While many people today know Rockford as a sleepy historic village in southern Surry County, it once was a thriving county seat that was a center of government and commerce.
And the threads of its early history are still woven through the outreach of numerous families spawned in Rockford whose descendants might live across the country, but still cherish that legacy — which explains an annual event scheduled there Saturday.
Officials of the Rockford Preservation Society are excited about the “Remember Rockford Families Reunion,” which is now in its seventh year. It will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The day’s activities will begin inside Rockford Methodist Church, where The Nonesuch Playmakers Theatre Group led by Brack Llewellyn will perform a living history drama portraying the village’s earliest founders and community leaders.
They include John Thomas Longino, Jesse Lester, William Polk Dobson, Reuben Grant, Richard Horne, Moses and Thomas Ayers and Valentine Holyfield.
The reunion also will feature the sharing of family and local history, tours of the preservation group’s historic buildings and traditional music by Ashley Holyfield and Devin Matthews.
A barbecue lunch will be served at Rockford Methodist Church at a cost of $10 for adults and $5 for children.
This annual event allows families whose ancestors were a vital part of the development of Rockford and Surry County to reconnect. But anyone interested in the preservation of the village — and just history buffs in general — also are invited to attend.
Participants are encouraged to bring family histories and photographs to share with others there, with a copier to be available in the church.
They also will be able to tour notable sites such as a Masonic lodge built in 1797, along with a general store and others.
Near and far
Organizers of the Remember Rockford event are never exactly sure who will attend the reunion, but the distance some of the family descendants come from is a testament to how Rockford’s roots have extended.
The first reunion in 2010 attracted more than 100 people from nine different states, representing 13 family names.
On any given year, folks might show up from Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia and additional states who are descended from Rockford families, along with locals and others from across North Carolina.
Some of their ties to Rockford might go back 300 years.
“We have people who come every year and never miss it and we’ll have folks who come just whenever they can,” said Hannah Holyfield, a longtime member of the Rockford Preservation Society.
In 2015, two ladies from Florida attended the reunion after coming to Surry County to do family research, and “just happened” to read an announcement about the event in the newspaper, Holyfield recalled.
“So they came down to Rockford to see what was going on,” she said. “It was a coincidence that they happened to be here the weekend we were doing it (the reunion).”
Those planning to attend can register by emailing Holyfield at [email protected]
On Friday, Surry Community College will have a local history/genealogy room available for public research until 2:30 p.m.
Rockford was founded in 1790 and incorporated in 1819.
It served as the Surry County seat until 1850 and also as a commercial center with hotels, taverns and retail stores.
The Rockford Preservation Society was formed in 1972 to acquire, restore and maintain buildings of historic importance along with serving as a repository of knowledge about the community’s places and people.
Among the structures it has kept alive are the circa 1850 Dudley Glass House, the Masonic lodge, the 1830s-era York Tavern and a 1900 post office.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.