Friday, January 13, 2017

Braudes and Sallie Rutledge House and Germanton Esso

Braudes and Sallie Rutledge House and Germanton Esso
ca. 1949 and ca. 1957

Jerry Rutledge is credited below as a co-author because most of this post is taken from his article entitled “Raleigh Braudes Rutledge and Sallie Emma Fowler Rutledge,” published in The Heritage of Stokes County, volume 1. Footnotes cite other sources; all facts not footnoted are from Jerry Rutledge’s article.

Although the Braudes and Sallie Rutledge House is one of the newest dwellings on Germanton’s main street, the deeds associated with it shine a light on key aspects of Germanton’s history.

Braudes and Sallie Fowler Rutledge were natives of Stokes County who married in 1928 and moved to High Point for jobs in a hosiery mill. Around the time their first son was born, in 1935, the couple had a chance to buy a farm back home in the Friendship community, north of Germanton. In 1944, twins, Cheryl and Jerry, arrived, and in 1948, the couple purchased the former home of Dr. Wade H. Bynum in Germanton. In short order, the Rutledges built a small grocery and gas station.

Mr. Rutledge worked as a carpenter, continued farming in Friendship, and ran the gas station with Sallie.

In 1957, the Rutledges tore down the old Bynum House and built the existing Ranch house on the older foundation, with the Stokes-Forsyth County line bisecting the house. The one-story house is a typical brick, Ranch with a low-pitched, side-gable roof, engaged carport, and large picture windows. It was the scene of many family lunches and Christmas morning celebrations while the gas station hosted daily gatherings of farmers and locals who gathered to shoot the breeze and swap stories.

The gas station, originally known as the Germanton Esso and later more informally as Buddy Wall’s Exxon, is a one-story, hip-roof building. The façade is brick with concrete block walls on the sides and rear. Half-round attic vents punctuate the front and side roof slopes and along with brick soldier courses above the window and door openings, they give a slight nod to the Colonial Revival designs popular for residences in the late 1940s.

The Rutledges retired from the store in 1973 and leased the business while continuing to farm. Braudes died in 1988 and Sallie lived until 2005. The Rutledge family continues to own the house and store today.

The house stands on the foundation of a house that was intended to be a school for girls, operated by a woman named Ann Mays. Mrs. Mays had lived in Virginia, and although her motivations for moving to Germanton and opening a school remain unknown, she was recruiting teachers as early as November 1854.[1]

In May 1855, Isaac Gibson, a son of one of the town’s wealthiest antebellum families, borrowed $5,000 from a Virginian named Samuel Shelton, who was Ann Mays’ brother. Gibson used that money to invest in the planned school and he purchased four acres of land on Main Street from his niece, Olivia Stedman, and her husband, William. Based on later estate records, Ann Mays engaged a builder named Dietrich Tavis to construct “a house suitable for a dwelling and also of sufficient size and dimensions for keeping a large Female School therein.”[2]

Tavis went to work constructing a Greek Revival house nearly identical to the Stedman-Raney-Savage House and other related houses in the area. Mrs. Mays placed several ads seeking students and teachers in newspapers throughout the second half of 1855, and advertisements continued to run in 1856, but in December of that year, Ann Mays died shortly after the birth of a daughter, who died in August.[3] In May, 1857, Mrs. Mays’ husband put the school up for sale, but the property was not sold and instead, became tied up in the estate of one of the school’s key investors, William Steadman, who died in April 1857.[4]

It is unclear how or why the property ended up in Dr. Steadman’s estate, but because Mrs. Mays died without having paid Tavis for his work, William Steadman along with several other investors were left with the school’s debts, including debts to Tavis. Thus, in 1858, Isaac Gibson, acting as executor of his nephew-in-law’s estate, petitioned the court to sell the house.[5]

It is unclear what happened to the house between in 1858 and 1871, but by 1871, John Alspaugh, Olivia Gibson Stedman’s second husband and her widower by that point, was overseeing the settlement of several Gibson family estates, including William Stedman’s. After 1871, it transferred hands several times before D.C. Slate bought it. Slate was involved in several Germanton-area enterprises, but less than a year after purchasing this house, he opened a hotel in Germanton and a later news article refers to this property as the former Slate Hotel.[6]

In 1891, Slate and a business partner, W.B. Harris, dissolved their partnership and the dissolution gave Harris and his wife, Laura, the building. Harris is mentioned in an 1893 news report as a “professor” operating a school, but it is not known if this building served in that capacity.

In 1899, Harris sold the house to W. P. Bynum who sold it the following year to his brother, Wade, who was a physician.[7] Less than a year later, Dr. Bynum married Martha Poindexter. Bynum was a highly regarded doctor, and his family’s roots ran very deep in the area: his great grandfather had been among those charged with locating a county seat for the newly-formed Stokes County in 1789. Dr. Bynum was known for house calls and dedication to his patients, and based on death certificates, he served white families and African American families alike.

Dr. Bynum died in 1943 followed by Mrs. Bynum in 1945.[8] The house passed to the Bynum’s grandsons, and in 1946, their guardians sold it to to Ralph and Ethel Butner who then sold it to the Rutledges in 1947.[9]

 Sarah Woodard David and Jerry Rutledge, 2017

. . . see also . . . 
For more information about the Steadmans, click here. For a fuller discussion to Tavis' work in and around Germanton, click here

[1] Spirit of the Age (Raleigh), November 29, 1854, page 3.
[2] Estate Records of William W. Stedman, N.C. State Archives, Raleigh, N.C.
[3] Grave markers at Germanton Methodist Church Cemetery.
[4] Graver marker at Germanton Methodist Church Cemetery. Additional confirmation of death date in the Fayetteville Weekly Observer, April 27, 1857. The school was advertised for sale by Robert Mays in the Christian Advocate (Raleigh), May 28, 1857, page 2.
[5] Estate Records of William W. Stedman, N.C. State Archives, Raleigh, N.C.
[6] Greensboro Patriot, August 30, 1899, page 10.
[7] W.B. and Laura Harris to W.P. Bynum, Forsyth County Deed Book 106, page 572, October 30, 1899; and W.P. Bynum to Wade H. Bynum, Forsyth County Deed Book 97, page 472, October 1, 1900.
[8] Graver markers in the Poindexter-Bynum-Hill Family Cemetery, accessed via
[9] Marshall Matthews, guardian, to Ralph and Ethel Butner, Forsyth County Deed Book 533, page 130, August 8, 1946; and Ralph and Ethel Butner to R.B. and Sallie Rutledge, Stokes County Deed Book 111, page 141, and Forsyth County Deed Book 575, page 43, December 9, 1947.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Shropshire-Wagoner House

Shropshire-Wagoner House, 1946

The Shropshire-Wagoner House represents the continued application of Colonial Revival designs in the post-World War II period when the style, which started in the late 1800s, had become more stripped-down in response to the desire and need for traditional houses that could be built quickly and relatively cheaply during the post-war building frenzy. It also represents a subtle but distinctive sub-type of Colonial Revival popular in the southeast, particularly in Virginia and North Carolina. Furthermore, the house also demonstrates the preference for tearing down Victorian-era houses during the post-war years.

By the beginning of World War II, Germanton had already achieved its peak population and peak economic prosperity and was poised to begin a decline. Freight service on the railroad had ceased, and within just a few years of the war’s end, most of the town’s African American residents had moved elsewhere in search of work. Germanton’s merchants continued to do business, but increasing car ownership made Winston-Salem’s shops, businesses, and jobs more accessible.

In May of 1946, Robert and Viola Shropshire purchased two lots on Germanton’s main street.[1] One was known as the “jail lot” and the other as the “home lot.” Today, the “jail lot” is a vacant lot immediately north of the Shropshire-Wagoner House while the house stands on the “home lot.” The jail lot was so-named because it had been the location of one of Germanton’s jails. (Other jail sites were located on the opposite side of the street.) It is not clear when a jail stood on this property, but it would have been before the town lost the county seat in 1849. By the time of the Shropshire purchase, the jail appears to have been long gone.

The house lot, on the other hand, seems to have had a house standing on it when the Shropshires purchased it. That house was likely a Poindexter family house built by a group of siblings who were the children of William and Anna Eliza Nelson Poindexter. By 1860, Anna Eliza Nelson Poindexter had died and William was living with several of their children outside Germanton. Ten years later, William, too, was dead, and the couple’s eldest son, David, headed a household that included his three children, his siblings, and a niece. The family lived near but outside Germanton, presumably in William and Anna’s house.[2]

In 1888, William N. Poindexter, another of William and Anna’s children, purchased a three-quarter-acre lot on Main Street in Germanton.[3] This is the land on which the Shropshire-Wagoner House stands today. The next year, in 1889, W.N. sold the lot to his brother and sisters, David, Caroline Carrie, Lena (Selena), and Lizzie. In 1900, the siblings and their cousin, Fannie Davis, appear in the census living on Germanton’s main street. This suggests they moved into Germanton sometime between 1889 and 1900. It is unclear if a house was on the property prior to the Poindexter ownership and if so, it is not known if the Poindexters tore it down and built a new house or if they lived in an older house.

Current neighbor, Louise Browder, recalls a house at this location that shared some similarities with the Mollie and Alice Hill House, which suggests that the Poindexter House was a Victorian-era dwelling. If the Poindexter House did date from circa 1890, any similarity to the Mollie and Alice Hill House was probably not coincidental, as that house was built around 1880 either for or by Susan Hill, who was also child of William and Anna Poindexter.

Carrie Caroline Poindexter died in 1917 and the house passed through heirs and eventually, was sold to William and Marjorie McIver in 1944. In 1946, the McIvers sold the house to the Shropshires. According to current owners, a sink in the house came from a prison and the Shropshires incorporated some materials from the Poindexter house into the new dwelling. Additionally, the kitchen cabinets bear a Sears and Roebuck label dated 1946. Sears was famous for their kit houses, but they stopped production in 1940, so this is not a "Sears house," but obviously, the cabinets came from Sears. 

Viola and Robert Shropshire lived here from 1946 until Robert’s death in 1953. Robert enlisted in the Army in 1917 and retired in 1946. Their connection to Germanton or reason for relocating here after Lt. Col. Shropshire’s retirement is not known, but it appears they constructed the existing house shortly after purchasing the property. 

About a year after Robert’s death, Viola sold the house and two lots to Norman “Turk” and Kathrine Wagoner who resided here until their deaths in the mid-1980s. The house passed through two other owners before Tommy and Megan Smith bought it in 1999.

The house is executed in a Williamsburg Revival form. “Williamsburg Revival” is not a nationally accepted architectural style, and historians, architects, and realtors usually refer to Williamsburg Revival cottages as Cape Cods. However, Carl Lounsbury, Williamsburg’s renowned and widely-published architectural historian, and North Carolina’s preeminent architectural historian, Catherine Bishir, attest to the reality of Williamsburg Revival as a subset of the Colonial Revival.[4]  

Both Cape Cod and Williamsburg Revival cottages have related roots. In the 1930s and in the post-war building-boom of the 1940s and early 1950s, builders and homeowners wanted Colonial Revival style houses, but could not afford the grand, expansive, forms of the 1910s and 1920s.

The original Cape Cod cottages and many Williamsburg houses were small dwellings and recreating them allowed owners of modest means to have the style they desired. Most notably, architect Royal Barry Wills took the spartan Cape Cod houses of his native Massachusetts and popularized the Cape Cod Revival through a number of publications.[5]

While the influence of Cape Cod Revival designs on North Carolina builders and architects cannot be discounted, Southerners were not necessarily keen on a style with New England antecedents. In the 1920s and into the 1950s, the Civil War’s outcome remained a fresh wound for some white Southerners. The last Confederate veterans were alive through the 1940s and plenty of white Southerners carried a variety of grudges against “Yankees.” Thus, rather than looking North, southeastern tastemakers, architects, builders, and homebuyers turned an eye to the on-going, well-publicized, and very popular restoration of Williamsburg.

Williamsburg Revival designs feature one-story forms with steep roofs, much like Cape Cods, but they introduce gabled dormers on the front roof slopes. Pilasters and entablatures highlight the front door, which is usually multi-paneled and sometimes contains a row of small lights across the top, mirroring or mimicking the diminutive transoms found above front doors in Williamsburg. Some front entrances include actual transoms. Williamsburg Revival houses do not feature front porches, but they almost always have a side porch, another regionally-specific attribute aimed at the Southern market where front porches had been a nearly universal house-feature since the eighteenth century.

The Shropshire-Wagoner embodies nearly all the features of a Williamsburg Revival design, including pilasters and an entablature at the front entrance, a side porch, and dormers on the front roof slope. The house, like the Cape Cod Small House at the southern end of Main Street, also illustrates the continued investment in the town long after it had lost the county seat.

Sarah Woodard David, 2016

[1] William and Marjorie McIver to Robert and Viola Shropshire, Stokes County Deed Book 107, page 559, May 16, 1946.
[2] 1860 and 1870 U.S. Census, accessed via
[3] William and Martha Tise to William N. Poindexter, Stokes County Deed Book 29, page 368, February 2, 1888.
[4] Catherine Bishir and Carl Lounsbury, email communications with the author, January 9, 2015.
[5] Richard Guy Wilson, The Colonial Revival House (New York: H. N. Abrams, 2004), excerpt, “Houses for Good Living: Royal Barry Wills,” published online via Royal Barry Wills Associates at 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Bain House

Bain House, ca. 1890

In 1879, Benjamin L. Bitting declared bankruptcy and his property was auctioned. At that auction, his sister, Lucy Bitting Bain purchased the lot upon which this house stands. No mention of a house was made in the deed, but the advertisement for the sale of Benjamin Bitting’s property included three tracts of land: two larger tracts and one 2-acre parcel with a house. The lot that Lucy Bain bought was just a little less than two acres. The half-acre discrepancy between the deed and the advertisement may represent the area used to create the street that runs long the property’s southwest edge.[1]
1879 ad for the sale of B.L. Bitting's property

Lucy Bitting Bain was the daughter of Anthony Bitting and Mary Wilkerson Bitting. The Bittings had been prominent and wealthy landowners in the Germanton and Rural Hall areas since Germanton’s establishment. Thomas Hare Bain was a Raleigh native, and the son of a prominent Raleigh family headed by William and Martha Bain. Presumably, the couple met through the marriage of Lucy’s brother, Benjamin Bitting, to Thomas Bain’s sister, Mollie Bain, in 1858. Thomas and Lucy married in 1869, and it is not known where they lived between 1869 and 1879, but in 1877, Thomas purchased a lot in Germanton from the estate of John W. Bitting.  This lot was on the old courthouse square, suggesting that Mr. Bain was engaged in some sort of commerce. Two years later, Lucy bought this property at auction.[2]

The 1880 census records Thomas, age 33, and Lucy, age 38, living on Main Street with their daughter, Amy, age 7. Thomas was a minister and their household also included Frannie Beck, who was a twenty-two-year-old, African American cook.[3]

In 1889, the Winston Western Sentinel reported that “On last Saturday about 10 o’clock a.m., the alarm of fire was given and the dwelling-house of Mr. T. H. Bain was on fire. It is not known how the fire originated, but in less than an hour, the building was entirely consumed.”[4] The existing house likely dates from a ca. 1890 reconstruction and is either an entirely new building or an extensively updated rehabilitation of the earlier dwelling that was on the lot when Lucy Bitting Bain purchased it.

In any case, the Bains continued to live in Germanton after the fire, and in 1891, the Bains sold this property, which included a house. The couple remained in Germanton, however, and Thomas ran a successful mayoral campaign in 1893. In 1895 the Greensboro Patriot reported that “Mr. T. H. Bain and family, old residents of this place [Germanton], have moved to Rural Hall to make their future home. Luck to you, Bro. Bain.”[5]

In the meantime, D. H. Petree bought the house in 1891. Mr. Petree was a Christian minister (Church of Christ), and the son of Riley Frost Petree, a successful farmer. D. H. also ran a general store in Germanton, which failed in the summer of 1892, leaving him $2,500 in debt. Later that same year, D. H. married Germanton native, Roberta Crews, but in 1895, D. H.’s debts caught up with him and the house was auctioned as part of a settlement with Odell Hardware, which, presumably, was one of D. H.’s creditors.[6]

D. H.’s brother, N. O. Petree, purchased the house at auction. N. O. Petree was Nathanial Petree, who was a well-known attorney and long-time Clerk of Court, and in December of 1895, the Greensboro Patriot noted that he was “making noticeable improvements to the Bain property.”[7] It appears that N. O. Petree lived in Danbury during this period, making it likely that he leased this house out. D. H. Petree, meanwhile, had relocated to Lagrange in Lenoir County, N.C.[8]

In 1907, Petree sold the house to L. M. and Carrie McKenzie.[9] L. M. McKenzie was a prominent merchant in Germanton who built at least one and possibly two other houses in Germanton.

In 1920, the McKenzies sold the house to M. F. and Carrie James. Eventually, the house ended up in auction as part of an estate settlement, and B. L. and Bertha Jeffords won the house. Mr. Jeffords was an insurance salesman and he died here in 1975. Mrs. Jeffords moved away, and the Jeffords’ son sold it to Richard and Brenda Porter in 1977. Since then, the house passed through a few more ownerships, and it is now rental property.[10]

The Bain House is a one-story, Victorian-era dwelling with two forward-facing gables. It typifies the type of houses built across North Carolina in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century when the region's industrialization was making construction less expensive through mass produced building components like porch posts and windows. The porch posts have been replaced, but it originally featured turned posts and scroll-work brackets. Original, two-over-two sash windows remain, but the original wood siding has been covered with vinyl. The house stands above a full basement which includes two plastered rooms, one of which likely served as a kitchen. Aside from the addition of vinyl siding, changes to the porch posts, and the replacement of the original wood shingle roof, the house appears much as it did in the turn-of-the-century photos below.

Bain House, possibly ca. 1907.
This photo came from Bud Hill, the son of Mable McKenzie Hill and this appears to be the McKenzie Family, likely taken around the time they purchased the house. If it is the McKenzie family, those pictured are, from left to right: L.M. McKenzie, Carrie, Helen (age about 2), Sarah (age about 5), Mable (age about 10), and an as-yet unidentified African American girl who probably worked for the family. Below, a photograph of the rear of the house shows the same family, but with the addition of a small boy standing beside Mr. McKenzie. This child cannot be accounted for; the McKenzies had a son, born in 1910, but if this were taken around 1912, the other children would be much older. Aside from this child, however, everything else points to this as a photo of the McKenzie family. 

If you have any further clues to the identities of the people in this photo, please use the contact form at the bottom of the page to contribute to the accuracy of this post. 

Sarah Woodard David, 2016

[1] Laura Phillips, Bain House Architectural Survey Site Form, SK 296; Greensboro North State, May 1, 1879, page 3; and T.J. Brown and N.F. Sullivan to L. A. Bain, Stokes County Deed Book, 31, 442, recording a transaction from May 17, 1879, August 24, 1885.
[2] Family history accessed via; gravemarkers accessed via; and B. L. Bitting to T. H. Bain, Stokes County Deed Book 25, page 381, November 26, 1877.
[3] U. S. Census Records, 1880, accessed via
[4] Winston-Salem Western Sentinel, April 18, 1889, page 1.
[5] Winston-Salem Union Republican, May 4, 1893, page 2, and Greensboro Patriot, October 16, 1895, page 2.
[6] T. H. and L. A. Bain to D. H. Petree, Stokes County Deed Book 33, page 365, October 27, 1891; Wilmington Morning Star, July 1, 1892, page 1; The Biblical Recorder (Raleigh), September 14, 1892, page 7; and Joel Fulton, Sherriff, to N. O. Petree, Stokes County Deed Book 36, page 623, September 2, 1895.
[7] Greensboro Patriot, December 11, 1895, page 2.
[8] U.S. Census Records, 1900, accessed via
[9] N. O. and M. J. Petree to L. M. and Carrie McKenzie, Stokes County Deed book 48, page 575, February 14, 1907.
[10] L.M. and Carrie McKenzie to M.F. and Carrie James, Stokes County Deed Book 69, page 88, November 12, 1920; M.F. and Carrie James to L.K. and Sallie Matthews, Stokes County Deed Book 75, page 376, April 15, 1927; Marshall Matthews to B.L. and Bertha Jeffords, Stokes County Deed Book 91, page 392, August 14, 1936; Robert Jeffords to Richard and Brenda Porter, Stokes County Deed Book 253, page 885, June 24, 1977; and Stokes County Deed Book 376, page 1825. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Germanton Methodist Church

Germanton Methodist Church, 1856

The Germanton Methodist Church and Cemetery are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and Laura Phillip’s 1997 nomination contains a thorough history and detailed architectural description. Please click here to read the nomination.

The Germanton Methodist Church earns a lot of superlatives: it is the oldest congregation in Germanton, its building is the oldest religious building in Stokes County, and its cemetery is the oldest collective burying ground[1] in Stokes County.

The earliest known record of a Methodist congregation in Germanton occurs in 1834 when the Book of the Stokes Circuit, North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South recorded a quarterly meeting in Germanton. In 1838, Jeremiah Gibson, a locally prominent merchant and farmer, sold a piece of land on Main Street to John B. Hampton, David Westmoreland, Elijah Fowler, James T. Wright, Solomon Petree, John White, Isaac L. Gibson, Lewis B. Banner, and Elisha Banner, Trustees, for $50.00 where upon the trustees were to build a place of worship for the Methodist Episcopal Church.[2]

It is not known with certainty when or if the congregants built a church here before they constructed the existing building. The congregation operated a Sabbath School as early as 1838 and a January 1852 Conference meeting being held at Mt. Tabor adjourned to Germanton, where the meeting place was warm, suggesting the presence of a building, but those gatherings could have been held in the courthouse or another public building, such as the Masonic Hall. A 1938 article in the Winston-Salem Journal notes that “A long [log?] church was built about the same time as this deed [1838] was made but little is known about it.”[3]

In any case, the congregation flourished and they built their new brick sanctuary in 1856, and officially dedicated it in 1857. By that time, the church’s membership included 49 white members and 27 African American members, who, tradition suggests, were all enslaved. The church remained racially integrated into the 1940s when Germanton’s remaining African American citizens moved to Winston-Salem or elsewhere for work or died.[4]

The church’s earliest members and supporters, including Banners, Petrees, and Gibsons, were also among the wealthiest residents of Germanton. While constructing a new sanctuary, these families also invested heavily in the establishment of a well-respected Masonic Institute that opened in 1852 and a school for girls, which only operated briefly in the mid-1850s.[5] They advocated for a railroad connection, built sizable homes in and around Germanton, maintained strong ties with Salem’s Moravian merchants, and sent their children to college.

Forsyth County Courthouse in Winston
The builder of the church is not known, but it seems likely that John Dietrich Tavis may have had a hand in its design and woodwork. Tavis, a skilled house builder from Salem, who was very active in and around Germanton during the mid-1850s, employed a fine but restrained Greek Revival style in his Germanton-area homes, very similar to that seen at the Methodist Church. Furthermore, the church’s steeple bears a remarkable resemblance to the steeple on the Forsyth County Courthouse built in Winston in 1850. Although any local builder may have been familiar with the Forsyth County Courthouse, Tavis lived in Salem and certainly would have known that building’s designer, Francis Fries.[6]

Germanton Methodist steeple
Additionally, at one point in the steeple’s history, clock faces hung on each side of it, and local tradition holds that those were made by a silversmith from Salem. As it turns out, the 1850 census enumerates Tavis next to Trougott Leinbach, a silversmith, who also carved Andrew Bowman’s 1847 tombstone in the church’s cemetery.[7]  

Furthermore, the house next door to the church, the Pepper-Blackburn-Petree House, appears to be Tavis’ work and the 1938 Journal article notes that next to the church “is an old house that was built as a parsonage for the church. The doors are paneled and the windows are many-paned like the church.” During the 1850s, when the church and the front part of the Pepper-Blackburn-Petree House were both constructed, the Pepper family owned the house and cemetery property. One of the Pepper brothers, Clareridon Martin Pepper, was a Methodist minister who served the Germanton congregation, strengthening the ties between the church and the Pepper-Blackburn-Petree House.

Regardless of the builder, the church is a stylish and imposing landmark, the likes of which was built nowhere else in Stokes County.[8] Germanton had lost its place as the county seat in 1849 when Stokes was split to form Forsyth County to the south, but according to many newspaper accounts in the 1850s, residents actively sought a rail connection for the town, and for a while, it seemed as if they might get their wish. The hope and optimism surrounding the railroad, which did not materialize until the 1880s, combined with the statewide agricultural prosperity experienced by white farmers in the 1850s resulted in a fine collection of Greek Revival work in and around Germanton, of which the Methodist Church is an outstanding and almost unaltered example.
Methodist Church with clock faces
photo from Bud Hill's collection
The building features an austere, brick exterior with large six-over-six sash windows and a central, double-leaf door with two-panel leafs typical of Greek Revival architecture. Inside, the Greek Revival woodwork is plain, but expertly finished with ramped handrails on the twin staircases leading to the balcony. The sanctuary features paneled pews, window trim with cornerblocks, and a tin ceiling that was probably a later addition.

The cemetery behind the church predates the congregation by several years. The National Register nomination for the property suggests that it started as a Gibson family cemetery because the earliest noted marked burial was that of Rachel Gibson in 1828 and because her husband, Jeremiah Gibson, had sold the congregation the land on which the church stands. However, at the time the cemetery appears to have started, it was still part of the land associated with the Pepper-Blackburn-Petree House, located immediately southwest of the church. That property was owned by Joshua and Martha Bitting Banner during the 1820s, and Joshua's 1848 estate included a lot with a grave yard. Additionally, the church's 1838 deed describes a lot that is one-half-acre in size, and 4.5 poles wide by 18 poles deep; that is wider than the church's current frontage and would not be deep enough to include the cemetery. 

Joshua and Martha Bitting Banner had acquired the cemetery property though inheritance: Anthony Bitting bought this land in 1798 from Michael Fry. He gave a portion of it to his daughter, Martha Bitting Banner before his death and the remainder passed to her and her husband upon Anthony’s death in 1804. The 1798 deed does not mention a cemetery, and no extant markers predate Anthony’s death; the marked burials started here in the 1820s, during the ownership of Joshua and Martha Bitting Banner. The earliest marked burial actually appears to be Martha’s nephew, Joseph Bitting who died in 1821, thus, rather than a Gibson family cemetery, this cemetery seems to have started as a Bitting-Banner family cemetery.[9]

Joseph Bitting was the son of Joseph Bitting (Martha Bitting Banner’s brother) and Rachel Nelson Bitting. The elder Joseph operated a tavern and storehouse on the courthouse square, but he died in 1798 when his son was just three years old.[10] His widow, Rachel, married prominent merchant, Jeremiah Gibson. In 1821, the younger Joseph died, and was buried in this cemetery. Rachel only outlived her son by seven years, and Rachel is the cemetery’s second earliest marked burial, dating from 1828.[11]

advertisement for Joshua Banner's estate auction, 1848
The Bittings, Banners, and Gibsons were part of Germanton’s circle of wealthy merchants, landowners, and farmers who participated in town and county governance and commerce. Neither Anthony Bitting nor Joseph and Martha Bitting appear to have lived on the lot containing the cemetery. That combined with the families’ civic involvement create the likelihood that the Bittings would have allowed the creation of a town burying ground on their property.

In 1848, the Pepper family purchased the property from Joshua Banner’s estate. The Banner-Pepper deed mentions the cemetery, referring to it generically without mentioning a specific family or church association, and the cemetery appears to be part of the transaction. In 1873, when C. M. Pepper sold the house to the William Blackburn, the lot shape was drawn to exclude the cemetery and the total land area was smaller than the area the Pepper family bought in 1848. A formal deed transferring this section of the cemetery to the church has not been uncovered, but C.M. Pepper, who was a Methodist minister that served Germanton, apparently gave the cemetery land to the congregation before 1873.[12]

Burials in the cemetery reflect a who’s who of Germanton’s wealthiest white families from before the Civil War, and not all of the burials are of church members, even well into the 20th century. This advances the notion that the cemetery operated as a community burial place before it came to be considered the church’s cemetery.

In 1957, Ruth Petree, who owned the old Anthony Bitting lot to the southwest of the church property, transferred about 1.5 acres to the church for the expansion of the cemetery, and in 1965, the McKenzie family, on the northeast side of the church, purchased the lowlands along the creek at the rear of the property.[13]

Today, the church stands as a remarkable testament to the town’s optimism, its willingness to invest in public institutions, and its architectural sophistication. The cemetery encapsulates the town’s social history and helps to document the lives of the town’s nineteenth century white residents.

photo from The State (now Our State Magazine), April 1, 1939
In an effort to right an obvious wrong, the accompanying article in The State was clearly plagiarized from Mildred Small's 1938 newspaper story about the church.

receipt acknowledging payment to Trougott Leinbach for Andrew Bowman's tombstone
Andrew Bowman's gravemarker, carved by Leinbach; several other markers in the cemetery are nearly identical
photo from by B.N. Cheek on

Gibson family markers

Sarah Woodard David, 2016

[1] Additional research on another Germanton cemetery may reveal that another cemetery is the county’s oldest community burial ground. Stay tuned for a post about this other cemetery in the future.
[2] Laura Phillips, Germanton Methodist Church and Cemetery, National Register Nomination, 1997, section 8, page 8, and Jeremiah Gibson to Trustees, Stokes County Deed Book 12, page 268, December 10, 1838.
[3] Phillips, section 8, page 8, and Mildred Small, “Germanton Church for All Denominations,” Winston-Salem Journal, July 4, 1938, page number not recorded, clipping in the Stokes County WPA Writers Project file at the North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, N.C.
[4] Phillips, section 8, page 6, and Raleigh Christian Advocate, page 2, July 9, 1857.
[5] Greensboro Patriot, November 26, 1839, page 4, and John Woodard, ed, The Heritage of Stokes County (Winston-Salem: Hunter Publishing Company, 1981), 93.
[7] 1850 U. S. Census records accessed via, and Andrew Bowman Estate Papers, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, N.C.
[8] Phillips, section 8, pages 11-12.
[9] Michael Fry to Anthony Bitting, Stokes County Deed Book 3, page 200, June 30, 1798, and John Pepper’s purchase of the property at auction from Joshua Banner’s estate and John Pepper’s transfer of title to Dewit Pepper, Stokes County Deed Book 18, page 184, April 11, 1853.
[10] Joseph Bitting’s 1798 burial location is not known to the author. Anthony Bitting, Joseph’s father, bought this land several months before Joseph’s death, so it is possible that one of the many unmarked graves in the cemetery is that of the elder Joseph Bitting.
[11] Stokes County Marriage Records, accessed via, and grave markers.
[12] For the deed references to this property, please see The Germanton Project post regarding thePepper-Blakburn-Petree House.
[13] Ruth Petree to Trustees of Germanton Methodist Church, Stokes County Deed Book 133, page 130, November 15, 1957, and Trustees of Germanton Methodist Church to L.M. and Ola McKenzie, May 4, 1965, as described in Dean Martin McKenzie to Billy and Claudine McKenzie, Stokes County Deed Book 274, page 606, April 27, 1982.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Beck House

Beck House, ca. 1922

James M. and Mable McKenzie Hill built this house in the early 1920s, but it takes its name from its longest occupants, Ralph and Eula Beck.

James M. Hill was the son of Dr. L. H. and Minerva Hill and had grown up in a locally privileged and influential family. In 1900, he was 19, living at home, and working as a sales clerk. By 1910, he had become the area’s first rural mail carrier, making him a trusted and well-known resident who was described in the Danbury Reporter on several occasions as “well liked” and “affable.”[1]

In 1918, at the age of 37, he married 21-year-old Mabel McKenzie, who also lived on Main Street in Germanton. By the time of the 1920 census, the couple was living next door or close to Mabel’s parents, L.M. and Carrie McKenzie, and in 1921, James and Mabel purchased a one-acre lot on Main Street. They sold half of that lot to Mabel’s parents and each family built a house on their half-acre. (See McGee House[2]

The Danbury Reporter noted several parties and gatherings hosted by J.M. and Mabel Hill in 1923 and 1924, and Mabel’s parents had completed their house in 1922, so it is likely J.M. and Mabel finished this house in the early 1920s. In 1926, the Hills used this house a collateral for a loan, which may have signaled financial trouble for them because foreclosure proceedings started in 1928 and in 1931, the Commissioner of the Bank of North Carolina took possession of the house, selling it at auction in 1935.[3]

The highest bidder was Germanton native, Ralph T. Beck and his wife, Eula Grubb Beck. The couple had married in 1923 and were living with Ralph’s parents by 1930. Mrs. Beck hailed from Davidson County and she was a school teacher. Ralph Beck was a Germanton native, whose father was the first registered pharmacist in Stokes County and only the thirty-third registered pharmacist in North Carolina. Ralph served as Germanton’s post-master for nearly thirty years, and he was known for writing letters for others, listening to neighbor’s woes, and writing letters to Germanton men serving in the military. His wife described his work at the post office as “his true vocation.”[4]

Mr. and Mrs. Beck spent the remainder of their lives here. Ralph died January 1978, and Eula died in the spring of 1987.[5]

The house is a one-story bungalow with both Colonial Revival and Craftsman elements. Its simple Tuscan columns reference popular Colonial Revival tastes while the six-over-one sash windows are Craftsman characteristics. The house, and in particular the portico, are slightly awkward in their proportions, suggesting the design is based on a local builder’s interpretation of a plan, rather than construction executed directly from a plan. A North Carolina company that produced many popular plan books, and continues doing so today, is Standard Homes, and the Beck House appears to be based on Standard Home’s Thorndyke plan. 

A large outbuilding behind the house contains a garage and storage area that may have been a chicken house at one time, given its similarities to the chicken houses at the Styers House

Standard Homes' Thorndyke, accessed via Antique Homes:

building on the site of the Beck House: nine-over-nine or nine-over-six sash windows, asymmetrical facade, boxed eaves, and flush gable ends suggest an early 19th century construction date
photo copied from The Heritage of Stokes County

 Sarah Woodard David, 2016

[1] U. S. Census, 1900 and 1910, accessed via, and Danbury Reporter, August 14, 1912, page 1, and other Danbury Reporter clippings.
[2] North Carolina marriage records, accessed via; U. S. Census, 1920, accessed via; and H. H. Riddle to James M. Hill, Stokes County Deed Book 70, page 41, August 20, 1921.
[3] Danbury Reporter clippings accessed via; James M. and Mabel Hill to N. O. Petree, Stokes County Deed Book 76, page 223; James M. and Mabel Hill to N. O. Petree, Stokes County Deed Book 78, page 126, June 6, 1928; and Gurney P. Hood (Commissioner of Banks) to Eula Grubb Beck and Ralph T. Beck, Stokes County Deed Book 91, page 18, May 20, 1935.
[4] United States Census Records, 1930 and 1940, accessed via, and “R.T. Beck and Son,” in John R. Woodard, Jr., ed., The Heritage of Stokes County (Winston-Salem: Hunter Publishing Co., 1981), 184.
[5] Grubb Family Cemetery, Davidson County, accessed via 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

McGee House

McGee House, 1922

Luther and Carrie Leak McKenzie built this house in 1922, but it is named for the McGee family because they owned it from 1926 to 2009.

Luther McKenzie was born in Guilford County in 1863 and he moved to Germanton around 1890, when he made his first land purchase. In 1891, he married Carrie Leak, the daughter of a Stokes County farmer, and the two appear in the 1900 census living on Main Street in Germanton with Luther working as a farmer. He had, however, purchased other lots in Germanton, including at least one lot on the old courthouse square, suggesting that he also generated rental income or engaged in other commercial work.[1]

In 1920, Luther and Carrie’s family included two daughters and two sons, plus their eldest daughter, Mabel, who had married James Hill and no longer lived in the McKenzie household.[2]

In 1921, H. H. Riddle, who bought and sold many lots in Germanton, sold the lot this house stands on to James M. Hill, Luther and Carrie McKenzie’s son-in-law. The tract was one-acre in size and the deed noted that a new street had been cut on the edge of the lot. Shortly after purchasing the lot, James and Mabel Hill sold half the lot to Mabel’s parents.[3]

The McKenzies must have started construction on a new house right away because in October, 1922, the Danbury Reporter noted that, “The residence being erected by Mr. L.M. McKenzie at Germanton is almost completed.”[4]
Danbury Reporter, October, 1922
In 1926, just four years after they completed their home, Luther and Carrie McKenzie sold it to Curtis McGee. About one month later, James and Mabel Hill used their property next door as collateral for a loan. It is unknown if the McKenzies sold their house in an effort to assist their daughter’s family or if their sale and the mortgaging of their daughter’s home were coincidental. Deed records indicate that several families in Germanton began mortgaging their homes and taking on debt during the second half of the 1920s .[5]

In any case, the new owner, Curtis McGee and his wife, Martha or Mattie, moved in with their young son and an infant daughter. Curtis was the son of local merchant, Hardin McGee, and his wife, Sallie Petree McGee. In 1920, he had married Martha Anne Browder, who grew up on a farm just north of Germanton. Curtis served one term in the state legislature in 1928, but spent most of his career as a banker, local merchant, and farmer. From the time of his marriage, Curtis worked as a cashier at the Germanton branch of the Bank of Stokes County, and the 1930 census confirms his employment as a banker, but on November 30, 1930, the bank did not open and it failed to re-open. The failure of the local bank brought many Germanton families to financial ruin and the McGees struggled to hold on to their house. In 1936, the house went up for public auction, but Curtis’ mother, Sallie McGee, bought the dwelling, and Curtis and Mattie continued living here. In 1951, Sallie sold the house back to her daughter-in-law.[6]

In 1972, Curtis and Mattie’s son, William Hardin “Bill” McGee and his wife, Violet, sold the house to Bill’s sister, Martha Ann McGee Brown, and her husband, U. J. “Jack” Brown. In 2009, Mrs. Brown sold the house out of the McGee family.[7]

The McGee House is an example of a Craftsman bungalow. Craftsman designs emphasized craftsmanship by exposing the building’s structural members or by exaggerating the structure through the application of false structural members. Craftsman houses often incorporated exposed beams and exposed raftertails, heavy porch posts to communicate the sturdiness of the craftsman’s work, and window and door placement that reflected the interior use. Craftsman architecture was a response to the industrial revolution and the machine-made sawnwork, gingerbread, and mass-produced decorations popular during the Victorian-era. It also grew out of the British Arts and Crafts Movement, which likewise sought to highlight the work of craftspeople and artists as an antidote to mechanization.  

Although Craftsman designs usually used just as many mass-produced, machine-made materials as their predecessors, they proved extremely popular. The style became a favorite for companies that generated house plans and kit homes, such as Sears and Aladdin, and plans could be found in national publications like Better Homes and Gardens. The McGee House does not appear to be a kit home, but its plans likely came from a national vendor executed by a local builder.

At the one-story McGee House, Craftsman style is expressed in several elements including the nine-over-one sash windows, shingles in the porch and dormer gables, the battered or tapered porch posts on brick piers, and the altered but extant kneebraces in the gable ends. The façade is symmetrical with paired windows flanking the main entrance, which is comprised of a French door and sidelights. On the side elevations, windows of various sizes and in asymmetrical arrangements suggest the interior layout.

The house is brick with vinyl siding covering the soffits and eaves. Asphalt shingles cover the side-gable roof and a gable-front dormer with paired windows punctuates the front roof slope. On the southwest end of the porch, the roof has been extended to create a porte cochere with a screen of pierced concrete block.

Sarah Woodard David, 2016

[1] Luther Martin McKenzie grave marker, Germanton Methodist Church; William Campbell to L.M. McKenzie, November 20, 1890, Stokes County Deed Book 31, page 563; United States Census, 1900, and Greensboro North State, April 30, 1891, page 8.
[2] United States Census, 1920, and L.M. and Carrie McKenzie to M.F. James, November 12, 1920, Stokes County Deed Book 69, page 88.
[3] H.H. Riddle to James M. Hill, August 20, 1921, Stokes County Deed Book 70, page 41, and James and Mabel Hill to L.M. and Carrie McKenzie, January 12, 1926, recording a transaction that occurred in September 1921, Stokes County Deed Book 73, page 577.
[4] Danbury Reporter, October 25, 1922, page 5.
[5] Carrie and L.M. McKenzie to Curtis McGee, April 21, 1926, Stokes County Deed Book 75, page 71, and James M. and Mabel Hill to N.O. Petree, trustee, June 30, 1926, Stokes County Deed Book 76, page 223.
[6] United States Census, 1930; Sallie McGee to Mattie Browder McGee, December 20, 1951, Stokes County Deed Book 120, page 401; and “Curtis C. McGee” in John R. Woodard, ed., The Heritage of Stokes County (Winston-Salem: Hunter Publishing Company, 1981), 345.
[7] William H. and Violet R. McGee to U.J. and Martha Brown, March 5, 1972, Stokes County Deed Book 235, page 140, and Martha Ann Brown to Jonathan and Giulia Smith, April 1, 2009, Stokes County Deed Book 594, page 407.