The History of the Town of Rockwell
Reprinted from The Salisbury Post
April 10-18, 1953
Written by Linda Bailey, Staff Writer
This eastern Rowan County town of nearly 1,000 people was known as Rockwell in the 1800s and an attempt was made then to discover how it was named and if it was ever called anything else.
Mrs. Mabel Peeler Kluttz, who could be called the First Lady of Rockwell because she says she has lived here longer than anyone else, remembers her grandmother talking of this early history.
Her grandmother, Mrs. Mary Peeler, Mrs. Eli Holshouser, and another resident name unknown but from the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church community, visited the elderly of the area to learn the history.
They were acting upon a request of the officials of the Yadkin Railroad, which was being built through Rockwell at that time. The officials wanted to change the name of the town because it sounded too much like the name of a town in Virginia, Mrs. Kluttz say, but as it turns out, the folks in the community would have none of that.
They told Mrs. Peeler the town had always been Rockwell and Rockwell it would remain.
It is thought the town was named for a rock well located at a shady camping spot north of the present town limits at old Peter Miller farm. Travelers who stopped at the well to rest overnight marveled at the sweet water from the rock well. Most wells in the area had lumber curbing instead of rock curbing, and the lumber gave the water a certain taste, they said.
There was a post office located at the rock well, and this was later moved to the town of Rockwell.
Some historians have written that the town was earlier called Millville but the longtime Rockwell residents say this is incorrect. Millville was a settlement located at Heilig’s Pond near Lowerstone Church.
"There was a roller mill there on Second Creek," Mrs. Kluttz says, "but Rockwell has never been called Millville or anything but Rockwell." There was also a post office at Heilig’s Pond, which could account for the reason some assumed Rockwell was called Millville. This post office and other post offices, scattered throughout the community and operated from homes, were closed when the Rockwell Post Office opened in 1872 with Charlie Holshouser as the first postmaster.
From her childhood, Mrs. Kluttz can remember the camp ground where the rock well was located. "It was a pretty place with great oak trees hewed out for the horses to drink from," she says.
The camping area was also known as Courthouse Hill because there was talk of locating the county courthouse there. Although this never became a reality, the name stuck.
Mrs. Kluttz say people from this section of the state traveled to South Carolina for salt and these people camped at the rock well.
The railroad, completed in 1890, was a boost to the town, as was the location of the Salisbury-Albemarle Highway (U.S. 52) through town in 1925.
Mrs. Kluttz’s father, J. W. Peeler, became stationmaster two months after the station opened. An ex-slave, Edmont Lindsey, was said to be the first person to board the train at the Rockwell station. He rode to Salisbury for 30 cents.
The town was surveyed into street by Augustus Kluttz. Mrs. Kluttz says the surveyor first set up his equipment near Depot Street but his view was blocked by an early store, Beaver’s Store, and he was forced to move to the intersection of what is now U.S. 52 and North Carolina 152.
The town was incorporated in 1911. Mrs. Kluttz’s uncle, George Peeler, served as the first mayor.
The primary historical attractions in the Rockwell area are Grace(Lower Stone) United Church of Christ and Organ Lutheran Church located just a few miles from town. Both of these churches date to the 1700's and have graveyards adjoining the churches which have proved to be a treasure-trove of genealogical information. Five miles to the northwest is the Old Stone House built of native hand hewn granite by Michael Braun (Brown) from 1758 to 1766. It is known as the oldest German house in North Carolina. It has been a popular tourist attraction since being restored by the Rowan Museum, Inc. This house and the two churches are on the Rowan tours.