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 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.
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?
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 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 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, his wife, Mary Elizabeth Dean Motsinger and their only son, Lewis Addison Motsinger
John Louis Motsinger and the house he built in Kernersville. Elizabeth lived in this house until her death on Christmas Eve, 1905.
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I recently found and joined the Piedmont Trails Facebook page. I have enjoyed reading the articles there.
I have many ancestors in the area including Johnson, Mendenhall, Hilton, Kennedy, in the NE part of Davidson County, NC.
One John Hilton that lived in Davidson County, NC, a notorious red string or Heroes of America member was a 3rd great uncle. He mentioned in his pension application that he had been arrested for “entertaining principles and sentiments in favor of the United States government” and then a few months later avoided capture “after having planned with other union sympathizers to release Federal soldiers imprisoned at Saulsbury (sic)” and “fled to Forsyth County, North Carolina, and there lay in concealment under care of my friend Joseph Nott Singer, until June 1863”. I believe this Joseph may be Joseph Motsinger, oldest brother of Joshua Motsinger mentioned in your story above. Do you know anything about this Joseph or if he served in the Civil War. Also, you mention that Joshua worked in the Guilford Mines for the war effort. I’ve never heard of that. What did that entail? Did Elizabeth give details in her pension application?
Thanks for any information you can provide.
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Joseph Motsinger did indeed serve during the Civil War. The Motsingers and the Hiltons were close family friends for many years. Joseph lived near Old Highway 109 not far from Shady Grove Methodist Church where he is buried. Joseph and Joshua grew up on the old farm located on Waterworks Road today in Davidson County. The Guilford Mines consisted of metal iron mines that were active during the war and used for ammunition and much more. I find it fascinating to meet a new friend today that originally came to be in an earlier friendship over a 100 years ago.
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