It’s Better in Person! At least, that’s the name of the website. And, perhaps, it is better in Person County once you discover the hidden treasures and gems here, including the Person County Quilt Trail that began in 2015 and consists of 29 barn quilts so far.
On the west side of Hyco Lake, you’ll find Person County, which was once a part of four counties. The county was named for Brigadier General Thomas Person, who was a Revolutionary War patriot that made significant contributions to the area. Person county is said to have been inhabited by Native Americans for as many as 12,000 years. (That’s a staggering number.) Settlement began in the mid-17th to 19th centuries by the English, French, Scots, Scots-Irish, German, and more. Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Moore, another Revolutionary War hero, purchased property in the south of the county in 1778 and called his plantation Mt. Tirzah. He had proclaimed the county a “Lost Eden.” During the Civil War, Person County supplied between 800 and 1,000 soldiers to the Confederate Army. A granite monument at the Courthouse in Roxboro honors E. Fletcher Satterfield, who carried the Confederate flag at Gettysburg.
The northern part of the county is mostly rural and full of beautiful scenery and bucolic pastures. Be sure to take a drive through and enjoy. You’ll also discover many of the stops on the Person County Heritage Trail, which was established in 2015 to recognize and commemorate the many farms, churches, homes, businesses, and other structures which date back 100+ years and have played a role in the areas heritage.
Hesters Store is an unincorporated part of the county named for a country story that stood near the intersection of Gordonton Road, Hesters Store Road, and Wilson Road for more than 100 years. The site is now the Hesters Store station of the Hurdle Mills Volunteer Fire Department.
Castle Mont Rouge
We started the day visiting an unusual site, not only for Person County but for North Carolina itself–an actual, bona fide castle! Built by sculptor and local art teacher Robert Mihaly on Red Mountain on the border of Person and Durham counties (not far from the Orange County Speedway), this castle is one man’s lifelong dream. He had built it years ago (construction started in 2005) and even lived in it for a few years, then abandoned it for 14 years. Mihaly is now in the process of restoring the castle, which has suffered from its years of abandonment and vandals. Mihlay plans to turn into a wedding venue as well as a bed and breakfast establishment. He has purchased the lot across from the castle to use for parking.
Be warned, in Mihaly’s own words, the drive up the mountain road is “not for the faint of heart.” In addition, it is private property. So, permission is needed before visiting. I was able to get permission from Mihaly in advance, and I had a great meeting with him while there on the property. Our visit was in February, so I am sure the property looks much different in summer. (P.S. Neighbors are very wary of trespassers and vandals, so I don’t suggest heading there on your own.)
From the castle, it was just a short drive to Roxboro, the county seat and named for the Scottish town of Roxburgh (yet pronounced the same). Interestingly, prior to adopting the name, this community was known as “Moccasin Gap”. Roxboro was incorporated on January 9, 1855 and is the only municipality in the county.
We visited a few small shops downtown at The Shops at Hall’s Way (44 West Gordon St.), then enjoyed an impromptu private tour of The Kirby Civic Auditorium/Gallery. The Kirby Cultural Arts Complex (213 North Main St.) houses a classic theater/performing arts center, two art galleries with changing exhibits, studios, and event spaces.
In Uptown Roxboro, you will also find shops, restaurants, a quaint and historic downtown with beautiful architecture (yes, look up), and the Person County Museum of History (309 North Main St.), featuring six buildings. There you will find historic artifacts surrounding the railroad’s introduction, baseball, dolls, china, Native Americans, and the local military history. The museum was scheduled to be open on the day of our visit, but was closed for an unknown reason. So, we were only able to walk around outside and peek in the windows. I will try to stop by another time when passing through. Admission is free, and donations are accepted.
Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm
Just outside or Roxboro proper, you’ll discover Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm (465 Yarbrough Rd., Roxboro) among the rolling hills. The working farm is run by Jake and Sandy Pleasant, and they are as nice as their name. The 260 acres of former tobacco land has been in Jake’s mother’s family since 1797! And originally, it was 640 acres! All of the land is still in the family, except for 5 acres. Jake and Sandy together currently raise about 75 buffalo on the farm. They’ve had as many as 130. In 1728, buffalo were actually living around Hyco Creek, so they were native to the area. Jake started the farm with the purchase of 8 calves in 2001.
Jake drove us throughout the property and we were able to catch one heard of buffalo–and buy some bison meat while we were there! Be sure to ask about the difference between buffalo and bison.
Aside from raising and caring for buffalo, they also rent out their facility for weddings, parties, and events for up to 200 people with a 33-foot pond-side gazebo and 900-square-foot adjacent deck, plus large tents, modern bathrooms, and outdoor kitchen, and more. And they are open for tours ($9) and meat sales by appointment, or you can catch them at the local farmer’s market on Saturday mornings selling their high-quality, nutritional bison meat.
Rock of Ages Winery & Vineyard
The last stop of the day was at the Rock of Ages Winery & Vineyard (1890 Charlie Long Rd.) in the Hurdle Mills community. This winery was also built on a former tobacco farm with Italian/ English/old western influences overlooking 26 acres of grapes. They’ve won more than 40 awards and also host weddings and events at their venue. Stop in for a tasting and peruse through their gift shop. (You’ll also find Tunnel Creek Vineyards in Roxboro).
Coming in March… Wilson County!