by David Cecelski
My old swamping buddy and I headed toward SilerCity, veered off onto Hwy. 902, then cut south on back roads down to the old coal mining villages along the Deep River. You don’t get a sunny, 75-degree day every day, so we decided last minute to grab a boat and go. We left one car at the old CamelbackBridge at Cumnock and followed the road upriver to Gulf, named for a wide place in the river where the old steam vessels could turn around. We put in there and headed downriver.
There aren’t a lot of restaurants or cafes or even places to buy groceries along that stretch of the Deep River, but the J. R. Moore General Store in Gulf, next to Hwy. 421, is a great place to get crackers, farmer’s cheese and drinks—as well as clothes, boots, pots and pans, hardware, bicycles and most everything else. (Their motto: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”) This wonderful store is across the street from an old inn that was built by the owner of the Egypt Coal Mine, which provided coal to the Confederacy during the Civil War. It’s also cattycorner to a former boardinghouse, now abandoned, that country singer Charlie Daniels called home when he was a boy. Or at least that’s what they told us.
For good eats, you can go downriver to Cumnock, where there’s a first-class barbecue joint, Bud’s Barbecue, next door to the Methodist church. You can eat there with the workers from the well-digging company and the creosote plant or you can get take-out and dine on one of the picnic tables at the Deep RiverPark. Be sure to ask the folks at Bud’s for directions to the memorial to the victims of the 1925 mine explosion at the Coal Glenn mine. It’s in a little graveyard on a dirt road east of there.
photos by David Cecelski