PAWilsonEditIn January, 1849, a new county was created from the southern half of Stokes County. It was named for Benjamin Forsyth, an area native and hero of the War of 1812. Land north of the Moravian town of Salem was designated as the county seat. For some time, that place was known simply as the Forsyth County town. Eventually, it was named Winston, for Colonel Joseph Winston, a local hero who fought at the nearby battle of Guilford Courthouse in the Revolutionary War.

But Winston did not become an official town until it was incorporated under state law in 1859. Then the first mayor was elected, one William Barrow, who served for one year, from April 1859 to April 1860. We know little about him.

The next mayor was Peter A. Wilson, who is pictured above. Wilson served two terms as mayor, from 1860-61 and 1882-83. He also served nine terms as a town commissioner (alderman or city councilman), and was a state representative from Forsyth County and a state senator for Forsyth/Stokes County.

Wilson was an original settler of Winston. A tailor by trade, he also became an early entrepreneur, purchasing the lot at the southwestern corner of Liberty and Third Streets, where he operated a hotel and “house of entertainment.” There is some evidence that R. J. Reynolds later purchased and lived in that establishment for a time in the 1890s.

You can find out more about the mayors of Winston, Salem and Winston-Salem by visiting the city’s website at