- Associated Press - Saturday, February 27, 2016

WINSTON SALEM, N.C. (AP) - Before there was Old Salem Museums & Gardens, there was “old Salem” - lowercase “o” - the birthplace of Krispy Kreme. And before that, there was a community known simply as Salem.

The journey between Salem and Old Salem forms much of the history of Winston-Salem itself. This year marks the 250th anniversary of Salem’s founding, and the Moravian Church, Old Salem, the city of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County are planning a yearlong celebration.

The story begins with the early Moravians and their desire for a planned society, a place where faith was an integral part of everyday life.

For the first 90 years after Salem was founded in 1766, the Moravian Church owned all property and church leaders made all decisions that affected the community and its inhabitants - even deciding who could marry whom.

Take the case of John Vogler, the silversmith and clockmaker. When Vogler asked Moravian leaders for permission to marry Single Sister Anna Louise Stotz, the request was put to “the lot,” to make sure that the proposed marriage had the Lord’s blessing.

“The Moravians felt the way of the Lord by drawing the lot,” said Richard Starbuck, the archivist for the Moravian Church Southern Province, which has its headquarters in Winston-Salem.

A Scripture verse that could be read as a positive on the marriage question and another that was negative would be put into a container and the lot drawn.

“It was very rare that a marriage decided by the lot didn’t work out,” Starbuck said.

In Vogler’s case, the lot said “no” on marrying Sister Anna Stotz.

Over the next four years, Vogler would suggest several other young women.

In 1816, he suggested Elisabeth Transou, his cousin. When the lot was negative, he suggested Catharina Transou, but again, no.

In 1819 Vogler proposed Christina Spach. By this time, use of the lot had been dropped, and church leaders had no problem with the marriage. The Voglers were married for 44 years, until Christina’s death in 1863. They had three children. Vogler died in 1881 at the age of 97.

The move away from the lot was just one of many changes in Salem as residents became more and more like their non-Moravian neighbors in the area.

English gradually replaced the German spoken by the early Moravians, and economic change was also in the air.

In the 19th century, Salem had a paper mill, distilleries and a grist mill. By the 1830s and 1840s, the Salem Cotton Manufacturing Co., today’s Brookstown Inn, was in operation. The area around New Shallowford Road (Brookstown Avenue today) became more industrialized.

“It was the seventh cotton mill in North Carolina,” said Martha Hartley, the director of planning at Old Salem Museums & Gardens.

“Salem was in the process of transitioning from a craft economy to an industrial economy,” said Michael Hartley, the director of archeology at Old Salem.

Winston was created in 1849 to be the seat of the newly formed Forsyth County. The area was growing, with more outsiders moving in. The population of Salem in 1860 was about 890; the total population of Forsyth County was about 12,700.

The people in Winston made their own decisions and elected a governing board. Residents of nearby Salem took note, and church members began to push for Salem to become a town.

“Salem ended because of its success,” Starbuck said. “Industry and commerce began to boom, and church members wanted to be like the people in Winston.”

In 1856, the church leaders began to get a town charter from the General Assembly. However, not everyone wanted things to change. Some members were perfectly happy with the church overseeing everything and content for it to stay that way.

Church leaders decided to sell property to church members who wanted to buy and let others continue to lease their properties.

But there was one huge difference now.

“Anyone, any faith could buy property in Salem,” Starbuck said. “They never asked anyone what church they attended.”

Salem officially became a town on Dec. 13, 1856, and held its first municipal election, by order of the General Assembly, on Jan. 5, 1857.

According to Salem’s municipal records, Charles Brietz was elected mayor. Elected as commissioners were R.L. Patterson, Adam Butner, J.R. Crist, Francis Fries, T.F. Keehln, Edward Belo and Solomon Mickey. They were sworn in on Jan. 9, 1857, at their first official meeting and immediately began to work.

Committees were appointed to look at such items as bylaws and regulations and, of course, taxes. A committee was also appointed to work with church officials to figure out how much such town duties as lighting the street lamps, working on the streets and the night watch would cost.

The area was growing rapidly and now included a large black population. Michael Hartley, the archeology director, said that it wasn’t until Reconstruction that blacks were able to buy property.

“In 1872, on land across Salem Creek, streets were laid out and lots were sold for $10 each to freedmen,” Hartley said. “The community was first known as Liberia and later became Happy Hills.”

Martha Hartley, the Old Salem planning director, said that over time, the town became known as old Salem. On South Main Street, such commercial enterprises as dry cleaners, a grocery store and beauty shops started moving in. On South Liberty Street, backing up to Main Street, was a multi-story building that eventually would become the Goody’s Headache Powder manufacturing plant and offices.

On a lot at 534 S. Main St. another symbol of Winston-Salem began in Salem: Krispy Kreme doughnuts opened its first store there in 1937 and would go on to eventual global success.

Starbuck said something began to happen in Williamsburg, Va., in the late 1920s that would have a profound effect on Salem. William A.R. Goodwin, the rector of Bruton Parish Church, began to call for the preservation of the Virginia Colonial town before it was too late.

Goodwin met John D. Rockefeller, the president of Standard Oil Co., and after Rockefeller visited Williamsburg and walked around, he agreed to help finance reconstruction and preservation.

In Winston-Salem, more property had been preserved than in Williamsburg, but it wasn’t until after the end of World War II that the community began to realize that Salem was worth saving.

“Developers were coming in to knock down the old, bring in the new,” Starbuck said.

Michael Hartley said there was concern about the loss of old Salem.

There was word that a grocery store was going to be built on the lot beside Winkler Bakery. Before that could happen, James A. Gray, a member of one of Winston-Salem’s most prominent families, bought the lot.

Gray and other community leaders, including the mayor and board of aldermen, then began to work to preserve what was left and eventually reconstruct buildings that had been torn down.

In 1950, Old Salem Inc. was formed to ensure the preservation of the Moravian settlement. Old Salem became the first historic district in North Carolina and is recognized by the U.S. National Park Service as a National Historic Landmark.

Today, Old Salem is a key tourist attraction in Winston-Salem, with revenue of $5.2 million in 2015.

In 2014, Old Salem released an economic report that said it had a local economic impact of $45.1 million the previous year. That includes revenue directly generated by Old Salem, visitor spending and vendor services. The study indicated that Old Salem was responsible for 1,017 jobs in 2013.

Hartley said that Old Salem officials are now looking at how to emphasize areas that have received little attention in the past.

With Old Salem’s costumed guides and craftspeople, several generations of area school children and visitors from all over the world have learned about the Moravians and life in the 18th and 19th centuries in Northwest North Carolina.

“There’s not another one anywhere in the country,” Martha Hartley said.


Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, https://www.journalnow.com

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