The Origins of Kernersville

The Story Of A Small Town In Forsyth County, NC


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.

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.


Hans Jacob Matzinger(Abt. 1698-Aft. 1766)

The Voyage

If you have the surname Motsinger in your family tree, chances are you know about the immigrant, Hans Jacob Matzinger. In this blog, I’ll be sharing some facts that you may already know and some facts that just may surprise you. Jacob was born in Marthalen, Switzerland and was baptized in the year of 1698. Jacob married Margaretha Fissler, daughter of Hans Conrad Fissler and continued to live in the area until the year of 1734. Margaretha died in January of 1734 and when autumn arrived, Jacob and his young son, Felix, left the village. It was October of 1734 when Jacob and Felix departed with several other families, including the Goetschy family who were widely known around the region. The history of the Goetschy family dates back to 1315 in Zurich when Henry Goetschy was mayor of the city. A blog about this family will be posted here at a later date. When Jacob and his son were traveling the 300 miles to reach Rotterdam, the citizens of the villages along the way scorned and laughed at them and their fellow travelers. It was crazy, thought by many, to leave your homeland in search of the unknown so late in the season. Jacob reached the Rhine River on October 5, 1734 and boarded a ship with his son. They left Basle and began traveling towards Rotterdam. This phase of the trip, mainly over water, was harsh, cold and filled with rain showers. Families were not allowed to cook on the ships, so when the chance arrived to head ashore, families jumped at the opportunity in order to cook, warm themselves and dry their wet clothing. Small children were often heard crying due to the overwhelming conditions of the weather and the hunger. Some citizens helped the travelers along their journey, either by feeding them or providing them clothing, etc. Goetschy promised the group, that Carolina was the destination and since he was a reformed religious minister, they would surely prosper with their travels and new settlement. When they arrived in Neuwied, 4 couples were married. These were the only couples married on the trip and they are documented as the following: Hans Conrad Wirtz to Anna Goetschy; Conrad Naff to Anna N.; Jacob Rathgeb to Barbara Haller and Conrad Geweiller to unknown. Some researchers have claimed that Jacob married Magdelena Mantz while traveling in 1734. But, I have not found any proof that Jacob ever married again after his wife, Margaretha died in 1734. In fact, I have found proof that Jacob was still single in the year of 1740 in Pennsylvania after donating his labor to the building of a church and school . The early documents listed him as single Jacob Matzinger.(Personal documents obtained from Heidelberg Historical Society, Pennsylvania)

When the group was just outside of Rotterdam, several small children fell overboard, but according to several documents, all were saved. Upon arrival in Rotterdam, they learned that the ships were no longer docked and the trip came to a quick halt until other arrangements could be worked out.  The captain of the ship that brought them to Rotterdam requested the passengers to unload their belongings quickly as he had to return to Basle. So the cargo was unloaded on the bank of the river in one huge heap.(page 102, History of the Goshenhoppen Reformed Charge by William John Hinke) Several months would go by with some of the travelers staying in an inn, others camping outside along the banks of the Rhine and many suffering from sickness and lack of food. It is documented that 2 died during this time and several others left the group to return to their homes. During this time, Goetschy was attempting passage for his weary travelers and was able to connect to Friess in Zurich and arrange for passage upon the ship Mercury to Pennsylvania in order to accommodate several churches in the Great Swamp area. The Mercury set sail in late February of 1735 for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There were several families who were unwilling to change their destination from Carolina to Pennsylvania, but Jacob was not one of them. He and 8 year old Felix boarded the ship to cross the Atlantic. The ship was mastered by Captain William Wilson and arrived in Philadelphia on May 29, 1735. The good weather lasted only 2 days after the ship set sail and for 12 weeks, the ship and it’s passengers endured heavy downpours of rain, wind and high waves. Galley bread was the last of the food near the end of the trip and the only water available was muddy and filled with worms. When they arrived at the Delaware River, the ship was halted for an additional 3 days due to the lack of wind needed to push them onward to Philadelphia. But, as we all know, the Mercury did indeed arrive at port and unloaded it’s passengers and cargo.

This is just a small portion of Jacob Matzinger’s life and experiences. As you can imagine, the trip to the “New World” was quite an adventure in itself. Why did Jacob leave his homeland? Some genealogists have stated that Jacob had at least 3 other sons all of whom died prior to his wife dying in 1734. Could this be the reason why Jacob seeked new surroundings? The total length of time between his departure in October of 1734 and arrival in May of 1735 was 7 months. That is a long time to travel with a young boy of 8. As for me, I’m so glad Jacob decided to take that chance and allowed the family of Matzinger to thrive here in the “New World”.

Piedmont Trails Introductions

Good Evening To You All & Welcome to my first blog publication. I am brand new to this adventure and so eager to learn as you will see. First of all, the reason for the blog happened gradually over the past several years. Genealogy used to be a mass of online communicators located worldwide who came together for one reason and that was to research our family tree. Over the years, this process of researching and communicating began to change. I have personally been researching my family since 1993 and have enjoyed the “chase” of tracking down the documents to prove my theories. During the time when I first started genealogy, there were huge amounts of free forums, free websites for states, county historical records and it was a challenge to locate evidence to support your growing tree. However; during the past several years, things have changed greatly for genealogists and the active free forums that everyone commonly used exist no longer. The old postings are still visible if you know where to look, but no one follows them anymore. With this being said, I have been forced to change with the times and visit social media. This was met with great frustration and even less production with my family tree. It seemed that either all of the “old gang” had moved to or have just disappeared with time. So, I decided something new was needed, thus the new blog.

Piedmont Trails, just where is that? Hmm, the piedmont is a region just like mountains, sandhills or beaches. North Carolina has all of these regions and my family tree proved to be the most active in the piedmont area. You will find that most of my blogs will be concentrated within this area which consists of the following counties, Rowan, Davidson, Forsyth, Guilford, Alamance, Rockingham, Stokes and Surry. These counties are rich with history and date back to the early 18th century. Most of these individuals traveled from Pennsylvania due to the mass of immigrants arriving in Philadelphia between the years of 1725-1765. They traveled southward to North Carolina due to the availability of land and the quantity of people who were traveling together in small groups in order to prosper. Land lying along the banks of the Yadkin and Dan Rivers were rich and fertile. The climate was more humid versus Pennsylvania, but could be made manageable. The winters were not as harsh with the exceptions of the northern foothills and the mountainous terrain of the Blue Ridge. Water was plentiful with natural springs located all across the state of North Carolina. So, with all this being said, our ancestors found North Carolina to be a desirable choice to settle and raise their families.

My main objective goal with this journey is to be able to share my family history with others who appreciate and respect the efforts that I’ve accomplished during the past 20 years. During my traveling hours of research, I’ve obtained an overwhelming amount of information of settlement histories, their families and exciting events that occurred. I also want to make contact with you during your journey of the genealogy world and possibly guide or assist you with your efforts. I believe that together we will achieve the most important goal of a genealogist and that is to discover the details of our ancestor’s daily lives. The stories of our ancestors and their neighbors are the beginnings of our future and it’s their legacy that will be preserved in this blog.

I want to personally thank you for visiting and hope you stop by again soon.