The first hardy band of Moravians who came down the Great Wagon Road in 1752 and founded Bethabara probably took turns as lookout for the camp. It was a tradition that came with them from Pennsylvania that a guard or night watchman blow the hours on a conch shell horn. Count Zinzendorf had even composed a series of rhymes for each hour of the night that the watchman was to recite. Supposedly this noise from the horn kept the Cherokees from attacking Bethabara during the French and Indian War. (The original thin blue line.).
After Salem was founded in 1766, and more Moravians left Bethabara for the new town, the need for peace and security was even greater. It was important to know what strangers were in the town and how they could be assisted. Among the first public jobs with pay in Salem was that of Night Watchman.
Much of what we know of early Salem comes from the Salem Diary. The Salem Diary is a fascinating look at the day-to-day lives of the people of Salem from its beginning until the late 1850’s. The diaries have been translated from German to English and were published in the 1960s by the NC Department of Archives and History. Copies can still be found in the North Carolina Room of the Forsyth County Public Library.
After Salem incorporated in 1857 and Winston incorporated in 1859, both towns kept minutes of their elected officials' meetings. Since the Commissioners, especially those in Salem, discussed almost all the news in town, their minutes, written in beautiful cursive script and preserved in bound volumes, are the historian’s gold mine. The early Winston Minutes are sometimes excellent and sometimes exasperatingly vague! All the Minutes books, from 1857 to the present, are preserved in the City Secretary’s vault in City Hall.
This history was compiled by J.R. Snider, former city employee.
"Those Minutes books, along with contemporary newspaper accounts in the North Carolina Room of the Library, are the source for the vast majority this document. The rest is from my 32 years associated with the Department and having the privilege of talking to some of the “old heads” through the years to gain their personal insights."
"I would be remiss without thanking Sgt. Bill Parks whose unpublished 1960s timeline of the Police Department history was the seed for this document." --J.R. Snider 2008
... see also the Winston-Salem City Government History web page