Linda Duyer: From Woodcock to Kuhn’s to Purnells

Kuhn’s Jewelers of Salisbury has a history as a jewelry business which maintained a presence right downtown since 1853.

Just as craftsmanship is handed down from family to family or from business to business, Kuhn’s Jewelers passes along a legacy that makes it the sixth oldest continuous jewelry business in the United States.

The original owner was Amos Wilson Woodcock, who started the business in 1853. Amos Wilson Woodcock (b.1830) was one of nine children born to Pennsylvania farmer Thomas and Eleanor Woodcock.

Amos’ paternal grandfather reportedly owned a line of Conestoga wagons running freight between Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.

In 1845, Amos moved to Baltimore where he became a watchmaker and jeweler. In 1850, he married Sallie H. Cannon of Bridgeville, and a year later they settled in Salisbury.

Their children included Samuel Woodcock who also went into the watchmaking business.

In 1862, Amos married his second wife, Julia Anna Harris Wright. Four children were born to this union, including “The General” Amos Walter Wright Woodcock (b. 1883).

Amos Woodcock sold his business in 1906 to Guy M. Fisher, who was originally from Wythe County, Va. Fisher was born in 1875 to the Rev. James Fisher, one of the first ministers of the Siloam Methodist Church in Wythe County.

Fisher sold his business to his employee, John A. Kuhn, in 1923. Fisher later moved from Salisbury to Roanoke, Va., where he died at the age of 86 in 1961.

The store remains today on West Main Street in Salisbury operating as Kuhn’s Jewelers. Jack Purnell first took over the business in 1953.

The business occupied different locations along Main Street.

The business’ current location in the heart of downtown occupies a space where the Byrd Opera House stood before the devastating fire of 1886.

Consider the resilience of Amos Woodcock, for he lost his early business in the 1860 fire only to lose his business, yet again, in 1886.

Since 1923, Kuhn’s has stayed put at its location in Downtown Salisbury, weathering the highs and lows of development on the thoroughfare. The tenacity and resilience of Kuhn’s reflects the same spirit of Amos Woodcock — as well as the Purnells — who refused to leave downtown.

That resilience for Kuhn’ has paid off, with Kuhn’s representing a solid commitment to downtown and now enjoying renewed spirit and growth.

Linda Duyer lives in Salisbury and is in the process of writing a book about the community’s history. Contact her at


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