Yanceyville's courthouse square is legendary for its history from the revolutionary war to the present. During the early 1800's, both the speaker of the North Carolina House and the President Pro Tem of the North Carolina Senate resided in Caswell County. Caswell has been home to Congressman, scholars, writers and a scoundrel or two.
The majestic courthouse was completed in 1861 and designed by William Percival at a cost of $28,000. The fourth Caswell County Courthouse. It is a monumental embodiment of Victorian institutional architecture, combining Italian Romanesque and Classical features in a design unique to courthouse architecture in North Carolina.
The Historic Courthouse is a rectangular two-story masonry structure with a domed cupola crowned by a lantern. The second story, the piano nobile of Renaissance origin, is the principal floor, containing the courtroom. The offices are housed in the first floor. The structure is sited on the crest of a hill with broad vistas in several directions. The majestic building has an arched pavilion in the center of each side. The main (north) elevation contains a recessed porch at both basement and courtroom level, with an arcade infilled with a classical balustrade. The capitals of the arcade pilasters, one of the most memorable features of the entire design consist of colorfully painted metal ears of corn and tobacco leaves. The major decorative feature is the heavy corbel cornice with a brick arched corbel course, derived from Italian Romanesque architecture, which borders the frieze. The strong contract of solid and void resulting from the richly molded ornament and the boldly pierced form make this one of the finest Victorian courthouses in North Carolina.
The perfectly preserved courtroom may be the most magnificently decorated courtroom in North Carolina and is a living document of Southern 19th century justice. The original judge’s bench, a richly paneled cabinet is set in front of a deep plastered alcove framed by a wide molded plaster surround with Corinthian colonnettes. At the rear of the alcove is a door which used to lead to a small stair which provided a private entrance and exit for the judge. Even the courtroom benches are original, of utilitarian design softened by ornate case-iron arm rests. The ceiling, worthy of a Victorian opera house, contains deeply paneled coffers, separated by richly molded plaster ribs which radiate out from a center circular coffer with an openwork plaster medallion. The ribs extend onto the walls and terminate in plaster foliate corbels.
The Caswell County Historic Courthouse was the site of the murder of John "Chicken" Stephens, which eventually led to the Kirk-Holden War, and the impeachment of Governor William Holden. During the early 1800's, both the speaker of the North Carolina House and the President Pro Tempe of the North Carolina Senate resided in Caswell County. Caswell has been home to Congressman, scholars, writers and a scoundrel or two.
The Richmond-Miles History Museum is located in the Graves-Florance-Gatewood House (circa 1822), also known as the Gatewood House. The museum is named for the paternal grandmothers of Thomas Richmond McPherson and Kathy Simmons McPherson, whose Richmond and Miles ancestors were in Caswell County before the Revolutionary War. Kathy's grandmother, Minnie Simmons Miles, was an active member of the Cherry Grove community her whole life which spans more than 90 years. She was a lover of history, a former teacher and also the cafeteria manager in Caswell County Schools. Tom's Richmond ancestors were in the old Richmond District of the county, the Leasburg/Hightower area. Leon Richmond's farm is in the general area and he is a distant relative.
The Graves-Florance-Gatewood House is named for its owners in chronological order. Well known artist Maud Florance Gatewood's Florance grandparents bought the house around 1880. Maud's mother was born in the room that is now occupied by the County Director of Economic Development. (See the plaque on the door). The building was first a school, then a residence, and was built in bits and pieces. There are many ghostmarks throughout the house that gives clues to that.The Richmond-Miles Museum offers displays and artifacts of Caswell County history.
The county seat since 1792, Yanceyville's National Register Historic District encompasses a magnificent antebellum courthouse, courthouse town square, and 23 other antebellum houses and buildings.
Located in Historic Milton, the two story brick tavern is one of the earliest remaining taverns in North Carolina. Constructed in a sophisticated Federal style with three front entrances and interior end chimneys, it was partially destroyed by fire in 1988. The building was the residence and workshop of cabinet maker Thomas Day from mid 1840 to his death in 1860. It now houses Milton’s Town Hall.
Make sure you visit Milton which is located in northeastern Caswell County and enjoy its history, the shops, Aunt Millie's restaurant and the hospitality of its people...a museum without walls, Milton preservation of the past is also its future!
Known as a "museum without walls", Milton was incorporated in 1796 and was at one time a bustling center of commerce, cultural and social life. This National Register Historic District has been called one of the most perfectly preserved examples of 19th century commercial districts. Many original buildings in downtown Milton are currently being renovated.
The Thomas Day story was the subject of a five page article in a past issue of the Washington Post. His work was extraordinary. In fact, Craftique Furniture has chosen Thomas Day's furniture as the featured line in their collection of historic reproductions. Mr. Day's story is even more extraordinary in that he was a free black man and an entrepreneur in the pre-Civil War South. His beautiful work graces Woodside Inn, the Milton Presbyterian Church and many other homes in the area. Union Tavern, where he lived and worked, is open to the public at advertised times and by appointment. Admission is $6 each. To arrange a visit please call Harriet Brandon at 336-234-7366 or Jack Williams at 336-234-7331. Day’s furniture is worth seeing and his story is worth hearing. Thomas Day's furniture was featured in an exhibit at the North Carolina History Museum for over nine months.
The history of Leasburg began with the history of Caswell County. When Caswell County was created in 1777, the area to become Leasburg was selected as the county seat and the location of the first Caswell County courthouse. However, partially due to other pressing matters, including the Revolutionary War, no courthouse was constructed until 1784. As the area around the courthouse began to develop, the need for a formally incorporated town was recognized, and Leasburg was created by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1788. Leasburg was named in honor of William Lea.
The feeling for Leasburg is captured in the following stanza from a poem written by Miss Wilhelmina Lea (1843-1936), daughter of Solomon Lea:
I love this village 'mong the hills- My good fore fathers' home- And oh, I'm never satisfied, When far from it I roam. I yearn so for familiar sights, I can't contented be, Until I get back home again, These hills once more to see.