Museums & History

Experience History in Surry County’s Small Towns


Throughout Surry County, history jumps off the pages of books — and off of TV screens — creating scenes, sounds, tastes and experiences that help us wrap our modern minds around what life was like decades or centuries ago.

Check out these museum exhibits, live demonstrations, walking tours, concerts and seasonal events, and get a glimpse of the lives of past Surry County residents. Learn how they followed the rhythms of the seasons — working from sunup to sundown during harvest; devising recipes to make use of overripe fruit and produce; spending long winter evenings indoors weaving, mending or crafting by candlelight; building community through music.

(Scroll down to see individual listings)


The Andy Griffith Museum transports visitors to 1960s Mayberry. Walk through the life of Mount Airy native Andy Griffith, from his time on campus at UNC-Chapel Hill to his starring role in the beloved sitcom “The Andy Griffith Show,” and on to his courtroom days as Ben Matlock.

The museum is the centerpiece of Mount Airy’s weeklong Mayberry Days celebration every September (Sept. 23-29, 2024). Other historical Mayberry-related attractions include Squad Car Tours in a fleet of 1960s Ford Galaxies and Snappy Lunch, which has been in business since 1923 and was mentioned by Griffith on the show.

Learn about other famous sons and daughters at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, such as country singer Donna Fargo, the original Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker, and renowned fiddler Tommy Jarrell. The museum traces settlements in this area of the Blue Ridge Mountain foothills, from Native Americans to railroad pioneers, to turn-of-the-century farmers and shopkeepers.

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In addition to its permanent collection, the museum hosts rotating exhibits. Currently on display (through May 15, 2024) is “Toy Time: Those Fabulous Folk Toys.” Travel back in time when no batteries were needed, when toys used gravity, inertia, rhythm, harmonic motion and mechanics to entertain by tumbling, flying, sliding and rocking. May-November, the museum also hosts walking Ghost Tours on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m.

Historical Locations

In Elkin, hikers walk in the footsteps of history along the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. In September 1780, Joseph Winston and 150 men camped along the banks of Big Elkin Creek before departing the next morning to make their way to the battle of King’s Mountain during the Revolutionary War. Two miles of the trail wind in and around Elkin Municipal Park.

The Village of Rockford was the seat of Surry County, from 1789-1850. When governmental operations moved to Dobson, Rockford declined. But then the railroad came through in 1890, reviving Rockford to a bustling place of commerce. Today the village is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sit a spell on the porch at the 1890s Rockford General Store, a favorite stop for old-fashioned candy, local products like honey and molasses, and homemade food from the grill. The store serves two Surry County heritage dishes, the savory ground steak sandwich and sweet sonker. These menu items place the store on both the Surry Sonker Trail and Surry Ground Steak Trail. The 1914 Rockford Methodist Church is also open for tours. The church hosts Candlelight Christmas in Rockford annually, which includes traditional carols and hymns, hot cider, and cookies.

Horne Creek Farm in Pinnacle, near Pilot Mountain, preserves what life was like on a farm in the Piedmont of North Carolina around the turn of the 20th century. Staff members and volunteers plant crops, do chores, bring in the harvest, and prepare for winter the same way the Hauser family did more than 100 years ago. The farm’s Southern Heritage Apple Orchard contains approximately 400 different varieties of apple trees. Each October, Horne Creek hosts its largest event of the year: the Cornshucking Frolic. What was once a community event to help out a neighbor is now a historical celebration of agricultural traditions.

Heritage Dishes

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In addition to Rockford General Store, the Surry Sonker Trail includes six additional stops serving the cobbler-like dessert. Dating back to lean times when home cooks prepared the dessert to make use of overripe fruit, sonker recipes vary from one place to the next. One thing is certain, the dessert is native to this area and doesn’t stretch far beyond Surry County borders.

In April 2022, the national Hungry for History organization erected a roadside marker in downtown Dobson, honoring sonker’s cultural significance. The Sonker Festival takes place annually on the first Saturday of October at the 1799 Edwards-Franklin House.

Not to be outdone by its sweet counterpart, the Surry Ground Steak Trail has 11 locations serving the local delicacy. The Depression-era dish allowed home cooks to stretch beef by adding water and flour to create a loose-meat concoction, similar in consistency to a sloppy joe. Downtown Dobson holds the North Carolina Ground Steak Festival annually on the second Saturday of June.


Surry County has long been known for its rich stringed-instrument tradition. The region is a hub for old-time music, a precursor to bluegrass known for its rhythmic intensity and drive. The Old-Time Music Heritage Hall resides in Earle Theatre in downtown Mount Airy. The hall shares stories about famous musicians who lived here or traveled here to hone their skills.

Every Saturday at 11 a.m., the legendary radio station WPAQ-AM invites visitors and locals to take part in history as the station broadcasts its live “Merry-Go-Round” program featuring bluegrass, old-time and gospel music from Earle Theatre. “Merry-Go-Round” is the second-longest-running live radio broadcast in the country, behind only the “Grand Ole Opry.”

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