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Home North Carolina Stokes County City of Pinnacle Historical Markers Bean Shoals Canal

Bean Shoals Canal

Perch Road at US 52, Pinnacle, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 36° 19' 45.6132", -80° 26' 0.3192"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"Attempted ca. 1820-25 by Hiram Jennings for Yadkin Navigation Co. Hamilton Fulton was consultant. Never completed. Ruins located 5 miles S.W."
     A national movement to make channels of commerce out of navigable rivers and streams commenced after the War of 1812. Residents of the Yadkin River Valley were eager to make their river accessible for transporting their agricultural goods to markets far and wide. The North Carolina legislature selected two local men to survey the river from “the Town of Wilkesborough to the line of South Carolina” by boat to determine where improvements were needed in order to make the Yadkin navigable. The men, John Hixon and Hiram Jennings, also were expected to suggest the types of improvements necessary and the estimated expense of the project. Neither Hixon nor Jennings had any experience in such work. They were simply interested and not otherwise employed.

     Hixon’s and Jennings’ report was completed in 1818. It was their opinion that the Yadkin could be made navigable from Wilkesboro to Salisbury for $57,330, were it not for a four-mile stretch called Bean Shoals. That area would have to be circumvented by a three-mile canal with a dam and a series of three locks. They estimated the cost of such a canal to be $30,200. On the basis of the report, the Yadkin Navigation Company was formed and local farmers and merchants gladly purchased stock to see the plan implemented. Hiram Jennings supervised the work on the canal, digging a two-mile stretch by 1820. Jennings found it necessary to construct “a rock wall of solid masonry fifteen feet high, along a line of more than twelve hundred feet” in order to shore up one side of the canal. In completing just this portion of the canal, Jennings had gone more than $8,000 over the budget of the whole project—the retaining wall alone cost $27,000.

     The state’s newly appointed civil engineer, Hamilton Fulton, visited the canal project in the summer of 1819, when one mile of the canal was completed. Fulton recommended that the work be stopped, as the full three-mile canal envisioned by Hixon and Jennings was not even necessary. His suggestions went unheeded. However, all work was halted on the Bean Shoals canal prior to its completion due to the Yadkin Navigation Company’s lack of funds. The directors of the company issued a report in 1825 admitting failure. Even though railroad tracks were laid along the course of the canal in the 1890s, portions of Jennings’ expensive and very well constructed retaining wall remain today.

Larry E. Tise, “The Bean Shoals Canal on the Yadkin River Navigation,” unpublished report in the files of the Research Branch, Office of Archives and History (ca. 1975)
Winston-Salem Journal, February 17, 1991, and July 9, 1975
Bean Shoals Canal Historical Marker Location Map, Pinnacle, North Carolina