A Ghost, a War, and a River – A Weekend in Rockford, North Carolina

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Rockford, North Carolina, founded in 1790, incorporated in 1819 was the county seat of Surry County until it was moved to Dobson in 1851. Today what was once the Southern Railway still meanders along the Yadkin River through Rockford. You won’t have to pay the quarter that R.F. Bland charged to cross the Yadkin River on the first bridge that was built in 1900 by the piano-seller. Or, venture over the low water bridge that was built in 1962, then, replaced with the new, modern, high-rise bridge built in 2002. (Personally I loved the low water bridge.) What you will find in the quaint little village of Rockford will pleasantly surprise you.


Step back in time, to 1865 when Union General George Stoneman led 6,000 cavalrymen from Tennessee into western North Carolina to disrupt the Confederate supply lines, destroy mines and ironworks and to free prisoners at Salisbury.


On their way they stopped by Elkin Manufacturing Company, established by Richard Gwyn and several family members sometime around 1850. The detachment of Stoneman’s cavalry under Colonel William Parker found cooperation, food and shelter there on April 1, 1865 and spared the mill. You can find the historical marker at 111 South Front Street, Elkin, North Carolina.


In April 1865, troops commanded by Union Brigadier General Alvan C. Gillem devastated the Jonesville Male and Female Academy, a school affiliated with the North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church. They broke chandeliers and school equipment marking the end of the school. Fortunately the raiders didn’t take the school bell into possession. The bell still rings today at the First United Methodist Church, Jonesville, North Carolina.


In Siloam, the raiders encountered resistance from Confederate Major Richard Reeves and a colonel who was recuperating in the major’s house. The two Southerners fled after killing a Union trooper and escaped. Stoneman’s men tried to burn the Reeves House but were unsuccessful.


At the intersection of Buck Shoals Road and Windsor Road, Hamptonville Union raiders rode three abreast down a narrow dirt road on a path of destruction. Local residents reported that the troopers burned everything along the way.


Then General Stoneman’s raiders passed through Rockford on April 1 – 2, 1865 on their way to Virginia. Rumor has it that troopers stopped long enough to enjoy an ale, harass citizens and create many local stories about the event. Today those tales of the past are recalled on the front porch of the Rockford General Store.


On March 3 – 4, 2012, Rockford General Store circa 1890 will host a civil war battle reenactment. Yes, that’s right the War Between the States is going to break out again. Union General George Stoneman will be passing through Rockford in Surry County. I believe the Rebels have found out about it and “here say” is that they’re going to be fighting against each other on Saturday March 3, at 10 am and 2 pm. Then, if there’s anybody left, them Billy Yanks and Johnny Reb’s will be finishing each other off about 1:30 on the following Sunday afternoon.


What a wonderful piece of history to re-discover. Living history weekend at Rockford General Store is one of the most authentic historical scenes I’ve ever experienced. The troops are dressed in civil war attire and the women are decked out as only a lady of the 1860’s could be.


After you’ve sampled a homemade fried apple pie, drank a RC Cola, and viewed the old photographs of Rockford at the general store, you might want to visit some of the other historical sites in Rockford. You never know what you might find at the Jesse Lester Tavern, circa 1790. Last year while visiting with some locals on the front porch of the general store a conversation concerning ghosts arose. Now, I don’t know if you’re inclined to believe in ghosts, but there were some awfully convincing stories. One patron even emailed me pictures of orbs inside the tavern, and I saw the silhouette of one of Stoneman’s raiders. I was told that spirit hunters often frequent the buildings in Rockford.


You might find a spook or two at the old Grant-Burrus Hotel ruins, circa 1796 or the deserted Mark York Tavern, circa 1850. And, you certainly don’t want to miss the Rockford Methodist Church, circa, 1916. Here you’ll see a Fresno painted by North Carolina artist, Tony Griffin titled, “Come Unto Me.” Maybe there in the cemetery you can lay all those ghosts to rest or maybe you’ll find a few new ones. Who knows?


Whether you’re interested in the civil war, historical buildings or ghosts you’ll be pleasantly pleased with a day spent in Rockford, North Carolina. More information can be found on The Rockford General Store’s website at www.rockfordgeneralstore.com.


Have fun!






{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Carolyn Carter February 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm

What a pleasing story. I cannot wait for the Civil War Battle and Living History Weekend. It is always a whole bunch of fun and so entertaining. You have a wonderful blog Sarah!

Karen February 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Hello Sarah
I enjoyed your blog about Rockford. To me it is fascinating to think about how many people visited this tiny location over the years for court, to get married, to do business, etc. Just amazing little town.
Karen

Susan Johnson February 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Enjoyed reading this! You’re a great writer. Always enjoyed visiting with Mr. and Mrs. Romie Burrus at the Grant- Burrus Hotel with my parents when I was a child (1950’s-60’s).
Marion Venable is a close friend of mine.

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