Shadows On The Heart

The life story of Elizabeth Smith Motsinger(1841-1905).


Elizabeth Smith was born in Davidson County, NC to John Smith and Elizabeth Gibbons Smith on September 6, 1841. Her first 3 years were filled with daily routines and new surprises as she was learning her world. But, fate would leave her brokenhearted on a summer day. During the year of 1844, her first loss was felt with the thundering shudder of her mother’s death in September. Elizabeth Gibbons Smith was buried in Friedland Moravian Church Cemetery on the 18th, just 12 days after her little daughter, Elizabeth celebrated her 3rd birthday. Two years later in 1846, her father, John remarried and now Elizabeth had a new step-mother, Mary. It is not known if Elizabeth attended school, but she did know how to read and write as she proved this later in life on documents.

Elizabeth Gibbins

Elizabeth Gibbons Smith Gravesite

Elizabeth continued to live with her family in Davidson County, NC taking care of her chores and daily tasks around the farm. At the age of 15, the love of her life was introduced as Joshua G Motsinger of Abbotts Creek area. Exactly 30 days after her 16th birthday, they were married. October 6, 1860 was met with the leaves just beginning to change for the season and fellow neighbors gathering in the summer’s harvest, Elizabeth became Mrs. Motsinger.  She moved from her family home to Abbotts Creek and moved in with Joshua’s parents, Felix and Christina Motsinger. They began their life together just as the screams of war were approaching. The year of 1861 was met with joy and sorrow with the onset of the Civil War in the spring and the birth of their firstborn, Felix Wesley Motsinger soon after. The war brought forth new problems that threatened their new world as Joshua traveled to High Point and Greensboro to work in the Guilford Mines for the war effort and to support his new family.


During the next few years, Joshua would travel back and forth on the train and reach home as often as he could. Elizabeth gave birth to her daughter in August of 1862 whom she named Julia Ann after her sister-in-law. Elizabeth continued to live with Joshua’s family and became very close to them all, especially her sister-in-law, Juliann. Joshua continued to be away for long periods of time working in the mines for the Confederacy during the years of 1863 and 1864, but he did manage to begin the construction of a new home next door to his parents. Juliann, Joshua’s oldest sister, moved in the new house and stayed with Elizabeth to help her with the small children. In the year of 1865, Elizabeth was pregnant once again and the war was finally coming to an end. But tragedy would hover over the new house and change Elizabeth’s world forever. The love of her life, Joshua died just 2 days after their 5th wedding anniversary on October 8, 1865. He was buried at Bethany Baptist Church near their home on the 9th of October. Elizabeth was 9 months pregnant at the time of the service. Filled with grief and her unborn child, what would life be for her now?


Maternity Dress circa 1865

Labor pains and grief were felt on October the 14th, just 6 days after burying her husband, Elizabeth gave birth to a healthy baby boy. She named him John Louis Motsinger. Aunt Juliann never left the little family and continued to live with Elizabeth until her death. Felix and Christina, Joshua’s parents, took care of their grandchildren and Elizabeth until their deaths. Elizabeth never remarried.

Joshua G Motsinger tombstone

Joshua G Motsinger Gravesite

The children attended school nearby and life carried on along the banks of Abbotts Creek. Elizabeth began making plans for the little family.  Her brother and sisters had moved into Forsyth County and wrote her letters stating that life was much easier near the bigger city of Salem. Elizabeth set her sight on Kernersville just a day’s trip away from their home. Juliann acquired money from her father’s estate and purchased land northwest of the little town. Elizabeth was waiting on the 21st birthday of her son Felix and her plans would be fulfilled with him acquiring the tract of land. As the years slowly drifted by, Elizabeth gave her consent for her daughter, Julia Ann to marry her love, Solomon Tesh. Julia was 16 when the wedding took place on October 14, 1877. Julia and Solomon continued to live with Elizabeth until 1882 when she moved to Greensboro, NC. Life seemed content for Elizabeth during this time and preparations were being made to move the family in the spring of 1881.  But, the black cloud once again brought down the heavy rains and Elizabeth knew too well this feeling of loss. Her son, Felix was visiting Salem in January of 1881 just months before his 21st birthday. He was in an accident and killed on the 7th. It took 3 days to bring Felix Wesley’s body home for burial and on January 11, 1881, he was buried near his father, Joshua.

mourning dress

Mourning Dress circa 1880

Elizabeth found herself in mourning once again and she knew that the family’s plans of moving would not happen now. She exchanged letters with her daughter and friends in the area. Elizabeth and Aunt Juliann operated the farm and took care of Grandma Christina who was very frail now and near death. Soon, both Joshua’s parents would be gone and the farm was growing even smaller. John Louis was now at the age of helping more on the farm, but Elizabeth made sure he still attended school regularly. At the age of 20, John Louis, Elizabeth’s youngest son, became the head of the household, informing his peers that his real age was 21. Soon, preparations were once again being made for the little family to move to Kernersville, NC. The wagon was loaded one spring day and Aunt Juliann accompanied Elizabeth and John on the trip. They arrived on the property and stayed in the one-room cabin previously built by former owners. Juliann sold the property to John Louis Motsinger in May of 1885. John began work on building the house that stands today. Elizabeth traveled with her son, John to Winston Courthouse, county seat of Forsyth County in July of 1901. There she filled out a Widow’s Application for Pension through the service of her husband, Joshua Motsinger. It was approved and Elizabeth was granted $30.00. She became ill during the autumn of 1905 and on Christmas Eve, she fell asleep forever. Elizabeth was buried at the new church, Piney Grove Methodist and her son, John purchased a tombstone for the grave. Pictured below are pictures of her son, John Louis Motsinger and the house he built when they moved to Kernersville.

John Louis Motsinger

John Louis Motsinger, his wife, Mary Elizabeth Dean Motsinger and their only son, Lewis Addison Motsinger


John Louis Motsinger and the house he built in Kernersville. Elizabeth lived in this house until her death on Christmas Eve, 1905.

Troublesome Creek

A history of Rockingham County during the American Revolution.

First of all, just where is Troublesome Creek? It is located at North Carolina Historical Highway Marker J-16 in Rockingham County.  The area was filled with patriots who were active during the days leading into the American Revolutionary War. By 1770, a colonial ironworks, entitled Speedwell Furnace, had been organized along Troublesome Creek area. Nathaniel Greene’s Army camped at this spot after the battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781 and our first president, George Washington, visited the site during his southern tour in 1791.

The settlers who resided in the area were mainly from Pennsylvania who migrated down the “The Great Wagon Road” in search of new lands. Joseph Buffington, was one of these settlers, a Quaker who originally purchased the site of the ironworks to establish a mill along the creek. For more information on Buffington, search author Lindley S. Butler, “Speedwell Furnace: The Ironworks on Troublesome Creek,” Rockingham County Historical Society pamphlet (1972).

Troublesome_Creek_Ironworks_warming_house (2)

Keeping ahead of the British, Col. Otho Williams and his “Light Corps” found a good location to defend against the approaching enemy – near Speedwell’s Furnace. Per his standing orders, his objective was to delay the British as much as possible.

Within his Light Corps, Col. Williams had an Irishman from Guilford County named Tom Archer. He was a large man who would “fight his weight in wildcats” and “hardly ever missed his aim at any distance within two hundred yards.”

When the British brought up their field pieces to fire on the Patriots, Tom Archer stepped into the middle of the road and yelled, “Hallo there Mister, I wish you would take that ugly thing out of the road, or it may cause some trouble yet before all is over.” Turning to a nearby officer Archer said, “Captain, may I shoot that cussed rascal? for he has no business here, no how.”

The captain told Archer to wait until they applied the match, for they needed to detain the enemy as long as possible. When the British were ready to fire, Archer stepped into the middle of the road again and yelled, “Hallo there Mister, I say you had better take that thing out of the road, or I’ll be hanged if I don’t shoot some of you.” Then turning to the officer he asked again, “Captain, may I shoot the cussed rascal now, for tellin’ don’t do him one bit o’ good?” His captain just nodded and smiled.

Archer placed his rifle against a tree to steady it and fired – hitting the distant artilleryman holding the match.

The Patriots mounted up and rode away before the cannon crew could recover and fire at them. Lord Cornwallis and his army was delayed another two hours as a result.

Later that day, Lt. Col. Henry Lee moved across the Irwin Ferry and stopped his weary men so they could eat. As they began, the British vanguard under Brigadier General Charles O’Hara appeared and fired at his pickets. Lt. Col. Lee quickly formed his men and moved away from the enemy, who was equally startled and halted, requesting orders on what to do.

Lt. Col. Lee used the delay to get his infantry away, but the British were soon closing in hot pursuit. Both armies were covering thirty miles a day. Now, into the cold night the race went on. As they moved forward, Col. Otho Williams saw campfires in the road ahead and sent a man to hurry there and to warn Major General Nathanael Greene that the British were near.

The man quickly returned informing Col. Williams that this was Greene’s camp from two days ago, and a few men had remained behind to let them know that fact.

The British could not keep up the pace with Col. Williams, so they halted for the night. The Patriots eventually also stopped, but at midnight they were awakened because the British were moving again. A heavy frost had fallen on the deeply rutted road, making walking quite difficult and very noisy.

Lord Cornwallis thought he had Major General Greene just where he wanted him – backed up to the Dan River. A recent rainfall had raised the level of the river making it impossible to cross except by boat. Greene had been prepared for this and had readied his crossing before he even reached the river. Boats had been waiting for him when he got there.

On the afternoon of February 14th, Col. Otho Williams received word that Major General Nathanael Greene and his army had crossed the Dan River and made it safely into Virginia. Col. Williams marched his men to Irwin’s Ferry, where he found boats waiting for him to take his men across into Virginia. They crossed over at sunset, having covered forty miles in sixteen hours.

The British arrived after sundown to discover that the Americans had already crossed and that the river was too swollen to attempt fording it.

The site suffered from fire damage during the late 19th century and was rebuilt in 1915. It is now listed as an historical state location and the Rockingham County Historical Society is listed as it’s current owner.


The Great Wagon Road

Documentation of a 1765 road that brought hundreds of families southward to North Carolina.

What exactly is the “The Great Wagon Road”? It was a migration trail that began in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and traveled south through Virginia and ended in Wachovia, North Carolina, present day, Winston-Salem, NC. This was a distance of 455 miles through mountainous terrain and rivers. During the 1760’s, land was readily available in North Carolina through grants. Hundreds of families moved southward to take advantage of the new opportunities available to them in North Carolina. By, 1780, the road extended southward to Georgia and new settlements originated along the road. The trip was hard on the travelers with steep mountain passes and deep rivers, but even in 1765, there were small communities located throughout the road that provided shelter, food and other accommodations.

The trip would have most likely been made by wagon, some by horseback, but all families carrying only the necessary items needed for the new home. Starting in Philadelphia, then to Lancaster where supplies would have probably been purchased for the trip and then on to Harris or present day, Harrisburg. Here, the travelers would have to cross the Susquehanna River then reach York. The road now turns southwest into Virginia. Near Winchester, the travelers entered into the Shenandoah Valley located between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains. Near Roanoke, Virginia, the road passed through Roanoke River Gap. From here, they traveled southward to the Piedmont region of North Carolina.

Present day Highway 81 follows the similar route from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania through Virginia. Then, Highway 85 picks up the remainder of the route in Petersburg, Virginia into North Carolina.


Adam Kramer 1719-1789 A Memoir

A memoir, by definition, is the historical account or biography written from personal knowledge or special sources. In other words, it’s a memorial in text form acknowledging a person’s life experiences. In researching our ancestor’s past, we may become excited to find a memoir written about them, giving details on how they lived, where, when and with whom. The Moravian’s of Germany were very keen on record keeping, especially during the mid to late 18th century.  At a time when journals and diaries were not common, the followers of the Moravian faith were very careful to preserve their daily entries and memoirs for future generations.

Old Salem, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, founded in 1766, houses the Moravian southern province archives. Many of these documents are written in German, but translation is available for a fee. Read more about the archives here. Several years ago, I found myself at the archive building researching my family and was greatly surprised at the length of details these records contained. In looking through the memoirs index catalog, I located Adam Kramer, my 5th great grandfather. Already knowing that Adam was among the first settlers in Bethania, North Carolina, I was certain that his memoir would contain the same amount of details that I had discovered with my previous researches. To my surprise, only 2 1/2 pages held the biography of Adam Kramer but the details were definitely there.

“In Bethania, the widowed Brother Adam Kramer went home on the 28th of December, 1789. Since he left behind no written accounts of his course through this time, only the following from his oral accounts can be cited: He was born on the 6th of January, 1719 in Ober-Graz in Voigtland and was brought up by his parents in the Lutheran religion.”

Vogtland, Germany, pictured above, a small quaint region located southwest of Saxony. Nothing speaks of his childhood except for performing manual labor. Adam had his eye on a profession and so he learned the tailor’s handicraft. The completion of his apprenticeship allowed him to work in various places and in time he took up service with the nobility. Adam was popular and well-liked. His craft was sought and he progressed quickly. After some time passed, Adam moved to the area of Jena where he became acquainted with the Moravian religion. “He gave up being led by his own righteousness and as a lost sinner, found grace from the Savior.”

Adam arrived in Herrnhaag on the 16th of October, 1744 and joined the Moravian Church. He was not rewarded from his profession as before and he no longer strolled with nobles. This was a completely different world. He thought often of the money he was no longer making and this left him feeling miserable and filled with anguish. He spoke with his Choir Chaplain about his feelings and was comforted in knowing his good works with his fellow brethren would be rewarded through his faith in the Savior. Adam often reflected on this time period and shared it with many throughout his life.

Adam was received into the Moravian Church as a member on the 9th of January, 1746. He worked hard at every task that was given him. On the 13th of August in the same year, he was able to partake of the Holy Communion with the congregation. This was a day he never forgot and proclaimed it later as a special day. From there he serviced the children’s boarding school at Neusalz and in 1748, was asked to go to America. Adam went only as far as Zeist where he was assigned to work again among the children. In 1754, Adam crossed the Atlantic Ocean and landed in Pennsylvania. He worked in Bethlehem with various duties until he was chosen to become part of a group to travel to North Carolina and help create a new settlement, Bethabara.

After arriving in North Carolina in November of 1755, Adam returned to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1758 and married Maria Barbara Eyrich. Together, they traveled back to Bethabara, NC and arrived on the 30th of May, 1759. On the 10th of April, 1760, the couple moved to Bethania, NC to a lot of land that was selected for them by the church. The memoir goes on to state that “the running of the tailor establishment was left to his one surviving son after his wife, Barbara died in 1782.” From his marriage, he lived to see three grandchildren, whom he loved very much and took great care  that they were brought up for the Lord and prospered.

On the 20th of December, 1789, Adam attended church. He left telling everyone “All is well with me”. The following Tuesday, he felt a chill and had to retire to his bed. His illness grew worse and on the 28th of December at approx. 2am. , he died. Adam Kramer was buried at Bethania GOD’s Acre Cemetery.

The names of his children and grandchildren were not mentioned. As a researcher of genealogy, I was greatly disappointed with this but, was amazed at the details the memoir was able to provide about Adam Kramer’s life.