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**With the health and safety of our community, volunteers and staff in mind the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History will be closing to the public at 5:00PM, Tuesday March 17 and will remain closed until further notice.  During this time the museum’s staff will be on site working during regular operating hours and can be reached by phone or email. As we work our way through this situation we’ll be launching some new web-based programming and activities so please follow our social media feeds for more information on those offerings as they develop. Our apologies for any inconvenience and thanks for your understanding and support.**

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Coming Soon-  Spirited: Prohibition in America

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Sat Aug 08 @ 8:00pm - 09:30pm
Historic Downtown Mount Airy Ghost Tours

Who We Are


Mount Airy Museum of Regional History

IMG_8201_-_Copy_606x640 Ours is an all American story - typical of how communities grew up all across our great nation. While our story takes place in the back country of northwestern North Carolina at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it is likely to bear many similarities to the development of crossroads, towns, and cities throughout America.

It had taken little more than 100 years for the corridors along the coastline of this still-new continent to overflow. As tensions grew and conflicts flared, the pioneer spirit set in. Families literally packed up everything they owned and headed into the unknown-searching for the "promised land."

Mission Statement:

The Purpose of the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History is to  Collect, Preserve and Interpret the Natural, Historic, and Artistic Heritage of the Region

                                                                      Adopted by the Board of Directors   October 9, 1995

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Mount Airy Museum Of Regional History

Swap Meet to feature "The Rock"

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An event next weekend will honor ‘The Rock’ — no, not the professional wrestler and action-movie actor with that nickname — but a big chunk of Mount Airy history, or make that many chunks.  To be exact, the world’s largest open-faced granite quarry — aka North Carolina Granite Corp., and also “The Rock” — is expected to take center stage during a family history and genealogy swap meet at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.

The event, a late-January fixture in recent years which is free and open to the public, is scheduled next Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the third floor of the museum at 301 N. Main St. It is sponsored by the museum and the Surry County Genealogical Association.

Usually, it’s an occasion for area residents to compare notes on family links, access information for free via the database and pick up various other historical tidbits. It’s one geared toward experienced genealogists as well as those just getting started in building their trees.  All that will be included again, but next Saturday’s event offers the added attraction of focusing on a cornerstone of local history, literally, the granite quarry. “This year we are asking anyone who has ever had family that worked at our quarry … to come as our special guest that day,” explained Esther Johnson, president of the Surry Genealogical Association. “And we hope they will bring pictures of their family and the quarry and share them,” Johnson added.

Steadfast industry

As textiles have faded over the years locally, North Carolina Granite Corp. has remained an industry as durable as the material it produces. Its roots run deep in local history and have forged strong ties with the community and its people. The granite company site in Flat Rock once was considered a worthless piece of rocky land — but would become a multimillion-dollar enterprise. Records of early Moravian settlers indicate that their millstones came from the quarry, and the company itself dates to the late 1880s. After Thomas Woodruff bought the site, history shows that the versatile local businessman used his marketing expertise to grow the operation tremendously. It really boomed when a railroad line was established to the quarry. This allowed a reliable means for the heavy material to be shipped from the Granite City to distant locations. In the earlier years of North Carolina Granite Corp., master stonecutters from Italy were brought in to ply their skills here, and their descendants still live in the area. Meanwhile, many buildings around the state and nation, including in Washington, D.C., have been constructed with the unique white granite from Mount Airy. Over the years, the quarry has affectionately been known by local residents as “The Rock.”

Something for all

In addition to urging those with ties to North Carolina Granite Corp. to attend Saturday’s event at the museum, an invitation is being extended to anyone who has ever enrolled in a beginners genealogy class sponsored by the museum to come as a special guest. Organizers have sought to provide something of interest to everyone regarding local genealogy and history:

• This includes persons connected with any history or genealogy group being invited to set up at the swap meet to advertise their organizations and sell books, maps, etc. it might have.

. • Authors of books on local history also may offer them for sale. • A regular swap meet attraction in which someone will help attendees look up family names for free on is to be continued this year.

• Examples of DNA analysis, a growing genealogy trend, also are to be on hand to show attendees what’s involved with those.

Wanted: family info

No genealogy forum would be complete without the lifeblood of such events: compiled family histories that can be shared with others. “The big thing will be, everyone is invited and you are asked to bring your genealogy (information) and display it so everyone can make connections and find new family information,” Johnson stressed regarding a process often compared to filling in puzzle pieces. “Sometimes all it takes is one name or one date and it may have been something you have looked for, for years,” she added of how networking with others at a genealogy event can help bridge gaps. “Be sure and bring any old Bibles you have and old letters, and old pictures or diaries or scrapbooks — also old obituaries.”

Those attending are encouraged to use laptops to record information, with a copy machine also to be available for duplication of materials at a small fee. “If you do not know one thing about genealogy or your family, come anyway and what is going on,” Johnson urged in inviting everyone to attend.

A natural tie-in

Museum Director Matt Edwards says it is only natural for the museum to host an event furthering the field of genealogy as well as focusing on a colorful segment of local history.  “I think the inclusion of the granite quarry this year is fantastic,” Edwards said.  The museum is home to archives of North Carolina Granite Corp., including about 2,000 photographs from the company’s files.  “And they are a huge supporter of the museum,” Edwards said.  “So it’s a natural tie.”  Edwards said next Saturday’s event also serves as the kickoff for a six-week introductory genealogy course to be hosted by the museum.

New Twist on Old Artifacts

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Artifacts originating in the area that typically hide in storage away from the public eye have now obtained a new lease on life by inspiring art and being a part of their own exhibit.  Beginning Jan. 21, the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History is hosting a special exhibit entitled Art-I-Fact. The purpose of Art-I-Fact is to allow local artists to create works inspired by the museum’s artifacts that aren’t usually on display. Though the pieces and the art they have influenced can be viewed by the public until Feb. 11, the artists were present to show off their work and demonstrate their art on the day of the exhibit’s opening.  In Martin’s opinion, the new exhibit is a great way for the museum to reach out to the community, adding “I love the fact that pieces are being shown that aren’t normally shown and that we can get people to the museum to be inspired by art.” 

Present with her work inspired by a plow, saw, and a photo of a train that once ran through Mount Airy was stained glass artist Gwen Jolley.  For the exhibit, Jolley devoted her talents to creating two pieces, one focused on a plow, and the other focused on a saw mill and the train.  Jolley has been making stained glass for around 20 years. Each creation takes her roughly ten hours. “It’s like a puzzle, but you know where the pieces go,” she joked.  Jolley said before she began working to create art inspired by the artifacts, she had no idea about the significance of the train in Mount Airy’s history. She hopes the new exhibit draws more people to the museum to learn about the city’s history through art, just as she did.

Also lending her talents to the Art-I-Fact exhibit was Glenda Edwards, a beadwork artist.  As stated by Edwards, she has been doing art with beads for about 20 years after picking up the skill from Choctaw Native Americans. Edwards created a necklace by using the Cellini spiral pattern that mimics the curl of an auger found in the museum’s storage.  Inspired by an empty frame, Edwards also fashioned a beaded portrait of a gentlemen which hung in a similar frame. “At some point in the past that frame would have held probably the only picture of someone’s family member, so to me, the frame was just as important as any artifact,” Edwards reflected.

Joe Allen, a practicing blacksmith for close to ten years, focused his skills toward creating a tripod for a kettle found in museum storage and the metal outline of a horse to go along with an antique x-ray machine used for veterinary purposes. “I hope to show that there’s still artists around; a lot is dying art. What I do is dying art,” explained Allen, optimistic the event will be an educational experience for all members of the community, especially local children, and that it will inspire them to participate in art themselves. “Everyone has an artist in them, they just have to find it,” he added.

The work of Aaron Blackwelder, who has been working with pottery since 2000, was also present. He crafted yellow dishes to complement antique kitchen furniture. The exhibit is complete with a station for kids and adults alike to make their own works of art inspired by additional artifacts there.

According to Matthew Edwards, executive director of the museum, the idea for Art-I-Fact came from a similar program held at a South Carolina museum where he worked in the past. “As with all exhibits, the goal [of Art-I-Fact] is to find new and innovative ways to capture people’s imaginations and teach them about history,” Edwards stated. The grant for the exhibit came from the North Carolina Arts Council through the Surry Arts Council, according to Amy Snyder, who serves as the museum’s curator of collections. Edwards is hopeful the museum will be able to add and expand to the program for next year. Though Jan. 21 was the last day all artists would be present together at the exhibit, each artist will be at the museum in weekends following until May to host workshops on the art of their expertise. For more information on the Art-I-Fact exhibit or the workshops hosted by the artists, call (336) 786-4478 or visit

Local residents honored in the spirit of MLK

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A former city employee was honored at a service in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Saturday.  At an annual event at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History on Saturday, Anise Hickman, who spent for 26 years in human resources for the city, received the 2017 Dreamer Award for the Mount Airy-Surry County branch of the National Association of University Women.  Past recipients of the award include Jimmy Stockton, who founded God’s Helping Hands free store, Faye Carter, the long-time president of the local NAACP chapter, and Melva Houston Tucker, who organized a decades-long tradition of serving a community Thanksgiving meal.  Hickman was also named an “In the Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” honoree for leadership.  According to Cheryl Yellow Fawn Scott, who made one of the two presentations, Hickman was in charge of employee benefits for the city. She earned multiple degrees and certifications prior to and throughout her time with the city, and she managed to stay heavily involved with the Surry County branch of the NAACP throughout it all.  “I have to thank God first,” said Hickman. “He is the center of my life and the center of my joy.”  Hickman went on to thank her children, other family members and friends for their support throughout her life’s journey.  “They have always supported me,” said Hickman, recalling her days earning a degree while balancing school with a full-time job and a family.

Others in the community also were recognized.  Clinton Brim was recognized for the unity he has shown throughout his life. In Brim’s statement he recalled going into the U.S. Army during Vietnam. It was the Patrick County, Virginia, native’s first experience with racial integration.  After serving alongside black and white soldiers alike, Brim returned home to segregation, where, as he recalled, black people entered local establishments through the side or back door. That is, until one day, when some black men wanted “a cold one” and walked through the front door of a local bar.  Though some weren’t happy, according to Brim, that bar was no longer segregated. 

Vera Smith Reynolds, who recently made a run for a seat in the N.C. House of Representatives, was the first African-American to graduate from Blue Ridge High School in Patrick County. Her life-long career in education led the group to name her an honoree in the area of mentorship.  In the area of character,

Ron Snow was recognized by the group. Snow, another army veteran, started the Meter Masters Track Club in Mount Airy and once served as NAACP president.  In Snow’s statement, he recalled attending the second march Dr. King led on Washington D.C. 

Clint Carter entered into the service of his country during the Korean War. He also served tours in Vietnam throughout his 23-year army career. The Purple Heart recipient was the group’s honoree in the area of sacrifice.

Scott called Dr. Carolyn Watkins a foundation builder as she announced the educator as an honoree. Watkins started Bright Beginnings Preschools, taught in the Surry County Schools and was a professor at Winston-Salem State University and Surry Community College.  Watkins recalled how unequal the theory of “separate but equal” was in education, noting at the black school she attended that students lacked appropriate supplies and studied from used, outdated books. However, innovative and concerned teachers at that school built a foundation for Watkins, allowing her to go out into the world and build foundations for youngsters in Surry County and the surrounding area.

Jackie Snow was named an “In the Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” honoree for the perseverance he has shown throughout his lifetime. He, too, served in Vietnam; his clerical skills earned him an office position instead of being placed in the infantry.  He went on to work desk jobs throughout his civilian career, and he became the first African-American claims auditor at an insurance company in Columbia, South Carolina.  Snow said he once had a teacher who told him, “Never put yourself in a position where you’ll have to use the ignorance stick.” He took that advice, and rather than dig ditches, he armed himself with education throughout his life and advanced in his career.

“Bishop Tony Carter is the absolute finest man I know,” said Bill Hall as he presented the bishop’s award in the area of faith.  Hall said Carter has spent a lifetime in the service of others, and that’s exactly what he was doing on Saturday.  “Bishop Carter is attending to a friend in need,” said Hall as Eric Strickland accepted the award on Carter’s behalf.

The group also recognized the work of some youngsters. The group called attention to William and Sadiq Pilson’s work in the area of faith at their church and Dante Watson’s educational accomplishments. Those in attendance paid tribute to Keyshawn and Kendrick Oliver for their annual work at a community Thanksgiving dinner.

Scott drew inspiration from King as she explained the work of so many in civil rights.  “He (King) always prayed for the pilots when he was traveling,” said Scott. “He also said a prayer for the ground crew.”  Scott said there are a lot of members of the ground crew in the civil rights movement. While there work is important, they often go unrecognized.  While the accomplishments of locals were honored at the 12th-annual program, the 100 or so in attendance gathered to honor and celebrate the spirit of King. Brack Llewellyn provided a little history of the civil rights movement and King.  Llewellyn said King worked a farm job as a teenager in Connecticut. He was astonished to find a world, as King wrote, without racism north of Washington D.C. Many years later, the Montgomery bus boycott would jettison King into the spotlight, and he would eventually become one of the great faces associated with the civil rights movement in America.

The program also featured musical selections from multiple performers. Some selections were somber, and others moved the entire room to clap along.  Scott said in the past there has been more music at the annual event. However, the 2017 event featured more honorees, a trade-off Scott was happy to make in order to recognize more people making accomplishments in the local community.  A candle was lit for both Christ and in King’s honor. Refreshments followed the event, which was about two and a half hours in duration.

Museum event to honor spirit of Dr. King

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream for America, and an annual event Saturday night at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History will illustrate how it’s been realized in Surry County.   The theme for this year’s program featuring musical and other activities — scheduled from 7 to 9:30 p.m. on the third-floor meeting room of the museum — is “In the Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: Surry Countians Continuing the Dream.”

“It has something for everybody,” Cheryl Yellow Fawn Scott said of the multi-faceted and entertaining event she will emcee with LaDonna McCarther. The event is free and open to the public. It is co-sponsored by the museum and the Mount Airy/Surry County Branch of the National Association of University Women (NAUW), of which Scott is president.  “This is actually our 13th one,” Scott said of the museum event honoring King which was snowed out one year. But a common denominator throughout that period has been heavy attendance by local residents.  “Last year it was literally standing room only,” Scott added of the program that tends to attract around 125 people.  It is designed to be one of healing which focuses on the sacrifices, love, learning, service, perseverance and hope of the African-American community of Surry County.  “It’s supported well by the community and it’s a wonderful evening,” Scott said.

Dream lives

Modern tributes to Dr. King, who died in 1968 and whose birthday will be celebrated nationwide on Monday, usually focus on his many famous quotes and King’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.  Saturday night’s gathering at the museum will include plenty of remembrances of his historic life and shows of gratitude for the lessons learned from King. But it will be just as focused on the here and now in terms of how his work is still under way through others, Scott said in reference to the program theme that stresses moving forward together.  “It’s also an opportunity to get to know people in Mount Airy who are living out that dream,” she said of King’s unifying message of education, inclusion and equal opportunity for all citizens to better themselves and succeed.  Eight local residents will be recognized Saturday night for exemplifying those lessons in their daily lives: Dr. Carolyn McCarther Watkins, Ron Snow, Bishop Tony Carter, Jackie Snow, Clinton Brim, Vera Reynolds, Clinton Carter and Anise Hickman.  One of the eight will receive the 2017 Martin Luther King Dreamer’s Award, which is based on the “I Have a Dream” speech King delivered in 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  The accomplishments of Surry youths in such fields as education, church activities and sports also will be recognized during Saturday night’s program.

Music and more

There is also an entertainment aspect of the MLK event which has proven popular over the years.  “It’s an opportunity to come together and it’s a community event — it’s one that’s filled with music and different types of performances,” Scott explained.  The program typically features dance, readings of poetry from Maya Angelou and others and songs including the national anthem.  A new attraction this year will be a performance by local theatrical figure Brack Llewellyn, whose is expected to illuminate a side of Martin Luther King Jr. people don’t know about.  The program further will include special singing by the Chestnut Ridge Primitive Progressive Baptist Church choir, storytelling, prayer and a candle-lighting ceremony honoring King.  Light refreshments are to be served after it concludes.  While admission to the event is free, donations will be accepted.

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