Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Dividing Line Salem/Winston

I-40 Business Through Winston-Salem
Today thinking of the dividing line separating Old Salem from Old Winston we think of I-40 Business the drastic line slicing through our “Twin City”. Not so in 1849 when, from the Moravian Church’s perspective, the seat of the new Forsyth County should be outside of their congregational town of Salem. As in the past the “strangers” should be separated from the “enlightened”. They were not alone in that many non Moravian occupants of the new Forsyth and the balance of Stokes County in the state legislature didn’t desire for the new county seat to be named Salem or to be controlled and owned by the Moravian Church.

Dividing Line Monument 1st Street West of Main

You may have driven or walked by, without noticing as I have many times, the monument west of the intersection of Main and First Street commenorating our former dividing line shown in the photo to the left.

On January 1, 1849, the State Legislature divided Stokes County and created a new county named in honor of Col. Benjamin Forsyth, a native of the older county, who was killed in Canada in 1814. Some of the conservatives in the town of Salem wanted the county seat of Forsyth to be as far from Salem as was geographically possible, but there was also a younger group of Moravians who favored building the new town directly north of Salem.

On May 12, 1849, the Commissioners purchased thirty-one acres of land from the Moravian Church, later increased to fifty-one and one-fourth acres, at a price of $5 per acre, totaling $256.25. This property was bounded on the south by what is now First Street; on the west about 230 feet west of present Liberty Street; on the east about 230 feet east of what is now Main Street; the north line being at present Seventh Street.

This tract of land provided a choice site for the new court house on top of a hill, at an elevation about 180 feet above Salem Creek at the end of Main Street. There was no suitable site, in the Church’s perspective, for the Court House in Salem, nor did the Moravians want the county seat in their town. The Moravians did not want Court days notorious for drinking and rowdiness in their town. Some did see the advantage of having the county seat of government nearby and no doubt this influenced their action in making the site available for the new county court house.

The County Commissioners immediately divided the property into seventy-one lots, reserving one 200 ft. x 198 ft. block for the court house site. These lots were sold at public auction for $8,833.50, which represented quite a profitable return on property for which they had paid only $256.25.

Prior to the building of the Court House, the Courts of Forsyth County were held in the Concert Hall, Main Street, Salem, on property which was later occupied by the home of Dr. J. F. Shaffner. The stipulation was made that the whipping-post should not be within the limits of the Town of Salem. Whipping was a common punishment handed out by the Courts mainly for those who could not pay fines.

First Forsyth County Court House
The new court house was so near completion that on December 16, 1850, it was formally opened with religious ceremonies. It was a two-story building, forty-four by sixty feet, facing south. The roof of the portico was supported by four pillars, each thirty feet high. The court-room was on the second floor. The total cost of the building was $9,083.38. The profit from the sale of town lots was sufficient to pay all this expense except $359.48. This is all the county had to raise to pay for the town site, courthouse site and for the first courthouse.

Major Joseph Winston
This new town had no name and an attempt was made to have this done by a popular vote. This plan failed, and January 15, 1851, the legislature passed an act which declared that "hereafter the county town of Forsyth County shall be styled and known by the name of Winston." The 1850 State Legislative election effectively decided this when those in favor of a town not named Salem won the election. Forsyth and Stokes shared legislators so the voters for Stokes had as much voice as the people of Salem in naming the new town. It was named Winston partially in respect for those Stokes County democrats that had help win the election for those who wanted it not to be named Salem. The name was given in honor of Major Joseph Winston, a prominent North Carolinian, who figured in the War of the Revolution and was also active in the political development, both state and national. Major Winston was born June 17, 1766, in Virginia, and died in Germanton, North Carolina, April 21, 1815. He is buried at the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro in which he had participated in that battle.

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