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Buildings and works at Cranberry Iron Mines around 1894.
Photo by J.K. Hillers

Originally published: 2012-05-10 12:17:58
Last modified: 2012-05-10 12:20:48

Our Avery County: New photos of old Cranberry

Michael Hardy / (

Recently, in the midst of an online search for some photographs, several images from Cranberry taken in the 1890s were discovered. These were part of a U.S. Geological Survey and were taken by J.K. Hillers. 

Congress created the United States Geological Survey in March 1879, with the purpose of mapping the lands in the West that the federal government owned. Early on, their purpose was to map regions that might spur economic development by the exploitation of western natural resources. So why was the U.S. Geological Survey in Cranberry in 1894? Actually, its role expanded over time. Not only was USGS creating maps, but its agents were also identifying lands (usually public lands) that had usefulness and natural resources.

Arthur Keith was assigned to come and explore the area in 1892. Keith, a Harvard graduate, surveyed and mapped the Appalachian Mountains from Maine through North Carolina and Tennessee. In 1903, Keith, as a part of the U.S. Geological Survey, published “Cranberry Folio Atlas.” Even though Cranberry was not public land, the U.S. Geological Survey took great interest in the area. A 1935 paper released by the agency went into great lengths discussing the iron ore vein. 

It is not clear why the U.S. Geological Survey took photographs of Cranberry and a few other local places around 1894. Maybe it was to help with the mapping, or maybe to document the geographical features in the area. Regardless, we are just a little richer, historically speaking, because they did. All the photos are a part of the U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library, and were taken by J.K. Hillers. 

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