Three of the wagon making Transou brothers mid-19th century houses are still standing on Transou Road in Pfafftown. Click the pic for full size.
Recently, our page Janice found an article from the Winston-Salem Journal dated March 30, 1930. It was written by top Journal reporter Gowan “Nutt” Caldwell (see note at end) and was about a 98 year old resident of Pfafftown named Julius Abraham Transou. I knew who Transou was and knew that the article must include some critical information about early wagon building in the outer regions of Wachovia, but the copy was so bad, especially along the left border, that the story was unreadable. But by using our new digital microfilm reader, I was able to zoom in and enhance the image to make it barely comprehensible. Here, then, is the story that emerged.
The original copy before enhancement.
Julius Abraham Transou was born in the first hour of the first day of the first month of 1832 in Bethania, NC to Johann Philip and Maria Elizabeth Stolz Transou. He was the baby of the family, having been preceded by siblings Jonathan, Lydia, Ephraim, Alexander, Augustin, Jacob and Evan.
Julius’s lineage has been tentatively traced to one Jacob Trentsols, born around 1657 in Somme, France. His son, Abraham Transou, a member of the German Reformed church, came to America in 1730 aboard the “Thistle of Glasgow” and settled in Emmaus, PA. On June 6, 1762, his son John Phillip Transou and his wife Mary Magdalena arrived in Bethabara in Wachovia. Only Moravians were allowed to live in Bethabara at the time, so a few weeks later, John Phillip and Mary Magdalena moved to the hybrid town of Bethania, where John Phillipp set up shop as a wagon maker. That business passed to his son Abraham, and thence to his son John Philip, Julius’s father, who moved the workshop to Pfafftown.
Julius Abraham Transou as a young man and at age 98.
As soon as they were old enough Julius and his brothers joined their father in the wagon building business, but eventually only five of them, Julius, Jonathan, Alexander, Evan and Ephraim, worked at the trade full time. Ephraim was a full time blacksmith, so did all the hardware and tires. Julius described the process:
“We went into the virgin forest and selected the best white oak and hickory trees we could find. Then they were felled, stripped and allowed to dry out thoroughly…hammers, axes, brace and bit, and other carpenter tools were used by us all in constructing these wagons.
We could usually finish one in three weeks, but by working hard and fast one could be completed in two weeks. We didn’t do this often.”
The Transou brothers product became famous in the area. Farmers, merchants and journeymen came from miles around, willing to pay the premium price of $75 for a wagon. Business was booming, but there was trouble on the horizon.
For life enrichment, Julius had taken up playing the E♭ cornet as part of the Pfafftown band.
When the Civil War began, he joined a group of Salem musicians and became a part of the 26th Regiment, NC band. Bands played an important part in combat, stirring up the riflemen before an attack and serving as a homing device for stragglers, while also providing relaxing entertainment between battles.
Some members of the 26th Regiment band. Left to right: James M. Fisher 2nd Bb tenor horn; Julius A. Leinbach Eb bass; Daniel T. Crouse 1st Bb tenor horn; Augustus L. Hauser 1st Eb alto horn; William H. Hall 2nd Eb alto horn; Joe O. Hall 2nd Bb cornet; A.P. Gibson 1st Bb cornet; Samuel T. Mickey, captain and Eb cornet. Not present: A.C. Meinung, H.A. Siddell, Julius A. Transou, Charles Transou, Edward Peterson, D.J. Hackney, W.A. Reich and W.A. Lemly.
Lemly would later become president of the Wachovia National Bank. W.A. “Gus” Reich, the drummer boy, achieved fame as a magician…”The Wizard of the Blue Ridge”…and made the casket for the famous Siamese Twins. William Hall was captured in the retreat from Gettysburg. Daniel Crouse later became Salem’s last master potter. Augustus Hauser was the only band member to die in service, of disease, at home, on November 28, 1862.
This picture is sometimes printed reversed. The correct arrangement is shown here.
The 26th Regiment band saw action at Gettysburg, the Wilderness and most other battles in the eastern theater of the war. In the spring of 1865, they were stationed at Camp Winder, near Richmond, when Julius fell ill and had to be hospitalized. His condition worsened and he was sent home to die.
When he arrived back in Pfafftown he weighed only 92 pounds, was unable to retain food and could barely walk. But his wife and children needed food, so he decided to return to wagon building. The work went slowly because he had to stop to rest several times a day, so eventually he gave up wagon building, acquired a horse and some tools and became a piano tuner. For the next twenty years he traveled back and forth across the state by train, buggy and on horseback tuning pianos.
Sometime in the 1880s, having had enough traveling, he went to work at the Wilson Brothers Labor Exchange until his retirement around 1915.
Julius married Julia Sybilla Conrad. They had six children. At the time of the interview, Julius was living in his own house with his 70+ year old son Stephen and his daughter Ruth Pfaff. He told Caldwell that his greatest regret was the erosion of his vision, which impaired him in his greatest pleasure, reading…he mentioned Thackery, Dickens and Poe as being among his favorite authors.
Julius Transou died on June 21, 1930, just a few weeks after the article about him appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal. If your family has been in this area for more than a few generations, you are almost certainly related to him, along with the affiliated Hausers, Davises, Conrads, Shores, etc.
Julius Transou was one of the founders of the Pfafftown Christian Church. Here we see the original building, dedicated in 1870. Julius is standing at the left with Martha Ann Elizabeth Hauser Wilson, the widow of another founder, Virgil Angelo Wilson.
Julius Transou’s brother Ephraim (1811-1883), the blacksmith, married Adelaide Paulina Cooper. They had seven children. In September, 1859, the whole family moved to Texas, where their eldest child, William Alexander, died at age 25. A few months later, in June, 1860, they moved back to Pfafftown, bringing William’s widow, Elizabeth Ann Stewart Transou with them. She later married Isaac T. Pfaff.
In June, 1861 two of Ephraim and Adelaide’s sons, Owen Carter and Reuben P. Transou enlisted in the Confederate army. A month later, a third son, Lewis B. also enlisted.
Owen and Reuben were assigned to Company K, 11th Regiment, NC Volunteers, which later became the 21st Regiment, NC Troops. Their unit was in the line at the First Battle of Bull Run, but did not actively participate. In September, Owen died of disease at Front Royal, VA. He was only 18 years old. A month later, Reuben died of disease at Broad Run Station, VA. He was 25 years old.
Lewis was assigned to Company D, 57th Regiment, NC Troops and participated in all of the major battles of 1862. In December he was killed in action at Fredericksburg, VA. He was 24 years old.
The three Transou brothers are buried in the Pfafftown Christian Church cemetery on Transou Road.
Gowan “Nutt” Caldwell was the older brother of Leo Caldwell, whose story is told here: https://northcarolinaroom.wordpress.com/?s=caldwell
Nutt Caldwell, left, and Ralph Clinard pose outside their newsstand / soda shop on Fourth Street, c 1922.
At age 18, Nutt dropped out of Winston-Salem High School and joined the army, serving as an infantryman in World War I. Later, while he was finishing his high school diploma, he and his friend Ralph Clinard briefly opened a newsstand / soda shop on Fourth Street near Trade.
When Nutt died in 1973, Roy Thompson wrote one of his classic pieces about the man who he had worked with for many years. According to Roy, on March 1, 1923, Nutt opened the first service station in Winston-Salem, at the corner of Burke and Brookstown. On January 5, 1925, he went to work for the Winston-Salem Journal, covering the police beat and sports, worked his way up to sports editor and then state editor, where he settled in, retiring 42 years later on April 30, 1967. In the process he became a legend. He was a skeptic who believed nothing that he heard unless he had checked it out himself and tended to sometimes doubt even things that he had seen with his own two eyes. And woe be unto any reporter who lapsed into “fancy language”, or worse, made a factual mistake.
Nutt Caldwell, state editor.
He had his own ideas about the spoken language as well, inventing his own patois. When a funeral home called to report a death, he would yell for a reporter to take the phone. “It’s one of our southern planters,” he would say. “Take a deceasement on someone who is no longer with us.” So in his front page story on July 23, 1973, Roy wrote “This is a deceasement on Nutt Caldwell, who is no longer with us.”