Surry County History

Early Settlers of Surry County
Source:  The Heritage of Surry County, North Carolina,
  Volume I
Surry County was settled largely by second generation Americans who were born in Virginia.  Some came before the Revolution looking for land; some came to receive land in payment for services in the Revolution; some were simply land speculators; and some passed through and stayed only long enough to grow food to take them to another place.
But by 1790, Surry had been shorn of all her boundaries except on the south.  And when the smoke of the Revolution and the dust of the departing had cleared, there were the families whose descendants are here two hundred and ten years later.  These families were prolific and healty.  Some left, but some remained to carry the name and hold the land.  And while the land has gone out of some families, descendants still live in the area where their progenitor first settled.
A large number of the permanent settlers were middle-aged, substantial men who wished to create a civilized community with churches and schools.  They were responsible men who attended court, helped to build roads and paid their taxes.
Settlers traveled to Surry in an orderly fashion by wagon-train with a wagon master who knew the territory.  Plans were made beforehand.  Knowledge of available lands came through advertising and scouting.
They traveled in groups of extended family, neighbors or in groups that had a common religous bond.  They followed the same pattern in settlement and in marriage.  They married where they were.  And if they did not migrate, they were given their portion of land adjoining the family.  This pattern is still true of farm families today.
In the Westfield-Tom's Creek section of Surry were the Quaker families who came from New Garden and other meetings in Guilford County.  They had come to Guilford from Pennsylvania and Virginia.  John Hiatt had come directly to Rowan with Morgan Bryan.  In addition to the Hiatt family were the Jessop, Jackson, Hill, Bond, Simmons, Horton, Stanley, Burcham, Pinson, Love, Taylor and others.  These were stable, substantial men who prospered on the land.  Most of these families and their increase migrated to Indiana, but all have descendants in the area.
Another example of a travel group was Matthew Creed and his brother Bennett who came to Surry about 1770.  They brought adult and teenage children with them.  Also included were Matthew's wife's family, the McKinneys, Richard Lawrence with seventeen children, Edward Moore and Rodham Moore (who settled in Patrick but whose son Gabriel settled in Surry and married into the Lawrence family).
It is believed that the Gordon family came with them as well as the Herring and Dudley families.  This group settled in the area south of Mt. Airy on the Turner's Mountain and the Red Brush section; others who came with them were the Roberts, Robertson and the very wealthy McCraw families.  Descendants are here today through hundreds settled in the west.
It is known that Franklin, Taliaferro, Perkins, Oglesbys, Easley, Fleming, Cave and other families settled in the Haystack area in the western part of the county at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  They came from Albemarle County, Virginia.  Also from Albemarle were the Frost Snow family and the Thomas Burrus family.  Snow and Burrus had married into the Hale family.
The Tucker family, the wealthiest of the lot, also settled in Haystack.  Tucker had a large number of slaves and descendants of the slave families carrying the name Tucker are highly respected members of that community 200 years later.  The Ramey, Lowe and Galyean families came from Virginia, and were neighbors of Franklin.
It is known that the Riggs family accompanied by the ........  Michell River.  Samuel Riggs, the progenitor of the Riggs family, was the grandson of Edward Riggs III of English descent whose family came to Massachusetts in the 1630s.  The family moved to New Jersey where Edward III was one of the founders of Morristown.  There is a statue there commemorating this fact.
Riggs came to Surry with a large family and died in 1798.  Ezekiel Wilmoth settled in Surry and his brother Thomas settled in adjoining Wilkes.  The Wilmoth family is still near where old Ezekiel first settled.  The Riggs family moved over to the Old Fisher River Church section.  The Henson family has descendants near their first settlement.
The families who were listed in Rowan in the 1750 and 1760s tax listings were Samuel Freemen, Thomas, Jonathan and Mark Whitticor.  Descendants were in Surry in the 1771 tax listing.
Some of these from eastern Carolina were the Sheppard and Marion families.  Bartholmew Marion probably has more descendants in Surry than any other man, except Frost Snow.  Marion came with his father John Marion in 1766 and settled in the Siloam area.
Some of the German families settled first near the Moravian colony and eventually moved over into Surry.  Some of these were Hauser, Moser, Shouse, Kiger and Brinkley.
The early settlers of French Huguenot descent were Poindexter, Laffoon, Lambert, Laurence and Hardin.  They came by way of Endland and Virginia.  Other travel groups from Virginia were the Stone, Lovill, Stow, Denny, Fulk, Key, Faulkner, Dunnegan, Cook, Smith, Jones and Needham families.
About 1840 several families moved to Surry to fill the void left by the departing Quaker and other families.  Vincent Simpson, born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, lived for a while in Stokes before coming to Surry.  His descendants join the Marion and Snow families as being the most numerous.  The Marth Atkins family, also numerous, appears to have come from Pittsylvania County.
These families came and they stayed. Though many no longer farm, they live on land of - or nearby that of - their progenitor.

The Land
Source:  The Heritage of Surry County, North Carolina,
  Volume I
The period from 1790 until the 1820s were the halcyon days for Surry.  It was the land of plenty in the context of the times and even in the context of the 1980s.  Wood for building and for fuel was limitless.  Nature provided abundant food.  Wild game including quail and wild turkeys were there for the taking.  According to information found on tax lists, every family had cows.  And cows provided milk, butter, cream and cheese.  There was also something called clabber; this was a milk solid, soured and skimmed of cream.  It could be eaten with a spoon and was very much like yogurt.  Cows also proved fresh and dried beef and hides for leather.
Every family grew sheep for wool and for food.  Flax and some cotton were grown.  Linen thread from the flax as woven with wool thread to make a material called linsey-woolsey.
[to be continued...]

The History and Formation of Surry County

Surry County was formed from Rowan County. This was while Surry County was still a British Colony. An act to form Surry County was proposed to the North Carolina Assembly in December 1770 by Martin Armstrong, Anthony Hampton and James Dunne. The legislation was passed in January 1771 and was to become effective 1 April 1771. It was named to honor Lord Surrey, a member of Parliament who protested the taxes levied on the colonists by the British.

Part of Rowan was annexed to Surry in 1773. This was to make sure that all of the Moravian's Wachovia tract was in Surry County. When the division of Surry from Rowan occured in 1771, it left Salem in Rowan and Bethabara and Bethania in Surry. In the beginning, Surry did not want the Moravians in their county because the Moravians refused to fight and they lived differently and better.

Surry County quickly realized that not only did they need the tax money from the Moravians, they needed the friendship and knowledge. Moravian leaders were highly educated, practical, wise to the ways of the world and highly disciplined. They had markets, mills, crafts, craftsmen, stores, taverns, Inns, workshops and schools among other things.

Surry leaders went running back asking the Moravians of Salem to petition the Assembly of North Carolina to put the rest of the Wachovia Tract in Surry County borders. The Assembly refused the first petition in 1772. In 1773 Salem leaders Frederick William Marshall and Traugott Bagge went to the N.C. General Assembly at New Bern, talked with the Governor and the bill passed the third.
Wilkes County was formed in 1777 from Surry and the District of Washington, now in Tennessee. The act was effective 15 February 1778. It should be noted here that this took the western part of Surry where Low Gap is located. This put Jesse Franklin and others in Wilkes County.

Stokes County was formed in 1789 from Surry, all of the Moravian Tract was now in Stokes. In 1850 Stokes County was divided and the southern part became Forsyth County. The original Moravian Tract made up a large part of Forsyth County.

Part of Wilkes County was annexed to Surry in 1792. This gave Low Gap and western Surry County back to Surry County. This was done at the request of Jesse Franklin. (He became the only NC Governor from Surry.) Researchers should note that the names of the people in the Low Gap area and others in the western part of the county will be found in the NC census of 1784-1787 and the US Federal census of 1790 in the Wilkes County listings. This also applies to Wilkes County tax lists and deeds from 1777 until 1792.

Yadkin County was formed from Surry in 1850 with the Yadkin River forming the boundary. Part of Surry on the west was annexed to Alleghany in 1869, 1870 and 1875. Corbitt says no description given in the law. It was around Aaron Woodruffs and Saddle Mountain.

(Information from Corbitt, David Leroy, The Formation of North Carolina Counties, 1663-1943, Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History, 1950, pp. 199-202)


This page was last updated October 10, 2010.

1997-2010 by the Alleghany County Coordinator
for the NCGenWeb Project