Rowan Museum offers local history course

Published 12:07 am Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Many people mark their calendars for a trip to the beach or the mountains but starting on Thursday, curious time travelers can book their passage on a journey through Rowan County history. 

In collaboration with Historic Salisbury Foundation, the Rowan Museum is presenting “Our Place in History,” a 9-week course featuring behind-the-scenes tours of Rowan County’s historic sites and presentations by local experts, covering everything from Native American history through the 20th century. 

“It used to be a 13-week course,” said Evin Burleson, newly-hired Rowan Museum director. “We found that was taxing on people to come, so we narrowed it down. It’s a 9-week class with one class for any questions you may have.”

Although he just became the director, Burleson has worked with the Rowan Museum for six years. He explained that the schedule isn’t the only time element shortened this year. 

“The classes are more concise,” Burleson said. “It used to be two hours or so, and now it is an hour and a half to make it less difficult for people to attend.”

However, Burleson explained that the topics the students will be learning are roughly the same and that students will hit the ground running with life before and during the Columbian exchange. 

“The first group will focus on what we know about the earliest history of Mississippian cultures and early Spanish exploration, what we know from their expeditions and what they wrote about the Native Americans living here.

“It’s an overview of what we know about the Native American tribes before European colonization,” Burleson said.  

A subsequent session called ‘The Wagon Road’ explores the German, Scots-Irish and English settlers coming down from Philadelphia and settling in the area.

The slate of site visits features St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, the China Grove Roller Mill and Soldiers Memorial A.M.E Zion Church. 

“Some of those are intentional,” Burleson said. “We’re going to Soldiers Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church to discuss the Civil War. The whole name is to honor U.S. soldiers who died in Confederate prisons, specifically, the Black U.S. soldiers who died in Confederate prisons. Where better to talk about the Civil War than at the church that comes out of that time period.” 

Burleson commented that some subject matter would alter how people popularly perceive various periods of history. 

“The 1865-1900 class one is done by Dr. Gary Freeze,” Burleson said. “He has some fascinating information that changes how we think about the situation after the Civil War. He contradicts the idea that the South was dirt poor and uses historical records to show that what people remember about Southern poverty came a few years later.”

Admission to the course is structured based on the student. Newcomers to Rowan County (last 12 months) are offered the course for $25. For Historic Salisbury Foundation and Rowan Museum members, the fee is $30. For non-members, the price is $35.

“We want everyone to know the history of the place that they live,” Burleson said. “With the newcomers, we have a lot of teachers who come in and are teaching students in Rowan County but don’t know anything more about it than they might read on a historical marker on the side of the road. We offer the discount, especially for newcomers to learn that history and become part of their community.”

Students from the 2020 class can sign back up at no cost. 

Burleson expects the class roster to be anywhere from 40-60 students. 

For more information or to reserve a seat, go to or contact Historic Salisbury Foundation at 704-636-0103.