The “Old Stone House,” built for Michael Braun (Brown) in 1766, is a significant reminder of the influence of German immigrants in the Yadkin River valley. Described by architectural historian Thomas T. Waterman as the “noblest of the North Carolina stone houses,” the building remained the home of the Braun family until 1911 when it was sold to Benjamin Sumner. In 1959 the Rowan Museum purchased it, and the former domicile became a museum honoring the Brauns.
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Set on a high water table and covered by a gable roof, the two-story stone structure has a four-bay front facing south and a one-story frame kitchen on the east elevation. Just above and to the right of the main entrance is a stone slab inscribed with the names of Michael Braun and his wife and the lettering, “10-Pe-Me-Be-Mi-Ch-Da-1766”. This appears to be an abbreviation of the German phrase, “Pensum Meines Bendigem Mit Christim Dank” meaning “My undertaking completed thanks to God.” The 10 and 1766 refer to the date of completion, October 1766.
Born in 1721 in Hesse-Darmstadt, Michael Braun immigrated to the American colonies, arriving in Philadelphia aboard the vessel St. Andrew Galley in September 1737. He remained in Pennsylvania for twenty years, becoming a wheelwright and printer. In the 1750s, Braun moved his wife Margaureta and two young sons to Rowan County along the Great Wagon Road. He purchased several acres from John Dunn. Braun bought and speculated on property in and around Salisbury before finally settling near present-day Granite Falls.
In 1761, Braun served as a county constable and magistrate, followed in 1765 by service as an overseer of roads. He owned and operated several businesses, amassing a sizable income off of an ordinary, tannery, and the renting out of at least two other houses. By 1790 Braun owned fifteen slaves.
Braun served as a justice of the peace for the county in 1777. There remains no record of his activities during the Revolution, and it is unknown what his allegiances were. Tradition states that Cornwallis’s army camped in front of Braun’s stone house on February 2, 1781, during the Guilford Courthouse campaign.
Braun married three times and had at least ten children, several of whom died in childhood. Braun wrote his will on October 12, 1807, and died the following February. In his will, he left the house to his third wife Eleanor, who was pregnant, appointing Montford Stokes the guardian of the unborn child.
Carl Hammer Jr., Rhinelanders on the Yadkin: the Story of the Pennsylvania Germans in Rowan and Cabarrus Counties North Carolina (1965)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 215—sketch by Michael Braun by Jo White Linn
Davyd Foard Hood, The Architecture of Rowan County (1983)
Richard L. Brown, A History of the Michael Braun Family (1921)
Roscoe Brown Fisher, Michael Braun (Brown) of the Old Stone House, His Influence, and His Descendants (1975)