Surry County, North Carolina

Year Established

County Seat

Significance of County Name

Population (2010)



Surrey, England


Legislative Act Creating County

First Settled / By

County Evolution by Decade

Official County Website

Click Here

1740s / Moravians, Germans, Scots-Irish from PA, VA

Click Here

Click Here

Historical Post Offices

American Revolution

American Civil War

Significant Education Events

Alphabetical / Date Started


Coming Later

Click Here

Airports in Surry County

Maps of Surry County

Books About Surry County

Genealogy Sources

Click Here

Click Here

Click Here

Click Here

A History of Surry County

Surry County Courthouse (2019)

The Act erecting Surry County provided for the court to be held constantly at Gideon Wright's until a court house could be constructed. Commissioners were named to select the location and have the court house, prison, and stocks built. By 1774, some of the commissioners were named to finish the building. In 1779 the court house of Surry County was established at Richmond on land of Colonel Martin Armstrong and William Shepherd.

In 1789, Surry was divided and Stokes County was formed from this division. When this was done, the old court house was inconvenient for both counties. Therefore, the Act dividing Surry County specified that the court was to be held at the home of Richard Horn until a new court house, prison, and stocks could be constructed in a more-central location.

Another Act passed in 1789 directed the old court house to be sold and the money be equally divided between Surry and Stokes counties, the proceeds to be used on their respective court houses. In 1790, Rockford was established on fifty-three (53) acres of land deeded by Thomas and Moses Ayres for that purpose. Commissioners were named to construct the public buildings.

In 1851, when Yadkin County was created out of part of Surry County, the Act named and directed commissioners to locate the center of the new boundaries of Surry County and fix a new county seat. It also named commissioners to acquire fifty (50) acres of land by purchase or donation and construct a new court house. The law stipulated that the town was to be named Dobson, which has been the county seat ever since.

Surry County was formed from Rowan County in 1771. This was while North Carolina was still a British colony. An Act to form Surry County was proposed to the colonial General Assembly in December of 1770 by Martin Armstrong, Anthony Hampton, and James Dunne. The legislation was passed in January of 1771 and was to become effective April 1, 1771. It was named after Surrey, England, the birthplace of sitting Royal Governor William Tryon.

Part of Rowan County was annexed to Surry County in 1773. This was to make sure that all of the Moravian's Wachovia tract was in Surry County. When the original division of Surry from Rowan occured in 1771, it left Salem in Rowan and Bethabara and Bethania in Surry. In the beginning, Surry did not want the Moravians in their county because the Moravians refused to fight and they lived differently and better.

Surry County quickly realized that not only did they need the tax money from the Moravians, they needed the friendship and knowledge. Moravian leaders were highly educated, practical, wise to the ways of the world and highly disciplined. They had markets, mills, crafts, craftsmen, stores, taverns, inns, workshops, and schools among other things.

Surry leaders went running back asking the Moravians of Salem to petition the colonial General Assembly of North Carolina to put the rest of the Wachovia Tract in Surry County borders. The General Assembly refused the first petition in 1772. In 1773, Salem leaders Frederick William Marshall and Traugott Bagge went to the colonial General Assembly at New Bern, talked with Governor William Tryon, and the bill passed the third time.

Wilkes County and the district of Washington, now in Tennessee was, were formed in 1777 from Surry County. The act was effective February 15, 1778. It should be noted here that this took the western part of Surry County where Low Gap is located. This put Jesse Franklin and others in Wilkes County.

Stokes County was formed in 1789 from Surry, all of the Moravian Tract was now in Stokes. In 1850, Stokes County was divided and the southern part became Forsyth County. The original Moravian Tract made up a large part of Forsyth County.

Part of Wilkes County was annexed to Surry County in 1792. This gave Low Gap and western Surry County back to Surry County. This was done at the request of Jesse Franklin. He became the only North Carolina governor from Surry County. Researchers should note that the names of the people in the Low Gap area and others in the western part of the county will be found in the NC census of 1784-1787 and the U.S. Federal census of 1790 in the Wilkes County listings. This also applies to Wilkes County tax lists and deeds from 1777 until 1792.

Yadkin County was formed from Surry in 1850 with the Yadkin River forming the boundary. Part of Surry County on the west was annexed to Alleghany County in 1869, 1870, and 1875. Corbitt says no description was given in the law. It was around Aaron Woodruffs and Saddle Mountain.

The flowing together of the Yadkin River and the Big Elkin Creek has drawn people to the area of what is now Elkin, since the coming of the Paleo-Indians 10,000 years ago. We also, know that the Sioux Indians settled along the Yadkin River as early as 500 BC. The first English colonists came in the mid-eighteenth century, Cherokee Indians were also in the area, although the Cherokees had been active in the French and Indian War, they had joined in treaties with the English in 1763, followed by the events of the American Revolution.

The town’s early history centers on one man and his descendants. Around 1840, Richard Gwyn left Jonesville to settle on the north side of the Yadkin River, recognizing the value of the forested hills and waterpower of Elkin Creek. Within a decade he and several family members established Elkin Manufacturing Company. Farther up Elkin Creek, Alexander Chatham and Thomas Lenior Gwyn opened a small woolen mill in 1877 that grew to become Elkin’s largest industry today. The North-Western North Carolina Railroad arrived in 1890; the town was ready to take the opportunities the railroad brought for commercial and industrial expansion. It’s strategic location near the Yadkin River and the Big Elkin Creek and as a stop on the railroad caused prosperity that produced brick stores, many industries, and fine houses.

The beginning of industry with the cotton mill, the civil war involvement the coming of the railroad, the town’s coping with the depression of the thirties, and the two world wars.

The heritage of the two rivers that flow through the community should not be forgotten. First, the rivers provided water and means for fishing and travel. Also, using waterpower to drive gristmills, forges, and sawmills was an important economic development. The greatest impact was the more sophisticated mills along the rivers that powered shoe and textile factories. Elkin has a proud history and a bright future as seen in its historic downtown, where past landmarks are being revitalized.

© 2019 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved