A storied past

By Keith Strange

March 8, 2014

As a young girl, Carolyn Boyles used to spend hours on her grandmother’s front porch, enthralled by the stories of the past.

“Some of my favorite stories were about simply what life was like in the past,” she said, “what it was like to have to use a washboard. I had always had an automatic washing machine. Those things fascinated me.”

Those conversations had a lasting impact on Boyles.

“I’ve always been interested in local history and genealogy,” she said. “They’re fascinating, and they go hand in hand with my love of travel. Hopefully we can learn from our past when we understand it and not make the same mistakes.”

Boyles was on hand at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History to discuss her book “The Early Days of Pilot Mountain: A History and Genealogy,” as part of the museum’s History Talks series.

Noting that she had been working on the book for “between 15 and 20 years,” Boyles said she was compelled to put the stories of Pilot Mountain’s past down on paper.

“I basically felt like if I didn’t do it these stories would die with me,” she said quietly. “Someone needed to do it.”

A lifelong resident of Pilot Mountain, the long-time educator and member of the town’s board of commissioners said she loves her town and its history.

“The community may not have always been named Pilot Mountain, but it has been a settlement for over 200 years,” she said with infectious enthusiasm. “If you look at the families and read their history in the Moravian diaries, you learn that people were traveling to the settlement to get whetstones that were cut from what is now Mount Airy’s granite quarries. Things like that are very interesting to me.”

The history of the town and the genealogy of Boyles’ family have another tie, she said.

“Another thing I enjoy researching are schools and churches, and I found that one of my ancestors donated the land for the first school in the community.”

Perhaps surprising, she said that until the 1890s, there was no organized, denominational religion in the town.

“In the beginning if you were going to church you went to church when the traveling minister arrived,” she said. “There was no segregation, everyone simply went to church.”

Sometime in the 1890s, the town’s worshippers split into different denominations, Boyles said.

“And a lot of those churches are still there today,” she said. “Churches like Lovill’s Chapel Church, the First Baptist Church that was formerly Pilot Mountain Missionary Baptist.”

While the town hasn’t always been known as Pilot Mountain, its previous names were certainly colorful.

“Pilot Mountain has been known as Hog Wallow, Tom’s Creek, Mariontown and Pilotville,” she said. “It became Pilot Mountain in the 1880s.”

Keith Strange can be reached at 336-719-1929 or via Twitter @strangereporter.