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.

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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.

 

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.

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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.