Preserving the Colfax name

February 20, 2019

Later this week, a sign is expected to be put on the gymnasium of Colfax Elementary School to pay tribute to Colfax School’s basketball team from 1962 and to serve as a sign noting the location of the town.
“This started out as a way to commemorate the basketball team,” said Roger Nelson. “But there are no signs in Colfax.”
Nelson, who coached basketball and baseball and taught math and PE at Colfax School from 1958 – 1962, said the basketball team won the 1A State Championship and was one out of roughly 400 1A schools at the time.
“In 1963, Northwest Guilford High School and the school were consolidated,” he said, noting that was when Colfax School, which was a K-12 school at the time, became an elementary school.
Dottie Little Pyrtle, who graduated from Colfax School and played basketball under Nelson, said when the original Colfax School was standing, there was a sign out for the school, but now with the new school for Colfax Elementary School, the sign is hidden on the side away from the view of commuters.
“There also used to be a roadside sign between the school and the post office for the town, but it was taken down at some point,” she said. “The goal is to keep Colfax on the map, and we thought this might help.”
With the idea of putting up a sign on the original gymnasium, Pyrtle got approval and sent emails to people she knew who graduated from Colfax School that she thought might be interested in seeing a sign erected, with the help of Roger Nelson, Ronnie Beeson and Dale Marshall.
“We have been concerned for a long time that there is not a sign, except for the name on the post office and the fire station, that tells anyone traveling on Market Street that they are traveling through our little community of Colfax,” she said. “We also felt that the school lost its identity when the new elementary school was built and the name of the school was placed on the side of the school away from the street.”
Pyrtle said they raised $3,202.50 to purchase the sign and expect that it will be erected on the gymnasium sometime this week. The sign will be six feet by eight feet and will be lighted. The colors used for the sign are the school colors prior to 1963 (blue and gold).
“We have also contacted the North Carolina Department of Transportation to ask if they could replace the small roadside sign that used to identify our Colfax community,” she said.
Nelson and Pyrtle shared some of the history of Colfax. Nelson noted that prior to the 1800s, Colfax was known as Dover Community and settled by the Quakers.
“It was later named after Schuyler Colfax, who was the vice president with President Ulysses S. Grant,” Nelson said.
Pyrtle noted that Colfax is listed on the National History of Historic Places, where it states that around 1790, Col. Isaac Beeson, a Quaker by faith, built a home in the area which is now Rt 1, Box 770, Colfax, North Carolina. Word passed down through generations states that the bricks used in the construction were made in the area along the riverbank near the house. The home and property is owned by Fred B. Bame.
Other historical facts about Colfax that Pyrtle found:
On April 16, 1791, George Washington, on his southern tour, toured NC. It is documented he visited Salisbury and Salem (now Winston-Salem). From Salem, he traveled to the courthouse in Guilford County. On the way to the courthouse on June 2, 1791, he stopped and drank water from a spring on the Carl Beeson Farm behind Colfax School. It is also said that during that same trip, Mr. Washington travelled along and across what is now Marshall Smith Road in Colfax.
After the 1790 census, and according to the first four deed books of Guilford County, 85.7% of signatures indicated the citizens had the ability to read and write. This was the highest literacy rate of any county studied.
The Dover Friends Church was located on North Bunker Hill Road in Colfax in the late 1700s. The graveyard still remains.
The Colfax Persimmon Festival is held annually on the historic Stafford Farm in Colfax.
A huge attraction in Colfax is the Triad Farmers Market.
Pyrtle noted that Colfax School, which is no longer standing, was built in 1924, while the gymnasium, which was built in 1955, still stands and is used by the elementary school.
“Today, the population is approximately 4,000,” Pyrtle said.
“Colfax has a rich and lustrous history and we would hate for that to be lost,” Nelson added.
Another way Pyrtle said Colfax is losing its identity is through mispronunciation, which she aims to correct.
“Over the years, I’ve heard more and more people mispronounce the name of the town,” she said, as she noted she started her campaign while setting up an art booth at the Colfax Persimmon Festival last year, where she placed a sign that stated, “The Col in Colfax is pronounced like the Col in Colorado (in case you’re not from around here).”
Nelson said his father, Harvey Nelson, was born in 1900 and pronounced the town as it is known by locals.

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