Browntown, North Carolina

The history and genealogy of a forgotten town.

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Located in the heart of the piedmont area of North Carolina, lies a rich history filled with legends, folklore, facts and great stories. When one travels along NC Highway 66 through the small town of Kernersville heading south, the road winds and turns just as it did during the late 1930’s. Dating back to the late 19th century, the Fayetteville Road traveled on a more westerly route and if you were traveling in 1842, this road would have taken you to the crossroads of Salisbury Deep River Road and the center of Browntown, NC.

Browntown Map

To provide a detailed history of this small hometown, a bureau was located in 1928 in the possession of Dr. D E Hilton of High Point. An inscription was written on the back of the piece stating the following; “Browntown, North Carolina, Davidson County, March the 13th in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty eight. Being the seventy second year of the Independence of the United States of America. This bureau was built for Paris Horney by William Pickard of Browntown, which was founded in the year 1791.” Pickard was a well known cabinet maker in the area. Refer to the map above for the exact location of his shop and home.

Traditional stories tell us that Betty Brown, a widow, with six children migrated from Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War and settled in the area along Asel’s Creek. The facts confirm that Betty and her children, Joseph, Absalom, Ephriam, Jacob, Seth and Alice all appear on church records of Abbotts Creek Baptist Church. In fact, Betty is listed as a member of the church in the year of 1832. Absalom Brown, her son, was the first and only mayor of the town when it was incorporated in 1842. The town commissioners were Dr. Alfred Folger, Austin Raper, Ezekiel Hitchcock and William Shields. At that time, 13 dwellings were located in the town. They consisted of a post office, hat shop, shoe shop, two cabinet makers, saddle shop, two blacksmith shops, tailor shop, a mill and 3 other stores. There were two churches, Abbotts Creek Baptist and Bethel Methodist Church, both located just outside the town limits.

ac-prim-baptist-ceme-natl-reg-marker

Six doctors praticed medicine in Browntown. Dr. Folger, Clemmons, Wood, Smith and Echols were 5 of them. General Greene passed through the area prior to Browntown becoming a town. An memorial was erected by DAR(Daughters of the American Revolution).

general greene-abbotts creek

On the evening of August 31, 1859, John Robinson’s circus arrived in Browntown staying the night and performing the next day. One of the elephants chained near a corn crib, escaped during the night. The elephant removed a log from a building and helped himself to a barrel of oats. This story was recited for generations throughout the area.

circus

Political elections prior to the Civil War, were held in the month of August and everyone would gather around Browntown and the “Election Oak”, a huge oak tree located in the center of town. Music was provided to the large crowds by Joseph Brown and his family on stringed instruments. Joseph Brown operated the shoe shop in town. The “Election Oak” was known as the spot where the boys would play their game of marbles in the dirt and where they would later sign up for service during the Civil War.

North of the town lies the area where Bethel Methodist Church was located and the “Old Burying Ground” The church was formed in 1800 and built by John Bodenheimer but it is estimated that the cemetery dated several years before with estimations as early as 1752. Many of the first settlers were buried in this location but are now lost forever. The church held it’s last service in 1864. Years later, the land was sold to a local farmer who removed the headstones and plowed over the graves. This was recorded in the newspaper, “High Point Enterprise” in 1928. No existing church records or burial records have been located.

plank road

The beginning of the end for Browntown originated with a toll road construction of the Plank Road. This road was made of wood nearly 6 to 8 inches thick and would charge a toll fee to persons who wished to travel upon it. It was very costly to maintain and the company dissolved years later. This road by-passed Browntown and other smaller settlements began to thrive nearby. Also, by 1860, the railroad passed the town altogether and this allowed many to relocate and slowly the little town died. Once a vibrant community, nothing remains of Browntown today. During the late 1920’s, a newspaper reporter in search of the town, was able to locate the hat shop building and remains of a dam along Asel’s Creek. He reported several blooming shrubs struggling to survive among the over growth. But, today, they have dissappeared from view.

abbotts-creek-wheat-field

Genealogy & Biography of Browntown Citizens

Barnabas Payne- built the only brick house in Browntown. Married Asel Hedgecock.

Haley Brown-a large slave owner and surveyor by trade. Son, John, died in December of 1856 and was buried on the farm.

John Brown-blacksmith of Browntown

Lorenzo Dow-Minister-first preached from his wagon in Kernersville in October of 1803.

James Younger-Welsh minister. Daughter, Anna married James Evans circa 1758.

Moses Evans-son of James and Anna Evans-very well educated man and loved debating. It is said that Moses once recited at Pine Stump School House that one day carriages without horses would run. Occupation-music teacher. Buried at Abbotts Creek Church.

William Pickard-occupation-cabinet maker. Wife-Sarah. He kept a journal of daily events that occurred in Browntown. Children-Moses,Wilson and Martha. Moses went to Missouri and married. Wilson married Melfina Daniels and Martha died young.

Dr. Folger-author of book on the subject of making medicine from roots, herbs and barks. Only copy known to exist is located in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Asel Hitchcock-arrived in area circa 1762 from Pennsylvania. Small portion of the rock foundation of his house remains. Son-Ezekiel.

Conclusion

Special thanks to High Point Enterprise Newspaper,  Personal Papers of Early Hedgecock, Kernersville Library, Abbotts Creek Baptist Church and to the many people involved with this project.

 

 

 

 

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.

lantern

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?

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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

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