Editors Note: A section of this article has been clarified. In the section “Armstrong family,” it was stated Clarence Mackay’s will left the Deep River property to his caretaker, Edward (Ned) Armstrong. Armstrong’s grandson, Ted Johnson believed his grandfather did not get the entire estate but that Armstrong bought some of the land.
Shanna Moore, who has inventoried a large part of the items found in the Armstrong house before it was recently demolished, sent this clarification: “Clarence Mackay left Ned Armstrong $5,000 in his will. The entire Mackay estate was left to John Mackay, Clarence Mackay’s only son, in 1938. Ned Armstrong went to the auction in New York and purchased the entire estate from John Mackay in 1939. He sold the land west of Guilford College Road [now Cedarwood] at auction in 1940, including the Deep River Lodge with a 91-acre parcel. Ned did transfer the Kennel name to himself well after the purchase.”
Moore has a brochure describing the current Cedarwood property auction. She also has a plat book showing the current D.R. Horton property (old Johnson Farm) was owned by Wachovia Bank, which financed Armstrong’s purchase.
When northern industrialist Clarence Mackay wanted some leisure time for his family and acquaintances, he purchased about 1,100 wild acres in Jamestown and opened a hunting lodge — Deep River Lodge, which was in operation from 1895-1935. The area was a popular quail-hunting destination — once described as a place where “quail shooting is of the finest” — and visitors, including other wealthy industrialists, arrived by train at the old Jamestown depot.
Mackay was not the only person with the idea of Southern recreation. Other famous names like William Gould Brokaw, George J. Gould and Pierre Lorillard also called the area home for several months of the year. The closest lodge to Mackay’s was John Blackwell Cobb’s Sedgefield.
The High Point Museum exhibit, “Fields and Feathers, Hunting at Deep River Lodge 1895-1935,” chronicles the everyday life at a hunting lodge and kennel. It also focuses on the Armstrong family through letters, photographs and souvenirs, such as calling cards of visitors.
A display at the exhibit reads, “The grassy fields, farmland and pine woods contributed to the abundance of the Northern Bobwhite quail in the Piedmont and to the attraction of the area for hunting retreats. Quail have short lifespans in the wild but produce two or three broods a season. They are fast-flying and small, providing a challenging target. Dogs flush coveys of quail into the air and hunters must be quick and accurate to make a successful shot.”
There were about 30 shooting days during the season with an average of 600 birds killed.
To save visitors the bother of crating up their personal dogs and bringing them here, Deep River Lodge, located in what is now Cedarwood, established a kennel across from the lodge property where Edward Armstrong’s family took care not only of the dogs but arrangements for the hunts. This property has recently been known as the Johnson Farm, along Guilford College and Mackay roads.
Armstrong came from England where he worked in the same profession of dog training and hunting excursions. Many of the dogs also were sent to Jamestown from England.
These kennels were not what we think of today for family pets. They could have been as elaborately constructed as some of the lodges and the working dogs were well looked after. The late Ted Johnson, a grandson of the Armstrongs, once said “the kennel had running water before many people in High Point did.” Many documents and photos of prize-winning canines from Deep River Lodge were found in the Armstrong house in 2021.
A newspaper in Yorkshire, England, noted this around 1908: “The Mackay kennels are most complete and contain probably the largest number of practical, everyday shooting dogs owned by any kennel in America. They are all highly bred, for Mr. Mackay, a few years ago, was buying the best dogs in America.”
Mackay’s will left the Deep River property to caretaker Armstrong, who lived in the beautiful house that Mackay provided for him on what is now Guilford College Road. The house was recently demolished. But Johnson believed his grandfather didn’t get the entire estate. He said Armstrong bought some of the land.
A future issue of the Jamestown News will relate the interesting story of the Armstrong family.
Earlier this year D.R. Horton Inc. received permission from the Town of Jamestown to construct a residential development on the former Deep River Kennel site. Many protested the decision, hoping the land could be saved in its current condition.
Others hoped the 1885 Armstrong House on the property could be saved. Knowing the precarious condition of the house, several historians and interested parties went through the house in 2021, salvaging as much as they could, not only of the history of the lodge, but of the Mackay and Armstrong families as well. Demolition of the house surely brought tears to those who watched it come down.
“It had been vandalized over and over,” said Shanna Moore, who has worked with the Armstrong family to sort and inventory the artifacts and was instrumental in creating the exhibit. She videoed the demolition. “The kitchen floor had fallen in. The house was also full of lead, asbestos and enough mothballs and chemicals to stop a truck. They salvaged a lot.
“The exhibit is made up of mostly salvaged items from the house but there is literally enough to fill the entire first floor of the exhibit space. The items found in the Armstrong home tell such a wonderful story that not many people in the area have heard. We wanted to share it.”
WANT TO GO?
The “Fields and Feathers, Hunting at Deep River Lodge 1895-1935,” exhibit runs through January 2024 at the High Point Museum, 1859 E. Lexington Ave. Admission is free. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
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