The last decade of the 19th century and first decade of the 20th century was an ambitious period in Wilkes County.
The establishment and rapid growth of North Wilkesboro then is the obvious example, but there were several other endeavors that achieved various levels of success.
Stone Mountain was a focal point of one ambitious effort that received widespread publicity at the time but achieved little more. The plan was to extend train tracks from “Roaring River Station” east of North Wilkesboro to Stone Mountain, capitalize on granite and timber resources there and continue across the Blue Ridge Mountains into Alleghany County.
From that point, it was supposed to continue in one of a couple of directions to connect with a railroad line being built from Abingdon, Va., to the coalfields of southwestern Virginia.
In 1897, the Stone Mountain Granite & Timber Co. and Stone Mountain Railway were incorporated to help carry out these plans. Stone Mountain Granite and Timber, with $100,000 in capital, owned Stone Mountain on the Wilkes-Alleghany line and thousands of acres of timberland in northwestern North Carolina.
There were others involved but the primary force behind these two entities was a man named George W. Hinshaw of Winston.
Hinshaw was already known for his accomplishments as a business leader in Winston and as president of the Winston Land & Improvement Co., which developed North Wilkesboro after the train came in 1891. Hinshaw Street here is named for him.
Hinshaw helped found the Winston Chamber of Commerce and served as its president. He was known for employing the first woman clerk in Winston.
Hinshaw began buying acreage within what now is Stone Mountain State Park in 1895 and continued through 1902. Much of it was unclaimed land purchased from the state. Thousands of acres in Wilkes, mostly deep in the mountains, still weren’t claimed In the late 1800s and early 1900s.
According to newspaper reports in the 1890s, some of the rights of way were purchased for extending the tracks from Roaring River to Stone Mountain but it never was built.
Similar efforts in Elkin resulted in the Elkin & Alleghany Railroad being built from Elkin to as far north as the point where U.S. 21 starts climbing the mountain.
Hinshaw adjusted his plans by pushing — without success — for extending a line from the Elkin & Alleghany to Stone Mountain after its construction started in 1907.
The N.C. Granite Co. had already been established in Mount Airy by then and it soon acquired the Stone Mountain property, maintaining this ownership until donating land that included Stone Mountain itself to the state for establishing a state park in 1969.