Three hundred years later (1966), the Eno River Association was founded as a non-profit 501 (c) (3) conservation organization with a mission to conserve and protect the Eno River basin.
On the site where Durham's old West Point Mill stood since 1778, the story goes that one of the mill buildings along the river collapsed from old age and neglect in 1973. The Association was able to take the remains of an old mill in Virginia and reconstruct the mill on that site and establish a park in time to host 100,000 people at the Festival of North Carolina Folklife in 1976, one of many U.S. Bicentennial celebrations.
A version of that Festival began in 1980 as Festival for the Eno, a fundraiser that has allowed the association to purchase and protect nearly 6,000 acres of land along the river. In addition to the Eno River State Park, which straddles Orange and Durham counties, there is a city park along the river named West Point on the Eno, which is the actual site of Festival.
As the 31st festival gets underway tomorrow, DNS is happy to provide some "then" and "now" blurbs for readers to learn about this lush treasure.
1752 Michael Synott was granted 100 acres of land on both sides of the River including his mills.
1865 General Sherman stationed a cavalry unit at West Point prior to the surrender at Bennett Place.
1866 The wedding of Rebecca and Robert Russell took place exhibiting early hospitality on the site with the entire county invited to the ceremony and wedding feast, with music and dancing.
1887 Durham tapped the Eno for its first water system and built a pumping station.
1942 Mill shut down after 160 years of continuous operation due to a flood.
1972 The state of North Carolina granted a request to establish a state park at the Eno river.
1980 Margaret Nygard, founder of the Eno River Association stationed 100 volunteers at various posts for the first Eno River Festival which drew 12,000. Internationally-known performers Shirley Caesar, Doc Watson, and the Red Clay Ramblers are tapped to headline the Festival.
1995 A flood almost shut down the Festival, but was saved with hundreds of volunteer hours spent moving stages and crafters.
1998 The festival (longest running and largest ticketed Independence Day Festival in North Carolina) draws more than 40,000 people for music, dancing and feasting.