Sunday, June 17, 2012

Caswell County, North Carolina

I spent a delightful Sunday afternoon exploring Caswell County! Just south of the Virginia border, Caswell County has a lot of history. It was formed in 1777 from the northern part of Orange County (which includes Chapel Hill), and was named for Richard Caswell, governor of North Carolina from 1776-1780. Brightleaf tobacco was discovered around 1839 in Caswell County, revolutionizing the tobacco industry.

My first stop was in Leasburg, the original county seat. I stopped and took pictures of some historical markers there, but otherwise, there's not much there now. Still, it was a nice place to start my Caswell County journey.

My next stop was Yanceyville, the current Caswell County seat. The old Caswell County Courthouse was easy to find, and it's a nice, well-preserved one. It's now home to several county departments, while the new courthouse, a bigger concrete building is fairly nearby. (Yanceyville's pretty small, so everything is relatively close by!) Behind the old courthouse are a couple more historic buildings, Poteat School and the old county jail. I wasn't able to go inside on my impromptu visit to Yanceyville, but I enjoyed walking around the area.

One of the interesting surprises of the day was finding the home of Bartlett Yancey. He was a politician for the area (both on the state and national level), and Yancey County was named for him. There is a debate about whether Yanceyville (in Caswell County, not Yancey County!) was named for him or for his brother, James. At any rate, I found his (former) house, with the Bartlett Yancey historical marker in front. It has most recently been a restaurant, but the restaurant closed in 2011, is still for lease. I'm not sure who owns the property. There's a Yancey family cemetery on the property, with the graves of Bartlett Yancey and his wife, among others. The little cemetery has seen better days, Some of the tombstones are deteriorating, and weeds are growing around. Sad. I'm surprised that a local historical or genealogical society hasn't stepped in, at least with the cemetery.

Thomas Day's Home & Workshop
From there, I traveled to Milton, one of the towns I was looking forward to visiting in Caswell County! Why? Last fall, George and I visited the North Carolina Museum of History, and saw an interesting exhibit on Thomas Day called Behind the Veneer: Thomas Day, Master Cabinetmaker, while we were there. I'd never heard of Thomas Day, but I really enjoyed learning about him, intrigued by his skill as a furniture designer and cabinetmaker in little Milton in the first half of the 19th century. (The exhibit will run through January 2013, and I'd recommend it highly!) I found the building in Milton where Thomas Day lived and had his workshop. (There's a historical marker for Thomas Day in front, which helped with location!) Although I couldn't go inside, it was an interesting building on the outside. Right next door, there was a trailer home for sale, which seemed a little incongruous next to the historic building. (It reminded me of the Yancey House as a closed restaurant with the scraggly Yancey cemetery that I'd seen just a little while before.)

Back of Red House Presbyterian Church
I headed on to my last stop of the day, Red House Presbyterian Church, one of the oldest churches in the area, near Semora. Once I passed the intersection that is Semora, I passed the little green and white sign for Red House, and just down the road, found Red House Prebyterian Church. It's a beautiful old church, and I was delighted to find the sanctuary unlocked for visitors. The cemetery was very pretty and well kept, and includes the grave of the Reverend Hugh McAden.

I really enjoyed my visit to Caswell County! The rest of my photos from my Caswell trip are here.

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