet in the aggregate. The engineers claim that by owning this great distance on the same stream they will be able to control the flow of the water as they need it.
Dr. W. Gill Wylie, an eminent physician of New York, is the promoter of the project, and he told me a very interesting story:
“I served through the war in the Southern army,” said Dr. Wylie, “and commanded a company before I was 16. When peace came, I attended the University of South Carolina, where the LeConte brothers and E. P. Alexander, three of the best engineers this country ever produced, were my instructors. After graduating, I went to New York to study medicine, and was a partner of Dr. Marion Sims from 1870 to 1905. I was able to lay up about $400,000, part of which I invested in a little electric plant at Anderson, S. C. It was the first long distance electrical power plant for cotton mills in the world. That was in 1896, when Anderson had 5,000 people and 19,000 spindles and farm land was worth $15 and $20 an acre. We demonstrated there that electricity would save 25 percent in friction over the steam plant and produce from 2 to 4 per cent better results from the same machinery. Realizing that, people began to come there, and now the town has 15,000 population and 250,000 spindles and land in the neighborhood is worth from $40 to $60 an acre.
In 1901 I organized another company and purchased a site on the Catawba river, near Rock Hill. I became president, secretary, general manager, chief engineer, and everything else, besides keeping up my practice in New York. While making my plans I was called to attend J. B. Duke, the tobacco manufacturer, professionally in New York. He was a very sick man for six weeks or more, and when he became convalescent I used to chat with him. One day I told him about my plans for an electric plant, he became interested, and after investigation, arranged to furnish the capital necessary. So we bought up the land on both sides of the Catawba river for 110 miles, commanding a territory about the size of Connecticut and within reaching distance of half the cotton mills in the South. Our water rights extend almost from Asheville to Columbia, and we have nine splendid sites between Salisbury, N. C. and Greenville, S. C. on the line of the Southern Railroad.
At first I did everything myself, but I soon found two splendid engineers, Mr. Kickling and Mr. Steinmetz of the General Electric Company, who helped me to get my plans, and I got hold of W. S. Lee, Jr., a young Southerner of Anderson, S. C., who was educated at the military school at Charleston. He took the details off my hands and __________ in eighteen months. We now distribute power to Charlotte, Concord, Rock Hill, Kannapolis, Statesville and other places from two plants, one of 10,000 horse power, called the Catawba, and the other of 40,000 horse power, called the Great Falls plant. We are building a plant at Rock [Rocky] Creek that will furnish 10,000 horse power and another at Ninety-nine Islands, near Spartanburg, that will develop 24,000 horse power. We have plans for similar plants at Horseford Shoals, Lookout Shoals, Mountain Island, Landsford, Fishing Creek, Wateree and other places where there are swift rapids in the Catawba river. They will cost together about $10,000,000, and will furnish not less than 200,000 horse power of electricity, we will sell under contract to mills in this vicinity.”
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