Apex’s Log Pond

Contributed By Warren and Toby Holleman

Many of America’s great cities are built next to great bodies of water. San Francisco is the City by the Bay, and Chicago is the City by the Lake. So, what great body of water gave birth to Apex?

Well, it was a tiny pond. People called it “Log Pond.” And they were probably exaggerating. “Swamp” or “bog” comes closer to the truth, especially during dry seasons.

When the Chatham Railroad laid a 31-mile stretch of rail from Haywood (Moncure) to Raleigh in 1869, they needed a place to cool the steam engine after the long climb from the Haw River. They found a shallow pond, conveniently located at, of all places, “the apex of the grade.” They decided to use that pond as their source of water.

How could a pond be located at the top of a hill? Tim Donnelly, Apex’s director of Public Works, says the phenomenon is known as a “perched aquifer.” Rainwater seeps through the topsoil, but underneath is an impenetrable layer of hard clay. After a hard rain the perched aquifer fills up and spills over, forming creeks to both the east and west. These run to the Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers, respectively.

So where was the Log Pond? Surveyor Staley Smith locates its center at the current location of the Peak City Grill in the middle of downtown Apex. He estimates it to have been about half an acre in size.

Back in 1912 A.T. Seymour dug a culvert under Salem Street to drain the pond. But the area remains wet and muddy, even today.

What was it like to have a Log Pond in the middle of town? Back in 1972 we spoke to Mr. Oscar Luther, who was then 99 years old. He told us that before they drained the pond, the frogs were so loud it was hard to carry on a conversation at night in downtown Apex. No wonder the neighborhood on the west side of downtown was called “Frog Town”!

But the most amazing story is one that longtime Apex resident Wade Baker told us. Late one night, about 25 years ago, some volunteer firemen were sitting in front of the fire station (next to Peak City Grill) decompressing after a fire. They saw a dark object making its way down Salem Street, right through the middle of downtown. It turned out to be a beaver. After awhile the animal ducked into a culvert, the same one that Mr. Seymour built a century ago.

Beavers used to be plentiful in Western Wake County. The creek that drains west Apex and part of Western Wake is called Beaver Creek. Back before Apex came into existence, the old Log Pond was surely a haven for beavers.

Apparently it still is.

Warren and Toby Holleman are the authors of Pluck, Perseverance and Paint: Apex, North Carolina: Beginnings to 1941. Copies are available from The Rusty Bucket in historic downtown Apex.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *