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Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History: Electronic Edition.

Johnson, Guion Griffis, 1900- 1989

CHAPTER I COLONIAL ORIGINS

Table of Contents

Next: CHAPTER II SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS



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CHAPTER I
COLONIAL ORIGINS

           IT WAS 1849. The Gold Rush was on. Here and there a North Carolina farmer was selling out his little patch of land for a stake in far-off California. Like his brothers who had gone earlier to swell the tide of immigration that had peopled the Lower South and the Middle West, he had long since given up hope of prosperity in his native State. During this feverish time of clutching for the pot of gold which lay on the opposite side of a vast continent, the Raleigh Star dreamed of a day when North Carolina would smile to think that its people "ever supposed any land to be so happy and enticing as their good old State."

           "Let us indulge in a dream of the future and raise the curtain which hides coming events from us," wrote the Star. Let us see North Carolina "opening highways, clearing out her rivers, improving her harbors, building railroads and turnpikes, and sending down the produce of her soil by lumbering car, or puffing steamboat, to the harbors which line her coast and are whited with the sails of the commerce of the world."1

Then, North Carolina will be able to keep her restless sons at home, and together her people will build up the great commonwealth of which the State gave promise at the close of the American Revolution.

           Almost a hundred years earlier a North Carolina shipbuilder had also dreamed of a time when "this Thing Called Industry, or Labour, with the Produce of it" would make this "Government more valuable, and make the Commonalty a happy People." It was 1746. William Borden had moved from Rhode Island to take up his trade on the coast of North Carolina. Instead of deep harbors and a brisk shipping trade, he found a sand-choked coast and a population paying tribute to neighboring colonies for want of a better system of navigation of their own. "Are not the Inhabitants [of North Carolina]," wrote William Borden, in an address to the people of his new home, "obliged to purchase all their foreign Necessaries at the very last and dearest Hand? When, perhaps,



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a Parcel of Goods or Merchandize have passed through the Expense of Navigation &c. in the neighboring Governments, and have passed through the Hands of many Merchants or Traders, and they have all had their Profits on them, and Living from them, then, perhaps, poor North-Carolina Planters have the Honour of eating, drinking, and wearing some of the riff-raff Remains, at a dear Rate: Pray, consider, then, what all this amounts to, but supporting Navigation and Trade in the neighboring Governments, at the Expence of the poor North Carolina Planters."2

GEOGRAPHIC INFLUENCE

           The geographic situation of North Carolina3

destined the Province to play a losing role in the competition for population and commerce.4 Undoubtedly, the swift currents and the terrors of the reefs of Hatteras were influences in diverting colonization to the Chesapeake Bay after Sir Walter Raleigh's disastrous attempt on Roanoke Island in 1585. When settlement in North Carolina actually began, the absence of good harbors and the dangers of the sand bars off the coast impeded its colonization directly from Europe. The entire sea front, nearly 300 miles in length, is fringed by a series of narrow, shallow sounds which are separated from the ocean by a chain of sand dunes. These banks are occasionally pierced by narrow inlets, the changing character of which has been such as to make coastwise navigation at any point other than at the mouth of the Cape Fear River impracticable except for small vessels.



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           The presence of rocks, shoals, and falls in the rivers seriously obstructed their navigation, and the direction in which the rivers flow led the farmers along their banks to market their produce in Virginia or South Carolina. The Roanoke, one of the most important rivers in the State in the ante-bellum period, rises in Virginia, flows through a considerable portion of northeastern North Carolina, and empties into the Albermarle Sound. Virginia and North Carolina competed for the trade of the region watered by this river, Virginia usually being successful because of the reefs along Albermarle Sound. The Tar River rises near the Virginia line, and, running almost south, widens as it approaches the coast, taking on the name of Pamlico River. The tobacco and wheat which were raised on the upper branches of this river in Franklin, Granville, Warren, and Halifax counties were taken by wagon to Virginia in ante-bellum days. The Neuse River also has its sources near the Virginia line, and, running south, flows into Pamlico Sound. The tobacco, cotton, and wheat grown on the branches of the Neuse above Smithfield were taken by wagon to Virginia, while below Smithfield the river was used chiefly for transporting lumber and naval stores to New Bern.

           The Cape Fear, like the Tar and the Neuse, rises near the Virginia line; but, unlike them, it empties into the Atlantic at a point accessible to ocean-going vessels. The river was navigable from Wilmington to Fayetteville and early became the principal channel of commerce in the State. The Yadkin, rising in the Appalachian region, flows east in Wilkes and Yadkin counties, then turns south and, after joining the Uharie, enters South Carolina as the Peedee. Produce raised along the upper branches of the Yadkin was frequently marketed in Virginia, while that of the lower Yadkin was taken to South Carolina. The Catawba rises near the Yadkin and also flows into South Carolina, becoming the Wateree and finally joining the Santee. The streams which form the Broad River unite in Cleveland County near the South Carolina line and flow into the Santee. Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina, were the markets for the region watered by the Broad River.

           "Thus it has happened," wrote Archibald D. Murphey, chairman of the Board of Internal Improvements in 1819, "that we have shipped from our own Ports not more than one-third of our Agricultural products; and even a considerable portion of our



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Staves, Lumber and Naval Stores, have been sent to other ports by the Dismal Swamp Canal, on one side; or by the Wackamaw, Little Pedee and Lumber Rivers, on the other. This unfortunate division of our trade produces many bad effects. It makes us appear a poor state in the union. It leaves us without markets at home: and thus we lose the profits upon our Commerce."5

           North Carolina is divided topographically into three nearly parallel belts, the coastal plain, the piedmont plateau, and the Appalachian region. The interregional isolation of these three areas has had an important influence upon the history of the State. The total land area of the present boundaries of the State is 48,740 square miles. Of this area the coastal plain constitutes nearly four-tenths and the piedmont region about five-tenths. During the period of settlement, the coastal plain region of North Carolina was more closely associated with the tidewater of Virginia and the piedmont of North Carolina with that of Virginia than were the coastal plain and the piedmont of North Carolina with each other.

           The coastal plain was the first section settled in North Carolina. The region was especially adapted to hog raising and the production of corn and tobacco. This large unobstructed area, gently undulating except along the river courses, was covered with forests easily cleared by girdling the trees after the fashion learned from the Indians. The tendency was toward expansion. The method of agriculture demanded it, for the best crops were produced on virgin soil. Land freshly cleared of trees was planted in tobacco three years and then in corn. This superficial method of agriculture invited slave labor and at the same time exhausted the soil in a remarkably short time. The best low lands were worn out in about eight years and the less fertile in three. More forests were then cleared and the unprofitable acres left to revert to nature. The coastal plain also became the center of other industries, for the pine forests yielded lumber and naval stores. Communication between the sections of the coastal plain, however, was difficult because the region was interlaced by swamps and rivers.

           The line of demarcation between the coastal plain and the piedmont plateau is roughly marked by the fall line of the rivers. The broad streams of the coastal plain become swift and difficult of navigation in the interior of the State. Moreover, the topography



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of the piedmont is such that communication in the early frontier days was chiefly along north and south lines. The piedmont, therefore, was settled not so much from the coastal plain as from the piedmont of Pennsylvania and Virginia. The gap of the Roanoke River was the road of entrance and the head streams of the Yadkin, the destination.

           The soil of this area is more difficult of cultivation than that of the coastal plain, harder to clear of forest, but not so easily exhausted. It is better adapted to the growing of black tobacco, corn, cereals, and grasses. It was inevitable, then, that landholdings should be smaller and slave labor less profitable than in the coastal plain. When manufacturing industries began to develop in the State, it was in the piedmont that they appeared, for here was found the chief source of water power.

           The third geographic zone is the Appalachian region, a rugged mountainous plateau which forms a narrow indented trough lying between the great arms of the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge. In the colonial period the western boundary of Carolina was undefined. The charter of the Lords Proprietors had fixed the western limits as the South Sea, but in reality the claims of the Spanish and the French, as well as the Appalachian barrier itself, established the mountains as the extreme western limits of North Carolina almost to the revolutionary period.

           The Appalachian region, springing suddenly to an elevation of from 2,000 to 3,000 feet above the piedmont plateau at its base, was the last section of the Colony to be settled. Even when the first serious attempt at settlement was begun in 1770 by James Robertson, he sought the fertile valley beyond the mountains rather than the narrow gaps of the Blue Ridge itself. Driven back by the approach of white settlers, the Cherokee Indians took their last stand in the fastnesses of the mountains, and it was not until their forced removal in 1836 that the entire Appalachian area was open to occupation by the whites.

           The influence of geography upon the political and social character of North Carolina was early recognized by its inhabitants. It was offered by colonial governors as an excuse for the slow development of the Province. This influence was succinctly pointed out by the Board of Internal Improvements in a report to the



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General Assembly in 1833. Weary from unsuccessful attempts to devise a system of transportation for the State, the Board sorrowfully pointed to the causes of its failure:

RACIAL COMPOSITION

           Three race elements were to be found in colonial North Carolina: whites, Indians, and Negroes. The number of Indians in the Colony at the time the charter of 1663 was issued has been estimated at about thirty-five thousand.7

Three important Indian groups were located here: the Tuscaroras on the seaboard, the Catawbas in the lower piedmont, and the Cherokees in the West. It is difficult to estimate the number of white inhabitants in North Carolina during the early colonial period. At the close of the proprietary period in 1729 the white settlers probably did not exceed 30,000,8 and the population was confined to the coastal plain. By 1760 the settlements extended to the base of the Blue Ridge. The English settlers had been reinforced by Scotch-Irish, Scotch Highlanders, Germans, a negligible number of French, Swiss, and Welsh, and an increasing number of Negroes. By 1790 the white population had reached 289,181. The proportion of the various nationalities in the white population is indicated in the following table:



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POPULATION BY NATIONALITIES IN 1790 9

Nationality Number Per Cent of Total
English 240,309 83.1
Scotch 32,388 11.2
German 8,097 2.8
Irish 6,651 2.3
French 869 .3
Dutch 578 .2
All Other 290 .1
Total 289,182 100.0

           Each group had its influence upon colonial society. The Indians 10

made certain contributions to the white culture, although they left no important ethnic influence upon the population. The English incorporated a few Indian words into their language and took over a few Indian myths and customs. They adopted the Indian method of clearing the forests and of planting corn. Their roads closely followed the Indian trading paths. They gained a knowledge of herbs and primitive medicines from their Indian neighbors. 11 Indian villages were places of refuge for Negro slaves and white criminals, and, as such, were constant sources of friction. The white settlers early attempted to enslave the Indian, but the difficulties of enslavement and the superiority of the Negro as a slave tended to restrict the process.

           At the close of the revolutionary period, there were still several groups of Indians in North Carolina. Their stronghold was in the extreme West, but there were also a few in the central and eastern parts of the State. The Catawbas in Mecklenberg County were in 1784 "a melancholy picture of the singular and fatal ravages of the vices, with which they became contaminated from an association with their civilized neighbors." 12

The Cherokees in

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the West continued to be a problem to the State even after their forced removal in 1836. In 1860 the Indian population of North Carolina numbered 1,158.

           A few Negro laborers were brought into the Colony soon after the first permanent white settlement was made. In 1733 Governor Burrington estimated the number of blacks to be one-sixth of the total population. By 1790 this proportion had risen to one-fourth. It is possible to detect the concentration of the black population as early as 1755. The number of slaves listed at that time, although incomplete, indicates that slave labor was most profitable in the tobacco belt which was moving west along the Virginia boundary. 13

Here the plantation regime was developing with its distinctive economic and social organization. No estimate of the number of free Negroes can be determined accurately before 1790, when the number was 4,975. From that time the position of this class became increasingly important. Around the Negro there developed theories and social practices which bore significantly upon the whole of society.

           The English, the Scotch, the Irish, and the Germans were the largest national groups composing the white race in the Colony. 14

The English made the first settlements in North Carolina and occupied the territory for almost a century without interruption, thereby fastening the English political and social institutions upon the Colony. English customs molded the form of local government, the system of judicature, and the whole body of legislation.

           The character of the first permanent settlers in North Carolina has been much in controversy. Certainly the first to come were hunters from Virginia. Then came farmers in search of fertile land. Since 90 per cent of the landowners in Virginia during the Commonwealth period belonged to the yeomanry, it follows that those who overflowed into North Carolina must also have been largely of that social class. 15

In 1669 the Albemarle Assembly passed two laws to encourage immigration which led Virginia to

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call the Albemarle "Rogues Harbour." 16 The first was a stay-law patterned from a Virginia law of 1642 and the other a law exempting new settlers from taxation for a year. Indentured white servants formed a part of the population, but the number in North Carolina seems to have been smaller than in Pennsylvania, Virginia, or Maryland. 17

           The Scotch inhabitants of North Carolina were both Highlanders and the so-called Scotch-Irish whose ancestors had been settled in Ulster beginning with the great migration of 1610. The Highlanders were the first of the Scotch to come to North Carolina in any considerable numbers. As early as 1729 a few of them had settled on the upper Cape Fear. 18

Ten years later, 350 landed at Wilmington under the leadership of Neill McNeill, of Kintyre, Scotland. The Highlanders continued to arrive even to the outbreak of the Revolution. They spread through the Cape Fear region and about 1746 laid out a town which came to be known as Fayetteville, one of the most important markets in colonial and ante-bellum North Carolina. 19

           The Scotch-Irish landed principally at Philadelphia and poured into North Carolina along the piedmont road which led to the Yadkin River. As early as 1740 a few Scotch-Irish families were scattered along the Hico, the Eno, and the Haw rivers. After 1750 a steady stream flowed into the Colony. In 1751 Governor Gabriel Johnston of North Carolina reported to the Board of Trade that "Inhabitants flock in here daily, mostly from Pennsylvania and other parts of America . . . and some directly from Europe, they commonly seat themselves toward the West and have got near the mountains." 20

Admirers of the Scotch-Irish have attributed to them most of the virtues which have appeared in North Carolina society. "They were the most efficient supporters of the American cause during the struggle for independence," wrote the Reverend Eli W. Caruthers in 1842, "and

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they have done more for the support of learning, morality and religion than any other class of people." 21

           Following the same route traveled by the Scotch-Irish, several thousand Germans also came into North Carolina between 1745 and 1775. Like the Scotch-Irish, they were thrifty and fervently religious, but instead of representing one communion as in the case of the Scotch, they were members of three different branches of the Protestant church: the Lutheran, the German Reformed, and the Unitas Fratrum, or Moravian Church.

           The Lutheran and German Reformed settlers concentrated in the piedmont from the Haw River southwest through the Yadkin and Catawba river valleys, and the Moravians 22

settled at Wachovia in the present county of Forsyth. Both the Scotch and the Germans preserved their native customs for several generations. Gaelic and German were rapidly giving way to English by 1825, 23 but even in 1888 Jethro Rumple declared that the accent and idiom of "Pennsylvania-Dutch" might still be heard on the streets of Salisbury. 24

EXTENT OF SETTLEMENT IN 1790

           North Carolina was but thinly settled except in certain favored areas even at the opening of the Revolution. By 1760 the piedmont had been settled to the base of the Blue Ridge. Ten years later James Robertson visited the fertile valley of the Watauga which lay beyond the Appalachian barrier and was preparing to lead a band of settlers there. 25

Yet all the land in North Carolina had not been taken up. The process of settlement, the nature of the soil, the topography of the Province made it inevitable that the

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settlers should spread out over a large area and that the average density of population per square mile should be low.

           For instance, Moore County, whose area in 1810 was about 490,000 acres, contained 300,000 acres which were sand hills or pine barrens. The northern section of the county, watered by Deep River and its branches, contained four-fifths of the entire population of the county. The density of this section was reckoned at twenty-two persons per square mile, while the density of the remainder was only two and one-fourth persons per square mile. 26

           Many acres in North Carolina at the opening of the nineteenth century were still unoccupied and even unclaimed. Cumberland County, which contained the chief home market for the entire back country, was still recording land entries in its county court. 27

Elkanah Watson, who had traveled several times throughout North Carolina, wrote that the State was thinly settled except in favored spots. In October, 1777, he traveled from Edenton on Albemarle Sound to New Bern on the Neuse and from there to Wilmington, seeing only few signs of habitation. "The dreariness," he said, "was scarcely relieved by the appearance of a house except a few miserable tar burners' huts." 28 In 1784 and 1785 he traveled from Edenton northwest to Murfreesboro. Warrenton was just "emerging from the forest" and the sections around the head waters of the Neuse and Tar rivers were "new and thinly settled." William Attmore, a merchant of Philadelphia, who more than once visited the most important towns of the State, wrote in his journal of 1787 that the State had a scattered and frontier population. 29

           In 1790 the density of population in the State was 8.1 persons per square mile. 30

The distribution of population by counties and by geographic areas is indicated by the following table:



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POPULATION BY COUNTIES IN 1790 31

    NUMBER OF COUNTIES    
Scale of Population Total Coastal Plain Piedmont Mountain
15-16,000 1   1  
14-15,000 1 1    
13-14,000        
12-13,000 2 1 1  
11-12,000 1   1  
10-11,000 5 2 3  
9-10,000 4 2 1 1
8-9,000 4 1 1 2
7-8,000 7 2 4 1
6-7,000 6 4 2  
5-6,000 14 9 5  
4-5,000 4 4    
3-4,000 4 3 1  

           In 1790 Rowan, in the piedmont, was the only county in the State containing a population of more than fifteen thousand. The back country, which began in most instances with the piedmont and included three-fifths of the total area of the State, contained twenty-four counties as compared to twenty-nine in the coastal plain. Although nineteen of the western counties and only thirteen of the eastern counties contained a population of more than six thousand, the density of population was higher in the coastal plain than in the back country.

ECONOMIC CONDITIONS

           In a region thus sparsely settled the average prosperity of the inhabitants was necessarily low. Those who produced a surplus found difficulty in disposing of it because of the lack of convenient markets. Planters living near the mouths of the rivers might, by the purchase of sea-going vessels, transport their commodities to the West Indies or to northern markets with the assurance of a reasonable return. Plantations so situated usually had private wharves where the produce was loaded. 32

Occasionally a planter accumulated a considerable fortune. 33 But most of the inhabitants

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lived, as one traveler observed, "scantily in a region of affluence." 34 Industries were limited, towns small, and each farm an economic unit. In 1790 sixty-nine per cent of the families in North Carolina owned no slaves, while the average number of slaves per slaveholding family was 6.29. In Warren County, however, where there was considerable concentration of slaves due to the predominance of tobacco culture, eleven slaveholders in 1790 owned more than fifty slaves. 35

           Throughout the colonial period the price of tobacco was uncertain and the fluctuations were accompanied by economic distress. The production of naval stores was usually profitable, but life in the pine forests was hard and primitive. Stock raising and farming were the chief occupations of the settlers. The raising of stock was, in fact, the most profitable pursuit of those living in the back country, for the woods provided forage and the cost of transportation to market was negligible.

           Specie, which is rare in all frontier countries, was especially scarce in North Carolina because the Province had no considerable commercial town. 36

Barter was used extensively until 1712 when the first paper money was issued. But even with the appearance of paper currency, barter continued for many years to be the prevailing method of exchange. By act 37 of assembly which was allowed by the Lords Proprietors in 1715-1716, seventeen commodities were assigned legal tender values: tobacco, Indian corn, wheat, cheese, raw buck and doe skins, dressed buck and doe skins, tallow, leather, beaver and otter skins, wildcat skins, butter, feathers, tar, pitch, whale oil, beef, pork. The act was in operation with slight modifications until the middle of the century. The legal ratios, however, fluctuated throughout the period. At times the average market rate in terms of sterling was three to one. 38 The various issues of paper currency sanctioned by the General Assembly also depreciated greatly in value. 39 Some of the planters and merchants, in the absence of coin, issued bills of credit of their own which passed as currency. In the middle of the eighteenth century the due bills of William Borden, a shipbuilder on New

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Port River in Carteret County, circulated widely and were known as "Borden's Script." 40 On the eve of the Revolution, Alexander Schaw, a North Carolina loyalist, writing to Lord Dartmouth, said of the monetary condition of the colony: "There is no specie in the province and there never was a person who could command a sum of any consequence even of their paper currency. Nothing in the stile of a banker or money merchant was ever heard of." 41

SOCIAL CLASSES

           Even in the early days of the frontier, life had its social distinctions. There were the great and the lowly. In general, colonial society was divided into four classes: the gentry, the yeomanry, the indentured servants and poor whites, and the Negroes. The highest social group was that of the large landholders, professional men, and public officials. 42

Bringing with them ideas of class distinction from the Old World, they insisted upon a recognition of superiority in the New World. In documents such as wills, deeds, and county court records, signatures may be found followed by such terms as "gentleman," "esquire," "planter." Members of this group were usually well educated and cultured. Miss Janet Schaw, a Scotch "lady of quality" who visited North Carolina on the eve of the Revolution, found some ladies in Wilmington who "would make a figure in any part of the world," but the gentlemen, she lamented, knew no "nice distinctions." 43 Although critical and suspicious of the colonists, Miss Schaw, nevertheless, admitted that the people of Wilmington lived "decently," and added that "tho' their houses are not spacious, they are in general very commodious and well furnished."

           Small farmers made up by far the largest single social group in the Province. They worked the land with their own hands, knew few conveniences, and were contented to subsist on corn and pork "in the most slovenly manner." 44

They took pride in the title of yeoman and those who could write attached the title to their names in all their public dealings. On holidays, at militia

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musters, and during court week they usually flocked to town where they drank deep and played hard. Cockfighting, horse racing, and wrestling were their favorite sports, and in these they indulged with great enthusiasm. On such occasions "many genteel people" were "promiscuously mingled with the vulgar and debased," bets ran high, and the amusement often terminated in fighting. 45 When yeomen fought, the battle usually continued until one antagonist succeeded in twisting a forefinger in a side-lock of the other's hair, and with a dextrous thrust of the thumb scooped out his opponent's eye. The eye might be saved, however, if the beaten man bawled out "King's curse" in time.

           The class next below that of the yeomanry was composed of indentured white servants. 46

It was made up of convicts sold as punishment for petty crime or for political offenses, of women and children kidnapped in London or other English ports, of colonial dependent children, and especially of those who voluntarily sold their services in payment for passage to the New World. The term of service for those under sixteen years of age brought from Europe was five years. 47 Dependent orphans or illegitimate children of white parents were legally known as apprentices but actually they were in the same social class as indentured servants. They served their masters from the time of apprenticeship to the age of maturity, which was fixed at eighteen for the girl and twenty-one for the boy. 48 Until 1737 or later, the indentured servant was able, if he chose, to enter the class of small farmers shortly after his freedom, for by the Concessions of 1665 and of 1681, the Lords Proprietors offered Christian servants at first forty and then fifty acres of land at the end of their servitude. 49

           At the bottom of the social scale stood the Negro. It was possible for the white man by diligence and hard work to pass from one social class to that next above; but the cultural development of the Negro, the color of his skin, and the laws of the Province operated to keep him at the bottom.



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RELIGION AND EDUCATION

           The religion of the gentry in the coastal plain was, for the most part, that of the Church of England, although the Baptists and Quakers also had a stronghold in this region. In the back country were to be found Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Lutherans, and Moravians. The colonial governors were never able to obtain the legislation necessary for the proper support of the Church. In fact, the quarrel over a vestry act acceptable to the Crown left the clergy without support, and it was not until Governor Tryon's administration in 1765 that conditions began to improve. Even then, support of the Established Church was to be short-lived, for the Constitution of 1776 forbade the "establishment of any one religious Church or Denomination in this State in Preference to any other."

           The history of education in North Carolina is closely related to that of religion. For more than a century the preachers of North Carolina were also the school teachers. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel made the first attempt to establish schools in the Colony. The first teacher to come to North Carolina, about whom any record has been found, was Charles Griffin, a lay reader of the Established Church. In 1705 he opened a school in Pasquotank County.

           The Colony also had a few academies. New Bern Academy was incorporated in 1767; and an academy at Edenton in 1770. 50

Writing of conditions in North Carolina during the Revolution, Elkanah Watson said: "Perhaps no State had at that period performed so little to promote the cause of education, science and arts, as North Carolina. The lower classes of that region were then in a condition of great mental degradation." 51 Children of the gentry had been educated at home by their mothers, taught by tutors, or less frequently were sent to school in Britain, but the majority of inhabitants were neither educated nor had a great thirst for knowledge. 52

           Nearly every planter had a small collection of books. 53

Extant

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wills and inventories show these to have numbered from twenty-five volumes to more than five hundred. A few planters and professional men had considerable libraries. Samuel Johnston, at one time governor of the State, had at his plantation, Hayes, probably the largest library in the Colony. It contained more than a thousand volumes and included standard works on philosophy, law, history, political science, medicine, and theology.

           Aside from their libraries, the colonists had little to read unless they subscribed to the gazettes of South Carolina or Virginia. The first press 54

in North Carolina was set up at New Bern in 1749 by James Davis, but the first newspaper probably did not appear until 1751. 55 During the Revolution, four presses were operated in North Carolina at different times: one in Halifax and one in New Bern, a third with the army of Cornwallis, and a fourth with the army of General Greene. After 1785 the number of papers began to increase more rapidly.

           Since the press was not established until the middle of the eighteenth century and even then was not a medium for the communication of much local news, the colonists had to depend chiefly upon letters for information. The first regular post route established in North Carolina seems to have begun operation in 1770 and to have delivered mail about once a month. 56

Yet even at the opening of the nineteenth century letters were most frequently sent by travelers. The percentage of illiteracy, however, was so high that this limited service worked no hardship on the majority of the inhabitants.

           Social conditions at the opening of the nineteenth century still bore the marks of a frontier community. The Revolution had been a time of civil war. The advancement of socializing forces which was well under way in 1770 was interrupted, and readjustment was just beginning in 1800.

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Next: CHAPTER II SOCIAL CHARACTERISTICS