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2021-07-09 13:22:36

  Inhabitants of a promise

  June 25, 2021

  And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?

  Deuteronomy 10:12-13

  This week I want to display the journey of Moses and God’s people into the Promised Land that originally started with a promise made to Abraham by God.

  It is important to note early in this column that God has a promised land for each of us. Of course that ultimate land of promise is in heaven with God in our very own mansion that has been built for us to reside in, but our promise land here on earth is found in the specific purpose He has laid out for each person individually.

  You will see in Deuteronomy 10:12-13 the words of Moses to the Israelites as he prepared them for their Promised Land that was filled with purpose for their descendants. The question posed here is what does God require of us as we journey toward that land, as we look toward residing in our purpose, or better stated how to live a life that God desires us to live to the fullest?

  Stated in these words of Moses is five simple directives to fear God, please God, love God, serve God, and obey God. For the sake of space and time I will not be able to go into deep detail about each of these points, but simply I can state that each of them can be found intertwined in the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20 and echoed by Jesus in Matthew 22:35-40.

  The verses in Matthew read this way, “Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

  There is a commission that we are to have an attitude of fearing, pleasing, serving, and obeying, but there is something about true love that helps us bring the first four right in line with God’s will for our lives. Paul in 1 Timothy 1-5-7 states that the commandants of our life should be derived from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from a sincere faith.

  It is this pure heart that Paul talks about that gives us our genuine desire to please God through service to others. This is a direct act of obedience to God’s Word that shows that we are not scared of God, but possess a fear derived from reverence and respect.

  John tells us in 1 John 4:7-10, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

  Fearing, pleasing, serving, obeying and loving are simple requirements when we consider that God sent Christ to forsake it all for us to have freedom from the bondage of our sin. I have found that once we begin to understand 1 John 4, we begin to not only see why Deuteronomy is pertinent, but you will begin to see the truth in Jesus’s answer to the lawyer in Matthew 22.

  My friend God is love. That love should compel us to love others, which will result in a display of all the requirements needed to inhabit the promises from God. Jeremiah 29:11 states, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Love God and I promise friend you will experience more than you can imagine. May God bless you and keep you and allow his face shine upon you and give you peace.

  God bless you.

  Summertime and weddings: A long history together

  June 21, 2021

  “If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance.”– Bern Williams.

  Summer brings ice cream on hot days, getaways at the lake, outdoor fun that lasts till 8 p.m., and wedding bells.

  Longer days, fresh and abundant flowers, and vacation time are the perfect storm to conjure up a wedding. For many the extended hours are the sweetest part of a summer wedding, allowing the party to stretch into the dusk. For others, the larger groups are better entertained outdoors. For folks in Europe during the Middle Ages it was bathing season, meaning thorough head-to-toe scrubs. During this time, many people believed that excessive bathing exposed individuals to unwanted diseases. However, contrary to popular belief personal hygiene was tended to most everyday (hand washing, teeth cleaning, and bird bathing).

  Women in the 19th and early 20th centuries often married as early as 14 or 15. The church, tradition, and superstitions played an important role in all aspects of an individual’s wedding season.

  Here and around the Appalachian Mountains many European traditions followed settlers.

  I am sure you have heard of: Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. This is part of an older European folktale that is set to protect the new bride from the “evil eye” and encourage a prosperous future. The entire rhyme goes: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in your shoe.

  Today the bridal party are often seen in similar dresses; this stems from an old superstition of protecting the bride. The coordinated dresses were worn to confuse any evil spirits or attendees looking to wish ill will on the bride or her groom.

  More often than realized, trouble was close by. Maybe the bride was with child and the nuptials were forced. Perhaps an outsider was being introduced to the community; or an arranged marriage parted a pair in love. Each wedding comes with trials and excitement often resonating from the upkeep of a tradition.

  For Abby Bedsaul, a local bride to be, it is all excitement. When I spoke with Abby last week, she told me about some of the traditions she would be keeping at her wedding. She will be borrowing the veil from her sister, Sydney, and her mother Heather’s pearl necklace.

  Karen Nealis, the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History’s office manager, participated in a traditional money dance at her wedding. This is where the wedding guests pin money to the bride’s dress in order to dance with her.

  My mother, Tracie Bowman, spoke of “Shivarees,” a teasing of the bride and groom on their wedding night. The men and boys would run around the newlywed’s house singing and carrying on, while the women spent time in the kitchen, cooking up a storm.

  Here in the foothills and mountains money was often tight. Individuals may have not had the cash to spend on wedding bands or even a honeymoon. Many folks believe the wedding ring and double ring quilt had their origins in these hard times. The story goes that a solider returning from war had no money to buy wedding bands. A matriarch of the family decided to give her ring quilt to the new couple symbolizing their devotion to one another.

  These are just a few stories and traditions from our region. Traditions come from single families, communities, and geographical regions. I imagine everyone reading has a wedding tradition or story different from the ones within this article. We hope that you will share those stories with us sometime. Be sure to examine the photos and captions to learn more interesting wedding facts and traditions!

  We want to wish Abby and all the engaged couples getting married this summer a long and happy marriage. We wish you all the best.

  Emily Morgan is the guest services manager at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. She and her family live in Westfield. She can be reached at eamorgan@northcarolinamuseum.org or by calling 336-786-4478 x229

  You are never alone

  June 18, 2021

  Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

  Hebrews 13:5-6

  I want to start today by saying God wants you to know He is right there with you today and forever. The writer of Hebrews is clear in stating this point by first saying He will never leave you and then follows that with the wording of never forsaking you. As I counsel people I ask them to make a list of all their fears, their worries, their struggles, and most of all their weaknesses. Very rarely do I find people with the exact same list. Some express identical words but very seldom do the causes behind those words look the same.

  Paul states in 2 Corinthians 12, that he had a thorn in his flesh that Satan used to try to keep him away from God, but in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 Paul states this, “And he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

  As I titled this article I debated on calling it, “Finding Strength in our Weakness,” but quickly realized that although strength can be drawn from our short comings it is imperative to first accept that power into our lives.

  I don’t want to completely repeat the article “Easier Said Than Done,” but I do want to say it is humbling to know that Christ is there to catch us and even pull us up out of the sinking water of life. But even that requires that we trust He will do it. Remember Peter was standing on solid water one minute and then sinking the next. His cry to Jesus was “Save me.” Such a simple sentence in words, but so strong when we scream it with meaning.

  One more time I want you to remember that God wants you to know He is right there with you waiting to hear not only your voice, but he wants your heart, your mind, and your soul to desire that He is the force in this sinking world to save you. So quickly our heart says yes to the ways God tells us to face the things of this world, but our mind drifts to other means. There are times our mind knows that He is the only way, but that same mind becomes clouded with things of this world.

  Paul tells us in Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

  Today my friend I encourage you to seek God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your soul. Look for Jesus and keep your eyes planted on him for your direction. Make a list of all your fears, your worries, your struggles, and most of all your weaknesses and one by one give them to God and he will set you on a path to strength. One last time, God wants you to know He is right there with you today and forever.

  May God bless you and allow His face to shine on you and give you peace. God bless you.

  Important educational relics fading away

  June 14, 2021

  The history of a major staple in African-American education in North Carolina is quietly, but quickly, disappearing.

  Eight hundred and thirteen Rosenwald School buildings were constructed in rural North Carolina between 1918 and 1932, part of an effort to supply schools to the African-American community. Many have been torn and burned down or have just been forgotten. Many of them, however, are still standing. Some are gloriously remodeled; others are being destroyed by the elements of nature. All North Carolina counties except seven had at least one Rosenwald School. The building program was dropped after the death of Julius Rosenwald in 1932.

  This project to build schools in rural African American communities was conceived by Booker T. Washington, president of Tuskegee Institute, and his staff in 1910. Washington was joined in 1911 by Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears Roebuck, who agreed to provide financial support by matching the funds raised by African-American communities to aid in building the schools.

  In an effort to save cost and provide well engineered buildings, the Rosenwald Foundation provided building plans for the schools. These plans ranged from a one-teacher school building up to eleven-teacher school buildings. The plan included blueprints given to the community for their selected building choice.

  Surry County had four Rosenwald Schools built, one of which is still standing.

  The first Rosenwald School built in Surry County was Sandy Level in budget year 1918-1919. This school was a two-teacher building constructed on the north side of West Virginia Street near the intersection of Franklin Road (see Figure 1 and Figure 2). The total cost of the school when built was $4,327. The community donated $1,000, public funds amounted to $2,527 and the Rosenwald Foundation gave $800 toward the project. The school remained open until all the students moved to J. J. Jones High School in 1947.

  The second school built in Surry County was Mount Ararat, also known as Ararat, in the budget year 1921-1922. This school was built on the north end of town off North Main Street. The school was a four-teacher type. The total cost of the school when built was $ 5,375. The community donated $1,200, public fund was $2,975, and the Rosenwald Foundation gave $1,200. The school remained open until it burned in 1938.

  The third school built in Surry County was Woodville, also known as Chestnut Ridge, in the budget year 1923-1924. This school was built in the Westfield Township on Westfield Road next to Chestnut Ridge Church. The school was a four-teacher type. The total cost of the school when built was $5,174. The community donated $1,000, public funding was $3,074 and the Rosenwald Foundation gave $1,100. The school remained open until 1957.

  The fourth school built in Surry County was Combstown, also known as Paynetown, in the budget year 1929-1930. This school was built in the Combstown community at 153 Split Rail Lane. The building was a two-teacher type. The total cost of the school when built was $ 2,890. The community donated $500, public funding was $1,890 and the Rosenwald Foundation gave $500. The school remained open until 1957 when all the students moved to J. J. Jones High School.

  The Combstown school is the only Rosenwald School building still standing in Surry County. The site is cbeing used as God’s Family Temple Christian Church. The building has undergone renovations to add a bell tower and a fellowship hall on the rear.

  Ron Snow is a regional historian and community contributor. To learn more about Rosenwald Schools visit https://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=e1496b7c0fe9493aaceec56feedda53a .

  Pat Woltz left enduring legacy in her art

  June 07, 2021

  Serene, classy, kind, talented, and happy are some of the best terms I heard and read when researching the life and legacy of one Mary Patricia “Pat” Gwyn Woltz.

  Readers, do you recognize the name?

  Pat, as she was commonly known, was the furthest thing from common. Her artistry, volunteerism, and anonymous philanthropic deeds set her as one of Mount Airy’s finest.

  Born on Sept. 14 1925 in Waynesville, Mary Patricia Gwyn attended Waynesville City school before adventuring to college. She started her education journey at St. Mary’s Episcopal College in Raleigh, then went on the gradate from Randolph Macon College in Lynchburg, Virginia, with a degree in economics.

  Then on Sept. 5, 1947, Miss Pat Gwyn became Patricia Woltz after her marriage to John Elliot Woltz Sr., bringing her to Mount Airy and forever changing her life. Her life in Mount Airy was full of activity as she tended to her five children: John, James, Howell, Mary, and Thomas. She taught Sunday School at Central United Methodist Church where she was awarded the Laity Service Award because she exemplified the life of a Christian steward.

  For us here at the museum we are especially grateful for her involvement in the creation and startup of the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. Pat and her husband, John, were charter members of the museum. They also served on the board of directors and as a trustee afterwards.

  While all these accomplishments are amazing in and of themselves, some would say that her crowning achievements were the detailed illustrations that would dominate the later half of her life. In 1983 the many friends and family who enjoyed her work were happy to hear that Pat Gwyn Woltz art prints were finally for sale.

  Here at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History we have been lucky enough to receive the remaining Pat Gwyn Woltz prints available to the public, some sketches, and production materials. Pat’s artwork makes you long for home or have feelings of fernweh, a longing for places you have never been.

  In her own words: “I enjoy painting with a feeling of nostalgia… I like to make people want to go home again, if only in memory. By retrieving and cherishing the best of the past, we can help to enrich the quality of life in the future.”

  These realistic paintings encompass only the best of memories: Travel to ancestral homes, holiday times, fond childhood frolics.

  The print titled “Snowball Fight,” completed in 1981, depicts children engrossed in play surrounded by snow-topped pine trees and now historic homes. You can almost hear the silence that follows a glorious snowfall, you can see the weight of the snow pressing into the boxwoods and winter grass. The realistic depictions make you feel present in the artwork. Each painting also contains a signature little rabbit, winter, spring, summer, or fall.

  She also illustrated many historic homes and sites. The Orlean Puckett print takes the viewer back in time to the midwifes heyday, depicting various activities of a backcountry life.

  Each print transports the viewer to a different place and time, surrounding them with invisible smells and sounds. The prints that she sold traveled all around the country creating a stream of nostalgia that graced the walls of households, offices, and public spaces. The images, just like the person, were a catching trend. Once you took in all their distinction, you could not help but admire them.

  On Sept. 14, 2011, Mary Patricia “Pat” Gwyn Woltz passed away peacefully at her home in Mount Airy. Beloved by all, she left a legacy of kindness and skill. The museum is working on a rotating exhibit in her honor.

  Thanks to the Surry Community College Foundation we now have some limited Pat Gwyn Woltz prints to sell to the public. These will be available once we unveil our new giftshop and first floor exhibit spaces.

  Emily Morgan is the Guest Services Manager at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. She and her family live in Westfield. She can be reached at eamorgan@northcarolinamuseum.org or by calling 336-786-4478 x229

  A day to memorialize those who gave all

  May 31, 2021

  Tomorrow is a day of prayers, moments of silence, and amazing stories.

  On the last Monday of May, we as Americans celebrate Memorial Day. While the origins of the holiday are complicated and diverse this day of remembrance can traditionally be traced back to the Civil War.

  The holiday was originally known as Decoration Day. This specific day was used to clean, commemorate, and pay homage to the many men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice in their service to our country in war. In our Post-Civil War world, families, communities and our entire country were struggling with an appropriate way to mourn the loss of the more than 620,000 American citizens no longer alive.

  This day of remembrance was nationalized due to the extreme number of casualties during and after the Civil War. During this time America saw a rise in community cemeteries devoted solely to soldiers of war; however, some of the traditions dated back to more distant times.

  Prior to community and church cemeteries, smaller family-owned plots were popular. Many such places can still be seen on private land and on federal and state holdings. These smaller, family-owned burial places are usually maintained by the descendants of the deceased or through a family-trust. Caretakers clean and maintain the various elements within the graveyard to ensure that traditions were intact.

  Keith Kggener, a professor of art and architecture in Missouri, was once quoted with saying that cemeteries were “created for celebrating and containing.” Many different groups and religions feared that spirits continued to walk among the living after death. The common practice of laying a tombstone or headstone was said to ensure that their loved ones stayed put. Fences were added to keep wildlife and grave robbers out, but some suggest iron bars were used to keep the spirits in.

  Decoration Day, and later Memorial Day, celebrations see loved ones and caretakers carefully placing new flowers, seeds, or tending to the faded synthetic blooms. Romans planted flowers among their gravesites to bring beauty and peace to the spirits who dwell there. At the turn on the century, superstition suggested that seeds would blossom into flowers on the grave of a good and kind persons but turn to weeds on a wicked soul. Today, flowers are left in remembrance of love, good times, and hope.

  Many gravestones once cleaned reveal detailed symbols or poems of peace and hope. Some common markers in our area are doves for children, or for peace, Hand of God to symbolize ascension into heaven, or a willow tree for belonging and relief.

  After a day of travel, hard work, and likely some tears, families often gather for cookouts, potlucks, or snacks. As families settle into their meals, stories and memories are exchanged in hopefully good humor. Victorians also shared food after a day in the cemetery. Funeral biscuits were given as favors. Two sweet cakes wrapped in paper sealed with black wax were given out to funeral goers as a Thank You for attendees.

  As we celebrate this Memorial Day with cleaning, remembering, and eating we implore each and every one of you to share wonderful memories of the dearly departed with your friends and family. Our memories and history stay alive as long as we share them with others.

  Emily Morgan is the Guest Services Manager at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. She and her family live in Westfield. She can be reached at eamorgan@northcarolinamuseum.org or by calling 336-786-4478 x229

  Leadership matters in Mount Airy City Schools

  May 30, 2021

  Editor’s Note: Community Comment is a periodic column in The Mount Airy News featuring commentary from community leaders in Mount Airy and Surry County.

  Mount Airy City Schools has a mission to lead, innovate, and serve. Leadership is built throughout our K-12 classrooms. We have leaders in each classroom, at each school, and in many areas such as the arts and athletics. We provide leadership opportunities in our elementary program, Leader in Me, as well as Interact Rotary and HOSA clubs beginning in middle school, and through the Chick-Fil-A Leadership Club at the high school level, just to name a few.

  We hope every child develops their own leadership style and strengthens their skills to lead throughout life. This year, during a pandemic, our leaders have helped each student and school return to in-person learning, five days a week beginning in August. Mount Airy City Schools deeply values leadership and service to our students and community.

  Over this year, our principals have shown exactly how leaders should act during a crisis. They stepped up to the challenge, overcame great obstacles, put students first, and problem-solved every day to keep our schools open. Emily Niston at BH Tharrington Primary (BHT), Chelsy Payne at Jones Intermediate, Levi Goins at Mount Airy Middle School (MAMS), and Jason Dorsett at Mount Airy High School (MAHS) set the bar high for leaders across our state. They have been absolutely amazing and have shown true leadership when given tremendous life challenges.

  Emily Niston is finishing her fourth year at BH Tharrington and leads the school where it all begins for Mount Airy City Schools students and families. BHT had amazing growth of more than 5% last year with kindergarten growing from 95 to over 130 students in one year. Tharrington has also received “Lighthouse Status” with Leader in Me (LIM). This illustrates that Ms. Niston, as a leader, also models leadership with her students. Students through the LIM program set their own academic and personal goals, share their progress through student-led conferences, as well as help plan classroom, school-wide events, and activities. Ms. Niston has led the school to double the enrollment for our Spanish dual language immersion program and works every day to show BHT as the premiere K-2 school and staff in the state.

  Our Leader in Me program continues at Jones Intermediate School where Chelsy Payne is serving as principal. This is her second full year at Jones Intermediate as she began her principal career in the spring of 2019. The LIM program helps students set their own goals, create a plan to attain those, and participate in many activities that earn them service and leadership hours. We know that this is setting the tone for a lifetime of leadership and we want all of our students to graduate as leaders. Mrs. Payne completed the Distinguished Leadership Program through the North Carolina Principal and Assistant Principals Association (NCPAPA) this year. She was out on maternity leave for part of the year and continued to lead in many ways even while on leave. We are thankful for Bill Goins stepping up and filling in for us. The team at Jones has shown that we can come back to school and lead our community to a strong place even during the pandemic by continuing to offer Spanish for All, visual arts, recess, STEAM classes, and academically gifted classes.

  Mount Airy Middle School was able to return to school in August and continue with the arts, academic competitions, and sports. This is truly remarkable as the year held many challenges for each of these to occur. Thankfully, first-year principal, Levi Goins met this tremendous challenge. He brainstormed with his staff and students on how to make each of these pieces happen. Some of the opportunities in athletics didn’t occur in many parts of the state but MAMS came back strong, experiencing only one team quarantine during the 2020-2021 school year. We know that leadership, careful planning, support from coaches, athletic directors, parents, staff, and students had to all be present for this to occur.

  The North Carolina Association for Scholastic Activities (NCASA) recognized Mr. Goins and his team for participating in academic competitions when many others found it impossible. NCASA awarded Mr. Goins as finalist for Principal of the Year, Patricia Combs, as finalist for program director of the year, the school won the School Challenge Cup with the most statewide points for a middle school, the district won the School District Cup with the most points for a district, and also had a student named NCASA Student of the Year. This award went to Abby Epperson who participated in at least five academic competitions and placed in the top category in several of these. She is also set to participate in the International HOSA competition. It is fantastic to see leadership modeled and encouraged throughout the middle school.

  Jason Dorsett, principal at Mount Airy High School, brought back the only high school five days a week beginning in August. This is his third year at Mount Airy High School. This accomplishment is great when realizing that most high school students around the state didn’t go back to school full time until just recently. This will make a big difference in helping these students be career and college ready and have a head start on many students throughout our nation. Jason Dorsett is our Mount Airy City Schools Principal of the Year this year for many reasons. He leads by example and attends almost every single event at the high school showing his support for staff and students. He also works hard to create innovative programs as the high school will be adding aviation science to the drone program and construction to the existing cabinetry program just to name a few.

  Athletics was very difficult for everyone this year and he led the state in bringing all athletics back with few quarantines. High school students were able to come to class, take all the normal classes offered, and keep clusters and school transmission to a minimum while gaining students this year. Remote students from around the region were able to come to Mount Airy High School and attend face-to-face. That is amazing and will make such a difference in those teenagers’ future.

  I am extremely proud of Mount Airy City Schools, our students, families, staff and administrators who worked together this year to show true leadership in a pandemic. Leadership shined throughout every avenue that challenged us this year. Today, I want to take time to celebrate four of our leaders, Emily Niston, Chelsy Payne, Levi Goins, and Jason Dorsett. If you see these folks please give them a pat on the back and encourage them. This is notably the hardest year they have had in their careers but it may just have made the biggest impact on their students. We want to thank them and let them know that their leadership matters. If you want to be a part of Mount Airy City Schools please feel free to check out our latest publication of the innovative programs we have to offer your family: https://bit.ly/AboutMount Airy City Schools21-22

  Ahead of their time?

  May 24, 2021

  In the early years of the 20th century, Stewarts Creek Township was home to a few hundred families who mostly made their living through farming. Many faced hardship and strife in the first few decades of this new century, regardless of occupation or location. The rural residents of Stewarts Creek Township faced an added difficulty, one that still remains a struggle for many today; expensive medical bills.

  Many of the leading causes of sickness and death in rural communities at the time were preventable diseases, however access to medical care was usually too expensive for these families.

  Adding to the community’s health care costs was the distance to the nearest doctor’s offices. This community, located in the western edge of Surry County, would have to pay extra to get their doctors to travel to them. This cost could be as much as a dollar for every mile, often amounting to a hefty sum just for the doctor to travel to them, even before the consultation fee and medication costs. This meant a simple doctor’s visit could damage their savings. A prolonged sickness, requiring multiple visits and extra medicine, could have extreme financial consequences.

  The citizens of this area banded together to find a unique solution to this common problem. In 1922, 200 of the families joined together to create the The Stewarts Creek Doctor’s Association. The idea was that families in the area would pay a yearly fee for medical care which would cover as many visits as the doctor needed to make to their home that year and would do away with travelling fees entirely.

  Each family that joined paid $18 annually. The fee covered medical care for the entire family and anyone living in their household (excluding servants.) During the Great Depression, with many struggling to make ends meet, the fee was decreased to $15 annually.

  Two years after the founding of the association, a new physician moved to Surry County, Dr. Moses Young Allen. Born in Georgia, Dr. Allen studied at Mercer University in Georgia, completed medical training at Tulane University in New Orleans, and worked for a time in West Virginia. In the early 1920s, Dr. Allen accepted a position as a physician in Mount Airy. In 1924, Dr. Allen left Mount Airy for Stewarts Township to serve as the association’s doctor. For the next 17 years, Dr. Allen would be the only doctor available to more than 200 families in a 10-mile radius.

  In 1993, his daughter recalled that the doctor never “pressed a man down on his luck to repay a note.” In fact, Dr. Allen tried to reduce the price his community paid as much as possible; he would purchase his medicines at cost and sell them to his patients at wholesale prices.

  Dr. Allen’s dedication to helping his community is evident in his determination to reach his patients. In an era where roadways were only slowly catching up to the boom in the number of cars, local roads were rarely paved. Dr. Allen’s Chevrolet would often become stuck in mud while travelling to house calls, and he would keep a shovel and a hoe in his car in order to dig himself out. As a backup, Dr. Allen had his horse, Byrd, to transport him wherever he needed to go.

  This scheme to lower the cost to their healthcare was a success, with three quarters of the bills being paid when due. Those who were late to pay were not left behind. Understanding the financial strain, if there was at least an effort to pay by those past due, they would continue to be eligible for care and no interest was charged on their late payments.

  Though the coverage had restrictions (it did not cover dental or surgery) it made basic medical care much more accessible for this rural community. After the first decade of the association, 75% of the original families continued to be part of the scheme, and many new families joined.

  The story of The Stewarts Creek Doctor’s Association is one of a community banding together to solve a problem that affected them all, and in turn, bettering their community as a whole.

  Katherine “Kat” Jackson is an intern at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. Originally from Australia she now lives in Winston-Salem. She can be reached at the museum at 336-786-4478.

  Hair plays cultural significance in the past

  May 17, 2021

  Medusa, Samson, Rapunzel, and Sif (Wife of Thor) all have on thing in common — hair.

  Hair, while physiologically dead once it leaves your scalp, is a vibrant piece of our lives as humans, during and after we have departed.

  For many of our legendary heroes and villains, such as Medusa and Samson, hair is regarded as a symbol of power, status, and beauty.

  Many Native cultures believe hair is a direct representation of one’s self-esteem, self-respect, belonging, and holds a higher purpose than simple ornamental beauty. Some European sources echo this statement saying that “the virtues and properties of a person are contained within that person’s hair,” explaining why multiple cultures have rituals and superstitions when it comes to cutting, coloring, covering, and styling their locks.

  Even ailments were said to have been cured by the wonders of hair and old superstitions. One granny tale suggests that if a child is ailing with asthma, you must “Drill a hole in a black oak or sourwood tree just above the head of the victim, put a lock of his/her hair in the hole sealing it with wax afterwards. Once the child passes the spot in height, they will be cured.” This tale also warned caretakers to be sure not to cut down the tree — I’ll leave the result of that to the imagination.

  Here in Appalachia, many superstitions suggested that hair should be cut on a particular day and never after sundown. Disposal of hair was also important; many believed it was to be burned. Hair was/is sacred and could be used against you. If a bird used your hair to create or add to its nest, lore implied that you would be stricken with headaches. The tighter the nest was weaved the worse off you could be.

  The Victorian Era or Second Industrial Revolution was noted for its resurgence of women and men wearing hair jewelry. Not only was hair revered as a powerful characteristic, but also a meaningful and tangible token. Rings, necklaces, chains, pins, artwork, and more were carefully crafted and preserved for several occasions and meanings.

  Queen Victoria of England (Victorian Era 1837-1901) helped popularize new mourning practices which included wearing jewelry or carrying tokens that contained hair of the dearly departed. These tangible reminders helped the grieving process loss without losing the person entirely. Often lovers would give hair jewelry as a way of being remembered while not together. The crafting of the actual jewelry was detail-oriented and was quickly labeled as an appropriate activity for upper-class women and men. Master hair artisans opened up shop creating refined hairwork that often consisted of precious metals and stones.

  While the practice of wearing hair jewelry has fallen out of favor, saving hair as a token of love and remembrance has not.

  One 1945 Beulah High School yearbook in the museum collection has a page full of clipped hair. Jessie Snow Chilton clipped and gathered hair from her friends to commemorate their year in school. Each bunch of hair is labeled and placed neatly within the yearbook’s pages. Jessie went on to open Glamour Beauty Shop, which was operated from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s on Main Street in Mount Airy.

  Recently Chad and Debbie Taylor donated a trunk belonging to Chad’s mother, Ethel Booker Taylor, that contained two bunches on hair. One a long reddish-brown and a smaller blonde clipping. We are unsure who these clippings belonged to, or why they were saved.

  No matter the reason, be it for love, superstition, religion, loss, or friendship, hair has unknowingly played an important role in our lives.

  Emily Morgan is the guest services manager at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. She and her family live in Westfield. She can be reached at eamorgan@northcarolinamuseum.org or by calling 336-786-4478 x229

  The beginning of a new era

  May 10, 2021

  In the years following the Civil War, African Americans gained their freedom from slavery. Families that had been enslaved their entire lives were now free to pursue their dreams and create their own paths. These groups began to spread out over the country, even to create a home in Surry County, an area that had been developed by white landowners for a little more than a hundred years at this point.

  The first free African Americans to settle in Surry County came in 1889, though the history surrounding the first settlements is muddy due to a lack of records from the time. The settlement began in the area known as Chestnut Ridge, a section of modern-day Westfield. Perhaps the most noteworthy of the settlers, George Robert McArthur II, bought about 23-1/2 acres of land in 1899 for about 50 cents per acre, eventually spreading out to a further 93-1/2 acres.

  Over time, the community would grow into a self-sufficient farming combine. The members of the Chestnut Ridge community would farm, build, and clear land for expansion, being quoted as being able to “raise a cabin in one week.” McArthur’s farm became big enough that local farmers, both black and white, would come help in their tobacco barn every Sunday during curing season.

  In 1904, the community would build what is now known as the Chestnut Ridge Progressive Primitive Baptist Church, led under the teachings of the nearby Locust Grove Primitive Baptist Church, in which they shared a building. A few years later, in 1907, the group found themselves locked out of the original church, citing doctrinal differences. Later that year, they were able to purchase the plot where the church currently stands for $25. The church still stands today, and you can see it as you drive Highway 89 into Westfield.

  Chestnut Ridge got its name from the large number of chestnut trees that the farmers had on their land. The chestnut trees were used to create housing shingles, and chestnuts were sold by the cup alongside the streets for 5 cents. A good number of African American farmers had claimed their territory in the Chestnut Ridge area by the 1920s, but the great depression would prove too much for a lot of them. Noted by Nathaniel McArthur, son of George, Virlen Jessup (a local farmer) lost his entire farm for less than $60 due to the state of the economy at the time.

  Nathaniel would put forth an effort to preserve the history of the Chestnut Ridge Community, and in May of 2003, a memorial was dedicated to the founding African American farmers of the area. A celebration was had, and more than 300 people showed up to its dedication. Then governor Mike Easley noted “Their perseverance and commitment to excellence served them well. These same traits have passed down from generation to generation. It is fitting, therefore, to honor their legacy.”

  The site can now be found on McCarthur Road (another historical spelling of McArthur), with a memory garden and historical placards.

  Michael Morgan is a resident of Westfield with his wife Emily. He is a graduate of Appalachian State, and is a network technician for SouthData Inc. in Mount Airy.

  Living his dream

  April 25, 2021

  Larry Alderman has always liked stories. He used to sit with his grandparents and great-grandparents — Coy Farmer, Friel Combs, Oscar Kirkman — listening to stories of how it used to be. Stories of bushwhackers and mountain men, stories he includes in his books about life in the mountains now.

  He spent countless hours writing stories about dogs and the wilderness when he “ought to have been doing my school work and studying.”

  Mrs. Janet Nichols, Larry’s seventh-grade English Lit teacher, read his stories to the class, the first time someone outside his family recognized his talent and encouraged him.

  “She read my stories to the class,” he said in a conversation at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History recently. “And I’m a seventh grader sitting there, just swelling with pride. She’s reading my stories in the class!” He laughed and added, “And later she paddled me for not doing my homework.”

  He stopped and looked up: “But I got I got credit for the stories.”

  Surry County, with its deep family and community musical and story-telling traditions, has produced its fair share of talented musicians, writers, and actors. From Tommy Jarrell, Andy Griffith, and Donna Fargo to the more recent accomplishments of Anna Wood.

  Larry Alderman, born in 1953 to Clinton Alderman and his wife Imogene Farmer (now Gravley), grew up surrounded by family in Mount Airy, Hillsville in Virginia, Bannertown, Sheltontown, and Ararat, but Clinton left to fight in Korea when Larry was just two weeks old. The family lived with his grandparents on Depot Street and his mother worked hard.

  “She was a strong woman,” he said. “She was the first to believe in me, and always told me as a child, that I should want to go see my name in lights, and be somebody.”

  He picked up a friend’s guitar when he was about 13 and fell in love with it. He ordered a $14 Holiday guitar from a catalog that year and taught himself to play. He began accompanying his grandmother, Katy (Kirkman) Farmer, singing at Wednesday night prayer meetings at South Street Church of God.

  She helped him get a better guitar that he paid for with his share of the family’s tobacco money. He wrote his hits on that one and still plays it today.

  He started playing on WPAQ, performing with long-time Merry-Go-Round emcee Clyde Johnson whom he remembers fondly. He had his sights set on bigger audiences and sent a tape to Bob Gordon who hosted a Saturday show on WSJS in Winston-Salem.

  Larry, a humble man with a lot of humor, laughed at the memory. The producer liked his voice, but not his songs. They wanted him to come down and sing someone else’ songs. “I was writing awful songs,” Larry admitted. But at the time, he was insulted and didn’t go. Looking back 55 years he can laugh about the incident now.

  Someone gave him the name of a man who worked in the music industry in Nashville so in 1971, just 19, Larry bought a ticket for Nashville and rode all night without an appointment. He went from office to office that day, talking to whomever would give him the time including Leslie Wilburn, head of the Wilburn Bros. Sure-Fire Music, who signed him to a contract. He worked for Sure-Fire for six years until the company closed down when the brothers headed to Hollywood.

  Not able to make a living at songwriting, Larry did a stint in the Army at that time where he met Lari, his wife of more than 40 years now. “I’m so blessed,” he said of her. “Lari believed in me from the first and stood by me through the hard years trying to become successful.”

  And success came on hard when, in 1988, two of his songs were on the Billboard Country charts at the same time; ‘Real Good Feel Good Song” by Mel McDaniel and ‘Americana’ by Moe Bandy. Well-known gospel singers the Kingsmen Quartet re-worked ‘Real Good Feel Good Song,’ a song that garnered a Dove Award Gospel Music nomination.

  ‘Americana’ was a musical representation of everything good about his hometown, all the good memories of the love and strength he felt in Mount Airy growing up. Vice President (at the time) George Bush felt something similar for he made the song his campaign theme that year.

  Larry Alderman has enjoyed something few people ever get to experience: he grew up to be just what he wanted to be and has had a successful career at it, something he still credits to the encouragement of his teacher, Mrs. Nichols, who started him on the road that led to Nashville.

  “I kind of, you know, had a little orange crush on her,” he said. “But she told me I was good, she really encouraged my writing and I’d love to find her and tell her what she started. She believed in me as a kid.”

  And sometimes that makes all the difference in the world.

  Learning lessons and building back better

  April 25, 2021

  Editor’s Note: Community Comment is a periodic column in The Mount Airy News featuring commentary from community leaders in Mount Airy and Surry County.

  We are grateful to a supportive community who has allowed our students to be face-to-face this year as the nation struggles with how to bring their students back. We know the COVID gap will lessen for us this year with our students receiving support in the areas of mental health, physical health, and academics. We have been able to continue our emphasis on the arts and athletics amidst a difficult time. Together we can accomplish so much and continually learn how to improve.

  We know that public schools are vital for our economy. We have seen communities where schools were unable to meet in person and families were unable to return to work. We know that schools can function remotely, face-to-face, or in a hybrid fashion. We are educating the future workforce in Mount Airy City Schools and know that growing innovative students is vital but now it seems even more important to create change makers ready for global challenges.

  Other lessons we are learning is how great a small school setting is for students. Smaller class sizes allow us to make sure we are meeting the needs of all students and helping them grow at their own pace. The increased number of devices has kept our students connected and allowed them to continue to learn at night and over weekends. Our students are hungry for knowledge and our well-trained staff helps them reach their aspirations. Staff have also learned to be flexible with online and face-to-face meetings. Time has been saved by not traveling to statewide or regional meetings allowing us more time in our districts. School is happening year-round with continuous academic support available. A flexible school calendar would be student-centered and allow us to be more flexible in our approach to teaching and learning.

  Mount Airy City Schools has learned how crucial parent communication is, especially this year. We have made more t han 15,000 wellness calls to connect with families. The virtual parent meetings have allowed parents to stay at work and provide input. Virtual open houses, ongoing positive academic communications, home visits, networks of support for basic needs, and academic support for students have worked together to strengthen the home-to-school connection. We believe that active parent support helps us close the COVID gap.

  Last year, suspended assessments gave us a chance to rethink our accountability system. Assessments often benefit students who are good test takers while failing to display the knowledge of a majority of students. Students need to show work products, explain ongoing projects, discuss how they have given back to their community through service, and apply what they have learned academically. We are hopeful that everyone will realize an accountability system that is more comprehensive will show a better understanding of what the child knows, understands, and can do.

  The staggered start for the school day is important as well as having multiple entrances at each school. We did this for health and wellness reasons but we have found that it is a more effective way to get students to school. It allows for less behavioral disruptions, cuts down the time students and families have to wait on drop off or pick up, and makes the day more successful. SmartBus technology has allowed us to install inside and outside cameras, check temperatures, monitor student attendance on the bus, communicate with parents about location of students, and create more efficient ways to bring students to school.

  We have not had any COVID-19 clusters and we’ve seen less flu and other illnesses. We believe the health and wellness measures have allowed our students and staff to stay healthy. We need to continue the cleanliness procedures moving forward. We have provided options for working and learning from home when sick or quarantined and these have created more productivity without being a health hazard in our school buildings. The ability to have more nurses, social workers, and counselors available is a game changer. This allows us to address the social-emotional needs on our campuses and provide wrap around services for families. This ensures that students have the supports needed to overcome any obstacle.

  Mount Airy City Schools has written a great playbook on how to come back safely five days a week in a pandemic. It’s a lot of hard work, effort, and determination to do what is right for every child regardless of the obstacles. This “can do” attitude is what sets our community apart. We have had community and industry partners step up and provide resources, ideas, and man power which resulted in lots of needs being met during this time. We know that our students have learned resilience from our community. Recently, we hosted a round table for graduates. One graduate noted that the district is a full staff of “go getters” with a “go getter” mentality. He said he felt like he could do anything because our staff pushed him to his full potential. Another graduate said that teachers never kept them at an arm’s length. They went above and beyond every day for every child. We believe this year is a testament to that exact description of our staff.

  Locally learned lessons can also be applied across our state and nation. We have financial resources to pay for every child to eat a free breakfast and lunch. We should continue to do this after the crisis and make sure students can concentrate while they are learning. Broadband connectivity will be vital to make the US educational system competitive; we should prioritize this access for all families even in rural areas. Devices in the hands of students close a critical gap to accessing information. The funding coming now should continue for sustainability of technology devices and training. This will put us ahead in the global marketplace.

  The financial support we have been asking for to provide a quality education for every child is being provided in many ways now. This priority should continue especially to make sure every school has a social worker, a nurse, a school resource officer, and enough teachers to keep the class size 20 or below. The accountability system should give a better picture of what the child has accomplished and how they are growing throughout their school experiences. This will help us better match the child to their future goals and align their resources and courses going forward.

  This year has taught us to prioritize what matters most. We need to help students find their passions, their purpose, and connect them to resources on that pathway. We know that this year the Mount Airy community had a shared vision to come back to school face-to-face every day. We will need continued support to make sure that the lessons we are learning will transform into a better and brighter future for our children. We will need everyone’s continued contributions of time, ideas, resources, and positive attitudes to make next year a successful school year for Mount Airy City Schools. We want you to know that we appreciate you.

  If these walls could talk

  April 19, 2021

  If this house could talk, what would it say? What would it be able to say with only three walls and spare remnants of a long-ago life?

  The Colonel John “Jack” Martin Rock House of nearby Stokes County is just that. What was once a four-story fortress home has been reduced to three standing walls, a pit where the basement should be, and rock piles surrounding the grounds like grave markers. “A crumbling castle, haunted only by its legends,” was how one Winston-Salem newspaper described the grounds in 1973; and they were not wrong.

  The legend in question was Col. John Martin, commonly known as Jack. The Revolutionary War veteran, county judge, and legislative member erected his “castle” sometime between 1770 and 1785. The dates are questionable; however, we do know that in 1784 John married Nancy Shipp, which some say hastened the construction on the property. Together they raised 10 children at Rock House.

  Scholars have debated on whether to classify Rock House as a Jacobean style home or Tudor Gothic. While the research is light on historic imagery (the camera obscura would not be invented for another 50 or so years), there are detailed descriptions of the home in its former glory.

  The basement extended under the entire house, housing a kitchen and dining room with 6-foot-high ceilings. While the main floor, level to the front, and back porch was mainly used for entertaining, it was comprised of only two rooms, a hall and the parlor. The remaining two floors were likely used for personal space. I would imagine raising 10 children would take up some square footage.

  The walls were made of solid rock, 3 feet thick. More than 40,000 loads of rock were hauled from the nearby Sauratown Mountains by slaves to complete the house. Originally covered with a thick white stucco, the Rock House would have had a totally different look. The home had large fireplaces, big enough to cook whole hogs in.

  Over the years rocks have fallen and been stolen. Wrought iron nails that once held the wood interior framing together have been sought after by collectors helping to further deteriorate the building. Local residents say that in 1897 the building burned, destroying what was left of the wood. And in the 1980s, one wall was taken down for someone’s personal home project, later to be returned and placed in the piles visitors will see around the site.

  For many years, a call for help in preserving the building had been heard, and in 1975 the Stokes County Historical Society responded. The group purchased the structure with four acres of land. Through grants and local donations, they stabilized the walls, added interpretation, and gathered funding for a fence to further protect the Rock House and keep its history alive.

  When I visited the House last week, the sky was overcast and the wind blowing. The dogwood trees were in full bloom and I felt peaceful and alone. One local legend says I was not alone. While the house does not seem like much now, many lives lived around its fortress. Some say in the afternoon or late at night a woman, murdered by a Tory attack at the house, can be seen standing in the doorway. Others have seen a ghostly patrol around the property at dusk.

  The society projects that the stone structure will be around for another 100 years, likely in varying degrees of decay. I hope that you will stop by and take in the rich history of the Rock House while it is still standing and learn more about its local legends and impact on our history.

  Folk remedies important in early life of Surry County

  April 12, 2021

  With the passing of the March 20 spring equinox last month, and now temperatures well into the 70s nearly every day, there is little doubt — spring is officially here!

  For many people, that means getting back outdoors for early planting, exercise, yard work, and simply enjoying the great outdoors. The warmer weather also means that creatures and plants that have been lying dormant over the winter are reawakening. For early settlers in this area, it was a time for extra precaution. Without direct and easy access to doctors or medicine, settlers and their descendants relied on folk remedies to cure their ailments. These remedies took many forms, but for this article we’ll look at plant-based ones.

  The origins of American folk remedies are a multicultural and shared history. Native Americans developed remedies from the resources around them. Often, the knowledge of beneficial or poisonous plants was passed from Native Americans to settlers via observation or direct teaching. Immigrants from Europe and enslaved Africans brought their traditional remedies with them and adapted them to the resources they found available here. The knowledge of these remedies was passed down from generation to generation and by word-of-mouth. They were often not written down, due to their nature as “secret recipes.”

  In the spring, many early settlers sought to “clean” and “refresh” their system from the winter. Often plants were ingested as a tea, a syrup, and whole or ground into a poultice or salve to apply to the affected area. Common ailments of spring include poison ivy, cuts or scrapes, and bites. However, when it comes to folk remedies, they either work, don’t work, or could potentially cause ill effects. Mistake one plant for another or using it during the wrong time of the season could prove a sickly or even deathly mistake.

  Poison ivy, and its relatives poison sumac and oak, cause its distinct rash and itchiness due to urushiol, an oil throughout the entire plant. One interesting remedy is to use the juice of a milkweed plant. Besides being a wonderful food source for pollinators, milkweed can also be used to alleviate a wide variety of ailments relating to the skin or muscles, such as rheumatism, ringworm, sores, ulcers, warts, and wounds. The plant itself can be eaten, but only when its young, as it’s slightly toxic. The flowers can be cooked down to make sugar and in turn into wine.

  Cuts and scrapes are a common occurrence. Many cures were poultices or salves made from sarsaparilla, dandelion leaves, witch hazel, tobacco leaves, and peach tree leaves. However, one of the most interesting and non-plant-based cures was spider webs. Spider webs would be gathered and packed into the wound, which would stop the bleeding. Spider silk is flexible, tough, and for its weight extremely strong; plus, research suggests that it may have antimicrobial properties.

  Insect bites or stings and snake bites proved worrisome if the culprit was identified as poisonous, otherwise it was more of a nuisance. The pain and swelling of insect bites and stings could be cured with tobacco leaves, crushed plantain, chrysanthemum, or ragweed leaves. For snake bites, a poultice of cockleburs or forget-me-not leaves, or the use of snake root was advised. In William Byrd’s The Westover Manuscripts: Containing the History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina; A Journey to the Land of Eden, A. D. 1733; and A Progress to the Mines, he mentions coming across the plant on his travels and the effect it had.

  “I found near our camp some plants of that kind of rattle-snake root, called star-grass. The leaves shoot out circularly, and grow horizontally and near the ground. The root is in shape not unlike the rattle of that serpent, and is a strong antidote against the bite of it. It is very bitter, and where it meets with any poison, works by violent sweats, but where it meets with none, has no sensible operation but that of putting the spirits into a great hurry, and so of promoting perspiration. The rattle-snake has an utter antipathy to this plant, insomuch that if you smear your hands with the juice of it, you may handle the viper safely.”

  This article has only scratched the surface of folk remedies in our area. Keep your eye out for the plants mentioned, and your ears peeled for remedies folks may mention in passing.

  Justyn Kissam is the director of programs and education at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. Originally from Winston-Salem, she has moved around the state for her education and public history work until settling in Mount Airy. She can be reached at 336-786-4478 x 228 or jnkissam@northcarolinamuseum.org

  The journey is the reward

  April 11, 2021

  Editor’s Note: Community Comment is a feature of The Mount Airy News, presenting commentary from community leaders in Mount Airy and Surry County.

  It has been said, the journey is the reward. As I reflect on the journey of the past year, I am so appreciative of the Surry County Schools team. A little over a year ago, the week of March 9, Surry County Schools was on spring break. As the development of the pandemic was escalating in the national and local news, the Surry County Board of Education took a bold step for the safety and well-being of our students and staff and decided to close schools. The next day, Gov. Roy Cooper closed all North Carolina schools. These unprecedented actions set us on a path that none of us would have predicted. An unprecedented journey was just beginning to unfold.

  This journey has been full of many challenges. We chose to embrace the journey and to focus our energies on supporting and caring for the physical, social-emotional, and academic needs of our students and families. It was an unparalleled opportunity and I believe delivering high-quality services to our customers, our students, and families have been our drumbeat.

  Our strategic plan guides our work and this guiding compass provided the structure we used to ground us. Likewise, we had to think outside the box. Without a road map, we created one with the help of district and school administrators, teachers, student support personnel, and parents. The convened Return to Learn Task Force and I worked diligently to fulfill our mission to act with a heart of servant leadership, and a focus on the health and safety of our students and staff.

  The journey included curbside meal service and transporting meals on yellow school buses. To date, our School Nutrition department has served more than 1.5 million meals with love. For over a year we have provided curbside meal service to any child in Surry County. Our school nutrition staff has served in rain, wind, and heat with a smile.

  The journey included an emergency transition to remote learning last March and included revised graduation plans for the class of 2020. Over the summer, Surry County Schools opened a new pathway for global success, the Surry Online Magnet School, a fully online school with a blended learning option. In August, our most vulnerable students and pre-k students returned to schools and classrooms with enhanced health and safety protocols. All K-12 students returned to learn in cohorts under a blended/hybrid model with some in-person learning and some remote learning in September. On Oct. 5, students in kindergarten through third grade began face-to-face learning four days per week.

  Throughout the journey, educators worked tirelessly to implement guidance from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center. Along the way, we had a gradual return to athletics, and recently, the Surry County Board of Education approved all students in grades kindergarten through grade 12 to return to in-person learning five days per week on April 12.

  As we take the next steps of the journey together at all 20 Surry County Schools, let us remember to acknowledge the small things, to not forget to share the pathway with our friends, and neighbors, and continue to live, learn, and lead. I am so proud to take this journey with you. We are Surry County Schools, the journey is the reward, and together we are stronger than ever!

  Saving seeds for a bountiful harvest

  April 05, 2021

  As tall, bright daffodils burst from the earth, we welcome spring!

  With dirty hands, I observe nature’s fanfare as I leave my tiny greenhouse. This year I have decided to take on seeds.

  In previous years I have been a faithful plant buyer, mostly securing my success in the garden.

  Starting from seeds can be unpredictable and sometimes fruitless. However, for many in our not-so-distant past, this was the way of life. Ensuring the ability to feed their families for not just the coming harvest, but for years to come through seed saving.

  Many saved seeds can last for two or three years. With the extra work in the fall, collecting and drying seeds, a family could handle some of the hardships of the winter and early spring without having to worry about how or where they would buy next years supply of seeds.

  The practice of saving seeds is centuries old and crosses continents as well as cultures. Native American tribes on the East Coast and beyond saved seeds to ensure new life in upcoming seasons. By carefully picking out and selecting the best seeds from the fall harvest, a good crop could be ensured for the year. Immigrants coming to North Carolina and Virginia might have brought seeds from their home country as well, with the hopes of cultivating food they could recognize. The diverse landscape and soil varieties of the Americas presented obstacles for many non-native planters who sought advice from Native American groups in their area.

  Many of the plants we know today only resemble their predecessor plants in name, having been changed so drastically by seed selection. Corn is one of those plants. Native Americans took what was no more than a tall grass and cultivated it into the corn/maze we know and love. By specifically selecting only the best yielding ears and saving them to plant in the next spring equinox.

  However, saving seeds only worked if you have had a good growing season. Sometimes crops were bad, other times people had moved far from home and needed to start anew.

  It is with that ideology in mind that seed catalogs were pushed to the spotlight; the 19th and 20th century catalogs made purchasing seeds with desired results so easy.

  The first known flower bulb catalog was released in 1612, titled Florilegium Amplissimum et Selectissium. This work was presented at the Frankfurt-am-Main in Germany. The beautifully illustrated images captured and delighted plant buyers and became the standard for catalogs to follow; specifically, the catalogs of the late 19th and 20th centuries.

  These advertisements also offered elaborate images, some consisting of more artistry than accuracy. One, the 1921 D.M. Ferry & Co. catalog, has an image of red peppers that look so good you want to eat it. Each one more elaborate than the next, hoping you will pick their company to buy from. Here in the rich bottomland farmers could choose from a variety of seed and plant companies to reach their spring planting needs.

  Many catalogs from today and the past boast “heirloom” and “open-pollinated” seeds. To harvest good seeds, you must start with good seeds. As you plant this spring take note of these identifiers. Hybrid varieties do not yield as many viable offspring as heirloom or open-pollinated seeds do.

  North Carolina and Virginia have many local seed companies that offer heirloom and open-pollinated seeds: Southern Exposure Seed Company, Appalachian Seeds, Sow True Seeds, Seven Springs Farm and more.

  Surry County even has its own seed library. The Sunshine Seed Library is located at the Dobson Community Library in partnership with the NC Cooperative Extension Office. The seeds are free to the public with the promise of returned seeds in the harvest season. Cindy, the branch librarian said interest has been great, so much so, that they are currently out of seeds.

  Using local seeds from catalogs, seed libraries, neighbors, and your own harvest help to ensure and protect regional strains of plants. This is just one other way for us all to help protect “Our History.”

  Surry County: 250 years

  March 29, 2021

  On Thursday Surry County officially turns 250 years old being the anniversary of the legislative act and royal decree that created the county from the sprawling Rowan County. North Carolina was still a British Colony then but the unrest that would sever that tie was already in full-swing.

  People from across the county had planned a year-long celebration of the semiquincentennial but COVID-19 delayed those plans until this summer, something to look forward to.

  But today I want to celebrate the impressive journey that has taken this region from a beautiful if isolated beautiful piece of the piedmont to the communities, industries, and, most importantly, the people who live here today.

  Farms, Roads, & War – 1771 – 1821

  1771 – After more than a year of petitions, Royal Governor William Tryon creates Surry County. It encompassed all of what is today Surry, Stokes, Forsyth, and Yadkin counties as well as portions of Wilkes, Ashe, and Alleghany. Rich in raw materials such as timber and iron ore, the region’s greatest value may have been the trails to get from Greensboro and Salem to the Cumberland Gap in Virginia.

  At the same time some of Surry’s farmers join bands of Regulators, informal militia, to take resolution of grievances, real and perceived, into their own hands.

  1776-1789 – Area citizens are deeply divided during the Revolution with material support and fighting men go to both Loyalist and Patriot companies.

  1789 – Stokes County is split from the eastern portion of the county; in 1849 it is divided again to form Forsyth County; 1790 – Surry is home to just more than 7,000 souls

  1801 – Congress established an official US Post Road from Salem to Mount Airy to Wythe County, Virginia, roughly parallel to US 52, and Mount Airy’s Main Street.

  Catalan forges and grist mills operate along the Big Elk Creek, and the Fisher, Yadkin, and Ararat rivers; Stagecoach stops attract other businesses laying the foundations for the towns of Mount Airy, Pilot Mountain, and Elkin

  Industry Takes Root – 1821-1871

  1830 – The county population is 14,504

  1840 – Brower Cotton Mill (one of only 25 statewide at the time) is established on the Ararat in the Hamburg community with a shoe factory and other businesses

  1851 – Yadkin County is cut from the southern half of Surry, leaving today’s boundaries; the county seat moves from Rockford to the new town of Dobson

  1857 – Pilot Mountain Post Office established

  1860 – County population was 10,380, down 44% after Yadkin was formed. An additional 1,200 enslaved people live in the county; During the Civil War 750 Surry men fight, more than 100 of them on the Union side.

  The Modern World – 1871-1921

  1877 – Alexander Chatham opened a woolen mill that became Chatham Manufacturing that produced, among other things, blankets for the US Army. From 1919 to 1955, Chatham is the largest blanket manufacturer in the world, employing more than 3,500. After the war businesses take off and drives modernization and improved living conditions in the region.

  1885 – Mount Airy incorporates

  1888 – Cape Fear & Yadkin Valley Railroad arrives in Pilot Mountain and Mount Airy

  1889 – Towns of Pilot Mountain and Elkin incorporate; Mount Airy Granite Quarry begins operation

  1899 – Chestnut Ridge established. One of several predominantly African-American farming communities in the county, residents establish a school and church within a decade. Farmers, both Black and White, work together to plant and harvest tobacco crops.

  1890 – Northwestern North Carolina Railroad arrives in Elkin

  1892- 1895 – Electricity, telephone, and public water service come to the towns

  1896-1920 – Mount Airy Furniture Company, National Furniture Company, Mount Airy Mantel and Table and Mount Airy Chair Company formed

  1916 – US enters WWI; Surry Rifles mobilize as part of the US Army’s 30th Division

  1920 – Surry County Health Department is established in direct response to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic; public schools open across the county

  County Flourishes With Industries – 1921 – 1971

  1930s – Factories ran a five-and-a-half, 10-hour day work week paying $30/week on average

  1939 – Many textile mills open including Amos & Smith Hosiery Mill built in Pilot Mountain; Armtex Manufacturing Company, 1945; and Pilot Hosiery Mill, 1949.

  1948 – WPAQ begins broadcasting

  1950s-‘60s – Multiple manufacturing plants open: Insteel Industries, 1955; Proctor Electric Company toaster factory, 1957

  1963 -Mount Airy/Surry County Airport opens and Surry County Community College founded in Dobson

  1968 – Pilot Mountain becomes the state’s 14th state park

  Hard Timesm Rising Up – 1971-2021

  More recent history has been turbulent. Regional manufacturing was strong till the end of the century but long-time regional employers begin closing in the mid-1990s: Chatham family loses control of the company to a hostile takeover from a Danish company, 1995; Hamilton Beach/Procter Silex, 1998; Bassett Furniture Co., 2005; and Spencer’s Inc, 2007.

  But Surry is still home to strong businesses such as Insteel Industries, NCFI Polyurethanes, Leonards Buildings, and Altec Industries. The county is home to a growing carport industry, a quirky tourist following, a thriving wine tradition, and unique cultural treasures with a core of dedicated citizens working to build the community. I hope you take some time this year to learn about the history but, more importantly, to join with those folks working toward the next 250 years.

  Everyone wants to be a Granite Bear

  March 29, 2021

  Editor’s Note: Community Comment is a periodic column in The Mount Airy News featuring commentary from community leaders in Mount Airy and Surry County.

  Do you want to be a Mount Airy Granite Bear? So does everyone else. We are so excited that our school district continues to gain students. Mount Airy City Schools is one of two school districts in the state that gained students this year. We believe strongly that all of the students in our community deserve the high quality education opportunities that our district provides. We understand deeply that every child deserves the best every day and we work hard to make sure we graduate all students ready to Lead-Innovate-and Serve.

  We have fulfilled our mission to “LEAD” by being the first in the state to return face-to-face five days a week beginning in August and that included kindergarten through 12th grades. We created a variety of options for students and families to choose from such as remote, face-to-face, blended, and homeschool in our C.L.A.S.S. model. We have installed and are implementing Smart Bus Technology that provides an even safer transportation experience for students. Our staff has led the way by making sure we connect with students and families with more than 15,000 calls. Our community has stepped up to provide meals and blessing bags and donated more than $25,000 to this cause. Our school nutrition department has provided more than 350,000 packed meals.

  Due to the hard work of our teachers and staff members, the innovative programs we offer, and the close-knit school families we create, our pre-k and kindergarten classes have reached capacity this year and we expect another year of record breaking enrollment. If you want to be a Granite Bear, now is the time to act. We have gained about 100 students this year and many of those are in our early grades. Our kindergarten class grew from 96 to 150 and if you have a rising kindergarten, you should mark your calendar with this one important upcoming event. On Monday, April 19, BH Tharrington Primary School will hold its kindergarten screening. Appointments will run from 3 – 5 p.m. and you can sign up on our website (https://www.tharringtonschool.org/) for your slot today. You can also pick up registration packets at BHT Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

  Our Dual Language Immersion program, which begins in kindergarten, recently held its seventh cohort lottery. For the second year in a row, there was enough interest that two kindergarten classes were made and a waitlist has been started. If your child will be 4 years old on or before August 31, they may be eligible for the pre-K program at BHT. Screening for this will take place on Thursday, April 22 from 3 to 5 p.m. You can contact the school to learn more about pre-kindergarten at 336-789-9046.

  Our other schools continue to gain students because we “INNOVATE” by adding workforce development opportunities even during a difficult year. We have programs in the areas of STEAM- Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. These programs include areas such as coding, programming, 3-D modeling, culinary arts, health science, woodworking, music, visual arts, theater, and so many more pathways. We have over 80 active interns this year and know that work-based learning provides a great avenue for learning lifelong skills.

  We have a focus on global education with our Spanish for All in elementary, Spanish Dual Language Immersion which will be K-6, and Chinese program which is 8-12. We also have added high school courses offered in the middle school including English I, Spanish 1, Math 1, and a high school social studies course. Our K-12 gifted program is second to none and will help your gifted student excel. Our middle school is currently at capacity, but you can guarantee your face-to-face spot if you apply before July 1st. We want you to join the Granite Bear family.

  “SERVE” is something we do every day as we serve students and families. We have service organizations such as Interact (Rotary), HOSA (Health Occupations), Chick-Fil-A Leadership Academy and an elementary approach of service and leadership called, “Leader in Me.” We believe strongly that students involved in our academic competitions such as Art Showcase, First LEGO League, The Quill, Quiz Bowl, Envirothon, Public Speaking and Drama, HOSA- Future Health Professionals, and many more add a layer of academic strength to our middle school program. Many of these opportunities continue at the high school level. We want you to be able to take advantage of these great resources. They lead to careers in service and problem-solving.

  Mount Airy Middle School and Mount Airy High School have tremendous athletic programs which is something that allows for a well-rounded program for students. We had very few quarantine situations and that is due to the excellence of our athletic staff and students. Even this year our middle school tennis teams went undefeated. Our high school has captured conference championships in men’s basketball and men’s soccer. We are glad that we can safely offer athletics to students when so many other things have been taken from them over the last year.

  Mount Airy High School is the only high school in the state that came back five days a week in August and one of the few at this time that are attending every single day. We are so grateful that we were able to do this for our students. We are excited that over 2,000 staff and students’ families were able to go back to work early this school year. We know this had a tremendous impact on the economic conditions in our community as well as the health and mental wellbeing of everyone.

  Join Mount Airy City Schools where we don’t enroll students, we enroll families. We will help your child learn to Lead-Innovate- and Serve. Sign up for a tour by visiting our website- https://www.mtairy.k12.nc.us/ or by calling our schools. We are touring all the time for potential students and we want to add you to the list. I always end by saying how grateful we are for you, the Mount Airy community, for making us great.

  The story’s not over

  March 26, 2021

  A week from now is Good Friday, the dark day on which Jesus died a brutal, horrific death on the cross at Golgotha, the place of the skull. We will retell the Passion narrative, remembering Jesus as we do when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. We do this in remembrance of him, of God’s amazing mercy and love, because the story is too important to allow it to slide into the haze of history and fade from our sight.

  We began to hear the story of Jesus when Moses wrote down the history of the universe. Those uplifting, beautifully simplistic words which begin the story, “In the beginning, God…” are continued by the Apostle John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word created a universe with the express purpose to fashion a place where we could be together, Creator and Created, united in love.

  It would have been a very short story if we’d been able to end right there. And they lived happily ever after for ever and ever and ever and ever. But the world broke. We broke the only rule we were given. The relationship was shattered. Angels with burning swords blocked the return to the Garden. We immediately turned on each other, the first two siblings ever experienced jealousy, envy, anger and murder. We sank into depravity. Despite that, there were bright spots in humanity who remembered what we had in the Garden, who remembered God and honored the Lord. The very water that washed humanity off the face of the earth also saved Noah and his family because of his devotion to God.

  Abraham walked with God, too. God made a promise to him thousands of years ago, foretold of one descended from Abraham who would save the world and bless all people. We saw foreshadowing of the one to come in Moses, leading God’s people out of bondage and slavery, into a promised land, with God at their side. People, being people, being descended from the ones who broke the one original rule, betrayed God and began sleeping with the enemy, worshipping gods fashioned by the hands of people, imagined out of the darkness in our souls. God had already promised not to wash the world clean again and to bless everyone through Abraham’s children.

  The world waited on the arrival of the Reason, the Point, the Healer, the Redeemer. We waited a long time, many despaired God would never return. Then, quietly, until the angels couldn’t contain themselves, a baby showed up in a feeding trough, so poor, so meek as to be no threat at all. The Word had come. A new chapter for humanity began.

  The Word taught us to love, to see the most important aspect of our lives is our relationship with God, one that was worthy of everything we are, body, mind, heart and soul. The Word showed us we are all beloved children of the Most-High God and by loving each other we are fulfilling our purpose to love God. He challenged the ones who would use position and power to take advantage of the weak and disadvantaged, the widows and orphans. He called them out for their hypocrisy and championed the cause of the poor. He brought the Good News that there is a path which leads back to Eden, to the new Heaven and the new earth, a narrow way which leads us to the Throne of Grace, to our salvation, redemption and life.

  We do well to not only remember the story at Easter. This story is so important we need to hear it afresh every day. The story isn’t finished. One day, soon, Jesus will return and take us home. Then we will live happily ever after. Come, Lord Jesus!

  Andy Griffith found himself at UNC

  March 22, 2021

  As a college student attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during COVID-19, many experiences have been quite different than any other year for students. But what has remained the same is the rich experiences available through campus life.

  Unknowingly, I am not the first nor last Surry Countian to go to Chapel Hill. The most famous student would be none other than Andy Griffith.

  With the soaring popularity of his self-titled TV series, Andy Griffith became a household name in the 1960s. The Andy Griffith Show charmed the world with its southern values, idyllic hometown, and moments of comic relief from an otherwise hectic world. But before the local legend was a Hollywood star, he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

  Though Griffith attended UNC in the 1940s, the school that produced so many North Carolina greats remains unchanged in many ways. The impressive Wilson Library still overlooks the quad where students, such as Griffith, continue to enjoy their time between classes. Players for the North Carolina football team competed in the same Kenan Memorial stadium as they do today, albeit with a few upgrades being made in the past 80 years. In fact, it was this stadium where Griffith would catch his first break in the world of entertainment.

  The comedy monologue, “What it was, was football,” recorded in 1953, was Griffith’s first introduction to fame. The performance is from the perspective of a humble countryman who stumbles upon a football game and has absolutely no idea what is going on.

  The “little bitty college town” that Griffith refers to is likely Chapel Hill, and the stadium that the fictional game took place in would be none other than Kenan Stadium on campus. The recording sold more than 1 million copies and launched the North Carolinian on the path to stardom. He performed the monologue at the stadium several times in his life and recorded the master copy at a local Chapel Hill studio.

  Many college students take their time at school to redefine or rebrand themselves before they enter the world beyond their hometowns. This identity shift could mean taking on a new hobby or shaking off an old childhood nickname. Griffith decided that he was going to make a change as well.

  According to an alumni profile in the Carolina Alumni Review, Griffith initially told UNC that his name was “Andrew Griffith,” when his real first name was truly just “Andy,” because “Andrew” sounded more professional. The Daily Tar Heel, a student-run newspaper, referred to Griffith wrongfully as “Andrew” in many of the reviews of his playmaker performances.

  Though he entered the school in the hopes of becoming a Moravian pastor, he soon discovered his true passion: the stage. As part of the Playmakers Company, Griffith excelled in many performances including, “The Gondolier” and “The Mikado.” The Historic Playmakers Theater still has its dramatic, greek-revival styles columns that Griffith would have walked through before a rehearsal or performance. Were it not for his experiences at Chapel Hill, we may have never met the Sheriff Andy Taylor we know and love.

  Lift high the cross

  March 19, 2021

  There is a long-held practice of giving up something for Lent. I had a friend tell me recently he was giving up Lent for Lent! What’s the deal with that? Jesus tells us we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. It’s the denying of ourselves which drives our Lenten sacrifice.

  Jesus gave up his life for Lent. We see the final push of his ministry in the Gospels. We see him marching inexorably toward the cross. He knew what was coming and he went anyway. The first Lenten journey ended in death. To stop there is to do the story an injustice. Lent always ends in death. And yet, Easter is always about new life and resurrection!

  We make a sacrifice in our life to echo the sacrifice of Jesus. No, our sacrifice is not the equivalent of his. But when we miss what we deny ourselves for Lent, we are reminded of what Jesus gave up for us. A friend is fasting once a week every week of Lent for 24 hours. When he hears his stomach, he says a prayer. When he would normally sit down for a meal, he sits down with his Bible and follows it with a healthy helping of prayer. The point is to make more room in our life for the spiritual side of our life to permeate all of our life.

  We live in a world of which we are not a part. The ruler of this domain is not in alignment with God’s Kingdom and as such demands of us an allegiance we cannot entertain. We reject the priorities of this world — greed, selfishness, power, violence, dominance — for the attributes of God’s Kingdom — faith, mercy, justice, hope, peace, and the greatest, Love. This is not an easy stance to maintain and the enemy is constantly hammering at our defenses to break in and defeat us.

  The enemy will never get to us if we remain in God, allow God to fight our battles, and submit our life to God’s authority. Just as Jesus prayed in the Garden, “Not my will, but yours, Heavenly Father,” so we pray to be part of the Divine Plan. That’s not to say the enemy won’t come at us. He tried, futilely, to break Jesus. He will certainly try to take us down. You’d think after all this time the Devil would know he will lose, but he has such hatred of the Father, he will still try. We have a solid rock, a strong tower to which we can run. We will not be shaken or moved.

  The practice of Lenten sacrifice keeps us focused on Jesus. As we follow in his footsteps, we discover the will of God for our lives. The closer we draw to God, the more we are transformed by love, made over into the image of Jesus. I want God to see Jesus when looking at me! It’s the only way God will be able to say to me, “Well done, my good and faithful son.” It is by the righteousness of Jesus, by the stripes he suffered, the nails he bore, that I have been saved, not by anything I’ve ever done or said. I can never be worthy of his grace which is exactly why it is grace and by grace we are healed.

  I believe in adding a spiritual practice during Lent, not just giving up something. This year, I’m looking for God every day and writing down where I saw God in a journal. I have yet to come up emptyhanded on any day. I see God in action, in people, in events. I see God answering prayers, healing relationships, and performing miracles ever day. Try it yourself. When we tune into God’s frequency, we will notice God everywhere.

  Jesus didn’t sugar coat what it meant to be his follower. He said they hated him so we are sure to be hated, too. If we had any thoughts of being rich and powerful, they were burst when he said, “Deny yourself. Take up your cross. Follow me.” He calls us to discipleship, to move toward mastery of love. And he promised to always be with us, even to the end of the age. Come, Lord Jesus.

  Cameras offered chance to record history

  March 15, 2021

  Photography is often called a mixture of art and science, and it is used as a way to record history. The history of photography itself is not as widely known as the history of other scientific breakthroughs or other mediums of art, but it is one of the most influential.

  Most people would call the “camera obscura” the earliest type of camera. It was made of a box and a lens that projects the picture into the box. Louis Daguerre discovered a process that would allow him to capture images onto a metal sheet which he called the daguerreotype. He made this process public in 1839. The daguerreotype was one of the most popular cameras available until the 1850s and ’60s when they were overshadowed by wet-plate photography, ambrotypes, tintypes, and dry plate photography.

  Another invention worth mentioning was the Kodak camera invented by George Eastmen in 1888. It allowed many more photographers to pick up a camera and facilitated many different photographic styles and movements.

  North Carolina experienced many of the photographic movements. When the daguerreotype first got to the state in the early 1840s, most people involved in the business were itinerants or travelers. Photographers such as James Joyner, Samuel Humphrey, and Dr. John Wilde and his daughter, Augusta, who was arguably the first female photographer in the state, traveled to North Carolina to take pictures in major cities. They came in stagecoaches or wagons, and only stayed temporarily. However, as photography became more widespread in the state, many natives and outsiders started setting up permanent studios.

  After the Civil War, more businesses opened in the state, and more people started becoming photographers. Horace Davis opened his own studio in Raleigh in 1880 and was possibly the first African American photographer in North Carolina. John T. Daniels was a photographer who is well-known for taking pictures of the Wright Brothers’ flight. The most famous female photographer in the state at the time was Bayard Wooton. Many professional photographers had set up shop in cities and towns, and amateur photography also blew up with the invention of the Kodak camera. More and more people in North Carolina were becoming photographers as time went on.

  In Mount Airy, many photography businesses were opened. Jacob Blakemoore was a Confederate soldier who ran the Mount Airy Fine Art Gallery from 1892 to 1900. Quentin Davis was a former Army photographer and records man who opened a studio in Mount Airy after World War II.

  The longest-lasting photography business in Mount Airy was Eckenrod Studio. William and Alma Eckenrod started their studio in 1924 and closed it for the final time in the 1970s. The family experienced many movements of photography during this period such as the development of colored photography. During World War II, they also would have had to deal with a shortage of materials they used to make photos. Digital photography would have made itself known towards the end of Alma’s career. Not to mention all the different styles and trends that would come and go throughout the 20th century.

  I am a photographer myself, and I am happy to learn what I can from the experiences of the Eckenrods and others. This is made difficult by the fact that the camera has come a long way from the “camera obscura.” New technology and tools such as editing softwares change the ways we take pictures and what we do with them. Photography was meant to be a way to capture the exact likeness of something or someone, but its history captures how it has become much more.

  Heightened expectations

  March 12, 2021

  Last week I wrote about a “heightened sense of expectation” and how martial arts masters are able to break through boards and bricks because they punch a point past the material. I want to revisit this idea for today.

  We are in the middle of the Lenten season as we march toward the cross and Easter morning. Jesus willingly went to the cross, laid his life down of his own free will. His prayers in the garden before he was arrested attest he was aware of how bad it was to be and he submitted to the pain, the humiliation, the inhumanity anyway. Why? How? Because he was striking a point beyond the cross and that point was so important that no barrier would stop him.

  Look around you. Everything you can see, everything you cannot see, from one end of the universe to the other, was made so you and God could be together. That’s the point of creation. We were created to be in relationship with God, to be able to hear and be heard, to love and be loved, to share and be shared. We were built to be in relationship with each other. We are infinitely stronger together than we are individually. Some would go so far as to say our salvation isn’t just about us but also about our community.

  Then sin happened. The bonds broke. We were separated from our family, from our Father. It was traumatic to the human race. We’ve never recovered. It took Jesus coming here, giving himself up to pay our penalty, to restore our bond with our Creator. Jesus knew that the brief time it would take to play out his passion was worth eternity with all of us. He endured ridicule, betrayal, abandonment, condemnation, and barbaric abuse by his own creation. He took three nails meant for us.

  We march toward Easter and we relive the joyous entry into Jerusalem that turned on a dime to an ugly mob, goaded by our worst demons and we experience Jesus’ death once more afresh. We do this in remembrance of him. The story didn’t finish at the cross. Jesus punched past the gates of Hell and Death, confiscated the keys of both from the one who stole them and returned victorious so we would no longer face either.

  We know how the story ends. We’ve celebrated it every year of our lives. Because He lives, we can do more than face tomorrow. We can have a heightened sense of expectation! Out of more than 300 prophecies found in scripture that are fulfilled by the life and person of Jesus, there remains one left undone, one promise unfulfilled. He promised to come back.

  We awake every day expecting this to be the day. The amount of time from when Jesus made the promise to today is immaterial. He was promising past the barriers. He will strike his mark, he will split the sky and return with legions of angels to take his faithful home, back to the Garden, back to a place where we live in communion with God and each other, as we were meant to be. The dark day of the cross was a shadow of death and the brilliance of God’s love and light shattered the darkness and the bonds of sin.

  Rest in his promise. What do we do while we wait? Jesus said dozens of times in the Gospels, “Follow me.” Let us look to retrace his steps to the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the shunned, the least, last and lost. We will find him there and there we will find ourselves. Keep expecting God to be amazing.

  Two old-time skills on display

  March 08, 2021

  Fire: A combustion of substances that combine chemically with oxygen and give off light, heat, and smoke. Humans learned to control this destructive and creative element over two million years ago.

  This will be on display at the museum in two ways on Saturday March 20; a Blacksmithing Workshop in the courtyard from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and a Pysanky Egg Workshop in the Conference Room from 1 p.m.- 4 p.m.

  Both are considered science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics (STEAM) friendly workshops.

  Blacksmithing evolved out of necessity. In early human history, the materials which tools were made out of evolved to match the available technology at the time; from the Stone Age, to the Bronze Age, and finally the Iron Age around 2000 B.C.

  Blacksmiths were a vital community asset, as they forged or repaired the metal items essential to life. These items included horseshoes, plows, wheels, cookware, and tools. Iron is one of the most abundant metals on Earth and has been present since the planet’s inception; it also came to Earth in the form of meteorites.

  Iron, when mixed with carbon via a fire, proved to be a strong, yet malleable metal that held its edge. During the Industrial Revolution, it was discovered that if more carbon is added to iron during production it creates a new alloy, steel.

  The traditional fuel for the fire for blacksmithing is coal. Coal is the product of millions of years of work; plant material died, was buried under water and dirt, and the pressure and heat exerted on it over time created what we know as coal.

  There are four different types of coal; anthracite, bituminous, subbituminous, and lignite. The ranking and use of each are dependent on the amount of carbon it contains and the heat it can produce.

  Bituminous coal is the coal of choice for blacksmiths and the heat created by the fire is reflected in the metal as it is forged. Dull grey color indicates the metal is too cold to work while yellow reflects the typical forging temperature. If the metal is bright yellow or white, its hot enough to weld.

  The cost of this workshop is $75 for museum members and $100 for non-members. The price includes all supplies. Due to the nature of the workshop, only ages 15 and older can attend.


  When we think of spring we often think of new life, growth, and celebration; the Easter holiday is the epitome of this.

  A symbol of Easter are the brightly colored eggs that are hidden for children or dyed for the enjoyment of adults. Batik is a method that utilizes beeswax to apply colored dye to materials. Pysanky comes from a word meaning “to write” or “to inscribe,” as the intricate designs are not painted on, but written or inscribed with beeswax.

  Though pysanka is a Ukrainian word, the technique is popular throughout Eastern Europe. After the artwork is applied, candles are used to burn the wax coating off the eggs to reveal the finished products sealed beneath. Implements provided to color the eggs are the same hand tools that have been used for centuries, and are called a kistka.

  Originally dyes for eggs would have been derived from natural resources, which include onion skins, beets, spinach, apple peels, coffee, purple cabbage, and walnuts. These dyes took longer to work and gave a more subdued color. Modern dyes are made from food coloring and use the acid in vinegar to bond the color to the calcium in the egg shell.

  Beeswax is produced by young worker bees to build honeycomb cells within the hive; these cells are where the larvae are raised and honey is stored. Initially the wax is white but changes to a yellow or brown color over time due to pollen oils and propolis, or “bee glue,” a substance created by bees to be used for the structures they create. Beeswax has been used by humans for centuries as a waterproofing agent and as pseudoplastic due to its ease to model and form. However, beeswax does not boil; if heated too quickly it will ignite.

  The cost of the workshop is $15 for museum members and $25 for non-members. The price includes all supplies. Due to the nature of the workshop, only ages 12 and older can attend.

  Often, we overlook the complexities of things around us in the busy lives we live. But if we take the time to look, we can be truly amazed by what we see and how many parts come together to make a whole.

  Bring your better half or a friend and spend the afternoon working with fire and creating your own beautiful, handcrafted art as well as participating firsthand with STEAM in action. Contact the museum at 336-786-4478 or visit the museum website at www.northcarolinamuseum.org to reserve a spot for either class.

  Justyn Kissam is the Director of Programs and Education at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. Originally from Winston-Salem, she has moved around the state for her education and public history work until settling in Mount Airy. She can be reached at 336-786-4478 x 228 or jnkissam@northcarolinamuseum.org

  Online Magnet School expands learning options

  March 07, 2021

  Editor’s Note: Community Comment is a feature of The Mount Airy News, presenting commentary from community leaders in Mount Airy and Surry County.

  Surry Online Magnet School officially opened on August 17, 2020, becoming Surry County School System’s twentieth school. The opening of Surry Online Magnet School fulfilled a goal of the Surry County Schools Strategic Plan to add an additional magnet school to further maximize individual student achievement through a culture of personalized learning. Surry Online Magnet is a great source of pride because of the unique and flexible learning opportunities available for students within Surry County.

  Surry Online Magnet School (SOMS) places its emphasis on building relationships, developing a personalized learning environment for students, and providing individualized support to assist students in meeting their learning goals. We are serving students in grades three through twelve. Each student is assigned a personal liaison who serves as the bridge between families and the school. The personal liaison works with the student to determine the appropriate classes they need and reaches out to student support services, such as counselors, social workers, and other school personnel on behalf of the student as needed.

  SOMS Trailblazers are engaged in self-paced instruction in a flexible learning environment. Students and families are able to adjust their daily and weekly schedules to meet their individual needs, including those students who hold a full-time job. Teachers facilitate instruction and are there to provide support, enrichment, and remediation for students. Students are afforded a wide range of curricular courses, such as college-level classes, career and technical education (CTE) classes, and foreign language classes.

  The Surry Online Magnet School is a fully customizable model utilizing online and blended learning for students who want flexible online options but who also want to take advantage of great learning opportunities provided to students on our physical school campuses. Many of our students go to the school within their attendance zone to participate in extracurricular activities, enrichment classes, and even athletics. Once we are able to resume large group activities, SOMS students will be invited to participate in field trips, family nights, and learning experiences, such as science experiments and technology projects. During the 2021-2022 school year, we will also trailblaze into esports!

  Surry Online Magnet School recognizes the necessity of supporting the social-emotional needs of our students, especially within an online setting. Students within the magnet school are encouraged to participate in “Triple T” (Trailblaze Together Time) where students come together in a virtual setting to socialize, check-in, and learn skills needed to lead self, lead with others, and change their world.

  Parental support is a main priority in supporting our students. The staff within Surry Online Magnet School work to build a partnership with families. They prioritize scheduling family conferences and providing parental support sessions focused on sharing tools and resources for parents to support their child’s social-emotional, physical, and academic needs.

  We invite homeschool families and anyone who wishes to provide their child a flexible, personalized learning environment to partner with us, as we believe this is a great opportunity for students who want to engage in a blended model partnership between the home and public school. SOMS enables students and families to have flexibility in regard to time and place, is a great option for students who learn best working independently, or for high school students who want a personalized, flexible learning plan in order to fully develop a schedule conducive to taking college courses, completing required high school courses, and/or working simultaneously.

  We are accepting applications for the 2021-2022 school year and are so excited to partner with your family as we trailblaze through this new learning journey within Surry County Schools. To learn more about the Surry Online Magnet School and the application process please visit www.surry.k12.nc.us/SOMS or contact Principal Kristin Blake at blakek@surry.k12.nc.us or 336-386-8215.

  How big is our God?

  March 05, 2021

  I have had the pleasure of seeing martial arts masters punch and kick through layers of wood and brick, defying my mind’s inner dialog saying this can’t be done. I began looking for the trick, because there had to be a trick. No way anyone could punch through that many boards, through that many blocks of concrete.

  It’s not a trick.

  Do they take advantage of the material’s weaknesses, such as lining up the grains of the boards? Sure, but that doesn’t negate the skill and confidence necessary to break a stack.

  What’s the secret? The masters tell you they do not strike the boards. They visualize a place just beyond the wood, that is where they focus, where they are striking, not the actual surface. They see their hand or foot passing through the material to reach their goal.

  In Christian terms, I’d call this a “heightened sense of expectation.” They expect to succeed and thus, they are successful. Do we have an equivalent in our faith? Yes, because with God anything is possible. When we have a “heightened sense of expectation,” we are able to ask more and receive more. Jesus told us we have not because we didn’t ask. He speaks to us again and again about asking, seeking, knocking and we will receive, find and be invited into the presence of God.

  Jesus tells us if we, who are sinful people, can figure out how to give good things to our children, how much more does God want to give to us, God’s beloved children? We don’t hand out snakes when our kids ask for fish, scorpions when they ask for bread. Why do we expect the creator of all that is who loves us so much that all of this was created for us to have a relationship would want anything other than the very best for us?

  We don’t think we are worthy of such an amazing love. Truth is, we’re not. Truth is, we are, because God said we were, even when we know we are not. It’s called grace. It’s free. It’s for us. Jesus said if we would seek God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness first, before we do anything else, the result will be that we will find God and become a part of God’s kingdom, with the righteousness of God given to us. On top of this most amazing gift, we would have all our needs met. Food, clothing, shelter and love, our most basic needs, are then God’s responsibility to provide. In my experience, God does more than cover the basics. When you’ve experienced the Love of God firsthand, you understand, nothing compares in all of heaven and earth. To be fully known and loved by God is humbling, staggering, cleansing, freeing, and joyous!

  Let us maintain a “heightened sense of expectation” by deepening our own walk with God. Dive into the Word every day. Keep an open prayer line to the Throne of Grace. Seek God first. With all we have, body, mind, heart and soul. Love our neighbors. Watch our lives grow in love and grace. We expect much because we know the one of whom we expect is able to create everything just so we can be together. God has never failed to live up to the promises made to us. He promised, so we may live with the highest expectations possible.

  How big is our God?

  Hoping for a national housing strategy

  March 05, 2021

  As the Biden Administration gains its footing and seeks to tackle a myriad of vexing problems, National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial hopes that a “comprehensive housing strategy” will be high on the agenda.

  “Housing affordability is a real issue for many Americans,” Morial said. “Too many black and brown Americans are paying 50% of their take-home pay for housing.”

  Like most other problems the new administration is dealing with, Morial continued, the widespread lack of affordable housing is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting layoffs and job losses.

  Morial is encouraged by President Biden’s nomination of Rep. Marcia Fudge to become the new secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

  Noting that prior to being elected eight times to Congress in Ohio’s 11th congressional district, Fudge served as the first black and female mayor of Warrensville Heights, and that she was also chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and president of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

  “This leadership background,” Morial adds, “gives her a point of view on issues of economic equity and poverty. She understands that a comprehensive housing strategy needs to deal with quality of life, jobs and economic development.”

  Morial also observes that while outgoing HUD secretary Dr. Ben Carson was a highly respected neurosurgeon, his background in the medical field would have been a better fit in the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institutes of Health.

  “In my view, President Trump did Dr. Carson a disservice by appointing him to a position that his background did not adequately prepare him for,” Morial said.

  Morial is a strong supporter of the COVID relief bill and components of this legislation that freeze evictions and foreclosures while providing $25 billion in housing rescue funds and another $400 million in housing counseling to help struggling homeowners better negotiate with mortgage holders. “The COVID relief bill is not going to solve this crisis,” Morial notes, “but it will help to cushion the shock.”

  Morial’s view of the housing crisis and how it is devastating communities of color is shared by William T. McDaniel III, president and CEO of the Urban League of Central Carolinas. Based in Charlotte, McDaniel calls the situation in the Queen City “a triple pandemic,” noting the simultaneous negative impact of COVID-19, the economic downturn and the ongoing quest for racial justice.

  “The economy in Charlotte,” McDaniel said, “is largely dependent on the retail, hotel and restaurant industries. They are all hurting because hotels have been shut down for months, thousands of people are working from home and business travel is just beginning to come back.”

  These are not high wage industries, McDaniel notes, and it is a struggle for many individuals employed in them to pay $1,300 or $1,400 a month rent for a typical one- or two-bedroom apartment. Like Morial, McDaniel says these rents push people to pay 50% or their income for housing, while it is better to limit that expenditure to 30% of take-home pay.

  Complicating these problems is the fact that Charlotte is expected to grow by 600,000 residents in the next 10 years, and there is already an apartment shortage of about 34,000 units.

  To address these problems, McDaniel and the Urban League are partnering with organizations such as the Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing Partnership and Community Link, which focuses on helping black clients gain housing stability.

  “Our mission is social and economic justice,” McDaniel said. “Whether it’s by buying a home or starting a business, we want to see our clients get out of debt and into wealth building.”

  Play has always been important

  March 01, 2021

  “Play is the highest form of research.” Albert Einstein

  Playing is integral to the success of childhood. By play, children investigate themselves and their surroundings. In free playtime, kids learn about science, history, friendship, emotions, and society. Most adults who spend time educating children will say that “play” is just as important as traditional studies. Throughout history, the logistics of play have changed but not necessarily the outcome. Books are traded for YouTube, board games for gaming systems, bikes for hoverboards — each of these items, both past and present are responsible for teaching children various topics, skills, and resources.

  Here, at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, we have many artifacts and collections that relate to Play! One of those collections being an expansive collection of paper dolls. Paper dolls? Yes, paper dolls.

  Long before the world domination of Mattel’s Barbie (established in 1959) many children were playing with paper dolls. These dolls could have changeable outfits, hairstyles, and accessories. Customizing dolls allowed for self-expression and story creation.

  For centuries paper figures have been used in ritual ceremonies in Asia. One source stated that some of the first paper dolls hailed from Germany around the 1650s. However, the first mass produced doll was “Little Fanny,” created by S&J Fuller in 1810, London. The trend would take two years to grab hold of the American public.

  In 1812 The History and Adventures of Little Henry was released in the states. Paper dolls were sold with this book to create an active reading scenario. Then 1828 saw the founding of McLoughlin Brothers, a printing company specializing in paper toys and games for children. The company operated until 1920 when it was bought out. They were known for their wonderful color printing.

  After the 1812 “Little Henry” book was published, paper dolls enchanted children for the next 150 years.

  For 15 decades paper dolls dominated the field of play for many girls and boys. These two-dimensional objects helped to perpetuate societal norms of the time. The dresses, shoes, accessories, hats, and hair all relayed acceptable styles for each era, transforming the way children thought about themselves, much like Barbie did for our generation. The 60s and 70s paper dolls represented the highly political and social changes. Now career dolls were an option.

  Even within these social guidelines, children often broke the mold, merging outfits, swapping accessories, and creating/coloring their own creations.

  My mother, Tracie, fondly remembers playing with paper dolls in the early 70s, sometimes playing with Barbies and paper dolls at the same time.

  These toys have been important education tools for kids in the past and today; helping them grow, learn, and debate about the society around them. If play can impact the growth of children so drastically imagine what it could do for adults — I hope you find some time to play today.

  Finishing the year strong

  March 01, 2021

  Editor’s Note: Community Comment is a periodic column in The Mount Airy News featuring commentary from community leaders in Mount Airy and Surry County.

  This has been a year unlike any year in Mount Airy City Schools’ history. We are proud of our team of administrators, parents, students, and staff for being at school five days a week since August 17. We feel like there have been many challenges and triumphs. We must all work together to finish strong. We will need everyone in the community to help us maintain our success, make sure all students stay connected, and continue to be safe and well.

  We are working hard to help our students and staff return to a sense of normalcy. We know that our staff will be vaccinated … and that will provide an additional layer of protection for them. We want to continue our tremendous success this year by making sure all of our students get the support they need to finish this year strong academically. We will be having more of our students in tutoring and remediation as well as credit recovery. We know all of our students have missed almost a half of a year during the spring of 2020. We know it will take a lot of effort to help all students get back on track. While all of our staff work every day to deliver their curriculum we know that lost time will continue to be a challenge for some. They will need summer programs and continuous support through next year.

  Another aspect we hope to add is allowing our middle schoolers to travel to their elective classrooms for a more normal experience while maintaining masking, social distancing, and cleaning protocols. Our sports programs in our middle school and high school have been going well with teams being able to complete their seasons. This is something that we were unable to do last spring and we believe sports is an important part of students’ lives. The arts will begin to safely sing with masks, play instruments outside, and get on stage to ensure that arts are still at the forefront of our educational experience. Although we have had arts all year, we believe that the full range of the arts will slowly get back to a more normal experience as health conditions and vaccinations come into play.

  We believe that we can safely have students at school continuing to grow and prosper. We will have a summer full of academic and enrichment activities in what we call S.E.E., Summer Enrichment Experience. Please reach out to your school for more information. We will be rolling out a sign up survey for you to make sure that your child has a seat in the experiences. Last year over 400 of our students participated and we hope to have even more this year. We offer sports camps, academic catch-up experiences, music, credit recovery, cooking, STEAM, and many other enrichment activities. These experiences with free breakfast and lunch create a great way for you children to stay connected and excited about learning. We provide free transportation and amazing staff that your students will love.

  We know that many activities have to be a little different this year but we hope instead of cancelling activities we find ways to do them safely. We plan to have graduation this year and will know soon what the state expectations are for graduation. We will do our best to provide our students with as typical a graduation as possible.

  We want to continue to thrive even though times are different. We are continuing to put our strategic plan in place with exploration of construction, aviation science, and culinary. We have strong partnerships in health science, engineering, global education, and the arts. But, we can never stop providing opportunities for students to be fully prepared for their future careers. Our current cabinetry course is amazing and provides students with lifetime skills. We want to expand this to include providing workforce development in the area of construction. There are schools providing tiny houses for veterans, storage buildings for sale, and other projects that help students attain tremendous construction skills. Science aviation provides many needed jobs throughout our state such as aviation mechanics, aviation management, and aircraft dispatchers to pilots.

  We have a lot of connections right here in Surry County with our local airport ranking second for economic impact among NC community airports. We believe this partnership will be great for students. We also want to make sure our students interested in foods, tourism, hotel management, and travel have opportunities as well. We know that this region is known for this industry and it makes sense for us to place students ready to participate in this area.

  Our ability to continue forward to Lead-Innovate and Serve is critical for the health and wellbeing of our community. A robust school district that keeps momentum going while taking care of our students and staff is why we are seen as one of the best systems in the state. We are thankful to each of you in the community for being a part of the MA Bear family and supporting us every step of the way. When you have ideas about great programs for students or ways you can volunteer in the areas outlined, please let us know. We want all of us to embrace our students, help them catch up and help them build their future.

  A new year and new opprotunities

  February 26, 2021

  Greetings to each and everyone of you today. I really appreciate speaking with you. It seems each passing year goes quickly. But of course we have had so much happening everyday. The deadly coronavirus, that has affected family, and loved ones. This deadly virus does not discriminate. No difference here.

  Oh only if this could be this way in everything. We ought to really think about this for a while. This year is a new year, and new opportunities. I am praying for our nation, especially the elderly, and the youth. I have never ever seen the voter turnout as it was in the November election. Most of us wanted change, I certainly did. And according to the voters they wanted it also.

  The younger generation were not being heard. There was so much bloodshed. We have so many that we need to give homage to. Thank God for President Biden, finding these children that had been separated from their mothers, These children will be traumatized for life if they do not get help. I certainly see President Biden and Vice President Kamala started working before they got in office.

  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, and we caught in to his dream. Congressman John Lewis was a man full of faith, and did so much for the people. The late Rosa Parks was also a wonderful woman that made an impact. A new year and new opportunities.

  (Isaiah 6:1-2) To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of Vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; opportunity can be yours.

  Take that step! Thanks for reading. Hope you were blessed. God Bless You.

  Area was built on farming

  February 22, 2021

  In January 1921 Mount Airy residents H. Burton and Cleve Belton won prizes for their chickens.

  Taking nothing away from local or even state fair ribbons, these men had achieved something even more impressive. Their feathered champions had placed at the prestigious 35th Annual Madison Square Garden Poultry Show.

  With entries carefully freighted in from not only the United States, but Canada, Australia, across Europe and into Mexico, this was easily the largest such show on the East Coast. A breeder whose animal placed well in this competition would command top dollar.

  Burton’s entries, a cockerel and a pullet (rooster and hen less than a year old) were Hamburg variety birds and they each took first place in their classes. Cleve Belton, son of grocer and mountain turkey drover Bob Belton, brought home second and fourth place honors with his Golden Wyandottes.

  Surry and the counties around her have always been predominately rural, even when the furniture and textile industries were at their strongest, most people in the county had farming roots.

  In the earliest days of America, land ownership equated to wealth and privilege. Only men who owned land could vote or hold elected office. Beyond food, the raw materials for many industries came from the farm, everything from cotton and tobacco to leather and linseed oil.

  In the wake of the Civil War, farmers became more organized, coming together in several National Agricultural Congresses. We’ve found no evidence to say whether anyone from Surry County attended but it was reported in the region’s newspapers and followed closely by the farmers of the area.

  “Agriculture, being the foundation-stone of our prosperity as a people, the farmers of the county should have proper representation in the councils of the State and Nation, and it is within the province of this Congress to assist in securing such representation,” wrote the editor of the Danbury Reporter 21 Mar 1872.

  Farmers of the South struggled to advance as quickly as their Northern and Midwestern cousins where mechanization was more common and, in the case of the plains states, the farmers were larger with more fertile soils.

  This region was home to many tobacco farms but also well-established orchards that we’ve discussed in this column before. The Sparger Orchards were winning awards for their apples and peaches at expositions across the country. The Elkin Tribune reported that local JAJ Royal “shipped two solid cars of apples…last week.”

  Local farmers were celebrated in the press as when the Elkin Times wrote about 73-year-old Bob Bauguss and his apiary in September 1896. He lived just across the Wilkes County line from Elkin and maintained “nearly a hundred stands of bees.”

  During World War I farms and gardens were deployed as surely as any weapon.

  “The season is now at hand when the farmers and gardeners will begin preparation for this year’s crops, and if there was ever a time that this should have our closest attention and best work now is that time,” wrote the Mount Airy News in March 1918

  The need to increase output on lower manpower and scientific advances in agriculture led to serious and not so serious competitions.

  The Mount Airy News reported on one such contest in December 1930 when Lowgap physician Dr. AC Boyles entered into a wager with William Jackson, manager of the Woodruff store. They would each raise several hogs and which ever man had the larger pig at the end would have a new $50 suit from the loser.

  Dr. Boyles had his porkers fed a scientifically balanced diet in careful combination with medicinal additives to stimulate growth and health.

  Jackson fed his Poland Chinas on chop and pound cake.

  Needless to say Mr. Jackson had a new suit that year.

  Farming continues to be an important element of life in Surry County where just over 1,000 farms work produced $230 million worth on 152,400 acres of land. Sixty years ago there were 283,864 acres in production, a trend seen nationwide as farming profit margins grow tighter and the American farm produces more with less year after year.

  As my dairy-farmer dad says, if you ate today, thank a farmer.

  If you lost your way press and pray

  February 19, 2021

  Greetings my fellow readers. I do appreciate your faithfulness in reading. I don’t see you to tell you, but it’s much appreciated. I desire your prayers. And I know a lot of you are praying. Thank you very, very much. We must pray for one another.

  The spirit spoke with me. Sometimes people lose their way spiritually. That is why we must press our way and pray. Press and pray means to act upon through steady pushing or thrusting force exerted in contact. To bear, compress, drive and move according to God’s plan. Sometimes we procrastinate. Oh, I don’t know about you, but sometimes I do. And I am sure at some point we are all guilty. If you are a faithful prayer warrior, you pray and press and press and pray.

  This is Black History Month. Oh, I am so proud of my people, proud of what we have accomplished. I was so proud when we had our First African American President Barack Obama. Now we have our First Black-Asian American Vice President Kamala Harris. Oh what a blessing to have a president with a smile and not arrogant. One who cares about people. President Joseph Biden, when he speaks, he gets your attention, without falsehood. We needed a big change, thank God we have one now. We have a long way to go but we are in this together. It sure looks and feels like there’s hope with this new beginning. I praise God for it.

  There is so much to cover, but not all in this column. In this column we are speaking on the blood of Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8-9 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while were yet sinners, Christ dies for us. Romans 8:9 much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. We will sum it all up as because of the blood. God bless you!

  A brief history of Valentines Day

  February 15, 2021

  February, the month of love; be it the love of early spring or continued winter with the prediction made on Groundhog Day, or the quintessential day of love with Valentine’s Day. Thoughts of Valentine’s Day bring to mind chocolates, flowers, gifts, valentines, and spending time with a special someone.

  How did one day become the flagship for displaying love and how did people develop love throughout the rest of the year here in the region?

  The modern-day celebration of Valentine’s Day is a combination of customs and lore passed down through time, with the origins murky and disputed among historians. Over time, older celebrations were subsumed into Christian holidays; the holidays were overtly Christian but their underlying traditions dated back to earlier practices. Common symbols associated with the holiday today, such as birds, cupids, sweet treats, gifts, and flowers trace their roots back to earlier celebrations.

  While a Saint Valentine existed, it’s not certain which Valentine to attribute the day to. One legend states that one had signed a letter “from your Valentine” to a woman he had healed while another Valentine secretly married couples against the emperor’s orders. In the mid-nineteenth century, paper had become more easily accessible and allowed for more intricate Valentine’s cards to be created.

  But it was the turn of the 20th century and the founding of Hallmark that ushered in a Valentine’s Day as we know it today. The turn of the century also saw a focus on children’s participation in giving Valentines at school.

  For many rural people, work on the family farm took up much of their time. However, certain social activities throughout the year gave the chance for young people to meet and intermarriage between close family friends was common. Examples include cornshuckings, trips to the grist mill, and holiday celebrations.

  Cornshuckings were a way for locals to get together and help one another work while giving them the opportunity to socialize. A competitive incentive was the famed red ear of corn. A rare occurrence caused by an imbalance of sugar in the plant, the first person to find a red ear of corn was entitled to a kiss from the person of his or her choice.

  A cause of the Hillsville Courthouse Tragedy can be traced to a cornshucking. In the fall of 1911, Wesley and Sidna Edwards attended a cornshucking where Wesley found the red ear of corn. He chose to kiss the girlfriend of William Thomas, which sparked a fight outside either a school or a church service the next day and the subsequent events culminating at the courthouse.

  Taliaferro gave particular insight into courting customs of the county in Fisher’s River Scenes, even going so far as to dedicate a chapter to courtship. Most of the young people walked to “meetin” together to do their courting. At dances, “sparkin” was sought after.

  As Taliaferro states: For one young man to get the advantage of another in sparkin’ was considered quite lawful and shrewd and it was called “cuttin’ out.” No duels were fought on account of it. It was the law in their courtships. The young ladies admired it; hence they would make no engagements with young men to be partners with them for a time — not even to accompany them to meeting and back to their homes. No; the young misses loved to see the young “sparkers” exercise their ingenuity in the game of “catch and keep.”

  Here at the museum, Valentine’s Day represents a love of history and all that entails. History is fascinating, disturbing, sad, and infuriating at times but studying it helps us to learn about the past and prepare for a better and brighter future.

  Justyn Kissam is the Director of Programs and Education at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. Originally from Winston-Salem, she has moved around the state for her education and public history work until settling in Mount Airy. She can be reached at 336-786-4478 x 228 or jnkissam@northcarolinamuseum.org

  Take heed dear people

  February 12, 2021

  Hello, to each and everyone out there. I do hope you are trusting and taking heed to things going on around you. I am sure you all know what taking heed is. Webster says we should listen, attend, hear, hearken, mind, note, observe, see, watch, and pay attention. Some of us pay attention and hear what is false, instead of what’s true. It seems some of us are guilty. But if we follow the spirit of Jesus Christ, we will not error. ‘

  Sometimes we would rather things stay the same, than to experience change. Most of our lives have changed tremendously. I know mine has. The corona virus pandemic has affected all of lives, one way or another. We are speaking on taking heed on situations, and all things.

  I am so proud to be celebrating Black History Month. We have made history, by the grace of God. Even with the tragedies with family, and loved ones. I am very delighted we have our first African-American and South Asian vice president in the White House. Oh wait a pleasure to have a president that wants to bring us together, instead of separating us. Praise God! Matthew 18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones, for I say into you, that in heaven their Angels do always behold the face of my father which is in heaven.

  Mark 13:5 And Jesus answered, answering them began to say, Take heed lest any man deceive you. Mark 13:6 For many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ, and shall deceive many.

  There are so many people being deceived today. But thanks be to the Lord, people’s eyes are being opened. Some people refuse to open their eyes, but would really see themselves. When you are in denial, it’s a hard pill to swallow. Well, there are so many I would love to give homage too. The late Congressman John Lewis, he was such a humble man. Cicely Tyson, a pioneer woman who opened many doors for our people. We can never forget Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama. They served with such class, and I know it could not have been easy. It’s so much to say, and very little time.

  The Bible says in Matthew 24:4 and Jesus answered and say unto them, take heed that no man deceive you. There are people, just refuse to believe the truth. Well! I am going to close now. I do hope you enjoyed the reading. Keep looking up. Lean and depend on Jesus Christ. He has the answers you need.

  A sweet industry

  February 08, 2021

  At the end of the 19th century a new product was appearing in drug stores and restaurants: Soda. New brands of the drink were being created and enjoyed all across the US and Mount Airy was no exception. In the following years, numerous soda bottling works were established in the city. One of the earliest was the Mount Airy Bottling Company, founded around 1898.

  Another local Mount Airy bottling plant, the Pepsi Cola Bottling Company, set up shop in 1913. It quickly found success and bottles from the plant were distributed nationally. To keep up with demand, it became the first in the area to introduce the most up to date technology of its era, machines which automatically filled the bottles — imagine that!

  In the following years, both the Mount Airy Bottling Works and the Mount Airy Chero-Cola Bottling Company acquired similar machines. The Chero-Cola Bottling Co.’s machine was so high-tech that it took an expert mechanic several days to install the machine and instruct workers at the plant how to operate it. The Mount Airy Bottling Works’ automated machine set them back the staggering price of $2,000, equivalent to about $35,000 today. The machines quickly paid for themselves with the Chero-Cola Bottling Co. increasing production to 500 cases of drinks for every 8 hours of operation.

  It wasn’t just the human population of Mount Airy that enjoyed the sugary drinks. In 1921, The Mount Airy Times reported on what it called an “unexpected flow of nectar.”.=A barrel of Coca-Cola syrup fell to the ground while being unloaded from a wagon. Sixty gallons of sugary liquid flowed down South Main Street and before long, bees were “… swarming up and down the street gathering in this store of sweet nectar.” By the next day the bees had carried it all away. Fortunately, no casualties were reported, as “those who mustered up their courage to pass were not bothered as the busy bee took no thought of starting a fight with anyone who did not bother him in his happy vocation.”

  Local bottling works faced difficulties in 1945, when a sugar shortage meant local bottling works had to scale back. Slaughter Bottling Works, which had been in operation since 1935, was forced to temporarily close. Similarly, the Mount Airy Coca-Cola Bottling Co., previously the Mount Airy Bottling Works, was only operating two days a week and stopped bottling their ginger ales, sarsaparillas, and all sodas besides Coca-Cola.

  The Mount Airy Coca-Cola Bottling Co. overcame the sugar shortage and became the longest operating bottling plant in Mount Airy, going on to profit half a million dollars a year during the early 1970s (the equivalent of almost $3 million today). It was eventually bought out by Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated of Charlotte in 1974.

  Though the bottling works and soda fountains are now gone from Mount Airy they have left their mark, such as the Coca-Cola ghost sign. ‘Ghost signs’ are hand-painted advertisements that were created on the sides of buildings in decades past but time has weathered them until they are a ‘ghost’ of their former appearance. The first ever of these Coca-Cola advertisements was painted in 1894 on the side of a pharmacy in Georgia. The exact date of Mount Airy’s sign is debated, generally thought to be sometime between 1915 and 1930. The sign was unseen for many years until the 1980s when the neighboring building was demolished, revealing the sign. The sign has since been restored to its former glory, as have dozens in the south over the past few years.

  If this article made you thirsty, make sure to drop by the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History to grab a nostalgic glass bottle of soda out of our vintage 1955 Coca-Cola cooler!

  Katherine Jackson is an intern at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. Originally from Australia she now lives in Winston- Salem. She can be reached at the museum at 336-786-4478.

  Students, community benefit from flexibility

  February 07, 2021

  Editor’s Note: Community Comment is a feature of The Mount Airy News, presenting commentary from community leaders in Mount Airy and Surry County.

  Surry County Schools prides itself on offering a variety of choices for students and families. Students design their dreams, grow as leaders and light their pathways for local and global success. Students benefit from many enriching opportunities facilitated by top-notch educators for students at every grade level and with every interest. I am proud we provide a world-class education for students right here in Surry County.

  Providing personalized learning is the key to opening doors of opportunities for students. We believe it is important for us to serve, not only our students and our families but our community as well. Public schools touch everyone’s life. While our priority is certainly our students, the success of public schools impacts everyone in our community.

  We are extremely fortunate to have such high-quality schools with extensive choices in Surry County. Public schools have never been more important than they are right now. However, not all public schools are the same. The Surry County School System offers traditional schools, magnet schools for STEM (Meadowview Magnet Middle School), and a fully online magnet school (Surry Online Magnet School). We also offer the Surry Early College High School of Design that affords students the opportunity to obtain their Associate of Arts (AA) degree or an applied science degree while they obtain their high school diploma. Students have blended learning options for remote learning and in-person learning. Students can choose when, where, and how they learn.

  Moreover, students gain leadership skills from their first day in school through the Surry County Schools leadership framework. They have a choice in how they demonstrate that leadership while they lead themselves, lead with others, and change their world. They have the choice and voice to learn new and different content like agriscience, exploring careers, computer science discoveries, project lead the way, chorus, art, and band in middle school; and culinary arts, chorus, art, band, drama, pre-engineering, and agriscience in high school where they can learn in live animal science labs on their high school campuses. Students can lead in JROTC, clubs, organizations, philanthropy, and athletics, among other activities. Students also have the opportunity to complete a paid internship through Surry Yadkin Works, the regional workforce development collaborative in Surry and Yadkin County School Systems in partnership with Surry Community College.

  The success of public schools creates economic development through experiential learning and the addition of highly skilled workers to the local workforce. Students gain employable skills to attract business and industry to our county and region. Surry County Schools directly influences this growth and development in Surry County through our flexibility and ability to offer choices, care, support, and partnership with students and families to custom-design options to meet each student’s needs. We believe this is critically important for the success of every child since one-size does not fit all.

  In order to provide options and choices for all students, it requires leadership and adaptability. We have to be nimble enough to understand what works and what doesn’t. We have to be creative and resourceful to think outside the box. We have to be willing to explore learning opportunities outside brick and mortar buildings. We have to be willing to confront our challenges and seek solutions to overcome them, and we are doing just that.

  Currently, we are inviting students to join us on their pathway to success. Registration is open for Pre-Kindergarten through high school. To learn more about the exciting things happening and the choices available to Surry County students in our community, visit the Surry County Schools website at www.surry.k12.nc.us, and follow us on social media. I think you too will be proud of the great things available in Surry County because together we are stronger, and it takes all of us to help our students succeed. We invite everyone to join us in our efforts to support Surry County students.

  Because of the blood

  February 05, 2021

  Greetings to each and every one of you readers out there. We truly appreciate your faithfulness in supporting our columns.

  Sometimes it is difficult to get to a calm quiet place to work with the Lord. I always take time out with God, even though sometimes I must put people on hold. It is a must if you want time with the Lord.

  Today my thought is because of the blood. Blood is the fluid that circulates in the heart, arteries, capillaries and veins of a vertebrate. All of these organs have to function in order to live. And we are living today because of Jesus’ blood. He dies on the cross so that we might live. (Matthew 13-17) When Jesus came into the coasts of Caes-a-ve’- a Philip, he asked his disciples, saying whom do men say that I the son of man am? (Matthew 14) And they said some say that thou art John the Baptist; some say E-li’-as, and others, Jer-e-mi’-as, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, but whom do ye say that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said thou art the Christ, the son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, blessed art thou Simon Bar-jo’-na; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my father which is in heaven.

  We are in a brand new year, with so much we are facing right now. There has been and still is a battle with the coronavirus pandemic. It truly is a war, if government had been honest. Well, not the entire government. Our commander in chief decided to keep silent. Only the weak ones fall apart. Americans are very resilient. Most of us are. Prayer is the key and faith will unlock the door. Pray means to appeal, beseech, brace, crave, entreat, implore, plead, supplicate, you make a formal request for something. Prayer means you have petition or a plea. So let’s keep our prayer life the most important part of our lives.

  We are speaking of pressing and praying. II Chronicles 7-14 says “If my people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” In the book of Matthew 14:22-23 says “And Jesus constrained his disciples to get a ship and go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.” Matthew 14-23 “And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into the mountain apart to pray: and when evening came he was there alone.” Sometimes we must go to our mountain and pray. Matthew 14-24 “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves; for the wind was contrary. And the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them walking on the sea.” Matthew 14-25. Well! You know it frightened the disciples.

  Well, I’d like to stop here and acknowledge Black History Month. There are so many things that have taken place. In spite of the riot at the Capital, God is still on the throne. It is unfortunate, there were some that were killed, but wrong can never come out right. There is so much to speak on with Black History Month, but the word is so precious. We have a new President, Joseph Biden and first lady Jill Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris. Thank God, a whole new cabinet of rainbow colors, Praise God! I must bring this column to a close. I hope it will bless.

  Panthers need MLB, OL, CB help

  February 05, 2021

  This Sunday’s Super Bowl marks the end of another season, and another offseason filled with questions for our in-state team.

  The Panthers’ owner was very clear when he bought the team from Jerry Richardson that he has a must-win approach to running the team, which is how Ron Rivera was shown the door in the middle of the 2019 season, despite previously earning two coach of the year awards. (And now Ron has won the award for the third time, which makes the move look even dumber than it did at the time.)

  So, if the Panthers absolutely must win in 2021, what must the front office do to improve the roster?

  ? First off, don’t draft a quarterback.

  Yes, I know there are some QBs in the draft class this year, and any one of which could make a big difference in the course of the franchise. However, if you are looking to win this year, you don’t start a rookie quarterback.

  I wasn’t sold on Teddy Bridgewater by midseason. He was still getting a lot of praise by announcers and the talking heads in the studios until the end of the year, but I saw plenty of red flags all year.

  The worst? In 15 games, Teddy threw 13 TD passes in the first half. Not bad. Seems like he would be halfway to 26 TD passes.

  Except, Teddy threw exactly two TD passes in the second half of those same 15 games. That’s right, two. That is basically seven and a half whole games’ worth of playing with only two scores.

  That’s why I call him Teddy Chokewater.

  Trade Teddy somewhere else or cut him and sign another. Heck, bench Teddy and give P.J. Walker a whole offseason to get ready. He showed a big arm and athleticism.

  You know who would might have been a great choice right now? The guy Carolina basically gave away in Kyle Allen.

  Yes, I know Kyle had ups and downs, but he was also just 23 years finishing his first season. Did you see what he did in Washington before he was injured on a dirty leg whip? He was averaging right at a 100 QB rating. Cam Newton never had a 100 rating, even when he won league MVP in 2015. Teddy had a 92.1 rating (artificially inflated by a high completion rate based on check-down throws).

  ? Please, please, please look for Luke Kuechly’s replacement in the draft. The worst roster move of 2020 was bringing in Tahir Whitehead to play middle linebacker. Coach Matt Rhule went with one of his former college players, but Tahir just didn’t make plays all season and was finally benched by the last couple of games.

  Kuechly’s name would be said by the announcers 10 times a game, but Tahir could go an entire game without a single mention. The run defense and short pass defense both suffered because of his terrible play.

  ? It seems every year I say the team needs to look at the offensive line, and it is still true — but worse this time. Center Matt Paradis is the only regular starter under contract next year.

  I’m okay with some of that — I’m looking at you LG Chris Reed and LT Russell Okung — but the right side with RT Taylor Moton and RG John Miller seemed to be pretty good.

  The sad part is that the team did invest two draft picks on guys who showed good potential, but have been injured a lot of their two years with the team. Greg Little and Dennis Daley split time at left tackle in 2019, often going back and forth because of injuries. They both finished 2020 on injured reserve.

  ? In 2016 the Panthers used three of their top four draft picks on cornerbacks. Only one panned out (James Bradberry), and he left with a big contract a year ago.

  The team desperately needs to draft at least one if not two corners.

  Donte Jackson is one of the fastest guys in the whole league, but spent the whole season hampered by a toe injury. Tony Pride Jr. was a rookie who got picked on a lot. The other option, who started 11 games was Rasul Douglas, who was good against big, slower possession receivers, but not quick wideouts.

  In fact, Douglas is really better suited as a free safety who can also cover receivers and tight ends one on one when needed — rather than every down.

  Jackson ran a 4.32 time in the 40 at the combine. Douglas ran a 4.59. That is a full quarter of a second slower.

  Rasul was in the 32nd percentile for CBs in the 40 time and shuttle run and 26th percentile on vertical jump (yikes!). But he scored high for weight/height, arm length and bench press. In fact, when his measurables were compared to other past participants in the combine, his best matches were not corners at all. His best match was former two-time Pro Bowl safety Michael Lewis.

  Juston Burris started 13 games at safety and had 53 tackles. Douglas started just 11 games at CB and had 62 tackles. Imagine if you re-signed Rasul and put him at Juston’s spot. Oh, and cutting Burris would save the team $3.8 million against the cap.

  ? I have been saying this for two years: sign or draft a guy to do the majority of carries at running back. Let Christian McCaffrey spend more time as a slot receiver.

  The team is likely to lose Curtis Samuel, a receiver who can split time in the backfield, because he had such a nice year he will be too expensive to re-sign.

  So shift McCaffrey more toward that role. Get McCaffrey 1,000 yards receiving and fewer rushes where he takes such a pounding. I was saying this even before he missed almost all of 2020 with injuries.

  ? One great advantage for the Panthers is that Coach Rhule got the opportunity to coach one of the teams in the Senior Bowl, with some of the best college seniors across the country.

  He not only got to see their physical skills up close, he had a chance to see how the players accepted criticism and coaching.

  James Hudson is a former defensive lineman who switched to O-line. Some scouts were very impressed with his Senior Bowl practices. What did Rhule think? Quinn Meinerz is a Division III O-line stud in the mold of Tampa’s Ali Marpet. Did Rhule think him good enough to draft in the second or third round?

  ? Finally, it’s time for the team to cut former star DT Kawann Short. At one time Short and Star Lotuleilei formed a formidable tandem in the middle. But, Short has played just five of 32 games the past two seasons with only seven solo tackles, zero sacks and only one tackle for a loss.

  And this season Short is scheduled to make a whopping $20.84 million. His cap hit is $11.02, so cutting him would save $9.82 million in cap space.

  Another possible payroll cut would be DE Stephen Weatherly, who is set to make $7.9 million, but only $2 million would count toward the cap, so cutting would save $5.9 million. He only played in nine games with just 17 tackles and zero sacks.

  The team was hoping he would make a big leap after finishing his rookie contract in Minnesota with just six sacks in four seasons.

  Taliaferro family offers rich trove of history

  February 01, 2021

  On NC 89 at the intersection of Pine Ridge Road stands a solitary highway marker often overlooked as cars pass by. The name inscribed on the marker is Hardin Taliaferro, a name all but forgotten today but one which holds quite the significance for the county if one digs into history.

  The Taliaferro, pronounced Tolliver, family has a long history in Surry County. Originally of Italian descent (the name Taliaferro is derived from the Italian word for iron cutter, taglierina di ferro), the family can trace its lineage in England back to 1060, with William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings. They came to Virginia in 1645 and settled in Surry County in 1779.

  There is a strong connection of friendship and intermarriage between the Taliaferro and Franklin families. Dr. John Taliaferro moved from Virginia with his friend Bernard Franklin in 1779. Both men had sizable landholdings along the Fisher River. Their sons, Jesse Franklin and Richard Taliaferro, were ardent Patriots during the American Revolution and close friends like their fathers, and fought together at the battle of Guilford Courthouse, where Richard died. Shadrach Franklin, another son of Bernard, married Judith Taliaferro, daughter of Dr. John Taliaferro.

  In conjunction with last week’s article about the Edwards-Franklin House (A life of its own, Jan. 24) Meshack Franklin was Jesse’s brother and an avid reader like his father, Bernard, who had little formal education but had amassed a library which he passed to Meshack upon his death. Meshack left a library to his children as well; some of which he inherited from his father-in-law, Gideon Edwards. Hardin Taliaferro called Meshack “the only well-educated man in the community” and it was Meshack who answered any literary questions that arose.

  Born in 1811, Hardin “Skitt” Taliaferro was the son of Charles Taliaferro and Sallie Burroughs. Growing up, he worked in a local grist mill and eventually learned the art of tanning. In 1829, he moved to Tennessee to live with his brother and became immersed in the Baptist ministry, to which he was ordained in 1834.

  In 1835, Hardin and his family moved to Alabama. The years between 1845- 1856 saw the growth and development of Taliaferro’s religious writings, which were published in various newspapers. In the summer of 1857, he returned to Surry County and began the composition of Fisher’s River Scenes, his memoirs of the places and people who lived there.

  For historians and those who study literature, his work is a veritable goldmine of information. It gives insight on the geography, settlement, social life, and families along the river as well as serves as a fine example of American humor (a more well-known and later humorist being Mark Twain) and illustrating the dialect of the area.

  However, Taliaferro’s depictions of residents weren’t very flattering and he used their real names, upsetting many and embarrassing most. In 1859, Fisher’s River Scenes was completed and published with 13 steel engravings of illustrations by Harper and Brothers of New York. After its publication it received little notice but was rediscovered in 1934 by folklorist R.S. Boggs. In 1937, historian Guion Johnson used the work to help portray rural life in her book, Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History.

  The North Carolina General Assembly created the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program in 1935. The operation of the program is a cooperative effort among state agencies and the advisory committee is comprised of ten college or university faculty members who are experts in aspects of state history. The goal of the markers is to instill an interest in the state’s history. There are more than 1,600 markers throughout the state today. The Hardin Taliaferro historical marker was established in 1993 and is one of eight markers in the county. The marker reads: “Hardin Taliaferro 1811-1875 Humorist, minister, and editor. Wrote Fisher’s River Scenes (1859), a collection of folk tales with local settings. He was born 2 miles N.W.”

  It’s amazing what you can find when you dig into history!

  Justyn Kissam is the Director of programs and education at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. Originally from Winston-Salem, she has moved around the state for her education and public history work until settling in Mount Airy. She can be reached at 336-786-4478 x 228 or jnkissam@northcarolinamuseum.org

  A life of its own

  January 25, 2021

  If this house could talk, what would it say?

  Houses, like people, contain an unmistakable identity. Not only is the structure important, but also the items that survived a life lived. The worn places on floors, tables, books, mantels — tell a distinctive and sometimes secret story about the history of a place and by extension, the people who antiqued them. It’s no secret that today’s homes usually contain more items than their predecessors; with many historic sites in our region reflecting a simpler life on the outside, making it harder to read a home’s history.

  The existence of documentation can change everything about the “life” a house can tell us.

  Prominent historic homes usually contain a paper trail. The extent of this trail is dependent on the family, social standing, monetary value and so on. As a historian, more times than not, I am left with insufficient information and even more questions.

  When it come to the Edwards-Franklin house, we got pretty lucky.

  Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, the Edwards-Franklin house has seen years of Surry County’s changes. The house was built in 1799 by Gideon Edwards.

  Other notable buildings from this time are the Grant-Burrus hotel, built in 1796 in Rockford, and the Bartholomew Hodges house built in 1805 in Dobson.

  Edwards, a local planter and state senator, built his home in the Georgian style. Georgian styled homes are usually known for their symmetry and proportion sometimes labeled revived renaissance architecture. Its parallel chimneys further identify its style. The home consists of two stories with a fieldstone foundation.

  A long-forgotten breezeway, which once connected the home to a wood/log kitchen with a dirt floor, no longer stands in the remainder of the home.

  The plantation included at one time 2,330 acres, a separate wood kitchen, spring house, ash house, spinning and smoke house, dry house, wash house, stables, loom barn, two cemetery areas and more. One map drawn in 1976 from memory, suggested that the estate included a large vegetable garden, beehives, oak trees, and multiple plots of apple trees. The old Haystack road was moved closer to the main house, eliminating many of the original buildings.

  Many different people passed through this historic home as well; first the Gideon Edwards family, with daughter Mildred marrying Meshack Franklin; the two namesakes. In addition to sisters, brothers, children, and grandchildren the plantation was home to 60 slaves who worked the tobacco fields and ran the house, kitchen, and many other ventures.

  For the Edwards-Franklin family and the enslaved, the records of the Franklin estate upon Meshack Franklin’s death in 1839 illustrated the life lived, here are a few. What kind of life do you, the reader, think the Edwards-Franklin family lived?

  Books: Rolins’ Ancient History (8 volumes), Nicolson’s Philosophy, Homer’s Iliad, Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia, and a personal favorite, Lady of the Lake. The estate had over 60 books in total.

  Equipment: Four dagon plows, a harrow, augers, one old wagon, set of blacksmith tools, bush scythe, and more.

  Animals: Seven head of horses, 40 head of hogs, sheep, cattle, and more.

  Upon his death many of the items were sold, while some were passed down to children and grandchildren. These items listed above are not a complete inventory of estate items, but are merely a sample that, I feel, reflect the life of the house and everyone in it. By studying these items any observer might guess that the property was ran as a farm and that someone in the home was well read.

  The Edwards-Franklin home was occupied until 1969 when Elsie McCann, daughter of Laura and James Blevins (a family descendant) moved in with her son. The site was vacant for four years when the Surry County Historical Society purchased the property. During a normal summer, the site is opened occasionally for visitors, and plays host to the Surry Sonker festival in October. For more information, visit https://www.surryhistoricalsociety.org/

  I encourage readers to look around their homes. What does your house say about you? What do you say about your house? What history is right under our noses?!

  Figure 1: Photo of the Edwards-Franklin House prior to renovation by the Surry County Historical Society. Photo taken in 1973 by Francis Andrews.

  Figure 2: A map made from memory of proposed buildings on the Edwards-Franklin Estate

  Figure 3: Jamming on the porch of the Edwards-Franklin house.

  Students need hope, resilience, and truth

  January 25, 2021

  Editor’s Note: Community Comment is a periodic column in The Mount Airy News featuring commentary from community leaders in Mount Airy and Surry County.

  Mount Airy City Schools understand that student-centered learning requires us to step up and make sure students have the skills needed for life. We see our students five days a week which results in more than 1,000 hours every year. Life lessons go hand in hand with academic lessons. This year especially affords us opportunities to teach important life lessons. They need to have hope, build resilience, and seek truth more than ever.

  The great divide in America is completely man-made. It is all about how we have and continue to treat each other. We must build strategies within our schools to show students how to interact with each other, listen to each other’s opinions, and value each other. Our goal is to help students avoid terms such as “Us” vs. “Them.” The diversity in our society is something to be celebrated as recently shown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We all have something to contribute. Martin Luther King Jr. said that, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” We are all working to make this dream a reality and our world a better place. Lessons in Mount Airy City Schools’ elementary grades provide hope for students through our Leader in Me program.

  The Leader in Me program helps every student realize they have potential and they learn to set goals for themselves. This program allows students to plan programs and service projects together. They plan, discuss, promote, and encourage their school to participate in service to others. They also share with their parents through student conferences their own goals and whether they are reaching those or not. They share strategies they have put into place to show their leadership development. The hope our schools have lives in the hearts of students who know they have a future and can make a better world for themselves and others.

  Students must learn to have civil discourse through more than our social studies and history classes. It is eye opening to realize that everyone is unique and different and may have different opinions. We must emphasize in our curriculum that we have more in common than that which divides us. When we drill down to basic concepts we often realize that we all need to be valued and heard. We can work together on projects, have in depth discussions on topics, and write using our own voice to solve problems together.

  Resilience helps students learn from failure, adapt to changing conditions, and be able to cope with loss. Resilience lives in our classrooms focusing on project-based and problem-based learning. Students must take real world problems and struggle with them, just as we do in the adult world. They can help solve community hunger, plant a garden, solve a complex mathematical problem in construction, or try to figure out how to effectively design and fly a drone. Our students are placed in work-based learning, internships, and entrepreneurship classes to learn about the real world while working in the real world. Many of our students work hard to learn to play an instrument, improve their singing voice, get better athletically, and hone their artistic skills. Our resilience is important in all of these arenas and allows us to safely practice with mentors and role models nearby, before entering adulthood. Resilience will be one of the best strategies for being successful after graduation.

  The pandemic is an opportunity to help students understand that to be resilient and overcome the challenges of this time they must “reframe” their thinking. Every problem can be turned into an opportunity. Instead of having the attitude of “I have to” do something we need to help them learn to think “I get to do something.” For example, a class field trip may have been cancelled this year to travel to a local museum or art exhibit. But, instead they are able virtually to connect with museums around the world and “zoom” with a nationally renowned artist. How do we help our students “reframe” their thinking and turn challenges into opportunities? How do we also “reframe” reality to look for the opportunities and not always the challenges.

  The truth will set you free is vital for our school students to understand. They must do their own research and not listen to people, press, or parents as their only source of information. Parents are vital to help students mature and grow but students often want to experience information through their own lenses. We want them to make mature choices once they are out on their own. Mount Airy City Schools staff works hard to help students go to primary sources, find detailed information on topics from reliable sources, and form their own opinions based on the facts. We can see all around us how this is a skill that many people will not take the time to use. Social media and sound bites have often become the most influential information but we know this is problematic. Our younger generation needs to be truth seekers so they will have the data and details to make informed decisions. We work hard every day that instead of giving students our opinions as theirs we help them form their own.

  My heart is full every day as I see students on our campus learning, building relationships, and growing. The students struggle with academics, arts, and athletics that are challenging so they can stretch and grow. We must daily help students be full of hope for their bright future, understand in every career they must have resilience, and seek truth to guide their decisions. In doing this, Mount Airy City Schools makes sure that every child will Graduate All Students to Lead, Innovate, and Serve.

  Pilot Mountain — the great guide

  January 18, 2021

  Jo-me-okee, the great guide has been a constant in the lives of many North Carolinians and beyond. If you’ve traveled Highway 52 you’ve been graced by its majestic heights and unforgettable features. The lofty summit is visible from major cities, a national park, and numerous other hills and mountains.

  For local residents, seeing this mountain means home. Previous names include Old Stonehead, Pilate, and the native Jomeokee. The famous Pilot Mountain has been a navigational marker and boundary for hundreds of years and continues to be an important component in Surry and surrounding counties.

  Appearing on the 1751 Frye-Jefferson map as Mount Ararat or the Stonehead, the now Pilot Mountain’s name has often been disputed. The native name Jomeokee roughly translates to “great guide” giving way to the term Pilot that now graces the mountain.

  Rising 2,421 feet above sea level, this metamorphic quartzite mountain has played host to many different caretakers. The mountain and surrounding land was privately owned until 1968 when it became the 14th North Carolina State Park.

  Mrs. J. W. Beasley had been the last owner of the property before it was sold to the state on July 24, 1968. The Beasley’s had owned the property for 25 years, running it as a recreational area.

  The site was broken into two parts, an upper and lower park, maximizing visitor opportunities. The lower section was free to visit. You could enjoy a picnic or take a short walk. One historic brochure encouraged visitors to stay as long as they liked, while also encouraging visitors to practice some “Leave No Trace” principles even before the outdoor ethics movement.

  If you had come to the park and were willing to pay an admission fee you could continue up the mountain road to the famous large pinnacle. In 1930 the admission cost was anywhere from 25 to 50 cents, with special rates for groups and children younger than 10.

  Visitation for the park continued to grow despite the fees and much like today, mountain goers could see long wait times during the peak season.

  Many brave visitors climbed the 106 steps (three platforms) to the top of Big Pinnacle, although the steps have been closed off and removed due to obvious safety issues. Now the summit is home to ravens and many other animals and plant life.

  On July 24, 1968, the park was sold to the state and became the fourteenth North Carolina State Park. The purchase was largely made possible by community efforts and matching grants.

  In 1970, 200 more acres were added to Pilot Mountain State Park from river band property in Yadkin County.

  In more recent years, additional land has been added bringing the total to 3,703 acres.

  In August of 2020 the park unveiled its new energy saving visitors center, placed near the base of the mountain. The site had been a tobacco field until the 1960s.

  Pilot Mountain State Park Superintendent Matt Windsor explained that despite the pandemic, visitation has been way above capacity. He also noted that 10% of the entire visitation for the North Carolina State Park system passes through Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock State Park.

  Park staff have been taking extra measures to ensure the safety of everyone, while encouraging visitors to see and enjoy the other natural and commercial attractions in the area.

  Pilot Mountain is a kind of outdoor museum, full of geological and ecological sites to see. Take a hike or visit their new exhibit to learn more about the park’s ever-growing history. Visit their website to learn more about seasonal hours and events. https://www.ncparks.gov/pilot-mountain-state-park/home

  “Come forth into the light of things, let Nature be your teacher” -William Wordsworth.

  A New Year of promise

  January 17, 2021

  Editor’s Note: Community Comment is a feature of The Mount Airy News, presenting commentary from community leaders in Mount Airy and Surry County.

  I often say education is the only profession that has a new start each and every year. Educators and students also have a new start with a new quarter or semester. The promise of a new calendar year is profound because it is a new start for everyone. 2021 is a new year to chart a new path and a new opportunity to reflect and repurpose oneself for the pathways that lie ahead. We continue to build on a solid foundation of top-notch professional educators, a supportive Board of Education, and an engaged community that invests in our success.

  A new year is a time to refocus and recalibrate ourselves to new opportunities, time to reevaluate our purpose, and our goals. I challenge our staff and students to think about this new year and the new semester as an opportunity to set new goals for the second half of the school year. It is the perfect time to figure out what we need to change or tweak to ensure we are best meeting the needs of students and families. It is an excellent time for students to make sure they have what they need to achieve their dreams for the future, for college or careers.

  I believe 2021 is a year of promise. We have the promise of light at the end of the tunnel as vaccines are being rolled out to fight the pandemic. We have the promise of time to make new memories with family and friends. We have the promise of being able to visit and fellowship, something we have not been able to do on a large scale in many months. We have the promise of having all of our students under one roof again. We have the promise of hope.

  Hope is the catalyst for making dreams a reality. Hope is what makes those things that seem impossible within the realm of possibility. I believe as educators we provide students and families with hope. Not only do we equip students academically with a world-class education but so much more. The Surry County School System strives each day to equip students with leadership skills that help them build self-reliance, resilience, and social and emotional wellbeing. We afford students and families options to personalize their learning and flexibility to make learning accessible in a variety of formats. We provide students with life skills that transfer into the world of work, and opportunities to advance their skillsets outside brick and mortar classrooms. We offer choices that I think give students hope for a fulfilling future here locally and beyond.

  It is an honor for us to serve this great community. In this new year, we will continue our vision of designing dreams and growing leaders to fulfill our promise for all. Together, we will accomplish great things for students, families, and Surry County. 2021, is a year of promise indeed!

  Sweet beans?

  January 11, 2021

  “If I ate twice what there was, it would’ve been half what I wanted.”

  Doc Watson made this remark in regards to soup beans and cornbread, a staple dish of Appalachia due to its accessibility and the memories it conjures. The beans typically used for soup beans are pinto beans, which get their name from the Spanish word for paint. Once pintos cook, they turn from their speckled appearance to a light brown. Most rural Appalachians were self-sufficient and grew the majority of their food, going to the local general store for items they could not produce themselves. However, pinto beans were often bought instead of grown by families because it was cheaper and easier to do so.

  While I was searching through the cookbooks in the museum collection, I stumbled across a recipe for Pinto Bean Pie. Initially I thought it would be a savory dish, similar to bean bread or refried beans. It’s the furthest thing from it — it’s sweet! The closest I’ve come to sweetness with pintos would be chow-chow. The ingredients are simple; pintos, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, pecans, coconut, and margarine. Also, the recipe has substitutions listed to make it lighter and more health conscious.

  This was one of the easiest recipes I’ve made; just simply mix all ingredients together and bake. The batter itself didn’t look or smell appetizing before it baked, but it redeemed itself fully while baking and taste wise. It smelled divine while baking and came out of the oven a deep brown color and the taste was not at all what I was expecting. This pie is rich, sweet, and tastes nothing of beans. I would suggest the substitutions, as it is very sweet.

  This recipe can be found in the Surry County Health Department 75th Anniversary Cookbook. The Surry County Health Department was founded in 1920 to combat malnutrition in the area. Along with recipes submitted by staff members, the cookbook contains photographs and history about the health department as well as articles about food safety and healthy eating. Originally housed in the Mount Airy City Hall Building on Moore Avenue, it moved to the former nurses’ residence for Martin Memorial Hospital on Gilmer Street in 1956 before it was moved to its final location in Dobson in 1983.

  The Marion family name is a well-known one in this area, as they’ve been settled here for generations. However, it has been difficult to determine which Ruth to credit for this recipe, as there are numerous. I talked to the wrong Ruth about this recipe, where she informed me there were three that she knew of. From what I can tell, the Ruth Marion in question worked for Surry County in the Health and Nutrition Department from 1993 until her retirement in 2012. We have her to thank for this wonderful recipe. Who knew beans were so nutritional and versatile?

  Pinto Bean Pie

  1 c. pintos with juice, mashed well

  1 c. white sugar

  4 eggs

  1 ? c. pecans

  2 c. brown sugar

  1 can Baker’s coconut

  2 sticks margarine, melted

  Mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour in unbaked pie shell. Makes 2 pies.


  Less sugar

  ? amount of coconut

  1 c. egg beaters

  Soft, light margarine

  ? amount of pecans

  Justyn Kissam is the director of programs and education at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. Originally from Winston-Salem, she has moved around the state for her education and public history work until settling in Mount Airy. She can be reached at 336-786-4478 x 228 or jnkissam@northcarolinamuseum.org

  A look back at area’s past

  January 03, 2021

  On Sunday, May 6, 1759, a man rode in to the Moravian settlement at Bethabara with a small child. A series of broken agreements by the British military leadership angered Cherokees across the region. There were attacks on homesteads, horses and food stores taken, and, occasionally, people were killed.

  The record of the unnamed man bringing the child he found alone in an empty house to the Moravians is one of the earliest records we have of the Hollow, the place we know today as Mount Airy. Then it was a sparsely populated primal forest filled with natural resources and stalked by wolves and panthers.

  In February 1760 there was an attack on Fort Dobbs followed by the killing of William Fish and his son on their farm in the Hollow in March. Families from across today’s Surry County flocked to the safety of the fortifications at Bethabara and Bethania.

  The Moravians often came to the Hollow to hunt, gather medicinal herbs and fungus, and for granite to make whetstones and millstones. They cleared a wagon road from Bethania to the Hollow in 1762, roughly the path of US Highway 52 today.

  In 1770 a petition was presented to the royal colonial government to create Surry County from the much larger Rowan. Because of the growing tensions caused by the Regulators at the time, however, it wasn’t acted on until January 1771, 250 years ago this month.

  As we bid adieu (with a collective sigh of relief) to 2020, let’s look at how the Hollow has changed.

  1761 – Irish immigrant and veteran of the French and Indian War Capt. Andrew Bailey registers one of the oldest land deeds in present-day Surry County just east of where Mount Airy will be.

  1771 – April 1 – Surry County is created. It included all of today’s Forsyth, Stokes, Surry, and Yadkin counties.

  1789 – Stokes is created from the eastern half of Surry just in time for the first US Census.

  1790 – Surry County (including what is today Yadkin) has a population of 7,192.

  1801 – Post roads, the routes used to move the young nation’s mail, were announced each year as an act of Congress. Mount Airy is listed as a stop on the weekly route from Salem & Bethania to Grayson Court House, Virginia. This is the same year that Thomas Perkins buys a farm on the Tarrat River (Ararat) near the middle school’s current site and names it “Mount Airy.” The intersection of Hamburg and South Main streets is the business center of Mount Airy until about 1900. No evidence has been found to date that determines which came first; the name of the farm or the name of the infant town.

  1811 – First school established in Mount Airy by Prof. Hickman near the Playhouse. There would be a school on this property, without interruption, until the Rockford Street School became the location of the Surry Arts Council in the 1970s.

  1840 – Jacob Brower established cotton and woolen mills in the Hamburg area. The Census counts 15,079 people in the county (still including Yadkin). In 1935 historian Jesse Hollingsworth determined the area that is today Surry County was occupied by 3,925 farmers and 294 manufacturers and tradesmen and their families.

  1849 – Forsyth is created from the southern section of Stokes and in 1850 Yadkin County is created from the southern half of Surry along the river leaving Surry as it is today.

  1850 – The Census totaled Surry County, even with the loss of Yadkin, at 18,443 people.

  1870s – Winston Fulton, James H. Sparger, and others establish several tobacco factories in and around Mount Airy. The Mount Airy News and the Surry Visitor, the area’s first newspapers, begin publishing.

  1880 – Mount Airy population is recorded as 519.

  1885 – Mount Airy is incorporated

  1888 – Railroad arrives, igniting an explosion in manufacturing which, in turn, caused a population boom. Quarry operations begin in 1889. The first furniture factory opens in 1896.

  1890 – Mount Airy population, 1,768, a 240% increase. Surry County population, 19,281.

  1892 – Public & Private-owned utilities begin: 1892, Electricity; 1893, Telephone; 1895, Water

  1899 – Fire and Police Departments established; Municipal garbage collection begun

  1912 – Mount Airy begins paving streets. Cement sidewalks came earlier, often installed by businesses.

  1914 – First hospital is built

  1916 – First high public school is established

  1920s – Textile manufacturing takes off as a major economic driver with mills such as Mount Airy Knitting/Spencer’s, Renfrow Hoisery, and others refit tobacco warehouses and factories to clothing production. This decade sees Mount Airy population exceed 6,000 and the county reach nearly 40,000.

  1926 – Mount Airy establishes a public health office. Surry County follows 10 years later.

  Today the Census Bureau estimates Surry population at 72,000 and Mount Airy at just over 10,000 (the official numbers of the 2020 count will be released in the new year). The changes have continued. Some good. Some bad.

  What hasn’t changed, however, is the ability of the people here to pick up, dust off, and reinvent themselves regardless of what happens.

  We here at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History wish everyone the best and brightest of new years and look forward to collecting the new stories the people living in this region create as we move forward.

  December 29, 2020

  Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series submitted by Mount Airy City Schools Superintendent Kim Morrison about the system’s School-to-Work program.

  Mount Airy City Schools is proud of its decades-long efforts on the school to work pipeline. An outcome of public school is to make sure all children grow up to be productive adults. They need to find their way through life, setting goals, and working to attain those goals. Each child is created with unique gifts, talents, and abilities. The earlier we discover those and help the child pursue their passion the better. Mount Airy City Schools is committed to supporting every child, every day as they decide whether they need a high school diploma, a two-year degree, or a four-year degree to be in the career made just for them.

  Our programs have received many accolades for their workforce development attainments and in this three part series I hope to show how we are creating K-12 opportunities for students to be prepared for the workforce. We will be sharing our focus on at-risk students with a program called NextGen, a focus on typically developing students called the Career-Technical Education program and finally, our Burroughs Wellcome Fund/NASCAR program that has some of our top academic students involved in workforce development while in high school.

  The first program is the NextGen program headed by Polly Long which has won eight National Association of Developmental Organizations. This program has been in place for decades supporting students and making sure they are employable at the end of the program. This program is funded through WIOA, which is the Workforce Initiative and Opportunity Act and works closely with the Fletcher Foundation. Its primary focus is to help students with personal obstacles overcome those and gain employable skills. In the last three years, this program has impacted 150 students. Ninty-eight percent of those were employed during this time in a field associated with a career of their choosing. Eighty percent of these students attended Surry Community College where they completed 33 OSHA certifications (Job’s Connect) and 54 credentials. Just in the last year, the 50 students involved completed on average 524 hours of work experiences per person.

  Our community embraces these students and have agreed to support our students. Forty-four companies signed on to support this program (i.e. Surry Medical Ministries, Cibirix, Carport Central, Smith Diesel Shop, Wally’s Pharmacy, Mt. Airy Drug, Smith Rowe, Northern Hospital, Dr. Gravitte, DDS, etc.) We couldn’t do our programs well without the support of the industry and community partners in Mount Airy. We are so thankful that they are willing to train our students as they work hard to meet their goals. The NextGen program makes a difference in providing many of the basic needs of these students so they can participate and be employed.

  The program provides: All tuition at SCC paid; books paid; fees paid; supportive services provided (tires, laptops, cars for graduates, etc.); employment in the area of their career interest; mentoring; and a pipeline for future employment .

  This program has students from ages 16 to 24 and serves many students from within the county but focuses on employment in the city of Mount Airy. Every success story starts with the structure of a successful program, experience working with industry partners, and great leadership from Polly Long and her team, including Amber Tankersley.

  One such story is of a single mother who came to NextGen seeking advice, guidance, and assistance on how to obtain work in the field of education and have the educational credentials/degree to do this as her life’s dream. She was able to secure a scholarship to continue her education at Lees-McRae College and support to make sure she was successful. The employment plan that NextGen provided, helped her define her goals and create a career pathway including working in public schools while attaining her degree. The experience will be invaluable as she makes a future career in education. She is in Mount Airy City Schools’ Aspiring Teacher program under the tutelage of Dr. Phillip Brown.

  Mount Airy City Schools is able to grow our own teachers through this aspiring teachers program while also supporting our Dual Language Immersion Program with extra personnel. She had to earn this place by working through a resume, filling out a job application, and being part of a mock interview. These are success skills that all students need and everyone going through this program gets these invaluable opportunities.

  Polly’s kids, as she affectionately calls them, return after they become successful and give back to kids that are just like them. Many of these current students need a hand up with a little help to reach their goals. An anonymous donor, who is now a multi-millionaire through his skills of entrepreneurship, who graduated college, in part thanks to the supportive connections made through Long and the program, stays in touch with Long to give back to current students. They return each year to give at-risk students funds to pay for needed items such as funds for college, supplies, and even cars.

  A Lexus each year has been given to a child in need that has worked hard in the program and has no way to travel to college. That says a lot of how deeply this program has affected this alumnus that graduated from it. NextGen makes a difference every day where children may have had no way to succeed before and shows them the steps to become fully employed in a career they love. Our NexGen program is a vital part of our school to work pipeline. We are forever grateful that we change lives for a living.

  A boy’s dream become Fancy Gap highway

  December 28, 2020

  Imagine a forest-lined path traversing the mountain. The team pulling your coach are laboring along under the steep incline and rough terrain which get harder and colder during the winter. Bumping along in your carriage, your gaze wanders from side to side. There must be a better way.

  These were the exact thoughts of young Ira Coltrane, a local teamster some time in the 1830s. Accounts differ, but at age 14 or 15 he knew that the steep stagecoach road was not the best route through the Blue Ridge Mountains near present-day Fancy Gap, Virginia.

  Ira proclaimed to his companions that he saw an area deep in the gap that may provide a better path for traveling, saying it would make a “right fancy road.”

  The town of Fancy Gap is about 12 miles from Mount Airy, with the highest elevation of the town being 2,894 feet. Imagine traveling to the Gap without the “Fancy Gap” way. Some documents suggest that it would have taken three or more days to cross from the Piedmont to the crest of the Blue Ridge, depending on your cargo and load.

  Originally, the way up the escarpment, a long steep slope, to the plateau was based on native and animal paths, while some were expanded or altered to allow horses or potentially small carriages and wagons. They were not built to withstand the multiple convoys of people and merchants making their way into Carroll County. Going and coming were both issues. If your load was not adjusted accordingly or your load too light, the descent to the Piedmont could potentially be treacherous. Businesses such as hotels, restaurants, and hired help sporadically popped up along these paths, banking on misfortunes and weariness of travelers with multi-day trips.

  These early roads were volunteer created with varying accuracies — solely dependent on the amount of time each person had to work. The creators made use of the gaps — low points between hills or mountains, and spurs, a lateral ridge or small outcropping. These geological formations aided in the passage through the mountains; Flower Gap Road and Good Spur Road (as early as 1786) were two of the roads/paths that predated Fancy Gap Hwy and US 52 through the town of Fancy Gap.

  Ira Coltrane’s dream of a “Fancy Road” never left his thoughts and 19 years later “his” road was becoming a reality.

  At 38 years old the now Colonel Ira Coltrane laid out the location for the new road through the crest of the Blue Ridge, which he named “Fancy Gap.”

  As of 2010, 237 people lived in the Fancy Gap community, likely using the famed road daily. While the community is small it boasts wonderful history, artistry, and recreational opportunities. The path from Piedmont to plateau, once difficult and tiresome, became open and beautiful, lighting the way for new commerce and relationships. Fancy Gap Highway drew these two geographic regions closer together.

  The town and its amenities are now easily accessible thanks to the wandering eye of a 14-year-old.

  Today when traveling Fancy Gap Highway, there are several shops along the way and easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway, America’s second most visited National Park Unit. To learn more about all the things to do in Fancy Gap, along with more history of the area visit, https://www.virginia.org/

  Mount Airy City School triumphs from 2020

  December 27, 2020

  Editor’s Note: Community Comment is a periodic column in The Mount Airy News featuring commentary from community leaders in Mount Airy and Surry County.

  We know what the challenges of 2020 have been but do we remember the triumphs from this first semester? We want to make sure we count with gratitude all the great things that have happened and the great people who have stepped up this fall.

  We were able to bring more than 1,700 students and more than 250 staff back safely to school starting August 17. We have been back five days a week and have given multiple options for families to return to school. We are thankful for the front line workers making this possible. If you see these people please let them know what a difference they have made for your students — administrators, teachers, staff, custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and coaches. If they have been in a school this fall they have worn many hats to make sure students were back safely and fully engaged.

  Our families were able to choose options that were the right fit for them. Our students, about 85%, have chosen to come back face-to-face. Our administrators and staff prepared health screenings with attestation forms and temperature checks. Our custodians, maintenance, and administrative staff set up rooms with six feet of distance for all students. We also have custodians and facility workers who clean throughout the day and make sure high touch areas are cleaned frequently. Our nurses and CNA workers are making sure everyone in our buildings is healthy. They communicate with families frequently that may be on quarantine to make sure we have everything lined up for them to take classes at home. Some students felt they wanted to choose our remote learning option. We have assigned our teachers to these students and they meet (virtually) with these students every day just as if they were physically in class. Our students have completed either virtually or face-to-face 18 weeks of instruction which is equivalent to 90 days. That is a celebration.

  Our bus drivers and school nutrition workers have brought students (six feet apart and masked) to the school door as well as provided meals at school. These same front line workers have also delivered meals to remote students. Just since August 17 these important employees have prepared more than 100,000 meals and more than 300,000 since this pandemic began in March. We are so thankful to this group of folks who have triumphed to bring meals to homes, meals to classrooms, and students to schools in a safe and efficient manner. We have had a staggered start where elementary students arrive first and secondary students come in later in the morning. We have discovered this is a triumph over a challenge that has turned into a blessing. There is less wait time for buses, more students have chosen our school district (almost 100 more) and the schedule allows for some creativity with when our staff can meet and complete important trainings.

  Our students have stepped up to the challenges as well because our classes are meeting on our campuses, are happening remotely with a teacher, are occurring at Surry Community College and also happening in conjunction with our business partnerships continuing full steam ahead. Our students have not gotten behind and in fact we have had tremendous internships and work-based learning opportunities for all our students. About 75% of our older students have taken a Surry Community College course this fall and have gotten ahead on their college diploma. Our industry partners have stepped up to continue to allow students in their companies and we are very grateful.

  Innovative classes have continued that require face-to-face instruction. Some of these classes like woodworking, health sciences, Spanish dual language, arts, and Chinese need to have students in the classroom. Thankfully we have been able to do that for students of Mount Airy and not allow them to get behind like the rest of the country. That triumph is amazing and due to our incredible staff and students for stepping up. Our athletics have returned and while we prioritize safety, which means we may have some quarantines to make sure students and coaches stay safe, we have had a happy return to these activities. Our middle school just completed their fall season with all sports. This is great for students.

  The ABC collaborative which works out of Duke University used our data to show school districts around the nation how to come back safely. Their information recently informed the CDC of how safe a school setting can be if health and wellness procedures are followed. The CDC writes: “Because of their critical role for all children and the disproportionate impact that school closures can have on those with the least economic means, kindergarten through grade 12 schools should be the last settings to close after all other mitigation measures have been employed and the first to reopen when they can do so safely” The alternative risks of depression, suicide, neglect, academic failure, etc. far outweigh the risks of returning to school as the CDC has clearly stated. We believe this is a triumph that puts education first and shows the community the value of education during this difficult time.

  The challenges are many and we are very thankful for the triumphs that have accompanied these showing again how resiliency and working together bring movement forward. We are forever grateful to our community for continuing to support Mount Airy City Schools as we are excited to move into 2021.

  Holidays evoke old-time recipes

  December 21, 2020

  The fall and winter seasons bring to mind the holidays, family gatherings, decorations, and food! With the weather getting cooler and the days getting shorter, people tend to want a warm, comforting meal. In my humble opinion, the food of these seasons is the best of the year. The depth of flavors created and the love instilled within the food are so tangible and uplifting.

  However, local recipes can also illuminate the history and complex traditions of food preparation. Who was doing the cooking, what ingredients were used and why, and the importance placed on the food itself, whether it was used for special occasions or for everyday consumption? This article begins an exploration of the recipes of this area. Using cookbooks in the museum collection, I will pick a recipe, research its author and ingredients, make it, and review it.

  I learned to cook from watching and helping my grandmothers, who rarely used recipes; they had made dishes so many times they “eyeballed” the ingredients and just knew when it was right. Initially this was frustrating for me; I needed all the guidance I could get. Over time I learned cooking is about the process and memories you make along the way.

  The first recipe I’m going to try is Nora Ousley Glover’s Famous Hot Rolls. I won’t fib, I was nervous to make these rolls as their delicious reputation precedes them and I’ve never made bread from scratch before.

  Nora Ousley Glover published this recipe, along with others in her book, “A Collection of Favourite Recipies.” In the foreword, Nora describes growing up in a large family and learning to cook for her family and the children she babysat. Her cooking skills soon became famous in Mount Airy, and people encouraged her to share her recipes, hence her book. She admits to not using measuring utensils in her cooking, but took up the task of kitchen testing all the recipes and recording the ingredient measurements for the book. Nora owned Nora’s Café (formerly Nora’s Place), which was on the corner of South Street and Virginia Street during the 1950s and early 1960s, in the area called Needmore.

  The ingredients for this recipe are pretty simple; all purpose flour, buttermilk, baking powder and soda, sugar, salt, shortening, butter, and yeast. This recipe takes patience and time due to the two proofings (where the dough can rest and rise due to the yeast) that the bread musts go through. It was nerve wracking mixing and kneading the dough; if its too much or too little it won’t rise properly and the bread can be dense.

  I made a pan of rolls as well as a loaf (I was short a roll pan) and they turned out wonderful! Golden brown on the tops and sides, with a buttery crust and a soft, fluffy inside. When I tasted them I nearly cried from how good they were and how much they reminded me of my grandmother’s rolls. I will most definitely be using this recipe again and can only hope I did Nora’s Rolls justice and made her proud.

  Nora’s Roll Recipe


  4 cups all-purpose flour

  2 cups buttermilk (room temperature)

  2 tbs. baking powder

  2 tbs. sugar

  1 tsp. salt

  ? tsp. baking soda

  2 pkgs. dry yeast

  3 heaping tbs. shortening

  ? lb. butter

  Mix together flour, soda, baking powder, salt and sugar add shortening (meanwhile dissolve yeast in warm water as directed on package. Add to flour mixture along with buttermilk, mix to a soft dough. Cover and put to rise in a place. When dough has risen to about triple the amount, it is ready to knead. Start with a cup of flour. Knead small amounts of flour into dough till dough is light and soft, be careful not to knead in too much flour. Roll out dough, have melted butter on hand, use small biscuit cutter, as you cut, you put them in pan. Cover and let rise double in size. Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees. Fifteen minutes is the normal cooking time. If sweet milk is used in this recipe, you must omit the baking soda. You can make these rolls and freeze them for months. This recipe can be doubled as many times as you wish.

  Justyn Kissam is the director of programs and educationat the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. Originally from Winston-Salem, she has moved around the state for her education and public history work until settling in Mount Airy. She can be reached at 336-786-4478 x 228 or jnkissam@northcarolinamuseum.org

  Rock solid

  December 14, 2020

  In 1872 a farmer from Guilford County bought a large parcel of land just east of Mount Airy. Surry County was growing rapidly with agricultural and business concerns lining up along important transportation routes to northern and western markets. John Gilmore (or, as the name is more commonly used here, Gilmer) was just one of many Greensboro residents looking to take advantage of the opportunities available in the area.

  He was focused on the soil, however, not the potential of the rock beneath it.

  When he discovered 40 acres of bare granite in the middle of the parcel he demanded the selling price be lowered to reflect the “worthless land.”

  When Thomas Woodruff came to Mount Airy with the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad a decade later, he focused on the granite.

  His job was to find the best locations for the tracks and depots and to help source the materials to build each. When he was shown the “Flat Rock,” as locals called it, he recognized its value as building material and bought the land himself for $5,000.

  Geologists and architects call it Mount Airy White and prize it for its flawless beauty. It formed millions of years ago when the North American and the African tectonic plates collided trapping a bed of magma between them.

  As it cooled the minerals formed a single piece of white rock seven miles long and a mile and half wide that is heavily flecked with quartz and speckled with dark mica bits creating a sparkling, uniformly light gray finished product unlike any other deposit in the world. Pieces harvested from the quarry today look exactly like those quarried in 1889 when operations began. It has no seams, fractures, or composition change from one end to the other.

  J. D. Sargent was recruited from a Vermont granite quarry in 1910. Quarry superintendent to start, he moved the company to produce more finished products and eventually began his own cutting and finishing business on the site. He finally bought Woodruff out completely. Sargent was followed by John Prather Frank who started as an assistant payroll clerk at the quarry just out of Duke University and the Army. He rose through the ranks until elected president of the North Carolina Granite Corporation (NCGC) in 1945.

  NCGC has always owned the deposit but other companies such as the JD Sargent Granite Company, The North State Granite Company, and the Mount Airy Granite Cutting Company have mined and worked the granite through the years.

  The quarry has produced everything from architectural blocks to street curbs, to gravel to grit for chicken feed. Nothing has gone to waste.

  It became one of the largest employers in the county, including highly skilled jobs that attracted a great many immigrants from mining areas of Italy, Scotland, and England.

  The list of monuments, buildings, and public works that used Mount Airy White is impressive: countless churches including Mount Airy’s Main Street churches, Friends Meeting House, Presbyterian, Trinity Episcopal, First Baptist, Holy Angels Catholic, and Grace Moravian; the Flat Rock Youth Center, 1950; the Surry County Courthouse; the state Legislative Building, and Law and Justice Building in Raleigh; the Guilford County Courthouse, Greensboro; the Arlington Memorial Bridge, Washington, D.C.; and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on the Hudson in New York City which used several tens of thousands of tons of granite.

  The NCGC announced new owners based on Quebec, Canada at the beginning of the month. It will be exciting to see what they have in store for the ancient rock. We wish them well and hope to see Mount Airy White glittering in new and equally beautiful sites.