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Faculty of Political Science 
Columbia University 

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Faculty of Poutical Science 
Columbia University 


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My Devoted 




When I first planned this study, it was my ambition to 
write the economic and social history of Chowan County 
from the date of its first permanent white settlement down 
to the present time. Preliminary investigations, however, 
soon convinced me that nothing like a complete history along 
the lines I proposed could be written for the entire period 
of white occupation. Since Byrd's work, published in 
1736, comparatively few economic or social facts have been 
recorded. The writings on this section since then, that have 
been preserved, are principally of either a political or a 
military nature; hence any alleged economic or social his- 
tory of the county covering the last half of the eighteenth, 
and the first half of the nineteenth century, written now, 
would, it seems to me, be largely a matter of pure inference. 
I have therefore thought best to begin my account with a 
period well within the memory of those now living. Some 
of the advantages of this policy are quite obvious. In the 
first place I am then setting down facts attested, not by one 
individual, but by as many individuals as I have thought 
necessary to interview. Furthermore, the interpretations of 
these facts can be had from many angles, and, what is more, 
from those who have played important roles in the history 
of the county during the era under discussion. 

The particular year (1880) chosen as one limit of the 
period is of special advantage in that it is a census year, and 
thus certain data, otherwise unobtainable, are furnished 
ready to hand. Many of these census data are also valuable 
both in checking up data gathered from the people by me 
5] 5 



personally, and in checkijfig up my own observations and 
conclusions. The time when this sketch begins is suffi- 
ciently far removed from^the close of the Civil War for 
conditions to have become fairly normal. This in itself is 
of no small advantage. \^hat is probably ^the greatest ad- 
vantage of all, however, from the standpoint of whatever 
value this study may possess, is the fact that I myself was at 
this time already on the sceiae of action, and have personally 
observed and experienced the major part of the processes, 
conditions, and transformations herein recorded. 

Although this period of three and a half decades is a com- 
paratively short one, it nevertheless encompasses the ma- 
jority of the most important of the economic and social 
changes which have taken place since the first quarter of 
the eighteenth century. Many of the customs, conditions, 
and methods of living in i88o were quite similar to those 
described by Lawson and by Byrd, writing between 1700 and 

During the period under discussion, in manufactures the 
people largely passed from the domestic to the factory type ; 
in agriculture, from the hand tool to the machine tool, and 
from man power to that of animal, steam, and gas; in 
education, from the education of the few to the education 
of the many, and from a non-reading to a reading public ; in 
commerce, from the condition of a high degree of neighbor- 
hood self-sufficiency, and even individual family self- 
sufficiency, to that of contributing to and drawing from the 
markets of the world; in gratification of wants, from a 
pain to a pleasure economy. 

The information which follows with reference to my fit- 
ness to do what is here undertaken, is in recognition of every 
reader's right to know what has been the opportunity of an 
author to obtain a knowledge of the facts whereof he pre- 
sumes to speak, his ability faithfully to describe and correctly 


to interpret them, and the likelihood of his sO' doing. Chowan 
is the county in which I was born and reared, but the past 
eighteen years I have spent chiefly in living and in traveling 
in other parts of the country. Much of this living has been 
not simply " among," but actually " with," the people. In 
fact I have had occasion to break bread with people from 
practically every state in the Union, and that under their 
own roofs. Although the more recent years have been 
spent largely in other portions of the country, frequent visits 
to Chowan have kept me in touch with events there. More- 
over, the summers of 1912, 1913, and the summer and fall 
of 19 14, were spent traveling among, and stopping with, 
the people in the county, for the express purpose of securing 
first-hand knowledge of present-day conditions. 

It has been far easier for me, being a native son, to obtain 
the unvarnished facts than it would be for a stranger, and 
being a product of the times and conditions which I presume 
here to portray should make me more sympathetic in my in- 
terpretation of these facts than would be an outsider who 
had had only a brief sojourn in the county. On the other 
hand, my rather wide business and social relations with those 
in various parts of this and other countries should give me a 
greater perspective, a higher degree of accuracy, and a 
keener sense of justice regarding the interpretations, than is 
likely to be possessed by any one who has always resided in 
the locality. 

From the foregoing the reader naturally would expect 
the method of arriving at the alleged facts to have been 
largely that of observation and personal interview, and in 
this he is quite right. It has not only been my privilege to 
witness practically every process and condition herein men- 
tioned or described, but it has also been my fortune to have 
been directly concerned with most of them. The only thing 
at all in question is the degree of their generalness, and here 


every estimate of mine has been checked up and corrobor- 
ated by persons who are admittedly among the most intelli- 
gent and scientific residents of the county. 

In most cases, estimates have been given in figures rather 
than in such vague terms as " a great many," " a large 
number," " only a few " — terms which connote different 
things tO' different individuals. Because of the method fol- 
lowed, the reader will at least not have to guess at what the 
estimates are. 

In considering the estimates one should ever remember 
the following: 

1. That all of them, unless otherwise stated, are for the 
entire population, including colored as well as white. 

2. That the colored element constitutes more than half 
the population. 

3. That only a half-century ago practically the entire 
colored contingent was cast adrift with nothing but its 
bare hands to earn a living in a territory already completely 
appropriated by the whites ; and that while they have made 
a creditable showing, thus far but comparatively few (pos- 
sibly five per cent) have attained to the degree of wealth 
reached by fifty per cent of the whites. 

If the foregoing facts be kept in mind, estimates which 
might otherwise appear unreasonably small, will be seen to be 
more in accord with what one would expect. 

In this study I have had four ends in view: first, to 
give a picture of the life and customs of the people in 
1880; second, to give a picture of the life and customs of 
the people at the present time, together with some of the 
most prominent economic and social aspects of the inter- 
vening period ; third, to set forth the main causes of the re- 
markable economic and social changes that have taken place 
within the last three and a half decades ; fourth, to point out 



the principal factors which so long delayed Chowan's awak- 
ening, and which continue not only to retard but even to 
prevent the full realization of its enormous possibilities. 
Features seeming to be particularly characteristic of the 
section have been especially stressed. 

Every locality has certain words and expressions that 
are distinctly its own, and uses certain common words and 
expressions in a peculiar sense. It has been my constant 
effort to make the present product appear indigenous to 
the locality treated — to make it such that a " native " would 
at once recognize the author to be one of his own kind. 
Localisms, as well as colloquialisms, wherever they would 
fit in, have been given preference over the more formal 
language, for I see no reason why it is not just as important 
to preserve records of language customs as it is to preserve 
records of social, economic, or any other custom. An ex- 
planatory note has been subjoined wherever it was thought 
the meaning of any term might not be clear to an " outsider." 

Several of my Chowan friends have taken considerable 
interest in my effort — sufficient interest to read over the 
monograph while still in manuscript form, and give me their 
valued criticisms before it was too late to take advantage 
of them. Much of whatever value the work may possess 
is due to their timely suggestions. Some of these good 
friends, although agreeing that the picture here sketched is 
fully in accord with fact, nevertheless have felt that I was 
doing the county an injustice to portray actual conditions 
without making a comparison with conditions in other sec- 
tions of our country. Each time this criticism has been 
offered I have replied that while I knew from actual ex- 
perience that Chowan was neither much worse nor much 
better than numerous other counties in this and other south- 
em states, nevertheless, I was unable for lack of both time 
and space to present a sufficient array of facts to justify a 


comparison. I have attempted to write of Chowan only. 
Should the reader's un familiarity with conditions in the 
South cause him to think this county any worse than 
hundreds of others, he might profitably spend some little 

time in getting better acquainted with the great country ia 
which he lives. 

In the preparation of this study I have received aid from 
many and varied sources, and any merit the work may 
possess, is, in large part, due to others. Those who have 
contributed are so numerous — too numerous to mention 
here individually — that to the great majority of them I 
can only express my thanks in blanket form. There 
are some, however, who have given so much of their valu- 
able time — in furnishing information, in giving timely sug- 
gestions and criticisms, and in helping prepare the manu- 
script — that their services deserve a personal recogni- 
tion, and this I most heartily accord. In this category are 
the following: Mr. Frank Wood, Mr. W. J. Berryman, 
Mr. J. O. Alderman, Dr. Richard Billiard (all of Edenton, 
N. C), Mr. Walter M. Hollowell (Belvidere, N. C), Miss 
Edith Lawrenson (Camden, N. J.), and Prof. R. E. Chad- 
dock, of Columbia. While I owe much to all of these I owe 
still more to Mr. Noah M. Hollowell (Brevard, N. C). It 
is to Prof. Henry R. Seager, however, to whom my indebt- 
edness is greatest. He has not only read the manuscript at 
least twice and suggested valuable revisions but has also 
performed the laborious task of proof-reading it. To all 
who have assisted in any way, I am most grateful. 


Elements of Economic and Social Life 


Physiography '7 

Population 22 


Development of Economic Life 

chapter iii 

Agriculture in the Eighties 4' 

The Chief Farm Products in the Eighties 63 

Agriculture, Fruit Culture, Animal Husbandry, and PouUry Raising in 19 15 80 

Fishing in the Eighties 81 

Fishing in 1915 Jo' 

Manufacturing in the Eighties 107 

Manufacturing in 1915 115 

Lumbering 121 




Communication, Transportation, and Commerce in 1880 127 

Communication, Transportation, and Commerce in 19 15 139 

Labor and Wages 144 


Development of Social Life 

chapter xiv 

Formal Education in the Eighties 157 

Formal Education in 1915 167 

Social Customs 179 

The Church in the Eighties . 195 

The Church in 1915 2c6 

Sanitation and Hygiene 213 

Necessaries, Comforts, and Luxuries in the Eighties 219 

Necessaries, Comforts, and Luxuries ini9i5 229 

chapter xxii 

Progressive and Retrogressive Factors Affecting the Economic and Social 

Development 237 

13] CONTENTS 13 



1. Climatological Data, Chowan County, N. C, Edenton Station: 

1896-1913 261 

2. Climatological Data, Chowan County, N. C, Edenton Station: 

1896-1913 — continued 262 

3. Computations and Interpretations from Tables i and 2 263 

4. Color and Growth of Population of Chowan County, N. C. : 1790- 

1910 264 

5. Color and Nativity of Population of Chowan, N. C, with Edenton ^ 

given separately : 1850-1910 265 

U. S. Census Definitions of « Farm Lands," « Farm," "Farmer," 
"Improved Land," and "Unimproved Land." 266 

6. Land Area, Farms, and Farm Property, Chowan County, N. C: 

1880-1910 269 

7. Domestic Animals, Poultry, and Bees, on Farms, Chowan County, 

N. C: 1880-1910 270 

8. Acreage, Total Production, and Production per Acre of Principal 

Crops, Chowan County, N. C. : 1879, 1889, 1899, and 1909. • • 271 

9. Live Stock Products and Domestic Animals Sold or Slaughtered on 

Farms, Chowan County, N. C: 1879, 1889, 1899, and 1909. . . 272 

10. Farms Classified by Size, Average Number of Acres per Farm in 

Each Class, and the Average Number of Improved Acres per Farm 

in Each Class, Chowan Country, N. C: 1880-19 10 273 

11. Work Animals on Farms, Acres of Improved Land per Work Animal 

and per Standard Work Animal : 1880-1910 274 

12. Select Farm Expenses and Receipts, Chowan County, N. C. : 1880- 

1910 275 

13. Commercial Fishing Tackle of Chowan County, N. C. Its Estimated 

Market Value, and the Labor Force Operating It: 1880 and 1914 276 

14. Estimated Catch of Fish in Chowan Country, N. C, and Its Beach 

Value: 1880 and 1914 279 

15. Horse-power and Steam-power Seine Fisheries in Chowan County, 

N. C, in 1880, and the Number of Yards of Seine Fished at Each 281 

16. Public School Census of Chowan County, N. C. : 1880-84 and 1909- 

10 — 1913-14 282 

17. Expenditures for Public Schools, Chowan County, N. C. : 1880-3 

and 1909-10 — 1913-14 283 

18. Value of Public School Property, Chowan County, N. C. : 1880-4 

and 1909-10 — 1913-14 284 

14 CONTENTS [14 


19. School Census Figures of Chowan Country, N. C. Reduced to Per- 

centages : 188 1-4 and 1909-10 — 1913-14 285 

20. Per Capita Expenditure for Teaching, Per Capita Expenditure for All 

Purposes, and per Capita Value of School Property, for Both White 
and Colored : Chowan County, N. C. : 1880-4 and 1909-10 — 
1913-H 286 

21. Schedule of Regular Salaries for Rural School Teachers in Chowan 

County, N. C, in 19 14, and the Number of Teachers in Each 
Grade for the School Year 1913-14 287 

22. Illiteracy in Chowan County, N. C. : 1900 and 1910 287 

23. Church Communicants of Chowan County, N. C: 1890 and 1906 . 288 

24. Church Communicants of Chowan County, N. C, Compared with the 

Population 15 Years and Over: 1890 and 1906 289 





location and size 

Chowan county is situated in the northeastern part of 
North Carolina, in the angle formed by the junction of the 
Chowan River and the Albemarle Sound, which bound it on 
the west and south, respectively. On its eastern border is 
Perquimans County, and on its northern. Gates. The above- 
named sound and river furnish the county with some 40 
miles of water frontage accessible to fair-sized river craft. 
In size, Chowan is the smallest county in the state, com- 
prising 178 square miles or 133,920 acres. ^ 


" In general the surface of the county consists of level, 
undulating, gently rolling, and rolling areas, interspersed 
with many small swamps and slight depressions." ^ The 
elevation ranges from 50 feet to nearly sea level, with more 
than 50 per cent of the area below 20 feet, and a considerable 
portion below 10 feet. Less than i per cent of the area has 
an elevation as great as 50 feet.* 

1 Both the Twelfth and Thirteenth U, S. Censuses state that the 
county has " approximately 165 square miles " or 105,600 acres. This 
approximation was arrived at, however, before the recent survey, in 
1903. Just why it was not corrected in the last census I do not know. 

2 House Documents, 59th Congress, 2nd Session, 1906-1907. Field 
Operations, Bureau of Soils, vol. Ixxv, no. 352, p. 223. 

•U. S. Geological Survey. Topographical Maps: Edenton quadrangle, 
1903; Hertford quadrangle, 1905; Beckford quadrangle, 1906. The 
estimate as to the per cent of area at various elevations is my own 
based upon these topographical maps. 

17] 17 



Northward Chowan county consists of sandy, upland 
piney woods, except narrow tracts along the river and some 
of its tributaries, where cypress swamps of considerable extent 
are found, and there are also large areas of oak flats. The 
southern portion of the county, lying near the sound and south 
of the Yeopim river, is characterized by a gray clay-loam soil 
and mixed oak and pine forest growth, and is for the most 
part very productive.^ 

The soils of Chowan county are sedimentary in origin and 
are derived from the Columbia formation. This formation 
consists of sands, sandy loams and silt loams interspersed with 
many small swamp areas of peaty and mucky material. This 
section of North Carolina has been covered several times by 
the Atlantic Ocean, and the materials constituting the Colum- 
bia formation were brought down from the Piedmont section 
of the state and deposited under water.^ 

Exclusive of the swamp areas, which cover more than 13 
per cent of the county, the soil is pretty evenly divided be- 
tween the two general types known as the " Norfolk series ** 
and the " Portsmouth series." * 

The Norfolk series occurs in areas where the drainage has 
been fairly well established. The soils are light in color and 
have a small organic-matter content. The soils of the Ports- 
mouth series occur in the large interstream areas where the 
drainage is imperfect, and there has been an accumulation of 
large quantities of vegetable matter, giving to the soils a brown 
or black color.* 

The Norfolk series, as a rule, needs comparatively little- 
artificial drainage, is of a warm nature, and easily culti- 

1 U. S. Census Reports for 1880, vol. vi, p. 563. 
House Documents, op. cit., p. 228. 
*/&td., p. 229. * Ibid., p, 229, 


vated. Much of it, however, leaches very badly. The 
Portsmouth series, generally speaking, is of a closer texture, 
colder, and more difficult to cultivate, than the other type. 
Moreover, it requires considerable artificial drainage and 
also washes and gullies rather easily. 


In the matter of climate the people of Chowan are 
especially favored. The years are not made up of long, 
cold winters and short, hot summers, one shifting abruptly 
into the other ; nor are the years made up of hot, dry seasons 
followed by sultry, rainy ones. Only those who have ex- 
perienced these two types of climate can fully appreciate the 
climate of Chowan. Here the four seasons are quite pro- 
nounced, and spring and fall — the two seasons usually con- 
sidered the most delightful of the year wherever the four 
seasons are found, and the two of which so many climates 
are almost, if not altogether, bereft — ^are the longest sea- 
sons. There is seldom any winter until after Christmas, 
and by the 20th of March usually spring has set in. Sum- 
mer does not begin till about the 20th of June, and by the 
1st of September the autumn days are already proffering 
their greetings. You of Chowan who have sojourned in 
other climes — you can never forget your glorious spring 
and fall days which make one feel that it is really good 
to be alive. 

Another beauty of the climate is its comparative freedom 
both from monotony, and from great extremes of heat and 
cold.^ People who have lived in certain sections of Cali- 
fornia, for instance, know how tiresome even good weather 
can become. There, where mild, clear days follow each 
other in long successions, one finds himself feeling that a 
hail-storm, a cyclone, a blizzard — almost anything to break 

1 Cf. table I, p. 261, 


the dull monotony — would be a welcome change. Bright 
sunshiny days are very desirable, and Chowan has them, 
but they come interspersed with rainy ones. Coming thus, 
they are appreciated as they never could be if there were 
sunshiny days only. The rain is just as welcome as the 
sunshine; each heightens the pleasing effect of the other. 
The average annual number of clear days is 168, while 98 
other days are partially clear, leaving only loi on which the 
sun fails to shine at all.^ 

Those from Chowan who have wintered in the North 
and Middle West, hugging steam-pipes and coal-stoves for 
days at a time while the mercury was out beyond zero and 
still traveling away from that center — they can appreciate 
the short, comparatively mild winters of Chowan. Though 
there are never any great extremes of temperature here, 
the range from 0° to 101° ^ is quite sufficient for variety. 
Even these extremes come seldom and are of short duration. 
In only two of the past eighteen summers has the temper- 
ature exceeded 98°,^ while the average of the highest single 
temperatures reached each year was only 96.6°.* There 
seldom comes a night when one does not need some cover, if 
sleeping out in the open or in a well-ventilated room. 

The records for the low end of the thermometer show 
that only once from 1896 to 19 13 did the mercury touch 
the zero point, and for sixteen of the eighteen years it never 
went below 11°, while the average of the lowest single tem- 
peratures reached each year is but 13.4°.® The days on 
which the temperature in the sunshine fails to rise high 
enough for the ground to start thawing are considered very 
cold, and seldom occur. Generally there are from one to 
three snows a winter, but the fall is usually light,® and rarely 

^ Cf. tables 2 and 3, pp. 262-3. ^ Cf. table i, p. 261. 

*Ibid. * C/. table 3, p. 263. 

^Ibid. « C/. table I, p. 261. 


is the ground covered for more than two or three days at 
a time. The kilHng frosts cease early in the spring and hold 
off till well along in the fall/ thus giving a growing season 
of sufficient length to produce two crops annually on the 
same piece of ground, with the exception of cotton, which 
crop requires the full season in which to mature. 


The distribution of the average annual precipitation of 
49.39 inches, with a mean variation of only 5.49,^ while not 
uniform throughout the year, nor even during the growing 
season, can hardly be called bad, when the average highest 
monthly precipitation is only seven and three-quarter inches, 
and the average lowest, more than i inch.* Frequently 
there are days at a time with no rain fall, but as far back 
as the records go not a single month has passed without 
some precipitation.* Such is the precipitation and its dis- 
tribution that the farmer whose land is well drained and in 
good tilth, is practically certain of a fair crop, even in the 
most unfavorable years. 

1 Cf. tables 2 and 3, pp. 262-3. 

2 Cf. tables i and 3, pp. 261 and 263. 

* Cf. table I, p. 261. 



time of the first settlements 

Since the psychology as well as the environment of a 
people has much to do with its activities, and since certain 
traits are handed down little changed thru many gener- 
ations, some knowledge of the first white settlers of Chowan, 
and of the later additions, would seem quite apropos. The 
first permanent white settlements made in North Carolina 
were in the territory at present embraced by Chowan and 
the adjoining county of Perquimans.^ It is not known, as 
in the case of the Jamestown, Plymouth, and some other 
colonies, just exactly when the beginnings of these settle- 
ments were made. It is known, however, that the Virginia 
colony — the outskirts of which by 1640 were not over sixty 
miles from the Albemarle Sound — was quite firmly estab- 
lished from 1630 on; that the Albemarle locality was a very 
desirable one as regards climate, productivity, and acces- 
sibility for the smaller vessels ^ of that time ; that it was 
comparatively easy of approach for people from Virginia 
coming either by the sea route or inland (there being several 
water courses leading from this section up into Virginia, or 
near the line) ; and that the Virginia colony was constantly 

^Colonial Records of North Carolina, 30 volumes (1886-1914, 
Raleigh), vol. i, pp. ix-x. 

2 In the early colonial period Roanoke inlet had, at times, as much as 
fifteen feet of water, tho the depth varied from month to month 
and from year to year, eight-foot draft vessels not infrequently striking 
in passing thru. Cf. Colonial Records, vol. i, pp. 99-100. 

22 [22 


throwing out prospectors seeking to better their conditions. 
In view of these facts it is quite probable that the Albe- 
marle region was receiving settlers from this source at least 
as early as 1650. 

There are also preserved to us documents which indicate 
that Europeans were settled here by 1650, or very soon 
thereafter. Item no. 374 in Book A ^ of the Perquimans 
County Records is a recorded deed made to George Durant 
on March i, 1661, by the King of the Yeopim Indians. In 
this deed mention is made of another tract of land " form- 
erly sold to Sam. Pricklove." In 1663 the Lords Proprie- 
tors commissioned Berkley " to constitute and appoint Gov- 
ernors and all other necessary Officers both military and 
civil, and to make, enact and ordayne Lawes by and with 
the advise and consent of the freemen of the said Province 
or of the greater part of them there delligates ore deputies.'' 
He was empowered to " nominate, constitute and ap^ 
poynt such persons as he shall conceive fitting to be and 
continew Governor of all that parte of the province afore- 
said which lyeth on the north east side or starboard side 
entering the river Chowan now named by us Albemarle 
river." ^ By 1666 the Albemarle country had become 
of such importance in the production of tobacco, that the 
Maryland General Assembly in passing an act that no to- 
bacco be cultivated in said province during the year 1666, 
made it conditional on the following clause : " Provided that 
the Honble Sir William Berkley and the Assembly in Vir- 
ginia, and Wm. Drummond Esqre Governor of Carolina 
and the Assembly there doe make the like Act in their sev- 
eral & Respective Assemblies . . ." * 

1 This book is still in the office of the Register of Deeds in the 
Perquimans county courthouse. I had the keen pleasure of consulting 
it in the summer of 1914. A copy of the deed is also in the Colonial 
Records, op. cit., vol. i, p. 19. 

' Cf. Colonial Records, op. cit., vol. i, p. 49- ' ibid., pp. 139-40. 



According to the historians the first white settlers of 
Chowan were people — many of whom had some means ^ — 
from other English-American colonies, especially Virginia. 
Lawson, the earliest historian of this region says, '*A second 
Settlement ^ of this Country was made about fifty Years 
ago [his travels in North Carolina began in December 
1700], in that part we now call Albemarle^County, and 
chiefly in Chowan Precinct, by several substantial Planters, 
from Virginia and other Plantations." ^ Bancroft says: 

The first settlements on Albemarle Sound were a result of 
spontaneous overflowings from Virginia, and other Planta- 
tions. . . . Albemarle had, in 1665, been increased by fresh 
emigrants from New England and, two years later, by a colony 
of ship builders from the Bermudas. . . . The suppression of 
a fierce insurrection [Bacon's Rebellion, 1676-77] in Virginia 
had been followed by vindictive punishment ; and " runaways, 
rogues, and rebels " — that is to say, fugitives from arbitrary 
tribunals, non-conformists, and friends to liberty — " fled daily 
to Carolina, as their common subterfuge and lurking place." 
Did letters from Virginia demand the surrender of leaders in 
the rebellion, Carolina refused to betray the fugitives.* 

* Samuel A' Court Ashe, History of North Carolina (Greensboro, 
N. C, 1908), vol. i, p. 90. 

'White's ill-fated Roanoke settlement of 1587 he has previously 

'John Lawson, Gent. Surveyor- General of North Carolina, A New 
Voyage to Carolina; Containing the Exact Description and Natural 
History of that Country: Together with the Present State thereof. 
And a Journal of a Thousand Miles, Traveled thro' several Nations of 
Indians. Giving a particular Account of their Customs, Manners, &c. 
(London: 1709), p. ()2. 

* George Bancroft, History of the United States from the Discovery 
of the Continent (D. Appleton & Co., 1885-6, New York), vol. i, pp. 
410, 420, 424. 



Qualifications of Contemporary Writers. — What was the 
nature, character, or psychical constitution of these settlers? 
Some light has already been shed upon this question by 
citations in the previous paragraph. Bancroft was, of 
course, writing of the past, but happily there are three men — 
Lawson, Byrd, and Brickell (who may be considered con- 
temporaries of the first settlers) — who have left us inter- 
esting first-hand accounts of the early Carolinians. Both 
Lawson, one time surveyor general, and Brickell, a physician, 
lived and traveled in the state for years, and it is therefore 
reasonable to suppose that they knew pretty well the people 
of whom they wrote. Byrd was one of the commissioners 
from Virginia appointed by that state to assist in running 
the Virginia-North Carolina line, which line was run in 
1728. In considering Byrd's account, written sometime be- 
tween 1728 and 1737, the reader should ever bear in mind 
that the most of the Carolinians with whom he came in 
contact were those living in the strip of territory which 
Virginia wanted to take from Carolina ; that he was a loyal 
Virginian ; that for various reasons many Virginians of this 
period had an intense prejudice against, and contempt for, 
the Carolinians. The extremely biased attitude of Byrd is 
quite patent all through his Dividing Line. 

Reasons for Quoting at Length. — The large space devoted 
to excerpts in this connection is justified on the following 
grounds : first, they will aid the reader in forming his own 
estimate of the people of Chowan in early colonial times; 
second, the present white residents are to no small degree 
descendants of the early arrivals; third, the extracts 
furnish one the best means of insight into the char- 
acter of both the new settlers and their new environment 
that can be had from contemporary sources; finally, they 
foreshadow many of the tendencies and conditions exist- 


ing here today, thus helping us to understand the present 

The amount of corroborative testimony of the three chief 
historians who were contemporaries of this early period is 
rather remarkable, especially when we consider the fact that 
two of the writers were inclined to picture conditions over- 
rosy, and the other one, over-dark. The citations follow : 

Observations and Opinions of Lawson. — As the Land is very 
fruitful, so are the Planters kind and hospitable to all that 
come to visit them; there being very few Housekeepers, but 
what live very nobly, and give away more Provisions to Coast- 
ers and Guests who come to see them, than they expend upon 
their own Families. 

.... Some of the Men [in Carolina] are very laborious, 
and make great improvements in their Way ; but I dare hardly 
give 'em that Character in general. The easy Way of living 
in that plentiful Country, makes a great many Planters very 
negligent. . . . The Women are the most industrious Sex in 
that Place. . . . The Women are very fruitful; most Houses 
being full of Little Ones. 

.... As for the Constitution of this Government, it is so 
mild and easy, in respect to the Properties and Liberties of a 
Subject, that without rehearsing the Particulars, I say once 
for all, it is the mildest and best establish'd Government in the 
World, and the Place where any Man may peaceably enjoy 
his own without being invaded by another; Rank and Supe- 
riority ever give place to Justice and Equity. . . . Besides, it 
is worthy our Notice, that this Province has been settled, and 
continued the most free from the Insults and Barbarities of 
the Indians of any Colony, that was ever yet seated in Amer- 
ica; which must be esteem'd as a particular Providence of God 
handed down from Heaven, to these People ; especially, when 
we consider how irregularly they settled North-Caro/ma, and 
yet how undisturb'd they have ever remain'd, free from any 
foreign Danger or Loss, even to this very Day. And what 
may well be look'd upon for as great a Miracle, this is a Place 


where no Malefactors are found, desearving Death, or even a 
Prison for Debtors; there being no more than two Persons, 
that, as far as I have been able to learn, ever suffer'd as Crim- 
inals, although it has been a Settlement near sixty Years ; One 
of whom was a Turk that committed Murder; the other, an 
old Woman, for Witchcraft.^ 

Observations and Opinions of Byrd. — We perceived the 
happy Effect of Industry in this Family [Timothy Ivy's], in 
which every one lookt tidy and clean, and carri'd in their coun- 
tenances the cheerful Marks of Plenty. We saw no Drones 
there which are but too Common, alas, in that Part of the 
World. Tho', in truth, the Distemper of Laziness seizes the 
Men oftener much than the women. These last Spin, weave 
and knit, all with their own Hands, while their Husbands, de- 
pending on the Bounty of the Climate, are Sloathful in every- 
thing but getting of Children, and in that only Instance make 
themselves useful Members of an Infant-Colony. 

.... Tis natural for helpless man to adore his Maker in 
Some Form or other, and were there any exception to this Rule, 
I should expect it to be among the Hottentots of the Cape of 
Good Hope and of North Carolina. . . . They account it 
among their greatest advantages that they are not Priest- 
ridden. . . . One thing may be said for the Inhabitants of that 
Province, that they are not troubled with any Religious Fumes, 
and have the least Superstition of any People living. They 
do not know Sunday from any other day, any more than Rob- 
inson Crusoe did, which would give them a great Advantage 
were they given to be industrious. But they keep so many 
Sabaths every week, that their disregard of the Seventh Day 
has no manner of cruelty in it, either to Servants or Cattle. 

.... Surely there is no place in the World where the In- 
habitants live with, less Labour than in N Carolina. It ap- 
proaches nearer to the Description of Lubberland than any 
other, by the great felicity of the Climate, the easiness of 
Raising Provisions, and the Sloth fulness of the People. 

1 Lawson, op. cit., pp. 63-4, 83-4, 166-7. 


Indian Corn is of so great increase, that a little Pains will 
Subsist a very large Family with Bread, and they may 
have meat without any pains at all, by the Help of the Low 
Grounds, and the great Variety of Mast that grows on the 
High-land. The Men, for their Parts, just like the Indians, 
impose all the Work upon the poor Women. They make their 
Wives rise out of their Beds early in the Morning, at the same 
time they lye and Snore, till the Sun has run one third of his 
course, and disperst all the unwholesome Damps. Then, after 
Stretching and Yawning for half an Hour, they light their 
Pipes, and, under the Protection of a cloud of Smoak, venture 
out into the open Air ; Tho', if it happens to be never so little 
cold, they quickly return Shivering into the Chimney corner. 
When the weather is mild, they stand leaning with both their 
arms upon the corn-field fence, and gravely consider whether 
they had best go and take a Small Heat at the Hough [hoe] : 
but generally find reasons to put it oft* till another time. 

Thus they loiter away their Lives, like Solomon's Sluggard 
with their arms across, and at the Winding up of the Year 
Scarcely have Bread to Eat. 

To speak the Truth, tis a thorough Aversion to Labor that 
makes People file off to N Carolina, where Plenty and a Warm 
Sun confirm them in their Disposition to Laziness for their 
whole Lives. 

.... Some Borderers, too, had a great Mind to know where 
the Line wou'd come out, being for the most part Apprehen- 
sive lest their Lands Should be taken into Virginia. In that 
case they must have submitted to some Sort of Order and 
Government; whereas, in N Carolina, every One does what 
seems best in his own Eyes. . . . Wherever we passed we 
<:onstantly found the Borderers laid it to Heart if their Land 
was taken into Virginia: They chose much rather to belong 
to Carolina, where they pay no Tribute, either to God or to 

Another reason was, that the Government there is so Loose, 
and the Laws so feably executed, that, like those in the Neigh- 


bourhood of Sydon formerly, every one does just what seems 
good in his own Eyes.^ 

Testimony of Brickell. — The Planters by the richness of the 
Soil, live after the most easie and pleasant Manner of any 
People I have ever met with ; for you shall seldom hear them 
Repine at any Misfortune in Life, except the loss of Friends, 
there being plenty of all Necessaries convenient for Life: 
Poverty being an entire Stranger here, and the Planters the 
most hospitable People that are to be met with, not only to 
Strangers but likewise to those who by any Misfortune have 
lost the use of their Limbs or are incapable to Work, and have 
no visible way to support themselves. . . . 

It is admirable to observe the Prosperity of several Adven- 
tures to Carolina, in the memory of Man; and how many 
from the most despicable beginning in a short time, by Gods 
blessing and their own industry, are arrived to as splendid 
Fortunes, as any have in other British Provinces on this Con- 

.... There is Liberty of Conscience allowed in the whole 
Province ; however, the Planters live in the greatest Harmony 
imaginable, no Disputes or Controversies are ever observed 
to arrise among them about their Religious Principles. They 
always treat each other with Friendship and Hospitality, and 
never dispute over their Liquor . . . By this Unity of Affec- 
tion, the Prosperity of the Province has increased from its 
first rise, to this Day. But though they are thus remarkable 
for their Friendship, Harmony and Hospitality, yet in regard 
to Morals, they have their share of the Corruptions of the 
Age, for as they live in the greatest Ease and Plenty, Luxury 
of Consequence predominates, which is never without its at- 
tendant Vices.^ 

1 The Writings of " Colonel William Byrd of Westover in Virginia 
Esq." (published in 1737), edited by John Spencer Bassett (New York, 
1901), pp. 56, 58, 61, 75-6, 63, 87. 

^John Brickell, M. D,, The Natural History of North Carolina with 
an Account of the Trade, Manners, and Customs of the Christian and 
Indian Inhabitants (Dublin, 1737), PP- 30, 46, S^-?- 


Views of Bancroft. — Almost all the American colonies were 
chiefly planted by those to whom the uniformities of Euro- 
pean life were intolerable; North Carolina was planted by 
men to whom the restraints of other colonies were too severe. 
.... The settlers were gentle in their tempers, enemies to 
violence. Not all their successive revolutions had kindled in 
them vindictive passions ; freedom was enjoyed without anxi- 
ety as without guarantees; and the spirit of humanity main- 
tained its influence in the paradise of Quakers.^ 

Summary and Conclusions. — While some statements in 
the above citations may be somewhat over-eulogistic in their 
tone, the fact remains that Carolina was remarkable for the 
amount of harmony and lack of violence within its borders 
during the early pioneer days. In order to realize some- 
thing of the great value to the colony of being " not troubled 
w^th any Religious Fumes and Superstitions," we have but 
to recall some of the conditions in New England where 
there was little religious toleration,* and where numerous 
men and women of sterling worth were jailed, tortured, 
and some even hanged, all because of superstition — belief 
in witchcraft.' There were some political and religious 
disturbances but they were mostly injected into the colony 
from the outside.* When left to themselves the colonists 
settled their own differences, abated their own nuisances 
and righted their own wTongs, with much justice and mag- 

1 Bancroft, op. cit., vol. i, p. 428. ^ Ibid., p. 311 et seq. 

*Ihid., vol. ii, pp. 51-66. 

♦ Cf. Col. Records, op. cit., vol. i, pp. 709-10, for the disturb- 
ance caused by stopping the practice of allowing one to "affirm," or 
"declare." The Quakers, as is well-known, refused to "swear," or 
"take an oath." Under Queen Anne, an act was passed in England 
(effective also in the colonies) to the effect that no one should hold 
office prior to taking certain oaths. The Quakers in Albemarle refusing 
to take these oaths, were dismissed from the assembly and courts of 
justice. Of course this made trouble. 


nanimity. Although they contended most vigorously for 
what they considered their rights and were never cowed by 
unjust authority, they nevertheless manifested surprisingly 
little malice, or revenge. They seemed satisfied if the brew- 
ers of trouble were either stilled or removed. All they 
wanted was to be left alone to work out their own destiny. 
Along with this spirit of freedom, justice, and fair play, 
there also dwelt a spirit of equality and democracy foreign 
to anything known in the neighboring colony of Virginia 
whence many of the early Carolinians came.^ 


Role of Religion. — What prompted the first settlers to im- 
migrate to Carolina? Some doubtless came from a desire 
to escape the discomfiture caused them by religious enthus- 
iasm and intolerance elsewhere, but it can hardly be said that 
these pioneer settlers came because they wanted to worship 
God in some special manner not allowed where they had 
previously lived. ^ No one was molested in Carolina for 
worshipping as he chose and yet there was not a church- 
house in the province till 1702, or 1703, some forty or fifty 
years after the first settlements, and then only after the 
assembly of the province had ordered one built at the pub- 
lic's expense.^ In 1709, Gordon, a man sent over by some 
Church-of -England society, writing home to the secretary 
of the society, says, '* Chowan is the westernmost, the largest 
and thinnest seated : they built a church some years ago, but 
it is small, very sorrily put together, and is ill looked after 
...."* Another minister of the Church of England writes 
back to the society in May 17 17, as follows: 

^Colonial Records of N. C, op. cit., vol. i, passim', Ashe, op. city 
vol. i, passim ; Bancroft, op. cit., vol i, ch. vii, and vol. ii, ch. L 

2 Cf. supra, pp. 27-8. 

3 Col. Records, op. cit., vol. i, pp. 543-45, 558-6o, 709. 
*Ibid., p. 711. 


I went this winter 7 times to the Church in the neighborhood 
(i. e. that is 4 miles distance) and met not a congregation; so 
indifferent are our Gentry in their Religion they had rather 
never come to church than be obliged to pay me anything, they 
cannot endure the thoughts of it : they wonder I do not leave 
the country and their debt would be paid; that is the way 
they have treated all of my Function before me and would 
have the world believe they are no changelings/ 

Writing back to the society again, in June of the same year, 
he says of the church wardens and vestrymen of Chowan, 
"' It is all one to them whether they have a minister & church 
to go or not." ^ 

If any have thought the first settlers were Quakers flying 
from religious persecution, it may probably come as a dis- 
appointment to them to learn that the known facts fail to 
support such an opinion.^ Edmundson visiting Carolina in 
1672 found only one Quaker family. The journals of both 
Edmundson and Fox indicate that the first Quakers in Albe- 
marle were those who embraced the faith after removing 
hither.* This fact is also attested to in a letter by Governor 
Walker of Virginia to the Bishop of London ^ in 1703, and 
again by one of Gordon's letters (May 1709) to the " secre- 
tary " ® (presumably of the foreign mission board). 

Economic and Political Motives. — No, the first immi- 
grants to Albemarle came not as persecuted saints seeking 
a place to worship God according to their own views, but 
as men and women seeking a bigger economic and political 
freedom than they were then enjoying. Some were driven 
out of Virginia immediately after Bacon's Rebellion in 
1676-77 (twenty years or more after the first settlers came 

1 Col. Recs., vol. ii, p. 279. * Ibid., vol. ii, p. 288. 

*Ibid., vol. i, pp. xviii-xxi. * Ibid., pp. 215-18, 227. 

*Ibid., pp. 571-2. ^ Ibid., pp. 7^0-11. 


to Carolina) because of Berkley's revengeful activity/ but 
undoubtedly most of them came for the purpose of making 
a better and easier living.^ The " Lords Comgmrs for 
Trade" inquired of the Virginia Council in 1708 the cause 
of the " removal of the Inhabitants of this Colony into our 
neighboring Plantations & the way to prevent the same." 
The Council replied, in substance, as follows : first, the want 
in Virginia of desirable land convenient to settle which is 
still unpatented and open to settlers ; second, the much easier 
terms of acquiring land in Carolina; third, the difficulty of 
collecting debts owed in Virginia by those who remove to 
Carolina/ Saunders in the prefatory notes of the first 
volume of the Colonial Records says : 

It is perhaps a very flattering unction that we lay to our souls 
in supposing our State was settled by men seeking religious 
freedom, but unhappily there seems to be no solid foundation 
for the belief. So far as we can see, the moving causes of 
immigration to Albemarle were its delightful climate, magnifi- 
cent bottom lands and bountiful products. Immigration, in 
early days, divested of its glamour and brought down to solid 
fact, is the history of a continuous search for " bottom land." * 


Growth During iypo-i8/o. — The First U. S, Census 
(1790) accredits the county with a population of 5,011. 
The increase for the next 20 years was very slight, on an 
average less than 3 per cent for each decade. The next 
decade (1810-20) showed an increase of 22 per cent. From 
1820 to 1870, a period of 50 years, the population was 
stationary. In fact, it was actually a small fraction of i 

* Bancroft, op. cit., vol. i, pp. 467-9. 
'Ashe, op. cit., p. 59. 
® Col. Records, op. cit, pp. 690-1. 
*Ibid., p. xxi. 


per cent less in 1870 than it was in 1820.^ Since the county 
was visited by no serious epidemic, war, famine, or other 
decimating factor in either of these periods, and since there 
is no reason for thinking that the f ruitfulness of the people, 
commented on by the early historians,^ had all of a sudden 
greatly decreased, it is highly probable that not a few were 
emigrating. As this was a period when vast numbers all 
along the Atlantic coast were flowing over the mountains 
into the fertile valleys of the Mississippi and its tributaries, 
it was only natural that many of the more restless and 
ambitious spirits of Chowan should hear and answer the 
alluring call of the West. 

Growth During i8yo-ipio. — During the past forty years 
there has been a steady increase in the poulation, but the 
increase, both absolutely and relatively, has lessened with 
each successive decade. The increase over the previous de- 
cennial count dropped from 22.5 per cent in 1880^ to 10.2 
per cent in 19 10.* 

Rural and Urban. — ^^Chowan has one town, and only one 
— Edenton. According to the 1850 census (the first to 
enumerate the town and rural inhabitants separately) it 
contained 1607 people — nearly one-fourth of the county's 
population. Each of the three censuses following credited 
it with a population ranging from 6.4 per cent to 22.6 per 
cent smaller than that for 1850; the 1850 figures were not 
again attained till 1890. The census for that year showed 
a 59.5 per cent increase during the decade immediately pre- 

1 Cf. table 4, p. 264. 

2 Cf., supra, pp. ^-7, also Brickell, op. cit., p. 31. 

®This is the largest percentage (it is also the largest absolute) in- 
crease shown by any decade since the inauguration of the federal de- 
cennial census. 

* Cf. table 4, p. 264, for the number at various census years. 


ceding.^ Since the beginning of separate enumeration the 
proportion of the population of Edenton to that of the whole 
county has fluctuated from slightly less than two to ten, to 
practically three to ten. In other words, during this period 
Edenton has contained, in round numbers from twenty to 
thirty per cent of the county's entire population.^ 

Recent Foreign Immigration. — In 1769 there were in and 
near Edenton men of prominence — some of national reputa- 
tion — from several of the other colonies, and from Ireland, 
France, Scotland, and England.^ During the past hundred 
years, however, there has been very little immigration of 
any sort into Chowan. Few, even, have moved in from the 
adjoining counties. In 1870 there were only 75 native 
Americans in the county who had been born outside of the 
state, and 74 of these were from either Virginia or West 
Virginia. In 1880 there were in the county no people 
from Virginia, and only 54 from all other states and for- 
eign countries. It is thus seen that at the beginning of the 
period which it is here proposed to cover, the most of the 
very small immigration was coming from the same source 
whence it came in the early days — from Virginia.* 

The first separate enumeration by counties of the foreign 
bom was in i860. That year there were 12 in the county 
from foreign lands. Two decades later there were only 6 
of this class, and the highest recorded for any census year 
is 23 for 1890. The average for the six decennial years 
for which these data were gathered is only 16. In 1870, 

* It was during this decade that the first railroad reached Edenton and 
that the first big saw-mill was erected there. Much other construction 
work was also gotten under way during this period. 

2 Cf. table S, P- 265. 

'C/. Griffith J. McRee, Life and Correspondence of James Iredell 
(New York, 1857), pp. 30-36, passim. 

* Cf. table s, p. 265. 


for the first time, account was taken of the native born of 
foreign and of mixed parentage. There were just 24, the 
highest number recorded for any decennial year. In the 
1880 census, this item was left out. The average was under 
17 for the three censuses following.^ 

Origin, Color and Nativity of Present Inhabitants. — 
From the foregoing it is quite clear that the growth of 
Chowan's population for at least the past one hundred 
years has been overwhelmingly by natural increase from the 
native stock. But this is only what one might expect. Em- 
bracing part of the oldest settled portion of the state, being 
naturally one of the most accessible sections and one of 
those most favored by nature in general, Chowan, as a 
matter of course, was one of the first counties to fill up. 
Those who have come in during the past three-quarters of 
a century have come in for special purposes. The labor 
of the one cotton-mill in the county is largely from other 
parts of the state. Those coming from Virginia in the 
seventies and eighties were mostly colored laborers who 
came to work at the saw-mills, in the lumber woods, and on 
the railroads. The whites from other states have been in- 
terested primarily in lumbering, saw-milling, railroading and 
manufacturing, while the few from foreign countries have 
been nearly all traders of some sort or other. There is now 
only one farmer of foreign birth in the county. 

In 19 10 the foreign born and the native born of foreign 
and of mixed parentage totaled only 34, about three-tenths 
of one per cent of the entire population. In other words, 
305 out of every 306 of the inhabitants of the county were 
native stock of more than two generations back. In fact 
these people are descended from Americans for so many 
generations back that probably less than one per cent of them 

1 Calculated from table 5, p. 265. 


.outside of Edenton, and comparatively few there, know from 
just what part of the world their ancestors came. The pro- 
genitors of probably 98 per cent of the present population 
came either from Africa or the British Isles. Slavery was 
well established in the colonies when Albemarle first began 
to be settled.^ The blacks came in along with the whites, 
and at every census except the second (1800), the colored 
population has outnumbered the white, the average excess 
for the thirteen decennial censuses being 10 per cent.^ 

From the foregoing pages, even though nothing further 
were said, one could form a fairly good idea of the nature of 
the present population. The pages following, however, por- 
traying as they do the life of these people for the past three 
and a half decades, will give to him who has the interest to 
continue, their character in considerable detail. 

* Whites, Indians, and Negroes were all held in bondage at this time. 

Ashe, op. cit., p. 84. 
2 Cf. table 4, p. 264. 


Agriculture in the Eighties ' 

general character of the occupations 
of the people 

Chowan in j88o was (and continues to be) preemi- 
nently a farming county. The other industries were 
largely what might be termed *' bye-industries " — occu- 
pations followed intermittently by the farmer when he 
felt that he could leave his farm for a few days or weeks. 
In fact, as these were carried on, many of them might 
almost be said to have constituted part of farming, so 
undifferentiated were they from, and necessary to, the 
actual farm work. Few of the various occupations had 
called into being special classes who followed them and 
them only; consequently the farmer was forced to carry 
them on himself in order that his farming might go on 
to the best advantage. The agricultural interests of the 
millers, merchants, carpenters, cobblers, schoolmasters, 
and blacksmiths not infrequently yielded them a larger 
return than did their trade. Even many of the profes- 
sional men (lawyers, physicians, clergymen) received a 
considerable portion of their income from their own 
farms, some of them actually doing farm labor. 

With the exception of those living at the county-seat, 
a town of less than fourteen hundred, the entire popula- 
tion of the county (in 1880, 7,900) lived on farms, and 

* The " eighties " in this volume will always refer to those of the 
nineteenth century. 

41] 41 


the vast majority of the townspeople had farming inter- 


At the time that this account begins no large amount 
of land was being cleared, but many of the more substan- 
tial farmers were taking in some new ground every few 
years ; a few cleared a little practically every year. So, 
in order to obtain a complete picture of agriculture, and 
obtain it in is proper chronology, let us first look at the 
process of getting land under the plow. 

Timber. — At this time timber, except the very finest 
of heart and such other timber as was near streams large 
enough to float it, had little or no value. On land that 
was to be cleared it was simply an incumbrance to be 
gotten rid of with the least possible cost. The larger 
trees, except what few were used for rails, boards, and 
building purposes on the place, were generally "deaded." ' 

Beading. — There were two or three reasons why the 
trees were " deaded " rather than cut immediately. In 
the first place, it was thought that if the trees were deaded, 
instead of being cut down green, sonie of the strength 
drawn by the tree from the soil would flow back to it. 
Again, trees would season better standing than when 
lying on the ground, and so were more easily burned. 
Lastly, the deaded pine trees were frequently left stand- 
ing for a few years after the ground had actually been 
brought into cultivation. Since the larger stumps were 
never removed till after the land had been farmed for 
years, it caused no added inconvenience in working the 
land to leave the entire dead trees standing for one or 

1 The "deading" process is simply the chopping of a line some two 
inches deep around the tree with an axe. This line is anywhere from 
18 inches to 4 feet above the ground. 


two seasons,' and had the advantage of allowing one to 
put his ground in cultivation more quickly. The trees 
could be taken care of later when the farmer had more 
time, and besides, they made most excellent firewood. 
As a rule, however, the trees were all cut and burned 
before the land was put under the plow. The larger trees 
were deaded from one to three winters before the begin- 
ning of the actual clearing, which started with the cut- 
ting and burning of the smaller trees and undergrowth. 
Later the larger trees were cut down, cut into sticks that 
could be handled, and with the assistance of the neigh- 
bors heaped together. This process of heaping was 
known as *Mog rolling."' 

Roots and Stumps. — After everything was burned off, 
the ground was hoed, every inch of it, by hand, with an 
ordinary grubbing hoe. On an average this required 
from twelve to fifteen days to the acre, and at that, re- 
moved only the roots and smaller stumps, the larger 
ones being left. All except the pineheart stumps rotted 
within a few years. These latter were ** lightwood " ^ 
and were good for from twenty-five to one hundred 
years, or longer, if they were not removed. The only 
way the farmer knew of doing this was to dig them up. 
If this had been attempted at any time within two or three 
years after clearing (before sufificient time had elapsed 
for the rotting away of the sap), the getting up of the 
worst of them would have taken one man a week or 

* Those who followed this practice often left the trees so long that the 
limbs would rot, fall off, and tear up the growing crop. In case of 
winds, whole trees would sometimes blow down, doing considerable 

2 Cf. infra, p. 181 for the social features of " log-rolling." 
' " Lightwood " is pine wood that is thoroughly saturated with turpen- 
tine. The best of it will last almost indefinitely, either in the ground 
or out of it. 


more. Even after they had stood for ten or fifteen years 
it frequently required a half-day or more to get one up. 
For this reason they were left for years, occupying much 
space and interfering with cultivation. The prevalence 
of stumpy land was and is one of the factors making for 
the slow introduction of improved farm tools and ma- 
chinery. Many a plow has been wrecked on these 
stumps, and many a plowman's patience severely tried by 
them. Many horses will not plow in stumpy ground, 
especially if they are fretful and have a tendency to kick. 
Often when plowing a fractious horse, as you pulled the 
plow out to go around a stump, he would strike a trot 
and perhaps jerk the plow against the stump or an un- 
covered root, causing the handles to fly up and deliver 
you a " solar plexus" if you were a man, and an "upper- 
cut " on the jaw if you were a ten- or twelve-year-old 
lad, either of which was of sufficient force to have caused 
you to " take the count," had it not been that you were 
hanging on to the plow handles for dear life. 

The " grubs " (roots and small stumps hoed up) were 
raked together and burned. In this way much of the 
vegetable matter was taken off the land at the start, in- 
stead of being allowed to lie and rot and thus increase 
the humus. The method followed doubtless gave a 
better crop for the first year or two, but the land wore 
out and washed away far more quickly than it otherwise 
would have done, besides yielding, after the first few 
years, a smaller annual return. 

Fencing. — The land cleared, the next thing was to fence 
it. This, too, was a slow and laborious process. To cut 
and split two hundred ten-foot rails in average-spHtting 
timber was considered a fair day's work.^ Far more fell 

* Unless otherwise stated, a " clay's work " always means a day's 
•work for the average able-bodied man. 


below this number than went above it. In this section 
"mauling" (splitting) rails has for generations been 
synonymous with "hard work." 

The fence was laid in the form of a continuous suc- 
cession of "w's" a bit flattened out, the corners or 
angles being a little m^ore than right angles. This is 
what is known as the "worm fence." A legal fence was 
ten rails high, scotched, and as the phrase went, "pig 
tight, bull strong, and horse high." On this basis a 
good man could cut and maul enough rails in a day to 
run forty yards of fence, provided he had fair timber. 

Ditching. — If the land was to be ditched, it was com- 
monly done the year it was deaded. Had there been 
more ditching done there would have been fewer 
drowned-out crops, especially, upon the type of soils 
known as the "Portsmouth series."' The few ditches 
used were not only open — tile draining being unknown 
— but were too shallow to properly take off the water. 


Altho in 1880 Chowan had a few large farms, it was 
primarily a county of small ones, the average num^ber of 
acres of improved land per farm beirg 50.3. For 45.1 
per cent, of farms the average was 14.6 acres, or less, and 
for another 23.2 per cent, the average was only 31.5 
acres. "* The average number of acres of im.proved land 
per "standard work animal "^ (the equivalent of a mature 
horse or mule) at this time was 34, which may be re- 
garded as constituting a one-horse farm. Measured then 
in terms of " standard work animals " used to till them, 
more than two-fifths of the farms averaged less than 
half-horse in size, and almost another quarter averaged 

1 Cf. supra, p. 18. 2 cf. table 10, p. 2^Z- 

« Cf. infra, pp. 51, 274. 


under one-horse, leaving fewer than one-third of the 
farms (31.7 per cent.) that were more than one-horse. 


Amount and Value. — Agriculture here was distinctly 
a hand industry carried on with few and simple tools. 
With the possible exception of the cotton planter, there 
was nothing among the farmer's implements that would 
be classed as a machine. There were no weeders, no 
cultivators, no mowers, no manure spreaders, no peanut 
planters — in short, no machinery of any kind — just a few 
simple tools. Commercial fertilizers were all distributed 
with the hand, and all other manures were spread by 
hand with a shovel from a cart, fifty loads ' being counted 
a good day's work. The average value of tools and ma- 
chinery per acre of improved land for the whole county 
was 64.5 cents. ' If on this basis each farm is credited 
with tools and machinery in proportion to its size, more 
than 45 per cent of them had less then $9.50 worth of 
farming implements, and more than another 23 per cent. 
less than $22.50. ^ As noted in the previous paragraph, 
less than one-third of the farms (in fact little more than 
three-tenths) were more than one-horse in size, and yet, 
as a rule, it was only on a two-horse farm that all the 
implements necessary for even the low standard of cul- 
tivation then in vogue were found. Such implements as 
cradles (known also as scythes) and cotton-planters were 
owned by only a few. Frequently there were only two 
or three of each in a whole neighborhood of five or six 
square miles. This state of affairs ne<^essitated a consid- 
erable amount of borrowing among the smaller farmers. 

*A "load," in this treatise will always mean a load for a one-horse 

2 Calculations made from table 6, p. 269. 

^Calculations based on tables 6 and 10, pp. 269, 273. 


The number and kind of implements commonly found 
on a representative two-horse farm were about as 
follows : 

Two carts and wheels 
One rail-cart body 
Two turn-plows 
One cotton plow 
Two sets of plow gear 
Two sets of cart gear 
One spade 
Two shovels 
One pitchfork 
One grubbing hoe 
Six weed hoes 
One hand rake 
One harrow 
One grass blade 

Carts. — The cart is a two-wheel vehicle having a body 
five feet long, three feet wide, two and one-half feet high, 
the two sides permanently boarded up to within six 
inches of the top rail and the front end boarded up about 
halfway, while for the remainder of the front end and 
entire hind end there are boards (one fore board and 
two hind boards) that can be put in and taken out at 
will. When it is desired to close the six-inch space be- 
low the top rails, a thin board is either wattled in or tied 
on. The wheels are five feet high and two inches on the 
tread. The axle, while now occasionally of iron, in 
former days was practically always of wood. The body 
rests directly upon the axle, the putting of springs under 
a cart never even being considered.' 

* Occasionally there was seen what was known as a " spring cart,** 
but this was a light affair just for " knocking about in " (driving around 
to the store, or elsewhere, with only a small load). 


On a farm where there were two carts one was invari- 
ably a "tumbler" (tip cart), built especially for haul- 
ing dirt and other m.aterials that were to be dumped. 
This differed from the other cart only in that its load 
could be dumped without unhitching, and that the 
wheels were frequently from six to twelve inches lower 
than the regulation height, a feature w hich made loading 
much easier. This cart was used not only for hauling 
dirt and manure, but for all rough or dirty work. The 
first cart described was known as the "Sunday" or 
** best " cart. Possibly one farmer in fifty owned a 
wagon, and one in a hundred a buggy. Hence, w^ith 
the exception of rails, lumber, and sometimes bales of 
cotton, the vast majority (more than ninety-five per 
cent)' of all hauling and traveling was done in carts. 
A "seat board" could be arranged so as to seat two 
persons comfortably, that is, as comfortably as it is 
possible to be w'hen sitting on a hard board in a spring- 
less vehicle running over rough roads. This was simply 
a plain board some eight inches wide, extending across 
the body of the cart and resting upon the bottom rails 
on either side of the body, the rails being some twenty 
inches above the flooring of the cart. The seat board 
could be put in and taken out at a moment's notice. 
When more than two grown persons were riding, it was 
generally taken out and all hands stood up, or else some 
chairs were put in and all sat down. The latter was 
usually the case when there were w'omen riding who had 
passed the girlhood stage. Sometimes, in order to 
make the board a bit easier, a folded bedquilt, an old 
coat, or an old sack, was spread on it. Occasionally a 
quilt was spread on the cart bottom, and everybody 

' My own estimate. 


curled up on it. A cart would hold six or eight adults. 
If this many were riding together they lined up on both 
sides, using the top rails as hand-holds. 

In each top rail were either five or six slits, or five or 
six staples. Into these were placed hoops upon which 
was stretched a canvas. When thus arranged it was 
usually known as a " covered-cart," but sometimes as 
the " Gates county buggy." ^ Covered carts were used 
chiefly by the "carters"^ in hauling to and from Nor- 
folk, and were a familiar sight along the principal roads 
leading to that city. 

The description of the cart has been given thus min- 
utely because it has played, and continues to play, such 
an important role in the lives of these people, and be- 
cause it seems to be a product of this section. So far 
as I have been able to learn, this type of vehicle is known 
nowhere except in Chowan and the three or four adjoin- 
ing counties, and I am not aware of a description of it 
anywhere else in print.^ It seems to have originated in 
Gates, the county just north of Chowan. 

Rail-carts. — The rail-cart body was simply two long 
shafts held together by cross-bars, into the ends of 
which were placed " rounds " (wooden pegs eighteen 
to twenty inches long) to hold in the rails, lumber, or 
other material. The rail-cart was comparatively little 
used except at certain seasons of the year, so had no set 
of wheels of its own. When it was needed, the carts 
were " shifted " — one of the regular cart bodies taken 
off the wheels and the rail-cart body set on in its stead. 

1 Cf. Harper's Magazine, vol. xiv, p. 443 (March 1857). The writer 
says further, "The buggy, so called, probably in derision, is a cart 
covered with a white cotton awning." 

2 Cf. infra, pp. 135-8. 

^ There are some pen sketches of the covered cart on p. 447, vol. xiv. 
of Harper's Magazine, but no verbal description. 


Plows. — The turn-plow was used for plowing all crops, 
except the first and second plowing of cotton. The 
cotton plow was used for cotton only. 

Hoes. — The weed hoe generally used was the sort 
known as the " ellwell." This was a hoe which, instead 
of having a small shank or neck fitted into a helve, had 
an eye two inches or more in diameter, into which the 
helve was fitted. This big eye, reinforced, covered a 
quarter or more of the back of the hoe, making it about 
twice as heavy as an ordinary shank, or goose-neck, 
hoe, and causing to collect on it a great mass of dirt, 
which still more increased the weight. This feature was 
especially aggravating if the dirt was a bit sticky. The 
grubbing hoe was used for hoeing new ground and for 
hoeing up dirt that was to be hauled into the field. 

Pulverizers. — The only varieties of pulverizers used 
were the clumsy harrows and rakes. The frame of the 
harrow was made of wood, and frequently also the teeth. 
If the ground was at all rough, it choked up very badly, 
and in general was very inelBcient. The rake, a hand 
affair, often of wood, was used for raking up straw, and 
for raking up roots in clearing new ground. 

Gearing. — A cart gear consisted of a pair of hames, 
a collar, a bridle, a saddle, a back band, a pair of lines, 
and a pair of tugs, the latter being usually of leather in 
1880, tho now iron chains are used almost exclusively. 

The plow gear was simply a cart gear minus the sad- 
dle, back band, and tugs, plus a special back band, a 
singletree, and traces, which in the eighties were fre- 
quently of leather. At present, few, if any, use anything 
other than chains. 



Oxen. — In 1880, 14.3 per cent of the " work animals " 
(all mature oxen, horses, and mules) of the county were 
oxen. In calculating the number of " standard work 
animals " the mature horse and the mature mule are 
both considered '' standard work animals " and two 
oxen are reckoned as equivalent to one of them.' As a 
matter of fact, however, for many purposes this is far 
too high a rating. For instance, in plowing, two oxen 
will do about as much in a day as will one horse. Now, 
if a person could work twice as many oxen as horses, two 
oxen would be worth as much for work as would one 
horse. But it so happens that one man can plow just as 
many horses as oxen, which means that in plowing oxen 
one has to feed and pay two hands (if working hired labor, 
and if one's own force, it amounts to the same) to get the 
plowing of one horse done. Thus, for plowing, the value 
of the ox dwindles to rather small proportions. When it 
comes to hauling and traveling beyond very short dis- 
tances, his value is again quite small, tho for short hauls 
he is good, and especially so if the ground is either very 
rough or very muddy. The chief advantages in working 
him are the following : first, he can be fed much stuff 
which many horses will not eat; second, when not at 
work he can be let loose and allowed to forage for his 
own living ; and third, when incapacitated for work he 
can be turned into beef. 

Horses and Mules. — What mules and horses there 
were, were mostly light-weights of medium quality, and 
frequently in too thin order to do their best possible work. 
But even if they had all been first-class animals, and if two 
oxen were equal to one good horse, there would still 

1 Cf. table II and foot-note to same, p. 274. 


have been far too few for the proper tilth of the acreage 
under cultivation. In 1880 there was one "standard 
work animal " to every 34 acres of improved land.' 


Plowing. — Seldom, if ever, was the ground properly 
prepared for planting, In the first place it was scratched 
from three to five inches deep, rather than plowed. The 
vast majority of all plowing was done with single animals, 
most of which, as noted in the previous paragraph, were 
small, and many of a rather poor quality. In some sec- 
tions a person seen plowing a two-horse team would 
have created no small excitement, and one caught plow- 
ing his land twelve or fifteen inches deep would have 
been considered by many a fit subject for the lunatic asy- 
lum. When first cleared, the soil, except that in the 
swamps and bottoms, ranged from six to thirty inches 
deep, with comparatively little of it more than ten inches.^ 
The manner of cultivation, instead of increasing the 
depth, served only to decrease it.; It was thought to be 
almost a crime to turn up any clay, or yellow dirt ; sub- 
soiling was little known, and practically nothing was done 
to prevent the continual washing away and leaching out 
of the soil. Consequently, after a few years' cultivation, 
much soil became so thin and its productivity so low, 
that it would be allowed to grow up again into forest. 

Pulverizing. — Disc harrows and other modern soil pul- 
verizers had not yet put in their appearance. Even the 
inefficient ones above described were little used, since 
the value of making the soil line and loose was not ap- 
preciated. It was no rare thing to see the hard, close 
variety of lands covered with clods ranging as high as 

1 Cf. table II and foot-notes to same, p. 274. 

^ Field Operations, Bureau of Soils, op. cit., p. 229 et seq. 


ten inches or more across. The harrows of that time 
had little effect on such land, even when used on it, and 
so it was frequently necessary to take hoes and beat a 
few clods to pieces in order to get enough loose dirt 
to cover the seed. 


Commercial Fertilizers. — As for manure, comparatively 
little was used. In 1880 the average expenditure for 
commercial fertilizers per acre of improved land in the 
county was approximately fourteen cents ' — for all farms, 
an average of $7.04 each. 

Barnyard Manure. — Counting horses, mules, and work 
oxen, there was, on an average, one work animal to every 
31.6 acres of improved land.^ These constituted the 
principal stock from which any manure was made. What 
few cattle there were, other than work oxen, mostly ran 
loose in the woods, and frequently for months at a time 
were never seen by their owners. Those that did happen 
to come up were rarely penned, but instead, layout in the 
road in front of the gate, befouling the approach to one's 
home, and in general, making of themselves a nuisance, 
when they might have been making some much-needed 
manure. Many of the farmers made no manure at all, 
except that from their one or two work animals, and 
possibly a load or two in the hen house. The more in- 
dustrious, however, made a bit wherever they could. 
For instance, where hogs were penned for a few weeks 
before killing, they would be penned ^ upon forty or fifty 
loads of dirt hauled in from the woods. Some made an- 
other forty or fifty loads of pretty fair manure at the 
back door of the kitchen where the dish-water and other 

1 Calculated from tables 6 and 12, pp. 269, 275. 

2 Cf. table II, p. 274. 3 cj^ infra, p. 74. 


sewage was dumped. ' A few made " lots " (enclosures) 
for their cattle, hauled in dirt, and secured twenty or 
thirty loads of manure in this way. 

Woods Mold, Swamp-Mud, Fence-lock Dirt and Ashes. 
— During the interval between the time when crops were 
laid by in the summer and the time they were housed in 
the fall, some went into the woods and dug up and hauled 
out dirt. Part of this was dumped in single loads on 
the ground that was " lying out " (not being cultivated 
that year), and later spread either broadcast or down be- 
tween the old rows, and part was hauled up into banks to 
stay till the spring, when the stables (these were cleaned 
out only in spring) were cleaned out and their contents 
composted with this dirt. A few went into the swamps, 
which became fairly dry in the late summer and early 
fall, and hauled out great banks of swamp mud. Others 
raked out their fence-locks and hauled this into the fields. 
Occasionally in winter some would go into the woods, 
cut down the undergrowth, and burn it for ashes, which 
were valuable as a fertilizer chiefly because of the potash 
they contained. The commercial value of what ashes 
one man could thus produce in a day would probably 
not exceed twenty-five cents. 

Burnt Dirt, Fish-offal, and Marie. — About this time 
there came in the custom of burning or smoking dirt. 
The method of doing this was to make a pile of two or 
three turns of wood, or old rails, fire it, and when it got 
to burning well, smother it with leaves or pine straw, 
and then throw on a load or two of dirt. After it was 
all thoroughly covered up, two or three holes were 
poked thru it to give it just enough air to keep the fire 
going till the wood was all consumed. These heaps 

1 Cf. infra, p. 216. 


would sometimes burn for a week or ten days. The aim 
was to keep them burning, or smoking, as long as pos- 
sible, for the longer they burned the better the dirt was 
thought to be. It was the passing of the smoke thru 
the dirt, rather than any burning it received, that was 
supposed to enrich it. Whether or not this burning 
or smoking which the dirt received was of any value, 
I have never learned. By many, smoked dirt was highly 
praised; nevertheless, the effort to make manure by this 
process has been practically discontinued for years. 
Along the Chowan River and Albemarle Sound was a 
strip of territory from two to five miles wide in which 
was used most of the offal from the fisheries. This fish- 
offal is splendid manure. A few farmers also hauled out 
some marie. 

Crop Rotation. — Except a few peas (locally known as 
** corn-field peas"), which were planted^ in the corn at 
the time of hining"" it, the planting of leguminous or 
special nitrogen-producing crops for the purpose of en- 
riching the soil was rarely practiced. Even the peas 
sowed in the corn were more for hog-feed than for fer- 
tilization. Not only did few, if any at all, practice any 
sort of a systematic crop rotation ^ designed to increase, 
or even to maintain, the soil fertility, but it was a com- 
mon thing for one crop to be planted on the same piece 
of ground fifteen or twenty years in succession. The 
idea that more could not be taken off the land than was 
put on it without leaving it to just that extent depleted, 
seems never to have dawned upon them. Many farmers 

1 Sometimes they were planted in hills between the hills of corn, but 
the more usual method was to sow them broadcast. 

2 Cf, infra, foot-note p. 59. 

^ There was crop rotation, to be sure, but usually the object was to 
more thoroughly "skin" the land, rather than to increase its productivity. 


let a portion of their fields lie out each year to '' rest." 
They seemed to think that land got tired much like 
human beings, and similarly, needed a vacation. The 
land lying out grew a coat of vegetation, which if plowed 
in (it was often burned) added to the soil some much- 
needed humus. This was the prime good of the " rest- 
ing." Most land, after a few years' cultivation without 
manuring, ceased to bring enough to pay for the labor 
expended in working it. Much was tilled long after 
this point had been reached. Often land was tended 
that did not yield an annual average of three bushels of 
corn to the acre. The remark often heard, " That man 
won't get seed corn," not infrequently proved to be true 


All seed, except cotton, were planted by hand, and 
even cotton seed, by some farmers were still being rolled 
in wet dirt and sowed in the primitive way. This was 
quite generally the case when only a small piece of cotton 
was planted. 

All crops were planted on high beds. In the case of 
sweet potatoes, the bed could not be plowed up high 
enough to suit some people, so they actually raked it 
into a ridge from one end of the row to the other with 
a hoe. Having the crop on a high ridge both increased 
the difficulty of tillage and hastened the drying out of 
the ground, thus lessening the crop yield. It also rad- 
ically influenced the method of cultivation, being one of 
the causes of the slow introduction of such modern farm 
tools as the various types of weeders and cultivators, 
since these, in order to be very effective, must have 
crops planted comparatively level. 

Planting Corn. — In order that the tediousness of the 


process of planting may be to some extent realized, let 
us look at the details of planting corn, which will serve 
as a fair illustration. After the bed was ready, a man 
with a horse and either a " streaker " or a plow, '' streaked 
it out" (ran a light drill on the top of the bed), another 
person followed with a gauge ^ and dropped the corn, 
while a third person followed him with a hoe, and cov- 
ered it. If the ground was at all rough it took four men 
to follow one horse and plow — one to streak, and three 
to drop and cover. If it was in good condition so that 
the grain could be covered with one's foot, and if the 
distance was guessed at instead of being marked off with 
a gauge, five men, and occasionally four, could keep two 
horses going. 


Crtcde Methods. — With only the few simple tools pre- 
viously described,'' cultivation was of necessity very crude 
and laborious. But after making all due allowance for 
poor tools, the methods followed were far more ineffi- 
cient than they might have been. To begin with, the 
ground was commonly broken up only from three to six 
inches deep on a level. This usually started in March, 
but many did not finish till late in May. Of course, 
there was some planting done in the meantime, much of 
the ground being planted very soon after breaking. 
Most ground was plowed but once before being planted. 
The harrow was little used by any, and by many not at 
all, consequently the ground, especially stifif-land soil 

1 A corn gauge was a forked stick with the prongs held at the distance 
desired by a cross piece. It was turned with one hand, while the corn 
was dropped with the other. Gauges were always used by children 
since they were not able to accurately judge distances; they were used 
by some grown-ups. 

2 Cj, supra, pp. 46-50. 


(Portsmouth series type), was nearly always rough and 

Tillage was done according to custom rather than ac- 
cording to either science or common sense. There was 
a definite way in which each crop should be tended, and 
a definite number of times it should be gone over with 
the hoe and plow. The customary routine was followed 
almost religiously, regardless of seasons or pecuHar con- 
ditions. For instance, sweet potatoes were worked twice 
with hoe and plow ; corn and cotton, three times. The 
one all-dominating, immediate purpose of the farmer 
was to kill grass. The idea of stirring the soil to stimu- 
late the growth of crops, or to prevent the coming of 
grass, seems not to have occurred to him. His policy 
of never touching stuff until after it had come up and 
grown to a fair size, the fewness of the times he worked 
it, his crude, antiquated methods of tillage, and the fact 
that in summer grass grows very rapidly, meant that 
his crops were generally ''right" grassy before each 
working. This was especially true in wet weather. Even 
if the season was dry and he had worked his crop clean 
of grass, he seldom started back over it until the grass 
had again largely taken possession. Why should he 
work when the thing — grass — he was working to kill 
was not there? At least this seemed to be his attitude. 

In order to see the progress that has been made since 
the beginning of the period under discussion, and as a 
record for future reference, it may be well to outline the 
methods of cultivating the principal crops. 

Manner of Working the Chief Crops. — Cotton was 
"barred off"^ on one side, chopped out, then '' dirted " 

1 " Barring off " was throwing the dirt from, rather than to, the 
growing plant, with a turn plow. This process put some dirt down 
between the rows, ready to be worked back to the plants at the next 
cultivation. It also covered up the grass in the middle, and so killed it.. 


(a little dirt thrown up around the plants) on one side 
with a cotton plow in small casting. In a few days, 
sometimes the same day, the other side was barred off 
and dirted. Since the cotton was never worked until it 
was large enough to be ''blocked out," ' at its first work- 
ing it was frequently full of grass, the getting out of 
which nearly uprooted the plants. When in this condi- 
tion, the process of cutting it out was far more slow and 
tedious than it would have been had the grass been kept 
down. Since no effort was made to cut it to a stand, 
the next task was to thin it out — a back-breaking job 
which usually fell to the lot of the small children. In 
two or three weeks it was "grassed" (all grass either 
pulled up with the fingers, or cut out with the weed 
hoe), the middles split out (the ridges, which were made 
between the rows when dirting, plowed up) with a cotton 
plow in big casting, and the cotton again dirted. The 
next and final plowing was four furrows to the row with 
the turn-plow. The plow was immediately followed by 
hoe hands who were supposed to cut out or cover up 
any grass left uncovered, and pull the dirt up around the 
plant where the plow had failed to lap it. Many made 
hills around the plants even where- the dirt was lapped. 
This last working was known as "hilling," or "laying 

1 The seed were drilled, from eight to twenty times as many being 
put as there were plants wanted. This seeming wastefulness was 
simply a precaution to secure a stand. When the cotton got about 
six inches high it was gone over with a hoe and cut into hills the 
desired distance apart. This process was known by several terms, such 
as " chopping," " cutting out," and " blocking out." \ 

2 Both these terms are descriptive, one expressing the method of 
working, the other the fact that it was the final working. In the final 
working of all crops the dirt was literally hilled up around the stalk, 
many even raking up from the middle of the row most of the soil that 
happened to be left by the plow. 


Corn was barred off, leaving a balk of some twelve 
inches wide (it was left wide for fear of injuring the 
plant), which had to be "wed"' off. In two or three 
weeks it was grassed and two furrows thrown to it with 
the turn-plow. This was known as "half-hilling." From 
two to four weeks later it got the four hilling furrows 
with the turn-plow, and a working with the hoe. Corn 
had even a larger hill made around the stalk with the 
hoes than did cotton. 

After the sweet potato ridge became covered with 
grass from one to three inches long (sometimes it was 
as long as a man's hand), it was wed off from top to 
bottom on both sides. This ridge was so large that 
there was a space from ten to fifteen inches wide on 
each side that had to be cut with the hoe. After weed- 
ing they were barred off, if this had not been done before 
the weeding. In a few weeks the vines were turned out 
of every other middle, and the middles plowed four fur- 
rows to the row. The vines were next turned out of the 
unplowed middles, and these run out. The hoe followed, 
completing the piling up of dirt around the sprout, in 
other words, completing the hilling process. 

Hilling. — In hilling all crops the ground usually was 
plowed deeper than when it was broken in the spring. 
As a rule the plow was put down to the hard-pan, a bit 
of which frequently was turned up. When only every 
other middle was hilled out at first, and the remaining 
ones a few days later, crops did not appear to suffer 
much, if the ground was in proper order and rain fol- 
lowed soon. But many plowed out every middle as they 
went, and did it when the ground was very wet — fre- 

1 To " weed " was to shave off the grass and weeds very lightly with 
a weed hoe. " Wed " rather than " weeded " was used as the past tense. 


quently turning up in long, slick rolls from one end of 
the row to the other. In case this working was followed 
by several days of hot sunshine and no rain, the stuff 
nearly died. This was especially the case with corn. It 
would ''fire up" (the leaves turn permanently yellow, 
and many of the lower ones dry up completely) and 
never reach its former possibilities. 


If the object had been to exhaust the land as quickly 
as possible, the method of cultivation followed by many 
could have been little improved upon. As previously 
stated, when the land was cleared much of the vegetable 
matter was raked up and burned instead of being allowed 
to lie and rot for two or three years and open up and 
enrich the soil. In the second place, land was scratched 
rather than plowed, hence was far more subject to wash- 
ing than if it had been broken deep, and also suffered far 
more severely from both wet weather and dry. Third, 
much of the land was poorly drained and frequently be- 
came so water-sobbed that it produced hardly anything 
at all. Fourth, the principal crops — corn and cotton 
— were crops that were cultivated so late in the season 
that there was time for but little vegetation, which might 
act as a winter cover-crop, to spring up after their final 
working. Fifth, the legumes, except peas, were almost 
never planted, and the peas were largely for hog-feed 
rather than for the improvement of the soil. Sixth, in 
the spring of the year the corn stalks were cut down and 
burned, and the fields that had vegetation heavy enough 
to burn, were generally fired over in order to get the 
grass and weeds out of the way for plowing. Seventh, 
comparatively little commercial fertilizer or manure of 
any kind was used, and it was no uncommon occurrence 


for land to be cultivated year after year without any 
manure whatsoever. The result of such methods was 
that much land which produced well when first cleared, 
at the expiration of four or five years fell to half, and 
even less, of its original productivity. This fact in turn 
caused a continual abandoning of land to grow up again 
into forest. 

Not only did the method of cultivation exhaust the 
soil, but it was of the kind that gave small return for 
the labor spent. Breaking the land shallow caused crops 
to be far easier damaged by both wet and dry weather 
than if it had been broken deep; plowing the growing 
crops comparatively deep, especially when hilling, plow- 
ing when it was too wet, waiting for grass before work- 
ing — all greatly lessened the crop yield. Not a year 
passed but that much stuff was seriously injured by 
every one of these causes. Grass hurt in two ways : 
first, it fed on the food that would otherwise have nour- 
ished the cultivated crop ; second, when the crop got 
"right" grassy before being worked, it was so nearly 
uprooted in getting out the grass, that it never became 
what it would have been, had it been worked in time. 
There was enough work done, but it was not rightly di- 
rected. For instance, in the case of corn (the other crops 
were tilled in a similarly wasteful and inefificient manner) 
the total work after planting was eight times to the row 
with a man and horse, and three times with a man and 
hoe — the expenditure of enough energy, if properly ap- 
plied with the right sort of tools and machinery, to have 
kept in a better state of cultivation three times the acre- 
age that was cultivated by the method in vogue. 


The Chief Farm Products in the Eighties 

quantity and disposition of crops 

The principal crops ^ in order of their acreage, were com, 
cotton, oats, sweet potatoes, wheat, peas, and Irish potatoes. 
The farmers were each producing largely for the consump- 
tion of their immediate families. While a small portion 
of all the various crops raised in the county was sold, prob- 
ably more than ninety-eight per cent of the total produc- 
tion, with the exception of cotton, was consumed within 
less than thirty miles of the site of its origin, the greater 
part being consumed on the farm which produced it. 

Cotton — the one crop planted especially for market — oc- 
cupied, according to calculations based upon the 1880 census, 
slightly more than one- fourth of the entire acreage in actual 
cultivation. The average production of lint cotton per farm 
(including all farms) in 1879 was about 1400 pounds, or 
something less than three bales. Per capita of the entire 
population of the county, the lint cotton production was 
about 130 pounds.^ Thus it is seen that the crop which 

1 Cf. table 8, p. 271. 

2 The figures given here are calculations based on data found in 
tables 5, 6, and 8, pp. 261, 265, 271, respectively. 

The bale has not always been the same. In the Tenth Census 453 lbs. 
of lint, and in the nth census 477 lbs. of Hnt, respectively, were recorded 
as a bale. For many years, however, the bale has been standardized at 
500 lbs., and wherever referred to in this treatise, unless otherwise in- 
dicated, it is this standard bale that is meant. The actual bale varies 
within certain limits. More than 99 per cent of the bales, however, will 
be included within the limits, 450 lbs. and 600 lbs. At many gins it is 
63] ^Z 


was depended upon to furnish most of the ready cash, was 
comparatively small, and that if each person had received 
the proceeds ^ of his proportional share, it would have been 
only a small sum. But many raised only a little cotton and 
others none at all. Probably more than three-fourths of the 
entire crop was produced on fewer than one-third of the 
farms, the majority of the farmers having only a " cotton 
patch." There were not a few who produced less than a 
bale, and so sold their crop in the seed to the local merchants. 

A small number of farmers raised more than enough corn 
to serve them, but this went to their neighbors who had 
failed to raise what they needed. The county as a whole 
did not supply itself. The wheat produced was not suffi- 
cient to make the county's flour, notwithstanding the fact 
that there was comparatively little used.^ The oats pro- 
duced by each farmer were largely fed to his own stock. 

Some land was given over entirely to peas, but the major 
portion was raised in the corn, being either planted in hills, 
between the hills of corn, or else sowed broadcast at the 
last plowing of the corn. The census for 1880 does not 
give the acreage devoted to this crop. If it were any other 

customary to charge a flat rate (say $2.50 or $3) for ginning and 
baling, regardless of the size of the bale. At other gins the charge is so 
much for baling, and so much per hundred pounds of lint for ginning. 
Where the former practice obtains, obviously it is to the farmer's inter- 
est to make the bales large, and a good size bale is preferred in any case. 
Hence in the early part of the season when the cotton is heavy and packs 
well, the bales are large, ranging from 550 lbs. to 600 lbs. The largest 
ginner in the county told me that when he was charging a flat rate, he 
put up one bale weighing over 900 lbs. Three pounds of seed cotton 
is reckoned to one of lint. Good cotton, however, makes more than 
one to three: not infrequently 1400 lbs. of seed cotton will make a 
500 lb. bale of lint. 

1 In 1880 " upland middling "' was selling for about 12 cents a pound. 

2 Many families had flour only once or twice a week, and not a few 
went for weeks at a time with none whatever. 


crop, knowing the usual production per acre and presuming 
the number of bushels given ^ to be correct (it most likely 
is too large), a close approximation could be made. Owing 
to the conditions of their cultivation, however, this cannot 
be done. In calculating the acreage for all crops, 200 acres 
have been allowed for peas. A few found their way to out- 
side markets, but they were mostly consumed at home, hogs 
and people both coming in for a share. 

Sweet potatoes, like peas, were produced both for the 
hogs and for the table. Irish potatoes were more of a gar- 
den vegetable than a field crop. Most families planted just 
enough to have a few to eat during the growing season. 
Comparatively few were eaten after they matured. 

As for hay, it was not made. Less than seventy-five 
tons were mowed in 1879,^ and this little was mowed with 
an ordinary scythe or hand grass-blade. So far as I have 
been able to ascertain, in 1880 there was not a mowing ma- 
chine in the county. For forage the farmers " pulled 
fodder" (stripped the corn leaves from the stalk). This 
is a hot, nasty job, besides being a slow, wasteful, un- 
economic method of getting forage. To save three hun- 
dred pounds a day in fair weather is good average work 
per man. During the fodder-pulling season (the most of 
it is stripped in August), the weather is frequently rainy. 
As a consequence, probably from a third to a half of the 
fodder is more or less damaged (some of it to such an ex- 
tent that it is worth scarcely anything) before it is taken in. 
Much of it is taken up before it is well cured, in order to 
escape probable rains. The following day this must be 
thrown out, sunned, and put up again that night. In many 
cases this process has to be gone through with for two or 
three days, especially if the fodder is rather green and there 

1 C/. table 8, p. 271. ^ Ihid. 


is little sunshine. Again, at this time of year thunder storms 
frequently come up very quickly in the afternoon. If one 
has fodder down, at the first indication of a rising storm 
he musters all hands into the field, where they work as if 
fighting fire till the fodder is gotten up or the threatened 
storm has either blown over or driven them to cover. 


Most farm owners had at least one or two grape-vines 
and a few fruit trees. These latter were principally apple, 
but there were some peach and pear. The grape was usually 
the scuppemong, a variety claimed to be indigenous to the 
eastern section of the state. Both as to flavor and juiciness 
this grape is probably unsurpassed, but its shipping qualities 
are poor. The fruit trees were mostly hardy seedlings. 
While the varieties were few, there were some very good 
ones, which for home use have been little improved upon. 
Of apples, there were the "piney woods seedling," the 
" horse apple," the " matamuskeet," and the " green Jona- 
than;" of peaches, the "red June" and the ''yellow 
press." ^ These were all favorites. Neither the grape- 
vines nor the fruit trees received much attention after once 
being set out, and yet they seemed to thrive well. Not a 
few that had been in bearing for more than a generation 
were still good producers in 1880. 

While many a farmer had not over ten or twelve trees, 
and from ten to twenty square yards of grape-vines, there 
were some who had from fifty to a hundred trees, and some 
who had from one- to two-thousand square yards of vines. 
No fruit was shipped away. A few peaches, pears, apples, 
and grapes were hauled to the near-by towns, and a con- 
siderable quantity of grapes was hauled to Norfolk. There 

^ Local names. 


was some wine made from the grapes and some brandy from 
the apples. Both of these beverages were largely consumed 
in the immediate localities of their production. 


Free Range. — In 1880 only about one-third of the land 
area of Chowan was under fence, or " improved." ^ The 
other two-thirds was free range, that is, anybody's stock 
was at liberty to graze on all un fenced land without let or 
hindrance. Whether the owner of stock owned thousands 
of acres of unfenced land, or owned none at all, made no 
difference in the privileges accorded his stock. Much of 
the free range was most excellent for cattle, sheep, and 
hogs, and yet there was comparatively little stock raised.* 
Except a few hogs and some barnyard poultry, many farm- 
ers bred no stock at all. 

Mules and Horses. — The Tenth Census does not report 
the immature mules and horses separately from the mature. 
Judging, however, from the figures of the following cen- 
suses,^ and from my own knowledge of general conditions, 
I think it a liberal estimate to place the annual average num- 
ber of colts foaled as one to every thirty or forty farms. 
The probable cause of the lack of horse breeding was the 
lack of pastures, not more than one farm in twenty having 
either a permanent or temporary pasture of any sort. Gen- 
erally speaking, where colts and their mothers have to be fed 
from the bam entirely there is little or no profit in breeding 
horses. But why the lack of pastures ? Since the possibili- 
ties were by no means poor, the only answer I can suggest 
is the lack of knowledge of the possibilities for pastures and 
of the means of developing them, coupled with a failure to 
realize their value. 

1 Cf. table 6, p. 269. 2 Cf. table 7, p. 270. 

3 Ihid. 


Sheep. — Like the horses, the sheep bred were a negligible 
quantity. The one great drawback to sheep-raising — that 
which kept it from being a highly profitable industry to the 
county — was the presence of so many good-for-nothing 
dogs. In 1878 the county had 684 sheep, and 768 dogs. 
During the year these dogs destroyed 85 head of sheep, 
while only 17 head were lost from sickness.^ 

Beef Cattle. For every head of cattle reported in the 
Tenth Census (1880), there were more than three head of 
people, and this in a county two-thirds of which was free 
range and much of which of such quality that cattle (except- 
ing the few that were milked) did not even need to be win- 
tered. In no case were they fed any at all (unless milked) 
more than four months of the year, and then usually only a 
very small amount of cheap forage, such as corn shucks and 
wheat and oat straw. The Tenth Census makes no mention 
of either the number or value of cattle annually sold or 
slaughtered, but in the census following, the number given 
as sold " living and slaughtered " is 135, and " slaughtered 
for home consumption," 45.^ Both the general conditions 
and the total number of cattle reported in 1880 being prac- 
tically the same as in 1890, it is highly probable that the 
number of cattle sold and slaughtered was about the same. 
Of those sold for beef, some were driven to Norfolk (sixty 
or more miles distant, depending upon the point in the 
county from which they started), some sold in Edenton, 
and some butchered on the farm and peddled out among the 

Milk Cows. — Nearly all the cattle of the country were the 
" piney woods," or scrub stock. Not until the census of 
1890 was there any effort made to ascertain the quality of 
the stock. At this time the census enumerator was able to 

'^ North Carolina Hand-book, pp. 212-18, passim, 
2 Cf. table 9, p. 272. 


find but ten thoroughbreds, and but fifty five others that 
were as much as one-half pure blood/ It is well known 
that the scrub stock is a poor producer, both of beef and of 
dairy products, especially the latter. 

Not only was the quality of the milk cows poor, but the 
number was small. In the Tenth and the Eleventh Censuses 
there are only three divisions of cattle : " working oxen," 
" milch cows " and " other cattle." ^ In view of this fact 
it is quite likely that many cows used for breeding purposes 
only, were reported as " milch cows," and that the figures 
for the latter are therefore too large But, even taking the 
figures as given for 1880, there were only 10 milk cows 
in the county to every 107 people. The production of milk 
and butter not being one of the strong points of this native 
stock, even when accorded the best of treatment, under the 
treatment actually received little could be expected; and in 
this there were no favorable surprises. 

It was customary to shut the calves up in small en- 
closure or else allow them to run loose in the fields, while 
the cows were forced to run in the woods and rustle their 
own feed. The calves were never taken from their mothers 
and raised by hand, but instead were turned to them once 
every day. In fact the time allowed the cows with their 
young was the one inducement to them to come home and 
be milked. The calf was allowed to suck for a very short 
time just before the cow was milked, and then after she 
was milked it was allowed to suck her dry. Sometimes one 
or two teats would be left unmilked for the calf, especially 
when it was young, or in an enclosure where it found very 
little to eat. During the first month or six weeks the calf 
was allowed to stay over night with its mother, but after 
then its mother was usually milked mornings, and it was 

1 Page 300, volumes on Agriculture, Eleventh Census. 
« Cf. table 7, p. 270. 


allowed with her from a few minutes to an hour or two only, 
immediately after the milking. As a usual thing, the cows 
were milked only once a day. 

If the cows were fed any at all, it was frequently just 
enough to make them stand while being milked — sometimes 
a few nubbins, or green " shoots." ^ For the first eight or 
ten weeks they came up mornings regularly and early. But 
as their calves grew older, and the time allowed with them 
was cut shorter, mother-love gradually gave way to other 
considerations, and the home-comings were no longer either 
regular or early. They would begin by remaining away 
till the middle of the morning, then till noon. Being milked 
late one day, probably the next day they would not come at 
all. This irregularity made bad milk, and so very soon 
they would be allowed to dry up. Less than ten per cent 
of the cows were milked during the winter months. When 
allowed to dry up in the early fall, as was the common 
custom, if fed at all, the feeding did not start till December 
or January, and stopped about the middle of April when the 
grass and trees began to put out. The feeding being only 
barely sufficient to tide them over the winter, the spring 
found them thin and weak. 

Most of the calves were dropped during March and April. 
May and June were the best months for milk and butter, 
for it was then that the free pasturage of the woods was at 
its best. Probably three- fourths, or even more, of the total 
annual dairy production took place during these months. 
By the spring, feed in the barn was getting low, so the cows 
that calved early were fed but little, and the calves allowed 
most of the milk. Thus the dairy product before May was 
small. By August, the flow of milk was slackening con- 
siderably, and by September many cows were no longer 

1 Forms of ears of corn bearing no grain. 


Dairy Products. — Under the conditions outlined, the dairy 
product was necessarily small. The Tenth Census makes 
no report on the milk production, but according to the butter 
report, the county produced less than 13 ounces of butter 
for each inhabitant during 1879. The first milk report was 
that of the Eleventh Census, for 1889. The dairy product 
in that year was under 23 quarts of milk and 1 1 ounces of 
butter for each person in the county. The milk production 
per cow was less than 85 gallons for the entire year. 
Reckoning 120 days as the average milking period for each 
cow, the daily output per cow was well under 3 quarts for 
4 months of the year, and nothing during the other eight. ^ 
Many a cow was milked that gave less than 2 quarts a day. 

The milk and butter produced was largely consumed by 
the immediate producers. The few cattle sold ^ brought 
their owners, on an average, not over fifteen or eighteen dol- 
lars a head. Thus it is seen that cattle made only a very 
small return to the county, either financially or otherwise. 

Hogs. — Of the domestic animals on farms, hogs were not 
only by far the most numerous but also the most general. 
Probably ninety per cent of all farmers (both owners and 
tenants) raised at least a few. The county more than raised 
its meat,* though many people consumed but little. The 
more substantial farmers, especially farm owners, usually 
butchered from eight hundred to two thousand pounds, and 
a few as high as from five- to ten-thousand pounds. 

^ These calculations are based upon the census data found in tables 
7 and 9, pp. 270, 270. As noted above, it is quite likely that some 
mere breeders were classed as "milch cows." This, however, is prob- 
ably more than made up for by those milked more than four months 
in the year. 

2 Cf. supra, p. 68. 

3 In this treatise the word " meat," tmless otherwise indicated, refers 
to hog meat, as is the local custom. 


Except on special occasions, such as all-day religious 
meetings, when some of the families participating would 
kill a " pig " that had been put up and fattened for the 
particular affair, practically all pork was killed during the 
winter months. More than ninety per cent of it went on 
the rack between the middle of December and the last ot 
January. Some farmers would occasionally keep a few 
hogs, if they were fattening well, over into February. 
There were two very salient reasons for killing at the time 
specified. In the first place, the hogs by this time had eaten 
up what was intended for them. In the second place, it is 
hard to save meat, especially large joints, unless the weather 
is fairly cool. The winters in Chowan being relatively short, 
only a limited amount of weather suitable for butchering was 
expected, hence everybody prepared to butcher when this 
weather came. 

Whether destined for market or for home consumption, 
the hogs were always slaughtered right on the farm. Some- 
times one had a few he wanted to kill either earlier or later 
than he did his others, and so would have two hog-killings 
during the season, but the majority did all their killing in one 
day. Help was furnished by one's' neighbors without re- 
muneration, except what they ate and drank and the few 
haslets they carried home with them. (It was customary 
for each of those who helped to take a haslet or two home 
with him if he cared to.) On the day following the killing, 
the meat was cut out and salted down (except that which was 
sold right off the rack), the "lard dried up," ^ and the 
sausage meat chopped up.^ This work required about one- 

1 The rendering of the trimmings of fat from the entrails, and from 
the meat in cutting it out, was known as " drying up the lard." 

2 Possibly there were a few sausage mills in the county then, but if 
so they were not in general use, hence most, if not all, of the sausage 
meat was chopped up with a knife. 


third as much help as did the killing. In certain sections 
those who helped in this work would be given some spare 
ribs, or backbone, to take home with them. As a matter of 
<;ourse, in asking and receiving aid, one always entailed 
upon himself the obligation to give aid in return when 
called upon.^ 

Hog cholera was the one great drawback to the raising of 
pork. This dread disease claimed numerous victims almost 
every year. It was not an uncommon thing for cholera to 
break out in a neighborhood and destroy from 50 to 75 
per cent of all hogs, and in some droves make a clean 
sweep. The Eleventh Census is the first and only one thus 
far to make any report by counties of the hog mortality. 
According to it there occurred among the hogs in the county 
in 1889, 2,100 deaths, a number more than 37 per cent a3 
great as the number consumed.^ Whether or not the death 
rate for that year was greater than the average, one is 
unable to say definitely. The fact, however, that, of the last 
four, this is the only census which reports the number of 
hogs as smaller than the number of people at the time of 
the enumeration, may indicate that for 1889 the hog mor- 
tality was above normal. At any rate, it is a well-known 
fact that the annual average mortality was relatively high, 
and was due almost entirely to the one disease — cholera. 
As a conservative estimate, I should say that one year with 
another twenty per cent as many died as were slaughtered ; 
in other words, one died for every five killed. The loss 
of one out of every six, or whatever the proportionate loss 
was, if it could have been established as a definite tax, would 
not have been so calamitous. But much feed was raised 
for the express purpose of fattening hogs; consequently, 
when one lost all, or a large proportion of them, a good 

1 Cf. infra, p. 181 et seq. 2 Calculations made from table 9, p. 272. 


part of his feed was also lost. Thus there was a double 
loss, aside from the demoralizing effect upon the industry 
caused by the great uncertainty constantly prevailing. 

If cholera could have been stamped out, dressed pork 
could probably have been produced at a profit for something 
like three cents a pound. For ten months of the year hogs 
secured much of their living right in the woods. Besides 
such feed as roots, grasses, bugs, and worms, — found in all 
parts of the county — in certain parts in certain years there 
were great quantities of chinkapins, acorns, huckleberries, 
and beech- and pine-mast. Thus it was that in some years 
in some sections hogs would be in "good order" (fair 
condition) when given the run of the fields, notwithstanding 
that since being weaned they had had little or nothing except 
what they themselves had foraged. Many people fed their 
hogs, except their brood sows and small pigs, scarcely at 
all until they were turned into the fields. In the fall, after 
crops were housed, all hogs to be fattened that season were 
put into the fields to pick them, that is, to eat the peas, 
potatoes, and whatever else they could find. Some killed 
their pork right out of the field, but the majority " put up " 
(penned) their hogs after they had cleaned the fields, and 
corned them for a time, the length of time depending, with- 
in certain limits, largely upon whether or not it was thought 
they were making sufficient gains to leave a fair margin 
after deducting the value of the corn fed to them. 

Not only did hogs entail comparatively small expense in 
feeding, but they also demanded very little attention. The 
sows pigged in the woods, making their own choice of loca- 
tion for the purpose. In fact, they seemed to do better 
when at large than when enclosed. If the weather was cold 
they began making a tremendous bed of bushes, leaves, and 
straw two or three days previous to the prospective litter. 

Under existing conditions the breeds were necessarily 


those that could largely shift for themselves. This, how- 
ever, is far from saying that only poor breeds could do this. 
Now and then some good blood would be brought in, but 
since everybody's hogs ran in the woods together, no one 
could do a great deal toward breeding up his own stock, 
beyond the selection of his brood sows. Thus it was largely 
a case of the stock of all improving together. This would 
have been all right had not the ignorance, selfishness, and 
short-sightedness of some prevented them from cooperating 
in the general betterment. For instance, many would let 
their scrub males run till they were a year or more old be- 
fore castration. By and large, the hogs bred tended towards 
the long-nosed, heavy-shouldered, big-bellied, small-hammed 
type — the type which produces the least amount of the most 
desirable meat. Being scantily fed, their growth was slow. 
Many at twelve months old would not have dressed 50 
pounds. As a rule they did not seem to fatten well till 
they were a year or two old, hence those butchered would 
have probably averaged a year and a half. Even at this 
age they rarely ever dressed as much as 200 pounds. One 
that dressed 250 pounds was a " big hog." 

Poultry. — The raising of poultry was well-nigh uni- 
versal among farm owners and the better-class tenants. 
The number kept by any one family, however, was seldom 
large, it being very rare to find as many as a hundred 
chickens attached to any one household, and chickens con- 
stituted some eighty per cent or more of all poultry raised 
in the county.^ Numerous families had fewer than a 
dozen head of grown poultry. For the rural popu- 
lation as a whole, there were on June i, 1880, 
only 196 head of poultry (exclusive of spring hatching) 
of all kinds for every 100 people.^ From thirty to 

1 Cf. table 7, p. 270. 

2 Calculations based on U. S. Census data found in table 4, p. 264, 
and table 7, p. 270. 


forty hens was the usual maximum per family. It 
had been found out from experience that this number 
produced about as many eggs (sometimes even more) as a 
larger number did. The reason for this seeming anomaly 
is not far to seek. When fed at all, the chickens were al- 
ways given corn, hence had to forage most of their nitrogen- 
ous or egg-producing food, and in many cases they had to 
forage all their food. Such things as bugs, worms and 
kitchen scraps found about the place, amply supplied a small 
number, but since they ranged only a comparatively short 
distance from where they roosted, a large number found 
these sources of supply quite inadequate to their needs. 

While not usually keeping many laying hens, some of the 
more industrious housewives (this was the one outdoor in- 
dustry in which the women dominated) raised from fifty 
to two hundred spring chickens for sale annually. 
Nearly all who kept chickens sold a few young ones 
in the spring and summer, if nothing more than the 
roosters among those hatched for layers. In the fall of 
the year some of the old hens would be sold off to make 
room for the pullets just coming in. 

Though chickens constituted the major portion of the 
poultry, there were also some turkeys, ducks and geese. 
The turkeys were raised almost entirely for market. Dur- 
ing the late fall and winter months they were dressed and 
carted to Norfolk. Except a few to raise from the follow- 
ing year, the entire flock was killed every season. Ducks, 
seemingly, were bred because some people fancied them, 
rather than because of the financial return they made. They 
were poorer layers than hens, their eggs sold for the same 
at the stores,^ and when the ducks themselves were put on 

1 At Easter time retailers on the Norfolk market could get from two 
to four cents per dozen more for duck eggs than for hen eggs, but the 
producer seldom knew the difference. 


the market they brought no more than the hens. Geese 
served in a double capacity — that of grass-killers, and that 
of feather-producers — besides selling well when put on the 
market dressed. 

The first-named service of the goose, that of killing grass, 
was of no mean value to the cotton grower when crab-grass 
was the principal grass, as it was on many farms. This 
grass was considered a great delicacy by the goose and a 
great plague by the farmer. A flock of forty or fifty geese 
was probably equal to one hoe hand for keeping down grass 
in cotton after the cotton was once cut to a stand, provided 
they were put in on time. Geese lay early in the spring, 
hence could be set and hatched off in time for the goslings to 
be large enough to do good work soon after the cotton was 
ready for them to go into it. In the very act of killing the 
grass by eating it off they thereby obtained most of their 
livelihood. Since they were near maturity by the time cot- 
ton was laid by, their production necessitated but small ex- 
pense, and this was much more than made up for by the 
labor they saved. In the fall they were good for a half- 
dollar apiece, or they could be kept for feathers. 

Practically all of the more substantial families slept on 
feather beds, except during a few months in summer, and 
some even all the year round. A newly-married couple 
usually started housekeeping with one or two beds, either 
given them by their parents or bought by themselves, and 
as the family grew, raised feathers for other beds. The 
best feathers, in fact nearly all feathers ^ used, were taken 
from geese and ducks. Since picking seems to go so hard 
with ducks, and since they are comparatively small and re- 
feather comparatively slowly, only a few were ever picked, 
hence geese were the main source of supply. 

1 Some few people, when they dressed chickens, saved the feathers, 
but they were always of very poor quality, and were never used except 
by the poorer classes. 


By far the greater portion of all poultry and eggs found 
its way to some outside market, principally Norfolk. Less 
than twenty per cent of either was consumed by the pro- 
ducers.^ Most people had them to eat only at rare inter- 
vals. At the big, all-day church meetings,^ with dinner on 
the grounds, it was customary to have chicken, also when 
company was expected for a Sunday dinner, usually a 
chicken was cooked. As for eggs, once in a great while 
they were served for Sunday morning breakfast, or when 
visitors were present. Also, when one was sick he was 
generally allowed to have what eggs he wanted; this was 
one of the few pleasant things about being sick. But the 
times when either eggs or poultry graced the family bill of 
fare, except on the special occasions mentioned, were few 
and far between for the vast majority.^ 

During six or seven months of the year there was neither 
much to sell, nor much to barter for the little necessaries 
and luxuries usually obtained from the country stores. For 
many, poultry and eggs constituted the principal articles 
marketed from the last of February till the middle of Sep- 
tember, when the fall crops began to come in. They were 
either picked up by the carters (who, at certain seasons of 
the year, scoured the country buying anything and every- 
thing that was salable on the Norfolk market),* or toted ofif 
to the stores and traded for such things as kerosene, coffee, 
sugar, molasses, tobacco, and snuff. And this was done in 
spite of the fact that the prices received were low. Grown 
ducks and chickens brought from twenty to thirty cents a 
head, geese from forty to fifty cents, and turkeys from 
eighty cents to a dollar. For months at a time — the time 

^ My own estimate, based upon a general knowledge of conditions. 
2 Cf. infra, p. 205. ^ cf^ infra, p. 223. 

* Cf. infra, p. 135 et seq. 


when hens were doing their biggest laying — eggs sold at the 
country store for eight and ten cents a dozen, and often 
went as low as six cents. 

Cash Handled by the Farmers. — From the facts given 
in this and the preceding chapter it is seen that the vast ma- 
jority of farmers handled very little money. In fact many 
a fairly substantial farmer with a good-sized family, handled 
less than a hundred and fifty dollars a year. For the simple 
life they were leading, however, they did not need much 
money. They were producing most of what they con- 
sumed, whether it was little or much, and consuming most 
of what they produced. If they hired labor, much of it 
was paid in supplies, so they got along quite well with very 
little actual cash. 


Agriculture, Fruit Culture, Animal Husbandry and 
Poultry Raising in 191 5 


Having described somewhat fully the general conditions 
of agriculture and its allied industries in the eighties, it will 
suffice to sketch rather briefly the changes which have since 
occurred in the industry. These changes have been largely 
along three lines — principles and methods, variety of crops, 
and production. 

Changes in Methods and Principles. — In 1880 it could 
hardly be said that many people of Chowan had any prin- 
ciples of farming other than to imitate their fathers and 
grandfathers. But we now come to a period in which we 
find a few people who want to understand the underlying 
causes of things — the whys and wherefores. For the vast 
majority, however, it is still enough for them if they know 
that a certain action is likely to produce a certain result. 
Of course, the voluntarily blind — those who refuse to see 
the results obtained by the new methods — are still present. 

What are the changes in method ? In the first place some 
farmers are actually breaking up their land, instead of 
merely scratching the surface.^ A few break up their land 
with two-horse teams. Not only is the ground plowed 
deeper, but many put their seed-beds into much better con- 
dition than formerly. Discs and various types of special 
harrows are now freely used. Nearly every one is doing all 

1 Cf. supra, pp. 52, 61-62. 
80 [80 


his planting, except the setting-out of sweet potato sprouts, 
with special planters. A beginning has been made in scien- 
tific crop-rotation, that is, a rotation which returns some- 
thing to the soil as well as takes something away. Now 
and then a farmer is found who is actually radical enough to 
plow in a crop of clover or peas. Some few act as if they 
had learned that they cannot take more off their land than 
they put on it. without making it poorer to just that extent. 
While there may not be much more manure per capita made 
on the farm than formerly, quite a few have discontinued 
the practice of burning all the vegetation off their land in 
the spring of the year, and the great majority are using 
some commercial fertilizer. According to the 1910 census 
the expenditure for commercial fertilizer per acre of im- 
proved land in 1909 was 13.5 times what it was in 1879, 
just three decades previous.^ Most people have also de- 
cided that they can spend their time to better advantage than 
in hauling common dirt from the woods into their fields. 

One of the biggest changes is in the actual working of 
the crops. They are now much more properly worked, and 
with far less human labor than in the eighties. Harrows, 
cultivators, weeders, combination plows, and other special 
machines, some of which work a row or more at a time 
(while at the same time permitting the operators to ride in- 
stead of trudging along behind), have, by many, been 
largely substituted for the turn-plow and weed hoe. Many 
farmers have told me that while formerly it required from 
two to three hoe hands to follow one plow, now one can 
follow from two to three plows. The up-to-the-minute 
farmer no longer waits for his crop to become covered with 
grass before working it, but instead, often begins before it 
comes up and keeps right on as long as he can get into it 

1 Cf. table 12, p. 275. 


without injuring it. When following this method, there is 
little hoe work to be done, except in case of a very wet 
season. In traveling through the county, I have observed 
that, by and large, the greatest amount of machinery is 
used and the least amount of hoe work done on the farms of 
the white farmers who are cultivating their own land and 
largely with their own, rather than with a hired, force. It 
seems that neither the negro tenants nor the negro laborers, 
as a rule, handle the more complex farm machinery to much 

In the housing of crops, the chief advance has been made 
in the picking of peanuts. This is all done now, and satis- 
factorily so, by machinery, while until twelve or fifteen 
years ago it was all done by hand. A good hand-picker 
working steadily can pick about four bushels a day. A 
machine picker handled by two men ^ can pick four hundred 
bushels, or more, a day. Had it not been for the invention 
of a successful picker the increase in the production of 
peanuts would have had to stop long before now, because 
of the inability to get them picked off. Incidentally, the 
cost of picking has been cut down to from a third to a 
fourth of what it would otherwise be. There have been 
some thrashers for cowpeas, but thus far they have not 
been very successful. The soy-bean thrasher, however, is 

1 As a usual thing five or six men work around a peanut-picker, but 
the extra men are not engaged in the actual picking. They hand the 
peanuts up to the picker, place the sacks, take them away when full 
and sew them up, and take away the vines — all of which work had 
to be done just the same when the nuts were picked by hand. In fact, 
for the same amount of nuts, it requires far more extra time when 
picking by hand than when picking by machine, and for two reasons: 
in the first place, in picking by hand the work is drawn out over a 
much longer time, requiring the attention of one or more persons 
(besides the pickers) at various intervals; second, instead of having 
one person to deal with, there are several, whose work must be measured 
up, usually every day, if there are many pickers. 


a success, having attained to a fair degree of perfection 
within the past four or five years. Only a few peas are 
raised for market, and these are mostly picked and flailed 
by hand with a hoop-pole. Cotton must still be picked by 
hand, a fact which greatly curtails its production. The 
capacity for picking, however, seems to have increased from 
fifty to one hundred per cent during the past thirty years. 
This is probably due to two causes: first, an actual increase 
in capacity for picking ; second, a production of better cotton, 
making it possible for one of former capacity to pick more. 
Many now pick from two to three hundred pounds a day in 
the early part of the season, while in the eighties compara- 
tively few picked more than a hundred pounds a day. 

Some idea of the degree of change from the antiquated 
methods of the eighties to the more modern methods of the 
present may be gained from the fact that in 1880 the average 
value of farm implements and machinery per acre of improved 
land was 64.5 cents, while in 19 10 it was $2.75 — more than 
a quadruple increase. What is most significant is that more 
than 75 per cent of this total increase occurred during the 
last decade.^ From my own observations, I am confident 
that the next census will show the present decade to have 
made an even greater increase in the value of farm ma- 
chinery used than did the previous decade. These facts 
would seem to indicate that the Chowan farmers are only 
just beginning to wake up. 

Other facts which indicate the degree of improvement in 
cultivation, are the change in the quality of the " stand- 
ard work animal," and the increase in their number in pro- 
portion to the improved land area. In 1880 more than 14 
per cent of the work animals on the farm were oxen.^ The 

1 These calculations are made from table 6, p. 269. 
' For the data and calculations of this and the previous paragraph 
cf. table II and footnotes to same, p. 274. 


service of the ox, however, in the capacity of a farm animal 
is now practically a thing of the past. In 19 14, during 
more than a six months' stay in the county traveling back 
and forth all over it, I saw but one ox being plowed, and 
learned of only one other. Possibly there were two or three 
more, but the few work-oxen now in the county (in 191 o 
estimated at 20) are used mostly for hauling, either on the 
farm, or in the log woods. 

Not only has the efficiency of the "standard work animal" 
been increased by the ox having been practically dropped out, 
but also by the mules and horses having been considerably 
improved. They are larger now than formerly, and on the 
whole much better fed. Hand in hand with this increasing 
efficiency of the " standard work animal," has gone the 
cutting down of the number of acres he has to work. From 
1880 to 191 o, the average number of improved acres per 
horse dropped from 34 to 22.3 — a decrease of 34.4 per cent 
in the short space of 30 years. Furthermore, in 1880 the 
work animals had to do much more work that was not 
strictly agricultural than they have to do now. Then, most 
of the cotton raised was ginned by horse power, a majority 
of the seines were hauled by horses, much of the produce 
marketed was carted from twelve to sixty miles, and the 
traveling was done largely with horses. At present, all 
cotton is ginned by steam, there are no more seines pulled, 
most farmers are near some railroad station, making it no 
longer necessary to cart produce very far, and all traveling 
of more than a few miles is done either by rail or by auto- 
mobile. Less than ten per cent of the produce now has to 
be carried more than five miles, and the larger part of it 
less than three. As for traveling, the horse is now seldom 
driven so far from home but that the return trip can be 
made the same day, and many use the automobile almost 


Variety of Crops. — When we compare the variety of 
crops grown in 1880 with those grown in 1910 we note two 
radical changes. Wheat, a crop ranking in average 
fairly close to oats and sweet potatoes, which held 
third and fourth place respectively, has dropped out 
entirely; the peanut crop which was so insignificant 
lin 1879 that the Tenth Census took no account of 
it, has increased in acreage to within a few acres 
of cotton, and in market value, probably has a slight lead/ 
In acreage, cotton and Irish potatoes have remained about 
the same, while corn, oats, peas, and forage have each actu- 
ally decreased. The increase of the sweet-potato acreage 
has just about kept pace with the increase in population. 

A new crop — the soy-bean — has been receiving consider- 
able attention during the past four or five years. In view 
of the following facts — that it will produce something on 
almost any of the land, that it yields a crop while at the 
same time improving the land, that it is easily cultivated, 
that it is one of the best and cheapest hog-feeds that can 
be grown here, that there is a good market for the bean, 
that there is already in use a fairly satisfactory machine 
for threshing out the bean, making the cost of gathering 
from a third to a fourth of what it would be by hand — in 
view of these facts, the soy-bean is destined to attain a high 
degree of importance in the very near future. 

Production per Acre. — Turning to production per acre, if 
the census figures for 1879 be compared with those for 1909 
it will be seen that they register very little change in pro- 
ductivity per acre for the three crops — corn, cotton and 
sweet potatoes — which were the most important in both 
periods. The facts in the case, however, seem to justify a 
very different conclusion. I personally have interviewed 

^ Since the rise in cotton prices during the present, European war, 
the market value of the cotton crop has again taken first place. 


a number of the most successful farmers all over the county 
and they tell me that they are now raising from two to three 
times the amount of produce per acre they were raising 
thirty-five years ago. My own observations, going back some 
twenty-five years, are in strict accord with their testimonies. 

Of course, there are some farmers who are producing 
no more per acre now than they were in the early eighties, 
but these are in the minority. Many farmers who were 
then making from eight to fifteen bushels of corn per acre 
are now making from twenty to thirty bushels. Several 
men in the county have produced well over a hundred bushels 
per acre. In 19 14, I myself stood in a piece of corn which 
measured out 137.5 bushels per acre. Thirty-five years ago 
few men in the county would have believed that an acre 
coud be made to produce so much. With cotton it is the 
same story over again. In the eighties from a half to three- 
quarters of a bale was considered good cotton. The aver- 
age for the county, according to the Tenth Census (1880), 
was only 166 pounds of lint — a third of a bale (500 pounds) 
per acre. Many acres fell far short of this amount. 
During the last five or six years not a few farmers 
have produced from a bale to a bale and a half per acre 
for their entire crop. 

Not only does the testimony of the farmers contradict 
the census reports in this particular, but the reports them- 
selves ofifer additional proof of the discrepancy. From 
1880 to 19 10, the acreage of improved land decreased more 
than 6 per cent,^ while the amount spent for commercial 
fertilizer in 1910 was 12.6 times the amount spent in 1880,* 
and the value of farm machinery in 1910 was practically 
four times what it was three decades before.* Why this 

1 Calculations based on table 6, p. 269. 

^ Cf. table 12, p. 275. 

^ Calculations based on table 6, p. 269. 


tremendous increase in the use of commercial fertilizers if 
they produced no results? The principal manure made on 
the farm was (and continues to be) that from work animals, 
which from 1880 to 19 10 increased some forty per cent in 
number/ Since the value of manure is being more and 
more realized it is most probable that the increase in " stable 
manure " was at least as great (most probably greater) as 
the increase in the number of work animals, which are its 
source. Does any one conversant with the facts suppose 
that all this extra amount of manure, the far better tilth 
that now prevails, and the beginning made in the planting 
of leguminous crops for building up the soil,^ are necessary 
to keep the land up to the low fertility of the eighties? 
Again, by far the greater part of the annual income of the 
farmer is from the field crops. Orchard products have 
decreased both in bulk and in value owing in part to the 
State's having "gone dry," and in part to the damage 
done in recent years by the coddling moth and other fruit 
pests. Population increased more than 43 per cent ^ from 
1880 to 1 9 10. With this augmentation in the number 
of mouths to feed, with a somewhat smaller fish- 
catch,* and with the live stock production ^ remaining 
about the same, if the soil productivity has not in- 
creased, then what has been the source of the phe- 
nomenal increase in economic welfare observable on all 
sides ? ® Surely not a few thousand dollars worth of 
vegetables sold, nor the small manufacturing interests which 
furnish employment for less than 600 people at any season 
of the year, and part of the time for even a much smaller 
number.^ Again, if land productivity has not increased, 

1 Calculations based on table 11, p. 274. 2 cf. supra, pp. 80 et seq, 

3 Calculated from table 4, p. 264. * Cf. table 14, p. 279. 

» Cf. table 7, p. 270. e Cf. infra, ch. xx. ; 

^ Estimated. Cf. infra, pp. 117-118. t 


why did land more than treble in value from 1900 to 1910? * 
It was certainly due to no artificial boom, to no land adver- 
tising, to no land speculation. Produce prices rose to some 
extent, but nothing to compare with the rise in the price of 
land. Believing that the foregoing facts amply sustain my 
contention, I shall here rest the case. 

From agriculture in its more narrow sense, let us turn to 
fruit culture, animal husbandry, and poultry raising, which, 
in reality, are only other branches of the general subject of 
agriculture. This is especially true when carried on as here 
in Chowan. 


Orchard products have decreased in bulk, quality, and 
value. Very little fruit, even of medium quality (except 
grapes) can now be raised without spraying. And since 
no one sprays, the result is that (exclusive of grapes) many 
a fair-sized orchard does not annually produce a single 
bushel of non-defective fruit. Aside from grapes, the 
county is not even supplying itself with fruit. Much of 
that consumed in Edenton, even during mid-season, is now 
shipped in from the outside. Large quantities of good- 
qualitied apples and peaches could be raised here if only a 
little care were taken with the trees, but the time has passed 
when all one has to do is to plant the tree, and thereafter 
gather the fruit. 


The general conditions regarding the breeding of live 
stock and poultry and the handling of their products, for 
the majority of the people, have changed but little. The 
free range still exists, though for hogs it is far inferior to 
what it was in former days, due to the fact that most of the 

1 Cf. table 6, p. 269. 


mast-bearing trees have been cut. The breeds of hogs and 
cattle are still largely scrub, though the strains of good blood 
intermingled are on the increase. 

The horses, mules, and sheep bred, continue to be a negli- 
gible quantity.^ 

The number of cattle has actually decreased. And while 
there are probably a few more good-blooded milk cows, the 
increase in the number was not sufficient in 1909 to show in 
the milk and butter report of that year.* 

Hogs have increased in number, but the increase has 
failed by more than eight per cent ^ to keep pace with the 
increase in population. It should be noted, however, that 
the retardation of increase in hogs, as compared to increase 
in population, is more apparent than real. At the time of 
the Thirteenth Census (1910), the average age of hogs 
when slaughtered was three or four months less* than it 
was at the time of the Tenth Census (1880), which means 
that a smaller proportion of hogs are now kept over from 
one season to the next than formerly. A larger per cent of 
those pigged in 1909 were killed the following season, than 
of those pigged in 1879, which, in turn, lessened the number 
to be enumerated the following year. Of course, the true 
test of the relative increase or decrease of the hog product 
is not the number of hogs on hand at any one time, but 
rather the annual output of such products as lard, pork, and 
bacon. If this item were given in the census reports I am 
inclined to think that it would show an acceleration of in- 
crease, in comparison to population increase, instead of a 
retardation . 

1 Cf. table 7, p. 270. 

2 Cf. table 9, p. 272. 

3 Calculations made from data of table 4, p. 264, and table 7, p. 270. 
•* My own estimate. 


The cutting down of the age of hogs slaughtered has been 
brought about by two factors — better breeding and better 
feeding. Many farmers have improved their stock of hogs 
to the point where it is no longer necessary for them to be- 
come a year or two old before they will fatten. The ap- 
proach to the balanced ration, however, has doubtless had 
far more to do with this than has the breeding. The more 
intelligent farmers now know that the growing animal needs 
a comparatively large amount of nitrogen-bearing food, or 
legumes. A great many more have learned by sheer experi- 
ence that young hogs do far better when allowed to run on 
either peas or peanuts while eating potatoes, than if fed on 
potatoes only. With the spread of the cultivation of pea- 
nuts, the hogs, since they have always had the run of the 
field after crops are housed, came into a source of especially 
good muscle-building food by force of circumstance, rather 
than by any premeditation on the part of the farmer. Also, 
the recently introduced soy-bean is now being planted to 
some extent for hogs, and is proving to be a very high- 
grade, as well as a cheap feed. 


In numbers, poultry ^ has remained about the same. The 
egg production, however, was nearly two and three-quarter 
times as great ^ in 1909 as it was in 1879. This increase 
doubtless was due to the introduction of better-laying breeds 
and to some approach to scientific feeding. Many people 
no longer feed their chickens on corn alone. 

1 In table 7 the number for 1910 is nearly double that for 1880, but 
the former is for " poultry of all kinds," while the latter is " exclusive 
of spring hatching," which I estimate to be at least equal in number to 
the mature poultry. 

2 There was an increase during three decades of 172 per cent. Cal- 
culations from table 9, p. 272. 


Fishing in the Eighties 

relative significance of fishing 

From the standpoint of the labor and capital employed^ 
there was in 1880 no industry that could claim to rank 
second, or even third, to agriculture. Fishing was next in 
importance, but, according to the best estimates from the 
known facts, only about four per cent of the taxable 
property values in the county was given over entirely 
to this industry/ There was, however, in addition 
to this specialized capital, a certain amount reckoned 
as agricultural, which was devoted to seine-fishing 
during the season — roughly speaking, from the ist of 
April to the loth of May (about six weeks) on the 
river, and from the loth of March to the 15th of 

^ Cf. table 13, p. 276. In 1880 the fishing equipment was not re- 
corded separately from other personal property, but in recent years 
this has been done. In 1914 all property of Chowan county was 
listed at $3»709.255, while the fishing properties alone were listed at 
%29,Z2>7 (figures furnished by the county registrar of deeds direct from 
the tax books), less than one per cent of the total. It will be observed 
(table 13) that the Hst value of the fishing apparatus is less than one- 
third (30.3 per cent) of the estimated market value ($96,838). In 1880 
the taxed property values (exclusive of solvent credits) of the county 
amounted to $750,648. (North Carolina Executive and Legislative Docu- 
ments, Session 1881, Raleigh, N. C, Document No. 4.) Assuming that all 
property in 1914 was Hsted at the same per cent of its market value 
as were the fishing properties, and assuming that the same percentage 
held for 1880 as for 1914, the market value of all property in 1880 was 
$2,478,204. On these assumptions the estimated market value of the 
fishing properties for 1880 ($102,700) was 4.14 per cept of the value of 
all property in the county. 

91] 91 


May (about nine weeks) on the sound. Under the latter 
class of capital were the mules and horses used in pulling 
in the seines, where this was done by horse power. The 
labor, too, employed in fishing was labor which at other 
seasons of the year was engaged chiefly in farming; but 
even if the time of the horses, mules, and men occupied in 
fishing should be capitalized and the amount added to the 
specialized capital of this activity, the aggregate would still 
be comparatively small. 


At the time when this account begins, gill-nets, pound- 
nets, hand seines, and power seines — both horse and steam 
— were all being operated. Of the first there were com- 
paratively few in use, and these were the short, stake-net 
variety set principally for shad. Some were set for herring, 
but the herring caught this way were a negligible quantity. 
Pound-nets had recently been introduced (1869) and their 
possibilities were fast being realized, though seining was 
still the all-important method — probably responsible for 
eighty -five per cent of the total fish-catch. 


Advantages Over Seines. — The pound-net has three big 
advantages over the power seine, its only rival in herring 
fishing. In the first place, a much smaller amount of labor 
is required to beach a given quantity of fish. Secondly, the 
labor force can, in a large degree, be regulated according to 
the size of the catch, which fact makes it unnecessary to keep 
numerous hands on the pay-roll for several weeks before the 
fish begin to run in large quantities. The power seine, on 
the contrary, requires about the same complement of labor 
force — aside from the cutters ^ — when the catch is small as 

1 The cutters are those who head and gut the fish. 


when it is large. Third, only certain beaches are prac- 
ticable as seine-landings, while the pound-netter can land his 
fish almost anywhere he can get a canoe ashore. Another 
feature of pound-netting is that, from the standpoint of 
catching fish, a small amount of capital invested produces 
proportionately as great results as does a large amount.^ 
With the seine this is not true. There is first a considerable 
outlay for cleaning up the beach and seine-ground. Then 
one must have sufficient capital to rig up and fish a seine 
long enough to reach well out into the water, else it is 
needless for him to fish at all, except when the fish are play- 
ing in close to shore, which never occurs more than a few 
days during a season, and some seasons hardly at all. 

Responsible f-or the Break-up of the Fish Monopoly. — 
From Cannon's Ferry on the Chowan river clear down to 
the Albemarle sound, and along its shore to the Yeopim 
river — practically the county's entire water-front of some 
forty miles — one would find in 1880 a power seine every 
few miles. Sandwiched in between were the small oper- 
ators of hand seines, gill-nets, and pound-nets. Under 
the conditions existing prior to the introduction of pound- 
nets, the fishing industry of the county was practically mono- 
polized by a very few — probably fifteen or twenty — com- 
paratively well-to-do people.^ This monopoly existed for 
two reasons : first, a few people owned all the best sites ; 
second, only a few people had the capital necessary to estab- 
lish and maintain seine fisheries. To start one of these, 
even on the river, required an initial outlay of some four 

^This is hardly true in handling them, though the proportional ad- 
vantage of a large amount of capital is not very great even in this 

2 The few little hand seines and gill-nets operated were almost negli- 
gible when their catch was compared to the total catch of the county. 
Cf. table 14, p. 279. 


or five thousand dollars, while the big seine fisheries on 
the sound were rigged out at an expense of from eight to 
fifteen thousand dollars each. With the coming of the 
pound-nets this monopoly melted away. As above stated, 
a pound-net fisherman can land almost anywhere. Also, at 
this time he could begin business on a very small scale, hence 
those who had only a little capital, but who, nevertheless, 
wanted to fish on their own responsibility, now had an op- 
portunity. Some of the first pound-netters were those who 
had formerly fished seine on wages. Not a few persons 
started with a total capital outlay well under three hundred 
dollars, and operated but one or two nets. In 1880, few 
if any persons or partnerships operated more than four or 
five pound-nets. In fact, at that time this number was con- 
sidered a big stand, while at present the larger operators 
fish from twenj:y to thirty pound-nets. 


Hand Seines. — The hand seine was a small affair of from 
seventy-five to two hundred yards of shallow netting, and 
required only from four to six people to handle it. These 
seines were shot by boats propelled by man power, and also 
were hauled in by man-power windlasses. They were fished 
intermittently, since, because of their fewness of yards, it 
was useless to haul them except when the fish were playing 
in close to the shore. The men would make a haul, say 
in the morning, and if there were no fish they would hang 
up till the afternoon, and if there were still none and no 
prospects of any soon, they would hang up till the next day. 
When there was a big run of fish on, and coming in close, 
these little seines would sometimes catch from fifty to 
seventy-five thousand herring a day for a day or two in 

1 1 have it on unquestionable authority that on one occasion a certain 
hand seine of 140 yards (exclusive of rope) caught between 140,000 
and 150,000 in two days. 


Power Seines. — At this time there were eight horse-power 
seines and four steam seines being fished. The former were 
shot by boats propelled by men, each of the two boats 
having from six to twelve oarsmen, the number depending 
upon the size of the seine. They were pulled in by wind- 
lasses drawn either by horses, mules, or oxen. The steam 
seines were shot by steam-propelled flats and hauled by 
steam-driven windlasses. 

Seines on the river were from 600 to 1800 yards long, 
while those on the sound ranged from 2300 to 2500 yards 
in length.^ This was the seine from staff to staff, in other 
words, the netting. In addition to this, the rope on the 
sea end was about as long as the seine itself, and that on 
the land end something like half its length. Thus, count- 
ing both the seine proper and the additional rope, the larger 
sound seines were from three to four miles long. 

Shooting the Seine. — The rope and seine as they were 
unwound from the windlasses were piled up on the after- 
decks of two^ bateaux, or flat boats, which were then 
either rowed or steamed out together to the center-bush 
(about a mile and a quarter from shore at the big fisheries). 
Here they separated, the " land-end " boat making a sort of 
semi-circle back to the beach, paying off first the seine and 
then the rope, while the " sea-end " boat either continued 
its course for some distance, then turned parallel to the 
shore, or else at once turned parallel to the shore, casting off 
its seine as it went. When the seine was all off and nothing 
remained but the extra rope, the boat headed for the 
beach. This operation was known as " shooting the seine." 

On the river the " land end " was the end upstream, and 
on the sound, the end towards the river. The fish in 

1 For the location and size of the big seines, cf. table 15, p. 281. 
' The small hand seines used only one boat ; two were used for the 
big seines in order to save time in shooting. 


the river were supposed to be running upstream, and 
those in the sound to be making for the fresh water of the 
river, hence the reason for shooting the seine in the shape 
described — the open sea-end let the nsh in, while the closed 
land-end headed them off. 


Sise and Character. — .To man each of the big sound 
fisheries properly, some fifty men, twenty women (these 
latter were the cooks and cutters), and fifteen mules (for 
those pulled in by horse power) were needed. The smaller 
seines required help in proportion/ On the sound the 
whole force, except the managers, and sometimes one or 
two others, was colored. On the river, in addition to the 
managers and the crew captains occasionally a few others 
of the force were white. Sometimes white women cut on 
the river. 

Severity of the Work and Coarseness of the Fare. — When 
the seines put in at the beginning of the season they never 
stopped, except on Sundays ^ and in case of a severe storm 
or some mishap, till the season closed. Notwithstanding 
this continuous operation, the positions of manager and of 
shore-engineer (in the case of steam-power seines) were 
the only positions for which double shifts were provided. 
Eating, sleeping, and resting took place when there was 
nothing else to do. Each person had his special work which 
had to be done at a certain time during the course of each 
haul. When this was done he was at liberty till this point 
in the next haul came around. For instance, the cutters 
and " shelter " men (those who helped at such work as 

1 For a detailed statement of the labor required cf. table 13, p. 276. 

2 Previous to the Civil War the big seines were fished Sundays as well 
as week-days. After the war there was no fishing from Saturday mid- 
night till Sunday midnight. 


washing, counting and salting) had from the time one haul 
was cleaned up till the next was landed. When there was 
a big run of fish on, they got very little time off. Occasion- 
ally, when tremendously heavy hauls came in, the seine 
would have to stop, and everybody lend a hand in cleaning 
up. All the leisure time the seine-haulers (those who had 
to do with the shooting and landing of the seine) had was 
from one to two and a half hours between the shooting of 
the seine and the coming ashore of the staff. Since there 
were only from three to six hauls (the number depending 
upon the size of the seine, weather conditions, and whether 
horse power or steam power was used) every twenty-four 
hours, it is readily seen that the spare time that they had 
was not sufficient to become any great burden to them. 

Though the 'work was hard, necessitating much exposure, 
and at times calling for continuous application for several 
hours in succession,^ and though the fare was rough — prin- 
cipally cheap whiskey, yeopon tea, corn-bread, fish, and 
molasses, with meat and flour only once or twice a week — 
nevertheless, seining seemed to have a peculiar fascination 
for the men and women who followed it. 

Whiskey. — Whiskey was considered an absolute essential 
on every seine beach, both by laborers and proprietors. A 
man would just as soon have thought of starting up his 
seine without cooks as without liquor. It was thought to 

1 Previous to the war the fishing labor was largely recruited from 
among the free colored population of Chowan and the adjoining 
counties. The slaves liked to fish, but their owners, for the most part, 
refused to allow them to work on the fishing beaches because of the 
great exposure to which they were subjected. I have it from an old 
fisherman that previous to the war the men had neither oil clothes nor 
rubber boots. They even cut open the toes of their shoes so that the 
water could run out more quickly. Certain men had to stand in water 
up to their hips for an hour or so each haul. In later times these men 
wore either hip or waist boots, and so were protected. 


protect one from taking cold. One former seine-proprietor 
said to me in all seriousness, ''This was night and day work, 
and they [the laborers] had tO' have some stimulants." I 
have it from old seine-owners that it was the cheapest 
whiskey they could buy. It was dealt out differently at the 
different beaches, but the seine-haulers (they were the men 
most exposed) received a rather generous supply every- 
where. They were usually given a gill at every haul,^ while 
the shelter hands were given a gill two or three times a day, 
the women coming in for a " nip " on special occasions, for 
instance, when there were extra long hours on account of a 
big run of fish. 


Quantity. — Seine-owners aimed to ''put in" (begin fish- 
ing) as soon as they thought they would be able to make 
bare running expenses. For the first ten or twenty days the 
catch was light, but during the height of the season the 
quantity was at times so great as to be almost incredible. 
I am informed by old river seine-haulers and proprietors 
that single hauls of a hundred thousand herring, besides 
the other fish, have been made on the Chowan river. The 
largest haul made at one beach on the sound during 28 years' 
operation (1879- 1907) counted out 110,000 herring, 1200 
shad, and 500 pounds of rock.^ The largest haul at an- 
other sound fishery from 1890 to 1902 comprised 132,000 
herring and 720 shad, besides some rock and " offal fish " 
(such as perch, gars, and suckers).^ The average annual 

1 One old colored man who hauled seine in slavery days, told me 
that before the Civil War the seine-haulers received three gills every 
haul — one when they started out to shoot the seine, one when they 
came ashore, and one when the staff came in. Liquor in those days 
was quite cheap, selling around ten cents a quart. 

' Information furnished by the proprietor from his records. 

* Information furnished by the proprietor. 


herring catch per plant around 1880 was about 1,750,000 
for the steam-power sound seines, 1,500,000 for the horse- 
power sound seines, and 1,000,000 for the horse-power 
river seines. The average annual herring catch for all 
apparatus in the county was in the neighborhood of 

Variety and Disposition. — From the standpoint of bulk, 
the fish caught were chiefly herring. This was also true 
of their value on the river, but on the sound the " iced 
fish" ^ (principally shad and rock, though a few perch, and 
in the early part of the season, a few herring) were nearly 
equal in value to the herring,^ which were either sold fresh 
on the beach to the farmers, or corned and shipped. The 
river fishermen caught comparatively few " shipping fish " 
(fish shipped iced), though their herring catch was greater 
in proportion to their investment than was that of the sound 

The great majority of the people who bought their herring 
on the beach fresh, were from ten to twenty miles nearer 
the river fishermen than the sound fishermen, hence the 
former sold a much larger proportion of their herring with- 
out having to do anything to them, except cut, wash, and 
count them, than did the latter. As a rule the river men 
did not make preparations for salting, packing and storing, 
as the sound men did. In fact, many made little or none, 
and so were compelled to sell their fish as soon as they were 
caught, if they were catching more than a very few. These 

1 These figures are all estimates. For the basis upon which they are 
made, cf. note to table 14, p. 279. 

2 The term for all fish iced and shipped fresh. 

'^The proprietor of one of the largest seines pulled on the sound 
informs me that his records show the average annual value ratio of 
iced fish to herring caught on his beach from 1880 to 1885 to have been 
about six to seven. 


conditions made river prices far less stable than sound 
prices. When a big run of herring was on hand — some- 
times when it was merely expected — the river fishermen 
would drop their prices in order to induce the farmers to 
come down for their annual supply. Knowing this, many 
farmers waited for these low prices, and for this reason 
sometimes missed getting any fish at all. 

Value. — On the sound, herring rarely sold below three 
dollars a thousand, but on the river they went to two dol- 
lars nearly every season, and frequently to one dollar. The 
low prices never held long, however, for as soon as the big 
run was over (usually in a day or two, at most) the price 
would go back to about three dollars, which may be taken 
as the ruling mid-season price for seine herring. At that 
time the beach value of the annual herring catch (21,- 
000,000) was in the neighborhood of $71,000, and that of 
the iced-fish $67,000, making a grand total of $138,000 for 
the fish-catch per year.^ 

1 For the basis of the estimated price per thousand of herring caught 
by the various kinds of tackle, and for the estimated total beach value, 
cf, note to table 14, p. 280. 

Fishing in 1915 

fascination of seining 

There was always something exciting and peculiarly- 
fascinating about the landing of a seine to which few 
persons ever became indifferent, no matter how often 
they witnessed the scene. It was a sight which never 
seemed to pall. Even the fish-hands seldom grew weary 
of watching a haul land. They might be sleepy and 
worn-out, but just before the seine was beached they 
almost invariably became wide awake and more or less 
excited. Somehow the seine engendered for itself in 
the hearts of the people a kind of sentimental attach- 
ment, and so at its passing many experienced the same 
poignant regret that others have felt at the passing of 
the buffalo, the blanket Indian, and pioneer life in gen- 
eral. But like so many other implements and processes 
which have had to give way to more efficient devices 
and methods, the seine was forced to succumb to its 
economic superior — the pound net. 


When pound-nets were first introduced (1869), the 
seine owners fought them — even tried to have a law 
passed to prevent their use. The few people who owned 
the seine beaches had heretofore, so far as commercial 
fishing went, practically owned the sound and river, altho 
nominally they were free for all to fish in. These beach 

lOl] lOI 

« ^ ^ "* ■* „ ^ -!• •' 


owners saw in the pound-net an instrument that was to 
take away from them their long-enjoyed monopoly, and, 
as is usually the case with *' vested interests" when 
threatened, they "raised a howl." But it was of no 
avail. Because of the tremendous advantages possessed 
by pound-nets over seines,^ the former multiplied at such 
a rate that within a very few years the seine owners 
noticed a decided falling-off in their catch. One by one 
they were forced to quit seining, since they did not care 
to operate their plants at a loss. By 1900 the annual 
average catch of the individual seines still running was 
only a trifle more than half of what it was around 1880. 
The catch of shad had dropped especially low. After 
1902 there was operated in the county only one seine ; 
this continued up to and including the season of 1907. 
Since then all commercial fishing has been done with 
pound- and gill-nets, the latter for shad only. 


Other than the displacing of seines by nets, but few 
changes have been made in the fishing industry since 
1880. Shad gill-nets are much longer now than then, 
and are anchored instead of staked. As regards pound- 
nets, some now use the double- instead of the single- 
heart, but many claim that there is little or no advantage 
to be gained by this innovation, and continue to use the 
single-heart. The one big change — the one chief step 
forward — has been the substitution of gasoline- for sail- 

The advantages of the gas-boat in pound-net '^ fishing 
over the sailboat are several. In the first place, three 

1 Cf. supra, pp. 92, 93. 

2 Some of the gill-net men also use gas-boats as tenders. 

103] FISHING IN 1915 IO3 

men (they usually go three to a boat) can fish more than 
twice as many nets when using gas as when using sail, 
and what is more, with vastly greater ease. Second, 
they can fish at a far greater distance from their land- 
ing place, which allows fishermen to try their fortunes 
over a much wider area than formerly. Third, when a 
boat goes out, the time of its return can be figured with 
a reasonable degree of certainty, while in the days of 
the sailboat, the time of the return was rather a matter 
of conjecture. Fourth, one can fish in rougher weather 
with gas than with sail. Fifth, it is now possible to 
fish the nets fairly regularly, and usually as often as nec- 
essary, while in former days, if a big run of fish was 
accompanied by adverse weather conditions for sailing, 
many fish died before they were ever taken from the 
nets. Finally, fish are no longer damaged while enroute 
from the net to the beach, which in the days of sailboats 
was a common occurrence. Sometimes a boat would 
get becalmed, and the fish would be seriously injured 
before they could be got ashore. Because of the liability 
of the fish to damage, both in the net and while enroute 
to the beach, pound-net herring usually sold for fifty 
cents a thousand less than seine herring.' Under the 
present arrangements, pound-net fish should be as good 
as seine fish. 


For the five-year period 1909-1914, the herring catch 
averaged about 20,000 per pound-net annually. In 1914 
there were licensed 999 pound-nets, 633 of which were 
on the river and 366 on the sound. Counting 20,000 
to the net, the herring catch that season was 19,980,000 
— in round numbers twenty million. And the beach 

1 Cf. fcx)tnote to table 14, p. 280. 


value, reckoning river herring and sound herring at 
$3.00 and $3.50 per 1000, respectively, was $63,600. The 
average annual value of iced fish per pound-net for the 
same five-year period was about twelve dollars for those 
on the sound and fifty dollars for those on the river. On 
this basis the value of the iced fish caught by the pound- 
nets in 1914 was $25,896. The estimated value of the 
gill-net catch was $12,040, making a grand total of 
$101,536 for the county's entire catch of fish in 1914.' 


Capital Invested. — According to my estimates, the 
capital invested in fishing in 1880 was not only more 
than five times as great as it was in 1914,'' in proportion 
to the total property value of the county, but it was also 
greater in absolute amount. The catch, too, was greater 
in the first period than in the second, both in amount 
and value. As may be seen by referring to table 14, page 
263, the greatest loss in value has been due to the less- 
ened catch of iced fish. 

Fish Consumption. — The fishing industry of the county 
had a far greater comparative significance for the people 
in the eighties and nineties than is brought out by any 
of the facts thus far mentioned. At this time herring 
constituted the larger portion of the meat element in 
the diet of a majority of the people. Many a one had 
herring three times a day for days in succession, and 
little else besides, except bread and tea — his herring was 

1 For the basis of these estimates, and for further details, cj. table 14, 
and footnote to same, pp. 279, 280. 

2 In 1880 the capital invested was 4.14 per cent of the total taxed values 
of the county, while in 1914 it represented but .79 per cent of the 
total. Cf. supra, footnote, p. 91, and table 13, p. 276. 

I05] FISHING IN 1915 10^ 

either boiled in clear water or broiled ' on the coals ; his 
bread was made of cornmeal and water only ; his tea was 
** black yeopon " (tea with neither milk nor sugar). 

With herring at two dollars and fifty cents a thousand 
{the average price when the family fish were bought was 
not more, the higher-priced fish of the early part of the 
season being, for the most part, marketed outside of the 
county) and corn at forty cents a bushel (the customary 
price around housing time, in the eighties and nineties), 
a dollar a month would procure for a person the most 
usual diet of much of the population. This source of 
cheap food, taken in connection with the mild climate, 
meant that a person could exist with very little work — 
and not a few of the inhabitants did so. 

Of the annual catch of herring in the eighties, some 
forty per cent — from 8,000,000 to 9,000,000 — were sold 
fresh on the beach. The county's consumption of these, 
however, was probably only about 6,500,000, since some 
were carted off to Virginia and peddled out, some sold 

1 Herring were put up in two ways — dried and pickled, corresponding 
to bacon and salt pork, respectively. The dried herring were either 
boiled in clear water and eaten just so, or after being boiled were then 
fried. By the first method no grease was required, and by the second, 
but very Httle. 

Pickled herring that have been properly cured in the early part of 
the season when herring are fat, and then properly cooked, furnish a 
table delicacy that is seldom surpassed by any dish in its appeal to the 
appetite. They are at their best when spHt open, mealed, and fried 
right out of the water, after having been soaked for a few hours. 
To prepare them this way, however, requires a considerable amount 
of grease, and since grease was a rather scarce article in the vast 
majority of households, most of the pickled fish had to be cooked in a 
less expensive, even though less appetizing, manner. The greatest num- 
ber of them were first soaked, in order to get rid of the surplus salt, 
then stuck on a reed and hung out on the side of the smoke-house 
to dry. After they had dried for a few days they could be either 
fried with very little grease or else broiled, which required no grease 
at all. 


to farmers (who came down for them) from Nansemond 
County, Va., and a milHon or two sold to the farmers 
from Gates County, N. C.' In 1914 the beach sales were 
from thirty to thirty-five per cent of the 20,000,000 
herring caught that season — reduced to absolute num- 
bers, from 6,000,000 to 7,000,000. Probably about 
5,000,000 of these were consumed in the county." 

Assuming that the estimates in the preceding para- 
graph are approximately correct, the 7900 population 
of 1880 consumed thirty per cent more herring than 
the population of 1914 (estimated on December 31 at 
1 1,801 3). Per capita, the consumption was more than 
double in 1880 what it was in 191 4. This falling off of 
fish in the diet is one of the many indications of the 
vast improvement that has been made in the economic 
welfare of the people. It should by no means be under- 
stood that fish are thought to be a poor food. The 
point here is that the people have become better able to 
vary their bill of fare and eat fish only when their appe- 
tite calls for it. 

1 Some also were sold to carts from the adjoining county of Perqui- 
mans, but in all probability Perquimans sold fully as many (perhaps 
m.ore) fish to Chowan as she bought of her. 

2 The estimates of this paragraph are based on numerous interviews 
with both the sellers and the consumers of fish, and upon my own knowl- 
edge of general conditions. Many families put up for their own use 
from eight to twelve hundred herring for each of its members. Besides 
those for their own use, not a few of the more substantial families 
put up some to sell, particularly to their hired hands and their tenants. 

»The estimated population for December 31, 1914 was obtained as 
follows: To the population (11,303) on April 15, 1910, was added the 
product of the average monthly increase (8,819) during the previous 
decade by the total number of months (56.6) between April 15, 1910 and 
December 31, 19 14. This is not a very exact method of calculating 
the population at intercensus periods, but sufficiently so for the present 

Manufacturing in the Eighties 

TYPE OF manufacturing 

There was no sort of establishment in the county in 
1880 that could be termed a factory in the modern sense 
of the term. Manufacturing there was, and in consider- 
able quantities, but it was all of the domestic or hand 
variety. For certain work, such as making brick, sawing, 
and ginning, it was necessary for two or more people to 
co-operate, and such industries as milling and ginning 
called for a few hundred dollars capital outlay for plant 
construction. Most manufacturing, however, was by 
single individuals, laboring separately, and with few and 
simple tools of small value. The manufactured articles 
were practically all destined for home consumption, and 
largely for the consumption of the families of those di- 
rectly concerned in their production. 


At this time the people of Chowan were rather near 
neighborhood, and to a large extent family, self-suffici- 
ency.' Aside from iron, salt, nails, a little cutlery and 

1 In slavery days the larger owners lived on or near the sound 
and the river, where was much of the best land as well as the best 
opportunity for marketing its products. After the invention of the 
cotton gin (1792) the big slave owners began turning their attention to 
the raising of cotton. As the production of cotton increased, that of 
other crops fell off, as did frequently also the domestic manufactures, 
hence many of the supplies formerly produced right on the plantation, 
were now bought. After the war, the freedmen for the most part 
107] 107 


tableware, window-glass, some cooking utensils (such as 
creepers, pots, kettles, and frying pans), thread, pins, 
buttons, needles, the iron parts of some farming utensils, 
a few books, the saws and mill-stones of water-mills, the 
saws, mill-stones, boilers, and engines of steam-mills, the 
actual gins of the ginneries, and the belting and gearing 
of machinery, they were producing some, and in a major- 
ity of instances all, of everything the great mass of the 
people consumed. While they manufactured no cook- 
stoves, pianos, sewing machines, clocks, or watches, such 
luxuries as these were enjoyed by but few.' 

They tanned some of their leather, made some of their 
shoes, hats, and caps, knit most of their socks, either 
knit, wove, or made from shirting many of their suspen- 
ders, spun and wove some of their cloth, and made 
practically all of the wearing apparel (except shoes) 
for the women and children and most of that for the 
men (except shoes, hats and the Sunday suits of a few). 
They grew the feathers for their beds, and the corn 
shucks, wheat straw, and cotton for their mattresses — all 
of which they put together themselves. They turned 
many of their bedsteads and chairs, and all of the covering 
they slept under was of their own make. Most of their 
kitchen furniture and utensils, such as tables, benches, 
cupboards, bread-trays, griddles, sieves, and brooms were 
home-made. They coopered most of their tubs and 
many of their barrels, casks, wash-basins, water-buckets, 

remained on the farms of their former owners, either as tenants or 
laborers, and continued raising cotton and buying most of their supplies,, 
though part of these came off their landlords* own plantations. These 
two classes — the owners of big farms and the negroes who worked 
them — by no means approached the degree of family self-sufficiency 
as did the majority of the white and colored families living in the 
sections where there had been the fewest slaves. 
1 Cf. infra, ch. xx. 


and dinner pails. They improvised by far the greater 
number of their own dippers, occasionally from conch 
shells, more frequently from cocoanut hulls, but largely 
from the common gourd, which was cut, scraped, boiled, 
scrubbed, and sunned to remove the '' gourdy " taste and 
smell — said taste and smell, however, in spite of all these 
efforts, remaining to a more or less degree just as long 
as there was a piece of the gourd. All of their cradles 
and coffins, and most of their tombstones were made at 
home. All of their looms, spinning-wheels, cart-wheels, 
cart-saddles, carts, ox yokes, back bands, and tugs, most 
of their cotton-planters, and traces, and many of their 
horse collars and hames, originated within their own 
bounds. They made their rakes, helved their hoes and 
axes, and made and stocked some of their plows. They 
built their own boats and made their own seines, nets 
and fishing tackle in general. They salted down their 
own fish, butchered and baconed their own meat,' ren- 
dered their own lard, stuffed their own sausage, and 
boiled most of their own soap. Their tea (yeopon) 
was home-cured as well as home-grown, their corn-meal 
and much of their wheat-flour was home-grown, and 
their hominy was home-beaten. They brewed their own 
beers, pressed their own ciders and wines, and distilled 
their own liquors. They burned all their brick, tar, and 
coal (charcoal), rived all their boards and pales, rived 
and drew all of their shingles, hewed all of their sills and 
sleepers, many of their joists, laths and rafters, and 
much of their studding. Most of their doors were home- 
made, and not a few of them were hung on hinges of 
their own make and secured by locks of the same hum- 

1 Some of the big cotton raisers and most of the negro tenants bought 
the greater part of what meat they used, though many of them used but 


ble origin. All lumber was hand-dressed, and all mould- 
ings and most other trimmings were hand-made. The 
babies cut their teeth on home-made pacificators, and 
the older children played with toys of either their own or 
their elders' production. The number of physicians was 
small and the ability to pay them smaller, hence many of 
them secured a large part of their living from their own 
farms ; while the people when wounded did the most of 
their own sterilizing and bandaging, and when sick, in no 
small degree made their own diagnoses, prescribed their 
own remedies, and filled their own prescriptions from 
drugs largely compounded from roots and herbs grown 
in their own fields and woods. 


In manufacturing, the role played by the women was 
of no less importance than that played by the men. For 
the most part they had charge of the food and clothing, 
while buildings, tools, furniture, and utensils were chiefly 
constructed by the men. In other words, the men made 
most of the articles that were of leather, wood and iron. 
The products of the women were turned out almost 
entirely by each in her own home. There was virtually 
no division of labor among them, each doing in her own 
home what the others were doing in theirs, and while 
some did certain work better than did others, there was 
the same kind of work for all. With the men, while each 
was to a greater or less degree his own carpenter and 
repairman, there nevertheless was some division of labor. 
Different men made specialities of different things which 
they did for the public when not working on their farms. 
For instance, some tanned, some cobbled, some coop- 
ered, some carpentered, and so on down the list of do- 
mestic manufactures. 



As previously stated, certain manufacturing demanded 
an outlay of several hundred dollars for the erection of 
each plant in which it was carried on, and certain manu- 
facturing demanded the cooperation of two or more 
persons. But the capital expenditure, except in the case 
of saw-mills, went largely to neighboring farmers for the 
labor of construction (only those parts were bought 
outright that could not be made locally), and the plants 
requiring the largest force for operation could run at 
full capacity with five or six hands. Thus it is seen that 
little capital left the county for the construction of plants, 
and little organization was needed to operate them. Fre- 
quently these plants were either owned in co-partnership 
by two or three people who did their own work, or by 
individuals who had sufficient force of their own to man 
them. In any case, the plants were owned and the labor 
furnished by the neighboring farmers. 

With the possible exception of some of the millers of 
water-mills, and eight or ten people in Edenton, few, if any, 
depended entirely upon manufacturing for a living. Most 
men were farmers first, and carpenters, blacksmiths, cob- 
blers, or whatever else they were, afterwards. By far the 
greater part of all manufacturing and building was done 
out of crop season, it being customary for all plants, 
except grist-mills, to lie idle most of the time when the 
farmers were busy in their fields. 


Water-Mills. — There were in the county five water- 
mills, all of which ground corn, three of which had ma- 
chinery for making wheat flour, and two of which had 
saws. To man these, when grinding corn, only one 
person was needed; when grinding wheat, two were 


frequently on hand ; when sawing, from two to four were 
required. The water grist-mills ground every day when 
they had corn, except during occasional dry spells in the 
summer when they had no water. 

Steam-mills. — The steam-mills, of which there were 
some four or five in the county, were erected first for 
sawing only, but later some of them added grist-mills 
for corn. They got little grinding to do, however 
(except when protracted dry weather temporarily threw 
the water-mills out of commission), because everybody 
preferred water- ground meal to steam-ground. Meal 
made by water power is no better than that made by 
steam power, when all other conditions are the same 
in each case, notwithstanding the fact that many think 
the contrary.' The trouble was, other conditions were not 
usually the same. The chief work of the miller at the 
water-mill was grinding, hence he became more or less 
of an expert. The millers of steam-mills, on the other 
hand, ground but one day"" each week, and generally 
had but little to do then. The meal from the steam- 
mills was usually either too fine or too coarse, and occa- 
sionally burnt. 

The steam-mills were small — ten or twelve horse-power 
boilers and engines — and did but one thing at a time. 
To man them when grinding, two men were required, 
and when sawing, from four to six. 

Gins, — So far as I have been able to learn, all the gins 
in 1880 were driven by horse power. Of these there were 
probably twenty or thirty. Many of the larger planta- 
tions had their own gins. They could utilize their men 

1 No later than May 191 5, I saw this old fiction being exploited by- 
one of the biggest grocery firms in New York city. 

2 Usually Friday, but if they failed to get through on this day they 
finished on Saturday. 


and teams for this work at times when otherwise they 
would have been doing comparatively little. The usual 
capacity was two bales a day, working four horses and 
four men. By using two shifts of horses, driving hard, 
and working both early and late, some gins occasionally 
put out four bales a day. 


Making brick, the only other manufacturing process 
not considered which called for the labor of several peo- 
ple, required little but water, clay, sand, and labor. First, 
the prospective brick-maker picked out the least fertile 
spot on his place that had good accessible clay; then, 
with a hammer, hand-saw, axe, some nails, and a few 
boards and poles obtained from the near-by woods, he 
knocked together, within a few hours, a crude mill for 
grinding and mixing his material, and a shelter of simi- 
lar rough character for protecting his dry bricks from 
the rain; next, he dug a hole in the ground near-by 
for water, and, finally, he made five or six molds, which 
completed his special equipment. It took one horse 
to pull the mill, and from four to six men to tend it. 
Thus manned, the output was from four to six thousand 
bricks a day, or about a thousand per man. This has 
reference to the actual making of the bricks and put- 
ting them on the yard ; the work of hacking them and 
putting them under the shelter being extra. Quite 
often, however, one was not troubled with this latter 
work, for showers frequently came up and melted them 
down before they were dry enough to hack. On an aver- 
age, one year with another, something like a third of the 
bricks put on the yards were lost in this way. The cus- 
tomary size kiln was around thirty thousand. Some sea- 
sons, when the weather was especially unfavorable, it was 


necessary to put out twice this number in order to have 
the usual size kiln. 

Most of the bricks were made in July and August after 
crops were laid by. Then in the late fall, after crops 
were housed, twenty-five or thirty of the neighbors would 
be asked to meet at the brickyard on a certain Monday 
morning and help " set " (kiln) them, which was an all- 
day job. If one had ** good luck," in other words, if his 
bricks had been properly kilned and he had good wood 
and knew what he was doing, he finished burning by the 
following Friday or Saturday night. Occasionally, 
however, when he had '* bad luck,'* it was necessary to 
burn over Sunday. 


In infancy, the people of the Chowan of 1880 were 
swaddled in home-made clothes, rocked in home-made 
cradles, and placated with home-made toys ; in childhood, 
they pulled home-made wagons and stole home-made 
jams ; in youth, they courted their sweethearts on home- 
made benches and took them " joy-riding " on home-made 
carts ; all thru life they dressed largely in home-made ap- 
parel, fed on home-grown and home-prepared foods, shel- 
tered themselves in houses constructed from home-made 
materials, slept upon home-made beds and under home- 
made covering, exhilarated their drooping spirits with 
home-made cordials, salved their wounds with home-made 
ointments, and stilled their pains with home-made rem- 
edies ; when the death-angel finally summoned them to 
their reward, they were laid out on home-made mattres- 
ses, encased in home-made coiifins, carted off to the grave 
in home-made vehicles, and their last resting place, 
were marked by home-made tombstones.' 

1 They were usually of lightwood, or red cedar, with the name, date 
of birth, and date of death cut on them with a pocket knife. 


Manufacturing in 19 15 

factories ^ 

The following is a list of the factories that were oper- 
ated in Chowan in 191 5 : 

Class i 
rural plants which run intermittently, and supply only neighbcmh- 

hood demands 
Steam Power No. 

Saw mills 2 12 

Shingle mills 6 

Planing mills 6 

Grist mills 3 

Cotton gins 15 

Water Power 

Saw mills i 

Grist mills 3 

1 Blacksmith shops, carpenter shops, and general repair shops, of 
which there are several, have not been included, although they produce 
a few articles, especially carts. They have been left out of account 
because (i) the amount of machinery used is small, (2) they are usually 
operated as one-man establishments (except in heavy work, when a 
helper is needed), and (3) the work is principally that of repairing. 

2 One of these shipped 75,ooo feet out of the county during 1914, on« 
"only a very little" (it cut only about 300,000 feet during 1914, and 
principally for local trade), and one other from which no definite re- 
port was obtained, shipped out a very little. 

115] 115 


Class 2 

plants so per cent or more of whose products arf consumed in 
chowan, and 90 per cent or more of the remainder in the five or 
six adjoining counties 

Saw mills i 

Sash, door, and blind mills i 

Grist mills i 

Brick mills 2 

Fertilizer mills i 

Ice factories i 

Class 3 

plants producing almost wholly for markets outside of the county 

Peanut mills 

Cotton mills 

Veneer mills 

Saw mills 

Planing mills 

Cotton-seed oil mills 

Canneries 2 


The above table of factories lists sixty plants. Strictly 
speaking, however, this number is too large, since in many 
cases four or five of the units listed actually constituted one 
plant. For instance, in " Class i " all the shingle-mills, 
planing-mills, steam grist-mills, and several of the cotton 
gins are run in connection with saw-mills. Counting as 
only one plant the various units which in each case are 
located together and operated as one plant, there are only 

We have now arrived at a period when we have real 
factories that contribute to world markets — factories 
whose office and managerial force are equal in size to 
the whole crew of the largest plant in operation in 
1880 — factories whose laborers follow factory work for 
their entire subsistence, rather than as a mere supplement 

I ly] MANUFACTURING IN 1915 1 17 

to their agricultural activities. As yet, however, only a 
beginning has been made. The manufacturing interests 
which help supply outside markets are small, and the people 
who depend solely on factory work for a living are few. 
The forty-one units in " Class i " run intermittently, have 
their labor supplied mostly by persons whose chief busi- 
ness is agriculture, and with the three exceptions noted, 
cater only to neighborhood wants. Another feature of 
this class of plants is that for the most part they work up 
only the raw material brought tO' them by those who are go- 
ing to take the finished product away, and, omitting the 
cotton, use it in their own families. Except the water 
grist-mills (which probably operate, on an average, from 
one hundred to one hundred and fifty days a year each 
at full capacity, and require only one man to run them), 
these units in 19 14 operated from twenty to ninety days 
each, and required from two to ten men each to man them. 
In 19 14 there were in the county only four manufactur- 
ing firms, namely, " Edenton Cotton Mills," " Wilks 
Veneer Co.," " Branning Manufacturing Co." (saw-mill 
and planing-mill), and " M. G. Brown" (saw-mill, sash, 
door, and blindrmill, and grist-mill), that employed as many 
as ten men each for 150 days during the year. The total 
number of employees of these four firms fluctuated around 
350, and the plants were operated from 270 to 314 days 
each. The other plants of " Class 2 " and " Class 3 " 
either required fewer than ten hands, or operated less than 
half time. The brick-yards, for instance, operated about 
eight months in the year, but more than half the time they 
required only from four to six men each. Several of the 
extra men tended little crops. One of the canneries oper- 
ates only in the herring-roe season, which is of but few 
days duration each spring. The other cans roe, green peas 
and tomatoes. It probably runs on an average about forty 


e OF 


days a year, all told/ These canneries work from ten to 
seventy-five hands (mostly colored women) each, the number 
depending upon the kind of material they are putting up 
and the amount they have on hand. For instance, a much 
larger force is needed when canning tomatoes than when 
canning roe, because in canning tomatoes the greater part 
of the work is peeling. 


As for manufacturing in the home, it is fast becoming a 
thing of the past. The hum of the spinning-wheel, the 
chuck, chuck of the shuttle, and the bang, bang of the 
loom, are no longer familiar household sounds. Knitting 
has gone out of fashion, and the few who do occasionally 
knit a little buy their yarn already spun. The point was 
reached some years ago where " ladies wear silk hosiery 
and never knit a stitch." Probably forty per cent of the 
entire clothing of women and children and eighty per cent 
of that worn by men, is now either bought ready-made, or 
tailored to measure by some merchant tailor. This buying 
of clothes instead of making them is confined tO' no class or 
color. It is nO' uncommon sight to see a Negro day-laborer 
wearing a suit of just as high-grade tailoring and material 
as the suits worn by the best-to-do whites in the county. 
Hardly any of the men and boys now wear home-made 
outer garments even for every day working clothes. The 
ubiquitious overalls — the presence of which in any place, 
along with tin-can goods, is a sure sign that it has been hit 
by civilization^ — can now be had for the three-year-olds as 
well as for the grown-ups. In 1880 there were few if any 

1 In July 191 5 the owner of the plant which handles both roe and 
vegetables, told me that in 1914 he ran about ten days with x>eas, six 
weeks with tomatoes, and with herring-roe in 191 5, a day and a half. 
Much of this time, however, he was not running full capacity. 

1 19] MANUFACTURING IN 1915 j j^ 

overalls, and in the nineties they were like certain "shows" 
at county fairs — " for men only." Few are likely to for- 
get the keen sense of delight they experienced when at the 
age of fifteen or sixteen they slid into their first suit. No 
military or naval officer ever donned his first stripes with 
greater pride than did these lads their first dollar suits of 
blue overalls and jump-jackets. It was a proclamation to 
the world that they at least thought they had " arrived." 

The manufacture of household and kitchen furniture 
has now almost entirely left the domesitic stage; practically 
all furnishings now being acquired, except a few tables and 
some bed clothing, are bought from the stores, which in 
turn receive them from the factories. With farming ma- 
chinery it is the same story over again. Except carts, cart- 
wheels, and cart-saddles, nearly all farm tools and imple- 
ments are factory-made. As for local coopering shops, they 
remain largely as a memory only. In the rdatter of foods 
the showing is much better. The more substantial farm- 
ers — almost all farm owners — still put up their own meat, 
lard, and fish, and have their own corn-meal ground. A 
considerable amount of home-canning also is being done, 
a practice not known in 1880. Nearly all good housewives 
now try to put up some fruit each year. Not nearly so 
much of this is done as should be, but a beginning has been 
made, and during the past three or four years some have 
canned a few vegetables. The people now buy all their 
flour (notwithstanding the fact that they consume five or 
six times as much per capita as in 1880) and most of their 
soap, though many of the older housekeepers still make 
their own laundry and kitchen soap. Nearly all the yeopon 
bushes have been hoed up, and the tea now drunk is usu- 
ally Lipton's, or some other foreign brand costing from 
thirty to seventy cents a pound, though not one whit better 
than the yeopon, which each family formerly cured for it- 


self, or else bought from a neighbor at thirty or forty cents 
a bushel (a bushel being sufficient to supply a big family 
from six to eight months, even though each member im- 
bibed quite freely twice daily). 

Much of the construction material for dwellings, out- 
buildings, and fencing now comes from factories. All of 
the brick and much of the roofing are factory-made. 
Probably forty per cent of both dwellings and out-buildings 
put up within the past two years have been covered with 
paper, slate, or tin — all factory stuff. When shingles have 
been used they have been mostly sawed ones rather than the 
hand-drawn article of other days. Formerly most out- 
buildings were covered with boards. To make these, first- 
class timber is required. Since this has nearly all been 
cut, few, if any, boards are now being riven. All heavy 
timbers formerly were hewed, but now they are sawed, and 
all dressing, beading, tonguing, and grooving are done by 
machinery. The carpenter finds comparatively little use 
for his plane any more. In fact he is fast approaching the 
point where he is a mere assembler of materials already 
prepared for him. Nearly all dwelling doors, mouldings, 
and trimming are machine products. Gardens are no 
longer enclosed with wattled pales, but with poultry wire, 
and probably sixty per cent of the farm fences are woven 
wire, while iron posts are already beginning to replace the 
wooden ones. 

If civilization means marketing what you make and buy- 
ing what you use, a survey of the past thirty-five years 
would seem to indicate that the people of Chowan are well 
on the way to that goal. 



lumber situation in 1880 

In 1880 practically the whole county, except the culti- 
vated land and the retimbered old fields, was in virgin for- 
est. A good part of the timber cut for home use was cut 
on land soon to be cleared, and if it had not been, the 
annual growth was more than equal to the small annual 
cut for local purposes. Most landowners had more timber 
than they thought they could ever utilize, and since it had 
little or no market value, they ascribed little value to it. 
Thousands of feet were heaped up and burned for no other 
purpose than to get it off the land that was to be brought un- 
der cultivation.^ Farmers would gladly have given away 
the timber on land which they intended tO' clear, simply to 
get rid of it. 


When the railroads were projected, lumber men asso- 
ciated with the railroad companies came through and 
bought up for almost nothing the majority of the timber 
lying near the proposed tracks. Conditions being as stated 
in the previous paragraph, it was easy for the buyers to 
make their own tenns. They paid less than twenty-five 
cents a thousand feet (board measure) for much timber 
that now, only thirty years afterwards, would sell for from 
$5 to $6 a thousand, and was worth then from $1.50 to $2, 

1 Cf. supra, pp. 42, 43. 
121] 121 


according to the selling price of lumber in the open market. 
They stipulated in their contracts that they were to have 
free right-of-way anywhere they chose to run across a 
man's land, all the free timber they needed for construction 
purposes, and the privilege to cut the timber whenever they 
pleased. Since much of the timber was bought by the acre, 
this last clause was of much value. Some of the lumber 
was not cut for several years after it was bought, and by 
the time it was cut the natural increase during the interven- 
ing years was of more value than the purchase price agreed 
upon. Only part of the price was paid when the timber 
was bought. 

The first railroad (Norfolk & Southern) in the county 
was opened for business in 1881, and the second (Suffolk 
& Carolina) reached the county in 1887. With the rail- 
roads came in the big lumber companies, and in ten or 
twelve years they had cut over most of the best timber that 
was easily reached. They were eager tO' make the biggest 
possible profit in the shortest possible time, and as they had 
paid so little for the timber they hardly had to consider 
this item, of cost at all. Even when^ they bought it by the 
acre, it paid them to cut only the best, and then move on 
to other virgin stands. 


Their Disadvantages. — In the wake of the big companies 
followed numerous small operators, principally natives. 
However, the timber owners by this time had begun to wake 
up and so these small operators had to pay something like 
market value for what they cut, usually from four to eight 
times the amount paid by the companies whO' bought early. 
Not only that, but most of the timjber they bought was either 
a considerable distance from the railroads, or else on land 
that previously had been cut over by the big firms. The 

123] LUMBERING 1 23 

great majority of them had little capital, and so were neither 
able to put in tramways tO' reach the timber, nor able to 
buy large enough bodies of timber to make it pay to put in 
tramways. The result was they had either to " scrap " 
after the big operators (handle inferior stuff which they 
had refused), or else haul their timber a long distance. 

At times there were probably fifty or sixly people in the 
county owning some logging apparatus, and from five to 
eight hundred men all told engaged in cutting and hauling 
limiber and ties. Many of these loggers had less than a 
hundred dollars worth of equipm'ent. A goodly number 
started with only one yoke of small oxen, or of cheap horses 
or mules. Some few of these prospered and eventually be- 
came fair-sized operators, but many did not. The "little 
fellows" were at the mercy of the railroad companies, who 
showed much favoritism in sending out cars. After one 
had worked and strained for weeks with his one little yoke 
of oxen, and pulled several thousand feet of timber to the 
railroad tracks, it frequently would lie there till it was 
damaged from a third to a half of its value before the com- 
pany would send cars on which to* load it. Since the oper- 
ator did not know enough to make the company pay for the 
damage, he simply suffered it himself. In this way many 
lost the little they had previously made either logging or 

Effect on Agriculture. — Logging became very popular. 
Almost everybody for hire preferred working in the woods 
to working on the farm. In fact it soon began to be diffi- 
cult to hire farm labor, while at the same time people were 
alrriost begging to be hired for the log woods. Accompany- 
ing the growing difficulty of obtaining farm labor was a 
slump in cotton prices.^ These two facts, taken in con- 

iFrom 1880 to 1890 "middling staple" (the best grade of cotton 
produced here) averaged on the wholesale markets well over ten cents 


nection with the fact that the lumber men seemed to be mak- 
ing more money than any other set of people, caused many 
farmers, who, as a matter of course, knew nothing at all 
about lumbering, to start logging as a side line to their 
farming. This all too frequently meant the neglect of their 
farming interests. 

Local Saw-mills. — For twenty years or more the vast ma- 
jority of timber cut was shipped out of the county as logs, 
and so the money paid for working it up went to those 
outside of the locality. Only two big saw-mills have ever 
been located in the county — one at Montrose and one at 
Edenton. The first ran only a few years. The second 
began operations in 1888 and is still in service. The 
greater part of the timber it has handled, however, has come 
from outside the county. Since the cutting of most of the 
best timber, a few mills sawing from three to eight thous- 
and feet a day have been put down at various places in the 
county. But none of these run regularly, and besides, they 
saw principally for home consumption. At present, of the 
fifteen mills in the county, only five ship any of their pro- 
duct whatever.^ 


The principal comimercial timber was gum, cypress, 
poplar, oak, and pine. From the mill-ponds ^ and swamps 

a pound. In 1890 it was selling above eleven cents, while the next year 
it was bringing about eight and six-tenths cents. This downward 
trend continued for some eight years, and during part of the time many 
farmers sold cotton below five cents. Cf. House Documents, vol. xxxix, 
p. 76, no. 15, parts 1-3, " Commerce and Finance." July- September, 
1902, 57th Congress, 2d Session, 1902-3. Cf. also, U. S. Bureau of 
Labor Statistics, Bulletin 149 (whole number), "Wholesale Price 
Series," no. 2, p. 83. 
1 Cf. supra, pp. 99, 100. 
The topography of the county being comparatively level (cf. supra, 
p. 17,) wherever a water-mill was erected the damming of the stream 


came the first two. The gum was sent to the butter-dish, 
crate, barrel and basket factories. The larger cypress tim- 
ber found its way to the shingle mills, while from the 
smaller trees, railroad ties were cut and hewn. Around 
the edges of swamps and in moist places in general, grew the 
poplar timber. This went tO' the veneering mills, furniture 
factories ,and butter-dish factories. Only a very little oak 
was shipped except some that was made intO' cross-ties. 
Most of what merchantable oak there had been in the county 
had been made into staves in earlier times. The prin- 
cipal timber was yellow pine, which grew all over the county 
except in the swamps and mill-ponds. Both the quantity 
and value of all other varieties of mill timber was small in 
comparison to pine. It was cut into lumber for general 
building purposes. 


Since the coming of the railroads into the county, prac- 
tically all the forest has been cut over, much of it from two 
to four times, and so today there is very little first-growth 
timber standing. In fact there is comparatively little mill 
timber of any sort. After most of this had been cut, cross- 
tie " getters " went through and made ties out of the hearts ^ 

to get sufficient power caused water to pond up over a considerable 
area. Within the area over which the water stood constantly at a 
depth of two feet or more, all the trees except cypress died. Along 
the margin of the ponds where there was sometimes water and 
sometimes none, the flora was of the swamp varieties. 

1 As is well known, pine sap when exposed to the weather soon 
rots, but good heart will last for years; in fact the best pine heart 
hardly rots at all, but rather, just gradually weathers away. Much of 
the first-growth pine had splendid heart, both as to size and quality. 
The lumbermen who came through first not only cut the best trees, but 
they carried away only the best portion of those they did cut, often 
leaving a large part of the top end in the woods. Nearly all that was 
not practically clear of knots was left. In a few years the sap rotted 
away leaving the best hearts as good as ever. 


of the pine tops left by the lumbermen. Everything has 
been cut so close on many tracts of land that there is now 
not enough tim}>er left to furnish lumber for necessary 
building. Not a few landowners are even without sufficient 
timber for fence posts unless they use sap posts, which get 
very " tender " (weak) in one year's time, and rot off in the 
course of two. The policy followed by many serves to in- 
tensify the scarcity. No longer possessing any mill timber 
for market, they are now selling oflf all the pine trees (the 
only fast-growing timber trees in this section) that will 
make a stick of piling twenty-six feet long, measuring six 
inches in diameter at the top. They appear to have little 
regard for posterity. In fact their attitude seems to be 
that of Louis XIV when he said, "After us, the deluge," 
presuming they think that far ahead, which, however, is 
not very probable. 


Communication, Transportation, and Commerce in 



Among the prerequisites of commerce are diversity of 
natural resources, division of labor, accumulation of stock, 
and ways and means of communication and transport. 
Aside from the advantages for fishing and transportation 
offered by the Chowan River and the Albemarle Sound, the 
natural resources, while differing ini quality in different sec- 
tions, were quite the same in variety throughout the county. 
As has been previously noted, there was comparatively little 
division of labor, if the family be reckoned as the unit of 
production. Under these conditions, the most of whatever 
trade there was, was necessarily with people beyond the 
county's borders. 

Possessing an accumulated stock, or surplus of goods, 
which one is willing to exchange, and possessing the in>- 
formation as to who has other goods he is willing to ex- 
change in return, the next question the prospective trader 
must consider is that of transportation ; for the comparative 
ease or difficulty of transportation largely determines, or at 
least to a considerable degree limits, the class of goods which 
will be traded in. If the route is long or difificult, only those 
products of small bulk and weight in proportion to value 
can bear the expense of carriage; and if the time enroute is; 
considerable, only such goods as do not rapidly deteriorate 
will gO' to market. Furthermore, in order to obtain the 
largest returns it is not enough merely to know that certain 
127] 127 


goods can usually be exchanged at a certain place for some 
value or other; one needs to know, in addition, the time 
when the exchange can take place to the best advantage. 
For this, quick and trustworthy means of communication 
are necessary. 


Post-office. — ^What were the means of communication in 
1880? Including Edenton, there were six post-offices in the 
county. Edenton was served both by steamers and by stage- 
coach, one or two of the other post-offices were served by 
steamers, and the remaining ones were on star routes. 
Many people were from five to- ten miles from any office, 
and frequently received their mail not oftener than two or 
three times a month. There were others who received no 
mail at all ; many a one died at a ripe old age without hav- 
ing received a piece of mail during his entire life. 

Telegraph.- — The county was first reached by telegraph in 
1879 (the year just previous to the beginning of the period 
covered by this treatise) . The only station on the line was 
at Edenton. This was comparatively little used at first, and 
affected the people in the upper end of the county hardly 
at all. 

Travelers and Traders. — The only remaining means of 
communication was through travelers and traders. The in- 
formation that many of the people in the country districts 
secured relative to prices of produce was principally that 
furnished by the class of traders known as " carters." ^ 
Since it was to their advantage that the people from whom 
they bought should think produce cheap, the information 
they gave out in regard to market ^ prices was not always 

1 Cf. infra, pp. 135-7. 

2 The market referred to in this treatise is always the Norfolk mar- 
ket, unless otherwise stated. This was the nearest and most accessible 
market that was at all sensitive to world, or even national, conditions. 


reliable. The merchants who bought country produce had 
the same reason for keeping the people in the dark concern- 
ing prices as did the carters. Thus it was that the producers 
knew very little about the market value of their products. 
It was probably because of these conditions that for many 
things there had come to be established certain customary 
prices which changed but little from season to season, or 
from year to year, regardless of market fluctuations. 


Railroads. — As measured by present-day standards, trans- 
portation facilities were very inadequate. In 1880 the near- 
est railroad shipping point was Suffolk, Va., thirty odd 
miles from the upper end of the county, and some forty 
miles further from the extreme southeastern end.^ 

Waterways. — The greater part of the North Carolina 
coast is fringed with a chain of long, narrow, sandy islands 
called " the banks." These vary in width from a few 
yards to two miles, and are separated from the mainland 
by large bodies of water known as " sounds." Connecting 
the sounds with the ocean are several inlets, some of which 
at various times have been navigable for small boats. Until 
the digging of the canals it was through these inlets that 
the sea-going commerce of the whole Albemarle region had 
to pass. 

Chowan has enjoyed more or less water transportation 
ever since the beginning of the first white settlements, but as 
far back as recorded history goes the inlets have been shal- 
low, have been constantly filling up, and their channels con- 
stantly shifting: hence their navigation has always been 
rather precarious even for small craft. Some of them 

^ Those in the lower end of the county were about as near to Nor- 
folk as they were to Suffolk. 


have filled up entirely, and where once the sound connected 
with the sea, houses now stand. At no time since Chowan 
was settled has there been more than a few feet of water 
in any of them. Thus all except light-draft vessels, those 
drawing not over six or eight feet of water, have been pre- 
cluded from coming in at all.^ No sea-going vessel has 
traded with Edenton since the Civil War.* 

Once inside the Albemarle Sound the conditions for navi- 
gating it and the rivers emptying into it have always been 
fairly good for small craft. The products of the surround- 
ing territory, however, were, and continue to be, quite 
similar; hence there has been little occasion for exchange 
with the producers of neighboring counties. Because of 
these facts — lack of good inlets to the sea and the similarity 
of products of the adjacent country — the possession of a 
rather elaborate system of inland waterways has been of 
comparatively little value to the county. What the people 
of Chowan wanted were means of transport to outside mar- 
kets where they could trade the wares of which they had a 
surplus for those they lacked. The Dismal Swamp Canal 
and the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal offered outlets to 
world marts, but the former was only six feet deep and the 
latter seven-and-a-half, hence none but light-draft boats 
could be accommodated.* 

Wagon Roads. — In the summer time the roads of the clay 
sections, which compose about half the county, were usu- 

^ C. W. Weaver, Internal Improvement in North Carolina Previous 
to i860, Johns Hopkins University Studies, vol. xxi, pp. 144-5. 

" Internal Improvements in North Carolina," North American Re- 
view, vol. 12, pp. 22-28. 

Hints on the Internal Improvement of North Carolina (New York, 
1854), pp. 6-8. 

^Information furnished by Richard Dillard, who has been port doc- 
tor since 1881. 

^Bureau of the Census Report (1880), vol. iv, p. 753, 


ally fair for dirt roads to which little attention was given, 
but in winter they frequently became so bad that an empty 
cart was itself almost a load. The roads of the sandy sec- 
tions were heavy most of the time, both winter and summer. 
The roads in all parts of the county could have been made 
pretty good as dirt roads go, and with comparatively little 
expense, but they were worked, or rather neglected, by that 
time-honored, unjust, inefficient plan of requiring all able- 
bodied males between the ages of eighteen and forty-five liv- 
ing on a given road, or section of it, to put in on it an equal 
number of days each year. Each had an overseer who 
decided how many days, within a maximum limit,^ it 
should be worked. Some overseers would spend a half 
day annually on their allotments, while others would work 
five or six days on theirs. The work, however, was never 
arduous. The men went late, quit early, and worked light 
while there, some of them doing practically nothing except 
talk. In fact the whole affair was largely a social gathering. 

Instead of the roads being graded up in the middle so 
that the water would " sheet off," they not infrequently 
were lower in the middle than anywhere else. What little 
work was done, was done in the fall of the year, hence the 
dirt thrown in the roads would not have time to harden 
before the winter-freezes, with the result that for that season 
they were often worse than if they had not been touched. 
The sandy roads were never clayed, nor the clay roads ever 
sanded. This could have been done at small cost, since the 
different types of soil are usually so close tO' each other that 
the haul is short. 

In winter and spring considerable portions of the roads 

* This limit was rarely ever reached, though sometimes an overseer 
who had been angered by the men would warn them out the full num- 
ber of days simply to "get back at them." 


between Chowan and Norfolk were even worse than those 
in Chowan. Not only were they tough and full of great 
holes, but on the road usually traveled by those going from 
the upper part of the county to Norfolk there were no less 
than four swamps which had to be forded. During wet 
spells and after big rains the water often rose so high in 
them that it came up into one's cart. At times these swamps 
were so deep that crossing was dangerous, and when frozen 
over, it was still more hazardous. At high-water one of 
them was some four hundred yards long. 

At this time the majority of the ducks and chickens sold 
were carted to Norfolk alive. In loading they were put in 
a coop and suspended from beneath the cart. Except dur- 
ing dry times there was nearly always enough water in some 
of the swamps to give them a good wetting, and, when the 
swamps were full of water, they would be immersed for 
such a long time that it was a common occurrence for sev- 
eral of them to drown. In winter it was especially hard 
on chickens, for those that did not drown would nearly 
freeze after getting wet all over. 

Service. — In 1880 there were two transport lines between 
Edenton and Norfolk, each maintaining a regular tri-weekly 
service. One was a stage via Elizabeth City, carrying 
mail and passengers only. The other was a combined rail 
and steamer route, handling mail, passengers, and freight. 
This latter route was via Franklin, Va. A line of steam- 
ers plying on the Chowan and Black Water Rivers between 
Edenton and Franklin connected at Franklin with the Sea- 
board and Roanoke railroad, running between Weldon, 
N. C, on the Roanoke river, and Portsmouth, Va.^ In 
addition, there were irregular steamers and sailing vessels 

* Portsmouth and Norfolk were then as now, practically one city, 
there being ferry service back and forth between the two places every 
few minutes. 


from Edenton and other points along the county's coast- 
line to Norfolk and Baltimore via the afore-mentioned 
canals. Vessels even went up some of the small creeks. 
Another means of transportation — that of private convey- 
ance — played an important role, particularly in the upper 
end of the county. Much of the produce marketed from 
this section, and a considerable number of fresh herring 
from the Chowan River and Albemarle Sound, went to 
market by horse and cart. 

Some little produce was carried to Suffolk, Va., tho 
the usual market was Norfolk, which by the country road 
ranged from 60 to 80 miles from different parts of the 
county.^ The hauling thru the country was practically 
all done with one-horse teams carrying from four hundred 
to a thousand pounds to the load, the size of the load de- 
pending upon the condition of the roads and the size of the 
team. The round trip required from three days to a week.* 

Transportation to and from Chowan, whether by water, 
water and rail, or horse and cart, was slow at best, and 
rather expensive, except for timber products, salt, salt fish, 
cotton, and such other goods as could stand a long, uncertain 
trip by sail without serious damage. 


Articles Traded In. — The principal articles traded in 
were as follows: outgoing — timber products, fish, melons, 

^ Those in the lower end went by a different route from that taken 
by those in the upper end. Hence the difference in the distances from 
Norfolk to the upper end and from Norfolk to the lower end, was not 
the distance from one end of the county to the other. 

2 By driving both night and day, those in the upper end of the county 
could make the trip, stand market, and return, all in three days and 
two nights. If one had a horse that was used to going to Norfolk and 
would keep the track, he could lie back and sleep, but it was killing to 
the horse to have to travel both day and night. 


cotton, pork, bacon, peas, eggs, poultry, grapes, huckle- 
berries and cattle; incoming — dry-goods, shoes, hats, no- 
tions, hardware, confectionery, tobacco, and snuff. The 
cattle were driven to market, while the grapes and huckle- 
berries, most of the eggs, poultry, pork and bacon, and some 
of the fish, were hauled by the carters. The greater por- 
tion of the remainder of the outgoing products and the 
major portion of the incoming were shipped. In the 
upper end of the county, however, quite a few goods were 
brought in by the carters. 

Country Merchants. — There were two classes of middle- 
men — ^the " merchant " and the " carter." Each individual 
merchant kept a small stock of the goods most in demand 
by his neighbors. His stock consisted of certain varieties 
of hardware, drugs, notions, dry-goods, shoes, hats, 
groceries, tobacco, snuff, and confectionery. This carry- 
ing of a general line of merchandise was characteristic to 
a greater or less degree of all country merchants, tho in 
Edenton there were some merchants with special lines. In 
reality each country merchant kept a minature department 
store, tho the assortment was necessarily meagre, since 
the biggest of the merchants carried but a few hundred dol- 
lars worth of goods. For days, and even weeks, at a time, 
many of them would be out of the articles most frequently 

A goodly portion of the merchant's business was barter, 
or the trading of " store " goods for farm products. He 
bought tallow, beeswax, poultry, eggs, bacon, cotton, com, 
peas, wood ashes, rags, and such home-manufactures as 
socks, tubs, chairs, bread-trays, horse collars, hames, axe 
helves, and cart-saddles. He took in comparatively little 
actual cash at any time, and hardly any at all except in the 
fall of the year. From sixty to seventy-five per cent of the 


mercantile business was done on a time basis, payment be- 
ing made in the fall. Many a one who paid up in Novem- 
ber or December would again be trading on time by Febru- 
ary. Numerous accounts and parts of accounts were car- 
ried over from one year to another. In poor crop years this 
was especially prevalent. Under such conditions the mer- 
chants were forced to buy on time, which meant high prices 
both to themselves and to their customers, even to those who 
paid cash. 

Transactions were small. Merchants made many a deal, 
trading manufactured goods for farm produce, in which the 
total values involved on both sides did not exceed three 
or four cents. People frequently would walk a mile or 
two to a store for the express purpose of buying less than 
five cents worth of goods. They would bring as little as 
a pound or two of seed cotton, one or two quarts of corn, 
a gallon or two of ashes, a pound or two of old rags, or 
one or two eggs. If the value of the produce a person 
brought in amounted to as much as six or eight cents, it 
was nothing out of the ordinary for him to make four or 
five purchases, probably one or two cents worth of tobacco, 
and a like amount of snuff, of candy, and of sugar. Much 
of the small stuff, like that mentioned above, which was 
sold during the spring and summer months went for snuff 
and tobacco. Many people seldom went to the store without 
buying these articles. Their use was common among a 
large body of the people, both young and old. Some few 
formed the tobacco habit so early in life that they could 
not even remember the time. 

Carters. — The class of middlemen known as carters has 
already been referred to. They were both freighters and 

^ The proportion here given is based on interviews with various mer- 
chants in the county. 


traders, who dealt in country produce destined for outside 
markets. Some of this they obtained from the merchants 
who had collected it in exchange for " store '' goods, but 
they probably secured the larger portion direct from the 
producers. They drove around thru the country and 
bought up whatever marketable stuff they could find for 
sale. When one had gathered a load, he packed his cart, 
drove to Norfolk, and there in the open market-place sold 
to the consumer direct.^ 

Many of the farmer folk preferred selling to the carters 
rather than to the merchants, because they could usually get 
about as much in cash from the carter as they could in 
" trade '* from the merchant, and with cash they could buy 
cheaper. Most merchants would not pay cash for produce, 
because their profits were expected largely from the goods 
they sold to the farmers rather than from those they bought 
of them. Of course, they frequently made on both ends 
of the deal, but they figured principally on the merchandise 
they bought to be sold. The merchant sold on a compara- 
tively staple market; that is, when he bought his goods he 
knew about what he was going to sell them for. Not so 
with the carter; his selling market was ever fluctuating, 
hence he never knew what he was going to get for the pro- 
duce he was buying. This was one of the factors which 
tended to make him buy everything as low as he could, if 
the article was one with no standardized price. For in- 
stance, in buying an old lady's spring chickens there was no 
price standard, except in so far as the old lady judged they 

*Some preferred to "lump" (wholesale) all or part of their loads to 
the huxters (who stayed on the market all the time) to retailing it 
themselves. This saved them some trouble, but usually brought them 
in less money. However, where one had a whole load of one product, 
for instance eggs, he could not retail them all out in one day, so always 
wholesaled some of them, as it was very rare for a carter to stand 
market two mornings with one load unless practically forced to. 


were about the size she had sold the year before for a 
certain price. In such deals there was a lot of higgling. 

Aside from the business out of which he made his profits, 
at times the carter also did a considerable " accommodation " 
business — business from which he neither expected nor re- 
ceived any cash returns. His neighbors and others from 
whom he bought produce felt that they had a perfect right 
to send by him to town for anything the country stores did 
not keep, or which could be bought in town to much 
better advantage. It not infrequently happened that he 
took up more time buying goods for his neighbors than he 
did in selling out his load. He brought out such things as 
ladies' millinery and the better-class dressgoods, and even 
wares troublesome to haul, like bedsteads, plows, and trunks. 
Where the article had considerable weight or bulk, a small 
charge was made for freight, otherwise there was no 
charge whatever. 

The carter's life, while not all sunshine and roses, was 
nevertheless fascinating to many. Carters usually traveled 
two or more together, and so there was little occasion for 
lonesomeness. In fact, unless the weather was especially 
bad, or something serious the matter, nearly every one was 
in high spirits during the whole trip. On the return their 
natural humors were often made still more hilarious by the 
presence of the " pint tickler " and the " little brown jug." 

At different points along the way there were exceptionally 
good feeding places. Of these there were two general 
classes — the pine thickets and the churchyards. When the 
weather was cold the thickets were usually chosen, since 
they acted as windbreaks, and also furnished plenty of 
fire-wood. When it was warm the churchyards were quite 
popular, as there was usually plenty of water and some 
breeze. Where the churches were set in thick woods, with 
only a small open space around them, they were good stop- 


ping places all the year round. Here the carters fed and 
watered their horses, built fires, made coffee, warmed and 
ate their victuals, spun yams, joked one another, and slept. 
Some followed carting as a business, going nearly every 
week. Uusually they had little crops which sometimes they 
worked, and which sometimes the grass took. Then there 
were others who made only a few trips a year, just to carry 
their own produce to market and to make purchases for their 
families. In the upper end of the county the merchants 
themselves hauled part of the produce they took in and part 
of the goods they sold. 


Communication, Transportation, and Commerce 
IN 1915 


Mail Service. — During the last thirty-five years the means 
of communication in Chowan, as elsewhere in this great 
country of ours, have been remarkably developed. The 
majority of families outside of Edenton are now served by 
rural-free-delivery mail routes. On October 14, 19 14, there 
were seven of these in the county, covering a total of 162 
miles. ^ In addition, there were three miles of a route start- 
ing from an adjoining county. Since then a second route 
from an adjoining county has come in, adding twelve more 
miles, so that the county now has about a mile of rural-free- 
delivery route for every square mile of territory.* More 
than ninety per cent of the population ^ are now within a 
mile of either some post-office or rural route, and are getting 
their mail daily. 

Telegraph and Telephone. — ^There are now only two 
telegraph stations in the county. Certain sections, how- 
ever, are well served by telephone, there being four com- 
panies represented, with a total in the county of eighty 
miles of poles and two hundred and thirty miles of wire.* 

1 Information obtained from the Fourth Assistant Postmaster Gen- 
eral, Washington, D. C. 

2 The county has 178 square miles of territory. Cf. infra, p. 17. 
' My own estimate. 

* Data furnished December 7, 1914, by the Tax Clerk of the State of 
North Carolina Corporation Commission. 

139] 139 


In addition, there is a private line of some twenty miles in 
length. There is still another line, which is owned by the 
railroad and extends into the county for about five miles. 
This line has only one telephone in the county. All lines 
have long-distance connections. 


Railways. — In the field of transportation, advantages 
have also been tremendously increased. On December i6, 
1 88 1, the first railroad in the county was opened from 
Edenton to Norfolk,^ thus bringing the Edenton section 
of the county into direct rail connection with the outside 
world. The nearest railroad shipping point for four-fifths 
of the farmers, however, was still from five to twelve miles 
distant, and not until 1887, when a second railroad (start- 
ing from Suffolk, Va.,^ and terminating in the upper end 
of the county on the Chowan river) was opened, was this 
condition changed. Some thirty or forty per cent, of the 
farmers were still left from five to twelve miles distant from 
any by-rail shipping point. The next significant change in 
transportation conditions was in 1901 when the owners of 
the last-mentioned road began shifting the southern end of 
the road-bed toward the center of the county and extending 
the line toward Edenton, which was destined to be the new 
southern terminal and to which place it was opened in 
1903. The change gave the county a railroad running 
pretty well through its center for about twenty miles, and 
brought all, except comparatively few (principally in the 
south-eastern point of the county), within five miles of a 
railway. On January i, 19 10, a bridge across the Albemarle 
Sound, replacing the old ferry system between Edenton and 

^Poor^s Manual of the Railroads of the United States (annual num- 
bers, 1868-1915, New York), i8th annual number (1885), p. 383. 
• From Suffolk there were three or four lines running to Norfolk. 


Mackey's Ferry, was opened for traffic,^ and thus was com- 
pleted a direct all-rail route between Edenton and all prin- 
cipal points south and west. 

Water Carriage. — With the development of rail trans- 
portation, water transportation has gradually dwindled. 
One small steamer plies between Edenton and Franklin, 
making three trips a week, and an occasional light-draft 
sailing vessel makes Edenton or some other point along the 
county's coast line, but the greater part, probably ninety- 
five per cent of the transportation to and from the county 
is now by rail. 

Wagon Roads. — For some eight or ten years now the 
roads have been worked by taxation. In the clayey sec- 
tions, where they cut up badly in times of wet weather, the 
most of them have been better drained and partially graded 
so as to shed the water ; and a few miles of the worst have 
been sanded. While what has been done thus far is signi- 
ficant rather because of what it promises than because of 
its amount, nevertheless, the roads, on the whole, have been 
much improved over what they were in the eighties. 


Carters. — The business of the carter, which in the eighties 
was of considerable importance, has almost vanished. 
There are a few who buy chickens and eggs and personally 
sell them in the Norfolk market, but they buy the majority 
of these from the country merchants rather than from pri- 
vate families, and instead of carting them to Norfolk, usu- 
ally they send them by rail. Furthermore, these men now 
generally have to pay something near net wholesale Norfolk 
prices, whether they buy from the farmer direct, or from 
the merchant. 

Merchants. — The merchants have become so numerous 

* Poor, op. cit., 43d annual number ( 1910) , p. 469. 


that competition among them for the farmers' trade is 
rather keen, resulting in their having to pay the farmer close 
to Norfolk prices for what he has to sell. Most chickens 
now are sold by weight rather than by the piece as they were 
formerly, hence it is easy to compare the prices of different 
merchants, and if one is paying more than the others, he 
gets the trade. Practically everybody still sells his eggs 
locally, since hardly any one produces enough to pay him 
to make individual shipments. Many, however, ship part 
or all of their own poultry and certain other produce they 
raise for market. 

While the importance of the carter class of middlemen 
has dwindled to small proportions, that of the merchant 
class has considerably increased both as regards numbers 
engaged and volume of business. Although many of the 
more substantial farmers either ship their own produce or 
sell it on the spot to the agents of commission houses,^ much 
of the farm produce is still handled by the local merchants. 
More than half of their merchandise goes out on a credit 
basis,^ with a promise to liquidate in the fall. Sometimes 
the merchant has a crop-lien, sometimes there is a mere 
verbal understanding that the crop shall go through his 
hands, and sometimes the debtor brings it to him simply 
as a matter of choice. The idea is pretty general that the 
city commission merchant will treat the local merchants 
better than he will the farmers, since the latter individually 
have comparatively little produce to ship. For this reason, 
some who ship their own stuff, ship in the name of some 
local merchant. 

With the vast improvement in the general economic wel- 

^ Peanuts are the principal product sold to agents. 

2 The merchants, whom I have interviewed on this point, estimate 
that from sixty to seventy-five per cent of the mercantile business is 
done on time. 


fare, and with the change from a condition where the people 
consumed most of what they produced and produced most 
of what they consumed to a condition where they sell much 
of what they produce and buy much of what they consume 
— with these changes has come a big increase in the quantity 
and variety of goods carried by the general merchant. Be- 
sides dry-goods, groceries, drugs, stationery, hats, shoe, con- 
fectionery, snuff, tobacco, and hardware, some also handle 
furniture, farming utensils, cold drinks, millinery, and 
clothing. In short, many aim to supply practically all the 
demands of their customers, except a few special wants of 
the more fastidious. It should be noted, however, that the 
big mail-order houses are now doing considerable business 
in this section, a fact which is cutting into the trade of the 
local dealers, and which may eventually force them to dis- 
continue certain lines. 

Labor and Wages 
conditions in 1880 

Labor Supply. — Labor in 1880 was both plentiful and 
cheap. One could hire all he wanted of any kind he wanted, 
for any length of time he wanted, and at any time of the 
year he wanted. Farm hands of both races and sexes, fish 
hands — colored on the sound, mixed on the river, and do- 
mestics of both races — all were anxious to work, and 
were not so very particular about either the kind of work or 
the length of the hours. 

Rates of Wages. — There were day hands and monthly 
hands. Men doing common labor by the day received from 
forty to fifty cents and board, and from fifty to seventy cents 
and "board yourself" — twelve to twenty cents a day being 
reckoned as the cost of boarding a laboring man. The 
higher prices were received in summer when the days were 
long and hot and the greatest amount of labor needed. 
Sometimes as high as seventy-five cents a day and board was 
paid for especially hard work, for instance, pulling fodder. 
The very best carpenters received from $1.25 to $1.50 and 
board, while the ordinary ones received from 75 cents to $1. 
Seine hands, except captains and seine menders, whose 
wages ranged from $2 to $2.50 a day, received from 
$1 to $1.35 and board. It must be remembered, however, 
that this was night-and-day work, with much exposure, and, 
when the fish were running heavy, very little time for eating 
and sleeping.^ 

^ Cf. supra, pp. 96, 97. 
144 [144 


Some of the monthly hands worked the year around, but 
a large number worked only during crop season — ^from 
about the first of March till the last of July, receiving from 
eight toi ten dollars a month with board and lodging. Those 
hired for crop season only generally received from fifty cents 
to a dollar a month more than the same grade of hands 
working by the year. Twenty-six working days were 
counted a month. Some hands were paid for straight time, 
rain or shine, others were paid only for the time that they 
worked. While the day hands received a little more per day 
during the time they worked than did the monthly hands, 
the work of the former was very irregular and uncertain; 
they could get work only for a few days at. a time, or in the 
most busy part of the season when some one happened to 
need extra help. 

As previously explained, at this period much hoe work 
was done — at certain times from two to four hoe hands 
being required to follow one plow. Many farmers de- 
pended almost entirely on day hands to do' their hoe work. 
One seldom had to lodge them, and it was necessary neither 
to feed nor to pay them except when they were actually 
working. While this may have been of advantage tO' the 
farmer, it was hard on the laborer. 

For day labor, women received from twenty-five to thirty 
cents and board for housework. One would wash through- 
out a long hot August day for her board and twenty-five 
cents. For light work like sewing, they received from 
fifteen to twenty cents a day. By the month, the year 
round, their wages ranged from three to four dollars. 
Many worked both in the house and in the field for this 
price. When working in the field they not only worked 
with the hoe but even cleaned up the new ground, hauled 
dirt, stripped fodder — in fact did almost anything there 


was to do except ditch, maul, and plow, and some doubtless 
did these things. 

Hours. — The eight-hour-day system for either men or 
women, if ever thought of, was a mere dream that few dared 
tO' mention and none expected to see come to pass. In the 
country, during six or seven months of the year, the hired 
girl turned out about four o'clock in the morning to prepare 
breakfast. If she worked outdoors, after cleaning up the 
dishes, she went to the field and stayed till time to cook 
dinner.^ After dinner she went back and stayed till time 
to cook supper. When supper was over she had to clean up 
the dishes, rarely finishing till after eight o'clock. The only 
time she had ofT was Sunday afternoons. 


Scarcity of Labor and the Method of Securing a Sup- 
ply. — In 1880 laborers were hunting jobs; at present just 
the reverse is true — jobs are hunting laborers. The time 
was when one could hire all the labor he wanted, and when 
he wanted it, without previously making any special pro- 
visions, but that time is no more. Unless one has plenty of 
labor living on his own land, ordinarily he is unable to hire 
hands at the very times he needs them most. Because oif 
this condition the great majority of farmers who do much 
hiring aim tO' keep settled on their own places sufficient labor 
to supply their needs. To attain this end the usual custom 
is to furnish families (mostly colored), rent free, cheap one- 
or two-room shanties, fire-wood, and small garden plots. It 
is a common thing for a tenant of this class to have a " side 
crop" of two or three acres of cotton which he cultivates 
on halves. In furnishing free quarters, fire-wood, and 
garden, the landlord appeals to that side of human nature 

^ If it was an extremely busy season with the farmer, frequently his 
wife would do the breakfast dishes and get dinner. 


which is always looking for and expecting something for 
nothing, and in this way he induces families tO' take up their 
residence on his land. By renting such families a few acres 
on halves, ordinarily he is able tO' hold them through the 
crop season, when they might otherwise pull up and leave 
him when he is busiest. 

Such families as above described are, in reality, not 
tenants, but rather hired laborers domiciled on the em- 
ployer's premises, and more or less controlled by him. They 
promise to work for him whenever he needs their services. 
At other times, if they are not needed in their own little 
crops, they are at liberty to work wherever they see fit. 

While the above variety of tenant pays nothing directly 
for his shack, fire-wood, and little patch of garden (some- 
times only a small space around the shack in which he lives), 
he usually gets from twenty-five to fifty cents a day less for 
his labor than he could command in the open market. 
Sometimes the landlord agrees to furnish these tenants work 
whenever they want it, but almost invariably at a compara- 
tively low rate of wages. This class of laborers is largely 
composed of those with little capacity for self-direction, 
less ambition, and almost no initiative. 

Rates and Services. — The wages of monthly hands on the 
farm now run from $12 to $20 a month, besides board and 
lodging. In the mills and lumber woods, labor generally is 
paid by the day, the wages of common labor ranging from 
$1.10 to $1.60. Men working on the farm by the day re- 
ceive from 75 cents tO' $1, sometimes with and sometimes 
without board. Pound-net hands, who formerly were paid 
from $15 tO' $25 a month, now receive from $25 tO' $60, 
and the work is far less arduous. For example, now the 
boats are all run by gas, while formerly they were sailed 
when there was wind, and when there was none they had 
to be rowed. One of the biggest pound-net fishermen on 


the sound told me that if fishing were carried on now 
without gas he could get no hands at all. 

Women receive from sixty tO' seventy-five cents without 
board for field work. On an average the wages of women 
on the inside are more than double what they were in 1880, 
while the work they do is about half what it was then. In 
the eighties and early nineties the women who cooked usually 
washed, ironed, and nursed (cared for the children). Now, 
especially in town and sometimes in the country, the servant 
who cooks expects tO' do nothing else : the same is true of the 
nurse, so a third person has tO' be called in to do the wash- 
ing and ironing. 

In Edenton (the only town in the county) the servants 
rarely live on the premises. The washerwoman either 
comes to the employer's home for a couple of days in the 
week to do' the washing and ironing, or else carries 
the clothes tO' her own home. The latter is the 
more common custom.^ The cook ordinarily comes 
in about seven o'clock in the morning, cooks breakfast 
and dinner (dinner is always the midday meal), cleans 
up the dishes, and is away by two or three o'clock 
lin the afternoon, in many cases not tO' be seen any 
more till the following morning. She eats breakfast where 
she works, but refuses to eat dinner there, claiming that she 
much prefers to eat at home; so, when she leaves, she carries 
away with her a turn of victuals^ — not infrequently enough 
for a good-sized family. In fact many a man who has a 
cook has not only to pay and feed her, but also' to put up 
with her carrying away a large part of what several others 
eat. This condition is expressed in some lines of a song, 
which run thus : 

" Why do I need to work so hard? 
I got a wife in de white fo'ks' yard." 

1 In the rural districts the former prevails. 


While formerly there were plenty of house-servants to be 
had at from three to four dollars a month, now one has to 
pay from six to ten dollars!, and let them do as they please. 
In fact many a person seems to consider himself lucky if he 
gets one under any conditions. 

Causes of Increased Wages of Men. — Why this rise of 
from 75 to 125 per cent in money wages? In the first place, 
there has been a tremendous increase in the per-capita pro- 
duction of wealth and a general rise in prices. In agricul- 
ture the increased productivity has come about through a 
greater dissemination and more general application of the 
modern principles of agriculture, together with a wider 
and more efficient use of improved farm machinery. In 
manufacturing it has come through the substitution of the 
factory type of industry for the household type. The in- 
crease in prices has come about principally by reason of two 
economic changes, one of which is universal and the other 
local. The first is that a greater cheapening has taken place 
in the production of gold — due tO' the application of new 
processes and the opening up of new fields — ^than in the pro- 
duction of commodities in general. The second is the great 
increase in the transportation facilities of Chowan since 
1880 which now enables producers to secure prices that are 
controlled by world- rather than by local-market conditions. 
This increased productivity and rise in prices have made it 
possible for the employer tO' pay more than formerly. But 
this is only one blade of the shears which cut off a bigger 
wage for the employee. The employer, as a rule, raises 
wages not simply because he is able to, but because he is 
forced to. The factor that has forced employers to grant 
higher wages — the other blade of the shears — has been the 
diminished relative supply of workers due to the widened 
demand for workers and to their migration to other locali- 
ties. The increased demand has come from several sources. 


In agriculture, while improved methods of cultivating and 
housing, and a somewhat smaller area under cultivation,^ 
make less labor in general necessary in this industry than 
formerly, nevertheless there is needed more labor of able- 
bodied men, because of the fact that much of the planting, 
hoeing, and gathering, which the women and children form- 
erly did by hand, is now done by tools and machinery oper- 
ated by men. The fishing does not require as many hands, 
as it did three and a half decades ago, but, owing to the 
longer season for pound-nets than for seines, the sum total 
of the labor done by men is probably about the same.'^ The 
building of the railroads, the manning and the keeping of 
them in repair, commercial manufacturing, and the cutting, 
hauling^ and milling of the timber have all resulted in en- 
tirely new demands for labor. With increased formal edu- 
cation and increased means of travel and communication, 
the market value of labor has become much better known. 
With the spreading of this knowledge, many of those with 
the most ambition, energy, and initiative having labor for 
sale, have migrated tO' places where its value could be more 
nearly realized. 

Causes of Increased Wages of Women. — The rise in the 
wages of women doing house- and farm- work is due to 
causes somewhat different from those which effected the 
rise in the wages of men. Women have not gone elsewhere 
in search of work; furthermore, not only has the work usu- 
ally allotted to them decreased rather than increased in pro- 
portion tO' the increase in population, but the absolute amount 
they now do, even in the house, is far less than it was in 
1880. Much of what they formerly did has been trans- 
ferred to the factory, and that which is left is much more 
easily and quickly done now than then, by reason of the use 
of modern devices. In the fields the work done by women 

1 Cf. table 6, p. 269. 2 Cf, table 13, p. 276. 


is probably less than fifty per cent of what it was in the 
early eighties. 

With an absolute decrease of some forty or fifty per cent ^ 
in the amount of work done by women now from that done 
by them in 1880, and with a 49.3 per cent, increase in popu- 
lation, 2 if there were no further data at hand one naturally 
would expect the supply of female labor to be greater in 
proportion to the demand than in the eighties, and, as a re- 
sult, that lower instead of higher wages would prevail. 
Just the contrary, however, is the case. The decrease in 
the supply of female laborers has gone on at a more rapid 
rate than has the decrease in the supply of work for them. 
This anomaly is explained by the terms " pride " and 
" growth of material welfare." Pride and the general im- 
provement in economic conditions which has enabled an 
ever-increasing proportion of the people to maintain their 
pride, are the two main factors which have caused the 
present dearth of female laborers. 

Growing Opposition to Hired Female Service. — Al- 
tho hired female (as well as male) labor in 1880 was 
predominantly colored, there were still a limited number of 
white women to be employed for almost any kind of work 
they were physically capable of doing, whether in the field 
or in the house. At present this class of hired labor is very 
near the vanishing point. A few white women and girls 
work outdoors during the chopping and housing season, but, 
as a rule, they are members of the families who cultivate 
the farms on which they work. Some white women still 
pick cotton for hire, but this is by the pound, and not by the 
day or month, which they consider a very different proposi- 
tion, since in the former case one is one's own boss and can 
come and go when she pleases. 

Now that all planting, except the " setting out " (trans- 

^ My personal estimate. 'Cakulations made for June i, 1915. 


planting) of sweet-potato sprouts, is done by machinery ; all 
peanuts picked off by machinery; and comparatively little 
hoe work done — not much field work formerly done by wo- 
men, aside from picking cotton, is left. For this reason, 
if for no other, one would expect to see comparatively fewer 
women in the fields than in the earlier days. But there is a 
more potent reason still. For years many of both sexes 
have been especially prejudiced against a white woman's 
doing ordinary farm labor. A goodly number of women 
who had it to- do for a living felt exceedingly chagrined if 
caught at it, nO' matter how poor they might be. Some 
would even run and hide if a man was seen approaching. 
With the growth of economic well-being an ever-increasing 
proportion has been' enabled to avoid such work. 

Probably ninety-five per cent of the rural and sixty per 
cent of the urban white families, and nearly all of the 
colored, still do all their domestic work, while the remaining 
five and forty per cent, respectively, hire much of their 
cooking, washing, ironing, and nursing done. As for hired 
white domestics, there are probably not a half dozen in 
the county working as servants for a straight wage. The 
few white women who live out, do so under the express stip- 
ulation that they are to be considered and treated as members 
of the families with whom they live, rather than as hired 
servants. They do not doi the housework while the other 
women of the family sit back and " play lady " — they 
simply help the other women, and their remuneration usu- 
ally comes as does that of a wife or daughter (in so far as 
the remuneration of these latter comes in the present) — in 
the shape of food, shelter, clothing, and recreation. 

Prejudice against work for women decreases as we pro- 
ceed from hired field labor to business and professional 
labor. The scale, arranged in a descending series, is 
about as follows: hired field labor (except cotton-pick- 
ing), hired domestic labor, field labor for one's own 


family (except cotton-picking), domestic labor for a 
family in which one has been adopted for an indefinite 
period, co'tton-picking for hire, cotton-picking for one's 
family, domestic labor for one's own family, clerking in a 
store, stenography, teaching. There are still a few of that 
variety which believes that any useful work whatsoever ill 
befits a lady/ This type of parasite has been, and con- 
tinues to be, an incubus on the county, however, not so much 
because of the number of them the county has been forced to 
maintain in idleness and frivolity, as because of the feeling 
they have helped to engender and foster among the working 
classes^ — the feeling that women cannot work without com- 
promising their dignity to a greater or less degree, the de- 
gree depending upon the kind of work performed. 

Colored Women Follow in the Wake of White. — This 
feeling of injured pride^ — a feeling quite distinct from, and 
not to be confounded with, plain ordinary laziness^ — which 
attacks many white women on exposure tO' work, is an af- 
fection which had spread tO' their colored sisters. There 
may never have been a time when both white and black did 
not occasionally experience a sense of more or less aversion 
to certain kinds of severe physical exertion, but there was a 
time, and that not very long ago, when the blacks did not 
feel disgraced by having tO' work. The white race has 
itself to thank for the fact that the colored contingent of 
the county's population has been inoculated with this 
deadly virus — false pride. 

The colored women are more and more quitting the fields. 
The great majority will not hire out to do field work. As 
hired servants they are also withdrawing from the domestic 
sphere. The best colored families (economically and intel- 
lectually speaking) positively refuse to allow their daugh- 
ters tO' hire to white people for any kind of menial service 

1 Cf. infra, pp. 256, 257. 


It is claimed by some of the most prominent colored men 
that they are obliged to keep their daughters from contact 
with white men in order to keep them from being grossly 
insulted. Just how big a role this factor plays in keeping 
colored girls out of the service of white men it is hard to 
say. However, the following facts are pretty well estab- 
lished and generally admitted : First, that a colored girl has 
absolutely no^ protection from being grossly insulted by a 
white man if she happens to be caught alone with him; 
neither has she any redress whatsoever, for no court would 
for a moment entertain her complaint. Second, that the 
greater the proportion of white blood a colored girl pos- 
sesses and the more educated and refined she is, the greater 
the efforts made by white men to seduce her. 

Two incidents related to me in the summer of 19 14, 
whether fact or fiction, at any rate show the trend of opinion 
among a certain element of the colored people. They are 
as follows : The daughter of one of the " leading citizens " 
(a lawyer) of Edenton went over to the home of a colored 
woman and informed her that she was looking for a cook. 
Did this colored woman reply that she had been longing for 
just such an opportunity? No, no, not at all! The reply 
was, " I, too, am looking for a cook, and have been for 
several days." Another white woman who^ approached a 
colored woman on the subject of the latter's cooking and 
washing for the former, obtained this response : " When 
you go home, look in de glass an you'll see yo' cook, and a 
few years later ef you'll look in dat same glass you'll see yo' 

The numerous reports which have come to me, and also- 
my own observations, force me to the conclusion that the 
last-mentioned lady of color was uttering a prophecy which 
is even now in the process of being fulfilled. It is the com- 
mon experience of many who are actually in need of do- 
mestic help that they are unable to obtain it. 



Formal Education in the Eighties 

reading matter 

Both the means of formal education and the ability to 
utilize them were very scant in 1880. What few books 
there were, were chiefly copies of the Bible and of elementary 
school-books. Many a home had no book in it of any sort. 
Along in the nineties there was seen an occasional volume 
secured from traveling book-agents, which contained, ac- 
cording to said agents, the combined knowledge of the legal, 
clerical, and medical professions, the wisdom of the sages, 
both past and present, business forms and usages, instruc- 
tion as to how to act and what to wear at various high- 
society functions, cooking recipes for numerous dishes the 
names of which the people could not pronounce and the 
materials for which they did not possess, and sundry other 
'' valuable information." Their need for such literature 
was just about as urgent as the need of African bushwomen 
for evening gowns. 

Newspapers and periodicals, except a few in Edenton, 
were rarely seen. A four-page weekly. The Clarion^ was 
published in Edenton in 1880, but, with all an editor's vivid 
imagination, its circulation was reported as only 525.^ Few 
people in the county, outside of Edenton, knew of its 

IN, W. Ayer & Son. American Newspaper Annual (Philadelphia), 
vol. for 1881, p. 119. 

157] 157 



For three very good reasons the amount of reading done 
was exceedingly small — for the vast majority, almost nil. 
In the first place, many were unable to read at all, and most 
of the others read so poorly that they obtained little meaning 
and less pleasure from what they did read. Second, as 
has just been stated, many had nothing to read, and even 
the most favored possessed little that was at all attractive. 
Finally, the principal light at night, especially in the rural 
sections, was that furnished by a lightwood knot, which gave 
an unsteady light of constantly varying intensity; besides, 
it emitted so much heat that if one sat near enough tO' 
see well, his face was burning. Practically the only means 
of communication for ninety per cent of the population was 
personal intercourse. The great mass of the people knew 
little or nothing of what was going on in the outside world. 


Equipment. — As for public schools, the few that existed 
were pitiable, archaic apologies from the standpoint of both 
equipment and instruction. The buildings were rough, 
small (usually about 16x20 ft. and 7 to 8 ft. pitch), one- 
room structures that were neither painted, ceiled, plastered, 
nor papered. At one end was a door ; at the other, an open 
fireplace. The furnishings consisted of a blackboard ( some 
three feet square) that was seldom used, one chair and 
either a table or lock desk for the teacher, and from eight 
to fourteen two-seated desks and some backless benches for 
the pupils. Everything was home-made. Not only were 
the desks uncomfortable, but in many schools there were 
far too few to seat the average number in attendance, much 
less those enrolled. Even in the late eighties one could 
sometimes see from fifty to sixty children in a schoolroom 
with desk capacity for only about twenty- four. Under such 


conditions, usually three would crowd on each of the desks, 
and the remaining ones would have to use the benches — 
simply rough plank with two pegs in each end. It was 
customary for the older children to preempt the few desks, 
leaving the younger ones to occupy the benches, which were 
frequently so high that the feet of the little folks swung 
clear of the floor. These slab benches had at least one 
point in their favor : on days when there was a " small 
house," they could be pitched up on the joists and thus 
gotten out of the way. When there was a '' full house " 
with " standing room only," one in the far end of the room 
from the teacher, in order to reach her, would either have 
to hurdle several benches, or else serpentine in and out 
among them. 

Fitness of Teachers. — The teachers, on the whole, were 
woefully deficient, having had little formal education of any 
kind, and no special training whatever in the art of teach- 
ing. If one could blunder along over a simple text and 
" cipher " through the " rule of three," little else was re- 
quired. Occasionally the school committee secured some 
boy or girl preparing for college, or who had had a year or 
two in college, but all too frequently the teachers were those 
who had obtained most of what book knowledge they 
possessed from schools similar to those they were attempt- 
ing to teach. When the committee went to hire a teacher, 
it usually spent far more time considering the price de- 
manded than the qualifications offered. In the biennial re- 
port for the school years of 1881 and 1882 the state su- 
perintendent says of the state at large, " Cheap teachers 
are preferred because of their cheapness, however incom- 
petent, to well-qualified teachers, if increase of qualifica- 
tions requires recognition by increased salaries." ^ Chowan 

1 Biennial Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, North 
Carolina, 1881 and 1882, p. 21. 


was no exception. For the four-year^ period 1 88 1-4, the 
average salaries per month were $23.98 and $22.04 for 
white and colored teachersi, respectively.^ 

Of course, the committee had no great range of choice 
in the selection of teachers when paying such small wages. 
One of the most deplorable features was that often the 
small salary paid was more than the person employed was 
worth. Those hired as teachers were not those making 
teaching a profession. Teaching was simply a side-issue 
with them. The position was frequently passed out to 
someone in the neighborhood because of his or her needs^ 
rather than because of any special fitness for the work. 
The few who had made any preparation for teaching went 
where they could be hired for longer terms and at bigger 
salaries. After commenting on this fact, the state super-- 
intendent continues as follows : 

The large number of teachers of public schools, who did not 
attend the Normal Schools, were incompetent, wanting in 
habits of study and in a knowledge of how to study to ad- 
vantage and consequently non-progressive, knowing nothing 
of any studies except such as they had imperfectly learned at 
the ordinary schools [the public schools which we are now 
reviewing] and nothing of the improved methods of teaching 
and school management.^ 

School Term. — ^The schools were supposed to *' keep " 
four months in the year, generally divided into two terms — 
one of five or six weeks in the late summer after crops were 
laid by (beginning the latter part of July), and the other 
during the winter. 

1 The record for 1880 is lacking, hence the average for a four-year 
instead of a five-year period, is given. 

2 The calculations are based on data found in the Biennial Reports 
of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction of North Carolina, 
for the years indicated. 

^Biennial Report, op. cit., for 1881 and 1882, p. 22. 


Courses of Study. — Every pupil had a Webster's spelling- 
book (known as the " old blue-back," because of its blue 
pasteboard binding) whether he had any other book or not, 
and the first year or two of his school life, after having 
learned the alphabet, was spent in spelling out of it as he 
held it in his hand. After a while he got a reader of some 
kind, not always one suited to his stage in the world of 
literature, but frequently whatever happened to have best 
withstood the ravages of time and children as it came down 
through the family. Those further advanced had some sort 
of an arithmetic, grammar and geography. All were 
given some practice in writing. Few ever finished with the 
" blue-back," for after going partly through " spelling out 
of the book " and being turned back several times, the pupil 
began spelling " by heart," which usually lasted the re- 
mainder of his school career. The words were arranged 
according to length, and the few who accomplished the feat 
of spelling through " by heart," will probably never forget 
how their bosoms swelled with pride as they rolled out those 
seven and eight syllable words towards the latter part of 
the " old blue-back." They were spelled something as fol- 
lows : I-n, in, c-o-m, com, incom, p-r-e, pre, incompre, h-e-n, 
hen, incomprehen, s-i, si, incomprehensi, b-i-I, bil, incompre- 
hensibil, i, incomprehensibili, t-y, ty, incomprehensibility. 
In later days, some of the more " progressive " teachers sub- 
stituted dictionaries ^ for " blue-backs " in the case of the 
more advanced pupils, and required the meanings of the 
words in addition to their spelling. Being promoted to the 
dictionary class had one advantage — it made one think he 
was moving along, which is always stimulating. 

Classification. — Aside from the " blue-backs " there was 
little uniformity in the school-books, they having come down 

* These had been recommended by the State Board of Education. 


from various generations, and often from sundry neighbor- 
hoods. It was a common experience to find in a school 
pupils in the same grade and subject with books by two or 
three different authors. The exception was to find those in 
the same grade and subject with the same book. In his re- 
port for 1880 the state superintendent speaks of the " very 
serious evils of the diversity of text-books," ^ and recom- 
mends legislation for securing uniformity. Aside from the 
" by-heart " spelling groups, and some of the higher reading 
classes, grading and classification was slight. From forty 
to fifty recitations in the five-and-a-half -hour teaching-day 
was the usual number. 

Recitations and Methods of Instruction. — Much of what 
was learned during the few weeks of school was forgotten 
during the long intervals between, which fact was used by 
the teachers as an excuse for turning back the pupils at the 
beginning of each term. This turning-back, regardless of 
what the pretext or reason might be, if for more than a brief 
review, always tended to discourage the more ambitious chil- 
dren. Sometimes this was doubtless the proper procedure ; 
sometimes the teacher thought it was when it was not; 
sometimes it was done for reasons best known to the teacher 
herself, though generally suspected by the pupils, and freely 
alleged among themselves and their parents — she did not 
want to push them beyond her own depth, especially in 

The usual routine was to start off mornings, after having 
had a few verses from the New Testament, with the three 
or four " by-heart " spelling classes, followed by the " book- 
spellers," and these in turn by those still battling with the 
alphabet. Each child had from four to six recitations daily. 
The " book-spellers " and the " alphabet-learners " had no 

1 Annual Report for 1880, p. 65. 


variation in their work, but simply one recitation after an- 
other of the same thing following in monotonous succession. 
The last ten minutes preceding the one-hour noon recess was 
frequently devoted to writing. 

In all schools mathematics was the residual claimant. 
After the spelling, reading, geography, and grammar les- 
sons had been " said," which ordinarily was not later than 
the middle of the afternoon session (usually earlier), the 
more advanced pupils "ciphered" till school "let out." 
Those who had arithmetics used them, and for the 
others the teachers would "set down sums" on their 
slates. Except for those who were attacking the multipli- 
cation table, there were no recitations whatever in mathe- 
matics. Everybody worked at his seat, assuming that he 
worked at all, while the teacher spent the time in looking 
over answers, helping out those who were " stuck," setting 
down sums for those who had no books, and " hearing the 
lessons " of those who were not far enough advanced to 
be " doin' sums." 

If a child wanted a word pronounced, or any other infor- 
mation whatsoever concerning his work, he felt at perfect 
liberty to interrupt the teacher regardless of what she might 
be doing. In fact, the frequent consulting of the teacher 
was considered commendable, since it was supposed to indi- 
cate industry on the part of the child. The children in their 
seats, when trying to " get their lessons," " said them over " 
in stage whispers, thus creating a constant roar, and making 
it necessary for those reciting to speak rather loud so as to 
be heard by the teacher. This in turn caused those who 
were attempting to study to have to whisper a little louder 
in order to be able to hear themselves. During the period 
of from three to twelve minutes allotted to a recitation, the 
teacher attempted to " hear lessons." Amidst all the dis- 
tractions caused by loud whispering, recitations, and the 


running to and from the teacher and in and out of doors by 
the children, studying was well-nigh impossible. 

Expenditure for Public Education. — Thus far only a 
general picture of the nature of the county's public schools 
has been presented. A few statistical facts taken from the 
reports of the state superintendents of public instruction 
may help the reader better to realize the actual conditions. 
The amount of public moneys paid out for teaching white 
children from 1880 to 1883, inclusive, averaged $1.35 an- 
nually per head of the white school-population. For teach- 
ing colored children during the same period, the annual 
average was $1.28 per head of the colored school-popula- 
tion.^ If the total expenditures for all public-school pur- 
poses in the county for 1880 be divided by the total popu- 
lation of the county, according to the 1880 census, it will 
be found that the county spent that year for the training of 
its youth, only 26.6 cents per head of the entire population. 
The average annual expenditure for all public-school pur- 
poses for the four-year period, 1880-3, was 50.3 cents 
per head of the entire population ^ of the county. 

Value of Equipment. — Some conception of the paucity 
of material equipment devoted to public instruction may be 
gained from the recorded value of the public school prop- 
erty. In 1880 the property set apart for the use of 1142 
white school-children was valued at $2090, or $1.83 per 
head. If this seems small, how about that for colored 
children? The public school property for the use of 1844 

1 Cf. table 17, p. 283. 

2 The population for 1881, 1882, and 1883 is arrived at by adding to 
the population of 1880 one-tenth of the increase between 1880 and 1890, 
for each additional year. This method of calculating population for 
intercensus years is not strictly accurate, but sufficiently so for the 
present purpose. Even if a more refined method were used the ac- 
curacy would be more seeming than reaL 


of these was valued at $243, or 21 cents per head.^ To ex- 
press it in slightly different terms, for every 100 white 
children of school age the county owned land, buildings and 
furnishings to the value of $183, and for every 100 colored 
children of school age it owned $2 1 worth of material equip- 
ment for training them. Even in 1884 conditions were but 
little improved.^ 

Attendance. — From equipment let us turn to its apprecia- 
tion as evidenced by school attendance. Judged by this 
criterion, the negro, who had the least to appreciate, was the 
most keenly alive to its value. In 1881 more than half of 
the colored school-children were enrolled, and there was an 
average attendance of nearly one-third of the colored school 
population. This is low, to be sure, but when we examine 
the records of the white children we find that they can boast 
an enrollment of only slightly more than one-third and an 
average attendance of less than one-fifth. Even if the ratio 
of average attendance to school population be taken for the 
four-year period, 188 1-4, the ratio is 7.9 per cent, higher 
for colored than for white.^ 

Reasons for Small Attendance. — Some few parents may 
have kept their children home because of the poor quality 
of the schools, but if there were any of this class they con- 
stituted only a small fraction of the total. Most parents 
were ignorant of the value of an education, and actually 
did not care if their children did grow up into manhood and 
womanhood knowing nothing of books. Many had the at- 
titude frequently heard expressed in words similar to the 

1 Cf. table 20, p. 286. 

2 Cf. tables 18 and 20, pp. 284 and 286, respectively. Aside from 
the public schools there was the Edenton Academy, and two or three 
little elementary private schools of about the same rank as the public 

3 Cf. table 19, p. 285. 


following: "I never had no larnin', un I got along somehow, 
un my younguns kin do de same/* Many kept their chil- 
dren home because of false pride — kept them home for no 
other reason than that they were unable to dress them quite 
so well and to send them off with quite so good a lunch as 
some other families did. This same false pride manifested 
in various forms has been and continues to be one of the 
greatest hindrances to progress known to the county.^ 

1 Cf. supra, p. 150 et seq. and supra, p. 255 et seq. 


Formal Education in 191 5 

general statement 

While there is still an abundance of room for improve- 
ment in the county's public school system — in regard to ma- 
terial equipment, qualifications of teachers, attendance, and 
length of term — nevertheless much progress has been made 
in certain directions during the past three and a half de- 
cades, as may be seen by referring to tables 16-22, pages 
282 et seq. 


Probably one of the biggest steps forward is the advan- 
tage taken, by some, of what may be termed the " local- 
option " law, placed on the statute books of the state in 
1 90 1. This law enables a majority of the qualified voters 
of any district to vote a special tax on both polls and prop- 
erty to be spent exclusively in their own district/ A district 
which imposes this extra tax on itself is known as a " local- 
tax district." In 19 14 there were six of these, embracing 
six white schools and four colored,^ all of which had come 
into the fold since 1909. 

1 Cf. Public Laws of North Carolina, Session 1901 (Raleigh, N. C, 
1901), ch. iv, sec. 72, pp. 65-66. 

2 There were then nineteen white rural districts and fifteen colored. 
Where there is a colored district, as a rule it covers practically the 
same territory as that covered by the corresponding white district. 
Certain sections of the county, however, have almost no colored people. 
Thus it comes about that there are more white districts than colored. 
The few colored children in these almost solid white districts are trans- 
ferred to others. 

167] 167 


By July 191 5, one district had dropped out of the local- 
tax column, and two others had entered it. The one that 
dropped out contained one white school and one colored. 
One of those that adopted it had no colored children and the 
other was so completely gerrymandered that almost all the 
colored were left out. There were then in July 191 5, seven 
white rural schools and three colored, operating under the 
local-tax system.^ 


Buildings and Equipment. — In the summer of 19 14 the 
county superintendent made the following statement to me : 

Previous to 1909 the county had no modern school buildings 
in the rural districts. Since then two one-room, three two- 
room, one three-room and auditorium, and one four-room, 
modern buildings have been erected for the whites. All of 

1 The facts of this and the preceding paragraph were furnished me 
by the county superintendent. In October 1916 (after the above was 
written), this same official stated to me that there then existed nine 
rural local-tax districts for white and five for colored. This local-tax 
territory, according to his figures, embraced 67 per cent and 28 per cent 
of the white and colored school population, respectively. 

The law which made provision for the levying of special school taxes 
permits any degree of gerrymandering the ingenuity of the whites can 
devise. From the foregoing percentages it looks as if they had exer- 
cised the privilege rather freely. The fact is, however, conditions are 
even worse than these figures would indicate. When the Edenton 
graded school district was formed in 1903 it was gerrymandered to such 
an extent that in 1910, when more than 59 per cent of the population 
of the incorporated town of Edenton were colored, less than 22 per cent 
of the school population in the graded school district were colored. 
(Calculations made from tables 5 and 19, pp. 265 and 285 respec- 
tively.) Whole sections of the town, where only negroes lived, were 
cut out, while at the same time white territory from one to two miles 
beyond the incorporated limits was included. Combining the school 
population of the Edenton graded schools with that of the other special 
tax districts, there were included, in November 1916, 76 per cent of 
the white but only 32 per cent of the colored. 

169] FORMAL EDUCATION IN 1915 169 

these are in local-tax districts. As yet there are no modern 
buildings for the colored, though some fairly good ones.^ 

All buildings for both races are now either ceiled or 
plastered ; seventeen of the nineteen for the whites and eight 
of the fifteen for the colored are painted;^ seventeen of 
those for white are furnished complete with patent desks. 
Only three of the colored schools have any patent desks, and 
only one is furnished complete with them, while six are fur- 
nished with home-made desks, and the remaining six, or 
two-fifths, are furnished with benches.* 

Value. — The value of the public-school property for the 
white race increased from $2090 in 1880 to $30,300 in 1914, 
or more than fourteen times, while the public school prop- 
erty for the colored race increased from $243 in 1880 to 
$6400 in 1 9 14, or more than twenty-six times.* Looked 
at from the standpoint of the number of school children, 
the value of the property for the whites increased from 

1 By reference to table 17, p. 283, it will be seen that during the five 
school years 1909-10 — 1913-14, the average annual expenditure for new- 
buildings and repairs was $2330 and $136 for white and colored, re- 

According to an interview with the superintendent in November 1916, 
since his statement to me in 1914, the following additional construction 
had been undertaken: for white children, one one-room and two two- 
room modern buildings completed, and one two-room and two three- 
room modern building in process of construction; for colored, one one- 
room modern building erected (the first and only modern building in the 
county for colored), and one three-room building enlarged and re- 
modeled so as to approach rather near state specifications. During 
1916 Edenton put up for its white children a modern school-building, 
which, when completely equipped, will have cost in the neighborhood 
of $30,000. 

2 These facts were furnished by the county superintendent in April 

3 Facts regarding the seats were taken from the state superintendent's 
Biennial Report for 1912-13 and 1913-14, which gives the conditions 
existing at the close of the school year 1913-14. 

* Cf. table 17, p. 283. 


$1.83 per head in 1880 to $18.21 per head in 19 14, and for 
colored the increase was from 21 cents per head in 1880 to 
$3.48 per head in 1914.^ 


Not only has the value of the school property increased 
several times over since 1880, but the same is true for " total 
expenditures." During the period of 1880-3 the average 
annual per-capita expenditure for the total school population 
was $1.65. For the five-year period 1909-10 — 191 3- 14 
the average was $4.89.^ The increase, however, seems to 
have been largely devoted to the white children. The item 
of expense for teaching is given separately in both periods 
and so can be compared. For teaching whites, the average 
annual expenditure per head of the white school-population 
for 1880-3 was $1.35, and for the colored the corresponding 
figure was $1.28. During the five school years 1909-10 — 
191 3-14 the average annual expenditure was $5.46 and 
$1.37 for white and colored respectively. In other words, 
while the expenditure per head of the white school-popula- 
tion for teaching white children for the latter period was 
more than four times annually what it was for the former, 
that for the colored hardly increased at all. Reduced to 
percentages, the increase for whites was 304.4 per cent per 
head and for colored, 7 per cent. 


Training. — ^The degree of fitness possessed by the teachers 
is considerably higher now than in the eighties. During the 
five-year period 1909-10 — 191 3-14, of the pubHc school 
teachers of the county, 30.6 per cent of the white and 13.4 
per cent of the colored held college diplomas, while 66.9 

1 Cf. table 20, p. 286. 

lyi] FORMAL EDUCATION IN 1915 j^l 

per cent of the white and 82.4 per cent of the colored had 
had " normal training." ^ It should be added, however, 
that the normal schools not only do high school work but 
many even do grade work, and that a number of the teach- 
ers have had only a few months even of this. Furthermore, 
the attendance at either a two-weeks teachers' county in- 
stitute or a four-weeks' summer school (required of each 
teacher every two years) is reckoned as "normal training." 
It is thus seen that the phrase, "normal training," is not 
very definite and frequently means very little. As the 
county superintendent recently expressed it, " It [normal 
training] is a rather uncertain quantity." Notwithstand- 
ing the improvement noted in the quality of the teachers, 
most of them are still sadly lacking in any special training 
for teaching; many have not had more than the equivalent 
of a four-year high-school course, and some not even that.^ 
Feminization. — Formerly much of the teaching was done 
by men, but this is no longer the case. From 1909 to 19 14 
all white teachers in the county, except the city superintend- 
ent and one rural teacher, were women. Since 19 14, aside 
from the city superintendent, they have all been women. 
For the most of these latter, teaching is merely a method 
of marking time while waiting for the matrimonial car. 
Not expecting to follow very long the teaching of the chil- 
dren of the public for a livelihood, they quite naturally pre- 
fer " tending " a good " prospect " to " boning " for special 
training in public school work. The colored schools still 
have a few male teachers, but here also, the women are 
gradually replacing the men. 

1 Calculations made from data found in Biennial Reports, op. cit. 

2 In his Biennial Report for 1912-13 and 1913-14, p. 25, the state su- 
perintendent says, "I am profoundly convinced that efficient teaching 
and efficient supervision are the most pressing needs of our public 
schools at this time." 


Salaries, — The rate of pay for white teachers has been 
considerably increased since the eighties. Their average 
monthly salary in the rural schools for 191 3- 14 was $39, 
an increase of 62.6 per cent over that (23.98) for the 
period 188 1-4. In some of the local-tax districts the in- 
crease was still more. The pay of colored teachers has in- 
creased very little, their average monthly salaries in 1913- 
14 being only $25.43, as against $22.04 during 1881-4, an 
increase of but 15.4 per cent. The regulation salary for 
the white rural teacher holding a first-grade certificate is 
$40 a month, while for the same grade colored teacher it 
is only $27.50. The white and colored teachers with 
second-grade certificates receive $30 and $22.50 respec- 
tively.^ The average amount paid to each rural teacher for 
the school year 1913-14 was $237.90 to the white and $128.48 
to the colored. The average annual salary paid to teachers 
during the five-year period 1909-10 — 1913-14 was $186.77 
to the white and $103.89 to the colored.^ 


Task of Teachers. — Uniformity of books is now required, 
and so the teacher is able to place all the pupils of the same 
grade and subject in one class. The number of subjects she 
may be called upon to teach, however, has about trebled,^ 
and in 19 14 twenty-two of the thirty-four rural schools 

1 Cf. p. 160, and table 21, p. 287, for salaries. The percentage in- 
crease is calculated from the salaries at the two different periods. 

2 Calculations made from data found in the Biennial Reports, op. cit. 
*"It [the law] requires the teaching of thirteen subjects in the 

one-teacher schools. It is absolutely impossible for one teacher, with 
as many children as are to be found in the average rural school in 
seven grades, to do thoro work in so many subjects." State Super- 
intendent J. Y. Joyner, in his Biennial Report for the years 1912-13 and 
1913-14, part i, p. 31. 

173] FORMAL EDUCATION IN 1915 1 73 

were still one-teacher establishments ^ holding from twenty- 
five to thirty-five recitations daily. Such institutions of 
learning can be called graded schools only by courtesy. 

Short-sightedness. — One great drawback has been and 
continues to be the multiplicity of school districts. For the 
whites there are twenty,^ including Edenton, and this in a 
county with an area of only 178 square miles, more than 13 
per cent of which is swamp in which no one lives. Thus, 
on an average each school serves a territory of less than 
nine square miles, including the swamps. Each individual 
wants the school located just across the road from him, and 
if he cannot have a fairly good school of two^ or three 
teachers right at his door, he frequently fights for the little 
one-room school. An additional half-mile or mile nearer 
the school means far more to him than does the quality of 
the school. 

Length of Term. — During the five-year period 1909-10 — 
1 91 3-14 the average rural school term in the regular dis- 
tricts was about twenty weeks for whites and eighteen for 
colored. In the local-tax districts the terms were two or 
three weeks longer. Thus far, however, the majority of the 
local-tax proceeds has gone for better equipment and higher- 
priced teachers. 

Attendance. — In any case, probably more significant than 
the length of the term is the number in attendance. Taking 
the whole county, for the whites, during the period 1909-10 
— 19 1 3-14 the annual average of the percentages which the 
average attendance formed of the school population was 

1 Biennial Report, op. cit., part ii, pp. 155 and 158. In October 1916, 
the county superintendent informed me that for the school year then 
about to begin, nine of the eighteen white rural schools and seven of 
the fifteen colored would start with two or more teachers. 

2 Since this was written, two white districts have consolidated, making 
one less. 


48.9, as against 29.7 for the period 188 1-4. The corres- 
ponding figures for the colored were 43.6 and 37.6. In the 
rural schools the average attendance for the five-year period 
1909-10 — 1 91 3-1 4 was only 2.1 j>er cent less for colored 
than for whites, but in Edenton the difference was much 
greater. Here were found the highest for white (55.6), 
and the lowest for colored (35.4). The poor showing for 
the colored, however, is at least partially, if not entirely, 
accounted for by the fact that several of them were at- 
tending some one of the three colored private schools/ For 
the later period the attendance was better for both races 
than at any time before, and yet during this period, on 
an average, less than three-fourths of the school population 
was enrolled, and less than one-half in regular attendance.^ 


Edenton has three colored denominational schools, whose 
total enrollment for 1914-15 was 220.* Some thirty or 
forty per cent of the pupils, however, come from counties 
other than Chowan. One of these schools does work of such 
quality that its graduates are able to get first-grade certifi- 
cates in the county. 

There are no regularly taught private schools for whites. 
Occasionally some woman will run a little " pay " school for 
small children when the public school is not in session. 


Since the dispelling of ignorance is the principal avowed 
aim of the public-school system, the degree to which this 

1 According to the superintendent of one of these schools, the three 
had enrolled' in 1914-15 about 40 pupils (some 30 per cent of the total 
negro school-population) from the graded-school district of Edenton. 

2 Cf. table 19, p. 285. 

3 Enrollment furnished in April 1915 by the principal of one of the 

175] FORMAL EDUCATION IN 1915 j^^ 

has been effected may be taken as a certain measure of its 
efficiency. The one great trouble, however, in applying 
this criterion, is that there are statistics covering neither the 
amount of ignorance existing in 1880, nor the extent to 
which it has since been dissipated. The only thing bearing on 
this point at all concerning which we have statistics, is illiter- 
acy. This itself is very unsatisfactory, since the test of liter- 
acy — ^the ability barely to read and write, which, according 
to the Bureau of the U. S. Census, places one on the literacy 
side of the fence — in no way indicates the amount of formal 
training. This test simply establishes a minimum; those 
who have had the equivalent of the first two or three pri- 
mary grades are classed with those who have completed a 
university course.^ This test, however, is of value in that 
it shows the number below the minimum, and by comparison 
of different periods, the trend of the population as regards 

The first U. S. Census report on illiteracy by counties was 
for 1900, and so the only facts which indicate the direction 
and rate of change are those brought out by a comparison 
of the opposite ends of one decade only. In 1900 prac- 
tically two-fifths (39.6 per cent) of the native males of 
voting age were classed as illiterate. Ten years later this 
proportion had decreased to slightly more than one-fourth 
(26.1 per cent). Among the total native population ten 
years old and over, illiteracy declined from 37.6 per 
cent in 1900 to 18.6 per cent in 1910, a drop of 
almost 50 per cent. For the colored of this age-group, 
the fall was from 51 per cent in 1900 to 25.5 per 
cent in 19 10, a fall of exactly 50 per cent. Of the 

1 " In general the * literate * population in this report should be un- 
derstood as including all persons who have had even the slightest 
amount of schooling, while the illiterates represent persons who have 
had no schooling whatever." U. S. Census report for 1910, vol. i, p. 1185. 


group ten to twenty years old, inclusive,, only 4.9 per 
cent in 19 10 were classed as illiterate.^ The only gratify- 
ing thing about the foregoing figures is that they show 
that the dark cloud of illiteracy is being gradually rolled 
back. The facts, however, that one of every four of 
the adult native males and one of every six of all natives 
ten years old and over are unable to read and write, pro- 
claim rather loudly the inefficiency of the county's public 
school system in the past; and the fact that in 19 10 prac- 
tically one out of every twenty in the group from ten to 
twenty years old, was unable to communicate with his 
fellow human beings except by personal intercourse, would 
seem to indicate that something was very seriously lacking 
somewhere, even quite recently. It should be remembered, 
however, that the few rural local- tax districts have all been 
established since 1909, and that the few modern buildings in 
the county have been erected since the same date. These 
developments clearly indicate an awakening interest in the 
public-schools on the part of the people whom the schools 
are intended to serve, and we may confidently expect the 
next decennial census to show the percentage of illiteracy 
among those from ten to twenty years old to be considerably 
lower than it was in 1 910. 


In closing this chapter a word should be said in regard 
to the reading now being done. The three factors — poor 
lights, the inability of any but a small per cent to read with 
ease and understanding, and the scarcity of anything attrac- 
tive to read — chiefly responsible for the small amount 
of reading in the eighties, have been greatly changed. 
Though the light in a great number of the homes is 

^ For the statistical facts of this paragraph, cf. table 22, p. 287. 

lyy-j FORMAL EDUCATION IN 1915 • ^yy 

still poor, it is vastly better than it was; and in many it is 
comparatively good. The percentage of those able to read 
with both pleasure and profit to themselves has increased 
probably fivefold, while the amount of reading matter has 
increased probably an hundredfold. Not only has the num- 
ber of school text-books increased considerably, but in the 
summer of 19 14 no less than nineteen of the twenty public 
schools for whites and ten of the sixteen for colored had 
small libraries of well-selected books of their own.^ With 
possibly one or two exceptions, these had all been installed 
since 1909. Notwithstanding the progress made, however, 
aside from school-books, hymn-books, and Bibles, at least 
eighty per cent of the homes still are almost, if not alto- 
gether, destitute of books. There is also a great dearth of 
standard magazines. These go into not over five per cent 
of the homes. 

The amount of reading now done is probably a hundred 
times what it was three and a half decades ago. Much (per- 
haps the greater part) of this increase, however, has been 
in newspaper reading. With the increased means of know- 
ing the outside world and the increased ability of taking ad- 
vantage of these means, there has grown up an increased 
desire to know what is going on nationally and internation- 
ally, as well as locally. To satisfy this desire, resort is usu- 
ally had to the newspapers. The majority of home owners 
and some tenants are now , regular subscribers to one or 
more papers. The accompanying list gives the newspapers 
with the largest circulation in the county. 

1 Information furnished by the county superintendent. 




Newspaper Circulation ^ in Chowan County, N. C, During the First 
Quarter of 1915 








Advance ••••••. .... 

E. City,N. C... 
Edenton, N. C 
Raleigh, N. C. 
Raleigh, N.C.. 
E. City,N. C... 
Norfolk, Va.... 
Raleigh, N.C.. 
Raleigh, N.C. 
Norfolk, Va ... 

General •••«.. 


Albermarle Observer. 





Biblical Recorder .... 


Christian Advocate • . 



News & Observer .... 

A DTimltiirjil ... 



Progressive Farmer . . 







^ The circulation of these publications was furnished by their respective man- 
agers. A few other newspapers have a very small circulation here, but statistics 
cannot be given, as the managers who were written to failed to reply. 


Social Customs 

visiting in the eighties 

The country people of Chowan were great visitors. It 
was customary to load up the whole family (anywhere from 
four to ten persons), drive over to a neighboring family, 
and there spend the entire day, without having previously 
given any notice of the intended visit. The favorite day 
for such all-day visits was Sunday, so on Sundays most 
families usually made ready for company even though they 
were expecting no one in particular. Three or four times 
the amount of such things as cakes and pies necessary for 
the immediate family were generally prepared the day be- 
fore. The other foods were largely prepared after the 
visitors arrived. 

If it was a fine day and one wanted to go visiting, he 
arose before daylight,^ had an early breakfast, and got off 
soon after sunrise, lest someone should come to visit him and 
catch him home before he could get away ; or lest the people 
he intended to visit should themselves go visiting before he 
arrived. He stayed all day, generally for supper as well as 
for dinner, enjoying the best his host could give, and fre- 
quently far better than he was really able to afford. Some 
people liked company so well and entertained so lavishly and 
much, that they nearly " broke themselves up." It was 

1 Early stirring was necessary for a woman who had breakfast to 
cook, four or five children to wash and dress, and herself to " fix up," 
before starting. 

179] 179 


nothing extraordinary for some families to have from ten 
to twelve persons for both dinner and supper of a Sunday, 
which in turn meant from two to six extra horses to feed. 


Friends and relatives still drop in on each other un- 
announced, but more and more is it becoming the custom to 
inform one's prospective host of an intended visit. And 
while visiting still continues, the amount done is greatly 
reduced. This is doubtless largely due to the more widely 
spread ability to read, and the far greater supply of reading- 
matter. Now, one does not even have to go from home for 
the neighborhood gossip, since this is furnished by the 
county weekly. Thus, under present conditions many can 
get more information by staying at home than they can by 
visiting. As for social intercourse, there are abundant op- 
portunities for that at public gatherings, of which there are 
many more now than formerly. 


Gang Defined. — Whenever a farmer had a piece of work 
which was too great for his own force to tackle effectively, 
he had a generally recognized right, provided he himself 
was of the neighborly sort, to call for free assistance from 
as many of his neighbors as were necessary to its accomplish- 
ment. A group of people thus brought together was known 
as a " gang." The essential distinction between such a 
gathering and any other body of people laboring together, 
was that a member of a gang expected no financial reward. 
By helping his neighbors he simply retained their good 
wishes and sustained his own right to call upon them for 
aid on similar occasions. The only direct expense upon the 
person having a gang was the cost of the food and drink, 
it being customary for him to furnish plenty of liquors — 


of which both sexes and all ages freely partook — and plenty 
of something good to eat. It was in setting the table on 
such occasions that good housewives had an opportunity to 
prove their quality. These were the times when they made, 
upheld, or lost their reputation of being the " right sort." 

Log-rolling. — Log-rollings offered the best opportunity 
of any of the gang meetings for one to try out his skill and 
strength against others of his neighborhood, and were especi- 
ally attractive to the young and the physically vigorous. The 
logs were not really " rolled," but toted — picked up on five- 
foot hand sticks, two men to the stick, and carried. When 
a man wanted to demonstrate his physical superiority over 
another, he challenged the other to tote with him. If his 
challenge was accepted, when they got under a heavy turn 
each would try to lift so much from his end of the stick 
that the other could not " come " (lift his end), or if he did 
come, would eventually be either pulled down, or made to 
drop it. When a fellow could not come up with his end, 
or was pulled down, he was said to be " mashed." 

Hog-killing. — At all big gangs a few of the neighboring 
women generally were asked to come over and help cook 
and serve. ^ At hog-killings, however, women as well as 
men were needed to work, and hence were asked. They 
'"rid the chitlings " (stripped the fat from the entrails), 
helped wash them (the washing was often done at some 
running branch where, if the weather was cold, the ice had 
to be broken in order to get to the water), then turned and 
rewashed in warm water those that were to be used as 
casings for the sausage meat. 

About the only time men and women were ever weighed 
was at hog-killings. After the hogs were all dressed and 
weighed, each man would hang on to the balance hook and 

1 This was necessary, especially if there were no girls in the family, 
since comparatively few families in the rural districts had any servants. 


have himself weighed. Then the women would be called 
out. Not being supposed to be able to hang on, as did the 
men, a rope swing would be attached to the balance hook 
and the women were weighed sitting in this swing. 

General A ttitude Towards Gangs. — ^The chief gangs were 
house-movings, log-rollings, brick-settings, and hog-killings. 
Few people objected to going to legitimate gangs — gangs 
such as those just mentioned. In fact, a person felt some- 
what snubbed and piqued if all those around him were asked 
to a gang and he was not. It meant, in substance, that the 
fellow having the gang felt more or less unfriendly towards 
him and hence cared to have no more dealings with him for 
the time being. A gang, however, to cut a man's wood, or 
to maul his rails — except in special cases, for instance where 
he had had a long spell of sickness — was not considered 
legitimate, and hence was looked upon with disfavor. Such 
gangs were not customary, and it was felt that anyone hav- 
ing them was simply trying to get out of doing his work 

Gangs, while called together to do some piece of work, 
were, nevertheless, quite enjoyable. They were looked upon 
as a variety of outing, or picnic to which the great majority 
of people, if not exceedingly busy with their own work, were 
fond of going. They were truly social functions which af- 
forded much real, wholesome pleasure and diversion. This 
is evidenced by the local expression, " hog-killing time." 
To say to a host or hostess, on taking leave, " I've had a hog- 
killing time " means " I have been most delightfully enter- 
tained, and have enjoyed myself immensely." Why should 
gangs not be enjoyable occasions? The conditions to make 
them so approached the ideal — a social crowd, an oppor- 
tunity to match one's skill and strength with that of his 
fellows ; enough work to create a good appetite and stimu- 
late a vigorous digestion, the best things to eat and drink 


which the section afforded, always some, frequently not a 
few of the fairer sex, the feeling that one was doing his 
duty by his neighbors, and the knowledge that his aid was 
in reality aid being stored up against the time when he him- 
self should have need of the combined efforts of several. 

GANGS IN 191 5 

Gangs now are largely a thing of the past. Most of the 
timber has been cut, and it if had not been, no one would 
think of heaping it up and burning it, since there is a market 
for it. Now, when one is going to clear a piece of land, he 
first hauls off the mill timber, if any, and then cuts the 
smaller stuff up for fire-wood; so there are no more logs 
to roll. 

Bricks are no longer made around through the country 
where they happen to be needed, but instead are now shippe<i 
in by people who follow brick-making as a business, and who 
set their own bricks as they make them. So there are no 
more brick-settings to go to. 

House-moving gangs have also become far less frequent. 
In the first place, now, when a person is going to build, he 
usually does more planning than was customary years ago, 
hence is not so likely to find within a few years that his 
buildings need to be rearranged. This makes far less 
moving necessary than formerly. In the second place, 
many of those who have houses to move, now hire it done 
by some one who is equipped for such work. 

Hog-killings are the principal gangs left. Even these 
have lost much of their erstwhile glory and social import- 
ance. The chief stimulator of hilariousness, gaiety, and 
good- feeling at all gangs was liquor. The knowledge of 
its presence was to a great many the one inducement to at- 
tend. With the conversion of some to total abstinence and 
the adoption of state-wide prohibition, strong drink has 


both lost favor and become somewhat difficult to obtain. 
For these reasons some no longer have liquor at their gangs. 
Others would gladly dispense with it, but serve it in order 
to have sufficient help and to keep the help in good humor. 
In fact not a few claim that it is absolutely essential to 
let it be known that there will be plenty of liquor, if one 
wants plenty of help. 


Ceremony. — The marriage ceremony was a very plain, 
simple affair. If the match was acquiesced in by the par- 
ents of the bride, the function nearly always took place at 
her home — church weddings occurring only at rare inter- 
vals, and in the rural sections hardly at all.^ As a matter of 
course, at least a brief ceremony was absolutely essential, 
in order that the law be satisfied, but this ordinarly lasted 
not over five to eight minutes. At the appointed hour, if 
everything was ready, the prospective bride and groom (the 
bride leaning on the groom's arm), followed by from two to 
six other couples (known as " waiters ''), marched into the 
room where the guests had assembled. The person officiat- 
ing then either read, or repeated from memory, a short form, 
and pronounced them man and wife. There was no music, 
no flowers or other decorations, no ring — in fact, this per- 
formance, aside from the accompanying "waiters" (fre- 
quently these were omitted), was reduced pretty close to the 
bare essentials. 

Invitations. — Sometimes a general invitation was sent out 
for everybody in the neighborhood to come over and " see 
the thing well done," and frequently the women of the 
neighborhood received special verbal invitations, but written 
and engraved invitations were seldom used. In any case, it 

1 Cf. Marriage Register of Chowan County, which is preserved in 
the county court house. 


was customary for every one who learned of an expected 
marriage to attend the function if he cared to. The men 
always did this, and the women too, if they knew no other 
women of the neighborhood had been specially invited. If 
a meal was to be served after the ceremony, unless there had 
been a general invitation, only those specially bidden re- 
mained for it. If a couple wanted to be married privately, 
their only method was to keep the time and place a secret. 

Festivities. — Probably a majority served meals (either 
dinner, or supper, depending upon the time of day) to at 
least a few of their close friends and relatives, while some 
made an effort to feed everybody who came. Frequently, 
however, the ceremony was performed after supper time 
(supper here comes about sunset, and not in the early morn- 
ing hours between midnight and daybreak), which did away 
with the expense of feeding. When the marriage was at 
night, the young people often would stay around till bed 
time and have a few games, or, if the " old folks " would 
permit, a dance. Occasionally the more wealthy would have 
two or three days of feasting and frolicking. Except in 
very rare instances, the only honeymoon trips ever taken was 
the trip from the home of the bride to the place where the 
two were going to try out their new venture. 

Pay of Functionaries. — The ceremony was performed 
both by ministers of the Gospel and by justices of the peace. 
Neither of these functionaries ever made any charge, and it 
was a rare thing for either of them to receive any remuner- 
ation ^ whatsoever, other than the verbal thanks of the 
groom, and not always that. Most people seemed to think 
that it was conferring a favor on a man to ask him to drive 
his own horse five or ten miles in the cold (more than half 

1 From interviews with various people on this point I should estimate 
that less than five per cent in the early eighties paid anything to either 
the magistrate or the minister. 


of the marriages took place during the winter months) to 
perform free a marriage service. 

Choice of Functionaries. — ^To be married by a minister 
was by some few considered more genteel. With most 
couples, however, the question of who should legalize the life 
co-partnership was of little or no concern, the deciding fac- 
tor being that of convenience. This is evidenced by the fact 
that during the period 1878-1882, 46.2 per cent of the white 
couples ^ embarked for the momentous cruise without the 
presence of any divine to make intercession in their behalf. 
And yet, so far as any one was ever able to discover, those 
who were handed their clearance papers by representatives 
of the Gospel weathered the storms on the matrimonial sea 
no less badly than did those who had received theirs from 
the hands of the representatives of the law. Furthermore^ 
so far as success in the present life was concerned, it seemed 
to make little difference whether one sponged on the min- 
ister or on the magistrate. 


Present-day Eclat. — The words ''pomp" and ''formality" 
denote the trend of a considerable number of the present- 
day marriages. In many cases there are decorations, flow- 
ers, flower-girls, music — things which formerly were hardly 
known, especially in the rural sections. Many now 
send out either written or engraved invitations — another 

There probably are fewer wedding dinners and suppers 

^ This figure is calculated from the records of the Marriage Register 
op. cit. Only 36 per cent of the colored marriages within the same 
period were performed by justices. This small per cent I attribute not 
to any special prejudice in favor of ecclesiastical marriages, but rather 
to a certain commendable pride in patronizing their own color. If 
married by a justice, it usually meant being married by a white person, 
while if married by a minister, one of their own color could be secured. 


now than in the past, and the guests to those that occur 
usually are only those who have received a previous special 
invitation. Furthermore, these invitations are being more 
and more restricted to intimate friends. Thus, the informal, 
free-and-easy style of the " good old days " is fast passing 
away, and stiffness and formality are being substituted in 
its place. Now and then a couple go on a two or three 
days' trip, long enough for the local sheet to take cogniz- 
ance of it, with the probable result that some of their ac- 
quaintance who know no better, are led to believe that they 
are making an extended bridal tour. The only customary 
bridal tour, however, still continues to be the trip from 
the place where the couple are married to the place where 
they are to start their new home. 

Choice of Functionaries. — Fewer marriage ceremonies 
among the whites are performed by the clergy now than 
thirty years ago, members of this profession at present 
officiating on less than two-fifths of such occasions.^ Some 
might interpret this fact as meaning that the people are 
coming to have less regard for the sanction of the church 
in matrimony. I think, however, that such an interpretation 
would be entirely false, for, as pointed out on page 186, a 
civil marriage in the eighties was just as acceptable to the 
vast majority of people as was an ecclesiastical one^ — con- 
venience usually being the determining factor as to which 
kind a couple elected. Those of the present day who apply 
to a minister to " tie the knot," when it is not a mere matter 
of convenience, do so, in most cases, because it is considered 

1 During the five-year period November i, 1909 to October 31, 1914, 
only 38.9 per cent of marriages among the white race were "solemnized" 
by the special representatives of the church. During the same period, 
80.9 per cent of marriages among the colored people were graced by the 
presence of ministers. These calculations are made from the Marriage 
Register, op. cit. Regarding the high percentage of ecclesiastical wed- 
dings among the colored, cf. supra, footnote, p. 186. 


more fashionable to have a minister. When the magistrate 
officiates, about all he does is to either read, or parrot off, a 
short, long-since out-of-date service, during the course of 
which he obtains the formal declaration of the couple to 
live together as man and wife " so long as you both 
shall live." The preacher, while using essentially the same 
archaic form as does the justice, nevertheless makes his 
service longer and more ceremonious, and so lends a bit 
more eclat to the occasion. 

The real reason for the falling-off in the percentage of 
services conducted by parsons is an economic one. It is now 
becoming the custom to fee them when they assist at such 
functions. Probably seventy-five per cent of those married 
by parsons today make some compensation. The magistrate 
is also remembered now by some twenty per cent ^ of those 
whom he joins together. There is a big difference, however, 
between feeing a magistrate and feeing a parson. If the 
former, in marrying a couple, is not hindered more than 
two or three hours, and receives as much as a dollar for 
his trouble, he, as well as the couple served, feels that he 
has been amply rewarded ; not being accustomed to having 
gifts showered upon him, he is well pleased if he is liber- 
ally compensated for his time. On the other hand, there 
seems to be a feeling among both the clergy and the people 
that when the preacher " joins a couple in the holy bonds 
of matrimony," he should be feed not according to the 
services rendered, but according to the financial ability of 
those served. Some even go so far as to intimate that 
the size of the fee paid to the preacher by the groom is a 
just measure of the latter's appreciation of his newly- 
acquired mate. Because of these absurd, though rather gen- 
eral, impressions, one who would hand a dollar to a justice 

1 This percentage, as well as that for ministers, is an estimate based 
on interviews with those who perform such services. 


and feel that he was fully discharging all obligations, would 
feel quite mean and stingy if he should donate less than 
five dollars to a minister for a similar service. Thus it 
comes about that one who wants to pay for what he gets, 
and at the same time wants full value for what he gives, 
goes to a justice, unless he wants his marriage to be a sort 
of society function. 


Popularity. — Strange as it may at first blush seem, burials 
were much more largely attended than were marriages. 
There were some good reasons, however, for this seeming 
anomaly. Burials always came in the afternoon, which 
made them much more convenient for the women and chil- 
dren to attend than marriages, which, as already noted, not 
infrequently occurred at night, and occasionally in the fore- 
noon. Another reason for a large attendance at a burial, if 
the deceased was an older person, was that usually he was 
far more widely known than was a beardless youth leading 
an eighteen-year-old to the altar, and that all who knew 
him well felt it their bounden duty to attend the last rites 
and ceremonies performed in his behalf. Again, a large 
number of people actually felt that, "It is better to go to 
the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting." ^ 
Then, too, most families tried to have a " funeral " ^ when 
one of their members died, notwithstanding the fact that 
this frequently meant the driving of twenty-five or thirty 
miles to get the promise of a preacher, who in turn had to 
drive another twenty-five or thirty miles in getting to and 

1 Ecclesiastics vii : 2. The text was frequently quoted on such oc- 

2 There is a distinction made in this county between a " burial " and 
a " funeral." The former is simply an interment, while the latter is the 
service held by some minister of the Gospel. 


from the place. These funeral services were an added at- 
traction, as the people were fond of being preached to. 

CoiUns, — Practically all coffins were made in the neigh- 
borhood where they were used. A few carpenters made a 
speciality of this work and so kept lumber on hand for the 
purpose. The higher-priced coffins were made of poplar, 
while the others were made of pine. On rare occasions 
they were made of walnut, which was considered very fine. 
All cases were of the common yellow pine. 

Preparing the Corpse. — When a person died, some of the 
neighbors (men if it was a male person other than a small 
child, and women if it was a female person or child) would 
come in, wash, dress, lay out the corpse, and measure it 
for its final earthly compartment. 

Sitting Up With the Corpse. — If the death occurred after 
midnight, it was considered bad form to bury the body until 
the afternoon of the second day following, since to do so 
earlier was thought to show too great a desire to get rid 
of it. The night the corpse lay in the house several of the 
neighbors would come in and sit around and talk till bed- 
time. All would then go home, except two or three who 
remained to sit up with the corpse all night. The immediate 
family went to bed early. 

Boxing the Corpse. — On the day of the burial some of the 
neighbors would dig the grave, and one of them would go 
for the coffin. After the crowd had assembled (anywhere 
from one-thirty to three o'clock in the afternoon) at the 
former home of the deceased, six men (women, if the body 
was that of a woman), one each at the head and foot 
of the body and two on each side, with towels under it, 
would lift it from the bed and place it in the coffin. Next 
came the funeral sermon, if there was to be one. 

Funerals. — In delivering the sermon the preacher usually 
stood either in the door of the house or on the piazza. The 


women of the audience stayed either on the inside of the 
house or on the piazza if there was sufficient room, the men 
remaining on the outside. Ordinarily there were some 
rough planks placed on blocks in the yard for the people 
to sit on while listening to the sermon. 

The funeral sermon consisted of three parts: the re- 
counting of the admirable qualities of the dead — the other 
kind being slurred over, as a matter of course; the con- 
soling of the bereaved relatives; the exhortation to the 
neighbors and friends to be always prepared for death, 
which, they were assured, " cometh as a thief in the night." 

It not infrequently happened that a preacher could not 
be secured to perform the funeral ceremony at the time of 
burial. In such a case the funeral occasionally was preached 
at church several months, and even years, afterwards. Thus 
it was quite possible for a man to take his second wife to 
his first wife's funeral. Usually, however, when he had 
good prospects of a recruit to take the place of her who 
had fallen by his side, he bestirred himself and concluded 
the funeral rites of his first mate before entering upon the 
wedding festivities of his second, and so obviated what 
might have been a rather embarrassing situation. 

Burials. — After the funeral most of the assemblage went 
to the grave. If this was near, as it often was, five or six 
men would carry the corpse, otherwise it was put into a cart 
and hauled. When the grave was close by, the coffin was 
usually opened at the house so that every one who cared to 
could take one last look at the deceased, but if the grave was 
some distance away, this part of the ceremony took place 
there. Occasionally the dead was viewed at both the home 
and the grave. 

The principal service was at the house, but after the corpse 
was lowered into the grave there frequently was another 
brief ceremony, provided a preacher had been secured. 


After this was over, the clods would begin to rattle upon 
the grave planks, the by-standers taking turns at shoveling 
in the dirt; and soon the matter of giving out the allotted 
" six feet of earth " would be completed. Then the crowd, 
rather serious and sorrowful, would slowly turn away. 

Funeral and Burial Expenses. — The necessary expense 
connected with leaving this " sinful world," provided one 
succeeded in passing out without running up a heavy doctor's 
bill, was rather small. There was no carriage hire, since 
everyone furnished his own conveyance, or else walked. As 
for flowers,^ no one ever thought of having them at a 
funeral. The preacher, if one was obtained, was supposed 
to throw in his services as did all the others who assisted; 
and so the only financial cost to the family, save doctors^ 
bills, was the price of the coffin, the coffin-case, and a few 
rough planks to place in the grave just above the case. One 
could have an elaborate funeral at a cost of from twelve to 
fifteen dollars, a less pretentious one at from eight to ten 
dollars, and a modest one for as little as six or seven dollars. 

Grave-yards. — There has never been a general cemetery 
in the county, except in Edenton, but simply family burying- 
grounds, or *' grave-yards." The corpse rarely was carried 
more than two miles, and in a large number of cases — 
probably forty per cent — was interred on the farm where 
death occurred. 

Grave-marks. — Some families placed little roofs over the 
graves of their dead members. Some set up wooden slabs 
(which, if of good quality, would last twenty-five or thirty 
years) having the name and date of birth and of death 
carved thereon. Only a very few, the comparatively well- 
to-do, indulged in real tombstones displaying fancy mottoes 

1 Only once, till within the last few years, did I ever see any flowers 
at a funeral, and these were sent out with a corpse shipped from a 
town thirty miles away. 


and proclaiming the good qualities of their relatives who 
had crossed the great divide. 


Ceremoniousness. — Burials, like marriages, are tending 
away from the simple style of procedure and towards the 
formal and ceremonious. These now are occasions for 
showing off and attempting to make an impression upon 
one's neighbors. The near relatives frequently dress in 
mourning, a custom which until recently was unknown in 
the rural sections, and the dead are laid to rest beneath 
wreathes of flowers. 

No longer is the body carted off to the grave in a pine 
box hurriedly put together by some local carpenter. The 
coffin now is not a coffin, but a " casket," ^ and factory made. 
It is very probable that this factory-made article is far less 
durable than the one used a few years back, but it looks a 
little better, costs considerably more, and so everybody is 
satisfied. It is frequently brought out in a two-horse hearse 
from one of the little neighboring towns. The undertaker 
himself usually drives the hearse, and acts as funeral direc- 
tor, a function formerly performed by volunteers from 
among the neighbors. Pallbearers are no longer always 
those who happen to be standing near at the time, but often 
are especially selected. Occasionally these are selected sev- 
eral hours beforehand and notified. In other days, any one 
who felt so disposed took right hold, with no hesitation 
whatever, and helped to do anything that was to be done. 

Other Changes in Former Customs. — It used to be the 

1 As is well known, the difference between a coffin and a casket is the 
shape. Many, however, use the term " casket " either because they 
think it a more polished term for coffin, or else because they think a 
casket is a high-grade coffin. As a matter of fact, though, not a few- 
caskets are now used. 


custom for no one who was in anyway related, either by 
blood or marriage, to the dead, to have anything to do with 
the body, either as pall-bearer or otherwise. Just the re- 
verse of this custom now seems to be coming into favor. 
Another custom that is coming in is the feeing of the man 
who preaches the funeral. Probably ten per cent of the 
families having funerals now make some little donation, say 
from one to five dollars (sometimes a joint of meat, or other 
provisions), to the minister officiating. 

The introduction of the foregoing innovations seems to 
be robbing funerals of much of the somber enjoyment they 
formerly furnished the people. 


The Church in the Eighties 


Whatever may have been the attitude of the early settlers 
in this section towards God, the church, and religion,^ cer- 
tain it is that by the beginning of the period under discussion 
the attitude of the people generally was most favorable. 
This is evidenced by the fact that 50.6 per cent of the 
county's population in 1890^ were church communicants, 
while only 45.8 per cent of the population were above nine- 
teen years old, and 57.1 per cent above fourteen years old.^ 
Of the communicants, 96.7 per cent were either Methodists 
or Baptists,* both of which denominations enroll as mem- 
bers only those who, after supposedly reaching the age of 
discretion, make application of their own free will and ac- 
cord to be taken in. Both, also, frequently " withdraw fel- 
lowship from," or " turn out," members who refuse a cer- 
tain degree of conformity to their teachings. Thus the 
church membership of the county was composed almost en- 
tirely of those who voluntarily came into the church, and 
who lived so as to stay in. It was quite the thing to " belong 
to church." In fact, one who had passed his twenty-fifth 
year and was still outside the pale of the church, was looked 

1 Cf. supra, pp. 27-33. 

2 There were no church statistics published for 1880, the year with 
which this treatise begins. 

3 Cf. table 24, p. 289. * Cf, table 2Zy p. 288. 

195] 19s 


upon with a certain degree of suspicion. Church member- 
ship was a recommendation of real worth, if one wanted 
to secure a position of trust, either pubhc or private. The 
few who had made no profession of faith, for the most 
part believed in the cardinal principles of the Christian re- 
ligion and had little or no criticism to make of the ordinary- 
doctrines of Protestantism: their allegiance was withheld 
either because they felt that many of the church members 
were not trying to live up to their profession, or else be- 
cause they themselves wanted to enjoy the pleasures of 
" wild-oat-sowing " a while longer. 


Although the majority of the church population * (in 
1890, 64.6 per cent) subscribed to the faith of that most 
democratic of religious organizations, the Baptist,^ the 
church as an institution, nevertheless, had a tremendous 
power. To be sure, it made few demands upon its adher- 
ents, but those it did make were generally conceded to be 
just, and were more or less complied with. From the nega- 
tive side, on joining the church one was supposed to quit 
dancing, playing cards,^ using profanity, and getting drunk. 

1 Cf. table 23, p. 288. 

2 In the Baptist church the members of each local organization arc 
dictated to by no one, and they know no law or creed except that 
adopted by themselves, and for which they claim to find sanction in the 
New Testament. " Baptist church polity is congregational or independ- 
ent. Each church is sovereign so far as its own discipline and worship 
are concerned." Cf. Special Reports of the Bureau of the Census: 
Religious Bodies, 1906, part ii, pp. 46-7. 

5 This was true of all the various denominations having a following 
in the county, except the Protestant Episcopal and the Catholic, which, 
as is well known, object to neither cards nor dancing. These two 
churches, however, claimed, in 1890, but ^.z per cent of the total church 
communicants of the county, and most of these lived in or near Edenton, 
so they had little effect upon the general sentiment in the rural districts. 


A member might be called to account for being drunk and 
making of himself a public nuisance, but never would he be 
disciplined for merely drinking. Drinking in those days 
was a mark of gentility. One drank to show himself a 
good fellow, whether he cared for drink or not. ^'Ardent 
spirits " were even served to the preachers. In fact, to have 
failed to set out a generous supply of good liquors when the 
" man of God " came around would have been considered 
a serious breach of hospitality. On the positive side, one 
was expected to support his local organization both by his 
means and by his presence at its meetings. 


Baptist. — The Baptist churches (except the one in Eden- 
ton) had two regular meetings each calendar month. These 
were held on a definite Sunday (the ist, 2d, 3d, or 4th) in 
each month, and on the Saturday preceding. Regular 
church services on Sunday began at 11 A. M. and lasted 
from an hour and a half to two hours. On Saturday there 
was a short devotional service (beginning at the same time 
as on Sunday) consisting of songs, prayers, and a sermon, 
followed by a " conference," or business session. 

While women are generally considered more religious 
than men, in the rural sections of Chowan the men of the 
Baptist faith attended nearly twice as many regular ser- 
vices as did the women. Saturday seems to have been 
" men's day," and only a few women were ever present.^ 
On Quarterly Meeting Saturdays (every third month) a 
few more of the women usually came out than on the other 
meeting Saturdays. This was the time when the " roll-call 
of the sisters " was supposed to take place, but, as a matter 
of fact, it was usually dispensed with by unanimous vote, 

1 It was a common thing to see a congregation of a hundred and fifty 
having not more than four or five of its members women. 


since by the. time this item of business was reached every- 
body was hungry and wanting to go home. On Sundays 
the women came out in full force. 

Methodist. — The individual Methodist congregations had 
no regular week-day meetings, their business sessions being 
held at irregular intervals. When a number of things de- 
manding the attention of a local body accumulated, there 
would be a call-meeting for the sole purpose of considering 
them. There never was any church service on such oc- 
casions. Aside from these differences their meetings were 
much the same as those of the Baptists. 

Edenton Congregations. — In Edenton the three principal 
denominations — Episcopal, Methodist, and Baptist — usually 
held two services each Sunday, morning and evening. 

Special. — Besides the regular monthly meetings, there 
were special all-day meetings, with free dinner on the ground 
for the general public. The principal ones of this class were 
the " Conferences " of the Methodists, the " Unions " and 
"Associations " of the Baptists, and the revivals by both 
the Methodists and the Baptists. Probably the most im- 
portant — most important because the most frequent — of 
these, were the revivals,^ locally known as " protracted 
meetings." Most congregations had one every year or two, 
lasting for about a week. Usually during the first two or 
three days, services were in the afternoons only, while dur- 
ing the rest of the week they were held all day. 


Grounds. — The church houses were nearly always built 
in the woods. The undergrowth would be trimmed out for 
an acre or two around the house, leaving the trees for shade 

^ Revivals are not common in the Episcopal and Catholic organiza- 
tions, but these two branches of the church had but a small following 
in Chowan. Cf. table 23, p. 288. 


and hitching posts. The woods beyond the grove was the 
only toilet for either men or women, the men going in one 
direction and the women in another. 

Buildings. — With the exception of two brick houses in 
Edenton, the church buildings were all plain wooden struc- 
tures. Probably three-fourths of those for white people 
were painted and plastered, the other fourth and most of 
those for the colored being simply unpainted and unplastered 
barn-like hulls. Several of the white churches antedated 
the Civil War, and still retained the galleries formerly used 
by the slaves. Most of the churches had two front doors 
(usually, also, one or two in the back) from each of which 
led an aisle to the rear, where was located the pulpit. There 
were three tiers of seats down the main body of the house — 
a tier of short benches on each side, and a tier of long ones 
in the center — and one tier of three or four benches on each 
side of the pulpit, the one on the men's side of the house 
being known as the " amen corner." 

Seating Arrangement. — The women sat on the right side 
(going in) and the men on the left. If a man took a woman 
to church he went with her as far as the woman's door, where 
he left her to find a seat as best she could (there were no 
ushers, so everybody found a seat for himself), and then 
backed off and went in at the men's door. In a general way 
the seating was as follows : The deacons and older men oc- 
cupied the " amen corner," the corresponding corner being 
occupied by the older women. On the side tiers were the 
men and women of the next generation, with their children. 
On the center tier were benched the young people of both 
sexes, but, as a rule, not interspersed. In fact, many 
churches had a railing running the full length of the middle 
tier of seats for the express purpose of separating the sexes. 
If a youth took " his girl " to church he could sometimes 
muster sufficient courage to sit with her on this middle tier. 


but this was so rare that it was much noticed whenever it 
occurred. During the special all-day meetings, there was 
some mixing up of the sexes in the seating, but even then it 
was confined largely to the center tier and to the near-grown 
and recently-grown of the unmarried, it being most un- 
common to see a man sitting with his wife. 

Spitting. — This segregation of the sexes was a very real 
protection to the women. All along the left-hand tier sat 
numerous tobacco-chewers who experienced no qualms at 
flooding the " house of God " with tobacco spittle. In many 
churches there were distributed over the men's side of the 
house little pine boxes (having either sand or sawdust in 
them) to spit in. If a " spit box " happened to be near, the 
chewers would take pot-shots at it; but if none was there, or 
they failed to hit the receptacle, it was all the same to them. 
Some seemed to take special delight in seeing how big a 
puddle of tobacco spittle they could make on the church 
floor. It was no uncommon thing for individual men dur- 
ing a single service, to squirt tobacco juice over a space a^ 
large as a Merry Widow hat. 


The whole family, babes in arms as well as grown-ups, 
went to church. Some few babies were " good " and would 
sleep through most of the service, but the vast majority 
were not of this order. Some crawled around on the pulpit 
under the preacher's feet; some frolicked up and down the 
aisles eating cake, biscuit, and candy ; some of the more ill- 
disposed bawled most of the time, irritating the entire con- 
gregation and drowning out the voice of the preacher for 
everyone, except those very near him. One might think* 
that the mothers would have had the common sense and the 
courtesy to remove the youngsters when they persisted in 
disturbing the whole house, but most of them did not. Nor 


did the preacher dare seem to notice these manifold dis- 
tractions to both himself and the audience. If he did, forth- 
with both men and women were up in arms against him, and 
his head was likely to get the axe at the next annual election, 
if in a Baptist church where each congregation elects its own 
pastor, and, if in a Methodist, things usually became so un- 
pleasant for him that he would utter a prayer of thanks when 
transferred to another field. Many preachers, in order to 
especially ingratitate themselves into the good graces of the 
women, frequently would say something to this effect: 
" Mothers, come to church and bring your babies. They 
don't bother me." 


In summer, when the doors were open, the dogs had free 
range of the house. They came in for two reasons — so- 
ciability and something to eat. It was their custom to trail 
the babies all about the house, eating that which they 
dropped, or threw away, and not infrequently that on 
which they were still gnawing. Sometimes two or three 
dogs would engage in a pitched battle in the open space down 
in front of the pulpit. When such encounters took place 
the pious deacons would lend a vigorous hand, or rather 
foot, thus increasing the uproar and arousing the wrath of 
those whose dogs were being kicked about. At some 
churches there were worthy brethren who were self-ap- 
pointed dog-whippers, and who, in order to properly perform 
this service of their Lord and Master, were accustomed to 
carry into the house the keenest horsewhip they could find 
on the church grounds. Apparently nothing did their right- 
eous souls so much good as to come down with all their might 
upon the innocent-looking hounds, causing the poor be- 
labored beasts to let forth yelps that could be heard a mile 



The rural churches had no organs, or other musical in- 
struments, and for two very good and sufficient reasons : 
first,, many church-goers in the country thought instru- 
mental music had no place in church, some even going so 
far as to call it the work of the devil ; second, there was no 
one to play. What music there was, was singing by the 
congregation of the old-time slow, simple tunes. Seldom 
was the range more than an octave, or the notes shorter 
than an eighth. 


Besides the distinctive doctrines of its different branches, 
the church as a whole, as represented in Chowan, taught most 
of the principles set forth in the " Apostles' Creed," a burn- 
ing hell ^ where all unbelievers were to pass their future 
existence in unceasing agony, and a heaven for those few " 
who hearkened to the " inner voice." The salvation taught 
was the " salvation by faith " rather than " by works " — 
salvation by self-denial rather than by generosity. "Works" 
were by no means left untouched in the exhortations of the 
ministers,^ but it was argued that "works" followed genuine 

1 Hell was declared to be " seventeen times hotter than a brick-kiln /' 
— the hottest thing known in the rural districts. 

' One favorite quotation of the ministers was, " Straight is the gate, 
and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that 
find it." (Matt, vii : 14) ; another which enjoyed much popularity was, 
"' Many are called, but few are chosen." (Matt, xxii : 14.) This is still 
the teaching. No later than September 1914, one of the best-educate<i 
ministers who ever visited the county said to me in a private con- 
versation that in his opinion not more than twenty million of the present 
sixteen hundred million population of the world (The World's Almanac 
for 1915 states the population of the world for 1912 as 1,643,000,000) 
were genuine Christians, and that only the Christians would be saved. 

* " The Lord loveth a cheerful giver," and " It is more blessed to give 
than to receive," were passages often quoted by the spiritual pilots 


faith as " the night the day " — that works were the natural 
fruit of faith — hence it was faith that was emphasized. The 
Hfe to come was stressed rather than the Hfe which now is. 
The people were taught to endure the sufferings of this Hfe 
for the sake of that fuller and richer life into which the 
righteous would enter when their earthly existence was over. 
All who while on earth failed to accept the New Testament 
plan of salvation, were to be paid in full at the final great 
reckoning when the " just Judge " would mete out to each 
of this class his dues " according to the deeds done in the 
body." These were those who elected to remain under the 
law. All such, if they failed in one particular, were guilty 
of the whole, and since no one was supposed to be able to 
live without offending in some point, theirs was considered 
a hopeless case. By believing in Christ one escaped justice 
and obtained mercy instead. 

Heaven was a sort of loafers' paradise * — a place where 
there was nothing to do but laze around " in shining robes 
and starry crowns," admire " the gates of pearl and the 
streets of gold," and, with the angels, sing " hallelujahs to 
the Lamb." 


The preacher most in favor was he who could do the most 
fluent and loudest talking, relate the most harrowing death- 
bed occurrences, paint the most lurid pictures of hell, and 
do the most scorching of poor damned sinners in the short- 
est period of time. It was " preaching," not the exposition 

to induce the close-fisted to part with their cash, as they were starting 
the stewards and deacons out after the " silver offering," which usually, 
however, turned out to be largely a " nickel and copper offering." 

1 This notion of heaven is expressed in the lines of many of the 
popular hymns. Some of them are as follows : " There is rest, sweet 
rest, in heaven." " Every day will be Sunday by and by." 


of the Bible, that the people wanted; the slow, deliberate, 
scholarly, discourse upon the Scriptures, appealing to the 
reason, called forth little enthusiasm. The minister who 
could appeal most strongly to the feelings and stir up the 
most excitement w^as considered best. This type of min- 
ister was especially in his glory at " protracted meet- 
ings." Unless one could picture hair-raising, tear-starting 
scenes he was no good on such occasions. The successful 
revivalists were those who dealt in such exhortations as the 
following : 

Young man, young woman, you know that in refusing to 
hearken to the Saviour's voice you are trampling with unhal- 
lowed feet upon the fervent prayers of that dear old sainted 
mother of yours who loved you so much and who has now 
gone on to receive her reward. Fathers, mothers, have you 
forgotten the voices of the little ones who used to climb upon 
your knees and put their little arms about your neck? These 
little ones now await you in glory. Why will you harden your 
hearts? This was God's discipline to you. Must He still 
further wring your hearts in order to bring you to accept His 
terms? Sinners, this may be your last chance. God says, 
" My spirit shall not always strive with man." ^ 


Place of Communication. — The church served not only the 
religious side of the natures of these people, but also the 
social side ; in fact, it is highly probable that this latter was 
the more important of the two. The paucity of artificial 
means of communication, together with the small amount of 
book-learning, made it necessary that the dissemination of 
most information be done by personal intercourse. The 

1 Cf. Gen, vi, 3. They did not balk at taking any phrase out of its 
original connection and making whatever application of it that happened 
to suit their purpose. 


church was one of the chief, if not the chief, centers for the 
interchange of ideas and general gossip. Many people ar- 
rived early, and not a few stayed out under the trees talking 
till long after the services had begun, while some never went 
in at all. After services were over, almost everybody visited 
for a little while. The all-day meetings with dinner on the 
ground were especially attractive, because of both the elab- 
orate free dinners and the unsurpassed social opportuni- 
ties afforded by the interval between the forenoon and the 
afternoon sessions. Many of these big meetings, the re- 
vivals in particular, came off in the late summer and early 
fall. As this was a time of comparative leisure with the 
farmers, and as the meetings were the biggest attractions 
going, they were exceedingly popular. On such occasions 
as these, lovers enjoyed the rare good fortune of sauntering 
around together and privately pouring out to each other their 
fancied feelings. Under these circumstancs it is not sur- 
prising that the church-ground was the place where many a 
bargain was made that sealed the fate of two lives " for 
better or for worse.'* 

Place of Exhibition. — The church was also the chief place 
for the display of millinery, the flashing of jewelry, and the 
exhibition of numerous lace-trimmed white petticoats. At 
this period, instead of wearing a single invisible petticoat, 
or none at all, it was customary for the women when 
" dressed up " to wear as many petticoats as they could 
well move around in. From three to four was the minimum 
worn even in summertime, and from that on up to eight and 
ten were worn on special occasions. Young girls who 
were planning visits out of the neighborhood frequently bor- 
rowed the best petticoats of their girl friends in order to 
make a big display in this class of lingerie.^ 

1 These are facts given to me by women who were then leading 
social lights. They are also attested by numerous others. 


The Church in 191 5 

church population 

The church population of the county in 1906 was larger 
than the population above fifteen years old, the figures being 
592 and 590, respectively, out of every 1000 of the entire 
population. During the period from 1890 to 1906 the ratio 
of the church population to the total population increased 
8.6 per cent. In other words, the number of church com- 
municants rose from 506 out of every 1000 of the total popu- 
lation in 1890 to 592 in 1906.^ This percentage increase in 
church membership was doubtless due not to any marked in- 
crease in either morals or religion, but rather to the fact that 
people come into the church at an earlier age now than for- 
merly. Children — almost babes in arms — ^are now not only 
welcomed, but by many preachers are even urged to become 
members of the church.^ Thirty years ago such practice 
would have been generally disapproved. Some question it 
now. Once in the church, one is likely to stay. Some few 
voluntarily drop out for a while, and from a few others the 
church from time to time withdraws fellowship because of 

1 Thus far the U. S. Census Bureau has collected reliable church 
statistics at only two dates — 1890 and 1906. Cf. table 24, p. 289. 

2 In September 1914, I heard one of the most popular ministers that 
ever preached in the county relate in a revival the story of a six-year- 
old girl who came into the church under his ministry. This little girl, 
so he stated, was one of the best church-workers he had ever known. 
He gave the incident to influence the parents against objecting to their 
little ones joining the church. 

2g6 [206 

207] THE CHURCH IN 1915 207 

their refusal either to be disciphned or to bear some of the 
expenses of the organization; but these usually come back 
and die in the church, if they live much past middle life. 
But few make *' profession of faith " after reaching their 
twenty-fifth year, and so the shoving back of the age limit 
not only gives a longer period in which to bring them in, but 
also includes a more impressionable one. 


Grounds. — The rural churches are still located in groves, 
but with the increase of population and the concomitant in- 
crease of clearings, some no longer are immediately sur- 
rounded by dense forests. A very few congregations have 
therefore thought it necessary to build privies on the 
grounds, but for women only. 

Buildings. — Of the church edifices of the county, only 
^\Q ^ ( four for white and one for colored, all located in 
Edenton) are brick, the others being of wood. But the 
houses of worship of both races are much larger, finer, and 
more comfortable than formerly. Most of them are painted, 
plastered, and carpeted, and some have towers and stained- 
glass windows. The improvement in the seats has been 
especially marked. Where formerly they were excruciating, 
straight-back benches made by local carpenters who paid no 
attention to the shape of the body, now they are frequently 
factory-made, and if locally made, some regard is had for the 
comfort of those who are to use them. A very noticeable 
change is the absence of the spittoons, and the presence of 
more inviting floors as the result of less spitting. This is 
another evidence of the increase of decency, and of a grow- 
ing knowledge of the principles of sanitation and hygiene. 
The latter also is further evidenced by the fact that many 

1 Another is now (August 1916) under construction, in Edenton. 


of the church buildings (for colored as well as for white) 
now have their windows fitted with weight and cord, thus 
permitting ventilation from the top as well as from the 
bottom. It should be added, however, that this convenience 
is all too little used.^ 

The more recently built places of worship have only one 
front door, and some of them three aisles instead of two 
(one center and two wall), and two tiers of seats in the 
main body of the building instead of three. In the rural 
districts the men and women, for the most part, still sit 
separately, though this custom is not so strictly adhered 
to as formerly. 

Music. — Instrumental music has been introduced. Prac- 
tically all of the white churches and a few of the colored 
now have organs, and generally there is some one on hand 
who can get some sort of music out of them. On the 
whole the music is faster and more pretentious than in the 
eighties. Many churches now try to have some semblance 
of a choir. 

Other Items. — While certain conditions have changed con- 
siderably, others have changed hardly at all. The type of 
minister most preferred is about the same as it was three 
and a half decades ago, while the distraction caused him and 
the audience by fractious, bawling infants has abated but 
little, if any. The youngsters still crawl and romp over the 
house nibbling biscuit and cookies, and are still trailed by 
the hungry-looking, wistful-eyed curs of the neighborhood. 


The essential principles of the church have remained 
about the same. Dancing and card playing ( except in Epis- 

* So far as I have observed, it is used even less in the white churches 
than in the colored. Even in summer it is common to see white churches 
with modern windows, ventilated only from the bottom. 

209] ^^-E CHURCH IN 1915 209 

copal and Catholic bodies) are still classed with swearing, 
drunkenness, gambling, and whoring. Goodness is not en- 
joined from principles of rightness and justice, but rather 
as a matter of policy — it is a paying proposition : '' believe 
and be baptized and thou shalt be saved," ^ shout the preach- 
ers — saved from an eternal hell to an eternal heaven. Justice 
for the righteous is not the thing promised or desired, but 
rather mercy. The wicked — the unbelievers ^ — those who 
want some evidence of the truth of a proposition before they 
are willing to accept it — these constitute the major portion of 
those destined to receive justice. For the others, justice is 
to be escaped by believing the chief tenets of the church 
and supporting it and its undertakings more or less willingly. 
It is generally less. In fact, not infrequently is the support 
just as little as the member thinks possible to give and still 
have his name retained on the books of the church. Living 
a clean, decent life and practicing all the virtues said to 
have been taught by the Christ both by word and deed, avail- 
eth nothing, so far as the after life is concerned, unless one 
believes the New Testament story of Christ, the story of 
creation, and the entire host of other Biblical tales, such as 
the accounts of the exploits of Noah, Moses, Jonah, Samp- 
son, and Daniel — tales which tax rather heavily the credu- 
lity of many. Doubtless there are some who are positively 
unable to accept the whole of such teachings, but if so, they, 
for the most part, have the wisdom to keep quiet, even 
though they stay out of the church. 

1 A variation of Mark xvi : 16, " He that believeth and is baptized 
shall be saved." 

2 Unbelief is considered the most dangerous of all sins, since it is 
thought to be the one sin which if persisted in by a person will even- 
tually drive the spirit away for good and all, leaving such person in an 
irredeemably lost condition. 



Some of the ablest thinkers and warmest friends of the 
church have begun to reaHze that such conditions as those 
above outlined tend to foster the very thing they would most 
like to avoid — a mercenary church membership, consisting 
of two varieties : the hell-scared, heaven-bought variety, and 
the self-seeking, policy-pursuing variety. Those of the for- 
mer class are impelled by the fear of hell and the hope of 
heaven. Those of the latter class lack the blind faith of the 
former and in their lives repudiate the doctrine which teaches 
one to endure privation here for the right of hoping to en- 
joy plenty hereafter. In other words, they value rather 
highly present earthly goods and discount very heavily 
future celestial wares, but at the same time have the keen- 
ness to recognize in church membership a business asset of 
no mean value, and the hypocrisy to exploit this asset to the 
limit of their ability. 

The true friends of the church — the honest supporters 
of her socializing activities — are beginning to wonder if it 
might not possibly be of more service to mankind at large 
if all self-styled Christians should occupy the time which 
they dedicate to the Lord, in trying to apply to their present, 
everyday living, principles said to have been enunciated by 
the One they claim the founder of their religion, instead of 
frittering it away in discussing wrongs alleged to have been 
committed by the Jews nearly two thousand years ago. 
In a word, some of the far-thinking and best friends of the 
church are beginning to feel that the people in general would 
attain a much higher degree of soul development as well as 
of civic development, if the leaders stressed living rather 
than believing — stressed the desirability of securing eco- 
nomic, political, and social justice here, rather than the de- 
sirability of securing a lazy, indolent, heavenly existence 

2 1 1 ] THE CHURCH IN 1915 2 1 1 

The conception of God as a potentate whose sole business 
throughout eternity will be to sit upon a great white throne 
and listen to the servile flattery and cajolery of His com- 
paratively small number of subjects saved by Him from a 
burning hell ; and the conception of heaven as a place where 
there is nothing to do but sing the praises of a Saviour and 
idle one's time away in a material luxury far surpassing any- 
thing ever dreamed of by mortals — these conceptions of God 
and heaven are still the ones most generally current. There 
are, however, a few who have begun to ask themselves the 
question, " How could the citizens of any true republic or 
democracy ever have evolved such ideas of God and 
heaven?" Some have answered this by saying that it is 
impossible, since life philosophies arise out of life conditions, 
either mediate or immediate; and that such notions could 
have been conceived and brought forth only by a people 
afflicted with poverty, laziness, oppression, and slavery. 
That they are unsuited to the people and conditions of 
Chowan county today is becoming the conviction of an in- 
creasing number. 


Catises Outside the Church. — The meetings of religious 
bodies, especially in the rural districts, still continue to be 
the most important social functions. It is to these that many 
go to see the latest styles and to display their own most 
recent wardrobe acquisitions. Such affairs as Sunday- 
school picnics, Methodist Conferences, and Baptist Unions 
and Associations are still the occasions for some of the larg- 
est gatherings that occur. For some years past, however, 
these meetings have been losing in relative significance. The 
closer proximity to city attractions due to the coming of the 
railroads, the big railroad excursions to certain towns, the 
increased means of communication, the increased percentage 


of the population able to utilize these means of communica- 
tion, and the big public picnics by some of the fraternal 
orders — these have all tended to lessen the social import- 
ance of religious gatherings. 

Causes Within the Church. — Two moves within the 
church itself have helped along the tendency. The first is 
the recently introduced custom of not serving dinner at the 
big revivals. The second is the action that has been taken 
against allowing anything to be sold on the church-grounds. 
Along in the eighties and nineties, whenever there was an 
all-day meeting, or series of meetings, numerous stands for 
the selling of such things as cold drinks, ice cream, confec- 
tionery, and cigars, would be erected on and around the 
church-grounds. These stands added greatly to the so- 
ciableness and enjoyableness of such occasions, without, ac- 
cording to the opinions of some of the most influential 
church members, detracting anything from the possible good 
effect of these occasions upon the community. Neverthe- 
less, this institution has been done away with by the v/hites 
(some of the colored churches still retain it) " in the name 
of the Lord and on behalf of the moral and spiritual welfare 
of the general public." Some of the church members claim 
that this was done by the preachers because they thought the 
stands might get a nickel which otherwise would have found 
its way into their (the preachers') pockets. It was probably, 
however, a concession to those carping critics who feign a 
superior devoutness to the great majority of people, and 
who affect to believe that anything which gives real pleasure, 
other than singing sacred songs, praying prayers, and preach- 
ing precepts, is fathered by a certain personage known to 
them as " His Satanic Majesty, the Devil." 


Sanitation and Hygiene 

conditions in the eighties 

Flies. — The words " sanitation " and " hygiene " had little 
meaning, either in theory or in practice, to the people of 
Chowan in the eighties, barring a very few exceptions. 
There was probably not a person in the county who made any 
effort whatever to screen either the cook-room or dining- 
room against flies. Some had progressed sufficiently to con- 
sider flies an unnecessary evil that would have to be toler- 
ated, but many thought they were especially ordained by 
God to teach patience and forbearance to His erring chil- 
dren, or for some other purpose known only to Himself 
and which His creatures had no business to trv^ to pry into. 
In summer the food was cooked amidst a swarm of flies. 
One ate comparatively few mouthfuls during the hot season 
that had not previously been inspected and sampled by flies. 
After the food was once on the table a few families of the 
higher economic classes had some one to stand by with a 
bunch of peacock feathers, or some other shooing ap- 
paratus, and keep the flies away while people ate. In 
most homes, however, one had to dispute possession with 
these death-laden pests as long as there was a morsel to 
be possessed. 

The principal screening done against flies was that done 

for the babies against yellow- and other biting-flies. As 

for the house flies, the babies shared their attention with the 

grown-ups. Of course, when screening against biting flies, 

213] 213 


house flies were also excluded, but the former bothered only 
a few weeks in the year, while the latter were in great pro- 
fusion for seven or eight months in the year. In fact, the 
house fly was much like the poor — always on hand. Many 
a time have I seen infants lying sleeping with open mouths, 
in and out of which flies were swarming like bees in and 
out of a hive. 

Mosquitoes. — As for mosquitoes, at certain times of the 
year they made life miserable at night. Some few tried to 
protect themselves with mosquito netting, but this never 
made anything but a very poor screen. It was delicate and 
easily torn, hence usually remained intact for a short time 
only. Another objection to the netting was that it seriously 
hindered the circulation of air. The usual method of pro- 
tection for the vast majority of people was to close all 
doors and windows to the sleeping apartments just before 
sunset — the time when the mosquitoes began to put in their 
appearance. After supper they would sit outside till bed- 
time, fighting the pests and dreading the hours between then 
and dawn. When they w^ent to bed they had the choice of 
raising a window and continuing the battle till they grad- 
ually sunk into unconsciousness, or of sweltering in a 
close, stuffy room on a summer night in a southern clime. 
Many people were afraid of " night air," others were afraid 
of imaginary night prowlers, so the greater number chose 
the latter alternative — shut up everything. 

The fact, however, that the vast majority of the dwellings 
were not tightly built, being neither ceiled, papered, nor 
plastered, rendered conditions, as regards ventilation, less 
bad than at first might seem. Is it any wonder that a people 
thus environed should think of heaven as a place " where the 
wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest ? " ^ 

1 A line in one of the church hymns. 


Unfenced Dwellings. — Comparatively few houses, pos- 
sibly one per cent, were paled off from the 'Mot " (barn- 
yard) or fields, hence the poultry littered the space around 
the dwellings, and not infrequently came inside to pick up 
the crumbs, and to share, along with the cats and dogs, the 
between-meal lunches passed out to the children. When the 
hogs were turned into the fields in the fall of the year, often 
they, too, were allowed to visit around the house and even 
to sleep under it. It hardly needs to be added that they 
rooted the yard full of great holes, which, after a rain, be- 
came stagnant pools. 

Wells. — ^The well was simply an uncovered, shallow hole 
in the ground, from eight to fifteen feet deep. The curb, 
which usually extended all the way from the bottom up, was 
sometimes made by nailing boards on a square frame, but 
the more durable and artistic ones were those made from 
hollow cypresses. The water was almost invariably lifted 
by the fork-sweep-handpole method. Vessels used as buck- 
ets were of various sorts, such as coffee pots and small dinner 
pots that had already served their time in the kitchen, hollow 
cypress knees, square boxes, and a few first-class cypress or 
juniper buckets made in bucket shape. 

Hard by the well stood the watering trough which was a 
dug-out log. To this came the horses, and sometime the 
cattle and hogs, the last named especially during the late 
fall and early winter months when they were picking the 
fields. Another accessory was a bench. Here the pickled 
herring were soaked and washed. Here also the clothing 
and vegtables frequently were washed and the water dumped. 
The water which drained off from the trough, fish bucket, 
and wash tub made a puddle beside the well much to the 
delight of the ducks and geese (also of the hogs, when they 
were in the field) . The general aspect and odor were, to put 
it mildly, far from inviting. This is that type of well which 
has been immortalized by painters, poets, and musicians. 


Ash-heaps. — The dish-water and other sewage from the 
kitchen, except what was carried to the hogs or dumped at 
the well, was deposited at the back door of the kitchen. A 
few of the more industrious farmers turned this into an 
asset by hauling a heap of dirt to catch the sewage, which 
in turn enriched the dirt, making several loads of manure. 
This was known as the " ash-heap," taking its name from 
the fact that some people also dumped their ashes here. 
This ash-heap could be kept comparatively decent by putting 
on a load or two of dirt every few days. In the summer 
time, however, when it needed attention most, everybody was 
busy with his crop, hence it received very little. And so, 
whether the sewage was utilized in making manure, or simply 
poured out on the ground at the back door of the kitchen, 
there was usually present a hideous cesspool. On hot sultry 
days the odor, which was one of the accompaniments to 
meals, was something terrific. 

Privies. — Privies, like many other conveniences in the 
rural sections, were largely conspicuous by their absence. 
The women went out behind either the hen-house or the 
smoke-house, and the men behind either the barn or the 
stables, while the small children not infrequently utilized the 
chimney-lock.^ Outside of Edenton, possibly five per cent 
of the families had privies. From a sanitary standpoint, 
however, conditions were not infrequently about as bad 
where the privies were as where they were not, since many 
never disinfected them at all. Their chief advantage was 
privacy. These conditions, in connection with the fact that 
most children went barefooted for seven or eight months 
in the year, made for the spreading of the hook-worm and 
various other diseases.^ 

^ Many of the houses had their chimneys built on the outside. The 
angles made by such a chimney and the house were known as the 

' See U. S. Farmers Bulletin No. 463. 



Many conditions, in the case of most people, are much 
the same now as they were three and a half decades ago. 
It will suffice in this section to note the direction in which 
the changes are taking place. 

Screening. — ^During the past few years, thanks largely 
to some Government bulletins, two or three physicians, and 
a newspaper or two, a few people thruout the county have 
begun partially to realize what a menace to health are flies 
and mosquitoes. Within the past four or five years con- 
siderable screening has been done, and at present possibly 
fifty per cent of the families have made some attempt to 
screen against mosquitoes and flies in their living-apartments. 
Doubtless, however, their action has been prompted largely 
by the desire for immediate comfort and the feeling that 
screening is coming to be " the thing," rather than by any 
desire to preserve and improve health. 

A fair beginning also has been made in screening against 
flies in the cooking and eating apartments. Probably 
twenty per cent of families now have their dining-rooms, 
and ten per cent their kitchens, screened. This leaves the 
vast majority, however, still cooking and eating amidst the 
flies. Even those who attempt to screen where they cook 
and eat, still have an appreciable quantity of these disease- 

Unenclosed Dwellings. — There are still only a compara- 
tively few rural dwellings, possibly two or three per cent, 
having permanent enclosures shielding them from the visi- 
tation of the poultry and other barnyard inhabitants. 

Pumps. — For drinking purposes the driven well (or 
pump) has now largely taken the place of the open well 
described on page 215. Probably ninety-five per cent of the 
families now have access to driven wells. A prominent 


physician ^ said to me in the summer of 1914, "Driven wells 
have done more to improve the health of Chowan county 
than any other one thing, screening not excepted." 

Seufage Disposal. — Possibly five per cent of the rural 
families now have underground drains and another five per 
cent surface drains, which take the sewage off into the 
fields seventy-five or a hundred yards from the house. The 
kitchen back-yards of the other ninety per cent have been 
only slightly, if at all, improved from what they were in 
the eighties. 

Privies. — Privies have rtow become the rule, being on the 
premises of probably ninety per cent of the families, but 
they are about as little sanitary now as they ever were. The 
dogs, chicke!is, and flies still have free access to most of 
them, and only a comparatively few people spread around 
them any sterilizing or germ-destroying material. 

1 Dr. 'Richard Dillard, Edenton, N. C. 

Necessaries^ Comforts^ and Luxuries in the Eighties, 

PHYSICAL comforts. 

If it were possible for one of the present age, knowing 
nothing of the past, to draw back the curtain and look 
upon conditions as they were in 1880, he would be amazed 
tO' see people with sO' few of the material things of the 
world extracting so much genuine pleasure out of life. 
Even those living now who were living then, are puzzled 
over the matter when they stop to think about it. 

Buildings. — Take the dwelHngs. The majority of the 
people were housed in small, one-story structures — mere 
sheds — of from one to* three rooms. Probably the most 
common model of the comparatively good-livers was the 
large one-room, single-story building, shedded on both sides. 
The back shed had two small rooms with an open hall- 
way between ; the front shed had a small room on one end, 
while the remaining space served as a porch, and was 
known as the " piazza." This general style was frequently 
varied somewhat: a partition might run across the big 
room ; only one side might be shedded ; or the sheds might 
not be built when the big room was, but later on when the 
owner felt able, or his growing family reached such propor- 
tions as to demand more room. Only a very few were two- 
story, but many of them had stairways leading to the lofts, 
which were used for sleeping rooms. 

Not only were the dwellings not tightly put together, but 

not more than four per cent of them in the country, nor 

twenty-five per cent in town were either ceiled or plastered. 

So scarce were painted two-story houses in the rural sec- 

219] 219 


tions that they served as prominent landmarks. Probably 
from ninety-five to ninety-eight per cent o-f the dwellings 
were frame structures, and the others log, there being but 
two brick dwellings in the county. 

Tho only a small per cent of the dwellings were of logs 
in 1880, and few, if any, were erected after that date, in 
the rural districts probably sixty per cent of the kitchens 
and smoke-houses, and ninety per cent of the barns and 
stables wtrc made of logs. Many doors were hung on 
wooden hinges and secured by wooden fastenings. These 
latter were of three types — the bar, the latch, and the lock. 
An inside bar could be used on all doors except those 
thru which first entry and final exit were made. The 
inside latch was on the front door of many dwellings. If 
it was desired to have these front doors so that none 
other than the owner could enter without some trouble, 
it was necessary to use locks. But many people never 
cared to have their doors locked when away, and so fas- 
tened them with an inside latch. This latch was no pro- 
tection whatever against thieves when the owner was away 
(probably few locks are), since it was operated by simply 
pulling a string which hung in plain view on the outside. 
It was, however, a certain protection to one's person, for 
when one was on the inside he could draw the string in 
after him, and then nO' one could enter without forcing the 
door. But there was little fear of crime against either 
one's person or property. The principal reason why 
most people closed their doors was to keep out dogs, 
chickens, mosquitoes, cold, and " night air." ^ For such 
purposes the wooden latch was of just as much value as the 
best of locks. If one who kept only a latch on his front 

1 Most people were terribly afraid of " night air " and so shut their 
doors to keep it out, just as if one could breathe any sort of air at 
night except " night air." 


door happened, on leaving home, to meet some one going 
to visit him, and he was not able to turn back, he would say 
something to this effect ; " I can't go back now, but you go 
ahead. You'll find the latch-string on the outside o' the 
door; just go in and make yourself at home till I return." 
From such conditions as are here typified, arose that ex- 
pression of cordial welcome, " For you the latch-string 
always hangs on the outside." Many never locked their ■ 
barns or smoke-houses, but some did (feed and provisions 
were about the only things ever stolen) , and here it was that 
the wooden lock was most frequently used. It is more 
difficult to pick than is the ordinary factory-made tumbler 

. Nearly all dwellings, including the log cabins, were cov- 
ered with good hand-riven and hand-drawn shingles,^ while 
the outbuildings (such as barns, stables, and smoke-houses) 
were covered with rough boards,^ just as they were riven 
from bolts of timber. In other words, the boards were 
never drawn. Many dwellings had no windows other than 
wooden shutters, which, when closed, shut out all the light 
except what came in thru the cracks (rather numerous) 
and open doors. 

Household Furnishings. — Few floors were burdened 
with those unsanitary contrivances known as rugs and car- 
pets. The neat housewife, after scouring the floor (some 
scoured every three or four weeks, or oftener) frequendy 

1 By " drawing " is meant the shaving down smooth with a drawing- 
knife. Before being drawn, a riven shingle is in reahty nothing more 
than a short board. It has to be smoothed and tapered with the 
drawing-knife to become a shingle. 

2 A " board " in this section is always riven, never sawed. Sawed 
boards are called plank. The board usually is about one-half inch thick, 
from four to eight inches wide, and' from two and a half to five feet 
long. The length and width depend upon the ease and straightness with 
which a tree splits, together with the use to which the board is to be put. 


Sprinkled clean, white sand over it. The few carpets there 
were, were mostly rag carpets. Garments no longer fit for 
service in their original capacity, were torn into strips of 
from one-half to an inch and a half wide, their ends tied 
together, and with a twisted cotton warp, woven into 

The furnishings, both of most dwellings and kitchens, 
were scant, simple, and chiefly home-made. Modern con- 
veniences had only begun to make their appearance in a 
few homes. Not more than twenty-five per cent of the 
homes had any sort of timepieces in them. Thus it prob- 
ably came about that all the houses were built to square with 
the points of the compass, rather than with the public thoro- 
fares past them. When the sun shone straight in the 
doorway the housekeeper knew it was time to " blow up " 
the hands for dinner. When there was no sunshine, dinner- 
time was guessed at. Possibly three or four per cent of the 
families had sewing machines, tho the great mass of the 
people still did their sewing by hand; and it must be 
remembered that this was a time when ninety-five per cent 
of the clothing worn was made up in the home — not bought 
ready-made from the stores, as is most of it today. 

Cooking and Cooking Utensils. — Possibly ten per cent 
of the families had cook-stoves. The others cooked on 
open fire-places. The principal cooking utensils, even of 
most of the best families, were a pot, a creeper ^ (a spider) 
or twO', a long-handle frying-pan, a tea-kettle, a griddle, 
and two or three wornout hoes. Such food as beans, peas, 
greens (in fact practically all vegetables except sweet pota- 
toes) , hominy, and much of the meat, was cooked by boiling 
in the pot. Some few had big ovens for baking sweet po- 
tatoes, and some were baked in creepers, but probably the 

1 The creeper at this time was a heavy cast-iron pan some three or 
four inches deep, covered with a lid, and stood on three legs about 
three inches high. The handle was from twelve to fifteen inches long. 


bigger half was roasted on the hearth before the fire, or 
when the fire was low, in the hot ashes. The old hoes were 
used for baking corn-bread on. The " hoe-cake " — a pone 
of corn-bread baked on a hoe that had already lived out its 
usefulness as a farm utensil — in Chowan had not yet passed 
into the realms of fiction. Many met it face tO' face three 
times a day. Much of the salt fish was broiled on the coals. 
As all cooks know, it takes quite a little grease to fry most 
fish. With the majority of families, grease was a rather 
scarce article, and so some method of cooking fish other than 
frying was necessary. In broiling, no grease at all is 
needed.^ Most baking, other than that previously men- 
tioned, was done in the creeper, while the frying was done 
either in the creeper or in the frying pan. To bake in the 
creeper, it was set on the fire and coals heaped on the lid. 
It was in this receptacle that was cooked that famous dys- 
pepsia-producing Southern dish known as " hot biscuit." 
The much-prized apple and peach " jacks " (kinds of pies 
— the New England ''turnovers") were cooked either in 
this or in the frying-pan. 

Food. — The food of more than ninety per cent of the 
people consisted chiefly of corn-bread, salt herring, sweet 
potatoes, bacon, and yeopon — ranking in importance in 
the order named. ^ In the summer and fall some vege- 
tables and fruits were eaten, but many had very little of 
either, since they put forth little or no effort towards having 
a garden or orchard. The art and custom of canning fruit 
and vegetables had not yet been introduced here, and the 
country stores handled neither canned goods nor dried- 
fruits ; so aside from the dried-fruits put up by the individ- 
ual housekeepers, there was neither vegetables nor fruits, 
except in season. 

1 Cf. supra, footnote, p. 105. 2 Cf. supra, pp. 104, 105. 


There was very little fresh meat eaten, except around 
hog-kiliing time, and on special occasions, such as all-day 
religious gatherings/ Now and then during the late sum- 
mer and fall someone would butcher a yearling, or a mis- 
chievous cow, and peddle out the beef among his neighbors. 
But even when such an opportunity for having fresh meat 
was offered, many could not take advantage of it for the 
simple reason that they had not the wherewithal to purchase. 
While most families raised some poultry, the major portion 
of this, together with the eggs, was either sold to carters, or 
toted off to the stores and there bartered for such articles 
as snuff, tobacco, sugar, coffee, and spool thread.^ When 
there was special company present, chickens and eggs were 
frequently served. The fact that most delicacies were usu- 
ally reserved for use when company was on hand, was 
doubtless the chief reason why children were so delighted 
to see visitors come. During the commercial fishing season, 
those near the beaches could have fresh fish after they be- 
came cheap. Everyone had a few messes' of fresh fish 
when the supply for the year was being hauled in. There 
was also a little fishing with hook and line and small gill nets 
in the mill-ponds and streams during several months of the 
year. In the fall and winter many secured a little fresh 
meat by hunting. Hunting and fishing, other than that 
described in chapter vii, however, were followed more 
as diversions than as means of obtaining a livelihood. 

Sweetening of every sort was scarce. There was a 
little molasses made, some molasses and sugar bought, and 
now and then there was a person who kept a few bees.^ 
Yeopon tea, the principal hot drink for the majority of 
people, was usually served " straight " (with neither milk 

1 At these special meetings every one who brought dinner had some 
sort of fresh meat — either chicken, pork, or beef. 

2 Cf. supra, p. 78. s Cf. table 9, P- 272. 


nor sweetening). Much of the coffee, also, was served 
without "trimmings." Comparatively few families milked, 
and as there were no dairy products brought in, except 
butter and cheese into Edenton, and, in the winter months, 
a small amount of cheese into the country, the consumption 
of dairy products was comparatively light. ^ So few chil- 
dren had any milk to drink when growing up that probably 
more than half of the people lost the taste for it and refused 
it even when it was to be had. 

Clothing. — Clothing was coarse, ill-fitting, and not even 
abundant. Practically all of it, except the Sunday suits of 
a few men, was home-made, and much of it was still home- 
spun and home- woven. There was many a man in 1880 
who had never owned an overcoat, or pair of gloves, nor 
had on an undershirt. Overshoes were practically un- 
known in the rural districts. Gloves and overcoats for 
children, especially boys, were rare exceptions. Sometimes 
a child used one of his mother's or father's old coats when 
the weather was very cold. Most children went barefooted 
all the time, except during the winter months. Each child 
received, as a rule, only one pair of shoes a year, said shoes 
being turned over to him along in the latter part of Novem- 
ber or the first part of December. It was a common sight 
to see children stark barefooted running around the prem- 
ises on cold frosty mornings. 

When a woman bought a piece of millinery in those days 
she did not turn over a small fortune for it, nor did she 
discard it for a new piece on the next change of the moon. 
In most cases it was worn as long as it looked fairly decent 
— usually for two or three years. It was only the especially 
favored few who could boast a new hat each year, and she 
who could do so each season was indeed a rarity. Not 
only was there saved much hard-earned cash, as compared 

1 Cf. supra, pp. 68-71. 


to now, in buying millinery, but also a great deal of time. 
Although a woman had a new bonnet only every two or 
three years, she nevertheless did not spend several days 
picking it out and trying it on. The fact is, the bonnets of 
a great many of the women were selected and purchased by 
the men,^ or, to speak more accurately, selected by the 
salesman and paid for by the men. The prospective man- 
buyer called for a hat of either the latest, or of some 
special style, and, since the question of fit, then as now, 
rarely entered into the selection of a woman's hat, if the 
price could be agreed upon, the clerk wrapped it up, ac- 
cepted the price, and the transaction was consummated. 
What an enormous amount of time would be saved for 
both buyers and sellers to-day if such a plan were still in 
vogue ! 


Music. — ^Turning from the physical necessities of shelter, 
food, and clothing, to the things of a more aesthetic nature, 
we find the fine arts — music and painting — but meagerly 
represented. In the category of musical instruments, few 
people had anything more pretentions than an accordion, 
and these were found in not more than one home in thirty. 
Probably there were twelve or fifteen fiddles (an average 
of one to every hundred homes) scattered thruout the 
county. The principal instrumental music was that made 
by an ordinary ten to twenty-five cent " harp " (mouth- 
organ). As for a parlor organ or piano, while there were 
few homes with them, hundreds of people had never heard 
either, and scores of grown folks did not even know what 
they looked like. 

Many in the upper end of the county well remember the 

1 Rural milliners had not yet made their debut, and comparatively 
few women went to town, except those near-by, hence it came about 
that many of their hats were bought by men. Cf. supra, p. 137. 


iirst time they ever heard an organ. The occasion was a 
big Sunday-school picnic, about the middle eighties. A 
kind-hearted old gentleman who had recently bought axi 
organ for his daughter allowed it to be carted to church. 
His daughter, who was probably the only one in the audi- 
ence of four or five hundred people who could perform on 
it, did the playing. It was a great time. The only fault 
that most of the audience found with the music was that 
the organ played scarcely any, except when the congregation 
was singing. Now and then one caught strains of it above 
the voices of the singers and fancied what it might be if 
only the singers would hush and allow the organ to be heard 

Pictures. — Few walls were adorned with pictures. Prob- 
ably ninety per cent of the homes in the rural districts and 
seventy-five per cent of those in town had no pictures in 
them whatsoever, other than a few small tintypes of some 
of their relatives and friends. There were no advertising 
posters, or calendars, and even few medical almanacs.^ 
Occasionally one might see in a home a few cheap litho- 
graphs of such inspiring ( ?) scenes as " The Separation of 
the Sheep from Goats at the Last Judgment,*' and " The 
Agony of Poor Damned Souls in Hell." Probably not 
over five per cent of the homes had any sort of framed pic- 
tures in them. The lack of pictures, however, was not 
because there was no appreciation of the beautiful. Many 
children saved every piece of paper with a bit of coloring on 

1 In the summer of 1914, I heard a mother talking to her thirty-six- 
year-old son in regard to the day of his birth. She was telling him 
that by certain calculations, and by comparison with certain established 
dates, she had discovered that the date which had always been given as 
his birth was a day earlier than his actual birth. When asked for an 
explanation of this discrepancy, her reply was, " Son, when you came 
along we had neither clock nor almanac, and didn't have until after 
you were a great big boy." This was in a family of the better economic 
and social class. 


it that fell into their hands. Much of their time in school 
was spent swapping " thumb-papers." ^ Those with pic- 
tures on them were highly prized. Probably nothing 
pleased most children more than the gift of a picture thumb- 
paper. The little blue and red bits of cardboard with Scrip- 
ture texts on them, received at Sunday-school, were treasured 
not so much for the text as for the coloring. The grown 
people displayed the same keen delight in color and pictures 
as did the children. Anything of this nature that chanced 
their way they preserved, and sometimes pasted upon the 
walls of their homes. 


Travel of more than a few miles from one's residence was 
very light. Of the women, ninety per cent had not been 
over thirty miles from home more than once or twice 
during their entire lives, and many had lived and died with- 
out ever being ten miles from the place of their birth. Prob- 
ably seventy-five per cent of the men went to Norfolk 
(sixty miles distant from the upper end of the county) at 
least once or twice during their earthly careers, but this was 
as far as ninety-five per cent of them ever strayed. The 
majority of people had little business away from home; 
their social visits were largely confined to the people in their 
immediate neighborhood, and they had not yet acquired 
the habit of traveling for the mere sake of being on the 
move. Besides these things, the means of long-distance 
traveling were both meager and expensive, and most people 
were not able to afford such luxuries, even if they had 
cared for them. 

1 A " thumb-paper " was a piece of cardboard, either plain or with a 
picture on it. Besides being attractive, if it was either colored or had on 
it a picture, it also served as a book-mark and as a protection to the 
book. Unless the child had something upon which to rest his thumb 
while going over his lessons, he frequently actually wore out the spot on 
the page where the thumb rested — a rather sad commentary on his rate 
of progress. 


Necessaries, Comforts, and Luxuries in 191 5 
physical comforts 

Many things that in 1880 were reckoned as comforts and 
luxuries, are to-day looked upon as necessaries. In other 
words, the standards of material welfare in the county have 
been considerably raised during the past three and a half 
decades, and this has been confined to no race or class. 
There has been a general moving up along practically the 
entire line, altho there has been, as one would expect, some 
shifting of places. 

Buildings. — The bams of not a few people to-day would 
make fully as comfortable living quarters as did their dwel- 
lings thirty-five years ago. Log dwellings have disap- 
peared. So far as I have been able to ascertain, not a 
single log structure in the county is now occupied as a 
dwelling. Very few even (probably not over five per cent) 
of the log kitchens and log smoke-houses remain, and not 
over ten or twelve per cent of the log barns and stables. Of 
the white home owners, fifty per cent of those in the rural 
districts and ninety per cent of those in Edenton have their 
dwellings painted, and either ceiled or plastered. Of the 
colored home owners, the percentage is about five and forty 
per cent for the county and town, respectively. 

The two-story dwelling is now all the fashion in the rural 
sections. Almost without exception, every one in the rural 
districts who has put up a dwelling of more than two rooms 
within the past ten years, has built it two stories. There 
seems to be a general feeling that a two-story house gives a 
certain amount of prestige that is not conferred by a one- 
229] 229 


story house, even tho both cost the same. Another move- 
ment of late years is to have the dwelHng and kitchen con- 
nected with each other, either by joining together, or with 
a porch between; formerly the more usual custom was to 
have the kitchen set off a few paces from the dwelling: 

Not only has a great improvement taken place in dwell- 
ings, but the same is true of the outbuildings, as above in- 
timated. As many as thirty or forty per. cent of the farm- 
owners now have fairly decent. barns and shelters. Thirty- 
five years ago it would not have run over eight or ten per 
cent. As many farmers now have painted barns as in 1880 
had painted dwellings. 

Comparatively few wooden hinges now remain, and most 
home-made fastenings, especially for dwellings, have been 
supplanted by the factory-made article. Most barns and 
kitchens are now fitted with locks, tho many of them are 
seldom used. 

Household and Kitchen Furniture. — Household and kit- 
chen furniture has increased in variety, quantity, and ele- 
gance, tho in many cases where the factory product has been 
substituted for the home-made, elegance has been purchased 
at the price of durability. Probably ninety per cent of home 
owners and fifty per cent of all other families now have 
sewing machines; for cook-stoves, the percentage is about 
ninety-eight and seventy-five, respectively. As for time- 
pieces and lamps, they are in practically every home. 

Food. — In the matter of food there has also been con- 
siderable advancement. The variety has been increased, 
and such things as coffee, sugar, and flour, which were the 
luxuries of the comparatively few well-to-do families, are 
now consumed by all, and by many, about as freely as de- 
sired. The introduction of home-canning makes it possible 
for all farmers to have their own fruit and vegetables the 
year round, but the possibility is all too little appreciated. 


Less than five per cent of the families can any vegetables 
other than tomatoes; and while, perhaps, eighty per cent 
of the white families and fifteen per cent of the colored 
can some fruit each year, probably less than ten per cent 
of the families can as much as ten gallons of fruit an- 
nually. A majority of the white families and a few of the 
colored put up a gallon or two of preserves each year. 
These, as well as the canned fruit, rarely ever see the light 
except on Sundays or when company is around. Preserves 
seem to be considered a greater delicacy than plain fruit. 
In fact, they are frequently served during the height of the 
fruit season by those who have an abundance of fruit, in 
preference to the fresh fruit. Comparatively little fruit 
is eaten, except in fruit season, and then between meals just 
as it is gathered. Raw fruit is almost never seen on the 
table, and the little cooked fruit served, is mostly in the 
shape of pies or preserves, especially in the rural districts. 
The wholesome, easily prepared, stewed fruit or fruit 
sauce, is very rarely served. For weeks at a time many 
people never taste fruit of any sort. 

The present small consumption of cooked fruit is due 
probably to habits formed in less prosperous times, rather 
than to any dislike of fruit. Unsweetened cooked fruit is 
not relished by many, and so in earlier days when sweeten- 
ing, especially sugar, was expensive and the purchasing 
power of most people small, it was quite natural that little 
fruit should be cooked ; and the habit of regarding sugar as 
a luxury became so fixed that now, under vastly changed 
conditions where sugar is one of our cheapest energy-pro- 
ducing foods, the idea that sugar is an expensive delicacy 
still prevails even in many of the better-class homes. 

Vegetables, like fruit, are used but comparatively little by 
the rural population, except in season, and then by many 
only sparingly. Many people make little or no pretense 


whatever of having any garden, and the gardens of a 
majority are comparatively inferior. For weeks at a time 
during the season in which vegetables may be grown, many 
a so-called farmer gathers absolutely nothing in the way of 
garden stuff. As above noted, hardly any vegetables are 
canned, and, excepting sweet potatoes, almost none stored; 
the farmer hates to buy from the stores anything that he 
himself produces; hence it comes about that vegetables out 
of season are especially rare in the rural districts. There 
is still very little milk and butter produced ^ or consumed. 
For months at a time sixty per cent of the people never 
taste butter, and most of the poultry and eggs are sold. By 
March the sweet potatoes (except those for planting) of a 
great many families have been either eaten or sold, or else 
have rotted, and so, for many of the people much of the 
time, the principal diet is cheap flour, made into poorly 
cooked biscuits, corn-bread, salt pork or bacon, and herring. 


Dress. — When it comes to dress, the transformation that 
has taken place here within the last three and a half dec- 
ades is probably greater than that in any other phase of the 
economic or social life. Even the day-laborer now dis- 
ports himself in tailored-to-measure garments of the latest 
cut and pattern. When buying wearing apparel now, the 
questions of fit and fashion are ones uppermost in the per- 
son's mind, those of comfort and warmth coming in only 
as secondary considerations. Silk hosiery, fancy lingerie, 
and the latest Paris creations in frocks and millinery may 
now be seen at any public gathering, even in the rural dis- 
tricts. The vast majority of both white and colored, dress 

Music. — One who presumes to sing something other than 

1 Cf. table 9, p. 272. 


a " sacred song " is no longer, by reason of the fact, con- 
sidered hellward bound. Instrumental music is coming to 
be fairly common, and not infrequently fairly good. Most 
of those desiring piano lessons can have them at from 
twenty-five to forty cents apiece.^ Of the home owners 
with daughters from ten to twenty years old, probably fifty 
per cent of the white and twenty per cent of the colored 
have either a parlor organ or a piano. There are also many 
other families that have one or both of these instruments. 

Pictures. — Pictures are still few. In less than ten per 
cent of the rural homes will there be found anything more 
pretentious than advertising picture-calendars and enlarged 
tintypes and photographs of relatives. These latter are 
probably in seventy per cent of the homes of whites and 
forty per cent of those of colored, in both town and country. 
They are cheap, blown-crayon reproductions put in by trav- 
eling picture agents who succeed largely by working on the 
feelings of the women. For the most part, they are woe- 
fully poor — the very antithesis of anything aesthetic or 
artistic. However, they probably serve one useful end — 
by constantly reminding one of from what hard-looking 
ancestors he sprang, they may tend to mitigate that affection 
commonly known as the "swell-head." In Edenton, twenty 
per cent of the families may have pictures, other than the 
above-mentioned enlarged portraits, which they think enough 
of to frame. The probable reason for such a slight mani- 
festation in this direction of the love of art is that pictures, 
have not become the fashion. It is another case of habits 
having been formed under different conditions and not being 
altered when the conditions changed. As is well-known, 
pretty fair reproductions of the works of many of the best 

1 These are usually given by the public-school teachers who happen 
to know a little music. This is in no way, however, connected with 
the public-school work. 


artists can be purchased for a few cents each, and there 
are scarcely any people who could not have some of these 
neatly framed in their homes, if they were really anxious 
for them. 

Other Expressions of the Artistic Sense. — The hanging of 
pictures on the walls of one's home, however, happens to be 
only one of the many ways in which one may display his 
aesthetic tastes. With the coming of better times to nearly 
every one in Chowan, the artistic instinct has been expressed 
in various ways. Attention has already been called to the 
remarkable improvement in dress, dwellings, school houses, 
church buildings, and the furnishings of homes. The prem- 
ises now are better kept and meals more appetizingly served 
than formerly; and fine-looking horses and rigs are vastly 
more abundant, to say nothing of the numerous automobiles. 
It may not always be possible to distinguish the love of 
mere display, the desire to outdo one's neighbors, and the 
tendency to imitate, from the true love of art ; but the same 
is the case everywhere else, and so if the marks of an aes- 
thetic nature are present, who would presume to say that 
they are due to other than aesthetic sentiments? 


With the coming of the railroads and of better economic 
conditons, travel has both greatly increased and become far 
more general. While, in 1880, comparatively few women 
and children under eighteen had ever visited Norfolk 
(the nearest seaport and trade center), probably a majority 
of the adults now fifty have at some time or other made the 
trip and gotten a glimpse of the outside world. Many of 
those who grew up under the old conditions, however, have 
never undertaken the journey, and for eighty-five per cent 
or more of the people Norfolk still stands as the farthest 
limit of their wanderings from home. Some few have 
traveled rather widely. 



Progressive and Retrogressive Factors Affecting the 
Economic and Social Development 

It is the purpose of this chapter to point out some of the 
most influential forces, both physical and psychological, 
which at various times have played upon the people of the 
county. It may be well, however, first to review the situ- 
ation briefly. 

situation reviewed 

The Eighties. — Domiciled upon a territory with a soil 
most of which was easily drained and easily cultivated, and 
much of which was of high natural fertility, with a climate 
having an abundance of both rainfall and sunshine fairly 
well distributed thruout the year, and lacking the extremes 
of both heat and cold yet at the same time possessing ample 
variety for the highest mental and physical stimulation — 
domiciled amid these favorable surroundings was a group 
of people (for the most part native-born of native stock 
that came originally from either Africa or the British Isles) 
many of whom in the last quarter of the nineteenth cen- 
tury were living, in numerous respects, in a manner very 
similar to that in which their forbears had lived two cen- 
turies before. There was comparatively little division of 
labor and the majority of the white families were to a re- 
markable degree individually self-sufficient. To the great 
mass of the people luxuries were almost unknown, com- 
forts were few, and many lacked even the bare physical 
necessities — lacked the necessary food and clothing to per- 
form the amount of common labor which they were poten- 
tially capable of. Excepting a very small per cent, they had 


little knowledge of, or communication with, the outside 
world. A large percentage of the whites — ^to say nothing 
of the blacks, the vast majority of whom could neither read 
nor write — were illiterate, and judging from the small 
amount of money spent on education and the small school- 
attendance, it would seem that the majority were satisfied to 
have their children grow up knowing just as little as they 
themselves knew. 

Nineteen Hundred and Fifteen. — The picture we get a 
third of a century later is quite different. It is probable 
that greater economic development was experienced during 
this short period of three and a half decades than in the 
previous two centuries. With this development has come 
the attendant results of material prosperity. Modern con- 
ditions are being ushered in on all sides. That the general 
economic welfare is tremendously improved over what it 
was, is evidenced by the fact that many of the luxuries which 
only a very few affected in the eighties, are now considered 
among the necessaries even of the poorer economic classes. 
Illiteracy has been cut down until it is probably not over 
one-fifth what it was in 1880, and the general public are now 
taking an interest in, and learning of, things and events 
beyond their immediate surroundings. 


The long period of little or no progress, and the radical 
transformation since the eighties, can hardly fail to impress 
even the most casual reader, and to raise in his mind ques- 
tions as to the causes of these seemingly anomalous facts. 
Why did this community so long remain in a compara- 
tively static state? What was the principal cause or 
causes of the great awakening? Have the factors which so 
long delayed progress ceased to operate? What are the 


chief drawbacks of the present day? To him who has 
studied at all attentively the pen pictures sketched in the 
preceding pages, the answers to these queries, if not in full 
at least in part, are doubtless already quite patent. Out of 
consideration, however, for that class of readers which 
usually takes time only for the statement of a thesis and the 
final conclusions, and in order to set forth concisely just 
what I myself consider the broad, general influences shaping 
the life of the people here depicted, I have appended the 
discussions following. 


Agrarian Policy of the Lords Proprietors. — One of the 
two facts which have been the most frequently claimed by 
Carolinians themselves to have been the chief drawbacks to 
the state's early development, and which were especially 
applicable to Chowan, was the general policy of the Lords 
Proprietors to grant to any one person only about what 
land they thought there was a possibility of his putting to 
some practical use. The excerpts following are typical of 
the writings on this point : 

Two forces tended to keep it [North Carolina] a poor 
colony, thus giving a turn to its later character. In the first 
place,^ it was the policy of the proprietors to grant the land in 
small holdings, 640 acres being the usual maximum quantity. . . 

It is . . . probable that the economic disadvantage of small 
estates and of the lack of commerce [due to the lack of har- 
bors] induced the better class of immigrants to go to Virginia 
and South Carolina, thus leaving North Carolina for less sub- 
stantial settlers.^ 

1 The second force he considered to be the lack of harbors, cf. infra, 
p. 243. 

2Bassett, J. S., Constitutional Beginnings of North Carolina, Johns 
Hopkins University Studies, vol. xii, pp. 1 10-12. 


The basis for the notion that the agrarian policy of the 
Proprietors was detrimental to the Albermarle region, is 
probably a letter by Tho. Woodard, appointed by the Lords 
Proprietors to be " Surveyor for the Countie of Albemarle." 
Writing to Collaton (a Lord Proprietor) in June 1665, he 
said, among other things: 

. . . The Proportione of Land you have allotted with the Rent 
and Conditione are by most People not well resented and the 
very Rumor of them dis-courages many who had intentions 
to have removed from Virginia hether. . . . 

And it is my Opinion . . . that it will for some time conduce 
more to your Lordshipe Profit to permit men to take up what 
tracts of land they please at an easie rate, then to stint them 
to small proportions at a great rent, Provided it be according 
to the custome of Virginia. . . . ; their being no man that will 
have any great desire to pay Rent (though but a farthing an 
acre) for more land than he hopes to gain by. Rich men 
(which Albemarle stands in much need of) may perhaps take 
up great Tracts ; but then they will endeavor to secure Tenants 
to help towards the payment of their Rent. . . . ^ 

Land in America with no one living on it was worth noth- 
ing to the Proprietors, and their only object in limiting the 
size of the grant to any one person was to secure as many 
bona-fide settlers as possible, and to have them live thick 
enough to be of some mutual protection to one another. They 
were willing to make almost any concession that would pro- 
mote the population of their domains, as they themselves 
declared. But they could see no advantage either to them- 
selves or to the settlers for a person to own several times 
as much as he was able to utilize.^ 

The instructions of the Proprietors on two or more oc- 
casions would seem to set 640 acres as the usual maximum 

1 Col. Records, op. cit., vol. i, p. 100. 
« Ibid., pp. 53-4, 186, 845-6. 


grant, and yet it is quite clear that there was always a pro- 
vision for larger grants to be made direct from the Pro- 
prietors themselves/ indicating that they were ever ready 
to convey as much land to any one person as he was able to 
turn to advantage. 

In 1669, among other instructions to the governor and 
council of Albemarle, the proprietors gave the following : 

You are to take notice that we doe grant unto all Free persons 
that doe come to plant in Carolina before the 25th of Decem- 
ber 1672 And are above the age of sixteene yeares, sixty acres 
of Land And to the said Free persons for every able man 
servant with a good fyerlock 10 lbs. of powder and twenty 
pounds of Bullets sixty acres For every other sort of servant 
fifty acres.- 

This rather looks as if they were willing to supply the 
greatest plenty of land to all honest settlers. Furthermore, 
the order to grant but 640 acres to one person seems to have 
been interpreted in Albemarle as meaning that no person 
should be granted more than 640 acres in one place. ^ 

On purely selfish grounds the Proprietors, presuming 
they had ordinary intelligence, would naturally have done 
everything they reasonably could do to attract the more 
" substantial " settlers, and as a matter of fact this class of 
settlers did come, as is attested by contemporary historians.* 
It is also a fact that large grants were made.^ At the first 
U. S. census enumeration (1790) the colored population of 
Chowan county outnumbered the white, and with one excep- 
tion has done so in every enumeration since.® In view of 
the fact that the colored people were mostly slaves, and the 

1 Col. Records, op. cit., pp. 186, 556, 706. - Ibid., vol. i, p. 182. 

3 Ibid., vol. i, p. 186 and vol. ii, p. 457- * <^f- supra, p. 24. 

5 Colonial Records, op. cit., vol. i, pp. 845-6. « Cf. table 4, P- 264. 


further fact that only the comparatively well-to-do people 
owned slaves, the large number of blacks in Chowan is a 
further evidence that " substantial " settlers did come in. 

Even in 1880 from eight to ten acres were about as much 
ground as one person could work. Certainly in the 17th 
and 1 8th centuries, when the means and methods of farm- 
ing were still poorer and the crops, except cotton, much the 
same as they were in 1880, one person could cultivate no 
greater number of acres. On this basis a 640-acre tract would 
need thirty or forty able-bodied laborers to cultivate it, even 
though only half of it was worked. At least half as many 
more would be needed for domestic manufactures and gen- 
eral household duties. Thus the usual grant was quite suffi- 
cient for the agricultural operations of fifty or sixty able- 
bodied men and women. Not many settlers came to America 
in colonial days who were able to put in the field so large a 
force. Furthermore, the hogs, cattle and sheep^ — which were 
among the main sources of food, clothing, and other articles 
of consumption — had free range of all unfenced land; and 
little or none was fenced except what was under cultivation. 
There was no limit to the number of live stock one might 
let loose on the free range. Another source of income was 
the forest products. There is scarcely any doubt that 
the settlers gathered as much of these as they chose to from 
any and all land yet ungranted. A third source of income 
was the sound and rivers, which in the spring of the year 
were teeming with fish. These three great sources of sup- 
plies, which were free to all who would exploit them, to- 
gether with a 640-acre tract, would support a good-sized 

Considering all the foregoing facts, it is rather difficult to 
see how the land policy of the lords proprietors was very 
prejudicial to Chowan. 

Lack of Harbors. — The second of the two most fre- 


quently alleged causes for the slow progress prior to recent 
years, was the lack of good harbors, or more strictly speak- 
ing, the lack of access to the harbors pennitting direct trade 
with the outside world. Says Bassett : 

In the second place [the first was the above-discussed policy 
of the Proprietors] the earliest settlements in the state were in 
that part [at first Chowan and Perquimans and later the tide- 
water section in general] where uncertain harbors prevented 
a direct trade with England. The settlers were thus left to 
an unprofitable commerce with older communities in 
America. . . . ^ 

Much testimony similar to the above might be piled up, 
but to do so would be unnecessary, since the question of 
transportation has already been discussed. It should ever be 
remembered, however, that the lack of transportation fa- 
cilities was a very real and vital handicap, and a handicap 
which, tho at various times it has been greatly decreased, is 
still far from being a negligible quantity. 

Civil War. — In recent times the one thing most fre- 
quently cited by Carolinians as causing their state's slow 
development during the last three decades of the nineteenth 
century, is the effect of the Civil War. Many of the leading 
men of Chowan hold very strongly to the same opinion as 
regards the progress of their own particular county. Omit- 
ting the question in so far as the state as a whole is con- 
cerned, let us examine the question bearing directly on 

What are the facts in the case? In the first place no reg- 
ular land engagement ever took place in or near the border 
of the county. Second, while there were a few horses 
taken, some provisions and clothing, which were destined for 

1 Constitutional Beginnings, op. cit., p. no. 


the Confederate forces, captured along the water-courses, 
and some burning (confined largely to one estate) and gen- 
eral pillaging done (mostly by the ''Buffaloes") ' — there 

1 In the early part of the Civil War there was a detachment of Con- 
federate soldiers encamped at Gatesville, the county seat of Gates, an 
adjoining county of Chowan. In this detachment was one Jack Fair- 
less, a native of Gates. He was said to have committed theft, and for the 
alleged crime was taken by his comrades in arms to the side of a swamp 
where he was soundly thrashed and one side of his head was shaved. 
(One of the soldiers who helped to administer the punishment Hved 
in Chowan till his death several years ago. He was known to me 
personally.) Soon after this episode, Fairless deserted and proceeded 
to collect, principally from Chowan, Gates and Perquimans, a band of 
followers, who very probably never numbered more than a hundred. 
These fellows made headquarters at Winfield, a large estate on the 
Chowan river. They called themselves " Union " men, and eventually 
secured federal uniforms, but when the Union authorities called upon 
them " to take the field," most of them " took to the woods " instead. 
Few, if any, ever did any fighting, their activities being chiefly that of 
robbing their former neighbors, wantonly destroying their property, 
and pestering them in general. As regards pensions, they have been 
treated as Union soldiers. 

In the federal reports these marauders are styled *' home guards," 
but down in the section of their origin they have never been known 
by any other name than' that of " Buffaloes." This term of rank oppro- 
brium is applied only to the "home guards," and has never been 
used to designate the natives in general of the North Carolina coast, 
as Funk and Wagnalls' New Standard Dictionary implies. 

The esteem in which the " Buffaloes " were held by the federal naval 
officers who knew them, is indicated in the official reports of these offi- 
cers, preserved to us in the OfUcial Records of the Union and Confeder- 
ate Navies (Washington, D. C, 1899). 

Lieutenant-Commander C. W. Flusser, U. S. S. Commodore Perry, 
Plymouth, N. C, Sept., 19, 1862, writes to Commander H. K. Daven- 
port, Newbern, N. C, as follows : " My dear Davenport : I sent to 
Edenton yesterday to arrest some thirty men who had formed them- 
selves into a company to attack our home guard thieves at Winfield." 
(Offirial Records, series i, vol. viii, p. y^-) The justification for this 
characterization is suggested in the following letter: 

U. S. S. Shawsheen, 
Off Plymouth, N. C, September 28, 1862. 

Sir: In obedience to your order, I submit to you the following report 


was no great amount of ruthless destruction of property and 
no wholesale foraging. Third, no large body of soldiers 
of either the Northern or the Southern armies ever quartered 
in, or even marched thru, Chowan. Fourth, no large 
number of the population was killed during the war. This 
statement is born out by the fact that from i860 to 1870 the 
native white population increased 3.4 per cent, which was 
1.7 per cent greater than the average decennial increase for 
the four decades previous. Fifth, prior to the Civil War 
most of the best land of the county was held in large tracts 
by a very small minority of the people, who cultivated it 
with slaves. Land and negroes constituted the major por- 
tion of their wealth, and since farm-land with no one to work 
it is of little immediate value, the war, by freeing the slaves, 
wnped out much of the wealth of the slave-holding class, 

in regard to proceedings of a company of home guards stationed at 
Winfield, Chowan County, N. C. On my arrival there on the i8th of 
September I found out of sixty-three recruits only twenty present; the 
others had gone to their homes or elsewhere, as they chose. The 
captain was in a state of intoxication, threatening to shoot some of his 
remaining men, and conducting himself in a most disgraceful manner 
by taking one man's horses and making other people pay him the money 
to pay for them, and this, too, from people who were well disposed to- 
wards our Government. He had some eight or ten horses when I went 
there, gotten in this way. He has no control over his men, and [by] 
the manner in which he conducts himself he is doing much injury to 
the Cause of the U. S. Government. Some of the men that have gone 
have taken their arms or guns with them ; the ammunition has all been 
smuggled out and sold to citizens for liquor ; what remaining arms there 
were I took on board for safe-keeping. On the 21st, Captain Fairkss 
went off and left his men, as he said, to go to New Berne by way of 
Suffolk. His men say they will serve under him no longer. They are 
now left in charge of a man they call lieutenant, with no clothing, no 
rations; are dependent on the county for subsistence. 
Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

Thos. J. Woodward, 
Acting Volunteer Lieutenant, Commanding. 
Lieutenant-Comm.ander Chas. W. Flusser, 

Senior Naval OfUcer Present. 
{Official Records, series i, vol. viii, p. 95)- 


In the course of time many of the larger estates, it being 
found unprohtable to work them with hired labor, were cut 
up into small tracts and sold off to the poorer classes. 
Thus, one result of the war has been to give a larger num- 
ber of the county's population an opportunity to own a 
" place in the sun." 

So, while one of the immediate effects of the war upon 
the better-to-do classes (a very small proportion of the pop- 
ulation) was an immense shrinkage of their wealth, the 
masses, even of the whites — to say nothing of the blacks, 
who obtained their freedom — lost little or nothing. On the 
other hand, taking the county as a whole, there was a great 
gain in that there was set up a condition destined (i) to 
break up many of the larger land holdings and thus permit 
more of the poorer classes to acquire pieces of land upon 
which they might earn a living; (2) to change the attitude 
of a majority towards labor. These two processes — the 
subdividing of the larger tracts of land and the changing of 
the attitude towards labor, especially the latter — are in a 
large measure responsible for both the recent great increase 
in per capita wealth and its far more general diffusion. 

From the foregoing facts it would seem that instead of 
being a drawback, the Civil War, tho operating indirectly, 
nevertheless has been the most potent factor in stimulating 

Slavery. — The one all-preponderant factor which held 
back Chowan, as well as the South in general, was the insti- 
tution of slavery, and its aftermath. While slaves were 
not as abundant here as in some other sections of the 
country, the notion that work with one's hands was not hon- 
orable — a notion which has always been a concomitant of 
slavery ^ everywhere — was quite prevalent. Says Helper, 
a Southerner, writing in 1857 : 

1 As one of the contributing causes of the break-up of the Roman 
Empire, Robinson gives, " the existence of slavery, which served to 


In the South, unfortunately, no kind of labor is either free or 
respectable. Every white man who is under the necessity of 
earning his bread by the sweat of his brow, or by manual labor, 
in any capacity, no matter how unassuming in deportment or 
exemplary in morals, is treated as if he was a loathsome beast 
and shunned with the utmost disdain.^ 

If this false attitude towards labor always disappeared 
when its progenitor, slavery, disappeared, one of the most 
serious and blighting results of slavery would be non-ex- 
istent. But as a rule the long-standing mental conceptions 
of a whole people do not about-face overnight. The people 
of Chowan present no exception to this rule. This " op- 
position to white labor," as one prominent business man in 
the county put it to me, is still very much alive, and con- 
tinues to retard economic progress, and since all other 
progress is limited by economic progress, continues to re- 
tard progress in general. 

In one of a series of unsigned articles appearing in The 
Newherne Weekly Journal in 1888, under the caption, 
" Why We Do Not Flourish," the writer sums up his views 
as follows: 

The prime cause of our trouble is* extravagance. Extrava- 
gance is waste. Our extravagance is very plainly a waste of 
time. The disposition to waste time — to be lazy — some 
attribute to the climate. A very much more important factor 
is the disposition to live as one's neighbors who can buy and 
pay for us a dozen times over.^ 

discredit honest labor, and demoralized the free workmen." J. H. 
Robinson, History of Western Europe (Boston, 1903), p. 13. 

^ Hinton R. Helper, Impending Crisis of the South (New York, 
i860), p. 41. 

' The Newherne Weekly Journal (Newberne, N. C), vol. xi, no. 4, 
April 26, 1888. The files of this paper were consuhed in the State 
Library, Raleigh, N. C. The writer is here speaking of the whole 
eastern section of North Carolina, and what he says applies especially 
to Chowan. 


Furthermore, this spirit of " opposition to white labor " 
carried over to the slave population, so there was " opposition 
to black labor." What was the result? As soon as the 
slaves were freed, and thus given the right to put their senti- 
ments into practice, instead of half the population trying to 
lead a life of leisure, the whole population began striving for 
that end. 

The colored, as well as the whites of the lower economic 
classes, take their cue from the whites of the upper crust, 
and so it was only natural that they should be overtaken by 
this pauperizing attitude toward work. The way the blacks 
pattern after the whites was pretty well summed up by an 
old colored man in the upper end of the county five or six 
years ago, about the time the first automobiles came in. 
Talking to a white friend of his one day he expressed him- 
self about as follows : 

White man got him a cart ; nigger got him a cart. White man 
got him a buggy ; nigger got him a buggy. Then white man he 
goes an' gits him a top-buggy. Well, nigger gits him a top- 
buggy, too. White man's boun' he's goin' ter git ahead o' 
mister nigger, an' so he goes an' he gits him a 'mobile. Mis- 
ter nigger got ter take a back seat now — caint git him no 
'mobile. But jest as soon as white man begins to sell his secon' 
han' 'mobiles mister nigger '11 have him one sho. You betcher 
life he will! 

The prophecy of this keen observer is already being 

Not only is slavery responsible for much of the present-day 
aversion to useful physical exertion, but most of the slip- 
shod, wasteful, inefficient methods of agriculture described 
in chapters iii-v must also be debited to its account. 
The attitude which slavery engendered not only prevented 

1 For other illustrations of this copying cf. supra, pp. 153, i54- 


improvements from originating here, but also caused the 
adoption of those which originated elsewhere to be delayed 
for years after it (slavery) had passed away. 

Time System. — A third retrogressive factor, and one 
which is still active,^ was the habit of buying '' on time " 
(on credit). Most people who could buy on time did so. 
In preparing the first annual report, the state commissioner 
of labor wrote to farmers in every county and upon the 
replies received, based his report. In this document he com- 
ments as follows : 

The mortgage and lien bond system gets more attention [in the 
replies received in answer to the Commissioner's questions] 
than any other topic, and very properly, because the facts 
gathered and presented show that more evils have come to 
the farmers of the State on account of the mortgage and lien 
bond system than from any other, and indeed from every other 
source. It has proved a worse curse to North Carolina than 
drouths, floods, cyclones, storms, rust, caterpillars, and every 
other evil that attends the farmer. Wherever they have de- 
pended upon this system to furnish them their supplies, the 
farmers are in debt, and wherever it has been the custom of the 
farmers to raise their own supplies there the people are free 
from debt and the community thrifty. The cotton belt of 
North Carolina from the reports made is worse off financially 
than any other part of the state. This may be attributed to 
raising a money crop. It is an easy matter to sell cotton when 
it is gathered. Cotton is as easily handled almost as money, 
and therefore the merchant wants cotton for his supplies. 
He does not want hay, clover, grain, potatoes, &c., they are 
too much trouble to handle, and when a farmer proposes to 
raise these articles it is impossible to get supplies from a mer- 
chant. The merchant insists upon a cotton crop, because of 

1 Of the several merchants interviewed in 1915, not one estimated his 
time business at less than 50 per cent of his total transactions and some 
placed the estimate as high as 90 per cent of the total. 


the facility with which he can handle it. The same may to a 
large extent be said of a landlord — rent is usually demanded 
in lint cotton. All the tendencies in the cotton belt, therefore,, 
are for the cultivation of money crops, and the results are 
perfectly apparent — the farmers of the cotton belt are more 
heavily mortgaged than any other section of the State, and 
they are worse off generally. The table and remarks in this 
chapter prove that fact. Take the figures and remarks from 
twenty of the mo^t western counties, beginning with Cherokee, 
where the least mortgaging for supplies is carried on, and it 
will be found that the farmers are better off and there is a 
more cheerful spirit than in the cotton belt where the money 
crop is relied on. . . . 

In the eastern counties, the average [rate of interest paid 
when buying on time] is at least 40 per cent. ... A farmer who 

pays it is carrying on a useless game, in which he must sooner 
or later lose all he has. ... It is useless to talk about diversi- 
fied crops to a man who pays 40 per cent for supplies. There 
is no system of diversified crops that will enable him to pay 
such a price it makes no difference what kind of a crop may be 
raised. ..... The facts and the figures in this chapter alike 

prove that the bane of the North Carolina farmer is the lien 
bond and mortgage system, and their sequence a failure to 
raise home supplies.^ 

Commissioner Jones uses rather strong language in his 
comments upon the time-system, and without doubt it was 
and continues a great drawback to the people. The time- 
system, however, was only a secondary or derived factor, 
due largely to the opposition-to-labor attitude, which in turn 
was sired and fostered by slavery, as brought out above. 
Indeed, the very extracts here quoted are evidence tending 
to prove that slavery had much to do with the time-system. 

^-Commissioner W. N. Jones. First Annual Report of the Bureau 
of Labor Statistics of the State of North Carolina (Raleigh, 1887), 
pp. 7^-7- 


The western counties where the commissioner found the 
least mortgaging for supplies and the most cheerfulness, 
were the very ones in which slaves were the fewest. In 
Cherokee, where, according to the report of 1887, there was 
the least amount of mortgaging going on, the slave popu- 
lation in i860 was less than six per cent of the total. Tak- 
ing the territory now included in the eleven westernmost 
counties (in i860 this territory was embraced in seven 
counties), the slave population was less than eleven per cent 
of the total. How was it in the eastern counties where the 
supply-system was at its worst? In Chowan, in i860, more 
than fifty-four per cent of the population were slaves, and 
in the eastern counties generally, with two or three excep- 
tions, slaves constituted from thirty to sixty per cent of the 
entire population.^ 

One-crop System. — The one-crop system — especially 
stressed by Jones and others — also received its initial im- 
petus directly from slavery. Cotton is a crop which re- 
quires no very special care, and its cultivation in accordance 
with the methods of slavery days, and even of the eighties, 
lent itself to standardization more readily than did that of 
most other crops. A man was required to weed so many 
rows, or pick so many pounds. When after the war the 
freedman began farming for himself, he knew more about 
raising cotton than anything else, so quite naturally favored 
cotton, as did the landlords and merchants. 

Summary. — The primary factors, then, to which the long 
sleep of this section was due, were, first and foremost, the 
false attitude toward labor engendered by slavery; and, 
secondly, the lack of transportation facilities. Besides the 
two secondary or derived factors — time-system and one-crop 

1 The percentages given here for the slave population are calculated 
from data found in the Eighth U. S. Census Report (i860), vol. on 
Population, pp. 358-9. 


system (already noted), both children of slavery — there 
were among others of slavery's progeny, the general ignor- 
ance of the masses — ignorance of what to do and how to do 
it, the lack of forage crops,, the lack of nitrogen crops for 
enriching the soil, the great dearth of milk cows, and dog- 
culture instead of sheep-culture — all tremendous draw- 


To what is the awakening now going on due ? There are 
numerous factors which have contributed and which still 
continue to operate. A certain thing produces an effect, 
which in turn becomes a cause producing other effects, and 
so on ad infinitum. The two great factors, however, which 
are more or less responsible for most of the others are the 
changing attitude towards labor, a metamorphosis permitted 
by the abolition of slavery, and highly accelerated by the 
second great factor — the improvement in communication 
and transportation facilities, or as Dr. Richard Dillard 
tersely expressed it to me, " the whistle of the locomotive." 

Railroads. — The coming of the railroads has given to 
many a means of marketing certain products, but it has done 
something far more significant than this — it has opened up 
the outside world to large numbers, and allowed them to get 
acquainted with some of the material comforts that it is 
possible for one to enjoy. With this acquaintance there has 
been aroused in some the ambition to own a greater abund- 
ance of the good things of this world, and for some time this 
ambition has been supplanting the ambition to lead a life of 
leisure. In other words, there has been set up a new stand- 
ard of values which is largely responsible for the change in 
the whole economic and social aspect of the county. Work 
is becoming popular with many in the better-to-do classes, 
and this is having its effect on the less-well-to-do. Com- 


paratively few eschewed work in the past because they dis- 
liked physical exertion, but rather because of the low es- 
teem in which work was held, and so only a change in social 
values was necessary to set in action much labor force that 
heretofore had been a potentiality only. 

Change of A ttitude Towards Labor. — Since Chowan pos- 
sesses a genial climate and a comparatively fertile and easily 
tilled soil, and possesses neither good accessible harbors, 
mineral wealth, nor water power, very naturally the people 
have turned to the soil for their chief income. With a 
change of attitude towards work, more people have ceased 
to use their heads merely for hat-racks. They now bethink 
themselves not of how they can escape labor, but rather of 
how they may get the greatest possible return for their labor, 
which is quite a different attitude. This change of view- 
point has meant the adoption of better tools and better meth- 
ods. Now and then there has been one who has had the 
common sense and the courage to admit to himself that pos- 
sibly he did not know absolutely all there was to be known 
about farming even tho he had been on a farm all his 
life. In this state of teachableness he has begun to read 
the farm journals. Of course, he has not been able to 
accept at once all the theories put forth, but he has tried 
out some of those which have seemed the most reasonable 
to him. It has taken courage to do this, especially because 
of the fact that frequently his neighbors have attempted to 
ridicule him about " trying to farm by the newspapers." 
But, as he has found that the new theories, when followed, 
produce better results than former practices, he has gathered 
fresh courage and enthusiasm which have gradually spread 
to the least tminstructible of his neighbors. There are still 
those who think that they know all that there is to be known 
about farming, altho they have never read anything on 
the subject, and yet even these are adopting a few of the 


new improvements in methods and machinery which they 
see their neighbors using. Some of them do not know any 
better than to think that most of the ideas that they are 
taking from others originated with themselves, but they 
nevertheless are producing more, which is the main thing just 
now, for their children will thereby be given a better oppor- 
tunity to obtain the right point of view and some knowl- 
edge of the true principles of agriculture. 

With the change of attitude towards work, not only has 
there been more work done, but each working unit has 
gradually become more and more productive. Increased 
production, due to both a greater amount of work and more 
efficient work, has made possible the realization of certain 
of the newly aroused ambitions, which in turn has served 
to stimulate to still higher ambitions, and thus what was an 
effect has become a cause to produce a still greater effect. 

Diversification of Crops. — A third factor has been an 
increase in the number of money crops. Until the nineties, 
cotton had for years been the main-stay for ready cash. Of 
course, there was the fish, pork, bacon, cattle, eggs and 
poultry, but cotton brought in more than all the others put 
together, and was the crop relied upon for money by most 
of the larger farmers. In 1890 the average annual price for 
upland middling on the New York market, was above eleven 
cents. It then began a downward trend which it continued 
till 1898, reaching an average for that year of less than six 
cents.^ During the latter part of this period thousands of 
bales were sold which netted the farmer less than five cents 
a pound — a price well below the actual labor cost of produc- 
ing it. So the farmer was forced to turn to other crops, or 
else play a losing game. A few peanuts had been raised 
by an occasional farmer since the eighties, but some of these 

1 Cf. Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, no. 
181, p. no. 


the hogs were allowed to run on, and the crop was small at 
best. As they were selling at a fair price, the farmers began 
to plant more and more of them for market. From 1902 
till the present European upheaval, cotton, generally speak- 
ing, has sold pretty well, nevertheless the peanut acreage 
has continued to increase, and in 1909 was equal to that de- 
voted to cotton.^ 

During the period of low cotton prices a third crop — 
sweet potatoes — began to be raised for market. The prices 
on these, however, are rather uncertain, and they do not 
always keep well,^ so with the return of good cotton prices, 
and with peanuts selling well, only a comparatively few 
potatoes have been shipped in the more recent years. 

Rise in Prices. — A fourth factor which has helped to 
usher in better conditions has been the more or less general 
rise in the price of practically all farm products since about 
1902. Manufactured goods also have advanced in price, 
but on the whole not in the same proportion as the agricul- 
tural products sold by the Chowan farmer; so the farmer 
has been getting the long end of the deal, as compared to 
what he got formerly. 


All the retrogressive factors, both primary and secondary, 
above discussed, are still operating, but with an ever-lessen- 
ing force. The means of transportation for non-perishable 
products are, for most sections, fairly good, though for per- 
ishable stuff they are still rather poor, there being no direct 

1 Cf. table 8, p. 271. 

2 Most of the sweets raised for market are dug in the fall, stored 
right in the fields, and shipped in winter and spring. The manner of 
storing is to put from twenty to eighty bushels in a pile, cover with 
pine straw, and then with earth. Some farmers have a small opening 
at the top, and build a shelter over the whole hill; others cover the 
potatoes " head and ears," and leave them without shelter. 


fast-freight line between here and the more important mar- 
kets, and the express rates being higher than much of the 
produce is able to bear. 

While opposition to labor for men, as a social principle, is 
practically a thing of the past, the same can hardly be said 
as regards labor for women. There are still some who feel 
it beneath their dignity to engage in any sort of useful work, 
and consider it a mark of enviable distinction to lead a use- 
less, parasitic life. Furthermore, their attitude is looked 
upon with favor by certain of the male sex who think that 
every honorable man should strive to support his wife and 
daughters in idle leisure. Even many of the women who are 
forced to work for a living, have so far imbibed these false 
ideas towards work, that when caught at it, they feel much 
compromised and quite often immediately proceed to give a 
lengthy excuse for being thus engaged. A few of the most 
advanced and optimistic thinkers, however, observing the 
progress recently made along economical, psychological, and 
sociological lines, believe that their fellowmen and women 
of Chowan will ere long throw overboard such poverty- 
making, life-blighting, soul-destroying notions and accept 
in their stead the modern, democratic, socialized point of 
view — the point of view that not only each man, but each 
woman as well, unless incapacitated, should pull her own 
weight, and, in addition, contribute something to the general 
public good. 

Already there is a growing sentiment in the county that 
any able-bodied person, man or woman, who fails to earn 
his or her own support is either a mendicant or a thief and 
should be dealt with accordingly. When this sentiment be- 
comes general, as it seems destined to do, then the shirkers 
and not the workers will be on the defensive ; then the wo- 
man caught working will not feel called upon to apologize, 
but the woman, as well as the man, who persists in constant 


loafing — persists in wasting good food which otherwise 
might go to make brain and brawn that would enrich the 
world — this woman will feel impelled to give some sort of 
an explanation as to why she is merely encumbering the 


This, the closing section, need be little more than a brief 
recapitulation of the rest of the chapter. We saw above 
that the long sleep was due apparently to the combined ef- 
fects of slavery and the lack of transportation facilities; 
and that the awakening began with the beginning of the 
change in attitude towards work — this change being per- 
mitted by the abolition of slavery, and accelerated by the 
increasing means of transportation, which operated by bet- 
tering the opportunities for marketing produce and by open- 
ing up to the people the outside world. We have seen at 
every stage of the narrative, as well as in the sections imme- 
diately preceding, that while the old forces of retrogression 
are gradually being weakened, they nevertheless are still 
powerful enough not only greatly to retard the county's de- 
velopment but actually to check it far short of the realiza- 
tion of its possibilities. 

Tho no new retrogressive factors have come to light 
within recent years, the old ones, as above intimated, still 
have sufficient vigor to employ, for years to come, the efforts 
of all those interested in the county's economic and social 
improvement. There is the false attitude towards useful 
labor still existing. There is still a deficiency in the means 
of transportation — in the wagon roads, in the railroads, and 
in the waterways. There is still a woeful lack in the formal 
training, both in quantity and quality, of the youth. Illiter- 
acy is still very prevalent, and aside from some little be- 
ginnings in one or two of the colored districts, no effort 


is made in the schools of the county to familiarize the child 
with the e very-day things of life — the things with which he 
is going to have to do in order to earn a living. What little 
training the school gives the child is the kind which " tends 
to educate out of contentment without educating into effi- 
ciency " — tends to make the child dissatisfied with his pres- 
ent work without fitting him for any other. 

The lack of proper preparation of the soil, the lack of 
proper cultivation of the plant, the lack of forage- and 
nitrogen-crops, the lack of animal husbandry, the time- 
system — all these are errors which it will take a long time 
to correct. 

The most hopeful aspect in the whole situation is that the 
awakening has actually begun, and that all indications seem 
to justify the expectation that it will continue till the vast 
majority of the people have approached their potential de- 
velopment under the then existing state of the arts and 





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• CO N« »n 

. tN.00 ioNO 

: w d d M 

. 00 vo 

: d « 





1- N rOOOOO 
0\ N rf u-» 

voo d d>»o 

0\ OnQO t1- 

vd »ot^d\ 

. «*J 

: ONO 

J?8 8 


00 00 t>»t>. 
00 fOO 

« vd t:.od 






Mar. 17 
Feb. 12 
Feb. 13 


•-I w\o to« Tj-oo mcs w 



a°8 j 



Aug. 8 
June 30 
June 26 
Aug. 5 


July 19 
July 12 
July 19 
June 23 

June 30 
July 10 
June 20 

June 24 
Aug. 13 
July 14 



0> ON Ov On 






q\«-; « N M 

0000 »:•« 

Q Q t^ ON 
\0 Loio 

2 5^^ 

NO lOvO 




: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : . : : 

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M M M M M *• 

N On On On On 


M M M M M 

Il M CO 

l-l M M I 





Climatological Data, Chowan County, N. C, Edenton Station : 
1 896- 1 9 1 3— Continued 






Last in 

1905 Apr. 17 

Apr. 8 
Apr. 22 
Apr. 6 
Apr. 6 
Apr. 5 

Mar. 17 
Mar. 7 
Apr. 5 

Apr. 20 

Mar. 21 
Apr. 2 
Apr. 4 
Apr. II 
Mar. 16 

Mar. 24 
Mar. 17 
Mar. 18 


5 I 























. 7 



















. 2 








• 3 




































* Source : North Carolina Section of the U. S. Climatological Service of the 
Weather Bureau. 

263I APPENDIX 263 

Computations from, and Interpretations of, Tables I and II 

Temperature (degrees Fahrenheit) : 

Average annual mean 60.5 

Average of maximum temperatures ^ 96.6 

Average of minimum temperatures ' 13.4 

Precipitation (inches) : 

Average annual 49-39 

Average variation from average annual 5.49 

Average highest monthly (1 896-1913) 7.75 

Average lowest monlhly (1896-19x3) 1.09 

Average number of rainy days annually 86 


Average number clear days annually 168 

Average number partly cloudy days annually 96 

Average number cloudy days annually ... loi 

Killing Frosts : 

Latest in spring (covering 18 years) April 26. In 18 years, only 4 
later in spring than April 8. Earliest in fall (18 years) October 
12. Only 2 in fall earlier than October 22. Average annual 
number of days between the last killing frost in spring and the first 
in fall 215 

The fewest possible number of days between the last killing frost in 

spring and the first in fall ^ 1 73 

The fewest actual number of days in any year between last killing frost 
in spring and the first in fall 186 

*The "average of maximum temperatures" is obtained by taking the highest 
temperature registered each year during the period 1896-1913, adding these to- 
gether, and dividing the sum by the number of years. 

' Obtained similarly to that of the " average of maximum temperatures." 

'That is, from the latest spring frost any year during the period 1896-1913 to 

the earliest fall frost during this same period, there is an interval of 173 days. 

The earliest and latest frost did not happen to come the same year, hence the 

fewest actual number of days is greater than the fewest possible number of days. 




Color and Growth of Population of Chowan County, N. C: 1790-1910^ 

Population increase 

Per cent, of 



over previous 


per square 



Colored ' 


Number « 

Per cent 






• • • • 





























































































































* These data are compilations and simple calculations from the U. S. Census 

'This includes both free and slave. Prior to the abolition of slavery the num- 
ber of free colored at each census enumeration was as follows: 1790, 41; 1800,. 
67; 1810, 99; 1820, 156; 1830, 168; 1840, 160; 1850, 109; i860, 150. 

■ A minus sign ( — ) means a decrease. 

*The average excess of colored over white for the thirteen decennial censuses 
is 10 per cent. 

•Prior to 1850 the population of Edenton was not given separately from that 
of the rest of the county. 





Color and Nativity of Population of Chowan County, N. C, Edenton 
GIVEN Separately: i 850-1910 





















Total population. •••••••••..«. 






White of— 2 

^fltivf* narpnf jicTp .... .... 

Foreign or mixed parentage 



Birth place of Native Population 

Vircinia •••••• •••••* •••••• 

West Virginia 







New York 


South Carolina 

All other states 



Population of Edenton : 

Tntal nnrjiilatinn ..•_• .-•..- 















Per cent of county 



White of— 

Native oarentaffe 


Foreign or mixed parentage 


* Source : U. S. Census Reports. 

'The censuses for 1850, i860 and 1880 did not publish separately, by counties, 
the '* white of native parentage " and the " white of foreign or mixed parentage.' ' 

266 APPENDIX [266 

'* FARMER," ''improved LAND," AND 

** unimproved land." 

A " farm " for census purposes is all the land which is di- 
rectly farmed by one person managfing- and conducting- agri- 
cultural operations, either by his own labor alone or with the 
assistance of members of his household or hired employees. 
The term ** ag-ricultural operations " is used as a general term 
referring to the work of growing crops, producing other agri- 
cultural products, and raising animals, fowls and bees. A 
" farm " as thus defined may consist of a single tract of land, or 
a number of separate and distinct tracts, and these several tracts 
may be held under different tenures, as where one tract is 
owned by the farmer and another tract is hired by him. Fur- 
ther, when a landowner has one or more tenants, renters, 
croppers, or managers, the land operated by each is considered 
a ** farm." 

Enumerators were instructed to report as a " farm " any 
tract of three acres or more used for agricultural operations, 
no matter what the value of the product raised upon the land 
or the amount of labor involved in operating the same in 
1909. In addition they were instructed to report as farms all 
tracts containing less than 3 acres which either produced at 
least $250 worth of farm products in the year 1909, or re- 
quired for their agricultural operations, the continuous services 
of at least one person.* 

In 1880 the instructions were as follows: *' Farms," for the 
purpose of the agricultural schedule, include all considerable 
nurseries, orchards, and market gardens, which are owned by 
separate parties, which are cultivated for pecuniary profit, and 
employ as much as the labor of one able-bodied workman 
during the year. Mere cabbage and potato patches, family 
vegetable gardens, and ornamental lawns, not constituting a 
portion of the farm for general agricultural purposes, will be 
excluded. No farm will be reported of less than 3 acres, un- 

'^Thirteenth Census (1910) vol. v, p. 22. 

267] APPENDIX 267 

less five hundred dollars worth of produce has actually been 
sold off from it during the year/ 

For 1890 the definition of a farm was essentially the same 
as for 1880. For 1900 the instructions said : A farm, for cen- 
sus purposes, includes the land under one managfement, used 
for raising" crops and pasturing live stock, with the wood lots, 
swamps, meadows, etc., connected therewith, whether consist- 
ing of one tract or of several separate tracts . . . Market, 
truck, and fruit gardens, orchards, nurseries, cranberry marshes, 
green houses, and city dairies are " farms ": Provided, the en- 
tire time of at least one individual is devoted to their care. 
This statement, however does not refer to gardens in cities or 
towns which are maintained by persons for use or enjoyment 
of their families and not for gain/ 

A ** farmer " or *' farm operator," according to the census 
definition, is a person who directs the operations of a farm. 
Hence, owners of farms who do not themselves direct the farm 
operations are not reported as ** farmers." Farmers are di- 
vided by the Bureau of the Census into three general classes 
according to the character of their tenure, namely, owners, 
tenants, and managers.^ 

Farm land is divided into (i) improved land, (2) wood- 
land, and (3) all other unimproved land. Improved land in- 
cludes all land regularly tilled or mowed, land pastured and 
cropped in rotation, land lying fallow, land in gardens, or- 
chards, vineyards, and nurseries, and land occupied by farm 
buildings. Woodland includes all land covered with natural 
or planted forest trees, which produce, or later may produce 
firewood or other forest products. All other unimproved land 
includes brush land, rough or stony land, swamp land and 
any other land which is not improved.'* 

The Census Bureau did not attempt to secure a report of 

* Tenth Census (1880) vol. iii, p. ix. 

* Twelfth Census (1900) vol. v, p. xiv. 
^Thirteenth Census (1910) vol. v, p. 24. 
^Ibid., p. 25. 

268 APPENDIX [268 

the acreagfe and value of all land suitable for agfriculture. It 
did not take any account of such land held solely for specula- 
tive purposes and not actually utilized for agricultural pro- 
ductions. It did not account for land owned by states or the 
United States, or of land occupied by forests if not in the 
same tract as land used for agriculture/ 

The total land in farms by no means equals . . . the total 
area of the county or of the state. . . . The difference is made 
up of many items. There are the sites of buildings and the 
grounds connected with them, whether isolated or in villages 
or cities ; there is the space covered by public highways, ca- 
nals, and railroads; there are the tracts of land owned by 
non-residents or by persons who are not farmers. In this 
latter class of lands is often included a vast extent of pasturage 
and woodlands, especially the latter. In some states the great 
body of the forests is held by speculators or lumber mill oper- 
ators, who are not farmers in any sense of the term.^ 

' Thirteenth Census (1910) vol. v, p. 22. 
' Tenth Census (1880) vol. iii, p. xi. 





Land Area, Farms, Farm Property, Chowan County, N. C; 1880, 
1890, 1900 and 1910 

Number and Size of farms 


Number of farms classified by size : 

Under 3 acres 

3 to 9 acres 

10 to 19 acres 

20 to 49 acres 

50 to 99 acres 

100 to 490 acres 

500 to 999 acres 

1000 acres and over 

Number of all farms 

Color of farmers: 



Land and Farm Area 

Land in farms acres . . . 

Per cent of land area in farms ' 

Improved land in farms acres . . . 

Per cent of farm land improved * 

Per cent of land area improved ' 

Average number acres per farm * 

Average number improved acres' per farm 
Approximate land area acres . . . 

Value of Farm Property 

All farm property dollars . . 

Increase over previous decade ' . dollars . . 
Increase over previous decade*. per cent. 

Land * dollars . . 

Buildings dollars .. 

Implements and machinery .... dollars . . 
Domestic animals, poultry and 

bees dollars .. 

Per cent of value of all farm 

property ' in — 


Buildings .... 

Implements and machinery 

Domestic animals, poultry and 


Average Values : 

All property per farm' dollars .. 

Land and bldgs. per farm* . .dollars .. 

Land per acre ^ dollars . . 







































































882,545 2,447,002 
— 39,845 f 1,5^4,457 

















1 Source: U. S. Census Rf ports. 

' The figures lor 1880, 1890, and 1900 are my own calculations, based upon the U. S. Censo* 
data. ' These figures are my own calculations. 

■* Figures for 1890 and 1900 are my own calculations. ' Decrease. 

• Neither in 1880 nor in 1890 were the values of the land and the buildings recorded lepanitely. 

^ The value of the land in 1900 was 67.8 per cent of the value of the land and buildings taken 
together. Since the values ol the land and buildings are not given separ-ttely for cither 1880 or 
1890, the per cent tor 1900 is taken as a basis for the separate calculations given for these years. 




Domestic Animals, Poultry and Bees on Farms, Chowan County, N. C. : 

1880, 1890, 1900, 1 9 ID 

Domestic Animals 
Farms reporting domestic animals . • 
Value of domestic animals •••dollars 
Cattle : 

Total number 

Dairy cows 

Other cows ^ > 

Work oxen ^ 

Calves * 

All other cattle 

Horses : 

Total number 

Mature horses 

Colts (spring and yearling) .... 
Mules : 

Total number 

Mature mules 

Colts (spring and yearling) .... 
Swine : 

Total number 

Mature hogs 

Spring pigs 

Sheep : 

Total number 

Goats : 

Total number 

PouVry and Bees 
Poultry^ (all kinds): 

Total number 





Value of all poultry dollars . . 

Number of colonies 
























































* Source : U. S. Census Reports. 

* The term "other cows" refers to those that are breeders only. These cows are not milked 
during the year in which the enumeration occurs. Cows that are not milked one season may be 
milked at other seasons. In both the tenth and the eleventh censuses, " other cows " are class- 
ified under the head of, "all other cattle." 

^ The censuses for 1900 and for 1910 do not classify work oxen separately. The figures for 1900 
are for " steers 3 years old and over;" those for 1910 are for " steers and bulls over 2 years old.'' 

■* In the census for 1800, the classification is, " calves dropped in 1889." In the 1880 census, 
calves are classified under the head of " all other cattle." 

' In the census for 1890, the classification is, "horses foaled in 1880." 

* " Exclusive of spring lambs." 

'' The Eleventh and the Twelfth are the only censuses which give, by counties, the number of 
different kinds of poultry. 

■ " Exclusive of spring hatching." " " Number of fowls 3 months and over on June i." 

271 ] 




Acreage, Total Production, and Production Per Acre,* of Principal 

Crops, Chowan County, N. C: 1879, 1889, 1899 and 1909 






Dry Peas 

Hay and Forage. 

Sweet potatoes. . 

Irish Potatoes . . 

Cane, Sorghum. 



bu. per acre . • 



bu. per acre . . 


bushels .... 
bu. per acre . . 



pounds per acre 



bu. per acre .... 



bu. per acre .... 



. acres 


bu. per acre .... 

. acres 


bu. per acre .... 





lbs. of lint per 









10,327 * 





100 * 















5 7,802 





















611 ' 
























* Compiled from the volumes on agriculture of the four U. S. Census Reports 
for the years indicated, except where it is stated otherwise. 

^ " Production per acre " are my own calculations. 

' The 1880 census gives no data on peanuts. These figures are from ^t.Hand 
Book of North Caiolina issued by Commissioner L. L. Polk in 1879, pp. 212-18. 

* The acreage for peas is not given in either the 1880 or the 1890 Census. 
Cf. supra, pp. 65, 65. 

* Estimated acreage, using the number of bushels per acre in 1890, as a basis. 
•These figures are for the standard bale of 500 pounds. C/. supra, foot-note, 

p. 46. 

' I feel quite certain that these figures are much too large. It will be observed 
that they are far above the figures for either of the other census years. In all 
probability there were not over 100 acres in hay in 1899. Probably 90 per cent 
of the forage is " fodder." Cf. supra, p. 65. 





Live-Stock Products and Domestic Animals Sold or Slaughtered 

ON Farms, Chowan County, N. C. : 1879, 1889, 1899 and 1909 

Dairy Products 
Dairy cows on farms reporting on 

dairy products number 

Dairy cows on farms reporting milk 

produced number 

Farms reporting dairy products .... number 

Milk — Produced gallons 

Sold gallons 

Butter — Produced pounds 

Sold pounds 

Value of dairy products, excluding 

home use of milk and cream dollars 

Value of all dairy products dollars 

Receipts from sale of dairy products .dollars 

Poultry Products \ 

Poultry — Raised number! 

Raised — value dollars 

Sold number 

Eggs — Produced dozen 

Sold dozen 

Value of poultry and eggs produced, .dollars 

Receipts from sale of poultry and eggs dollars 

Honey and Wax 

Honey produced pounds 

Wax produced pounds 


Wool — Fleeces shorn number 

Number of pounds 

Domestic Animals Sold or Slaughtered 

Calves — Sold or slaughtered number 

Other cattle — Sold or slaughtered. ..number 

Cattle — Died number 

Horses and Mules — Sold number 

Swine — Sold or slaughtered number 

Swine — Died number 

Sheep and Goats — Sold or slaught- | 

ered number 

Receipts from sale of live animals . .dollars 
Value of aniiuais slaughtered dollars 






















* Source : U. S. Census Beports. 

* Calculated from the value of the amount produced and the value of the amount 
consumed, both of which are given in the twelfth census. 

'The term used in the 1890 Census, is " swine consumed," meaning, I presume, 
the number slaughtered. 





Farms Classified by Size, Average Number of Acres per Farm in Each 

Class, Averace Number of Improved Acres in each Class, and 

Average Number of Farms in Each Class, Chowan 

County, N. C. : 1880, 1890, 1900 and 19 10 


Under 3 acres 

3 to 9 acres 

10 to 19 acres.. .. 

20 to 49 acres.. .. 

50 to 99 acres . . . . 

100 to 499 acres ... 

500 to 999 acres.. . . 

1000 anJ over acres 

no. acres 
per farm 







Average number improv- 
ed acres per farm in 
each class ^ 















317.0 305.0 361.3 





II 3.0 


Number of Farms in 
each class 





























*The "Average no. acres per farm " and the " Average no. improved acres in 
each class " are calculations from the U. S. Census Reports. The other data are 
compilations from the same source. 

'^ The " Average no. improved acres per farm in each class " is obtained for the 
various classes as follows : Find what per cent of farm lands were improved for 
the year desired. The product of this per cent by the " average no. acres per 
farm " for any class, gives the ** average no. improved acres per farm " for that 
class. For example, the average number of acres in the class, «' 20 to 49 acres " 
is 34.5. In i88o 45.3 percent of farm land was improved. Novy 45.3 percent 
of 34.5 acres gives 14.6 acres, which is the average amount of improved land in 
1 880 in farms ranging from 20 to 49 a^res. For per cent of farm land improved 
cf, supra t table vi, p. 269. 





•* Work Animals " on Farms, Acres of Improved Land per "Work 

Animal," and per " Standard Work Animal," Chowan 

County, N. C. : 1880, 1890, 1900 and 1910 



Work Oxen 

Total number animals 

Number of " work animals " ^. . . . 
Number of " standard work animals " ^^^ 
Number improved acres per : 

" Work animal " 

" Standard work animal " .... 



1900 1 









139 * ! 



1,625 1 

1,141 7 

1,186 ' 

1,551 ' 




1 31-6 







771 » 


1,508 '» 


* The figures for the number of animals are taken direct from the U. S. Census 
Reporis. The remaining figures are my own calculations from the same reports. 
Cf, suprOf table 7 and foot-notes to same, p. 270. 

'All animals both mature and immature are included in this figure, the cen- 
suses for 1880 and for 1890 making no separate report for the two classes. 
*A11 animals, except yearlings and spring colts. 

* This figure is for " All steers 3 years old and over." 

* " All steers and bulls over 2 years." 

* The " work animals " are all mature horses and mules, and and all work oxen, 
in other words, the total number of beasts of burden, less the immature horses 
and mules. 

' Immature horses are estimated to be 60. 

* Deductions are made for 39 steers not work oxen, and for 35 immature horses 
and mules (the figures in each case are my own estimates). 

'Deductions are made for 54 steers and bulls not work oxen, and for 35 imma- 
ture horses and mules. (These figures are my own estimutes). 

'®A horse, or mule old enough to do regular work, is taken as the "standard 
work animal," and two oxen are reckoned as equivalent to one horse or mule. 
The horses and mules raised in the county were never worked till they were three 
years old, or over. In order to arrive at the number of " standard work ani- 
mals," the immature mules and horses are estimated, and their number, together 
with 50 per cent of the oxen, are deducted from the total number of mules, 
horses, and oxen. 

*^The number of work oxen are estimated to be 20; counting each a half, de- 
ducts 10 from the number of " work animals." 




Select Farm Expenses and Receipts, Chowan County, N. C. : 1800-1910 

Labor : 

Farms reporting number. 

Cash expended. . dollars . 

Rent and board furnished dollars . 

Fertilizer : 

Farms reporting number. 

Amount expended dollars . 

Amount expended^ per acre of 

improved land dollars . 


Farms reporting number 

Amount expended . dollars . 

Receipts from sale of feedable 

crops dollars . 
















* Source : U. S. Census Reports, 

^ Calculated from this table and table vi. 






On 0\vO N \r\ 


8S.8^ 8 8:? 

On OnvO to N 

O 000 Q 

LTtlO ^ O 









^. t 

1^ t>.oo t^ 

t— 1 




ON to 



"* w 




O O^ O ' 


o^ a 

w oJ2 

9 c« 

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(U G •- «n <U j3 










On : ON 



On "^ 


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<^ tJ 

\ to 







8^8 : 


UT* N 



4» ^' 



^ In the valuation of seines, all boats, shore apparatus, and seine grounds are 

* The number of operators in each instance are estimates; but these estimates, 
as well as all others in connection with fishing, are based upon information ob- 
tained from twenty or more practical fishermen (both employers and employees) 
living in various parts of Chowan and adjoining counties, and from my own 
knowledge of conditions. The average number of either men or women operators, 
per unit of any class of tackle, may be found by dividing the figures in columns 5 
and 8, respectively, for the class of tackle in question, by the corresponding 
figures in column 2. 

^ Columns 5 and 8 are obtained by multiplying the estimated number of men 
and women, respectively, required to man each unit of the class of tackle desig- 
nated, by the number of units in that cla^s. 

* The number of weeks is the estimated average per unit in each class of tackle 

^A "man-week," and a "woman-week," is the labor for one week of one 
man, and of one woman, respectively. The number of the former for any class 
of tackle is the product of the corresponding figures in columns 5 and 6; and of 
the latter, of columns 8 and 9. 

* Since hand seines were fished only intermittently, the women came only when 
it was expected they would be needed, and then were paid for cutting by the 
I coo. These facts account for the fewer number of weeks accredited to them 
than to the men in this class of tackle. This is the estimated average amount of 
time which they put in each season arovmd 1880. 

' Estimated. 

^ In pound-net fishing, the men who fish the nets are able to take care of the 
cutting till about the first of April, since the catch up until then is usually light. 
For this reason, women cutters are needed for only a few weeks of the season. 
On the river the cutters are paid by the looo; on the sound some are paid by 
the 1000 and some by the day. The number of weeks given is for the full time 
for which payment was made. 

' It is estimated that on an average, there was one boat to three nets. At this 
time they were rigged with sail, hence more were required than when using gas. 
Again, every fisherman had his own boat, and some of them had only one or 
two nets. 

'° Before the introduction of gasoline-boats for tending nets it took about twice 
as many men to handle a given number of nets as it does now. This accounts for 
a larger proportionate number of men for pound-nets in 1880 than in 1914. 

*^ This estimate is little more than a bare guess, since no one seems to have any 
▼ery definite idea as to the number of yards of gill netting fished in 1880. All 
agree that the number was small. The estimated value includes all appurtenances. 

^^The number of pound-nets were taken from the records of the coimty sher- 
iff, who has to collect an annual tax on each pound-net, and on each ico yard» 
of gill netting. 

278 APPENDIX [278 

'* These figures are the estimated average number of men engaged for 16 weeks 
and are based upon the known number of nets, and such statements as the follow- 
ing regarding the number of men required to fish a given number of nets : — 

"The men can fish 20 nets and handle from 15,000 to 20,000 herring per day, 
extra help is needed." O. C. Byrum, Edenton. 

" I employ from 7 to 8 hands for the entire season to operate 30 nets." H» 
G. Wood, Edenton. 

"From the middle of January to the middle of April only three men are needed 
to fish 15 nets and cut the fish. Three men can fish from 20 to 25 nets until the 
daily catch exceeds io,coo. From the middle of April on, from i to 4 extra men 
are needed, if the catch is more than io,coo or 15,000 for a 15-net stand. An 
extra man is required for each additional 7,000 to 10,000 per day." R. D. Boyce, 

" I use 7 regular men for 23 nets." J. A. Woodard, Edenton. 

Besides the regular men, all fishermen employ extra help when the fish are 
running heavy. 

** It is estimated that on an average there is one boat to every 10 nets, averag- 
ing $200 in value. 

^^ The records of the sheriff show that in 1914 the tax was collected on 40,300 
yards. It is customary for a fisherman to take out license, not for the number of 
yards of nets he owns, but for the nun.ber he expects to keep in the water : one 
needs about half as many more, since they must be taken out for cleaning, drying 
and mending. Hence it is estimated that license was taken out for not over 
two-thirds of the amount of the actual netting owned. 

^" Besides three men on the river, six men on the sound took out license to fish 
300 yards, or less, of gill-net in 19 14. Fishermen inform me that no one fishes 
so small an amount (their euphemistic way of saying that some people neglect 
to go thru the formality of taking out license for all the netting they fish), so 
I am counting two men to each set of license, and an additional two to each 
set authorizing the fishing of more than one crop. Since there were issued 38 
licenses, 8 of which were for more than one crop (only one exceeded two crops), 
on the basis set forth we should bave 92 men. A few of these, however, were 
not occupied all the time with fishing and some fished short seasons. For these 
reasons, the number is cut down to 75. 

"Two men with one boat can fish a "stand " or " crop" (2,250 yards), keep* 
ing two-thirds of it in the water all the time. Thirty-eight men took out license 
in 19 14. Each one of these had to have at least one boat. Eight of them fished 
more than one crop, so needed two row boats. This would give us 46. 

'^ Those fishing far from their landing places usually use a gas boat for towing 
'them in and out. It is estimated that as many as 20 of them have these boats, 
which, on an average, cost about $500 each. Some cost as high as ^1,400. 

'* Many who fish gill-nets also fish pound-nets, and land everything at the same 
place, having no special shore apparatus for handling the gill-net catch; but even 
i»o, a certam part of the capital thus invested should be reckoned as capital en- 
gaged in gill-net fishing. The amount here given is a conservative estimate. 




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I C« P^ Pti P, fl, O) C/3 

28o APPENDIX [280 

* For 1880, the number of pound-nets and the number of yards of gill nets are 
not definitely known, but are estimated from numerous interviews. The num- 
ber of seines has been furnished by men interested in fishing at the time. For 
1914, the number of pound-nets and the number of yards of gill-nets were taken 
from the records of the sheriff, and their location given by him. 

The catch is based on the amount of fishing tackle operated at the dates given, 
and the estimated average annual catch for the different units of such tackle, 
taking five-year periods — 1880-4, and 19 10-14. 

The price per 1000 is the estimated average for the season's catch of each 
class of tackle. Generally speaking, the later the season, the cheaper the fish. 
In the early part of the season, in addition to the scarcity value, the fish are 
better in quality, and so sell for more even when salted. The sound seines put 
in three or lour weeks earlier than the river seines, and herring started in the 
sound at from $15 to $10 per icoo. By the time the river seines had begun 
catching any to speak of, they were usually down to from $3 to ^4. Furthermore, 
sound-caught herring are in a better condition than those river-caught— they are 
fatter and not so many of them spawned out — and so when caught even at the 
same time as those on the river, are worth more. This fact, in connection with 
the fact that the pound-nets on the sound begin to catch fish earlier than those 
in the river, is the basis for placing the price of sound-caught pound-net fis;h 50 
cents per loco higher than river-caught pound-net fish. 

Pound-net herring sold on the beach for 50 cents per 1000 less than seine her- 
ring, even under the same market conditions, because they were liable to damage* 
both by being left in the nets too long and in being brought from the nets to the 
shore on occasions when there was little or no wind. People buying fish to put 
up, much preferred those seine-caught. Many of the pound-net men made little 
preparation for sailing down fish, and so frequently dropped their prices even 
more than 50 cents below the seine men, in order to attract the carters. 

The hand-seine herring have been priced low, because the hand-seines never 
caught any except when the river was full of fish and consequently low-priced. 

28l] APPENDIX 281 


Horse and SteamPower Seine Fisheries in Chowan County, N. C, in 
1880, AND the Number of Yards of Seine Fished at Each * 


Fisheries Yards of seine 

Montrose 600 

Woodley's i,2CO 

Winfield 1,000 

Bill Holly 1,750 

Cofield i,8co 

Total 6,350 


Drummond's Point 2,500 

Greenfield 2,500 

Robert's (Long Lane) 2,400 

Long Beach 2,400 

Sandy Point 2,300 

Athal 2,200 

Skinner's Point 2,300 

Total 16,600 

* My chief authority for the length of the different river seines is John Parish, 
Hertford, N. C. This gentleman fished seine on the Chowan river from 1865 to 
1878, inclusive. My authority for the length of the different sound seines is 
Frank Wood, Edenton, N. C. Mr. Wood ovv^ned and fished for twenty-eight 
years one of the biggest and most modern seines on the sound. 

The figures here given are for the seine proper, or netting. In addition to this, 
there was hauling rope, which, on an average, was about one and one-half times 
the length of the netting. Thus a seine put down as 2,500 yards long, was some 
6,000 yards long, or between three and a half and four miles, if the hauling rope 
be included. 

















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Church Communicants of Chowan County, N. C: 1890 and 1906 

Denominations ^ 

Baptist (white) 

Baptist 1 colored 

Methodist Episcopal South . . . . 

Methodi«;t Episcopal 

Methodist Protestant 

African M ethodist * 

Colored Methodist Episcopal • . 
African Methodist Episcopal 


Protestant Episcopal 

Othtr Protestant Bodies 

Koman C athoiic 

All Denominations 


June I, 1890 








Per cent of 








Dec. 30, 1906 









Per cent of 






' Compiled from ihe special reports on churches in 1890 and in 1906 by the 
U» S, Bureau of the Census. 

'The U. S. Census Reports make no mention of the Friends, or "Quakers," 
in the county. There are probably some thirty or forty of this persuasion within 
its borders. 

•The colored and the white Baptists are here given all together. 

^ Includes all colored Methodists at the time of the enumeration in 1906. 





Church Communicants of Chowan County, N. C, Compared with 
Population 15 Years Old and Over: 1890 and 1906. 


June I, 

Dec. 30, 



10,955 ' 



PoDulation I C vears old and over . . .Der cent 

{""liiirpVi pomrmiTiipjint* ...... ..... .x\f^x rPTit nf nnnnljitinTi 

* The calculations in this table are based on data found in various U. S. Cen- 
sus reports. 

2 The average monthly increase of Chowan's population from June i, 1900 to 
April 15, 1910, was 8.819. The population for Dec. 31, 1906, is approximated 
by adding to the population for June i, 1900 (10,258) 8.819 for each additional 
month (79). The product of 79x8.819=697. 

3 The number of people embraced in the various age groups are not recorded 
by counties, so the per cent of the population 15 years old and over in the county 
is reckoned the same as that for the state. Taking this per cent of the county's 
entire population, gives the absolute number 15 years old and over. 

* This is an average of the percentages for 1900 and for 1910. 


Animal husbandry, 88 ff. 

Apples, 66 ff. 

Ashe, S. A., 24 

Ash-heap, 216 f., 218 f. 

Ashes, 54 f. 

Babies, at church, 200 fif., 208 

Bacon's Rebellion, 32 

Bancroft, Geo., 24, 25, 30 f. 

Barring off, 58 f. 

Bassett, J. S., 239, 243 

Berkley, Wm., 23, 32 

Books, 157 f., 177 f. 

Brickell, John, 25, 29 f. 

Brick-making, 113 fif. 

Buffaloes, 244 ff. 

Buildings, private, 219 ff., 229 ff. 

Burnt dirt, 54 ff. 

Byrd, Wm., of Westover, 25, 27 ff. 

Cart, description of, 47 ff. 

Carters, 128 ff., 135 ff., 141 f. 

Cattle, 53, 54, 89; beef, 68 f.; dairy, 
68 ff. 

Chowan county, size and location of, 1 7 

Church, popularity of, 195 ff.; power 
and demands of, 196 ff.; meetings of, 
197 ff.; music at, 202,208; doctrines 
of, 202 ff., 208 ff.; social features of, 
204 ff.; changing attitudes towards, 
210 ff.; loss of prestige of, 211 ff. 

Church buildings, 199 f., 207 ff.; seating 
arrangements of, 199 ff.; spitting on 
floors of, 200 f., 207 

Church grounds, 198 ff., 207 f. 

Church population, 206 

Climate, 21 ff. 

Clothing, 225 ff., 232 f., 237 

Commerce, prerequisites of, 127 ff.; 
articles of, 133 ff. 

Communication, means of, 128 ff., 139 ff. 

Cooking, 105 f., 222 ff. 

Cooking utensils, 222 ff. 

Corn, 56 ff., 60, 62, 64, 85 ff. 

Corn gauge, 57 

Corpse, 190 f. 


Cotton, 58 ff., 63 ff., 83 ff., 249 ff.; bale 
of, 63 ff. 

Cotton ginning, 63 ff., 112 ff. 

Cows, 252; (see Milk Cows,Cattle,Dairy) 

Crop-rotation, 55, 58 

Crops, method of planting, 56 ff., 59; 
cultivation of, 57 ff., 80 ff.; chief, 
63 ff.; increase in production of, 

85 ff.; diversification of, 254 
Dairy products, 71 f. 
Deading, 42 

Dillard, Dr. Richard, 218, 252 

Dogs, menace of, to sheep-raising, 68, 

252; at church, 201 f., 208 
Drawbacks, present-day, 257 ff. 
Drummond, Wm., 23 
Ducks, 76, 77 
Durant, Geo., 23 

Dwellings, 215, 217, 219 ff., 229 ff. 
Edmundson, Wm., 32 
Eggs, 76 f., 78 f. 
Enclosures, for cattle, 54; for dwellings, 

215 f., 217 f. 
Factories, 115 f. 
Fairless, Jack, 244 ff. 
Farms, size of, 45 ff. 
Farm implements, 46 ff., 80 ff. 
Fence-lock dirt, 54 
Fencing, 44 f. 
Fertilizer, commercial, 53 f., 61, 8l f., 

86 ff. 

Fish, consumption of, 104 ff.; manner 

of cooking, 105 
Fish-catch, quantity of, 98 ff., 103 ff.; 

value of, 160 f., 103 ff. 
Fish monopoly, 93 ff. 
Fish-offal, 54, 55 
Fishing, capital and labor employed in, 

91 ff., 104 ff.; recent developments 

in, 102 ff. 
Fishing season, 91 ff. 
Flies, 213 ff., 217 
Flusser, Lieutenant-Commander C. W., 






Fodder, 65 ff. 

Food, 104 ff., 223 ff., 230 fF., 237 

Forage, 65 ff. 

Fox, Geo., 32 

Fruit, 66 ff"., 88 

Fruit culture, 88 f. 

Funerals, 189 ff". 

Furnishings of households and kitchens, 

221 ff., 230 f. 
Gangs, 180 ff. 
Gearing, 50 
Geese, 76, 77 f. 
Gill-nets, 92, 93 
Grapes, 66 ff. 
Grave-marks, 192 ff. 
Grave-yards, 192 
Harbors, lack of, 239, 243 f. 
Harper's Magazine, 49 
Hay, 65 (see, Fodder) 
Helper, H. R., 246 ff. 
Hilling, 59, 60 ff. 
Hoes, 50 

Hog cholera, 73 ff. 
Hog-killings, 72 ff., 181 ff. 
Hogs, 53, 71 ff., 98 ff.; cost of raising, 

74; breeds of, 74 ff., 88 ff. 
Horses, 51 f., 67, 92 f. 
Immigration, 31 ff.. 35 ff. 
Jones, W. N., 249 ff. 
Labor, supply of, 144 f., 146; method of 

securing, 145 ff.; hours of, 146 f.; 

white female, 150 ff.; colored female, 

153 ff.; changing attitude towards, 

253 «. 
Land, clearing of, 42 ff. 
Lawson, John, 24, 25, 26 ff. 
Literacy, 1 74 ff., 238 
Log-rollings, 181 f. 
Lords Proprietors, 23; agrarian policy 

of, 239 ff. 
Lumbering, by foreign operators, 121 

ff.; by local operators, 122 ff.; effect 

on agriculture of, 123 f. 
Mail service, 128, 139 
Manufacturing, 87; type of, 107 f., 115 

ff.; articles produced in, 107 ff.; role 

of women in, 1 10 f.; capital and labor 

employed in, iii, 116 ff.; passing of 

household, 118 ff. 
Manufacturing plants, 115 ff. 
Manures, 53 ff., 61, 81 f., 87 
Marie, 54, 55 
Marriages, 1 84 ff. 
Merchants, 134 ff., 141 ff. 
Milk cows, 68 ff., 89, 252 

Mortgages, 249 ff. 

Mosquitoes, 214 f., 217 

Mules, 51 f., 67, 92 f. 

Music, in church. 202 f., 208 f.; in pri- 
vate homes, 226 ff., 232 ff. 

Musical instruments, 226 ff., 232 ff. 

Newspapers, 157 f., 177 ff. 

Oats, 63, 64 

One-crop system, 251 ff. 

Oxen, 51, 53, 83, 84 

Pastures, 67 

Peanuts, 85; thresher for, 82 

Peaches, 66 

Pears, 66 

Peas, 61, 64, 65, 81 

Pictures, 227 ff., 233 ff. 

Plows, 50 

Population, growth of, 33 ff.; rural and 
urban, 34 ff. ; origin, color, and nativ- 
ity of present, 36 f, 

Post-office, 128 

Potatoes, sweet, 58, 60, 63, 65, 85, 255; 
white, 63, 65 

Pound-nets, 92 ff., loi ff. 

Poultry, 75 ff., 78 f., 88, 90 

Preachers, types of, 203 ff. 

Precipitation, 21 

Privies, home, 216, 218; church, 199, 

Progression, factors of, 252 ff. 

Public schools, 158 f.; equipment of, 
158 f., 168 ff.; value of equipment of, 
164 ff., 169 ff.; teachers in, 159 ff., 
170 ff.; length of term of, 160 f., 173 
f.; course of study in, 161 ff.; classi- 
fication in, 161 ff.; instruction in, 
162 ff., 172 ff.; expenditures for, 164 
ff., 170 ff.; attendance at, 165 ff., 173 
ff. ; salaries paid by, 1 72 ff . ; local tax 
for, 167 ff.; feminization of, 170 ff. 

Pulverizers, 50 f., 80 f. 

Pumps, 217 ff. 

Quakers, 30, 32 

Rail cart, 49 

Railroads, 129 f., 140 ff., 252 f., 256 

Range, free, 67, 242 

Readmg, 157 ff., 176 ff. 

Retrogression, factors of, 243, 246 ff. 

Roanoke inlet, depth of, 22 

Robinson, J. H., 246 

Saunders, W. L., 33 

Saw-mills, 124 

School teachers, 159 ff. 

Schools, private, 174 f. (see, Pubhc 




Seine crews, size and character of, 

96 f.; work and fare of, 96 ff. 
Seines, 92 f.; hand, 92 ff.; power, 92, 

95 f . ; shooting of, 95 ff. 
Seining, fascination of, 10 1 f. 
Settlements, time of first, 22 f. 
Settlers, origin and character of first, 

24 ff. 
Sewage, 53 f. 
Sheep, 68 
Slavery, 246 ff. 
Soil, nature of, 19 f.; preparation of, 

52 f., 80 ff. 
Soy-beans, 85; thresher for, 82 ff. 
Standard work animals, 51, 84 ff. 
Steam-mills, 112 f. (see. Saw-mills) 
Stumps, 42 ff. 
Swamp-mud, 54 
Telegraph, 128 f., 139 
Telephone, 130 ff. 

Timber, value of, in 1880, 42 f, I2i f.; 
variety and disposition of, in 191 5, 
124 ff. 

Timber situation, 1 21 f., 125 ff. 

Time-system, 249 ff. 

Threshers, for peanuts, 82; for soy- 
beans, 83 ff. 

Traders, 128 ff. 

Transportation, 129 ff., 140 ff. 

Travel, 228 f., 234 f. 

Turkeys, 76 

Visiting, 179 ff. 

Wages, 144 ff., 147 ff. 

Wagon-roads, 130 ff., 141 f. 

War, Civil, 243 ff. 

Water-mills, iii ff. 

Water ways, 129 ff., 141 

Wells, 215 f., 217 ff. 

Wheat, 64, 85 

Woodward, Lieut. Thos. J., 245 

Woods, mold, 54 


The writer was born the 25th of June, 1878, in a 
little clearing some six miles northeast of the Chowan 
River and twenty miles north of the Albemarle Sound. 
Beginning at the age of eight, he attended "the old- 
field school," from three to four months annually till he 
was seventeen: the remaining months were devoted to 
earning a livelihood at sundry occupations — principally 
farming and lumbering. 

In the fall of 1899, he entered Wake Forest, a small 
denominational college, from which he received the 
B. A. degree in May 1903. Each summer vacation 
during this period was spent in traveling for the pur- 
pose of earning the wherewithal to meet the expenses 
of the college course. For two years after graduation, 
he was employed as a traveling salesman. The school- 
year, 1905-6, was spent at Stanford University; that of 
1906-7, at the University of Chicago, where he studied 
under Laughlin, Small, Vincent, and Davenport, and re- 
ceived the M. A. degree in June 1907. In February 
1908, he went to Europe and spent two semesters in 
the University of Berlin, where he heard such men as 
Wagner, Schmoller, and Harnack. 

During 1909-10, he studied at Columbia. The next 
year was passed at the University of Pennsylvania in 
the capacity of Assistant in the Wharton School. While 
there he had the privilege of studying with Patten and 
Kelsey. In 1911-12, he was a fellow at the New York 


296 VIIA 

School of Philanthropy. The years 1911-15 were spent 
at Columbia in class-room work, and in the preparation 
of this dissertation. In 1915-16, he. held an Instructor- 
ship in Economics at the University of Colorado. Dur- 
ing the present academic year he has been engaged in 
completing this dissertation and reviewing his subjects. 
At Columbia he has had courses with Professors 
Seager, Seligman, Chaddock, Fetter, Mitchell, Giddings, 
Simkhovitch, Mussey, Shotwell, Robinson, Suzzallo, and 
E. L. Thorndike, including seminars with the first two 

T.L ni\6