Commentary

How North Carolina Came to Be Shaped Like It Is Today

When did North Carolina become known as North Carolina and acquire its modern shape? We must go back to Jan. 24, 1712, when Edward Hyde became the first governor of what became known as North Carolina, or more specifically, he was the first official governor under the Lords Proprietors. Carolina was then divided into two … Continued

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Tourgee, Albion (1838-1905)

Reconstruction was a turbulent time, filled with significant political and social change, violence, and controversy. One controversial figure was Albion Tourgee, an Ohioan who moved to North Carolina for economic opportunities.

Commentary

Civil War, N.C. PLayed Crucial Role at End of Conflict

During the horrid conflict (1861-65), when brother sometimes fought brother, approximately 750,000 lives were lost. Some scholars contend that one-sixth of the Confederate dead hailed from the Old North State. Unlike today, soldiers from the same county comprised regimental companies. As a result some communities — North and South — lost a great percentage of their male population. Many soldiers returned home alive yet without an arm, leg, or several limbs. Other veterans suffered from what doctors called “shell shock” during World War I and what we now call Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

Commentary

Poole, Charlie

During the early-1900s, Charlie Poole was a pioneer banjoist. His three-finger-style influenced later well-known musicians, and his group, North Carolina Ramblers, gained national fame. 

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Plank Roads Were An Economic Engine Before the Civil War

During the 1840s, North Carolinians embraced the use of plank roads to improve the state’s economy. These wooden highways — built mainly with private funds — were purported to be an improvement over rough, dirt roads and a necessary step to create an intrastate (and eventually an interstate) trade network of plank roads, railroad hubs, and seaports.

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Dismal Swamp Cannal

The Dismal Swamp Canal, originally chartered in 1790, connects the Albemarle Sound and the Chesapeake Bay. Opened in 1805, the Dismal Swamp Canal created a passage between northeastern North Carolina and Norfolk, Virginia. By the mid-1820s, the Dismal Swamp Canal was widened and deepened enough for reliable commercial traffic. As a result, international trade shifted from Albemarle Sound towns, like Edenton, to Norfolk, Virginia.  Today the Dismal Swamp Canal is primarily used for recreational boating.

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Somerset Place Plantation

Somerset Place is plantation located on the land around Lake Phelps in present-day Washington County, North Carolina. Originally part of the Lake Company’s holdings that spanned over 100,000 acres in Washington and Tyrrell Counties, the area became Somerset Place in 1816 when Josiah Collins, Sr. became sole owner of the Lake Company.  Under Collins’s grandson, Josiah Collins III, Somerset Place became one of the largest plantations in the South.  Today it is a North Carolina State Historic Site.

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Collins III, Josiah (1808-1863)

Josiah Collins III was the heir to Somerset Place, a plantation originally built by his grandfather Josiah Collins, Sr. and his Lake Company.  Josiah Collins III was educated at Harvard and later studied law in Litchfield, Connecticut, and lived in New York City for a time. At age 21, he assumed management of Somerset Place and turned it into one of the largest and most prosperous plantations in the South.  Josiah Collins III died shortly after the beginning of the Civil War and his death marked the end of Somerset Place. It was restored as a North Carolina State Historic Site in the 1950s and 1960s.

Commentary

Urban Slaves a Little-Recognized Part of The Southern Economy

In my experiences teaching United States history, students have a misconception that American slavery was strictly an agricultural institution. The slave labor experience, in particular, is considered one that existed entirely on plantation fields, sowing, tending, or harvesting cash crops — tobacco, cotton, or rice. Not all rural slaves worked on plantations, though; many toiled on smaller farms with a workforce of five to 10 field hands.