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.

 

Browntown, North Carolina

The history and genealogy of a forgotten town.

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.

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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.