MORAVIAN FALLS: THE FORGOTTEN WILKES TOWN
Come back with me now to the good ole days to a time before North Wilkesboro was a gleam in
Mr’s Trogdon, Hinshaw and Finley’s eyes.  Back to a time beginning in the 1400’s, when a split-off
religious group from the Catholic Church, first known as the “Brethen” but eventually known as the
Moravian's after their homeland of Moravia (now the Czech Republic) in central Europe. 
The story of the Moravian's is a long and complicated one, and has been well chronicled in many
volumes available in the Library.  But suffice it to say here that these deeply religious, and highly
industrious people fled their homes after enduring centuries of religious persecution by the Catholic
Church, including the burning at the stake in Prague in 1415 of their local Priest, John Huss.  Huss was
put to death for advocating reform in the Church, reform much the same as that later espoused by Martin
Luther.  
Although the Moravian's endured many more years of harassment, imprisonment and torture by
the Church, their numbers continued to grow and they eventually migrated to Germany, where they were
given refuges by a wealthy German Count named Nicholas Ludwig von Zindendorf, himself a devout
Lutheran.  During this time,  German traditions and the German language became prevalent among the
faithful.  
In time, many of the Moravian Brethren found their way to America, where they first settled in
Savannah, Georgia. Unfortunately,  due to conflicts with Spanish and other Georgia settlers, the
Moravian's later chose to migrate northward to Pennsylvania, where they founded and settled the towns
of Bethlehem, Nazareth and Lititz, PA. 
Eventually in 1753, the Moravian Brethren acquired a large land grant in North Carolina that
became known as the Wachovia Tract, named after a river back on the Zindendorf estate in their
homeland.  The Wachovia Tract consisted of much of the land from what is now Forsyth County,
westward up the Yadkin River Basin to the foothills of the Appalachians, and a number of them again
ventured south, establishing the settlements of Bethabara, Bethania and Salem, adjacent to the established
town of Winston.  Eventually, with these settlements established, an exploratory expedition was
dispatched westward up the Yadkin River Valley to survey the territory and search for fertile farm land
and a site suitable for establishing an outlying farming village. 
Some 55 miles upriver from Salem, Bethabara, and Bethania, the exploratory party came upon a
small feeder creek they named Moravian Creek.  The Creek lead to a scenic, cascading waterfall about 5
miles south of Wilkesboro.  The waterfall was suitable to operate a milling operation, and in 1874 a
settlement was officially established with the opening of the Moravian Falls Post Office at a fork in the
road, about a half mile from the Falls; the settlement and Post Office were appropriately named Moravian
Falls.
 
After four consecutive, severe winters and numerous illnesses and deaths, the Moravian settlers
abandoned the settlement and returned to the parent villages around Salem, but their settlement and the
name survived.  Moravian Falls became Wilkes County’s second town, and eventually the home of an
Academy, several newspapers, the best known of which was the “Yellow Jacket”, a Spainhour’s
Department store, a flour, corn and linseed oil mill, and later a saw mill, and at one time, the Falls even
supplied electric power to the town of Wilkesboro.
 
As a kid, I used to come to Moravian Falls from Wilkesboro in the late 1940's and 1950's with my
family; it was a great place to have a picnic, and many Wilkes families took advantage of the atmosphere
on warm, sunny days and weekends. 
 
A fish lake was later graded out at the foot of the falls and stocked with various fish.  Folks could
come out with their fishing paraphenalia and, for a small fee, spend a pleasant afternoon fishing in the
lake that even had small shelters located around the perimeter for rainy days.
 
There was also a little known, privately owned fishing lake in Moravian Falls about a mile or less
from the Falls,  closer to the center of the main village.  The lake was somewhat hidden away in a heavily
forested area, and was accessible by a dirt and gravel road and secured from auto traffic by a padlocked
metal cable crossing the road; only members had a key. 
 
The lake was called Yellow Jacket Lake and was open to paying members; my dad was one of
those members.  Often, I would accompany him to Yellow Jacket, so named for the pesky little bees of
the same name who thought they owned the place, and that we were intruders into their territory. Rumor
has it that when the lake was finally drained, the Yellow Jackets could no longer sustain their Bee Colony
and migrated south to the Atlanta GA area and took up residence on the campus of Georgia Institute of
Technology, more commonly known as Georgia Tech.  
You bettya that the lake was a fun place for kids to tent camp and fish, if you could keep yourself
covered with bug repellant, and the adults carried brown-bags that emitted a certain order that seemed to
keep the bugs and bees away, but wouldn’t share it with the children…..Their motto was, the bar is
always open, but only for adults. 
 
The lake is gone now... drained years ago, and the site is grown over and difficult to find, but it
was the source of many wonderful youthful recollections as were the Falls at Moravian Falls.