The Harricanes

Along the northwestern rim of Wake County runs a lean piece of land known as “The Harricane.” It got its name from a renegade storm that ripped through the area many years ago.

The only crops that ever thrived there were rocks and moonshine and, for a long time, it was a no-man’s land. Only the brave or the foolish dared go down its red roads unannounced.

Its boundaries were like quicksilver, always “half a mile” further on, no matter where you asked.

The Harricane has changed now, but there’s a wildness still in the land, and if you look down the rutted lanes or through scrabbly growths of pine, you can still find glimpses of its past unmarred by time.

52 comments

  1. grew up in the hurricane and proud to have been a part of it. good folk lived there. they took care of each other.

    1. Loyal, hardworking families like the Rays, Harrisons, and Keiths are among those who made the Harricane such a treasure. We agree with you. This unique community is one of the most important parts of Wake Forest and its history.

      1. I mean no disrespect but the way it is pronounced is the Hurricans or Hairicans . Born raised and hopefully will die in the area after I see the rest of the world but my roots will always be on New Light Rd

  2. I was born, grew up in the Harricaine’s. God’s country. Never ashamed of my heritage. You should see the area now. Nice houses, and people that have no idea of the history. I proudly sign my name Mary Helen Grissom Long.

    1. We would love to hear any stories or memories you have of growing up in the Harricane! You’re right about the new residents, many don’t know the history but they’re very interested! We frequently get those questions at the museum. The Harricane captures everyone’s imagination. Just look at the number of Facebook shares on this post! It would be great if you’d consider jotting your recollections in the comments section here or emailing me (Jennifer Smart) at smartjl@wfu.edu with any special memories!!!

    2. Agree with you completely, me, too, only in the Franklin/Granville line of the Harricane. Trouble with times now is that no one knows the history or appreciates what the people in that history did for this country.

      1. Some of us still remember and care going to look at some old sites that most don’t know about or have forgotten

      1. The Richard family were born and raised there also.Does anyone remember Carrie Richard Davis ? She had 3 sons ArchieRichard and 2 more brothers. Her mother was Frances which they called Shan,

  3. My folks the O’Neals and the Ross where right there in the middle of it ,tough times there but good times and good memories in my childhood

    1. I’m very proud of heritage. I’m an O’Neal thru and thru. Still live right in the middle of those “red roads”

    2. Would you happen to have any pictures of Flonnie O’Neal who was married to Kenneth Ross. My husband is a Ross, they were his grandparents.

      1. Hi Shannon! I’m not aware of any photographs of Flonnie O’Neal, but we currently have a librarian surveying our image collection and I’ll check with her when she’s here on Thursday. We’ll be sure to contact you if anything turns up.

  4. My husband’s family has lived on family land in the Harricanes for 7 generations. His grandfather made moonshine, and there are remnants of the old still down by the creek. If you walk along the creeks anywhere in this area, you’re bound to stumble across an old moonshine still or two.

  5. I live in one of the old Harrison/Bailey homes on Stony Hill Rd. It was built in 1930. We cherish this old historic home in the Hurricans. Locals tell us that ours is an old bootleggers home. We have found plenty of evidence of the past including copper line that fell on to my shed roof from a hundred year old Red Oak. The Harrisons were among the most well to do families, had the first electric generator(Dynamo)and first telephone in the area. It is said they would let the neighbors come in and use the phone all the time. Often people drop by our house with stories of their connections to the home. We are so proud to carry on the rich tradition in our home.

  6. One of the things I love about the “Haricane” is it’s elusive quality. It’s tricky to define it’s location (the News and Observer wrote an article in the 70s and went so far as to define the approximate boundaries of the Haricane as the area bordered by Hwy 98 on the south, Hwy 96 on the north, Hwy 50 on the west, and U.S. 1 on the east.) when I lived in southern Granville County, the Harricane was often “down the road a way” If you went “down the road a way” and asked directions the person would point to the area you just came from and say “It’s over there.” I recently asked a long term resident of southern Granville County where he thought the Harricane was and he said “It’s up toward Henderson!”

    1. I live right smack in the middle of the boundaries you described, and my daughter is just “down the road a way” too. It is so cool to know that this little quadrant has such a history.

  7. I would write about the “Haircanes” But I didn’t live in the “Haircanes”. Now If you ask one of the Ray’s, Baileys, Harrisons, or Lowerys They can tell you stories. Just go down 98 to were the Perry old barn use to be, then take a right until you get to the stump at the edge of the Keith property. Then ask around, I am sure someone will tell you what you want to know.

  8. Born and bred in the “hairicans” and could not wait to leave it and then spent over 30 years trying to get back home to the haircans. Hope to die here on this land.

    1. I know what you are talking about Tillie. There is no place like home. I was born and raised about three creeks South of you. Was gone for thirty eight years, but back home now. As a matter of fact. You and Sherman helped my new Bride and me get settled. Just across the road in the woods is a spring where a lot of moonshine was made. I guess we both were fed and clothed by the results of moonshine. My Dad was a blockader. I guess if it want for the money he got from it we would have starved. The spring is still there cluttered with broken jars and torn metal and is a watering hole for the animals. Some times sitting on my front porch I think that familiar smell is coming through those trees. I guess I could say a lot about the good old times but the new comers would think me crazy. Oh yeah, back then every body was related in some way or other in this part of the haircans.

      Bobby Ray

  9. I’m a cash from down the road a bit but my family cemetery and home church is there. New light baptist church. Some very good people there and use to be some good coon hunting. My favorite was little Switzerland. M

    1. Remember before the river was flooded for falls lake you didn’t go poke in around down there unless you new somebody

  10. I’m a Haricans girl. A lot of stories up there. Here’s one, an old man name Meddie Allen walked everywhere he went, you could tell where he had been because he put markings in trees, whatever he could find, he climbed up a tree and just left things hanging. He lived down Peed Rd off 98, and we lived within site of the river on what’s known now as Ghoston rd.

  11. I grew up in Wake Forest, but went thru 1st grade 1950 to graduation with a lot of friends from the Harricans. I drove down N.C. 98 a while back and there was a traffic jam on the road. I would never have believed that could happen when we use to drive to Durham and not meet over a half dozen cars. I left the area in 1963, and can’t believe the changes that have taken place. Sometimes I think progress is not such a good thing. I wouldn’t take my upbringing in that era for anything, we had a wonderful life before it was destroyed.

  12. Does anyone know of any African Americans from that area. My grandmother’s family originated there. They were “Daye’s”

  13. I grew up in Raleigh, NC. Around 38 years ago I read an old Readers Digest article that mentioned a well meaning Wake Forest student, probably before 1950, who wrote a story about the people of the Harricanes. He said something more or less about the people having to live in poverty, that the people were neglected and forgotten, and that they should be given help and relief. When residents of the Harricanes heard about the article, they were enraged. A number of Harricane residents marched to the Wake Forest campus during the night, gathered in front of the student’s dorm and demanded to speak to the student and let them know their displeasure that the article had been written. Today, is there any information to verify this really happened?

    Bruce Smith

    1. So this story was also told in a 1949 Campus publication called “Legends of Baptist Hollow.” According to the author the “Land of Paradox” article from another campus publication (called the WF Student) was reprinted in a Raleigh Magazine. (We think that may have been the Progressive Farmer.) And a copy of that magazine was delivered to a country store in the Harricanes. When the Paradox article was read inside the store, people became upset and travelled into town to confront the author. It bears mentioning that these legends are based in fact but also plainly altered and fictionalized. So there’s some truth to all of this but we don’t have a really accurate understanding of what actually happened.

  14. I now live in Florida, but next time I visit the Raleigh area, I hope to visit the museum.Thank you for your work.

  15. I find the article “Land of Paradox” very interesting. It is spot on in some ways and miss the mark a country mile in other ways. There were no Harvard graduates living in the area that I am aware of when the article was written however those folks had an abundance of common sense. I was amused when I read the article, it is not bad for an outsider.

    Two of my ancestors were among the first to settle in that area. Mordecai Mobley 1724-1792 received two land grants around 1750. He sold part of his land to Robert Joplin 1720-1790. Robert’s son James married Mordecai’s daughter Lydia — the beginning of the population explosion in my family. The Lowery, Joplin/Choplin, Perry, Davis, Bailey, O’Neal families, etc, are all my relatives. I think I have a DNA match with virtually every family that lived in the Hurricanes during the 1800’s and early part of the 1900’s — they were indeed a tight nit group.

    We are the product of our ancestors. I am very proud and thankful for my heritage,

    1. Thank you for commenting! As a representative of the museum, I can tell you that the Harricanes and its people is the most popular subject we’ve addressed in public forums or social media. Everyone seems fascinated by this unique history!

    2. Frank, my Davis ancestors (Benjamin Davis) lived in the Newlight area of Wake County in the late 1700s and early 1800s and were neighbors to the Joplin and Mobley families.

      1. Hi Melissa, sorry for my delay answering you. I am related to the Davis lines from Wake and Granville counties. I am directly related with the Joplin’s and Mobley’s. Also, I am directly related with Allen D Davis 1835-1906 from Granville county. My grandfather Joseph P Choplin was one of Allen Davis’s eight sons by Frances Tyson Choplin. They were married but not to each other, therefore their sons took the Choplin (Joplin) Surname. Their relationship was complicated.

        Best regards

        Frank aka Charles, Chuck Wilson

  16. Hurricane Florence has me remembering my first exposure to hurricanes that came inland. I was a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1987-1991. I served as minister of youth and education for a few years at Woodland Baptist Church. What a delight to read the last names of all those saints in that church in this article!!! I was told back then that there was a named hurricane that came through in the 1950s??? Thanks for the trip down a very pleasant memory lane!

    1. Thank you for commenting, Dorothy! I think the named hurricane you’re referring to was Hurricane Hazel, which passed through in 1954. We’re so happy you’ve enjoyed the memories here. We love when people share their stories!!!

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