Copyright notice

This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Printer-friendly page


by Charles H. McArver, 2006
Additional research provided by Jean H. Seaman.

Cumnock Coal Mines. Documenting the American South,  UNC Libraries. Coal in North Carolina is limited to two belts of Triassic sediment: the sporadic Dan River belt and the larger Deep River belt, which runs along the Deep River in Lee, Moore, and Chatham Counties. Metamorphosed from deposits of vegetable matter into hard, long-burning fuel, coal was utilized in forges in the Carolina colony before the American Revolution. During that war, coal from the Horton Mine, near Cumnock, was used by John Wilcox, who operated an ironworks at Gulf in Chatham County.

The Deep River coalfield is the only area in the state known to contain beds of commercial significance. Approximately 35 miles long and between 5 and 10 miles wide, the field contains medium volatile bituminous coal and is centered around 10 miles northwest of Sanford in the Cumnock Formation. Although the Egypt and Coal Glen Mines, using deep shafts and served by two rail lines-the Cape Fear & Yadkin Valley Railway at Cumnock and the Seaboard Air Line at Colon (by means of the Raleigh & Western Railway)-produced coal from this seam only intermittently from 1854 to 1953, significant periods of operation did occur. Because of the Civil War, production, especially from the Egypt Mine (in present-day Lee County), was extremely important, as coal was supplied to the Confederate arsenal in Fayetteville and the Charlotte Navy Yard; though it was often used by After explostion at Carolina Coal Mine (Coal Glen). From the News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), May 29, 1925.blockade-runners, its poor quality produced dark smoke easily detected by Union ships.

Coal production retained the war's boost until 1873; other noteworthy periods were 1889-1905 and 1918-30, both mines operating during the latter interval. Although Coal Glen Mine produced about 14,000 tons of coal in 1949, averaging 100 tons per day, production on the Deep River seam ceased in 1953 because of the depth and the many dissecting faults that broke up the field. For these reasons, the area has proven to be uneconomical to mine, even though reserves are estimated to be 110 million tons.




Daniel Andrew Textoris and Eleanora I. Robbins, Coal Resources of the Triassic Deep River Basin, North Carolina (1988).

Charles Wilkes, Report on the Examination of the Deep River District, North Carolina (1859).

Additional Resources:

Wilcox Iron Works, NC Highway Historical Marker H-24:

Egypt Coal Mine, NC Highway Historical Marker H-41:

Image Credit:

Cumnock Coal Mines. Documenting the American South,  UNC Libraries. Available from (accessed October 5, 2012).

After explostion at Carolina Coal Mine (Coal Glen). From the News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), May 29, 1925. Stephen Fletcher, "May 27, 1925: Carolina Coal Company Mine Explosion, Coal Glen, North Carolina," This Month in North Carolina History, May 2005. North Carolina Collection, UNC Libraries.



Very nice article. My only quibble is that the Coal Glen mine was not a deep shaft mine. Egypt/Cumnock was indeed a shaft mine, but Coal Glen, AKA the Carolina Mine, was a slope mine, with the entrance leaving the surface at about a 30 degree angle. Most of the mines at Deep River were actually slope mines.


Mr. Hazel, I am a geologist with the North Carolina Geological Survey. I am trying to locate mine maps giving more precise location information for the mining operations of the Deep River Coal Field. You sound like someone who might know where I can find information like this.

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at