Farmington, NC – First post office was established in 1837 in George Wesley Johnson’s store. This c 1880s photo shows his son, Dr. William G. Johnson at right. The man standing next to the door is holding two yardsticks. Note the horseshoe over the door. Most pix in this post are clickable for full size.

A few days ago, I posted on my Facebook page a little newspaper article from 1890 about an exciting affair, a “sensation” the newspaper called it, that took place at the railroad depot in Walnut Cove.

All the melodrama you could ask from any contemporary TV show, an attempted elopement which entailed a punch-up between two determined men, the 15 year old girl’s uncle and her betrothed, with the “girl” clinging to her lover even as they fought, ending with the tragedy of thwarted romance…think Romeo and Juliet. It was meant to be a fleeting entertainment for my Facebook friends.

But then, Paul Garber, who was born to ask questions, had to inquire where “Goodwill”, mentioned in the article, might have been. Of course, I had no idea. So I was forced to set to work to correct that shortcoming, coming up with this answer:

The NC Gazetteer says: Goodwill community in NE Forsyth County served by post office, 1884-1903.

Goodwill was centered around Goodwill Baptist Church on Piney Grove Road, a few miles north of Kernersville, near Pine Knolls Golf Club. The church appears on the 1907 map of Forsyth County. Two schools, one labeled “col. sch.”, the other unlabeled, are shown nearby.According to the 1896 edition of Branson’s Business Guide, Goodwill had a population of 15. Goodwill Baptist Church is still there…a handsome building with a nice little cemetery…a genealogist’s dream…


Goodwill Baptist Church

But in the process of gathering this information, I realized that the geography of the 1890s in Forsyth County was quite different from that of today. When that item appeared in the Union Republican weekly, nobody who read it asked “Where is Goodwill?” Everybody knew, just as today you know where Hanes Mall is. So I thought I would take a closer look at that geography and try to bring back a few of the forgotten places of the 1890s.

At first I was going to use the 1898 county map found on the NC Maps site, but then I discovered the North Carolina Postal History Society website, which has a much better map and hundreds of images of postal cancellations from existing and long gone local POs. So I decided to combine the two. But first a brief history of early postal service in North Carolina.

The Nellie post office in the Cataloochee Valley in Haywood County, NC was typical of rural post offices of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There appears to be a barefooted person lying on the porch…don’t ask.

Before 1710, there was no formal mail service in the British colonies in North America. By 1730, the British had extended a rudimentary mail service as far south as Charleston, SC, but those living away from the coast had little if any service. In 1789, there were four post offices in North Carolina: Edenton, New Bern, Washington and Wilmington. In 1792, Congress established the first official US postal routes.


The 1792 postal map. Note that Salem was almost the end of the line. Also note what is missing: Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham, etc…because they did not yet exist. What about Raleigh? It’s the state capitol isn’t it? Well, not quite yet. In 1788, the state legislature selected some land in Wake County as the future capitol, but the folks in Fayetteville were so infuriated that they managed to delay the project for four years. Construction of the state capitol building began in 1792, but not until after this map was published.


1839 post map of the northwestern Piedmont, showing post roads and offices. The numbers indicate mileage between points.

By 1851, the USPS had 785 offices in the state. Regular use of postage stamps began in the 1840s, with the first stamps being delivered to Elizabeth City in 1848. As the railroads developed, most mail moved by train, being sorted in special cars for drop off near local post offices. The local postmaster, who was paid according to the volume of mail handled, picked up the mail from the drop off point. Most local offices were simply a table in a private home or general store or tavern. Citizens were expected to check the table and pick up their mail. Mail left on the table too long was advertised in the nearest newspaper, incurring a 2¢ pickup fee. In 1899, the USPS introduced rural free delivery, which was slow to develop because citizens were suspicious of anything “free”.

RFD Chadbourn, c 1900.

Some of the 63 post offices from Forsyth County’s past. The handwritten cancellations were known as “manuscripts”, written out by the postmaster after payment:


Still functioning POs Forsyth County:

Bethania  1794, Stokes County…from Stokes  1849-present…under CSA 1861-1865…Eugene T. Kapp served 49 years as postmaster, 1875-1924

Kernersville  1832, Stokes County…from Stokes 1849-1851…briefly discontinued, then reconstituted 1851…name changed to Berlin Jan 1854…name changed back to Kernersville Jul 1854…under CSA 1861-1865…

Walkerstown  1848, Stokes County…from Stokes 1849-1888…name changed to Walkertown 1888…under CSA 1861-1865…called Walkertown in CSA records

Rural Hall  1852…under CSA 1861-1865

Lewisville 1861…under CSA Jul 1861-Apr 1865

Belews Creek    Belew Creek Mills  1870-1903…name changed to Belew Creek 1903…name changed to Belews Creek 1971

Tobaccoville  1879…discontinued 1880…reconstituted 1884

Pfafftown   1888

Clemmons  Originally Bower, 1894…name changed to Clemmons, 1904

Winston-Salem  1899…Salem was the first post office in what is now Forsyth County, established 1792…the Winston post office was established in 1851…both the Winston and Salem offices were under the CSA 1861-1865…in the 1880s, the USPS began considering consolidating the Winston and Salem offices under the name Winston, which provoked a furious political reaction from Salem…so around 1890, the USPS began calling the Winston station Winston-Salem, while still maintaining a separate office in Salem…after much negotiation, during which the USPS pointed out that a hyphenated name was in violation of their own rules, they agreed, for the sake of political peace, to consolidate the two offices under the name Winston-Salem, with a branch office in Salem, which happened in 1899…it would be 14 more years before the two cities formerly consolidated as Winston-Salem…

The Winston post office moved from its former location on Liberty Street to the Jacobs Block, at the corner of Main and Third, around 1893-94. By then the USPS was already calling it the Winston-Salem post office, although official consolidation would not come until 1899. This picture was taken in the mid-1890s, when the entrance to Eller & Starbuck’s law offices was still next door. The identity of the jewelry store on the other side is unknown. Image from the Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection.


Alspaugh  1892-99
Belew’s Creek from Stokes  1849-52…there was no Belews Creek post office from 1852-1870
Benefit  1881-83  Mail to Kernersville
Berlin  Name changed from Kernersville  31 Jan 1854   Name changed back to Kernersville  12 Jul 1854
Blakley  1894-1903  Mail to Pfafftown
Bower  1894-1904  Name changed to Clemmons
Burkeville  1898-1902  Mail to Winston-Salem
Cedar Grove 1867-68
Charlestown  26 Jun 1856  Name changed to Waughtown  27 Aug 1856
Clemmons  Name changed from Bower  1904-present
Clemmonsville  from Davidson  1889-1903  Mail to Bower
Craters  Jan-Dec 1888  Reconstituted 1889-1903  Mail to Winston-Salem
Daisy  1888-1903  Mail to Winston-Salem
Domestic  1882-83  Mail to Kernersville
Donnoha  1889-1936  Mail to Tobaccoville…John Fleming was postmaster 1889-1895. On 17 Jan 1895 James Choplin was appointed postmaster. Six weeks later, his appointment was rescinded and Fleming returned to office through 1897.
Dosier  1889-1903  Mail to Tobaccoville
Flat Branch  1877-1891  Name changed to Oak Summit


Flat Branch is not on the map…1887 cancellation

Flat Branches  1860-1871  Operated under CSA Sep 1861-Apr 1865
Flint Hill  1855-58
Forsythe  Feb-Jul 1888  Mail to Salem
Friedburg  1868-1890  Mail to Hulon
Fulp  from Stokes  1903-04  Mail to Walnut Cove
Goodwill  1884-1903  Mail to Kernersville
Guthrie  Name changed from Ring  1903-04  Mail to Kernersville
Hanes  1921-59
Hulon  1889-1903  Mail to Winston-Salem
Jolliet (1)  1891-99  Name changed to Oldtown
Jolliet (2)  1900-1907  Mail to Oldtown
Lebanon  1856-57
Limestone Well  from Stokes  1849-53
Midland  Apr-Dec 1892  Mail to Clemmonsville
Mount Tabor  1857-1866  Under CSA 1861-65  Reconstituted 1868-1881
Muddy Creek  from Stokes 1849-1859
Nain  1900-1903  Mail to Bower
Oak Summit  Name changed from Flat Btanch 1891-1903  Mail to Rural Hall
Okay  1890-1904  Mail to Kernersville
Old Richmond  Operated on and off  1853-1894…no record of operation under CSA …moved to Surry 1894…name changed to Perch 1894
Old Town (see also Oldtown)  from Stokes 1849…back to Stokes 1851…back to Forsyth 1859…no record of CSA operation…resumed Sep 1865…discontinued 1880…resumed 1881-83  Mail to Winston
Oldham  1883-1901  Mail to Winston-Salem
Oldtown  Name changed from Jolliet (1)  1899-1920  Mail to Winston-Salem
Reeds  1879-94  Mail to Dosier
Reynolda  1916-1956  Mail to Winston-Salem
Ring  1902-03  Name changed to Guthrie
Ruth  1885-1903  Mail to Rural Hall
Salem Chapel  1860-1937  Under CSA Aug 1862-Apr 1865  Mail to Walnut Cove
Sedge Garden / Sedges Garden  1853-1903…no record under CSA  Mail to Rural Hall
Seward  1892-1903 Mail to Tobaccoville
Spot  1901-1904  Mail to Walnut Cove
Vienna  from Stokes  Jan 1849-Jun 1849  Jun 1857-1903  Under CSA Jul 1861-Apr 1865  Mail to Pfafftown
Waughtown  1854-1856  Name changed to Charlestown Jun 1856…name changed back to Waughtown  Aug 1856-1867  Under CSA Jul 1861-Apr 1865
Weavel’s Mills  1858-1870  Under CSA 1861-65
White Road  1850-1895  Name changed to Whiteroad  1895-1904  Mail to Winston-Salem


At the North Carolina Postal History Society site you will find 90 pages of information and hundreds of images of cancellations from Forsyth County post offices:


The map from that site was created in 2010 by Richard F. Winter of Colfax. Send him an email at and thank him for this monumental work.