Mt.Airy is a 3 hour drive from the Asheville area. From Asheville take I-40 to Statesville, then I-77 north to Mt.Airy which is near the Virginia State line.The other end of the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains ....
Mount Airy has several entrances to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is located in the foothills of the NC Mountains. The closest largest city is Winston Salem.
The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History
Mount Airy North Carolina is a small town. A town immortalized in the “Andy Griffith Show” as Mayberry. Andy Griffith was born and raised in Mount Airy. The town immortalizes Mayberry with much memorabilia and celebrations. Although the emphasis is on Andy Griffith, Mount Airy is much more than another Mayberry.
Mount Airy Museum of Regional History on Main Street has a lot of information on Mount Airy and the surrounding area within Surrey County. The exhibits cover the following subjects:
Saura Native American Indians
The journey begins with an exhibit featuring a recreation of ancient Native American Indians hut made from wood with deerskins covering the roof. The Saura Native American Indians lived in Surry county many years ago. These Native Americans were Dakota Sioux that migrated from the west. Like many other Native Americans, the Saura Native American Indians died off due to the introduction of devastating diseases such as smallpox. The Saura Native American Indian legacy left behind arrowheads and a recently discovered Native American Indians Burial ground that gave some insight into their culture.
The Granite Quarry is the next exhibit featured in the museum. This open-face quarry is the world’s largest. Many famous structures and buildings in the United States were built with granite from this quarry for example, the Arlington Bridge in Washington, D.C. Many houses were made of granite in the early part of the 20th century.
The next step I took journeyed back to the pioneers who settled in Mount Airy. The pioneers were from Pennsylvania, and other northern states seeking land and a new life. Most of these pioneers were of the Moravian faith. The journey into North Carolina via the mountain passes was extremely hard. Pilot Mountain served as a navigational aide hence the name Pilot. Life in the early pioneer days was hard. These people were resourceful, living off the land. A model of an early American log cabin and a country store is on display in the museum. I remember as a child going into a country store. Apothecary jars filled with penny candy for sale. Pickles were in a wooden barrel filled with brine.
Pictures of the founding families of Mount Airy adorn the walls. There are authentic tools, old time pottery, kitchen utensils, homemade toys, homespun dresses, fiddles, banjos and other relics of the past on display. One of the kitchen utensils displayed was an apple peeler. I had never seen one before. The apple peeler had two prongs that held the apple in place while three serrated wheels turned and trimmed the skin from an apple.
Famous People from Mount Airy
The Museum of Regional History features a section dedicated to Jeb Stuart, the famous Confederate general, who is from the Mount Airy area. In addition, in the regional museum galleries there are pictures of the famous Siamese twins who were the first Siamese twins. They lived in the Mt Airy North Carolina area, married two different women and had huge families.
In the basement is an exhibit featuring the first fire engines Mount Airy bought. My Uncle is pictured among a group of volunteer firemen in a photograph taken in the early 1930’s. Three fire engines are displayed, the earliest being a 1916 model La France. Another display featured a 1946 La France fire engine with a caption stating “Mount Airy and Asheville were the only two cities in North Carolina to boast of having the 1946 La France fire engine.”
A scale model of the Railway from Greensboro to Mount Airy is on display. Each train stop is depicted by miniature replicas.
Although Mount Airy places much emphasis on the legacy of Andy Griffith, the town is much more than another Mayberry. Mount Airy is rich in heritage and history. The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History is a monument to the small town in America. The history is similar to many other small towns across America, yet it is as unique as the individuals who forged the town.