By Kelly Hargett
Unique artifacts have a way of making it to the Kernersville Museum. In the last year, our collection has grown to almost 100 objects, each representing the town of Kernersville in a different way. From a handwritten invitation to D.W. Harmon, to the hanging of J.W. Hammonds in 1905, to the 1849 medical books that belonged to Kernersville’s first doctor, Dr. Elias Kerner– the Kernersville Museum has acquired some interesting artifacts. However, a donation made by John G. Wolfe, III last fall may have the largest impact on the Museum to date. Mr. Wolfe has donated a tobacco barn to the Museum that will be taken apart, moved, and reconstructed behind the Museum for the purposes of an outdoor exhibit.
For the better part of three hundred years, tobacco fueled the economic livelihood of North Carolina. Because of this, tobacco barns were once a common sight around Kernersville– the fertile soil of the area being ideal to bring these crops to life. Planting and harvesting tobacco was a labor-intensive job and often called on several, if not all, members of the family, including the children to pitch in. Tobacco barns themselves became a symbol of the hard work and dedication of the farmers who used the barns to cure their tobacco before selling it at market.
Today, tobacco barns are quickly disappearing. Advances in the tobacco industry made traditional flue-cured tobacco obsolete. As the modern, bulk curing tobacco systems took over, the tobacco barns that once dotted our landscape have simply begun to fade away. According to the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, currently there are only four tobacco barns in the state that are being preserved in public or private museums or parks and none of them are in Forsyth County.
In an effort to preserve a small piece of this history, the Museum has begun our Tobacco Barn Restoration Project. The public response so far has been overwhelmingly positive. To help raise funds for this project, the Museum has designated 10 logs for “sale” within the barn itself. Each log is $1,500 and can be purchased In Memory Of or In Honor Of someone special. These logs will be designated with a small plaque within the exhibit. Presently, there are only seven logs available. But purchasing a log is not the only way you can help with this project, donations of any size are greatly appreciated and go a long way in helping us reach our goal. It is our hope that this project will bring even more interest to our downtown area by adding another element to our unique town. The plan is to begin work on the project this spring and we hope to have the tobacco barn completed by the fall of this year. We have already started collecting tobacco farming related objects that will be on display along with the tobacco barn.
However, the tobacco barn is not the only exciting news for the Kernersville Museum. Last fall, the town of Kernersville acquired the property at 109 Cherry Street in an effort to revitalize the Downtown area. When it was discovered that the house located on this property was over 100 years old, a decision was made by the Board of Alderman not to tear down the property, but instead allow the Museum to use the property as overflow from the Bellamy House. The Morris House, a name that refers to the previous owners of the home, will be used by Kernersville Museum as an annex building, since the property sits adjacent to the Bellamy House. The plan is to create a reading room at the Morris House that will be used to house Kernersville-specific rare documents, as well as books and artifacts that are tied directly to Kernersville. We also hope to have space for more educational programs hosted by The Museum, as well as office and storage space in the Morris House.
The Kernersville Museum saw many changes in 2017. We could not be more excited about what is coming in 2018. It is our hope that the Kernersville Museum Campus is seen as a beautiful expansion to Downtown Kernersville. We continue to offer free admission to the Museum. In addition to our outside changes, we have a new exhibit on display. Take Me Out To The Ballgame: Sports History in Kernersville is currently on display. Come and take a look at our local high schools’ sports history, listen to oral histories in one of our two new oral history listening stations, or learn more about the general history of the town of Kernersville in our permanent exhibit, Kernersville: History Of A Crossroads Community. The Kernersville Museum is open Tuesday – Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm.