Forsyth County (1849)

Written By Jonathan Martin

Known as the home of to R. J. Reynolds Tobacco, Wake Forest University, and the Moravian settlement of the Carolinas, Forsyth County was annexed from Stokes County in 1849 and was named for a War of 1812 colonel, Benjamin Forsyth. Winston-Salem is the county seat, other towns are Lewisville, Clemmons, Walkertown, Kernersville, Tobaccoville, Rural Hall, Belews Creek, Bethania, and Bethabara.


In 1753, Bishop August Spangenberg was awarded a 100,000-acre tract of land from the Lord Proprietor of North Carolina, Lord Granville. The land was named Wachovia because the Moravian patron Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf’s Austrian estate was known as “Wachau.” Zinzendorf had provided a haven for Moravian outcasts in Germany, and he also sponsored the creation of the Wachovia colony.


By 1766, Bethabara and Bethania had developed into Moravian communities. Salem, a commercial town tin which Moravian crafts and trades thrived, formed soon after in Wachovia. It would not be until 1913 when the town of Winston finally merged with Salem and became what it is known as today, Winston-Salem.


Its pious origins combined with a Moravian work ethic and a growing immigrant population would make Winston-Salem into Forsyth County’s cultural and economic capital. In 1875 Richard J. Reynolds instituted his tobacco corporation in Winston, and it propelled the area’s economic growth for years to come. Other notable businesses founded in Forsyth County are Krispy Kreme Doughnuts as well as the Wachovia Corporation. In addition to these principal companies, agriculture and industry supports the remaining economy in the county. Tobacco, soybeans, corn, textiles, optical fiber, furniture, and tractors are all products of Forsyth County.


The Moravian heritage, academic institution, and R.J. Reynold’s widespread philanthropy has made Winston-Salem and the surrounding area a haven for culture and art. The Reynolda House, the original house of the Reynold’s family, displays numerous pieces of American art. The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County (1949), the nation’s first local arts council, and the North Carolina School of Arts (1965), the state’s first art conservatory, are both in the region. Also, Forsyth County is home to Salem College (1772), Winston-Salem State University (1897) and Wake Forest University (1834). Other festivals and events held in the area are the National Black Theatre Festival, the Dixie Classic Fair, and the Festival of Lights in Clemmons.