Peter Dicks House

Formerly in the village of New Salem, now destroyed.

Rom Ward moved to the village of New Salem in 1918, bought an old house and remodeled it into a stylish bungalow; bought a little old house and turned it into a workshop, and bought yet another old house and turned it into his barn. Both of these photos of the Rom Ward barn were taken by me during the 1978 architectural inventory of Randolph County. This was one of the earliest houses I found, probably dating to the 1780s or 1790s, and I still regret that it wasn’t subsequently preserved. The county is a poorer place for having lost almost its entire 18th-century built environment.

The structure once stood approximately behind the workshop building and further back in the field behind the Ward house; Mr. Ward had moved it closer to New Salem Road (SR 2115).

Only 20 by 25 in plan, it originally had two floors and a finished attic. When I made its acquaintance it was in a neglected state, but it had a number of special details which indicated that it had once been a house of rather high quality.

The exposed ceiling joists of the ground floor (being the floor joists of the second floor) were fully chamfered, and stopped with lamb’s tongues. The exposed ceiling joists of the second floor (the floor joists of the attic) were simply beaded. No mantels survived on the ground floor, but a three-panel board-and-batten door with iron strap hinges survived under the rear shed. The first floor had remnants of vertical wood paneling, a simple wooden molding ran around the ceiling and joists, and there were several areas where a wide-board floor remained, fastened down with wooden pegs, not nails.

The second floor window openings were about 18 inches wide, and were crowned with a simple wooden cornice. This would not be so remarkable today, but circa-1800, it would have been unusual to find cornices over the ground floor windows, let alone the upper stories.

The gable trim was flush with the siding, which on the eastern end apparently used very early “riven” clapboards, split instead of sawn. The framing of the house indicated a fireplace on the western end. The only remaining piece of exterior trim was a section of dentil molding under the box cornice- dentils produced by angled cuts in a wood strip almost identical to what furniture connoisseurs call “chip carving.”

An early issue of the defunct North Randolph Historical Society Quarterly, (vol. 2, #3, published in June 1968), printed the descriptions of early buildings from long-time New Salem residents. On page 40, it says

“The old Dicks home stood… to the right of the closed well that used to serve [Rom Ward’s] house. Mrs. Hayes [a neighbor] can remember an addition in the back that was four bedrooms and the kitchen joined the end near the well. It had a large fireplace and then stairs going up to the second floor and then a closed staircase from the second to the third floor, which was finished. The yard was very different from any around. It was completely covered with large white rocks, laid side by side, with no filling in between, no flowers or shrubbery. Where the rocks came from, no one ever knew. Mrs. Hayes has two in her front yard.”

New Salem was founded around the year 1815, when streets were laid off and lots were sold by Town Commissioners Benjamin Marmon, Jesse Hinshaw, Moses Swaim, William Dennis and Peter Dicks. Until Franklinsville was founded and became the county’s manufacturing metropolis, New Salem was for about a quarter century the largest municipality in the county. Two acres at the east end of the village was sold to the Society of Friends, who established a meeting house. After the Civil War the dwindling Quaker congregation merged with Providence monthly meeting a few miles away, and their meeting house was sold to the current Methodist congregation.

Across the street from the Dicks house was (and still stands) the home of Dr. C.W. Woolen, whose father in law was the Abolition preacher Daniel Worth. Further back behind the Woolen house is a water source known as Adams’ Spring, notorious since 1808 as the place where Naomi Wise met her lover Stephen Lewis just before her death.

The Dicks family were long-time Quakers, and can be traced with some difficulty through Hinshaw’s “Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy” (I say ‘difficulty’ because each generation had at least one “Peter Dicks,” and sometimes more than one). To confuse matters even further, the Dick family in north central Guilford County (remember Judge R.P. Dick, signer of the Dicks Mill petition a few days ago?) was not related to the Dicks family of south central Guilford and Randolph.

According to the records of Centre Friends meeting, once right on the border between Guilford and Randolph, and now firmly in Guilford), our Peter Dicks was born May 13, 1771 (or “13th day 5th month 1771” according to the Quaker terminology used in Hinshaw (Volume I, p. 652). He was the son of James Dicks (b. 1748, York Co, PA, died 16 Nov 1830, and buried at New Salem Meth. Ch.) and wife Rachel Beals. Father James was himself the son of another Peter Dicks (b. ca. 1720 in Chester Co., PA; died 2 Jan. 1796 in Guilford County) and his wife Elizabeth. That Peter Dicks and his family moved their membership in Warrington Monthly Meeting of Friends in York Co., PA, to New Garden Monthly Meeting in Guilford County on August 30, 1755. Grandpa Peter was evidently the immigrant to North Carolina I remember hearing Edgar “Josh” Murrow of Centre speak of as if they were old school buddies. That Peter Dicks, said Josh, moved to the wilds of Polecat Creek, kept at that time burned to a grassy savannah by the Indians; he built a lean-to under an enormous Chestnut tree, and fed himself by shooting the abundant wild turkeys. (Josh learned all this by reading the diary of Peter Dicks, subsequently destroyed in a house fire). The family business may have been milling, as the immigrant Peter Dicks is listed in court records as owning a mill as early as 1753.

Our Peter may have been a potter, as when neighbor William Dennis sold out and moved west in 1832 his pottery tools were purchased by Peter Dicks. Our Peter, however, earned his living in sales, and may have made pottery and built his grist and oil mill on Deep River to supply the needs of his store in New Salem.

On October 26, 1797, our Peter Dicks married another Friend, Nancy Ann Hodson at Centre meeting. Peter and Nancy Ann are buried in the cemetery at New Salem Methodist Church, which at the time of his death in November, 1843, was New Salem Friends Meeting (Nancy outlived him to August 4, 1850). Their tombstones are now so eroded by weather and abrasive lawn maintenance that they are virtually unreadable.

Their children did quite well. Son James continued to live in Randleman, run the family mill, and was a founder and stockholder in the Union Factory. Daughter Sallie Dicks married John Milton Worth, a physician and brother of Governor Jonathan Worth. Dr. Worth and wife Sallie built a substantial house where the Asheboro Public Library now stands. Daughter Annie Dicks married Jesse Walker, a merchant and investor in several other cotton mills.

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2 Responses to “Peter Dicks House”

  1. Wayne Roney Says:

    Any information on the Col. John Wood family of Randolph County, NC in the 1830s, with travels to and any connections with Boone County, Missouri. Orlando WOOD, Polly Wood, Swaim family connections and New Salem, NC homesite or farm. Any advice or information would be appreciated. Thanks

  2. Christine Bate Says:

    Several of the Quakers from Randolph/Guilford moved to the Blue River or “Salem” area of Indiana. In my research the Mendenhall’s and the Weeks had gatherings still into the early 1900’s. These families were both members of the Deep River Meeting in NC in the late 1700’s, and I found a newspaper article where my Great grandparent’s had a social gathering with the Mendenhall’s, where my Great Uncles played their instruments, which I don’t believe would have been condoned by early Quaker culture.
    My family moved further North and West, with several other families from the Salem Indiana or “Center/Centre” area in the early 1900’s.

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