The Origins of Kernersville

The Story Of A Small Town In Forsyth County, NC

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What defines a small town? Could it be the actual size of the population? Could it be the boundaries that restrict its growth? Or could it mean something more, a feeling of belonging? A feeling that means home. Kernersville is one of those special places that welcomes you in with a smile. Nestled in Forsyth County near present day Winston-Salem, Kernersville speaks volumes of history as soon as you enter through the city limits. The downtown streets are narrow with little shops all in a row. Shade provided by the trees lining the sidewalks cast shadows on your feet as you stroll along. The crossroads located in the center of town were distinguished many years ago with the name of Dobson’s Crossroads. At one time, a tavern with an inn stood at the road welcoming weary travelers. Before this, David Morrow owned the land who purchased it from Caleb Story. Caleb Story held a land grant dated 1756 for 400 acres of what is now known as part of Kernersville. Before Caleb Story, the land belonged to the Indians. Cherokee, Catawba and the Sioux were among these tribes. Broken pottery has been located within the city limits of Kernersville along with numerous amounts of arrowheads. Several of these I have found personally and wondered what stories they could tell if only allowed to speak.

kernersville map

Map of Kernersville 1834

During the late 18th century, Dobson’s Crossroads was a major stop along the route north, so many travelers would rest at the tavern and the inn. It was built circa 1772 by William Dobson. He raised his family and operated the daily functions of the business. The main road that crossed in front of the tavern was the colonial stage road. If you have ancestor’s who migrated the Great Wagon Road and settled in or around the area of Kernersville, it’s very probable that they may have stopped or even stayed at the inn. After the Revolutionary War, George Washington was making his way on his southern tour. He was visiting the country after he was elected as our first president. He arrived at the crossroads June 2nd, 1791 and breakfast was prepared for him. Washington had just left Salem on May 31st. This will give you an idea on the length of travel time it took between Salem and what is now known as Kernersville. Present day travel would take you approx. 15 minutes. It should be noted that George Washington made several stops along the way and did not travel at night.

Dobson Crossroad

Dobson Tavern and Crossroads

William Dobson sold the land which now consisted of over a thousand acres to Gottlieb Schober in 1813. Gottlieb traveled to Carolina with the Moravians and was the first postmaster of Salem. He left the Moravian church and moved his family to the inn. Gottlieb’s son, Nathaniel inherited the property and continued to operate the tavern which also by now had a store. Joseph Kerner purchased the property from Nathaniel on November 14, 1817 and moved his family from the Friedland settlement. Friedland, a Moravian settlement was located approx. 7 miles from the inn. To learn more about Friedland, click here. The origins of Kernerville’s name arrives with Joseph Kerner. Joseph and his family continued to operate the business renaming it Kerner’s Crossroads. He purchased additional lands increasing his vast amount to a total of 1,144 acres before his death in 1830. The division of the land occurred among the children of Joseph Kerner and the lands remained within the immediate family until 1841 when Salome, daughter of Joseph, and her husband, Appollos Harmon, sold a portion of their property. Bits and pieces were donated or sold over the years until the inn was sold as well. Phillip Kerner, son of Joseph, operated the inn until he sold the property to Robert Henly of Randolph County. Eventually, the crossroads began to take on the appearance of a community. By the end of the Civil War, several churches had been built along with other businesses and by 1871, Kernersville was incorporated. What happened to the inn? Well, Henly operated the inn until 1882 when he sold the property to Dr. Sapp. The inn was renamed Sapp Hotel and Dr Sapp operated a drug store on the premises as well. Years later, it became known as Auto Inn until eventually the inn was torn down and replaced with another business. The days of the tavern and the inn are lingering in the past with the stories and the people of long ago.

 A Sampling of Surnames of Kernersville

Adkins, Blackburn, Blackwell, Brooks, Coltrane, Cooke, Davis, Dicks, Donnell, Dunlap, Flynt, Frentress, Friende, Fulp, Fulton, Galloway, Greenfield,  Harmon, Huff, Ingram, Johnson, Joyce, Joyner, Kerner, Lain, Leak, Lindsay, Linville, Lowery,Matthews, Morris, Morton, Motsinger, Pepper, Phillips, Pinnix, Plunkett, Prince, Record, Ring, Roberts, Sapp, Shore, Sigmon,Snow, Stafford, Sullivan, Swaim, Swisher, Teague, Vance, Walker, Weatherly, Whicker, Whitaker

What makes a small town special? The answer to this is fairly easy and I think everyone would agree with me, it’s the people. The seeds of a town are held by the roots of it’s people, nourished to grow beyond it’s original boundaries to new beginnings and blue skies. It’s the daily routines of neighbors, the casual events at the local store, the children attending school, the baseball games, the dances filled with hopeful romances, the picnics and parades. It’s the rhythm of the people creating a heartbeat that unites a small town. That’s the “special”. As always, Thank You all so much for your support of Piedmont Trails and I wish you all great success with your journey to the past.

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Pictured at the beginning of the blog is Korner’s Folly. You can learn more about this amazing house by clicking here. Built by the grandson of Joseph Kerner, the house has special features unlike any other in the state. Jules Korner was a very unique person who traveled the world and decided to help design and build this magnificent home. It’s located in the heart of Kernersville. Thanks Again Everyone and we’ll see you along the trail.

 

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