Though on a beautiful July afternoon cruising down Highway 150 between fields of hay or pasturage, you might be led to think that the town of Summerfield was named for just such a lovely occasion. But it was actually not named for such a beautiful scene at all.
In fact, by all rights, Summerfield should be named “Bruce’s Crossroads,” after Charles Bruce, its most prominent early citizen and founder. Originally living in the Buffalo Creek community nearer to downtown Greensboro, Mr. Bruce moved from Buffalo Creek to the present day area Summerfield in 1769, and established his homestead near the cross roads of a main road going north from Greensboro to Virginia, and the other road going west to Salem. Bruce’s house became quite the meeting place for folks traveling along these respective roads, and the area came to be known as Bruce’s Crossroads. This crossroads is more or less the intersection of present day Summerfield Road and Highway 150, where the town hall meets on the northwest corner.
Charles Bruce also was to become a famous patriot, resisting the call to loyalty to the King of England. His house became a meeting place of folks sympathetic to the patriot cause. Bruce’s activities and reputation were so well known that the Provincial congress authorized him and another GuilfordCounty resident Mr. Daniel Gillespie to recruit troops for the Guilford militia, headed by Colonel James Martin. His recruiting continued throughout the war, as did the growth of his wealth, as he received one schilling for every man recruited.
There are two well known events that occurred in our near Bruce’s Crossroads.
On February 11, 1781, as General Nathaniel Greene was into the second day of his strategic “retreat” from his camp at Guilford Courthouse to Virginia across the Dan River, advance guards of Cornwallis’s cavalry under Colonel Bannister Tarleton came across Colonel Lighthorse Harry Lee’s bugler, a young man named James Gilles, who was summarily killed. Gilles was buried in the Charles Bruce’s family graveyard, and his death did not sit well with Colonel Lee, who would have his chance a month later prior to the battle of Guildford Courthouse to deal with Tarleton’s cavalry.
Charles Bruce also had the privilege of hosting the President of the United States, President George Washington, who passed through Bruce’s Crossroads on his southern tour in June of 1791, and stayed with Bruce at his homestead there.
But, as things would go, the town that Charles Bruce founded was later named after a visiting evangelist, a Reverend John Summerfield who came through in 1812 to preach and seek to establish a church. He ended up settling in the area. He must have made a good impression, as the growing community came to be named after him