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A Description of North Carolina in 1843




*North Carolina, one of the southern United States, is bounded north by Virginia; east by the Atlantic; south by South Carolina; and west by Tennessee. It is between 33° 50' and 36° 30' north latitude, and between 75° 45' and 84° west longitude; and between 6° 20' west and 1° 33' east from West. It is 430 miles long, and 180 broad, containing 48,000 square miles, or 30,720,000 acres.

The population in 1790, was 393,754; in 1800, 478,103; in 1810, 555,500; in 1820, 638,829; in 1830, 738,470; in 1840, 753,419, of which 245,817 were slaves. Of the free population, 240,047 were white males; 244,823 white females; 11,226 were colored males; 11,505 colored females. Employed in agriculture, there were 217,095; in commerce, 1,734; in manufactures and trades, 14,322; navigating the ocean, 327; the canals, rivers, &c., 379; learned professions, 1,086.

This state is divided into 68 counties, which, with their population in 1840, and their capitals, are as follows:

Anson, 15,077, Wadesborough;
Ashe, 7,467, Jeffersonton;
Beaufort, 12,225, Washington;
Bertie, 12,175, Windsor;
Bladen, 8,022, Elizabeth;
Brunswick, 5,265, Smithville;
Buncombe, 10,084, Ashville;
Burke, 15,799, Morganton;
Cabarrus, 9,259, Concord;
Camden, 5,663, Jonesboro’;
Carteret, 6,591, Beaufort;
Caswell, 14,693, Yanceyville;
Chatham, 16,242, Pittsboro’;
Cherokee, 3,427, Murphy;
Chowan, 6,693, Edenton;
Columbus, 3,941, Whitesville;
Craven, 13,438, Newbern;
Cumberland, 15,284, Fayetteville;
Currituck, 6,703, Currituck C. H.;
Davidson, 14,606, Lexington;
Davie, 7,574, Mocksville;
Duplin, 11,182, Kenansville;
Edgecombe, 15,708, Tarboro’;
Franklin, 10,980, Louisburg;
Gates, 8,161, Gatesville;
Granville, 18,817, Oxford;
Greene, 6,595, Snow Hill;
Guilford, 19,175, Greensboro’;
Halifax, 16,865, Halifax;
Haywood, 4,975, Waynesville;
Henderson, 5,129, Hendersonville;
Hertford, 7,484, Winton;
Hyde, 6,458, Lake Landing;
Iredell, 15,685, Statesville;
Johnston, 10,599, Smithfield;
Jones, 4,945, Trenton;
Lenoir, 7,605, Kingston;
Lincoln, 25,160, Lincolnton;
Macon, 4,869, Franklin;
Martin, 7,637, Williamston;
Mecklenburg, 18,273, Charlotte;
Montgomery, 10,780, Lawrenceville;
Moore, 7,988, Carthage;
Nash, 9,047, Nashville;
New Hanover, 12,312, Wilmington;
Northampton, 13,369, Jackson;
Onslow, 7.527, Onslow C. H.;
Orange, 24,356, Hillsboro’;
Pasquotank, 8,514, Elizabeth City;
Perquimans, 7,346, Hertford;
Person, 9,790, Roxboro’;
Pitt, 11,806, Greenville;
Randolph, 12,875, Ashboro’;
Richmond, 8,909, Rockingham;
Robeson, 10,370, Lumberton;
Rockingham, 13,422, Wentworth;
Rowan, 12,109, Salisbury;
Rutherford, 19,202, Rutherfordton;
Sampson, 12,157, Clinton;
Stokes, 16,265, Germanton;
Surry, 15,079, Rockford;
Tyrrel, 4,657, Columbia;
Wake, 21,118, Raleigh;
Warren, 12,919, Warrenton;
Washington, 4,525, Plymouth;
Wayne, 10,891 Waynesboro’;
Wilkes, 12,577, Wilkesboro’;
Yancey, 5,962, Burnsville.

Raleigh, situated near the centre of the state, 6 miles west of the Neuse river, is the seat of government.

Along the whole coast of North Carolina is a ridge of sand, separated from the main land in some places by narrow and in other places by broad sounds and bays. The passages or inlets through it are shallow and dangerous, and Ocracoke inlet is the only one through which vessels pass. Capes Hatteras and Lookout are projecting points in this belt, and off them, particularly the former, is the most dangerous navigation on the coast of the United States. Cape Fear is on an island off the mouth of Cape Fear river. For 60 or 80 miles from the shore, the country is a dead level; the streams are sluggish and muddy, and there are many swamps and marshes. The soil is sandy and poor, excepting on the margins of the streams, where it is frequently rich. The natural growth of this region is almost universally the pitch pine, which is much larger than the same tree in the northern states. This tree affords tar, pitch, turpentine, and lumber, which constitute an important portion of the exports of the state. In the swamps rice of a fine quality is raised. Back of the flat country, and extending to the lower falls of the rivers, is a belt of about 40 miles wide, of a moderately uneven surface, a sandy soil, and of which the pitch pine is the prevailing natural growth. Above the falls the country is uneven, the streams have a more rapid current, the country is more fertile, and produces wheat, rye, barley, oats, and flax. The western part of the state is an elevated table land about 1,800 feet above the level of the sea, with some high ranges, and very elevated summits. Black mountain, in Yancey County, is 6,476 feet high, the highest land in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Roan Mountain is 6,038 feet, and Grandfather Mountain is 5,556 feet high. The soil is generally good, but west of the mountains it is still more fertile. Throughout the state Indian corn is raised, and in some parts, considerable cotton. In the low country, grapes, plums, blackberries, and strawberries grow spontaneously; and on the intervals canes grow luxuriantly; and their leaves continuing green through the winter, furnish food for cattle. The low country is somewhat unhealthy, but in the elevated parts the air is pure and salubrious. In the elevated country, oak, walnut, lime, and cherry trees, of a large growth, abound. In the northern part of this state, and extending into Virginia, is the great Dismal Swamp, which is 30 miles long and 10 broad, and covers a surface of 150,000 acres. In the centre of it, and within the state of Virginia, is Lake Drummond, 15 miles in circuit. A canal passes through this swamp, mentioned in the account of Virginia, with a feeder 5 miles long from Lake Drummond. This swamp is thickly wooded with pine, juniper, cypress, and in its drier parts, with white and red oak. In some parts, the thickness of the growth renders it impervious. South of this, between Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, is Alligator Swamp, which has a lake in the centre. It is computed that 2,500,000 acres of swamp in this state might be easily drained, which would afford a rich soil for the cultivation of cotton, tobacco, rice, and Indian corn.

There were in the state in 1840, 166,608 horses and mules; 617,371 neat cattle; 538,279 sheep; 1,649,716 swine; poultry to the value of $544,125. There were produced 1,960,885 bushels of wheat; 3,574 of barley; 3,193,941 of oats; 213,971 of rye; 15,391 of buckwheat; 23,893,763 of Indian corn; 625,044 pounds of wool; 1,063 of hops; 118,923 of wax; 2,609,239 bushels of potatoes; 101,369 tons of hay; 9,879 of hemp and flax; 16,772,359 pounds of tobacco; 2,820,388 of rice; 51,926,190 of cotton; 3,014 of silk cocoons; 7,163 of sugar; the products of the dairy were valued at $674,349; of the orchard at $386,006; of lumber at $506,766. There were made 28,752 gallons of wine.

The principal minerals of North Carolina are gold and iron. The gold region lies on both sides of the Blue Ridge, and extends east of the Yadkin. It exists in grains, and in small masses and lumps, some of them worth from 100 to 7 or 8 thousand dollars, and in veins. Many persons have engaged in digging for gold, and with some success. A considerable amount is sent annually to the Mint of the United States.

The principal rivers are the Chowan, 400 miles long, navigable for small vessels 30 miles; Roanoke; Pamlico, navigable for 30 miles; Neuse; Cape Fear, the largest river in the state, 280 miles long, with 11 feet of water to Wilmington; the Yadkin, which forms a part of the Great Pedee in South Carolina; and the Catawba, which also passes into South Carolina. The sluggishness of the rivers as they approach the sea, and the sandy character of the coast, cause them to be extensively obstructed by bars at their mouths. As this state has few good harbors, much of its commerce is carried on through Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. Wilmington, on Cape Fear River, 40 miles from the sea, is the most commercial place in the state. Newbern, on the Neuse, 30 miles from Pamlico Sound, has some commerce. Fayetteville, at the head of boat navigation on Cape Fear River, has considerable trade.

The exports of the state in 1840, amounted to $387,484; and the imports to $252,532. There were 4 commercial and 46 commission houses engaged in foreign trade, with a capital of $151,300; 1,068 retail dry goods and other stores, with a capital of $5,082,835; 432 persons employed in the lumber trade, with a capital of $46,000; 213 persons employed in internal transportation, who, with 24 butchers, packers, &c., employed a capital of $9,000; 1,784 persons employed in the fisheries, with a capital of $213,502.

The amount of homemade or family manufactures was $1,413,242; there were 3 woollen manufactories and 1 fulling mill, producing articles to the amount of $3,900, with a capital of $9,800; 25 cotton manufactories, with 47,934 spindles, employing 1,219 persons, producing articles to the amount of $438,900, with a capital of $995,300; there were 8 furnaces, producing 968 tons of cast iron, and 43 forges, &c., producing 963 tons of bar iron, employing 468 persons, and a capital of $94,961; 2 smelting houses, employing 30 persons, and produced 10,000 pounds of lead; 10 smelting houses employed 389 persons, and produced gold to the amount of $255,618, with a capital of $9,832; 2 paper mills, producing articles to the amount of $8,785, with a capital of $5,000; hats and caps were manufactured to the amount of $38,167, and straw bonnets to the amount of $1,700, employing 142 persons, and a capital of $13,141; 353 tanneries employed 645 persons, with a capital of $271,979; 238 other leather manufactories, as saddleries, &c., produced articles to the amount of $185,387, with a capital of $76,163; 16 potteries employed 21 persons, producing articles to the amount of $6,260, with a capital of $1,531; 89 persons manufactured machinery to the amount of $43,285; 43 persons manufactured hardware and cutlery to the amount of $1,200; 698 persons manufactured carriages and wagons to the amount of $301,601, with a capital of $173,318; 323 flouring mills produced 87,641 barrels of flour, and with other mills employed 1,830 persons, producing articles to the amount of $1,552,096, employing a capital of $1,670,228; vessels were built to the amount of $62,800; 223 persons manufactured furniture to the amount of $35,002, with a capital of $57,980; 40 persons manufactured 1,085 small arms; 15 persons manufactured granite and marble to the amount of $1,083; 276 persons produced bricks and lime to the amount of $58,336; 367 persons manufactured 1,612,825 pounds of soap, 148,546 pounds of tallow candles, 335 pounds of spermaceti and wax candles, with a capital of $4,754; 2,802 distilleries produced 1,051,979 gallons, and with breweries, which produced 17,431 gallons, employed 1,422 persons, and a capital of $180,200; 38 brick or stone, and 1,822 wooden houses, employed 1,707 persons, at a cost of $410,264; 26 printing offices, 4 binderies, 26 weekly, and 1 semi-weekly newspapers, and 2 periodicals, employed 103 persons, and a capital of $55,400. The whole amount of capital employed in manufactures was $3,838,900.

The University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill, 27 miles west north west from Raleigh, was founded in 1791. Davidson College, in Mecklenburg County, was founded in 1837. In these institutions there were in 1840, 158 students. There were in the state 141 academies, with 4,398 students, 632 common and primary schools, with 14,937 scholars; and 56,609 white persons over 20 years of age, who could neither read nor write.

In the low country the Methodists and Baptists are the most numerous religious denominations. In the elevated country west are many Presbyterians. The Methodists and Baptists have each about 20,000 communicants; the Presbyterians about 11,000. The Episcopalians have a bishop and 20 ministers; the Lutherans have 18 ministers, 38 congregations, and 1,886 communicants. Besides these, there are some Moravians, Roman Catholics, Friends, &c.

There were in October, 1839, in this state, 6 banks and branches, with a capital of $1,500,000, and a circulation of $1,165,857.

The constitution of this state was adopted in December, 1776, which was revised and modified in 1835. The senate and house of commons are elected biennially by the people. The senate consists of 50 members, and the house of commons of 120. The senate is chosen by districts, the number apportioned by the amount of state taxes paid. The members of the house of commons are apportioned among the counties according to their population. The governor is chosen for 2 years by a joint vote of both houses, and is eligible only 4 years in 6. There is an executive council of 7 members, chosen biennially by a joint vote of both houses. In case of the death of the governor, the duty devolves upon the speaker of the senate. The judges of the supreme court are chosen by a joint ballot of both houses of the legislature, and hold their offices during good behavior. The attorney general is appointed by the legislature for 4 years. The right of suffrage extends to all free white persons of 21 years of age, who have been inhabitants of the state for 12 months previous to the election; but in order to vote for a senator a freeman must possess a freehold of 50 acres of land. The legislature meets biennially at Raleigh, on the second Monday of November, and the governor is chosen in December following.

The works of internal improvement are not so numerous and extensive in this, as in some other states. The Wilmington and Raleigh railroad extends from Wilmington 161 miles to Weldon, on the Roanoke, and connects with the Portsmouth and Roanoke railroad. It was commenced in 1836, and completed in 1840. The Raleigh and Gaston railroad extends from Raleigh 85 miles to Gaston on the Roanoke, where it unites with the Petersburg, Greenville, and Roanoke railroads. Northwest canal connects Northwest river, 6 miles, with the Dismal Swamp canal. Weldon canal extends 12 miles round the falls of the Roanoke. Clubfoot and Harlow canal extends from the head waters of the Clubfoot, 1 miles to those of Harlow creek, near Beaufort.

The first permanent settlement in this state was made on the eastern bank of the Chowan, and called Albemarle, by emigrants who fled from religious persecution from Nansemond, in Virginia about 1660. Several previous attempts to settle it had failed. It had been granted to different proprietors at different times; but in 1663 it was transferred to Lord Clarendon, and some others, who procured a constitution of government to be prepared for it by the celebrated John Locke. The chief magistrate was called the Palatine, and there was an hereditary nobility. The legislature was called a Parliament. This constitution was found so defective, that, in 1693; it was abolished. In l729, the crown purchased the whole of the Carolinas for £17,500 sterling; and the king immediately divided it into two provinces, North and South Carolina, which ever after continued separate. In 1769, this province successfully resisted the oppression of the British ministry. Two years after 1,500 of the inhabitants, assuming the name of regulators, rose in rebellion. Gov. Tryon fought and defeated them. Three hundred were killed in battle; and of those taken, 12 were condemned for high treason, and 6 were executed. During the war of the revolution the inhabitants of this state were the devoted friends of their country. The severe battle of Guilford Court House, fought within its limits, is well known. In 1776, early in the war, this state formed a constitution, which, with some recent modifications, continues to the present time. In convention, November 27th, 1789, this state adopted the constitution of the United States; yeas 193, nays 75; majority, 118.


Source: A Complete Descriptive And Statistical Gazetteer Of The United States of America, By Daniel Haskel, A. M and J. Calvin Smith, Published By Sherman & Smith, 1843




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