We made a trip this July to visit two of our children who live on the East Coast. As we traveled, we were drawn in by the beauty of the countryside: the prairies of the Midwest, the Appalachian foothills, the Blue Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains, the Piedmont, and on to the coastal plain. There is so much to see in this big nation of ours…and we are trying to see it all!
Our first stop to see family, and spend several days, was at the home of our daughter and her family in Salisbury, North Carolina. They had moved to this town of around 35,000 people the month before, and it would be our first time in Salisbury, which lies about midway between Charlotte and Greensboro.
While there, I realized once again, how often we travel through a place, or even stop to visit family or friends, and take in nothing of the place itself. But because our daughter knows we love to sight-see, and she and her family love to geocache, she had a full list of places for us to visit and things for us to do.
So, I thought I would highlight this American small town, hoping to encourage everyone to stop, look around, and enjoy the individuality of some of the places in which we might find ourselves. Often, some of our best vacation memories happen in places we have never even heard of.
Salisbury, North Carolina, was founded in 1753 as the county seat for the newly established Rowan County. It is situated in North Carolina’s Piedmont region. Salisbury has a rich history, is deeply rooted in that history, and has done much to preserve it. While we did not see everything Salisbury has to offer, we did get a taste of the town, and are looking forward to more discoveries on future visits. Here is what we took in this time…
This town well was dug in the mid-1700’s. It was still being used by a family named Boyden in the early 1900’s. That is our grandson leaning over the well, and enjoying history with his grandparents.
Not far from the small law office pictured above, another law office, approximately 14×14 1/2 was built on a lot by Spruce Macay. He was a popular lawyer, law teacher, and judge. His most famous student was Andrew Jackson, the future President, who studied law under Macay from 1784-1785. Jackson was admitted to the bar in Rowan County in 1787. In 1876, that wood frame building was dismantled and shipped to Philadelphia to be featured at the Centennial Exhibition to be held in Philadelphia. Somehow, along the way, the building was lost and its whereabouts has never been discovered. A marker at the spot is all we have to mark its location. However, the desk used by Jackson when he was studying law in Salisbury can still be seen at a Salisbury museum.
The law office of Archibald Henderson, built around 1820, and pictured above, is typical of the small law offices that were built in courthouse towns. The building also served as the public library in Salisbury from 1911-1921.
Spruce Macay, Andrew Jackson, and Archibald Henderson would all have drawn water from the town well pictured above.
In the first block of West Fisher street, native Salisbury artist, Cynthia Arthur Rankin, has painted a magnificent mural of life in Salisbury at the turn of the twentieth century. An interesting note about the mural is that all the people in the painting are real residents of the city who posed in period clothes for this historical piece of artwork.
In the Brooklyn-South Square Historic District on E. Bank Street, we found a reminder of our nation’s most troubled years, the Civil War years. A Confederate Prison Camp was established in Salisbury on the site of an old cotton factory in 1861. The prison was designed to house 2,500 prisoners, however, by 1864 its population soared to 10,000 men. Deaths due to overcrowding and poor sanitation within the prison rose to near 4,000 inmates. The Garrison House, pictured above, is the only remaining building from Salisbury Prison.
The dead were carried to burial trenches not far from the prison. It is not known how many trenches were dug, but the number is presumed to be between thirteen and eighteen. Nor do we know exactly how many bodies were buried in the trenches, but estimates place the number between 1,800 and 10,000. These burial trenches are now part of the Salisbury National Cemetery.
Markers now stand at the beginning of each of the burial trenches engraved with the word “Unknown” to honor the soldiers buried there.
A fifty foot obelisk was built at the beginning of the trenches to commemorate the soldiers buried in the Salisbury National Cemetery. Next to the obelisk is the Maine Monument, dedicated to soldiers from Maine who died in the prison camp.
We also found time to explore some natural places around Salisbury. We visited Dan Nicholas Park, eight miles southeast of Salisbury. The park has a campground and caters to families. There are so many things to keep young and old both busy and having fun.
There is a 10 acre lake at Dan Nicholas, with a trail that goes all the way around, and opportunities for paddling…
and the ducks are always fun to see!
Within an hour’s drive from Salisbury is Morrow Mountain State Park in Albemarle, NC. We went to look out over the countryside, and to take a hike in the woods. What a beautiful place!
The view atop Morrow Mountain…
a great walk in the woods!
The mountain is made of rhyolite, a rock that was used by Native Americans 10,000 years ago to make arrowheads.
And one last place…we found a great hot dog stand called Cookout. This area chain restaurant has great hamburgers and really good hot dogs that taste, for all the world, like a hot dog at any professional ball park. It is a place we will visit every time we visit Salisbury.
I hope I have encouraged you to take time to visit some of the drive-through sites and small American towns you come across as you travel this very big country of ours. You never know what you will find!
Before we start talking about my featured food for this post, I need to mention that Salisbury, NC is home to the Cheerwine soft drink company. We enjoyed it so much, we brought some home with us. It is not readily available across the country, but is beginning to make inroads in other markets. If you have the chance, you need to try some Cheerwine!
In North Carolina, hogs are a huge commodity, so pork meat is very important to the Carolina cuisine. Pig roasts are big events in North Carolina where folks get together for “pig pickin'”. Guests pick all the meat off the roasted pig, and enjoy eating it with pot-luck dishes that everyone has brought to share.
But the most famous pork served in North Carolina is barbecued pork. if you are from the eastern side of North Carolina, you prefer Eastern Carolina Barbecue, shredded and served with a sauce that is made with vinegar and red peppers. If you are on the western side of the state, the pork barbecue is chopped and served with a sauce that is vinegar and ketchup based. We have had both kinds and absolutely prefer the Western Carolina version. After we returned home, I found a recipe for Western Carolina Barbecue, tweaked it a bit, and enjoyed it for several days, having some left over to freeze for another day. The recipe I adapted is on Food.com. which features a recipe from the “Weber Big Book of Grilling”.
One more note: Carolina Barbecue is usually served with a generous portion of hush puppies…I know my doctor would be much happier if he were to know we had ours with a raw zucchini and corn salad!
Western Carolina Barbecue
Preparing the pork:
- 1-3 lb. boneless pork shoulder, rolled and tied which has sat at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
- kosher salt
- ground black pepper
Heat your grill to medium heat (350-450 degrees). Salt and pepper the roast and lay it fat side up on the grill using an indirect heat. Grill until the internal temperature is between 185 and 190 degrees. This should take 2-3 hours. Don’t hurry it along…it just keeps getting more tender!
When the roast registers the correct temperature, remove it from the grill, cover it with foil, and allow it to sit for at least 20 minutes.
Preparing the sauce:
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup chopped onions
- 2 cups ketchup
- 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/3-1/2 cup yellow mustard (we prefer it with a little less mustard)
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- Tabasco sauce to taste, about 1 tsp.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat Add the onions and cook until they are translucent. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat and simmer the sauce for 10 minutes and set to the side to cool to room temperature.
Chop the pork and moisten it with some of the sauce. Pile on a hamburger bun, add a bit more sauce if you like, top with a coleslaw of your choice…and eat! There is ample barbecue here to server 8-10 people.