North Carolina After The American Revolutionary War

During the years after the war, the pieces of many families remained shattered and separated. Although independence had been achieved, many continued to repair their homes, bury their loved ones and heal the wounds that were left behind. The lives of the settlers were forever changed by the onset of the war and it continued well after the last battle was fought on Carolina soil. To say this time was filled with excitement or happiness for all of the settlers would not be true. Hardships were many which resided with loss, separation and anxiety about the future. The settlers were strong-willed and held the capabilities to overcome the weight of sorrow. They watched their children grow and dreamed what they would become. They were loyal to their new country and worked hard to improve their surroundings. The Carolina wilderness was no longer the untamed forest. The state began to take on a new identity and with this new form emerged opportunities, wealth, knowledge and so much more.

Although business did thrive throughout the war, the years following were met with new opportunities and new entrepreneurs. The most popular business among the settlers was farming.. England discouraged cotton crops prior to the war in order to protect their woolen and linen manufacturers. After the war, cotton was beginning to be grown on large acreage plantations. These large farms were located primarily in the eastern part of the state. Tobacco was the most important crop prior to the war and was grown throughout the state. In 1730, Virginia banned the importation of North Carolina tobacco and in 1734, the first tobacco market opened in Bellair, Craven County. Pork was considered a wise investment for many settlers and proved to be quite profitable during the years after the war. Cattle was beginning to grow as well as poultry.

18th century clock (2)

18th Century Clock

Clock and Watchmakers were operating throughout the state after the war, only a few existed prior. Many of these were also jewelers, silver and goldsmiths. Charles Frederick Huguenine traveled to North Carolina and lived in Halifax. He was trained in Pennsylvania and operated a business in 1798. In Bethabara, Adam Keffler was listed as a clock manufacturer. Mecklenburg County recognized Jonas Cohen, native of London. Robert Eugan worked in Edenton and Peter Strong worked in Fayetteville. A total of 40 watchmakers existed in North Carolina during the 18th century.

The State Bank Bill was passed in 1805 and the first banks were Cape Fear and New Bern. Both of these originated in 1804. The State Bank of North Carolina was chartered and it began operating in 1811. The Federal Government did not issue paper notes until the Civil War. The individual banks produced the bank note currency that existed during the early years of the 19th century.

Gold mining became extremely popular in Cabarrus County after 1799. Underground mining was present all throughout the state by 1825. Everyone in the area would mine for gold in some form during this time, hoping to “strike it rich”.

The first paper mill was built near Hillsborough in 1771. The mill was built to help with the paper shortage during the war. Another paper mill was constructed and operated by Gottlieb Shober in 1790 in Salem. It thrived strongly until the year of 1879 when the mill shut down production. The first newspaper was the North Carolina Gazette, published in New Bern in 1751.

Many do not realize that two chain merchants existed in 18th century North Carolina. They were John Hamilton & Co. and Buchannan, Hastie & Co. These two companies were the dominant merchants on the eastern section of the state. They were both Scottish firms that would set up several stores and hire storekeepers to operate them. Both companies were very successful during the years after the war. To name all of the merchants of the state would require writing a book, so the following is a sample of the 18th century well-known merchants. Chowan County-John Porter, Bath-Giles Shute, Beaufort County-Edward Moseley, Craven County-John Carruthers, Salisbury-James Harrell (James operated his store from 1750-1780), Bethabara-Traugott Bagge (Traugott operated the store in Bethabara from 1768-1772, then in Salem from 1772-1800), Hillsborough-William Johnston, Pitt County-Matthew Scott, Mecklenburg County-Jeremiah McCafferty, Caswell County-John McCoy.

caldwell log park

The New Mill Located At David Caldwell Historic Park

Schools were not organized on a statewide basis following the Revolutionary War. However; several schools did exist within the state. A school was built in the year of 1745 in Edenton and another one built in New Bern in 1764. A school was opened in Hillsborough during the year of 1766. David Caldwell, a minister, organized a school in 1761 located in present day Guilford County. It was named Caldwell Log College and served as an academy. Dr. Charles Harris operated an apprenticeship school and trained approx. 90 students in Cabarrus County.

Years following the war shows approx. 3,500 physicians operating in North Carolina. Only 400 of these had undergone some sort of training and about 200 of these actually held medical degrees. Medical provisions were very sparse during the late 18th century and early 19th century. Moravians used peach blossoms to fight smallpox and sassafras leaves to purify the blood. White oak was used for dysentery. Many herbs and spices were used as medicine for the sick such as sage, rosemary, mint, mustard, nutmeg and many more. Common diseases during this time were Malaria, Typhus, Influenza, Smallpox, Whooping Cough, Tubercolis, Dysentery, Scurvy, Arthritis and Worms.

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 allowed the western lands to be open to new settlements. This created new dreams for many of the North Carolina settlers and many migrated west through the Appalachian Mountains. For some families that endured great hardships from the war, the expansion allowed them to leave the war memories behind.

Cumberland_Gap

Cumberland Gap

Lands west of the Carolina mountains were settled mainly by different Indian tribes during the war. Beginning soon after the war, many settlers began to look for land investment in the west and soon settlements were allowed in Indiana Territory. This territory originated in 1800 and consisted of the northwestern sections from the Kentucky River to Fort Recovery. Present day states include Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and sections of Ohio and Minnesota. Records and documents can be difficult to locate for the Indiana Territory, but not impossible. In time, the territory was divided into individual territories and later each one claimed statehood.  The Great Wagon Road was still a vital link to and from North Carolina at this time and now many new roads were created that linked new communities and towns. The stage coach lines were more organized and developed by 1830. Town life was changing and growing daily for the settlers as rural life remained basically the same. As families were leaving North Carolina, just as many were arriving, so the state showed significant growth following the war.

great wagon road

Map of  The Great Wagon Road

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18th Century Farming

Carolina Frontier

Among all of the pioneers who traveled The Great Wagon Road to Carolina, 90% of these settlers were farmers on their new lands. Once the family was established and the lands were cleared from trees and rocks, the planning began for the cash crop.  Wheat was the number one crop in the piedmont area of North Carolina. Farmers also grew corn, oats, flax and hemp. Tobacco was not widely grown at this time because of the lower prices before and after the American Revolutionary War. The oxen that brought many settlers to their new homes, now bring manure to the fields and pull the plows through the soil. Each day began at sunrise regardless how large the farm was or how small. Majority of farms were at least 100 acres and out of this 100, the farmer utilized as much acreage as possible for crops, livestock and gardening.

A fiber crop would consist of flax, hemp and cotton. These crops were not grown as a cash crop; however, many farmers did indeed profit from these. Fiber crops were woven and spun into coarse cloth for domestic use. Oats were widely grown and greatly exported to other colonies. Oats were also grown for horse feed. Rye and barley were grown and sold for local brewing which was very common among the early settlers.

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Flax Field in North Carolina

Apples, peaches, pears and plums were also grown on farms. Apples were used abundantly as well as peaches for cider and brandy. All of these orchard crops would be dried as well for later use. Corn fields would also produce peas and beans. Farmers would plant these crops in between the corn plants to take advantage of land space. During the year of 1772, black-eyed peas were greatly sought and over 20,000 bushels were exported from Virginia to England and the West Indies.

The garden would consist of sweet and Irish potatoes, pumpkins, melons and cabbage.  The garden space would differ from farm to farm depending on seedling availability and taste. Farming was hard work, but farmers learned to plant crops that required less maintenance and yielded more profit.

Some farmers would sow wheat in between corn hills or in other words, in between the rows. This would be called a winter wheat and would continue to grow until winter when it became dormant. The following spring, it would resume it’s growth and was ready for harvest by June. Wheat was harvested near the ground with a sickle. It was then stacked upright until fall or winter. Threshing the wheat took place by beating the harvest to separate the wheat berries from the hull or by leading a horse to walk over the hulls to allow them to separate. Manually threshing the wheat yielded approx. 5 bushels a day, while using a horse to thresh the wheat yielded three times the amount in one day.

sickle

18th Century Hand Sickle

After the threshing, the wheat was cleaned by removing the straw and dust. The wheat was then stored until it was taken to a local mill. Wheat was an excellent cash crop during the 18th century. Wheat held twice the market value versus corn and many of the first settlers prospered due to the income that wheat provided.

Farmers would not plant the same crops in the same fields year after year. Instead, they would alternate their fields in order to obtain the best yields. Years of planting would damage the soil and one way to provide nutrients back into the soil was planting turnips. Turnips were widely known to enrich the soil for the coming year’s crop. All farmers used this method and the turnips were used for eating and livestock feed.

Livestock and poultry were just as important with farming as were the crops. All farmers owned chickens. Eggs were vital with their diet and chickens were also used as a food source for the family. Many farmers owned ducks and turkeys as well. Chickens were allowed to roam and roast where they pleased. It wasn’t until much later when chicken coops became popular. Feathers were used for bedding and quills were used for writing purposes.

wheat

Wheat Field in Piedmont Area of North Carolina

Pigs or swine were brought with many of the pioneers when they arrived in Carolina. Pigs multiplied quickly and required little care for their well-being. They also supplied a great source of meat for the family. Most pigs provided the family with 100 to 150 pounds of meat. The pigs would eat chestnuts, acorns, orchard fruit and roots. Butchering a pig would usually occur during the late fall to early winter months in order to supply the family with a food source during the cold winter. Pigs also protected the family farm by challenging wolves, bears and killing poisonous snakes. Because of this, pigs were allowed to roam freely on the land and farmers would mark their pigs by placing notches in an ear.

Soil conditions would vary from farm to farm, depending on the location. Many farmers endured large rocks while others endured sloping and hilly land. The early farmers of North Carolina managed to make their land work for their needs. They quickly learned the weather patterns and planted by the signs of the moon. They felt these practices were so important that the methods were passed down from one generation to the next. A farmer’s life was hard, but the new freedom that filled the air after the American Revolutionary War, inspired the pioneer family to rise with the sun, complete their chores and celebrate their achievements. A majority of the farms located in Carolina were small to medium size and the entire family worked the farm. Each member of the family was equally important to the survival of the family unit.

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Fence along Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

The one advantage the early settlers had in North Carolina was the rich soil upon their lands. Many of the northern colonies suffered from poor soil which yielded small crops. Here in North Carolina, the soils were untouched by farming and yielded huge quantities of crops. This is one of the main reasons why the settlers traveled to the piedmont area.

1786 Pricing

  • Flour-barrel-$4.00
  • Wheat-bushel- .58
  • Corn-bushel- .33
  • Oats-bushel- .25
  • Rye-bushel- .50
  • Tobacco-100 pounds-$2.50
  • Beef-100 pounds-$2.50

There were many jobs on the early farms. Everyday, a task would present itself. Hand tools were mainly used and hard labor accompanied sweat that was needed for prosperity. The changing seasons only changed the chores of the farmer, the work would carry on. The trails these farmers left behind are cherished as we look back upon their lives and share once again their triumphs.

tree and fog