Asheboro, NC - Every town has a story and in Asheboro you don't have to go far to find it. Randolph County historian Mac Whatley told WFMY News 2's Tracey McCain a lot of it happened right downtown off Main Street in the 1800's.
As a matter of fact, it was then when county officials surveyed the county to find a spot for the original courthouse. They chose Asheboro because it's smack dab in the center of the county. The exact center was actually a swamp about a mile down the hill so they came up a little and eventually built the original courthouse one block away.
The story goes, the 1800's courthouse was located at the corner of Main and Salisbury Streets. It was known as the public ground or public square. The courthouse held sessions only four times a year, so people would turn each session into something like a festival.
They would camp out during long trials and would hold gatherings similar to a fair. Today there's an apartment building located where the original courthouse once stood. It was there until a fire destroyed in in the early 1900's. And now people drive by it and have no idea this area is a huge part of Asheboro's history.
"Pretty much no clue. We have a sign over there that says site of the public grounds but people don't really pay attention to that and really don't know. And no body really understand the courthouse was in the middle of the street and traffic went around it like it did in Pittsylvania," said Whatley.
The original courthouse was there until 1909 and then they built the one on Worth Street. And there's an even newer courthouse off Fayetteville Street; which is the one people use today.
There were also many jails in Asheboro. One which was located right across from the original courthouse. It was built out of logs, so you can imagine it wasn't very sturdy. People would escape by crawling out between the logs. Two hundred plus years later, the place is now a salon and Kim Hill owns it.
"In the basement there's still the bars that were in the windows. When I first got here I thought it was rebar but it wasn't and I found out it was actually the bars from the original jail," said Hill.
One of the very first jail breaks in Randolph County history was done by Stephen Lewis. Stephen Lewis was accused of killing a little girl named Naomi Wise. He was never recaptured and there's very little record of him after that.
The jail break resulted in one of the most recorded folk songs ever: Naomi Wise. Artist Bob Dylan is among the 200+ people that have recorded that song.
There's an interesting fact about Asheboro's Confederate Soldier Monument. He's facing South, not North. In most Confederate monuments, statues or pictures, it is customary for the Confederate Soldier to be facing North to show the direction he was headed. Whatley does not know why Asheboro's is pointed South, though one guess is it's an act of defiance as this soldier puts his back toward the North and its armies.
That's just some of the history in Asheboro, $5 says you didn't know that.
WFMY News 2