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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.