Guilford County, North Carolina
         
   

   

Year Established

County Seat

Population (2010)

1771

Greensboro

488,406
 

First Settled

First Settled By

Significance of County Name

1740s

Germans in 1740s, Scots-Irish in 1750s

Francis North, Earl of Guilford
 

Other Significant Towns:

Martinsville

High Point

Pleasant Garden

Monticello

Gibsonville

Summerfield

Hillsdale

Oak Ridge

Click Here - To see how Guilford County evolved each decade - includes all the known towns and villages.

Click Here - To see the known battles/skirmishes in Guilford County during the US Revolution.

A History of Guilford County

 

Nathanael Greene Monument - Battle of Guilford Court House 1781

The first court was ordered to be held at the home of Robert Lindsay and provided for commissioners to buy the land of John Campbell for the courthouse site. in 1785, Martinsville was laid out as the county seat. It was named in honor of Alexander Martin, governor of North Carolina, 1782-1785 and 1789-1792. The county seat had been called Guilford Court House until the passage of this act. Commissioners were named by the act of 1807 to select a place at the center of the county for the erection of a new courthouse, as the old one wa badly in need of repair and not conveniently located. Commissioners were also named to purchase thirty acres of land and have the new courthouse erected. They were to sell the old courthouse. In 1808, the new county seat was named Greensborough in honor of Major General Nathanael Greene of the Continental Army. It was later shortened to Greensboro.


Guilford County was established in 1771 from Orange County (which formed about the eastern third) and Rowan County (which formed about the western two-thirds). It included what is now Randolph County (which separated in 1779) and Rockingham County (which separated in 1785). Settlement began in the late 1740s and grew rapidly in the 1750s. Settlers came from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, and the eastern and central counties of North Carolina.

Migration into Guilford County was frequently over the Great Wagon Road through the valley of Virginia. Group migrations were made by German Lutherans and Reformed settlers from Pennsylvania beginning in the late 1740s, Scots-Irish Presbyterians from the Pennsylvania and Maryland border area in the 1750s, Quakers from many locations in the 1750s, scattered Virginia Baptists organized meetings in the 1750s, and Methodists from the eastern shore of Maryland in the 1770s and 1780s.

"Moving On" to the south, west, and northwest began almost immediately and picked up speed about 1800. Upper Georgia and South Carolina were favored, then sights were set on the Cumberland Gap as a way to Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana.

The Battle at Guilford Courthouse was fought on 15 March, 1781. Cornwallis won, but the victory left the British army so weak that it caused them to lose the campaign in the southern colonies, and led to the surrender at Yorktown.


The first known inhabitants of this region were American Indian tribes which spoke a Siouan language. There were many of these tribes, but only two of them - the Saura and the Keyauwee - are known to have settled the area which later became original Guilford County. The Saura lived in the parts now known as Rockingham and Guilford counties, and the Keyauwee in Randolph County. Sometime before 1650, the Saura had moved into North Carolina, and one group had eventually settled on Dan River and cleared a field more than a mile square which grew grass as high as a man on horseback.

When the Quakers came to New Garden (Guilford College) they also found great open grass-covered spaces. While there are no known records to verify it, these, too, could have been former farms of the Cheraw (another spelling of Saura), as the Quakers called them. The Quakers' minutes of 1764 indicated that the land which they then occupied had been bought from the Cheraw. In fact, scattered remnants of red men were still in existence when the white men came. A few Indians are said to have lived near Buffalo Church and others passed through the community.

North Carolina's first historian, John Lawson, Surveyor-General of the province, and five traveling companions visited Piedmont North Carolina in 1701. Unfortunately his route touched only one of the original Guilford tribes, the Keyauwee. That contact, however, furnished a good idea of Indian life in the Guilford region at that time.

Lawson's report of his stop in the neighborhood was almost as vivid as a motion picture. Crossing the Uwharrie River about noon, a few miles below the present site of High Point, North Carolina, he came upon the palisaded village of the Keyauwee, numbering about 500 people. Having looked over the place, the surveyor-general and his five companions divided themselves into two parties which were entertained in separate houses.

"It was my Lot," wrote Lawson, "to be at the House of Keyauwees Jack, who is King of that People." Keyauwee Jack was a Congaree-Indian who had run away from that tribe when he was a boy and had attained his high position by marriage with the Queen of the Keyauwee. Lawson observed: "The Queen had a Daughter by a Former Husband, who was the beautifulest Indian I ever saw, and had an Air of Majesty with her, quite contrary to the general Carriage of the Indians. She was very kind to the English during our abode, as well as her Father and Mother."

After the Indians had left the original Guilford area, the Europeans took possession of the land. Starting in the early 1740s, this region was marked by a steady stream of travelers whose destination was a place they could call home. They were not traveling blindly; they had thoughtfully considered this location and decided it would fulfill their hopes, their needs, and their ideals. An added advantage was that land was cheap and plentiful and the landlords welcomed them as inhabitants. So they came, by way of covered wagons, probably following "The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road" as far as they could, then resorting to buffalo trails, Indian paths, and when necessary cutting their own way through the wilderness.

These travelers have been described as an interesting procession as they moved slowly southward from Virginia and beyond, principally Pennsylvania. In the lead were cows, hogs, and sheep, kept in line by ruddy men and boys in the plain workday clothes of the pioneer farmers. Then came the lumbering canvas-covered, horse-drawn wagons, filled with simple household goods and meager farming tools. In the front of each wagon, holding the driver's reins, was a healthy-looking woman.

From amid feather beds and cooking utensils popped the frowsy heads of children, staring at the wonders of the new world. Hanging to the rear of the wagon bed were feed and watering troughs; and dangling below were water buckets. Under the wagon and back and forth into the woodlands trotted the family dog, chasing game by day and keeping faithful watch by night. And always with each group of travelers was the Holy Bible. This great migration took place largely from 1750 to 1770 although some had arrived in the early 1740s and some came as late as 1775.

Three distinct groups of these pioneers landed in the region which later became Guilford County. They were Germans, Quakers, and Scots-Irish. They were called Scots-Irish because England's King James I had moved them from Scotland to Ulster, Ireland, where they had lived for over 100 years before they came to the New World; and correctly speaking they were Ulster-Scots. However, it would not be easy to change a tradition of 200 years; therefore, they will probably keep on referring to themselves as Scots-Irish. The term is American in its origin; in Ireland they were called Irish-Protestants.

The Germans

Along the eastern portion of present Guilford County and also reaching from the Virginia line almost to South Carolina, a large immigration from Germany moved in, begining sometime before 1744. They had come in search of refuge from devastation, for their Fatherland had been for years the battleground of Europe in a series of religious struggles and wars of conquest. In time many Germans grew tired of such experiences; and as an avenue of escape from the poverty, rapine, and destruction which surrounded them they came by the thousands to America, first settling in Pennsylvania.

Soon the supply of more desirable lands of that province was exhausted, and the newcomers had to seek homes elsewhere. Thus it was that these German farmers and artisans, Lutheran and Calvinist in faith, hardy, self-reliant, frugal, and courageous, turned southward, many of them stopping in different sections of the Piedmont. And thus it was that a group settled along Haw River in the Guilford area, and farther to the west in Rowan County. For many years they kept mostly to themselves, continuing to speak their own language, seeking no public offices, and voicing no opinions in public affairs. But when called upon to defend the rights of the people, they were thoughtful, level-headed, constructive, and patriotic. They still survive in the names Albright, Clapp, Foust, Hoffman, Holt, Rightsell, Shepherd, Sharpe, Star, Whitsett, Wyrick, and others.

The Quakers

The Quakers selected the western part of present-day Guilford for their new homeland. William Penn, from a moderately wealthy family, had joined the unpopular sect of Quakers while in school at Oxford, England. The Quakers' plain and uniform style of dress, and their "thee and thou" language, emphasized their differences in thought and customs which were not pleasing to other Englishmen. Penn saw in America a place where his persecuted brethren could establish a haven for themselves as well as develop a fine business colony. His invitation read much like a modern real estate advertisement:

"The Richness of Air, the navigable Rivers, and thus the prodigious Increase of Corn, the flourishing conditions of the City of Philadelphia made it the most glorious Place ... Poor People, both men and women, can here get three times the wages for their Labor they can in England or Wales."

Economic, political, religious, and social conditions in England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were such that thousands decided to follow Penn to the New World. In time the Pennsylvania settlement grew crowded, and as more people came over from the Old World it became impossible to buy extra lands in that province.

Some Quakers had already moved into the eastern parts of Virginia and North Carolina and through their Yearly Meetings in those sections, agents had made observations of the Piedmont region - its soil, its streams, its produce and productivity, and its land prices - and as early as 1750 a few Quakers were settled in this locality. From that date until 1765 substantial bands of mostly English and a few Welsh Quakers from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland were pouring into the western Guilford area.

Some Virginia Quakers, originally from Pennsylvania, and later some from eastern North Carolina who were of the same stock, also joined the migration. In their new settlement they were almost like one big family, planning, working, educating, and worshipping together in the same faith.

Subsequently a group of Nantucket Island Quakers, also in need of more room, purchased a large tract of land situated on the several spring heads of Deep River. From 1771 through 1775, these Nantucketers came in great hordes. J. Hector St. John DeCrevecoeur in his "Letters from an American Farmer" wrote:

"There they have founded a beautiful settlement known by the name of New Garden.... No spot on earth can be more beautiful; it is composed of gentle hills, of easy declivities, excellent lowlands, accompanied by different brooks which traverse this settlement. I never saw soil that rewards men so easily for their labours and disbursements.... It is perhaps the most pleasing, the most bewitching country which the continent affords... the only drawback is that the softness of the climate and easy results from labour lead to too much idleness and effeminacy."

But fear of becoming idle and effeminate did not phase the purposeful Nantucketers, for they kept pouring in until Revolutionary times.

All of these Quakers were a quiet and peace-loving people, directly opposed to bearing arms against their fellow men; and yet, paradoxically, they made and sold guns for their fellow countrymen to use in patriotic defense. The names of both the Pennsylvania and Nantucket Quakers are still a local heritage: Armfield, Beal, Beard, Benbow, Chipman, Coffin, Edwards, Frazier, Gardner, Gifford, Horney, Hunt, Mendenhall, Murrow, Ogburn, Pugh, Starbuck, Swaim, Swain, Williams, Worth, and others.

The Scots-Irish or Ulster-Scots

In the middle part of this area, which later became Guilford County, the Scots-Irish were the first permanent settlers. They came here from Ulster, Ireland, where in spite of political and economic hardships and religious hostility they had gained the reputation of being law-abiding, thrifty farmers, and shrewd businessmen. Among them, said historian R. D. W. Connor, "were weavers, joiners, coopers, wheelwrights, wagon-makers, tailors, blacksmiths, hatters, merchants, laborers, wine-makers, rope-makers, and fullers." But the more they prospered in Ireland the more rigid were the laws imposed upon them by the British Parliament. Angered and discouraged, thousands of them turned to the colonies.

The exact date of the Scots-Irish settlement in this locality is not known. The first land deeds were all dated December, 1753, though some people may have arrived earlier. For ten years before that time the Scots-Irish had come into Pennsylvania in such numbers that early landholders began to fear the sturdy Scotsmen, lest they should gain political control of that region. For that reason they instructed their agents to sell no more land to the Scotsmen. It was then that the old Nottingham Presbyerian Church, located at that time in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (now at Rising Sun, Maryland, because of changes in state lines), formed the Nottingham Company which purchased a large tract of land for settlement in what is now Guilford County.

The records show that this staunch Presbyterian group soon "developed a democratic, individualistic, self-reliant society very different from that of the older, settled coastal regions." They have been characterized as having three distinct loves: religion, democracy, and education. Many of the names of those early settlers are familiar names of today, such as Caldwell, Dick, Donnell, Foulk, Gillespie, Gorrell, Hunter, Lindsay, McAdoo, McLean, McClintock, McMurray, Mitchell, Rankin, Scott, Weatherly, Wharton, Wilson, and others.

While all three of these groups - the Germans, Quakers, and Scots-Irish - had different characteristics, they all came to America for the same reasons: their desires for freedom to work and enjoy the fruits of their toil; and freedom to live and worship as they pleased - these were the end of their dreams. When they reached their destinations in this country they may or may not have had tangible riches, but they had a wealth of ability, inward resources, and vision for building a country.

Settling in forests as they did, far away from trade advantages of the coast, they would have had little use for money. So they had to be content, for a while at least, with largely self-sufficient farms and with very simple living. They slept in their covered wagons until they could build log cabins, many of which were two-story, double houses with a chimney in the middle and doors at each end of the two downstairs rooms. These homes were located near springs or streams which provided natural waterworks.

Some have estimated that fifty years had passed before there was much digging of wells. Their furniture was simple and so were the utensils and implements of home and farm. But they soon had workshops of various kinds where they made things to supply their growing needs; and some of the work of their hands, such as exquisite pieces of furniture, is still preserved and highly valued. They raised corn, wheat, flax, wool, and cotton. The seed had to be picked from the cotton by hand, and in the evening after supper each member of the family was supposed to pick enough cotton seed to fill his shoe. Then the fibers were carded, spun, and woven into cloth; and for more than fifty years practically all the family clothing was made in the home.

Such people would not be long without churches and schools. In each community a schoolhouse and church - usually the same building - went up along with dwellings and workshops. The minister and teacher - often the same person - generally supplied several communities, traveling at intervals from one to the other. Buffalo Presbyterian Church, one of the first and most influential, is now within the city limits of Greensboro. Among the early schools, Dr. David Caldwell's Log College was the most outstanding.

These churches and schools served as a nucleus for the social life of the community. People attended not only to hear a sermon or an entertainment but also to mix and mingle with kindred and friends. Here boys and girls met, fell in love, and married. When such an event took place the neighbors would get together and the men would build the couple a house and the women would help to assemble household belongings. Aside from the church and school most of the recreation in the early days was utilitarian - corn huskings, log rollings, quilting parties - but it was not long before there were stores and taverns for gathering places, especially for the men, where there were serious discussions of the trends of the times.

These were an industrious people and their fields soon began to widen and more shops - such as tanning, gunmaking, plowmaking, hatmaking, and cabinetmaking - began to appear. The countryside was becoming a community of busy citizens. Calvin H. Wiley, a native of Guilford County with Greensboro as his home address, commented in an Alamance church address:

"In a short time there was a comparatively compact society, fixed in comfortable and peaceful homes, entirely self-sustaining and having opened farms, mills, shops, and stores. A new country, up to that time, had never been more rapidly, quietly, safely, justly and completely possessed. .... The mass of all were intelligent, sturdy, ... farmers, with a keen eye for good land and a fine climate, of fixed religious faith, and devoted to self government and religious freedom."

The settlements had been established less than twenty years when William Tryon, Royal Governor of North Carolina, reviewed this locality. He reported it was "of great value, being perhaps the best lands on this continent," and he cited one plantation with "fifty acres of as fine wheat as perhaps ever grew, [and] with clover meadows equal to any in the Northern Colonies."

Guilford County Is Erected

That recorded visit of Governor Tryon was not made, however, in order to praise the new developments in this region. On the contrary, he was having a lot of trouble with these liberty-loving people; or, as they put it, they were having trouble with him and his minions, and the governor had come to look into the matter. The officers of the Crown - the clerks of the several courts, the recorders of deeds, the entry takers, the surveyors, the lawyers, and all the petty officers - had been demanding twice and three times the legal fees and the people were bitterly complaining about the situation. In addition to these unlawful collections, Tryon had promoted a poll tax to cover the cost of an elegant governmental palace at New Bern - said to have been the most handsome state house in America - and the people of the western counties vehemently resented that move.

Such a tax forced the poorest man to pay as much as the richest, which seemed all out of proportion to the settlers of the Piedmont. Moreover, currency was so scarce that these western people found difficulty in securing enough money to pay the taxes which were already assessed. And when the exorbitant extras were added the spirits of the newly settled Piedmont were aroused to action. They announced that they would pay their just taxes, but no more.

All these dishonest officials, extortionate fees, and excessive taxes are significant to Greensboro, for they influenced the establishment of Guilford County.

In 1766, the abused people, with Hermon Husbands, Rednap Howell, and James Hunter as prominent leaders, organized themselves into a group known as Regulators because they proposed to regulate their wrongs. They held meetings, drew up petitions for peaceful settlements, and presented them to Governor Tryon and the General Assembly; and some laws were passed for regulating the illegal practices. Those laws were not observed, however, and matters grew worse and worse. The Regulators let Tryon and his officers know that they meant business. In 1770, they forcibly broke up the courts in which they could secure no justice and soundly thrashed the dishonest officials, chief among whom was the violently hated Edmund Fanning who had become the Regulators' main target.

It appeared that they had no other recourse for redress of grievances. At that time the eastern part of the province dominated the government, for it had more counties and hence more representation in the General Assembly. Even though the western region comprised one third of the whole white population of the province it had only fifteen representatives in the House of Commons of eighty-one members in 1770. Therefore the western region felt that no justice could be secured through the eastern ruling majority.

For several years the Regulators had asked the General Assembly to "divide the province into proper districts for collecting taxes," but that body had ignored the request. At that time present Guilford was a part of Rowan and Orange counties and the people of Orange had to go to Hillsborough and those of Rowan to Salisbury to transact their business; and such great distances worked a definite hardship on citizens who lived at the remote boundaries of those counties.

Then, too, more counties would mean more western representatives in the General Assembly and thus the Piedmont people would be able to help make and enforce the laws under which they lived. After this request for more divisions had been before Tryon and the Assembly for about three years, and the Regulators had grown into a power to be considered seriously, in the hope of decentralizing their force and thus "to quell the Insurgents," the provincial government erected four new counties, one of which was Guilford.

With specific reference to Guilford, Governor Tryon wrote to Lord Hillsborough:

"The acts for erecting four new counties seemed a measure highly necessary from the too great extent of the counties they were taken out of. The erecting Guilford County out of Rowan and Orange Counties was, in the distracted state of this county, a truly political division, as it separated the main body of the Insurgents from Orange and left them in Guilford."

There is much more tragic yet colorful history in connection with the Regulator movement - for example, a number of the participants who were pronounced outlaws by Tryon were settlers of the newly created Guilford - but further details are beyond the bounds of this history which proposes to follow only the steps to the formation of the County of Guilford.

Guilford's County Seats

The struggle for justice and right which forced the erection of Guilford County and other reforms had not been easy; nor did it settle all problems: there was still the naming of the county seat. The act which established Guilford provided for court to be held in the home of Robert Lindsay until a courthouse could be built. In 1774, the county commissioners bought land from John Campbell for a courthouse site and the county seat was named Guilford Court House.

In 1781, Guilford Court House was a small village of 200 to 300 people. There are no records of a school or a church but there was a jail, a store or two, and a coppersmith shop which was, according to the Guilford Battle Ground Company, "quite a prominent featurea as all the brandy and whiskey stills, for the county, were manufactured there." Tradition holds that Robert Lindsay wished to have this little county capital located upon his land (in present southwest Guilford) as did many of his friends.

But in the meantime Alexander Martin had appeared on the scene. A native of New Jersey, he moved to original Guilford in 1772, and being a man of unusual literary polish and mental poise, Martin soon became an important figure on the political stage, serving for many years as governor of North Carolina. In 1785, Martin with Thomas Henderson bought "100 acres of land adjacent to and whereon Guilford Courthouse now stands" (North Carolina Statutes) and sponsored a small real estate development which they called Martinsville. In 1785, therefore, Martin's little town became Guilford's county seat.

But the county seat question was still not permanently settled. After Randolph County was erected from Guilford on the south in 1779, and Rockingham was erected from Guilford on the north in 1785, some Guilfordians became dissatisfied with the location of their county seat. They contended that since it was not at the exact center of the county it worked a hardship on some who had to travel farther than others to transact their business. Feeling on the matter became so intense that it is said to have influenced legislative elections. Citizens, therefore, determined to do something about it. Based on the testimony of surviving witnesses of 1805 to 1807, General John M. Logan, clerk of the county court, supplied the following information for the Greensborough Patriot:

"There was great strife, and contention and canvassing throughout the county of Guilford on a proposition to remove the seat of justice from the ancient and battle-scarred town of Martinsville, and to establish a new metropolis at the centre of the territory. The population became arranged under jealous leaders into two opposing divisions... the Martinsville Party and the Centre Party. It would fill a volume, or at least one of the largest sort of chapters in history, to describe and bring up in review before the reader the divers hard arguments and sharp-pointed remarks which were hurled like javelins, arrows, and sling stones between the opposing hosts. It was a time that tried men's soles - in traveling about into all manner of nooks and corners of the realm, gathering recruits for the wordy war.

"At length the Martinsville Party determined on...a right slick proceeding that was expected to throw the Centre Party.... But alas! for the short sighted wisdom of mortal man; this scheme wrought out their own speedy defeat. Having procured an enactment of the county court for the erection of a magnificent new capitol... it was expected to fix and forever establish the metropolitan supremacy of Martinsville. But this enactment and decree only served to redouble the vitality of the Centre Party, bringing out their latent talent and force. And on an accurate toll of the noses they were found to comprise half the population and a little more. So the new decree went forth and the glory departed from Martinsville and it was left from that time to decay among the bones of the dead who had fallen in the old battle of Greene and Cornwallis."

More specifically, it was by an act of the General Assembly, in 1807, that the county seat of Guilford County was moved to a more central point. "William Armfield, Esq., Doctor David Caldwell, jun., Charles Bruce, Hugh Forbes, Nathan Mendenhall, Jacob Clapp, and George Swaine were appointed Commissioners to fix on a suitable and central place for erecting the Court House and other public buildings." In 1808, they very carefully determined the exact center of the county and found it to be "in the middle of a duck pond in a brush thicket," about where Fisher Park is now located, and six miles from Martinsville. The land around the center spot seemed marshy and hardly suitable for the selected purpose, therefore the majority decided to place the courthouse on the elevation nearest to the center of the county, which is the intersection of Market and Elm Streets, 836 feet above sea level.

All the records state simply that the new county seat was named "Greensborough" in honor of General Nathanael Greene, who so gallantly defended this country during the Revolutionary War and at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse forced Lord Cornwallis' army to its final steps of surrender at Yorktown. Dr. David Caldwell, Jr., is said to have suggested the name; and so far as is now known it was unanimously and immediately accepted.

When the center of the county was located it was found to be on the land of Ralph Gorrell; and the following deed was drawn:

"Ralph Gorrell, Esq. to the Commissioners This Indenture made the Twenty fifth day of March in the year one thousand eight hundred & Eight Between Ralph Gorrell Esq of the County of Guilford & State of North Carolina of the one part & Charles Bruce, Hugh Forbis, Jacob Clap, Wm Armfield, David Caldwell, [Jr.], George Swain, Nathan Mendenhall of the County & State afs. of the other part - Commissioners appointed by the Act of Assembly for the purchasing a Suitable Tract of Land at or Contiguous to the Center of Guilford County for Erecting a Town Courthouse Prison and Stocks & Such other publick uses as they may Deem Necessary thereon witnesseth that the S. Ralph Gorrell for and in Consideration of the Sum of Ninety Eight Dollars to him in hand paid by the Said Commissioners and Receipt whareof is hereby Acknowledged hath granted & by these presents Doth grant Bargain & Sell alien and Confirm unto the S. Commissioners all thate Tract Mesuage or Tenement of Land in Guilford County on the waters of Buffelow - Beginning at a Post Oak grub on the west Side of his land turning thence East Eighty four poles to a willow Oak thence North Eighty poles to a stake thence west Eighty four poles to a Post Oak grub on his west line thence along S. line to the first Station containing forty Two acres."

The conditions under which the move was to be made were not only that the new location should be in the geographical center of the county but that the net proceeds from the sale of the lots within the 42 acres should cover the cost of moving the court. Nathan Mendenahll surveyed the property, divided it into 49 lots, and drew a plan of the town - three streets running east and west for three blocks, and three running north and south for three blocks, with C. H. (courthouse) marked in the center intersection. There were 44 of the lots sold, ranging in price from $4.80 to $151; and brought altogether $1,689.39.

There was not a dwelling in Greensboro at the time of the removal of the county court in 1809 and settlement of the new county seat was gradual. The first residence is said to have been built by a Dr. Chapman, Greensboro's first physician; and the first business house was on the corner of the present West Market and Greene Streets.

Robert Lindsay, Jr., wtih his wife and infant son, Jesse H., moved into Greensboro soon after it was established. David Gillespie, Dr. David Caldwell, Jr., Simeon Geren, Joseph Davis, Abraham Geren, and Henry Humphreys were appointed commissioners of police "in and for the town" in 1810 by the state legislature. Judge John McClintock Dick was a Greensboro resident by 1811. Thomas Caldwell, clerk of the superior court, built a brick house on West (Market) Street where the courthouse is now located and moved his family into it in 1815.

In 1819, James Turner Morehead and the Reverend William Paisley became Greensboro citizens. No date is available for Major Jones Johnson, but he was definitely on the scene when Paisley arrived, for the Presbyterian minister found about twenty families in the village at that time; and Major Johnson has gone on record as the only professing Christian among them, he being a Baptist. Unfortunately there is no complete list of those twenty families; and little or nothing is known of what they did or how they lived, other than the general way of life during that period.

From 1820 to 1829, many significant moves began to take place in the little municipality - schools began to grow, a church was organized, laws were planned for town living, and many new names were added to the local census. John Motley Morehead, John McClintock Logan, the Reverend Eli Washington Caruthers, and Jeduthun Lindsay came about 1821. By 1829 the capital of Guilford boasted 369 inhabitants in the corporate limits and 115 living just outside the town.

Like other Piedmont communities in the early nineteenth century, the growth of Guilford County depended on the development of new arteries of transportation and commerce. By 1820, there were seven main roads passing through Greensboro, leading to Pennsylvania and Washington to the north, Asheboro to the south, Salem to the west, and Raleigh and Fayetteville to the east. The 1850s brought the Fayetteville and Western Plank Road, the longest thoroughfare of its type ever constructed in the world. Stretching 129 miles from Fayetteville to Bethania in Forsyth County, it cut across southwest Guilford County, up what is now Main Street in High Point.

While the Plank Road was a marvel of engineering for its time, its impact was short-lived. The coming of the North Carolina Railroad in 1856 was a boon to growth by significantly lowering the time and cost of shipping goods. During the course of surveying for the railroad, engineers drove a stake on the west side of the Plank Road, noting that this was the highest point on the survey between Greensboro and Charlotte. Appropriately named High Point, this crossroads of commerce grew into Guilford's second major city.

In the years following the Civil War, the industrialization of Guilford County was spurred by the expansion of the railroad system and the movement to the area of many young businessmen who saw the potential for economic growth in the emergence of the “New South.” The ready availability of raw materials such as cotton, timber, and tobacco, coupled with an abundance of inexpensive, unskilled labor and low taxes, formed the basis for the emergence of major manufacturing concerns in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Concurrent with this industrial and economic expansion came the problems associated with urbanization. As the manner and degree of the people's needs changed, so did the efforts of county government to meet those needs. Guilford became the first county in the nation to offer a full-time county health service, and one of the first two in the state to employ a welfare superintendent. Early in the twentieth century the Guilford County Road Commission was established to oversee the expenditure of funds from a $300,000 bond issue, and in 1912, the County's Register of Deeds Office was considered the "best regulated and systematized" in North Carolina.

New County Courthouse Guilford first introduced the County Manager form of government in 1926, at which time the Chairman of the Board served in that capacity. The County succeeded in weathering the effects of the Depression without defaulting on its obligations, due in no small degree to the fact that, by 1933 and for the remainder of the decade, it had become the wealthiest county in the state.

The '40s and '50s were marked by a number of studies aimed at assessing the effectiveness of County operations and recommending ways in which services could be improved. By the 1960s a variety of major initiatives had been undertaken, including a comprehensive school building program, extension of rural water and sewer lines, establishment of countywide zoning, and the construction of a multi-million dollar governmental center.

In the decades since, Guilford County has continued its tradition of innovation and leadership among North Carolina counties. Its foresight and imagination have been rewarded with more than 100 National Association of Counties Achievement Awards since this annual nationwide competition was established in 1972, and Guilford sits poised in readiness for the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead in the twenty-first century.



© 2013 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved