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COLUMN: The forgotten Seaburn Spring

Seaburn Branch in western Richmond County makes its way to the Pee Dee River.
J.A. Bolton

The other week while it was raining, I was checking my computer about some history of Richmond County. I happened to run across a subject of waterways located in the county. I recognized all the names except one, and that was Seaburn Spring and Branch.

So, where in Richmond county could this spring be? I searched further and got the coordinates on a map. I dug a little deeper and found the spring and branch is located on Blewett Falls Road, just past the Richmond County Water Plant. The branch runs parallel with the road and eventually into Pee Dee River, just south of the old Wall’s Ferry crossing.

Before we go any further, a little history is in order. Seems in olden times, animal trails turned into footpaths, then roads, and some eventually turned into modern highways. As the loads got bigger, the roads were made wider. 

In past times, there won’t no such thing as Motel 6 or Comfort Inn, although there were a few taverns along the way. Back when people walked or rode their wagons, they either carried all their supplies and water or they had to stop along the old roads at a spring or watering hole. When they took long trips, many a settler had to pull over, rest for the night, and get water for themselves and their livestock along an old bumpy dirt road.

In good weather, our ancestors might just build a small fire and sleep in a bedroll under the stars. If they got caught in a storm, I’ve heard tell some folks just might crawl up in a hollow tree or log, but most just slept under their wagons or a homemade lean-to.

A little-known pullover in Richmond County was at a roadside spring called Seaburn Spring. The spring was located on the west side of the old river road (Blewett Falls Road) in the Zion community.

Trying to find out a little history or how the spring got its name proved harder than actually finding the spring and branch itself. Seaburn is an old English name that probably came from the northeastern coast of England. It is not a familiar name in our county. Why, I looked in the phone book for the name, on the computer, and even asked some local historians about the name and history of the spring. Only one knew the spring even existed! I don’t know if the folks with the surname of Seaburn died out or moved on out of the area.

Wanting to see and do a little exploring, my wife and I drove north on Blewett Falls Road. Wasn’t far down the road, we ran into new road construction for I-73 that is being built through our county. Men and construction equipment were everywhere working in rock and the red clay. 

Just so happened, right at the sign that said, “End of Road Construction,” I spotted what I thought might be the Seaburn Branch. The water in the branch was fairly muddy because of all the rain and the road construction just above the branch. I then rode on down the road and turned around at the entrance to the old Wall’s Ferry.


Slowly driving back up the road, I could barely see the branch because of the steep ravine. I found a place to pull over and walked down the very steep hill to the branch. Large rocks and boulders lined the banks of the branch as it flowed swiftly toward the river.

Being a former river rat myself, I knew where the branch ran into the river, even though I had never heard the name of it. The branch runs into a swampy area just below the site of old Wall’s Ferry and Black Lake. This might be about a mile above the Hwy. 74 bridge.  

After I took a few pictures, I tried to find the spring head, but I think the new construction might have obstructed it. The branch still flowed freely westward on down the hill.

As I stood beside the old branch, seems like I could hear the creaking sound of old wagons as they made their way down the curvy river road along the branch. Then the sound of several men on horses alongside several hundred poorly dressed and weary Revolutionary soldiers, making their way from the Cheraws to fight against the British at Guilford Courthouse.

I started back up the steep hill to the road. All of a sudden, I thought I could hear men and equipment going along the road, all headed up-river to build the first hydroelectric dam on the Pee Dee. The dam was started in 1903 and the wheels started turning in 1925. It would bring in a new era for Richmond and surrounding counties. 

Just as I got to the road, I thought I heard the “ug-ug” sound of a horn from one of the first cars that had crossed the Pee Dee River on Wall’s Ferry. Many more would follow as our little area of the country was opening up to a new century and a better livelihood for its residents.

When I got to my truck — breathing hard, I might add — I wondered just how much longer the silence and pristine beauty of this remote area of Richmond County would remain. For within a year or two, just about a hundred yards above the branch, the hum of the traffic on the new interstate will pollute the air and the area will never be quite the same — all in the name of progress. 

From my experiences, you can research history and places from books and the computer, but somehow it doesn’t take the place of physically being, or actually walking on, the places where history took place.

 J.A. Bolton is author of “Just Passing Time,” co-author of “Just Passing Time Together,” and just released his new book “Southern Fried: Down-Home Stories,” all of which can be purchased on Amazon. Contact him at ja@jabolton.com.


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