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Davie County History
Curious about the history of Davie County? Whether you live here, are planning a visit, or want to explore your family ties to our area, we’ve got you covered! Some of the historical figures and stories we will tell here are well-known. But we will also attempt to highlight lesser-known events, figures, and people groups who influenced our community and the world.
Before there was a “Davie County,” Native Americans scouted these wild lands and fished the Yadkin River. These hunters of mammoths and mastodons traversed the fields, woods, and valleys of the county we treasure today.
Much later, wagons followed the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania and carried families safely over The Shallow Ford at the forks of the Yadkin and the South Yadkin Rivers. Plentiful hunting and fertile land for farming led groups from England, Germany, Ireland, and Scotland to migrate to this colony.
The history of Davie County includes stories of war, darkness, peril, and tragedy, as well as legends of good people and good times. We are excited to tell you more about Davie County and include some resources to introduce you to our history.
Join us for a journey through Davie County’s fascinating past. Read on for resources, historical marker information, and to get inspired by the good old days in the Old North State of North Carolina!
Before There Was a Davie County: Native Americans in the NC Piedmont
The first people to call what is now Davie County their home were the Native Americans who lived in this area thousands of years ago. They were nomadic hunters, including the Eastern Sioux, who gave us the “Yadkin Valley,” their name for the “valley of the big trees,” and the Saponi tribe, who settled comfortably along the banks of the Yadkin River.
Spears, arrowheads, and tools found there give us a look into the daily lives of these early Davie County inhabitants. Paleo-Indians in the NC Piedmont depended mainly on the big game they followed for food but knew the value of plants, nuts, and seeds. Since a herd would only support a certain number of people, they traveled and hunted in small bands. Those bands broke into multiple groups or tribes when they became too big. Because they were nomadic, we find evidence of their culture in the tools, implements, and hunting weapons they used. They did not live in permanent villages.
Around 1000 B.C., agriculture became integral to the tribes of the Southeast, which led to tribes limiting their migration. They began establishing permanent homes where they raised their families and buried their dead.
These Woodland people cleared fields and cultivated squash, sunflowers, corn, and pumpkins. They constructed homes using saplings as a framework which they covered with bark and animal skins. They dug stone-lined fire pits in the center of their homes for cooking and heating- and crafted decorated pottery from Piedmont clay. Paleo-Indians mainly used spears, but the Woodland people preferred a bow and arrow for hunting.
Modern inhabitants of the NC Piedmont have adopted some of these ancient cultural traditions and values, including creating beautiful and practical pottery and handicrafts and proudly growing vegetables and fruits.
What is now Highway 158 was once an Indian trade route and a major source of economic growth and prosperity for the region. The location and connectivity of our community continue to be an indisputable benefit today!
Warfare, oppression, and sickness took a terrible toll on Native Carolinians. Many times they simply moved on as white settlers moved in, but often, there were violent conflicts both among the tribes and with the newcomers. In addition, the close-knit Native American people living in villages were now vulnerable to illnesses they had no natural defenses against, resulting in a huge loss of life due to disease.
1740 to The American Revolution
Around 1740, Europeans, mainly English and German Quakers, began to settle in our area. Folks from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales soon joined them. These early settlers were the pioneers who laid the foundation for the county we know today.
These homesteaders were tradespeople and farmers who, like the Europeans who came to this area before them, did not try to understand the values and culture of Native Americans. They traded with the natives but considered themselves vastly superior and often treated them ruthlessly.
The colonists cultivated crops like corn, wheat, and tobacco and raised livestock such as cattle, hogs, and sheep. Although their hard work and dedication were instrumental in shaping our rich agricultural heritage, we are now wise enough to realize that Native American cultures should also be honored as part of our Davie County heritage.
The Boone Family: Behind Every Famous Explorer is a Strong Woman
In 1748, Rebecca Ann Bryan and her family traveled from Virginia to North Carolina along the rugged terrain of the Great Wagon Road. This 435-mile road began as a footpath that connected Pennsylvania and the Carolinas. It became one of the most frequently traveled roads in the colonial era.
They settled in the Yadkin River valley in what was originally part of Anson County (then part of Rowan County in 1753, which then became Davie County in 1836), where they founded a community called Bryan’s Settlement.
The Boone family also recognized the beauty and advantages of the land we now know as Davie County and settled here around 1752. A teenage Daniel Boone hunted, fished, and honed his renowned pioneer skills while living in a backcountry log cabin near Bear Creek. He resided here for over a decade before his restless spirit took him west.
There are multiple versions of the story of how Rebecca Bryan and Daniel Boone met. There is a tale that Daniel nearly shot her while hunting, or that he spotted her while she was herding a stray cow and followed her to the Bryan homestead, and another that they met at a cherry-picking or a local wedding.
Like other communities of that time, the families would have come together for weddings and celebrations and worked together to build homes or protect their homes and territory. So it’s likely they could have met in any of those ways.
Pioneer communities dealt with violence and hardship. During this period, gangs of highwaymen “plundered, stole, and killed” people in the Yadkin River area. They often disguised themselves as Native Americans. The French hired Cherokee men to raid and plunder. The French and Indian War took Daniel Boone and the other men off to fight with the rest of the British colonists as part of Major Edward Dobbs’ Militia under General Edward Braddock from 1754-1763.
Rebecca Bryan and Daniel Boone were engaged for two years and married in 1756 when Rebecca was 17. Squire Boone, Daniel’s father, officiated the wedding in what is now Davie County, North Carolina. Shortly after their marriage, Rebecca and Daniel took in the orphaned children of Israel, Daniel’s brother, and raised them as their own.
They first lived in a cabin on Squire Boone’s land, but before their first child’s birth, Rebecca and Daniel built a one-story log house on Bear Creek near members of the Bryan family at Bryant’s Branch, which became Farmington, North Carolina.
The log house was well-designed and built by the Bryan and Boone families. It had modern features such as glass windows, a well with a hand pump, and a separate summer kitchen. Their small farm thrived primarily due to Rebecca’s hard work and creativity as a frontierswoman.
She raised the children independently during the falls and winters that Daniel spent hunting, trapping furs, and on extended exploration trips into the wilderness. She was reputed to be a midwife, healer, leather tanner, sharpshooter, and linen-maker. She was an accomplished hunter and gardener- growing and storing enough produce to feed her large family.
Rebecca also knew how to defend herself and her family during the extended periods that Daniel was away. She protected her family from attacks by highwaymen and unfriendly Native Americans.
She taught her children many skills, and when they were old enough, they helped run the farm. The family sold produce and maple sugar for income during the lean years. Rebecca was known for hospitality and graciously hosted family and friends and the peaceful Native Americans who came to visit her husband.
The Bryan and Boone families became even more entwined when Rebecca’s sister, Martha, married Edward (Ned) Boone, Daniel’s brother.
Rebecca and Daniel moved on to other areas in the Yadkin Valley in search of better lands to hunt and trap until the family left for Kentucky in 1773. Rebecca and her children returned home to her father’s house in North Carolina in 1778 after Daniel was captured and thought dead.
The devoted pair returned to Kentucky after his escape and their reunion. Rebecca heroically supported him through all their travels- except when he purchased land in the Florida panhandle. Even the irrepressible Rebecca Boone refused to raise her children in swampland, and Daniel wouldn’t go without her. She was truly his partner and his equal.
The Boone family continued to call Davie County home. At their deaths, family members buried Daniel’s parents, Squire and Sarah Morgan Boone, in Joppa Cemetery in Mocksville, protected by stones gathered from their Bear Creek farm. Daniel probably carved the inscription on his father’s headstone.
Today, historians and history lovers visit Joppa Cemetery as part of our annual Daniel Boone Festival. During the festival, you can tour Davie County’s historical sites, listen to live music, dine, and visit the quaint shops and vendors in downtown Mocksville.
The Fight for Independence
Before the American Revolution, the land that would later become Davie County was part of Rowan County. Many residents proudly fought for the Patriot cause during the American Revolution, seeking independence from British rule. Still, some loyalists wanted to remain a colony of Great Britain and fought on the side of the British.
As discontent with the policies of the Crown grew, the area’s population grew more divided.
Because of those rifts, the rural village known as “Mocks Old Field” became a clandestine gathering spot for patriot forces and strategists, some of whom were part of Daniel Boone’s famous family. The town of Mocksville we know and love today grew from “Mocks Old Field,” called after the landowner, Andrew Mock. “Mocks Old Field” became Mocksville – officially established in 1839. It is still the county seat of Davie County, NC.
The Legend of Pudding Ridge
Legend says that Pudding Ridge in what is now Farmington, NC got its name during the American Revolutionary War.
In the rainy winter of 1781, British General Charles Cornwallis and his 2,500 men tried to overtake General Nathaniel Greene, who had already navigated the Yadkin River in heavy rain.
As the British forces sought a suitable place to safely cross the river with their heavily laden supply wagons, thousands of foot soldiers, and calvary, they discovered a place to pass at Dutchman Creek.
Cornwallis and his Army crossed Dutchman Creek, near its tributary, Bryant’s Branch. As they struggled through the mud, Cornwallis dubbed the hill Pudding Ridge. He complained the ground had the consistency of an English pudding.
After the war ended, a new county was organized and separated from Rowan County in 1836. It was called Davie County after Revolutionary War officer William R. Davie.
Back in the day, citizens sometimes named their counties for noblemen such as the Earl of Halifax or the Earl of Mount Edgecombe. But many of our counties were named after defenders of liberty and friends of the American Revolution.
Colonel William R. Davie was a noteworthy figure in North Carolina history and the formative years of the United States. He served as an officer in the Revolutionary War, governor of North Carolina, minister to France, and was a leader in founding the University of North Carolina. He was an active Mason and a Grand Master of Masons in North Carolina from 1792 until 1798.
To this day, the Town of Mocksville is well-known for hosting one of North Carolina’s oldest annual festivals, the Mocksville Masonic Picnic, each August since 1878 at the newly refurbished Masonic Picnic Grounds.
Progress in Davie County, A Mystery Man, And Civil War
The first census of the United States in 1790 took months to complete. The data gathered established the population of Davie County at three thousand, two hundred citizens. The census included a tally of:
- Free White males of 16 years and upward (to assess the country’s industrial and military potential)
- Free White males under 16 years
- Free White females
- All other free persons
- Enslaved people
During this time of growth, the people of Davie County established a focus on the value of education. The first newspaper, the Mocksville Enquirer, was founded, and the first public school opened.
Ferries were a valuable means of transportation during the 1700s, and operators helped farmers and traders transport goods to other communities.
In 1823 our mystery man, Peter Stuart Ney, arrived in Mocksville looking for a teaching position. He claimed to be a French refugee from the Napoleonic Wars. For nearly a quarter of a century, he influenced and educated a generation of boys, including future author and abolitionist Hinton Helper.
There were rumors that he would tell tales of his adventures as Napoleon’s famous cavalry commander Michel Ney when he had too much to drink. But Marshal Michael Ney had purportedly been tried for treason and executed after the Battle of Waterloo. Rumors persisted that his faithful French troops had helped their leader escape.
Could it be that he found refuge here in Davie County?
There was no doubt that Peter Ney was highly respected. He had military knowledge and a distinct accent. He was well-educated and multi-talented. This mystery man was an experienced equestrian, spoke multiple languages, fenced, wrote poetry, played the flute, and was an artist. These were unusual qualifications for a teacher in a small backwoods town.
Some clues and evidence have been uncovered that may help you conclude if you believe his story or not – you will want to read Davie County Mavericks: Four Men Who Changed History by Marcia D. Phillips to learn more.
1835-1860: The Author & “Villain”
1835-1860 was a time marked by economic development and prosperity for some Americans and a longing for freedom for enslaved Black Americans. Although Davie County had few large slaveholders and was strongly Unionist, 1,147 men from the county fought for the Confederacy.
The first Davie County courthouse was built from (1837-1839). That building stood until 1909, when the town laid the cornerstone of a new courthouse with grand celebration and ceremony, and the old courthouse became a community building.
The new courthouse was often the site of community events, music, entertainment by traveling actors, and (of course) legal proceedings. These types of Mocksville traditions, such as parades, and entertainment downtown, continue today.
The Davie County jail at 284 S Main Street in Mocksville was built in 1839 and used as a jail until 1909 when Gaston E. Horn (owner of the Mocksville Chair Company) converted it to a private residence. The building was restored in the 1970s, and you can view it today when you walk down historic Main Street in Mocksville, North Carolina.
Authors and educators have often found a home here. In 1857 the controversial book, The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It by Davie-born author, Hinton Rowan Helper, denounced slavery in no uncertain terms, and the author became a villain- even in his hometown.
Helper wrote. “ and we indorse [sic] to the fullest extent this opinion of the profound editor of the Federalist.” In fact, “no man of genuine decency and refinement would hold them as property on any terms; in the eyes of all enlightened nations and individuals, they are men, not merchandise.”
Hinton felt he was speaking for a silenced majority of Piedmont citizens who sympathized with anti-slavery ideas. There was a significant level of anti-slavery support in the area, which was not surprising considering our region’s religious makeup, which included Quakers, Moravians, Lutherans, and Dunkers, as well as intellectual strains of anti-slavery thought.
He was concerned that the “Old South” denied free speech to those who held these views. North Carolina was a state where planters were the majority of legislators and protected their interests.
Unsurprisingly, in 1861, our state of North Carolina seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States.
The Cooleemee Plantation
The Cooleemee Plantation consisted of 2,500 acres purchased by Peter Hairston in 1817. The land purchased was on both sides of the Yadkin River, so the property had a private ferry that allowed them to cross. During the Civil War, Fanny Caldwell Hairston oversaw the management of the plantation and its enslaved people. The house built from 1853 to 1855 still stands today and is a private residence owned by the Hairston family.
Read the book The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White, Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, for more information. Author Henry Wiencek interviewed members of the largest family in America, the Hairston Clan. The family has several thousand black and white members who share a complex and compelling legacy.
The town of Cooleemee began in 1899 with the purchase of 532 acres of land from Fannie C. Hairston.
The Civil War: Skirmish at Shallowford – Stoneman’s Raid
Near the war’s end on April 11, 1865, Union forces skirmished with Confederate forces at Shallow Ford in the Battle at Elisha’s Creek and then charged through Mocksville, capturing a few prisoners.
They continued their march north, intent on destroying factories and railroads. Their destruction was part of what is known as Stoneman’s Raid, which started in Tennesee and ended in Asheville on April 26, the day Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to Union General William T. Sherman near Durham.
The South’s surrender and the return of Davie County’s Confederate soldiers marked the beginning of one of North Carolina’s oldest traditions- the Mocksville Masonic Picnic.
In 1878, Davie County established the Mocksville Masonic Picnic officially.
The original picnic celebrated the return of war-weary soldiers to their families, but today, the entire community gathers to enjoy a meal and celebrate healing, unity, and the freedom of all our citizens.
Reconstruction & Railroads
The Civil War greatly impacted our small rural community. One thousand one hundred forty-seven men from the county served on the Confederate side – this was nearly half of the men in the county. The human and economic loss was devastating. The war resulted in the destruction of much of the industry and infrastructure in the South.
The new social structure, although positive, left the South’s political system and culture tumultuous.
Reconstruction would mean a rebuilding of the hearts and minds of the Southern people as well as the refurbishing of local infrastructure.
The Railroad & Running of the Horses
Trains had become part of our nation’s landscape and essential to economic development around the 1820s, but the first train in Davie County ran from Winston-Salem to Mocksville on November 1, 1891.
This daily passenger and freight train departed Winston-Salem at 8:00 p.m. and returned at 7:00 the following morning. The engine pulled the train to Mocksville and was hand-turned on a turntable near the depot on (aptly named) Depot Street.
Later, during the World Wars, local farmers would purchase horses to pull their equipment when it was impossible to get fuel to run tractors in our agricultural community. Those wild horses were brought to their new homes in North Carolina by train, then corralled across Depot Street.
Today, a colorful mural depicts the running of the horses on Depot Street.
The rebuilding of our nation continued, and the 1890s saw the advent of automobiles on our newly paved streets, motorized tractors, high schools in our towns, and airplanes in the air! In 1899 the Cooleemee Textile Mill opened. Many residents found work and security in the cozy mill town of Cooleemee. Leisure activities like the bicycle club were part of daily life too.
1900-1929: WWI & The Great Depression
1901 saw the Erwin Cotton Mills Co. come into top production. The mill produced and dyed a large variety of fabrics. The three stories of the mill included departments for carding, spinning, and weaving, all supported by a water turbine turning large wheels that transferred power to the shafts and belts of machines.
The town of Cooleemee had its own square with stores and offices and, at one time, a movie theater. The mill company provided a library. Leisure activities included playing in the Cooleemee band, watching the “talkies” at the local theatre, or competing on the Cooleemee Cools Baseball team. The golden age in Cooleemee ended in 1969 when the cotton mill closed, but the town and its simple homespun values remain.
You can take a trip back into this past at the Cooleemee Textile Museum and the historical Mill House Museum.
The Rosenwald Fund helped build a school for black students in Davie County in the early 1900s. Sears, Roebuck, and Company president Julius Rosenwald, became interested in black education, influenced in part by the book Up from Slavery, by African American educator Booker T. Washington.
The foundation financed the school using its standard construction plan. These schools helped to improve opportunities for black children in the South. Most Rosenwald schools continued to operate until the 1960s when consolidation and racial desegregation closed their doors. The surviving buildings serve today as community centers, homes, and businesses.
World War I (1914-1918) brought more tragedy to our nation and Davie County. You can view the Davie County War Memorial in downtown Mocksville. There we remember all who gave their last full measure of devotion.
The Great Depression followed not long after the end of that war to end all wars. But before the crash of our economy, Davie County residents saw the extremely controversial paving of Highway 158 through downtown Mocksville and a shocking attempted robbery at the Bank of Davie! For more details, pick up a copy of Images of America; Davie County by Jane Satchell McAllister and Debra Leigh Dotson.
Advance, North Carolina
The town of Advance, once known as Shady Grove Township, gained its name from the formerly enslaved and much loved Addison Vance. The entire community called him Uncle Ad. Thus, when pronounced, the emphasis is on the first syllable of the town’s name, Adˈvance.
Shady Grove Township incorporated in 1893 to protect its thriving distillery business from local option elections that threatened to shut down distilling operations.
The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, transportation, and sale of intoxicating liquors in 1920. Despite the legislation, Prohibition took a lot of work to enforce.
That was because Prohibition (1920-1933) unwittingly led to a new industry- the production and sale of moonshine.
Since, in the 1890s, Advance was home to the A.E. Hartman Distillery and known as the whiskey-making capital of North Carolina, rural families in Davie County sometimes counted brewing moonshine among their many practical skills.
A local historian, Minnie Zerrell Talbert Bryson, reported, “A person could stand on the steps of the Methodist Church and count the smoke from nine distilleries.”
During Prohibition, local entrepreneurs took the opportunity to augment their finances by producing and running illegal liquor. Bootleggers ran stills and sold their whiskey for a dollar per gallon.
Davie County deputies were kept busy destroying stills and confiscating liquor. The area around Cherry Hill was particularly notorious. The law regularly seized whiskey barrels in the Advance depot, where they awaited transportation to the speakeasies in surrounding towns and cities. And after a heavy rain, they often fished barrels and stills out of the Yadkin River.
During the 1920s, things were roaring in Davie County. Women had won the right to vote. In 1925 a second Rosenwald Elementary School opened in Cooleemee with grades one through eight. Later (in the 1940s), the school’s name changed to Davie County Training School.
Win-Mock Farm was constructed in the mid-1920s and became one of the largest dairies in North Carolina!
The economy was roaring too. The Mocksville Chair factory produced thousands of chairs using modern steam boilers and line production. Angell’s General Store on Main Street in Mocksville was doing brisk business, and advertisments in the Davie Record newspaper reminded residents to “try Angell’s for good prices.” And Horn’s full-service station was ready to service and gas up any of the Ford motorcars purchased by locals at the Sanford Motor Company (the Ford dealership) in town.
Mocksville purchased its first Fire Truck in 1925. It had a top speed of 35 miles per hour. Before the purchase, firefighters used a hand-pulled cart with a hose mounted on a reel.
In 1929, when the stock market crashed, many of our local farms closed due to the deflation of crop prices. Booming North Carolina industries saw a decline in manufacturing, and from 1929 to 1933, North Carolina cotton and textile industry wages declined by 25 percent.
Falling wages and mass unemployment led to great hardship and labor unrest in Mocksville, our rural areas, and mill towns like Cooleemee.
The New Deal in North Carolina
Despite resistance in many regions in North Carolina, the New Deal agencies and programs established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt began to bring a measure of financial relief and security back to our farmlands and small towns.
The federal government paid tobacco farmers a subsistence to grow less. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) created jobs for unemployed people, and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) put young men to work on vital infrastructure projects.
These programs helped citizens see that government intervention could positively affect their lives. Thus began a fundamental change between the state and federal governments.
The Great Depression was the worst economic downturn in U.S. history. It started in 1929 and ended in 1941 during World War II.
Betty Etchison West was a typical nine-year-old riding her bike on December 7, 1941, when neighbors in Cana gathered around the radio to hear the shocking news that the Japanese were bombing Pearl Harbor. As she recalls, everyone supported the war effort, and the local young men immediately joined military service.
As The United States entered World War II, Davie County industries such as dairy farms became strategic defense industries overnight. Residents began to ration, volunteered for military service, enthusiastically raised money for war bonds, and joined local Civil Air Patrol units to guard the home front.
Wartime changes transformed the lives of families as men went off to war, and millions of women entered the paid labor force for the first time.
Like all Americans, Davie citizens dealt with blackouts and the rationing of essential items like sugar, tires, gasoline, meat, coffee, butter, canned goods, and shoes. In the more rural areas of Davie County, people could produce some items, such as butter which made their lives easier than that of the town folks.
Major Thomas Ferebee, a “Cana Boy” and Mocksville native, dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. He was a 26-year-old bombardier on the Enola Gay, a B-29 bomber. The bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy,” killed 70,000 people instantly. Ferebee never regretted dropping the bomb, saying that ending the war sooner saved more lives than it took.
You can view the historical marker at his homesite on Wilkesboro Street in Mocksville, North Carolina, and the bridge named after him on U.S. Highway 64. There is also a plaque and photo of remembrance at the Davie County Library. Ferebee earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses, one for merit and another for heroism during the war.
1946- Now: The Modern Era
World War II ended in 1945 and brought our boys back home. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, also known as the G.I. Bill, enhanced opportunities for returning veterans by providing them with education benefits and loans to purchase homes or start businesses.
These benefits led to a growing middle class and a baby boom as soldiers returned to their sweethearts and settled down to good wages and affordable housing.
The Struggle for Equity
While some look back nostalgically on the 1950s as a golden age for our country, the reality was much darker as the struggle for civil rights and equity continued for minorities.
African American veterans faced many obstacles when they returned home from World War II. They were often excluded from benefits available to other veterans, such as the GI Bill, because of segregation and racism.
These types of injustices prompted Martin Luther King Jr. to write a letter to the Atlanta Constitution demanding basic rights for all American citizens in 1946.
Modern Living in Davie County
Davie County gained its first mobile bookmobile in 1948. The bookmobile, built on a pickup truck, held around 700 books. Lola Sofly Etchison (mother of Betty Etchison West) served as the itinerant librarian!
Residents of the Town of Cooleemee enjoyed a lively community and weekly pay from Erwin Mills- Davie County’s largest payroll and taxpayer. Former farmers came to the mill and spinning rooms on the banks of the South Yadkin River, seeking steady jobs. During the late 1940s, the population rose to nearly 3,000.
The economy continued to warm up with unprecedented postwar prosperity while relations between the U.S. and Russian world powers quickly began to chill.
The Cold War
The deterioration of trust between the two superpowers ignited the early Cold War and set the stage for a decades-long struggle between political good and evil. In 1946, Stalin declared that international peace was impossible “under the present capitalist development of the world economy.”
The Korean War
The Korean War was the first military clash of the Cold War eras. It pitted the United States and its allies against the Soviet Union and its communist allies. The conflict quickly degenerated into a stalemate because of its political rather than military objectives. Despite heavy casualties, the war resolved nothing. More than a half-century after the first shots were fired, the Korean peninsula remained divided, militarized, and volatile.
Davie County residents feared an atomic attack throughout the Cold War Era of the 1950s. The government shared safety measures to take, but no one knew better than the hometown of Thomas Ferrabee about the devastating effects of a nuclear bomb.
Local children endured school safety drills, and the federal government uncovered a spy network that transferred atomic bomb secrets to the Soviet Union. Two of the spies, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, were executed. Attorney General J. Howard McGrath warned that there were many American Communists who posed a threat to society.
The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war and led to a thaw in relations between the US and the Soviet Union. The two countries agreed to a ban on above-ground atomic testing, and the threat of mutually assured destruction made both sides reluctant to use nuclear weapons.
In the US, other issues took center stage in the early 1960s.
The Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a long and bloody conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia fueled by fear of a domino effect should one nation fall to the communists. It lasted from November 1955 to April 30, 1975. The war was between North Vietnam, supported by the Soviet Union and China, and South Vietnam, which the United States and other anti-communist allies supported.
The challenges and lack of support facing returning Vietnam veterans were overwhelming. They had to deal with physical injuries, PTSD, limited benefits, and poor treatment from others, which made it difficult for them to resume life as a civilian.
The Civil Rights Movement
Even from reading through this short history of Davie County, it is clear how the struggle for freedom and equity is woven throughout. The fight for equality and human rights began long ago for everyone of color in our state and nation.
After World War II, African Americans emerged determined to end second-class citizenship. The Civil Rights Movement took shape in the years that followed, with the military desegregated and freedom rides, bus boycotts, and strikes challenging Jim Crow laws.
Many black North Carolinians used their skills and voices to stand up for what is right. Today not far down the road from us, you can visit the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, which once housed the Woolworths that was the site of a landmark moment. The sit-in by four students sparked national attention when they politely refused to leave a whites-only lunch counter in 1960 in Greensboro, NC. Their peaceful protest helped ignite a youth-led movement to challenge the inequality that continued throughout the South.
Davie County & Civil Disobedience
Karen Lynn Parker grew up in Mocksville. Her parents, Fred D. and Clarice Holt Parker, were Davie County teachers. As an undergraduate student in 1963, Karen was the first black person to attend the UNC campus. Karen’s civil disobedience put her in jail on multiple occasions. Still, she remained active with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), protesting local restaurants and businesses promoting a segregation policy. She chronicled her experiences with CORE and the freedom marches in a diary which she donated to the Wilson’s Library Southern Historical Collection. UNC has established a grant in her name.
The 1960s and 1970s in Mocksville meant both beauty pageants and the fight for women’s rights. Many locations mentioned in our article became entries in the National Register of Historic Places during this period.
Ireland-based air compressors and power tools manufacturer Ingersoll Rand started production in Mocksville in 1965. And the Davidson-Davie Community College was chartered as Davidson County Community College that same year.
The Davie County Public Library building opened in February 1966. After years of occupying floor space in other buildings, this local community hub had a home of its own. Today, you can visit the library and its History Room for family information and vintage images and to view items of historical significance.
The Mocksville Downtown Historic District was created around 1970. The Council on the Status of Women was created in North Carolina, too. Our state formed the council to research and offer ideas on protecting women from discrimination.
Women served on juries for the first time, and higher education opportunities expanded; at the same time, the 1970 Cooleemee Journal interviewed women for their opinions on whether women should wear pants. Davie County’s strong women were happy to have new options in everything from fashion to lifestyle.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970 made workplaces safer for everyone. And new jobs were opening up for women. More women in Davie County headed out of the home to work.
In 1974, the Fair Credit Opportunity Act made it illegal for financial institutions to discriminate against applicants based on their religion, race, national origin, and gender.
Now, women could open bank accounts and get a credit card in their name- without permission from a husband or father!
In 1975, the Davie County Arts Council began as a group of volunteers dedicated to supporting and bringing the arts to our community.
1976 brought Bicentennial celebrations to our towns to commemorate the 200th birthday of our young nation. These provided a much-needed respite from the turbulent years of the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, and the cultural upheavals of the 1960s.
Davie County’s citizens love to celebrate. They purchased bicentennial stamps and collected bicentennial quarters. Many traveled to attend the special activities and celebrations staged across the state. School children planted time capsules, performed patriotic music, and marched in parades.
The bicentennial sparked the publication of the first comprehensive history of North Carolina’s colonial period, Colonial North Carolina, by Davie County native Hugh T. Lefler with William S. Powell.
The Hickory Hill Golf & Country Club in Mocksville, North Carolina, (now Colin Creek Golf Club) was desegregated, and you could go there to play 18 holes in the 1970s and 80s.
1980s – 1990s: Davie County Just Wants to Have Fun
After a long period of radical change, North Carolinians entered the 1980s with energy and optimism. Modern changes in the nation’s mindset were reflected in the culture of our local communities, although our small-town values and ideals remained.
In 1980, the former students of the Rosenwald Elementary School/ Davie County Training School met for their first class reunion. Ronald Regan was elected President that same year.
In 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded in the USSR.
In 1988, two years after the Challenger Disaster, NASA’s Space Shuttle program resumed, and in 1989 citizens watched as Berliners tore down the wall between East and West Germany at the end of the Cold War.
Davie people visited nearby cities to shop at modern malls. Big hair, big cars, and big computers were hallmarks of the 80s, but small-town fun had not changed much. Parades, picnics, and Friday nights at the high school football stadium were still special events.
New manufacturing industries discovered the work ethic and business-friendly atmosphere of Davie County. Education continued to be emphasized and supported. Truck delivery became essential to the American way of life. Our central location made Davie a perfect hub for businesses and transportation.
At the same time, agriculture, especially grain farms and hog farms, prospered.
The hands-on kids’ museum in downtown Mocksville COGNITION has a section highlighting agriculture so that future generations will know where their food comes from. You can download the Visit NC Farms app to keep track of agritourism events, you-pick-farms, and find out where to get local produce and honey.
Technology moved quickly in the 1990s. In the 90s, Davie County citizens watched the Hubble Telescope launch and the Gulf War live on television under the presidency of George H.W. Bush.
In 1990, Congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), expecting that within a decade, federally funded museums and universities would return tens of thousands of ancestral remains and burial items to Native American tribes. However, currently, U.S. museums hold the remains of more than 100,000 Native American ancestors, almost all of which they say are “culturally unidentifiable,” meaning that they cannot determine which tribe can rightfully claim them. And as of 2023, North Carolina institutions continue to hold the remains of more than 1,200 Native Americans.
In 1998, George Allen Mebane IV established the Mebane Foundation, a charitable organization focused on educational initiatives locally and throughout North Carolina. Now in its 25th year, the Foundation has invested millions of dollars to support educational endeavors in Davie County.
In 1994, Davidson Community College opened a Davie campus, making higher education a possibility for even more students.
Under the presidency of Bill Clinton (1993-2001), as a nation, we dealt with extreme weather events, the shock of school shootings, and Y2K fears!
Closer to home, the Town of Bermuda Run was incorporated on July 1, 1999!
Joe and Joyce Neely were inspired by the Napa Valley when they founded RayLen Vineyards in Yadkin Valley in 1999. The former dairy farm is now home to 35,000 European varietal grape vines and a tasting room popular with locals and tourists alike. The couple named their vineyard after their two daughters, Rachel and Helen. Today, we can visit multiple wineries and vineyards in Davie County and enjoy award-winning wines.
Along with farming and manufacturing, textiles and apparel remain essential industries in Davie County to this day.
George W. Bush became the 43rd President in 2001. That same year on September 11th, terrorists hijacked four planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people died, and over 6,000 were injured.
The United States then launched the invasion of Afghanistan, marking the start of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In the 2000s, Davie County continued to grow and cope with national tragedy, war, and the financial crisis of 2008. Rapid growth here in the 2000s and the crash led to challenges for our communities in healthcare, education, and politics. Davie County wisely pivoted to focus on planned economic development.
In the late 2000s, Ashley Furniture, a manufacturer and distributor of home furnishings, located its manufacturing and distribution facility in Davie County.
In the fall of 2002, the land purchase that created what we now know as RiverPark at Cooleemee Falls was completed, and the Bullhole was dedicated. A blessing of the land by Native Americans, Liz Singing Butterfly, Daniel Morningstar, and Damon “Mountain Bear” Asad was included in the ceremony to bless the land once roamed by their ancestors.
Also in 2002, the original Davie County Training School (A Rosenwald School) building burned down. Former students came together to start a scholarship fund that would preserve the memory of this school and the people who learned and taught there. The Davie County Training School – Central Davie High School Reunion Scholarship is available to a high school senior or college student who is a descendant of a Davie County Training School or Central Davie School Graduate/Attendee.
In 2014, Davie County partnered with the Economic Development Commission, the school system, and Davidson Community College to create a workforce development program. The program helped students acquire skills for 21st-century jobs and provided a source of talent for local employers.
Today, Davie County enjoys the benefits of excellent health care and education, community entertainment, family activities, and outdoor spaces of incredible beauty.
In 2015 an intact Native American settlement and burial ground was discovered on the Davie/Iredell county line. The ancient hamlet is thought to date from the late 1500s. The discovery included skeletal remains, which, unfortunately, were damaged by looters. In addition, archaeologists excavated pottery, primitive tools, jewelry, arrowheads, and the remains of smoking pipes.
Then & Now
The history of our Davie County communities is closely intertwined with the history and cultures of our nation.
The roots of our heritage run deep, and the people of our county have always wanted to preserve and learn from our past.
We know that the history of a place is much more than buildings that will crumble away – it is the memory and wisdom of all the people in our past.
Thank you for traveling with us into the history of our neighbors and neighborhoods. We hope you have learned something about the people of our past as you have peeked into their joys and losses. We hope you leave feeling that you have glimpsed the essential spirit of the Davie County people.
If you want to know more about the history of our county and the people who built it, check out these additional resources.
Learn More About the History of Davie County, North Carolina
- The Davie County Public Library History Room
- Digital Davie – Digitized Images and Documents
- The Hairstons: An American Family in Black And White
- A Davie County History Booklist
- Davie History Videos on YouTube
- Davie County History and Geological Society
- History of Davie County Presentation – DCPL
- Download the Davie County Timeline
- Davie County Register of Deeds – Vital Records
- Photo credit – Davie County Public Library & Digital Davie (except as noted)
- The North Carolina Daniel Boone Heritage Trail
- Davie County Genealogical Site