The origin of the town of Salem dates back to January 1753, when Bishop August Gottlieb Spangenberg, on behalf of the Moravian church, selected a settlement site in the three forks of Muddy Creek. The area was then called "die Wachau" (Latin form: Wachovia) named after the Austrian estate of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (Wachovia Bank takes its name from this area where it was founded). The land, just short of 99,000 acres, was subsequently purchased from John Carteret, 2nd Earl Granville.
he town established on the chosen site was given the name of Salem (for "peace"). On 6 January, 1766, the first tree was felled for the building of Salem.
In 1849 the town of Winston was founded, named after a local hero of the Revolutionary War, Joseph Winston, who was well-known in the town of Salem. Shortly thereafter both Winston and Salem were incorporated into the newly formed Forsyth County. It thrived as an industrial town, producing tobacco products, furniture and textiles. In 1851 Winston was designated the county seat, and, with plans to connect the cities of Winston and Salem, the county courthouse square was placed just one mile north of Salem's square.
In 1889, the United States Post Office Department combined the mail offices for the two towns, and the towns were officially joined as "Winston-Salem" in 1913.