Photograph Collection

As always, click the pictures for full size

First, the parking plan. All parking is free, but the surface lot and under building area have no time limits, while the street parking has the usual two hour restriction:

The surface parking lot is diagonally across the Fifth / Spring Street intersection from the Central Library…

There are two ways to get to the new NC Room…first, the simple way…

Use the main entrance on Fifth Street…

Once inside, you will find yourself in a foyer…the shelves of books here are provided for sale by the Friends of the Central Library, who raise thousands of dollars for Central every year…purchase is on the honor system…the cash box is to the right…to enter the library, move to the left through the gates…

Once through the gates, you will see the stairs which will take you to the second and third floors…children’s room and computer lab on the first floor…the NC Room and Teen Central on the second floor…general collection…fiction & non-fiction on the third floor…

If you look back to your right, you will see the elevators, which will take you to the second and third floors and back…press “2” for the NC Room…

At the second floor, you will see the art gallery in front of you and the NC Room to the right…

But if you choose to park in the deck under the building and use the public entrance there, you could find yourself in a situation reminiscent of Ulysses’ wanderings in the Odyssey…the following information is particularly important for those using wheelchairs, walkers or strollers for infants…

Traffic in the parking deck is one way…please enter from Spring Street…

The public entrance from the deck is near the Spring Street end of the building…

The elevator there goes only from the ground floor to the first floor and has buttons marked “1F” and “1R”, with no explanation. Since the “1F” button has a star beside it, most patrons end up choosing that one, only to find that it does not work. Press the “1R” button.

Do NOT lean against the back of the elevator, because when you reach the first floor, the door BEHIND you will open. To the right you will see steps going up to Coffee Park Central. You can go up the steps, walk through Coffee Park Central and find yourself at the main entrance to the library, where you can follow the previous “simple” instructions. Of course, you can pause in Coffee Park Central for some excellent coffee and goodies. But what if you are among the aforementioned users of wheelchairs, walkers or are pushing a stroller? Where do you go?

The only alternative to the steps is this corridor, which seems to lead to an exit. But this is the path you should follow.

Just before you reach the exit, you will see this ramp to your right. If you follow it, you will find yourself in the foyer, and then can follow the “simple” instructions to the NC Room.

At the entrance to the NC Room, if you look to your left, you will find a button that will automatically open the door.

When you are ready to leave, you will find another button to the left of the doors which will open the door automatically.

We hope you can navigate this path, because we are waiting for you, eager to help in your quest for local history and genealogy information. If you encounter problems at any point, please ask…we will do our best to help find a solution.


In an earlier life I wrote and/or directed and/or produced dozens of TV commercials and marketing films. In more recent times I have been in a number of documentary films. But I’ve never been in a film that won an Emmy until now.

“Merger:  Making the Twin City” had its world premier at a/perture on Fourth Street on May 9, 2013. It was later screened at the New Winston Museum and the Hanes Brands Theater and eventually, on May 30, 2013, shown on UNC-TV.

You can read an excellent story about the film, written by Susan Gilmor and published by the Winston-Salem Journal on May 3, 2013, here: Path to consolidation rife with strife 

And you can watch the entire film here: Merger: Making the Twin City

Kudos to all who had a part in this excellent film, especially


This is an updated version of a post made on January 29, 2014, which was an update of an earlier post. In the very first post we were able to establish a correct date for the “R.J. Reynolds house”, but were unable, until now, to say for certain who actually built the house. Yesterday, I found the conclusive evidence for that in an October, 1900 edition of the Twin City Daily Sentinel. In the interest of maintaining a record of the research, I have retained the original text that is no longer in doubt in lined out format. I have also appended a map at the end of the post showing the close proximity of the homes of Reynolds family members and key Reynolds Tobacco employees along “Millionaires Row” in the early 1900s. There is also new information there about who the contractor and supervising architect were, along with some information about that architect and some buildings that he designed both locally and elsewhere.

About 4 1/2 years ago, I posted a history of the R.J. Reynolds house on West Fifth Street, where the Central Library is now located. Because of technical difficulties at the time, I put the story at an offsite location, with a link to it. Lately I was informed that that link can cause difficulties in viewing the story, so I am now reposting it here. Some of the images may be clicked for larger versions.


Reynolds house on West Fifth Street, Winston, NC, under construction, spring, 1900. FCPL Photograph Collection

Dating Construction of the Reynolds House, 666 West Fifth Street, Winston-Salem, NC

There is information on line at several sites dating construction of the R.J. Reynolds house anywhere from the 1880s to 1895, none of which are correct. We do not know who had the house built. We do know that at the time of construction, William Neal and Kate Bitting Reynolds owned the property. But his brother Richard Joshua may have been the one who had the house built.

The plans for the house were bought by mail from George Barber of Knoxville, but do not have a client name on them. There is one drawing in the set that is titled “A sitting room for R.J. Reynolds”, but that is an internal compartment of the house. There is no evidence to tell us who the actual builder was.  Perhaps R.J. did have the house built and he and Will had some sort of agreement that at an appropriate later date, Will would transfer the land to R.J. as well.
In any case, the house was built in the spring/fall of 1900 and occupied from that year until 1905 by R.J. Reynolds, his brother William Neal Reynolds, his wife, Kate Bitting Reynolds and several orphaned Lybrook nephews and nieces.

Some sources have stated that the Reynolds brothers’ mother, Nancy Jane Cox Reynolds, lived there as well. There is no evidence to support that assertion. The city directories and census records show her living with her daughter Lucy and son-in-law Robert Critz at 533 North Spring Street, about a block from 666 West Fifth, until her death in 1903.
In March, 1904, William Neal Reynolds transferred ownership of the house to his brother. In 1905, R.J. married Katharine Smith of Mount Airy and moved his bride into the house. At that time, William and Kate moved into the Phoenix Hotel at the southwest corner of Fourth and Liberty Streets. Around 1910, William and Kate moved into the former Marshall M. Williamson house at 644 West Fifth Street, next door to R.J. and Katherine.


Here is the new information that establishes the actual builder of the house:


Twin City Daily Sentinel, October 19, 1900. Click the pic to read

It is now clear that Will and Kate Reynolds built the house. R.J. is not even mentioned in the story. By Thanksgiving, Will and Kate and their Lybrook orphans along with R.J. in his private apartment, were in residence.


Detail of the R.J. Reynolds house at 666 West Fifth Street. Note the Confederate battle flag. We do not know if this was a regular feature or whether the picture might have been taken during some sort of commemoration. R.J. Reynolds was too young to serve in the Confederate military. FCPL Photograph Collection

Where did R. J. Reynolds live before 1900?

Between 1875 and 1900, R.J. Reynolds lived in a variety of places, including, in the early years, his factory. City directories show that he also lived in a series of hotels such as the Merchant’s, Central and Fountain.


At one point, R.J. Reynolds lived in the Hotel Fountain on Main Street near the corner of Third Street. The inscription on this c 1890 photo says “Hotel Fountain was located in Winston N.C. on east side of Main St. between 2nd + 3rd St. Was property of R.W. Belo, Salem N.C.”

Robert W. Belo, the son of Edward Belo, proprietor of “E. Belo’s Leviathan”, on the ground floor of the famous Belo House, also operated the Belo House, a hotel on Main Street in Salem. The writing on the jitney says “Belo House”. FCPL Photograph Collection

Both the 1894-95 and 1899-1900 city directories show R.J. living at “cor. 3rd & Liberty, Bank Bldg”, which was the First National Bank Building, across Third Street from the old Wilson Hotel. There, he would have lived on the third floor, above the Twin City Club.

Where did William Neal Reynolds live before 1900?

Like his brother, he may have lived in the factory at first. Later, city directories show him living at several hotels. At one point his address is given as “Waughtown, south of Salem.” By 1895 he had married Kate Bitting, the daughter of a prominent local tobacco man, and had built or bought a house at 137 North Cherry Street. He and Kate are still shown living there in the 1899-1900 city directory and on the June 5, 1900 census sheet.

Who lived at the southeast corner of West Fifth and Spring Streets before R.J. Reynolds?
The earliest known residences at that location are shown on the 1891 Bird’seye View of the Twin City, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, created by Ruger & Stoner of Madison, Wisconsin. This firm created similar panoramic maps of dozens of American cities. Many of those maps can be found in digital versions at the Library of Congress site. I have compared Mr. Ruger’s drawings with most of the buildings that remain from that time. The accuracy of the architectural details is remarkable.


Of course, Mr. Ruger’s map does not tell us who lived in these houses. But the city directories do. The illustration above is based on the 1894-95 city directory. The 1899-1900 city directory shows the same occupants except that Walter Leak had moved to 320 Broad Street.
But by June 5 that same year, when the 1900 US Census taker reached 302 North Liberty, where R.J. Reynolds was rooming, Robert L. Williamson was also living there. Williamson’s house at 662 West Fifth had been torn down to make way for the Reynolds house. Among others living at 302 North Liberty was James S. Dunn, a realtor who would later marry Katharine Smith’s sister, Maxie.


The 1900 US census shows R. J. Reynolds living on the top floor of the 1st National Bank Building at the corner of Liberty and Third Streets.  His neighbors were James Dunn, a young realtor who would later marry Katharine Smith’s sister Maxie; Phillipp Lybrook, RJR’s nephew, who was the Winston postmaster; Robert L. Williamson, whose house had just been demolished to make way for the new Reynolds house; and Joseph D. Lee, a postal agent.

The “Hotel” listed below was the Hanes House, Jason Efird, manager. It stood in the Hanes Building between the 1st National Bank and the Phoenix Hotel, on the corner of Liberty and Fourth Streets.

What other evidence exists to prove the construction date?

Obviously, the Sanborn insurance maps. Here’s the lay of the land in 1895:


Self explanatory. And here is the piece de resistance:


This May, 1900 Sanborn map shows the whole story. J.B. Mosely’s house is still there, but Robert L. Williamson’s house has been torn down. And we can see the outline, even the grand porches, of the new Reynolds house. But it isn’t actually there yet. If we zoom in to the inset, we can plainly see the legend: “BEING BUILT.” Case closed.

The address appears as 652 West Fifth Street on the Sanborn map. But by 1902, it had been changed to 666 West Fifth Street and remained so as long as the Reynolds family lived there. Today, the site is occupied by the Central Branch of the Forsyth County Public Library and the address is 660 West Fifth Street. The only remaining vestige of what was known as “Millionaire’s Row” is a servant’s quarters between the library and Centenary Methodist Church, facing on Four and ½ Street, now used by the Centenary Boy Scout troop.


This undated photo shows a gathering on the grand porch of the R.J. Reynolds house at 666 West Fifth Street. Left to right are R.J. Reynolds, Katharine Smith Reynolds, Maxie Smith Dunn, unidentified and James S. Dunn. FCPL Photograph Collection

A note on the architect

George F. Barber (1854-1915) of Knoxville was the architect for the Reynolds house, despite the fact that he likely never set foot in Winston-Salem. Barber was a highly successful mail order architect who sold many boilerplate house designs to successful industrialists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A number of those houses are now listed on the National Register.

A  note on Mary Katharine Smith

Katherine Smith attended the State Normal School for Women (now UNC-G) for three years. Sometime while she was there, she changed the spelling of her name to Katharine. She transferred to Sullins College for her senior year and graduated from that institution in 1902. She spent the next year at home in Mount Airy, teaching at least one art class.

In the spring of 1903, at the invitation of R.J. Reynolds, she went to work at his company as a private secretary. Between that time and the time of her marriage to R.J. Reynolds in February, 1905, she lived with D. Rich and his wife Carrie at 657 West Fifth Street, right across the street from the Reynolds household. At the time, Rich was the cashier of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. He would soon become the treasurer. Later his contributions and encouragement would transform a small academy in Buies Creek into Campbell College.
In the time that Katharine worked at Reynolds, she won a one thousand dollar prize in an internal competition to supply the best advertising copy promoting the quality of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company products. After her marriage, she became a housewife and mother, but she was almost certainly responsible for numerous innovations at the company, including the creation of a company medical department, company operated cafeterias and a company sponsored day care center. She may have played a part in the famous and wildly successful advertising campaign that introduced Camel cigarettes to the nation in 1913-14.

While attending “the Normal” she had embraced the progressive ideas of the school’s founding president, Charles Duncan McIver, who earlier in his career had been the first principal of the 1884 Winston Graded School (later the West End Graded School) at West Fourth and Broad Streets. She was a thoroughly modern woman. It is unlikely that she was happy with her husband’s Queen Anne style house, a design already outmoded when it was built, or the grounds, which were equally passé. She did some remodeling and built a modern park, known as Reynolds Square, across Spring Street, with a garden  and a tennis court. But by the fall of 1906, R.J. had bought her 104 acres of land northwest of town and her mind was on her future estate, a modern model farm that would come to be called Reynolda.

The contractor and supervising architect for the Reynolds house

The contractor was H.A. Abram, who built many of architect Barber’s houses. Both were based in Knoxville, TN. The supervising architect was H.J. Blauvelt, who moved to Winston from Richmond, VA in 1900 to oversee construction. While in Winston, he established a local office and became involved in a number of local and regional projects. One of those was a new auditorium, which, although it did not actually happen, led to the building of the magnificent Elks Auditorium on North Liberty Street a short time later. While here, Blauvelt did design a factory for the Imperial Tobacco Company in Greenville, NC, a magnificent Masonic Temple in Danville, VA, and the new East Winston Graded School. In 1902, Blauvelt moved his offices to Washington, DC, then later to Philadelphia and finally to New York City.

EastWinstonGS copy


Masonic Temple, Danville, VA, 1902

The Reynolds “Compound”, early 1900s


This little map shows how concentrated R. J. Reynolds world was, with all the relatives and important functionaries within a stones throw of each other. In the late 1890s, R.J. had decided that he was going to marry his cousin Katharine Smith as soon as she graduated from college. But just as that was happening, his mother died. In those days, a certain period of mourning was required, which forbade an immediate wedding. Katharine had many ardent suitors, so R.J. hired her to work at Reynolds. Since she was from Mt. Airy, she needed a safe place to live, so R.J. arranged for her to live with D. and Carrie Rich right across the street. Since they were hard core Baptists, he knew that she would be well protected, plus he could easily keep an eye on her until the wedding bells were ringing.

D. Rich was an interesting man. At some point, at a Baptist conference, he met the headmaster of a struggling Baptist academy in Buies Creek. He liked the man’s thinking, so lent his support to the cause, support that grew over the years. The result was Campbell College.

Bowman Gray went to work as a salesman at RJR Tobacco and was an immediate success. R.J. believed that salesmanship was the secret to all business dealings, so nurtured the young man, sending him to the same business college that he had attended in Baltimore. When Bowman married Natalie Fontaine Lyons, who he had met in Baltimore, they bought the land next door to Will and Kate and built their first house there.



Twin City Daily Sentinel, October 19, 1900

Sanborn Insurance maps: 1885, 1890, 1895, 1900, 1907, 1912.

Winston-Salem city directories: 1879, 1884, 1889-90, 1891-92, 1894-95, 1899-1900 (available only on microfilm), 1902-03, 1904-05, 1906-07, 1908, 1910, 1911

1900 United States Census

Forsyth County, NC Register of Deeds

1891 Bird’s-eye View of the Twin City Winston-Salem, NC by Ruger & Stone, Madison, Wisconsin

Reynolds collection at Reynolda House

Howett, Catherine. A World of Her Own Making: Katharine Smith Reynolds and the Landscape of Reynolda. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.

Neilson, Robert W. History of Government, City of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Winston-Salem: Bicentennial Committee, 1966.

Tilley, Nannie M. Reynolds Homestead: 1814-1970. Richmond: Robert Kline & Company, 1970.

Photographs are from the picture collection of the Forsyth County Public Library at

On August 27, 2013 we posted a thank you to our loyal friends for having reached a total of 60,000 hits on our blog. See it here:

60,000 is one more than 59,999…

A couple of weeks ago, we hit 70,000, and now the total is 70,459…we’ve averaged almost 2,500 hits per month since August and set a new monthly record in December, with 2,616.

The total since August is over 15% of all the hits we have had since our tentative start in February, 2008.

We’re glad that you have enjoyed our stories of local history. But we are even gladder that thousands of you have discovered the many resources and links contained on our web pages. Those resources will continue to increase as time goes by. Check out our basic web page now to see what I’m talking about:

NC Room Web Page

And again, thanks for being such loyal visitors! Your comments are always welcome, and if you have questions about anything that you find on our website, please call us at 336.703.3070 anytime during our opening hours, which are:

9 AM – 9PM  Monday-Wednesday

9 AM – 6 PM  Thursday & Friday

9 AM – 5 PM  Saturday

1 PM – 5 PM  Sunday

We are closed on Sundays between Memorial Day and Labor Day

The original post here contained some errors, partly because of a vast repository of flawed information about John Casper, but mostly because of my failure to do a thorough job of double and triple checking sources. That has now been done. Mea culpa.

The opening of Sutler’s Spirit, the first legal distillery in the city of Winston-Salem, in the newly developed Hoots Mill building on Bridge Street, offers the opportunity for a look back at the history of distilling in our area.

Distilling is an early and distinguished profession in American history. As anyone knows, there is a lot of food energy in fruits, but they don’t last long after harvest, so from the very first, humans have converted them into a more durable, and profitable, product.

The dominant product in Forsyth County in the 19th century before the establishment of the tobacco industry in the 1870s was dried fruits and berries. More of the apples from the trees planted in America by Johnny Appleseed ended up in apple cider and brandy than in Mom’s apple pie.

As soon as the Moravian’s got settled in Wachovia in the mid-18th century, they began growing fruits and converting them into brandy. The Bethabara distillery produced 2,100 gallons of brandy in 1772. And one of the few remaining historic structures in Bethabara is the 1803 Herman Buttner house, home of that village’s distiller.


Herman Buttner house, Bethabara, 1803

Shortly after its beginning in 1766, Salem had both a brewery and a distillery. When President George Washington visited Salem on May 31 / June 1, 1791, he praised the orderliness of the town, the demeanor of the citizens, the waterworks, the local band and, especially, the beer.


President George Washington enjoyed Moravian brandy and beer at the Salem Tavern on the evening of May 31, 1791…oh yeah, and he slept there as well.


The Salem brewery was on Academy Street between the current Old Salem Bypass and Marshall Street

Sometime in the early 19th century a small community grew up on North Liberty Street near where the street crosses the railroad tracks as it exits downtown. Some say that it got its name, Liberty, from the inhabitants perception of freedom from the control of the Moravian Church. We know little about the settlement, except that its only businesses appear to have been saloons and/or brothels. No doubt, a good bit of distilling went on there.

For some years after the founding of Forsyth County in 1849, the new county seat, Winston, was a typical backwoods courthouse town. In his book Winston, 50 years Ago, published in 1925 (we have a copy), Henry Foltz says that during the monthly court sessions, the wooded area around Second, Main and Church streets became a campground and center of revelry, with music, singing and dancing far into the night, no doubt fueled by nearby off the books distilling operations.


Forsyth County courthouse

But the town of Winston, between its founding in the early 1850s and its merger with Salem in 1913, never had a legal distillery. And until now, the modern city of Winston-Salem could say the same. There were a number of well known saloons in the late 1890s into the early 1900s, probably the best know being Holbrook & Winfree’s Criterion in the 400 block of Trade Street, just north of the current CVS drugstore, known for their oyster bar.


But then there is the tale of John Casper, who put the town of Winston on the national booze map.

That story begins with Casper’s grandfather, a farmer in Davie County who preferred his corn in a jug rather than on the cob. When his son, John C. Casper came home from the Civil War, he learned the distilling craft and expanded the family business in Davie and Rowan County. His son, John L. Casper, born shortly after the war, would transform the business through his extraordinary skills as an entrepreneur and salesman.


John L. Casper, c. 1900

Described as “a neatly dressed, slender man with sharp black eyes…the smartest man who ever lived, who wrote a beautiful hand…an advertising genius…”, Casper spent his early years in Winston working as a bookkeeper (1891-92 and 1894-95 city directories) for the W.B. Ellis Company, a tobacco manufacturer located on Depot Street near the R.J. Reynolds plant. But he had a dream, and by the late 1890s, had realized it.

In the latter part of the 19th century, liquor laws were a crazy quilt extending across the nation. If you lived near a sophisticated city, beer, wine and hard stuff were easy to come by. But if you lived in some backwater, where local churches controlled the laws, it was do it yourself or find a source.

John Casper decided to exploit that situation by becoming a mail order distributor of distilled spirits. The deal was simple. You read one of his ads, filled in an order blank, sent in your money and a few weeks later the US postal service delivered your product in an unmarked box. Since federal laws dealt only with taxes on whiskey, everything was perfectly legal.


The Casper Company, built c. 1902, was located at 617 North Main Street in Winston. Here whiskey was received, blended, bottled, labelled and shipped throughout the nation. The King Printing Company, which Casper was a partner in, designed and printed fliers, ads and labels and was located at the far left end.

The “distiller” claim seen on the building was true, because Casper’s relatives were still doing that, just not in Forsyth County. The “rectifier” claim is more accurate, because that is what he was doing. He had contracts with more than 20 distilleries in Davie, Yadkin and Rowan counties to provide him with distilled whiskey, which he “rectified” (i.e. blended) into a number of Casper brands.

His advertising always mentioned that “other” mail order houses watered their whiskey, but that his came from “honest North Carolinians” who would never cheat their customers.

His brands were aimed at a wide variety of audiences, from the low end to the penthouse. And to that effect, he controlled not only the taste but the packaging, provided by area artisans, and advertisements and labeling, designed and produced by his own in-house printing company.

JugCobalt copy

The standard jug container and the etched cobalt upscale bottle are representative of the Casper line. Casper was an early adopter of the Winston-Salem name. Click on the pix for full versions.


Another Casper standard. Casper also produced a lot of giveaway items for good customers, such as the shot glass and ornate backbar decanter seen above and the corkscrew below.


From sometime in the late 1890s until Winston-Salem’s only governor, William Broadnax Glen, ushered in statewide prohibition in 1908*, John Casper was one of the top two mail order distributors of alcoholic beverages in the United States.

What happened after the “dries” shut down North Carolina becomes a bit confusing. Some say that Casper moved his operations to Roanoke, Virginia. Or to somewhere near Jacksonville in Florida. Or maybe it was Fort Smith, Arkansas, the former hangout of the “hanging judge” Roy Bean, “the law west of the Pecos”.

For most of those, we have only statements by individuals who claimed to have worked for or with him. For instance, a “Mr. Tesh” claimed to have worked for Casper in Jacksonville. He said that Casper always told his young employees to remember that “whiskey is made to SELL and not to DRINK.” But he also went on to say that Casper sold his Jacksonville operation to John Smithdeal and moved on to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Maybe, except that John Smithdeal was already an officer in the Casper Company back in Winston in the 1890s.

Another witness claimed that Casper remained in Winston and founded the Basketeria grocery store, which originated on Trade Street in 1918 and eventually moved to its better remembered location across from Hanes Park in the 1940s.

All print or online sources claim that Casper never married. As unlikely as all this may seem, there is at least some truth in all of it except the bit about marriage.

John Casper was born near the Davie/Rowan County border in 1866. In December, 1886, he married Annie Nading, the daughter of a Winston tobacco warehouseman. The young couple moved into a house at 1027 North Liberty Street, near her parents’ home. Sometime in the 1890s, they had two children, identified in the 1900 census as “Jonny” and “Sissy”. I might add that when the census taker asked what John L. Casper did for a living that he answered “Nothing”, which is duly recorded on the census form.

John L. Casper, Jr. would eventually marry and become a sometimes partner in his father’s ventures. “Sissy” would marry John D. Lamb, or Lambe, who would become Casper’s most faithful partner.

There is no doubt that John Casper, Sr. operated a very successful mail order whiskey business from his building on North Main Street. But he soon realized that the “dry” movement in North Carolina was quite serious, so sometime around 1905, he opened a second operation in Roanoke, which boasted a 14 acre “campus”, while the headquarters remained for a time in Winston.

RoanokeInvoice copy

1907 invoice from the Casper Company’s Roanoke operation.

The Florida part of the story is completely undocumented and appears to have arisen late in the game, perhaps after the implementation of national prohibition and may have had some sort of connection with rum running from Cuba. We do know that John and “Sissy” Lamb moved to the Jacksonville area at some point.

The Fort Smith business is a matter of record. In 1911, John Casper and others founded the Uncle Sam Distillery in Forth Smith. Not long afterward, he and his partners were charged by the Internal Revenue Department with multiple counts of evading federal taxes on alcoholic beverages.

On October 15, 1915, John Casper pleaded guilty to all 33 counts against him and was sentenced to 9 years and 3 days confinement at the Leavenworth, Kansas federal penitentiary, along with a fine of $33,000, the equivalent of $763,000 today. Another $100,000 in property, the equivalent of $2.3 million today, was seized by the court.


1914 postcard. One wonders who buys postcards depicting prisons…”Having a great time…wish you were here!”

But Casper was not long for Leavenworth. Three months later he was pardoned and released. At that point, he almost certainly returned to Winston-Salem, where he remained a partner in the King Printing Company and the Winston Distribution Company, still located at the old 617 North Main Street address.

The Basketeria, one of the most famous grocery stores in local history, opened on Trade Street sometime in 1917. The 1918 city directory lists “John Casper” as the proprietor, but I think that that is John Casper, Jr., who also operated the “Little Basketeria” in Ogburn Station. The two are thought to be the first self service grocery stores in this area, beating by 20 years the late 1930s Big Star and A&P self service stores in the downtown area.

By the early 1920s, the Basketeria had been taken over by the aforementioned John Smithdeal, who went on to build a local empire in real estate. John L. Casper, Sr. had not had anywhere near enough of the whiskey business.

With the continental US closed to legal whiskey, Casper, his son John, Jr. and his son-in-law John Lamb, departed for Mexico, where they set about building a distilling business from the ground up. But John, Sr. had been worried about his heart for some time, and on July 29, 1921, he died of a massive heart attack at Villa de Acura in Coahula, Mexico. John Lamb took care of shipping his body home by train, which required a week. John Casper, Sr. was buried in Salem Cemetery in Winston-Salem the first week of August, 1921.

We do not know if the whiskey operation in Mexico continued. We do know that three years later, John Casper, Jr. went to visit his sister and her husband in Florida. On Sunday morning, August 10, 1924, he went for a powerboat ride with his friend E.M. Honeycutt on Miami Bay. When they were out in deep water, the boat caught on fire, pitching them both into the water. Honeycutt was able to swim ashore, but he said that John, Jr. experienced difficulty in swimming, that he had tried to save him, but that the distance to shore was too great.

It took three hours to find and recover John, Jr’s body. He was buried next to his father in Salem Cemetery.

One person later told a local reporter an interesting story about the Caspers, the liquor business and the Basketeria:

“When the Basketeria first opened, my mother, a blue-stockinged Presbyterian, would not trade there because she disapproved of whiskey, and those who sold it. People used to have convictions like that. After Smithdeal bought it out, she patronized the store, not realizing that John Smithdeal had previously been in the liquor business.”

The Uncle Sam case produced an outbreak of hysterical newspaper stories which claimed that Casper and his associates, dating back to his Winston years, had defrauded the government of millions of dollars in taxes. Even though those claims were shown to be incorrect, they were used by the “dries”in their campaign to implement the 18th amendment to the US Constitution (prohibition), which became law on January 17, 1920.

North Carolina became the 34th of 46 states to ratify the amendment, on January 16, 1919. Only two states, Connecticut and Rhode Island, refused to ratify. Rhode Island was founded by Roger Williams, a former Puritan who broke away to help organize the Baptist church in America at Providence Plantation.**

As we now know, the 18th amendment unleashed the forces of organized crime which even today, nearly a century later, are still with us.

* May 26, 1908, NC referendum, 62% yes, 38% no, became the first southern state to enact statewide prohibition of alcoholic beverages.

** Rhode Island was also the last state to ratify the US Constitution, on May 29, 1790, more than six months after North Carolina and almost two years after New York. Rhode Island rejected the Constitution in a popular referendum in 1788 by a vote of 2,708 to 237. The eventual ratification in convention was by a vote of 34-32. North Carolina failed to ratify in August, 1788 when the first convention voted to adjourn, 185-84. Ratification came over a year later by a vote of 194-77. Other state ratification votes were New York 30-27, Virginia 89-79, New Hampshire 57-47, Massachusetts 187-168. Might want to keep those numbers in mind the next time you are tempted to join in a Constitutional debate.

A lot of very smart people visit our blog. Here is what one of them has to say about the “1940ish” picture:

“Ten women,and twenty-seven men with no dogs or children, exceedingly odd for a church picture.

It’s cold and the site has been chosen, indeed well known for a group shot in bleacher style.

It’s overcast and around one thirty pm and there is no flash needed ,the film is 125 ASA at a shutterspeed of as much as a half a second at Fstop eleven,  a guess.  This shot could have been planned using a tripod and self timer feature that everyone was used to in those days, or are they reacting to someone’s directions ?

These mugs are very familiar to me,  isnt that a young Frank Jones with the big ears?  The group has a common denominator, (a local club? The Elks?)…most likely news,  broadcasting, radio,  and electrical gizmos.”

I agree with these observations. I took a tour of downtown churches Saturday and found only one possible church site, behind the original 1st Baptist building on Poplar Street, but it is a stretch…the terrain has been significantly altered by later church building projects. There were houses on the west side of Poplar, but these don’t quite match the ones shown on the Sanborn insurance maps.

I was already thinking that two of the folks were Bill East and Frank Spencer. Add the guy with the big ears and you’ve got a Winston-Salem Journal trifecta.


I might add that the same person suggested that Buddy and Hazel Levin from the Watson Avenue picture are probably in this one…I see a couple of possibilities.


As always, click on the pic for full size

OK, the chase is on. Molly Levin Beck thinks that she knows a couple of the folks pictured…her uncle Charlie Church and his wife Polly Lineberry Church. Charlie served on the first 20th century integrated board of aldermen with the Reverend Kenneth Williams under two mayors, George Lentz and Marshall Kurfees. Charlie was the president at that time of the Service Coal Company, located at 501 East Seventh Street. Polly also served as an officer of the company.

Warm Morning Heater Coal Stove Wood Stove | eBay 2013-11-29 19-36-10 copy

Some of us remember coal because our family owned a “Warm Morning Heater” and the coal bin in the basement. Guess who got to go down there, fill up the coal scuttle, then turn the lever, open the door and pour the coal into the heater.

The main picture comes from the Snow family archive, so I suspected that it might center around the Snows…no surprise, Molly says that her uncle and aunt vacationed with the Snows in the 1930s and later played a lot of bridge with them. Among the Snows other favorite bridge players were Marshall Kurfees and his wife Mabel, who also served as the mayor’s office manager. Kurfees, for many years, managed the Blue Bird Cab Company and Mabel worked at Ideal Dry Goods.


Blue Bird Cab Company, 525 N. Cherry, late 1930s

It was Molly and her sister Jean who identified most of the Watson Avenue people, so put on your thinking cap if you want to keep up.

If you’re too young to remember any of these people, show this picture to your parents, aunts, uncles, etc. Just click on “Comment” to make an ID.

Next Page »