Edgecombe County. Twelve North Carolina Counties in 1810-1811. North Carolina Historical Review. VI
Edgecombe County. Twelve North Carolina Counties in 1810-1811. North Carolina Historical Review. VI
|TWELVE NORTH CAROLINA COUNTIES IN 1810-1811|
By A. R. Newsome
By Jeremiah Battle1
To the Editors of the Star, with the compliments of Tarboro. June 1812
A Statistical and Historical Account of Edgecomb County.2 First presented to the Agricultural Society3 of said County By Jer. Battle 1811.
1. The County Edgecomb extends about 40 miles from North to South, & 30 from east to west. It is generally a level country with gentle elevations;
1 Jeremiah Battle, a native of Edgecombe County, was the son of Elisha Battle, Jr., and grandson of Elisha Battle, a revolutionary statesman. He matriculated but did not graduate with the class of 1802 at the University of North Carolina. He was a physician of prominence in Tarboro and later Raleigh, where he spent the last years of his life. His interests extended far beyond the boundaries of his profession. He was a trustee of Tarborough Academy, incorporated in 1813; secretary of the Agricultural Society of Edgecombe; and, after moving to Raleigh, he helped organize the Raleigh Peace Society in 1819, and served as its corresponding secretary. He obliged the editors of the Star by submitting the most elaborate county description received in response to the circular letter; and in 1815 he supplied a two-column description of Pilot Mountain, which was published in the Star of September 29, 1815. He died unmarried in Raleigh, February 28, 1825—“a man of considerable eminence in his profession, and universally respected for his liberality and kind and benevolent disposition.” Raleigh Register, March 1, 1825; M. deL. Haywood, “An Early Peace Society in North Carolina,” The North Carolina Booklet, VII, 290-300; Laws of North Carolina, ch. 48; K. P. Battle, History of the University of North Carolina, I, 168; Star, IV, 176 (October 30, 1812).
2 This account of Edgecombe County, with omissions of the statistical table and the sections on “Rivers, Waters, Bridges, etc.,” and “Diseases,” was printed in the North Carolina University Magazine, X, No. 8 (April, 1861), 456-472, and reprinted in Our Living and Our Dead, I, (October, 1874), 145-158.
3 The Edgecombe Agricultural Society was first proposed on July 4, 1810, and organized soon thereafter. Jeremiah Battle was secretary of the organization and seems to have been its chief promoter. In 1812, the Society, which had about 30 members, offered several cash prizes, to be awarded at designated meetings in 1813, for the best specimen of homespun, the largest yields of corn, wheat and small grains per acre, the largest bull, the largest beef steer, and the largest ram lamb. Any person living in a county wherein any member of the Society resided was eligible to compete for the prizes. The Society met on Tuesday evening of each court week, which began the last Monday in February, May, August, and September. It may have died after the removal of Jeremiah Battle to Raleigh, since it is not included in a list of such societies in North Carolina in 1823. Later it was revived, for in 1851, at its first anniversary, John L. Bridgers addressed the Society, and in 1852 Dr. James H. Phillips delivered an address at its third annual meeting. Its influence was a contributing factor to the renowned progress of agriculture in the county in the decade before the Civil War. The North Carolina Register, 1823, 100; Star, October 30, 1812; The Farmers’ Journal, I, 224-239, 256-267; J. K. Turner and John L. Bridgers, Jr., History of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, 331-333.
|& not destitute of pleasant & healthy situations. The soil is exceedingly diversified; consisting of a gradation from poor piney woods to a rich swamp land lying on the creeks & river:4the proportion of these is about three fourths of the former to one of the latter. The best river land produces abundantly of Indian corn, peas, wheat, Rye, oats, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, cotton, Flax &c. & it is believed some spots are well adapted to the culture of Hemp.|
The best piney land produces every thing that the river land does, but not in the same degree of perfection; & the most barren piny lands are yet valuable, where they are not too remote from navigation, for the Tar & Turpentine they afford. The lands on the river are valued from Ten to twenty Dollars per Acre. On the creeks from five to ten; & the piny woods from one to five. In the County there is a great variety of excellent ‘Timber,’ viz. on the river & creeks are various species of oak, poplar, Hickory, Black Walnut, Mulberry, ashe. The swamps afford excellent Cypress, Juniper & white oak. But the pine Timber is perhaps still more valuable, being tall, straight, & well calculated for building. These different situations abound in various other ‘growth’, as the Cedar, Elm, sugar maple, Dog wood, sassafrass, Chinquepin, sweet Gum, Black Gum, Whortlebery,5 Grape vine &c. The Forests, fields & gardens also abound in shrubs & plants that, serve the purposes of medicine & the rural arts; viz. The High & Low Myrtle, the Gall-berry,6 the several Kinds of Rus,7 particularly the Rhus Glabruin or common Sumach;8 Wild Turnip,9 Dock,10 Poke,11 Thorn apple,12 night shade,13 Virginia Snakeroot,14 pocoon15 &c. The latter appears to be a species of Turmeric,16 growing spontaneously in rich soils; & will, in time, probably become an important article of the Materia Medica.17 The ‘Hortular Plants’,18 roots & herbs are colwarts,19 Cabbage, Lettuce, Spinnage,20 parsley, cresses,21 onions, Celery, Radishes, Carrots, parsnips, Turnips, asparagus &c. There are also fruit trees in abundance, particularly the apple, pear, plum, cherry, nectarine22 & peach. The latter comes very
4 Tar River.
6 The inkberry, a species of holly with evergreen oblong leaves and small black berries, found in sandy lands along the Atlantic coast.
7 A large genus of anacardiaceous shrubs and trees, the sumacs, natives of warm regions chiefly. Some of the species are poisonous to the touch; others are harmless, ornamental shrubs.
8 Any anacardiaceous shrub or tree of the genus Rhus. The sumac has a high content of tannic acid, useful in tanning and dyeing.
9 The Indian turnip or jack-in-the-pulpit, a plant producing bright scarlet berries.
10 Any plant of the genus Rumex. Most docks are troublesome weeds with long tap-roots whose astringent and tonic qualities made them useful as a remedy in various skin diseases.
11 A coarse American perennial herb whose dark purple juicy berries and root are emetic and purgative.
12 The small red fruit of the hawthorn, often called the haw.
13 Any of the various species of the genus Solanum; the belladonna.
14 One of the numerous snakeroot plants, which had repute as remedies for snake bites.
15 The Virginia Indian name of a North American plant yielding red dye with which the Indians painted themselves. In early writings it is spelled variously: puccoon, pohcoon, pochone, poughkone, pochone, pecoon, poccoon, puckoon.
16 A plant used for making dyes and for medicinal purposes.
17 The branch of medical science which treats of the remedial substances used in the practice of medicine.
18 Pertaining to the garden.
19 Any variety of cabbage in which the leaves do not form a compact head; the collard.
21 Plants whose moderately pungent leaves are used in salads and garnishings.
22 A smooth-skinned variety of peach.
|soon to perfection, but is subject soon to decay, the owners having never adopted any of the methods that have been discovered for their preservation. There are many good “springs” on the river & creeks; & the ‘Wells’ in the piny woods are generally good.|
2. “When the County was first settled” cannot be well ascertained from any documents here; but it was probably prior to the year 1726; the oldest land patents we have met with bearing this date. As the first settlements of the continent commenced at the mouths of rivers, so these interior settlements commenced at the mouths of creeks, progressing upwards as the natives gave ground. At the mouth of Town Creek,23 it is believed, was the first settlement in the county. The site of Tarborough & its vicinity were settled at an early period.24 The Indians inhabiting these parts were driven by some of the settlers at Bath, across Contentnea,25 where they made a stand, built Forts, & dwelt secure for several years, but were at length besieged & destroyed. The ruins of their Forts are now to be seen in Green County.26 But the greatest number of its early settlers came from Virginia. The principal “object of the first settlers” appears to have been the enjoyment of ease & idleness; & there is not, perhaps, a spot in the State where a mere subsistence was, & still is more easily procured, than here. The chief, & almost entire ocupation was hunting & rearing stock; which consisted principally of Horses and Cattle. The former ran wild, & were pursued & taken by stratagem when necessity required. Cattle were esteemed of more value, & were kept gentle, but subsisted thro the year without feeding, except cows & calves. Agriculture was scarcely thought of. The settlers were much of their time under the necessity of eating meat without bread. One Horse & plow served a whole neighborhood. About the year 1740 the natives were numerous in this part of the Country,27 & the land being mostly vacant none could be sold except such as had some improvement, & then low. Edgecomb retains one of the most ancient names of any of the counties in the state;28 it formerly included the counties of Northampton, Halifax, Martin, Nash,
23 A southern, eastward flowing tributary which empties into Tar River a few miles below Tarboro.
24 J. K. Turner and J. L. Bridgers, Jr., state in their History of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, 17-18, that “the mouth of Town Creek marked the beginning of settlement in 1720”; that the present vicinity of Tarboro was settled two years later; and that by 1723 there were twenty families on Tar River alone. In 1735, 66 inhabitants of Edgecombe precinct were reported as having paid arrears of quit rents from September 29, 1729, to March, 1732, on 37, 186 acres of land. S. R., XXII, 240-245.
25 A northern tributary of the Neuse flowing through the present counties of Greene and Wilson.
26 The settlement of the Palatines on the Neuse in 1710 and the conflict among the whites known as Cary's Rebellion prompted an alliance of the Indians under Hancock and a disastrous assault on the whites in 1711. The principal Indian town was Cotechney on Contentnea Creek, near the present site of Snow Hill in Greene County. In the course of the next two years, the North Carolinians, aided by South Carolina, fought the Indians at Fort Narhantes and Cotechney, and finally on March 20, 1713, administered at Fort Nohoroco the severest blow ever experienced by the Indians in Eastern North Carolina. This defeat began the emigration of the Tuscarora to New York. R. D. W. Connor, Colonial-Revolutionary Periods, ch. 7.
27 In 1731, Governor George Burrington wrote that there were six Indian tribes living within the area of English settlement on land assigned to them—the Hatteras, Maremuskeets, Pottoskites, Chowans, Tuscarora, and Meherrins. Not one of these tribes exceeded 20 families except the friendly Tuscarora under King Blount, who numbered 200 fighting men. These tribes lived in places secure from the foreign Indians, and regarded the whites rather as protectors than as enemies. C. R., III, 153.
28 There is disagreement among the historians as to the date of the formation of Edgecombe County. Wheeler states that it was formed from Craven County in 1733; Ashe gives the date of formation of Edgecombe precinct as 1732: and the North Carolina Manual, 1913, says Edgecombe
|& several others. This county affords but little Historical information. It may be worthy of remark, however, & is much to the credit of the county that its inhabitants formerly were, & still are, docile, peaceable & easily governed.29 This is evinced by adverting to the circumstances of the late revolution. The mandates of a self created power, termed a committee, which engrossed all the authority, both civil & military, were then as implicitly obeyed as are now the laws of our Legislature.30 There was no oposition to their orders, & none endevoured to evade them, except the tories, (who were actuated perhaps, more from |
County was formed in 1735 from Bertie. It was formed from Bertie, but the undisputed existence of the county dates from 1741.
On May 16, 1732, Governor Burrington, with the consent of his council, granted the petition of the people on the south side of Roanoke River, Fishing Creek and places adjacent for the erection of a new precinct. He ordered the establishment of Edgecombe precinct, with boundaries “from the Country Line on the South side of Roanoke River and from thence down south side of said river to the mouth of Conoconaro from thence in a straight line down to Blounts old Towne on Tarr River observing the Courses of said Line to Nuse River and from thence to the North East Branch of Cape Fear River.” He appointed twelve justices of the peace and ordered a precinct court to be held in August, November, February, and May of each year. C. R., III, 417. In November of the same year, Burrington granted a petition for annexation to Edgecombe from the inhabitants of the region south of the Roanoke ‘ “from Hoskins Line at the Rainbow Banks upon a Straight line to Blounts old Town on Tarr River and so up Roak River to the Line of Edgecombe.” C. R., III, 425. Nathaniel Rice and John Baptista Ashe, two members of the Council, protested in the Council and to the Lords of Trade against the power of the Governor and Council to erect new precincts. Their contention was that the General Assembly of the representatives of the people should share this power. Burrington answered their objections, contending that his action was in line with past practice. C. R., III, 439-457.
The General Assembly of July, 1733, refused to seat the representatives from Edgecombe precinct, and accepted the report of a special committee that no new precincts should be created without the consent of the General Assembly and that the representatives of the new precincts be not admitted. As a result of a conference with the Council, Edgecombe was granted permission to send members to the next General Assembly. C. R., III, 545, 562, 574-576, 581, 583. In the General Assemblies of November, 1733, November, 1734, and January, 1735, Edgecombe precinct was represented. C. R., III, 612, 635, IV, 115. There is no record of its official representation from 1735 until after it was established as a county in 1741.
In the General Assembly of 1734, a bill to establish Edgecombe precinct, supported by a petition of the inhabitants, passed two readings, but was not enacted into law. C. R., III, 640-642. In 1735, a bill passed the General Assembly, but was tabled and later rejected by the upper house. The contest and deadlock continued until 1741, when a law was passed establishing Edgecombe County for the convenience of the inhabitants of that region “who are very numerous, [and] labour under great Hardships, for want of Representation in the General Assembly of this Province.” The boundaries were established as follows: “Beginning on Roanoke River, at Jenkin Henry's Upper Corner Tree, from thence a straight course to the Mouth of Cheek's Mill Creek, on Tar River; and from the Southside of the said River, opposite to the said Cheek, a straight line into the Middle grounds, between Tar and Neuse rivers; which shall be the dividing line between Beaufort and Edgcombe, and Craven Counties; and from thence up as nigh as may be, keeping the Middle between the said two Rivers, which shall be the dividing Line between the Counties of Craven and Edgcombe, and Beaufort.” C. R., IV, 130, 232, 239, 363, 498, 513; S. R., XXIII, 164-165; Turner and Bridgers, op. cit., 19-26.
If Edgecombe precinct should be considered as having a continuous existence from 1732 (though it did not always have representation until after 1741), the law of 1739 changing the precincts of the colony into counties might be regarded as establishing Edgecombe County. In fact, the name “Edgecombe County” was in current use prior to the act of 1741, which established the county officially. S. R., XXIII, 126.
Burrington appears to have named Edgecombe precinct in 1732 for Richard Edgecombe, who became Baron Edgecombe in 1742, an English nobleman and a lord of the Treasury, though this has been questioned. North Carolina Manual, 1913, 599; C. R., V, 122-123, 396-399, 480-488, 1103-1107, S. R., XI, 119-120; Gaston Lichtenstein, “For Whom Was Edgecombe County Named?”, The North Carolina Booklet, XVIII, No. 2, 116-119.
29 Such was not always the case. The people of Edgecombe stubbornly resisted the quit rent policy of the government. In 1737, believing that a man imprisoned by the General Court for insulting a marshal had been punished for failure to pay his quit rent, five hundred inhabitants of Edgecombe and Bertie rose in arms and marched to within five miles of Edenton, cursing His Majesty and making rebellious speeches. Governor Johnston reported to the Board of Trade that the inhabitants were ready to rebel against quit rents. In 1759, a group of people from Edgecombe went to Edenton and forced Corbin, the agent of Lord Granville, to accompany them to Enfield, and to give security to return at the next spring term of court and to refund all fees taken unjustly from the people. Later there was some sympathy in Edgecombe for the Regulators. C. R., IV., 267, VI, 292-293, VIII, 357; Turner and Bridgers, op. cit., 27-30, 75-80.
30 The Provincial Congress of August, 1774, recommended the selection of a committee of safety in each county to execute the policy of the Congress. In August, 1775, a Provincial Congress set up a new government, consisting of a Provincial Council, six district committees of safety, and local committees. The action of these Congresses was revolutionary. R. D. W. Connor, op. cit., 354, 375-376.
|cowardice than principle.) a part of these embodied themselves in the southwest part of the county; & also a considerable number in the Northeast, for the purpose of resistence.31 But all were dispersed without bloodshed: In effecting this Cols. Hill32 & Williams33 of Martin, were instrumental. A few Scotch merchants resided in the county at the commencement of the revolution; but they preferred remaining subjects of G. Britain, & of consequence left the country under the expulsion law.34 No part of this county was ever a scene of action during the war.35 But the inhabitants were not idle spectators. Both officers & Soldiers were ready at all times to serve their country. It would be unpardonable on this occasion not to mention the merits of Col. Jonas Johnston,36 who rose from obscurity, & acted a conspicious part in our revolutionary struggle. He was born in the year 1740, in Southampton County Virga.|
31 In July, 1777, Henry Irwin of Tarboro wrote to Governor Caswell of a “most wicked conspiracy” on the part of “too many evil persons in this and the neighboring counties . . . about 30 of them made an attempt on this place but luckily I had about 25 men to oppose them. I disarmed the whole and made many take the oath.” William Brimage of Halifax was supposed to be a leader of the conspiracy. He fled, was captured at New Inlet, and placed in jail at Edenton. S. R., XI, 521, 539, 551, 552.
Turner and Bridgers, op. cit., 93, 98, states that there were attempted Tory uprisings early in 1776 and late in the winter of 1776, and that the courage of the Tories was renewed by the appearance of the British in May, 1781.
On July 3, 1779, the Governor laid before the Council evidence that certain persons on the line of Edgecombe, Nash, Johnston, and in upper Dobbs had assembied and signed articles of association to prevent the drafting of the mintia and to release those who might be drafted. They had spread disaffection, threatened patriots with desolation, treated warrants with contempt, insulted and abused officers, and wounded persons who were apprehending deserters from the continental army. The Council advised the Governor to order a detachment of Dobbs militia to apprehend the alleged ring leaders—Samuel Godwin, Thomas Davis, Enoch Horn, and one Braswell, and all other of the “Associators who may be thought dangerous.” S. R., XIV, 319.
32 Whitmell Hill of Martin County, son of John and Martha Hill, was born in Bertie County, February 12, 1743, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1760. He was a member of the Provincial Congresses of August, 1775, April, 1776, and November, 1776; provincial council for Edenton district, 1775-1776; council of safety for Edenton district, 1776; House of Commons, 1777; state Senate, 1778, and speaker; Continental Congress, 1778-1781; state Senate, 1783, 1784, 1788; Convention of 1788; and Council of State, 1781, 1787, 1788. He was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the Martin militia in 1775 and 1776, and colonel in 1778. In 1787 and 1788, he was a commissioner of navigation to open Albemarle Sound. He died at Hill's Ferry, Martin County, in September, 1797. North Carolina Manual, 1913, 402, 422-424, 453, 690-691, 887, 909; C. R., X, 205, 214, 283, 349, 470, 531, 581, 619, 684; S. R., XII, 600, 707-708, and XXIV, 931, 966; D. L. Swain, “Life and Letters of Whitmill Hill,” North Carolina University Magazine, X, No. 7, 385-398; J. H. Wheeler, Historical Sketches of North Carolina, II, 252; The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, XII, 118; A Biographical Congressional Directory, 727.
33 William Williams of Martin County represented Edgecombe in the House of Commons, 1754-60, and served on the Committee of Public Claims in 1760. He was a member from Martin County of the Provincial Congresses of August, 1775, April, 1776, and November, 1776; state Senate, 1777; House of Commons, 1788, 1789; and Convention of 1789. He was apointed colonel of the Martin County militia in 1775 and 1776, resigning his commission in 1778 because of infirmities. North Carolina Manual, 1913, 364, 402, 690-691, 887; C. R., X, 205, 536; S. R., XII, 600, 707-708, XIII, 393, and XXII, 818.
34 This act, passed in 1777, declared that all late officers of the King and persons who had traded directly to Great Britain or Ireland within the past ten years in their own right or as agents of merchants resident in Great Britain or Ireland should take the “oath of Abjuration and Allegiance or depart out of the State.” S. R., XXIV, 9-12. Turner and Bridgers, op. cit., 93, states that “in 1777 the Scots were driven out of the county.”
35 There were two minor engagements in Edgecombe County of which Dr. Battle had no knowledge—at Swift Creek and Fishing Creek in May, 1781, where militia attempted to stop the progress of the advanced guard of Cornwallis’ troops under Lieutenant-Colonel Tarleton. “The Americans at Swift Creek, and afterwards at Fishing Creek, attempted to stop the progress of the advanced guard; but their efforts were baffled, and they were dispersed with some loss. The British took the shortest road to Halifax.” Lieutenant-Colonel Tarleton, A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781 in the Southern Provinces of North Carolina, 287.
36 Jonas Johnston was born in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1740. He was a justice of the peace in Edgecombe County, 1776, 1779; and a member of the Provincial Congress of November, 1776, and of the House of Commons, 1777, 1778. He was 1st Major of Militia in 1776, recruiting officer for Edgecombe in 1777, and entry taker for Edgecombe in 1777. He died July 29, 1779, at the house of Mr. Amis, on Drowning Creek near the South Carolina line. North Carolina Manual, 1913, 398, 599; C. R., X, 531; S. R., XV, 222, XXII, 928, 956, and XXIII, 993; Edgecombe County Court Minutes, 1779, North Carolina Historical Commission MSS.; J. H. Wheeler, Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians, 158.
|& came with his father to this country when quite young. He was raised a plain, industrious farmer, without education.* Nor was it discovered that |
*After one of his speeches in the general assembly, which was more remarkable for the good sense it contained than for grammatical stile, he was asked by a professional gentleman ‘where he got his education?’ He replied, “at the handle of his plow.”
he possessed such eminent talents until the commencement of the war. He at a very early period stepped forth in the cause of liberty, & ever proved himself the true patriot, the hero & statesman as long as he lived. He from time to time filled every office in the county, both civil & military. He represented our county in the state conventions,37 & in the Legislature. Altho he was almost destitute of education he was a considerable orator; & whenever he rose to speak in those public assemblies the greatest attention was paid to his opinions, as they ever carried the strongest marks of good sense. His language was bold & nervous; well adapted to incite the people to patriotic exertion. He was modest, yet confident, prompt & decisive; ready to stand foremost (if required) in every matter he advised. At a public meeting at Tarborough, not long after the commencement of the war, information was brought that there was an insurrection of tories near cape fear, & that assistence was much needed to quell them. Mr. Johnston being present, addressed the people in a speech of considerable length & eloquence; & soon obtained a band of volunteers; who marched with him at their head that same evening. In the year 1776 he went out to Moor's Creek38 against the tories; & in the same year was a member of the convention that formed the State Constitution, after which he was constantly & actively employed as a legislator & military officer until the year 1779, when he took command of a regiment of Militia and went to the assistance of South Carolina. as his regiment was a considerable time detached from any other army he had frequent occasion to address, sometimes the Legislature of this State, & at others the Governor of S. Carolina, by letter—nor would those letters (in matter & diction) have discredited any statesman.39 He was not long enough in the army to distinguish himself much as a soldier. He was in the battle of Stono,40 & there conducted himself with the intrepidity & coolness of a veteran*. This was
*His tenderness & love for the soldiers under his command are spoken of to this day by those who had the pleasure to serve under him. He could not bear to see any soldier suffer more hardship than himself.
the last service he rendered his country. There, he being in a debilitated
37 The reference is evidently to the Provincial Congress.
38 The patriots under the command of Col. James Moore defeated the Scotch Highlanders under Donald MacDonald at Moore's Creek Bridge, February 27, 1776, and upset their plan of joining the British at Wilmington.
39 Two of Johnston's letters are in the Legislative Papers, 1779, North Carolina Historical Commission MSS. One is written by Johnston and the other by someone else but signed by him. The writing is crude and the spelling poor.
40 The battle of Stono, in the vinicinity of Charleston, occurred on June 20, 1779.
|state, so exhausted himself, as to hasten the disease of which he died on his return home.41|
Henry Irwin had long been a resident, & merchant of Tarboro. He took an active part in our differences with G. Britain; & perhaps no man, according to his situation, made a greater sacrifice to his country. He, at an early period of the war obtained a Lieutenant-colonel's commission in the regular army. He bade adieu to his family of infant children, & & to his ease—& joined the army, alas! to return home no more. He fell in the battle of Germantown, bravely fighting in the cause of his country. As the enemy ultimately kept the field of battle his body was never recovered that it might receive the honors due to his merits.42
Henry Irwin Toole was the first who took a commission in the regular army. He soon received a company, & marched to the assistance of Virga. He was in the battle fought at the Great bridge43 near Norfolk, where he sufficiently distinguished himself for his bravery. At the discharge of the Troops, which were raised only for a given time, he returned to Tarboro, where he pursued the business of a merchant with much credit & success, as long as he lived. His death was an irreparable loss to his young family, a considerable loss to the county in general, & was much lamented by a numerous acquaintance.44
Colonel Isaac Sessums was a great whig, & very active in the service of his country. He was Senator from this county when the Legislature sat at Newbern. & he there died.45
3. Rivers, Waters, Bridges &c.—Tar* river or Pamtico46 is the only
* Both these are probably Indian names.—It appears that Roanoke was considered even by the natives, who lived in the woods, as a sickly place. Those who changed their residence from that river to this called this Tar-river, signifying, it is said, the river of Health.
river in the county. It rises in Granville Co. & runs thro Franklin, Nash, Edgecomb, Pitt
41 Wheeler states that “Johnson” was severely wounded at the battle of Stono, and died on his way home. J. H. Wheeler, Historical Sketches of North Carolina, II, 143. No evidence supporting Wheeler has been found. Battle writing in 1811 of his own county was in better position to know the facts than Wheeler, who wrote 40 years later. In Wheeler's Reminiscences, published in 1884, Johnston is said to have been wounded at Stono and to have died from the privations of war and the debilitating effects of the Southern climate (p. 158).
42 Henry Irwin was a member of the Provincial Congresses of August, 1775, and April, 1776, and a justice of the peace, 1776. In 1775, he was appointed lieutenant colonel of the minute men of Halifax District, and in 1776, lieutenant colonel of the 5th regiment, North Carolina troops in the Continental Line. He put down a Tory conspiracy at Tarboro in July, 1777. He was killed at the battle of Germantown, October 4, 1777, where his remains now rest. C. R., X, 204, 517, 520; S. R., XI, 521, XXII, 1008, and XXIII, 993; North Carolina Manual, 1913, 398; J. H. Wheeler, Historical Sketches of North Carolina, II, 142.
43The battle of Great Bridge occurred near Norfolk, December 9, 1775. S. A. Ashe, History of North Carolina, I, 489.
44 Henry Irwin Toole was appointed captain in the 2nd regiment, North Carolina troops in the Continental Line, September 1, 1775. He resigned his commission in 1776. In 1778 and 1785 he was a commissioner of the town of Tarboro, and represented Edgecombe in the House of Commons, 1781. C. R., X, 187, 559; North Carolina Manual, 1913, 599.
45 Isaac Sessums was a member of the Provincial Congress of November, 1776; House of Commons, 1778, 1784; and state Senate, 1782, 1784. He was a justice of the peace, 1776; a commissioner to run the Halifax-Edgecombe boundary line, 1778; and lieutenant colonel of the Edgecombe militia, 1779. He died while in the Senate at New Bern, 1784. On November 17, the General Assembly adjourned until the next day and attended his funeral in a body. North Carolina Manual, 1913, 398, 599; S. R., XIX, 803, XXII, 956, XXIII, 993, and XXIV, 249.
46 The Tar River broadens into an estuary near the town of Washington, whence in its course to Pamlico Sound it is known as Pamlico River. Pamlico is spelled variously on old maps: Pamtico, Pamticoe, Pamptico, Pampticough, Pampticoe, Pamplicough, Pamlico, Pamlicoe, Pantego, Pantegoe.
The origin of the name of Tar River has been explained variously as from an Indian original
|& Beaufort, & empties into Pamtico Sound.47 It is navigable a considerable part of the year for Boats of a particular construction, carrying from 200 to 400 Barrels; as high up as 15 miles above Tarboro in a straight direction which is 40 or 50 by water. That portion of Tar river which passes thro Edgecomb meanders thro a tract of 75 miles, from Nash to Pitt. It is from 50 to 125 yards wide. Its banks are in many places low & fertile; & are subject, occasionally to be inundated by freshes. It is notorious that the waters in our creeks, & especially Tar river, have greatly diminished within these 20 or 30 years past; which circumstance tends greatly to enhance the value of those lands. Formerly the destruction of crops in these low grounds was so frequent as to render even a comfortable subsistence precarious to those who cultivated no other; whereas it is now a rare occurrence for a crop to be destroyed by inundation. A like circumstance has been observed in the Northern States, & is attributed to the aplication of the water courses to the purpose of meadows; but we must look for some other cause, as we have no artificial meadows here: Perhaps the more extensive tillage to which these lands are now subjected, than formerly, may promote the absorption & exhalation of moisture to such a degree as to lessen the accumulation of those waters. During the summer of 1810 the drought was excessive; not more than two or 3 moderate showers of rain fell in many parts from harvest till October. The waters became so low that not a mill in the County could be depended on to obtain meal. A phenomenon appeared in the river which, it is said had not been observed since the year 1782. (which was also a very dry year.) It was a green appearance which the water in the river exhibited; & is said to be occasioned by a larger quantity than usual of Moss, which increases in proportion to the paucity of the water, & its transparency, exhibiting the colour of the green leaves on the impending trees, by reflection.|
Where the line dividing Edgecomb from Nash crosses the river there commences a ‘Cataract,’ which extends down the river a quarter of a Mile. The bed of the river & its banks are covered with rocks of all sizes under 20 feet in diameter; & when the water is high, in passing over & amongst these rocks, it may be heard 4 or 5 miles.—This cataract (usually denominated the Great Falls)48 is attended with several advantages. It affords
Tau, Taw, or Tor, signifying river of beauty or health, and as from tar, an important article in the naval stores industry of that region. The second explanation is more reasonable. In available maps before the 18th century, when the original Indian name would more likely appear, the name used is some form of “Pamlico.” In later maps, after the whites had settled the region and tar had become an important article of commerce, serving even as a medium of exchange as early as 1713, the name “Tar” or “Tarr” is generally found for the river proper, and some form of Pamlico for the estuary. C. R., II, 811; Turner and Bridgers, op. cit., 36-37.
47The Tar River rises in Person County and flows through Granville, Franklin, Nash, Edgecombe, Pitt, and Beaufort.
48 The Great Falls, which by a slight change in the boundary line in 1871 was placed in Nash County, is now the site of the Rocky Mount Mills. For a century or more, it has been the site of a cotton mill. Falls and rocky obstructions are to be found on the Atlantic rivers where they leave the ridge of granite at the edge of the Piedmont and enter the alluvial coastal plain. Public Laws of North Carolina, 1871-72, ch. 171; Laws of North Carolina, 1828-29, ch. 65; Turner and Bridgers, op. cit., 344-345; information furnished by Mr. Thomas H. Battle, Rocky Mount.
|seats for three Grist Mills & a saw mill; some of which have been running 60 or 70 years, & seldom stop for want of water. Were it not for the necessity of giving Shads an opportunity of passing up the river the water would be inexhaustable. This plan has long been resorted to by those who from necessity or amusement are induced to fish with the Dipping Net. From 50 to 200 Shads have been taken in a day by a single net. But it is now a poor business, in consequence of the number of seins that are employed below. About two miles lower down the river are the Little Falls;49a place also much frequented for fishing with the dipping net. This is an eligible seat for Mills, & one is now building by Mr. Jesse Andrews. He has also commenced the building of a Bridge here; & will probably extend his improvements, by inventions of his own, as he is a young man possessing considerable mechanical talents.|
In descending the river, clusters of rocks are met with for 4 or five miles, after which the stream glides smoothly on, & with no great labor might be rendered navigable for such Boats as pass from Tarboro to Washington.
At the commence of the Great Falls, mentioned above, is an “Island” containing about 15 acres, & is called the Panther Island, from its being formerly the habitation of those animals. There is another Island about the termination of this cataract, of a smaller size, & has been in cultivation.50 These are all the islands worthy to be noticed,51 except those interspersed among the swamps of Conneto,52 to be mentioned hereafter.
Tar river has two ‘Bridges’ in the county. The most considerable one is at Tarboro. It is about 200 yards long, well built, & wide enough for two carriages abreast. It was built by M. Whitaker Esq. & cost the county $1400. Eight miles above is Teat's Bridge, which is also built & supported at the public expense.53 12 miles above Tarbo, at Shell Banks, the seat of Joel Battle Esq.54 another Bridge was built at his own expence, but
49 In 1910, the Rocky Mount Mills bought Little Falls and later blasted a channel to increase the working head of the Great Falls power. Information furnished by Mr. Thomas H. Battle, Rocky Mount.
50 Today there are two islands at the Great Falls—Big Panther Island, comprising about 15 acres, and Little Panther Island, about ½ acre. Information furnished by Mr. Thomas H. Battle, Rocky Mount.
51 Hamilton Fulton, Civil Engineer to the State, laid before the Board of Commissioners of Internal Improvements in 1820 a report of a survey of Tar River, in which he mentions “an island near the mouth of Swift Creek, which divides the waters of the Tar.” A Journal of the Proceedings of the Board of Commissioners for Internal Improvements, 109, North Carolina Historical Commission MSS. This island, called Hemmed Island, is about ½ mile long and ¼ mile wide. W. E. Hearn, Soil Survey of Edgecombe County, North Carolina.
52 Conetoe Creek flows southward through the eastern part of Edgecombe County into the Tar River in Pitt County.
53 Teat's Bridge was two miles above the mouth of Swift Creek. A Journal of the Proceedings of the Board of Internal Improvements, 109. In North Carolina the general bridge law authorized the county court to build and repair bridges and to levy taxes in the county to defray the expense. Laws of 1784, S. R., XXIV, 674-678.
54 Joel Battle (1779-1829) was a student at the University of North Carolina, 1798-1800, a justice of peace, one of the founders and trustees of Tarborough Academy in 1813, and a prominent planter and cotton manufacturer. He was the chief promoter of the Edgecombe Manufacturing Company incorporated by the General Assembly of 1828-29, which built one of the early cotton mills in the State at the Great Falls on Tar River. The capital stock authorized had to be more than $30,000 and less than $100,000. Subscriptions to stock were to be received by E. D. McNair, David Clark, David Barnes, Joel Battle, B. M. Jackson, Theophilus Parker, Peter Evans, and William Plummer. It has been stated that Joel Battle erected an earlier cotton mill at this site in 1818 or 1820. List of Justices, 1812-23, North Carolina Historical Commission MSS.; Laws of North Carolina, 1813, ch. 48; Laws of North Carolina 1828-29, ch. 65; Turner and Bridgers, op. cit., 344-345; K. P. Battle, History of the University of North Carolina, I, 169; Alumni History of the University of North Carolina, 39; information furnished by Mr. Thomas H. Battle, Rocky Mount.
|is demolished by a fresh.55 A Bridge has been lately built at the G. Falls, on the Nash side of the line; & is a specimen of the public spirit of that county.|
The tributary streams of Tar river are, on the north side, Deep Creek, Fishing Creek and Swift Creek; & on the South side, Town Cr. Hendrick's Cr. & others of less note.56
Deep Cr. is an inconsiderable stream, but has two bridges & a costly establishment of Mills, built & owned by Mr. John Andrews. It falls into Fishing Cr. near its mouth. Fishing Cr. rises in Granville Co. & after passing thro F[ranklin] forms a considerable part of the boundary between Halifax & Edgecomb, & falls into Tar river three miles above Tarbo in a straight direction. An act of assembly was passed a few years ago for opening & making navigable this creek,57 which has been partly effected. When water is flush it admits flat bottomed Boats, carrying 100 to 200 barrels as far up as Wyatt's Bridge, which is 25 miles above Tarbo by land. & about 70 by water. It has four Bridges, Wyatt's, Speir's, Coffields & Sessums’. The two first are built & supported at the joint expence of these two counties. Sessums’ Br. is about 10 miles above Tarboro, by land.—Contiguous to it is Strabane, the Country seat of Mr. E. D. Macnair,58 who keeps a store there & collects a considerable quantity of the various kinds of country produce, which is carried thence down the creek & river to Tarbo or Washington.
Swift Creek is narrow but long. It heads in Franklin, & is there called Sandy Cr. It has two Bridges; & some valuable Mills have lately been erected on it by Mr. E. Lewis59 about 12 miles above Tarboro. It falls into Tar river between Teat's Br. & Fishing Cr. It has lately been cleared out up to the mills for the passage of considerable boats.60 Near this place is Mount Prospect the seat of Mr. Lewis, who has kept a store here for several years, & is a place of considerable trade.
Town Cr. is not navigable, but is larger than Deep Cr. It has four Bridges across it; and lately a good Saw & Grist mill. It joins Tar river 10 miles below Tarboro. Near this junction there has been a store kept for many years by A. Johnston Esq. who has discontinued the business, & a store is now kept up by Messrs. Stuart & Redmond of Tarbo. The
55 It had evidently been rebuilt before Fulton made his survey of the Tar river in 1820. A Journal of the Proceedings of the Board of Commissioners for Internal Improvements, 109.
56 These tributaries of the Tar river have the same names today.
57 This law, passed in 1784, required the justices of Pitt, Edgecombe, and Halifax to lay off the region within 6 miles of Tar river from the dividing line of Beaufort and Pitt counties to the dividing line of Pitt and Edgecombe and thence as far up the river as the county court of Edgecombe should think proper, and the region within 6 miles of Fishing Creek from its mouth to Wiatt's Bridge, into districts and appoint an overseer in each who should cause all inhabitants liable for public road work to work at the removal of obstructions in the river or creek for at least 6 days per year. The law provided a penalty of £5, or 39 lashes in case of a slave or free negro, for obstructing the navigation of the river or creek. S. R., XXIV, 702-703.
58 E. D. McNair was one of the trustees of Tarborough Academy, incorporated in 1813, and postmaster at Sessum's Bridge in 1823. The North Carolina Register, 1823, 67; Laws of North Carolina, 1813, ch. 48.
59 Exum Lewis was a colonel of militia in 1776, and postmaster at Mount Prospect in 1823. C. R., X. 531; The North Carolina Register, 1823, 67.
60 A law of 1810 provided for the appointment of trustees to open and improve Swift Creek from Exum Lewis’ Mill to Tar river. Laws of North Carolina, 1810, ch. 21.
|Place is called Sparta.61 A considerable quantity of produce, especially naval stores is taken here.|
Hendrick's Cr. is a small stream, but is well supplied with springs, & has for many years supported two mills; one at Tarbo the other a mile above. But that contiguous to Town was some time back destroyed by a flood of rain; since which it has been justly remarked that the town is much more healthy than when the mill was standing. This little creek has one bridge across it.
Contentnea is a pretty considerable creek, & is navigable for small craft as high up as Roundtrees’ Bridge, which is 5 or 6 miles above Stanton's Bridge. This Cr. is the boundary between Wayne & Green counties, on the South, & Edgecomb on the North, & falls into Neus river. It has three Bridges; one half of those two mentioned is supported at the expence of this County. a store is kept at each of them, & considerable trade carried on by Messrs. Stanton & Roundtree. ‘Swamps’ abound in several parts of the County. Tosnot62 is extensive, lies in the Southern part of the County, & empties into Contentnea 2 or 3 miles below Stanton's Br. It affords good range for stock. a considerable quantity of Pork, Beef & Mutton are annually driven from this neighborhood to Virga. This water course has 3 bridges across it.—Whiteoak swamp runs into Tosnot & has one Br.
Tyan Cokey Swamp63 empties into Town Cr. on the N. Side. It formerly afforded good range for stock, but at present this advantage is inconsiderable, & the land adjacent is generally poor. It has one bridge, near which is a Store, where Naval stores & some other articles of produce are taken. It is called Tradefield.
The Eastern Section of the county abounds in swamps of extreme fertility, and containing generally from 50 to 500 acres. They diverge from Conneto Creek, which falls into Tar river below Penny Hill in Pitt County. Their surface is in many places thickly covered with reeds, which, in warm, dry winters afford excellent food for cattle, & are preferable to cain, as they suffer no permanent injury from the feeding of stock. It is believed that such of these swamps as lie contiguous to the river, of which there are many, might be rendered arable by means of ditches—some difficulties however, would attend, & will perhaps for some years prevent any considerable enterprizes by the proprietors: these swamps are flat, & the river, which is two or 3 miles off is the only place to which the water could be conveyed, & as the soil, tho rich, is sandy, the ditches would soon fill up unless they were lined with wood. Mr. P. who lives among these swamps, says that for 6,000 Dols. a Canal might be made from the Great swamp64 to the river, which is the space of about two miles, that wd. render the swamps thus drained, of incalculable value. This Canal, he
61 The place is now called Old Sparta.
62 Toisnot Creek is now in Wilson and Nash counties.
63 Cokey Swamp, listed on old maps as Tyancoka, is now in the southwestern part of Edgecombe County.
64 On old maps, a large area between Tar river and Conetoe Creek and extending southward almost to Tar river is noted as “Great Coneghta Pocoson.”
|says, would afford a Mill seat worth a good sum of money. & many of the neighbours, who live on the smaller swamps, might at a small expence, empty their waters into this Canal. These swamps have been resorted to for manure,65 which is found very productive. A considerable quantity of Pork is raised here & brought to market. Bees thrive well here; more Honey & wax are brought thence to market than from any other part of the County.|
Among these swamps are interspersed a number of ‘Islands’,66 the most of which are inhabited. The soil is light & sandy, but produces very kindly, corn, peas, potatoes, cotton, flax &c. & is much better in dry seasons than wet. The crop of the year 1810 (which was excessively dry) was the best that had been produced here for many years; whereas, on the stiff low lands the crops were greatly injured by the drought.
‘Roads’ tho sufficiently numerous for the convenience of traveling, are far from being kept in good repair. not one in the county, five miles in length is in such order as the laws prescribe.67 It must be attributed to a want of public spirit, or of a more advanced state of civilization. The stigma must rest on the overseers, states attornies & Grand juries: some little exertion has of late been made: but the effect has been only to get a few sign boards & mile posts erected; & in this respect we now excel the adjacent counties.
There are several ‘Medicinal springs’ in the county. One about three miles from Tarbo is the most noted. The water is flush, transparent, not unpleasant to most palates. Large draughts of it operate by the stomach, bowels, poures or kidneys, but principally the latter. It is thought wholsome as a common drink & has been in pretty general use by a family living near it.
Another medicinal spring, formerly much noted for its healing qualities, is situated in the bottom of Town Creek, & is now covered by a mill lately erected over its site. The water was cold, transparent & active in its operations on the human system. It flowed from an apperture not less than ten feet in depth, below the bed of the Creek, & was accessible only in dry times.
There are not many ‘natural Curiosities’ to be met with in the county. In the bank of the river many feet above its bed, are discovered quantities of marine substances, shells, of various sorts & sizes; fish bones, sharks teeth &c. In the bed of the river & of Fishing Cr. are found as many as 16 vertebrae, or joints of the back-bone of some fish ten inches in diameter, lying in their proper order. Also pieces of ribs, one of which is about 7 inches in length & weighs 14 ounces. These bones are perfectly petrified. In digging a well near Tarboro was discovered, many feet below
65 The swamp muck or mud was used extensively as fertilizer before the use of commercial fertilizers became general. The Farmers’ Advocate, II, 21.
66 These islands were relatively dry patches of sandy loam within the swamp area.
67 The general road law of the State. passed in 1784, authorized the county courts to order the laying out of public roads where necessary and to appoint overseers annually who should summon all male taxables from the age of 16 to 50 years to make and repair the roads. S. R., XXIV, 674-678.
|the surface, a small oak tree, in a horizontal position, perfectly sound. In digging another well when it was expected the water would make its appearance; some bunches of reeds were found in a muddy boggy soil, from whence there never was any good water procured.68|
4. The county affords a great variety of ‘productions’ that are immediately conducive to the comfortable subsistence of man, & it is evident penury cannot exist to any extent where there is a surplus of such commodities as are exhibited in the table annexed, which affords a pretty correct view of the average annual amount of the different kinds of surplus produce that are collected or raised in the county & sent out to foreign markets. In the table it will be seen that Naval stores hold a respectable rank as a staple commodity; from which we discover that the pine, which affords one of the most striking marks of sterylity of soil, is still entitled to great consideration; more especially when contiguous to rich lands or navigable waters. A large portion of the county abounds with them. They serve for fencing & building better than any other timber, but in addition to these advantages they yield to the laborer a greater profit than our best lands would do by farming. An experienced hand can make from 100 to 120 barrels of Turpentine in a year, including the making of Barrels to hold it; while the expenses of carrying on the work are extremely small. Tar is also made from the old trees that have been lying on the ground long enough to lose the sap. A hand can work to the greatest advantage by making both tar or turpentine during the same year; the former being attended to for the most part in the fall & winter, when from the weakness of the sun's heat the trees will not yield the turpentine. The natives of the county knew but little of these advantages, & would have starved had they been possessed of no other means of subsistence. Emigrants from Virga. & the N. Eastern counties of this state settled on these barren lands, & converted the pines into meat, bread & money.69
In addition to the foregoing statement it may not be amiss to insert the average annual amount of produce sent out of the County by 75 farmers, which does not pass thro any of the above named markets, viz. 150 bushels Wheat, 1375 Barrels Naval Stores, 418,900 pounds live pork, 15,600 pounds of Beef, 190 head Sheep, 20,000 pounds Bacon, 1170 barrels corn.
Besides these articles for exportation the Town is generally well supplied from the country with fresh beef, Lambs, Pigs, Poultry, Eggs, Butter, Honey, fruits, mellons, roots &c. Some of the house keepers have farms near town, & from thence supply their houses with many of these articles. Flour, & in the winter, firkin Butter are obtained from the waggons that come down from the upper Counties; notwithstanding
68 Edgecombe County is located in the alluvial coastal plain region which was once the bed of the sea. In past ages, these objects had been covered by soil brought by the rivers from the peidmont and mountain regions.
69 For a description of the turpentine industry in North Carolina, see R. H. Taylor, “Slave-holding in North Carolina: an Economic View,” The James Sprunt Historical Publications, XVIII, Nos. 1-2, 38-40.
Average annual amount of Surplus collected in, exported from Edgecomb County70
| || ||1 ||2 ||3 ||4 ||5 ||6 ||7 ||8 ||9 ||10 ||11 || || || || || || || || |
|21 Stores viz. || ||Barls corn ||Bus. Peas ||Barrels Pork ||lbs Tallow ||lbs B. Wax ||lbs Cotten ||Bushels Flax Seed ||Barrels Naval Stores. ||lbs Bacon ||Kegs Lard ||Hhds Tobo. ||Barls Brandy ||Barls Flour ||Bus. Wheat ||Fur. Skins ||Bus. Beans ||Bus Oats ||Barls. Black Lead ||lbs. Beef |
|Tarbo. No. ||1 ||500 ||750 ||150 ||200 ||200 ||500 ||30 ||750 ||5,000 ||20 ||5 ||15 || || || || || || || |
|Tarbo. No. ||2 ||250 ||20 ||15 || ||800 ||2,500 ||8 ||200 ||2,000 ||5 || || || || || || || || || |
|Tarbo. No. ||3 ||200 ||200 ||45 ||200 ||500 || || || ||4,000 ||12 ||5 || || || ||50 || || || || |
|Tarbo. No. ||4 ||500 ||500 ||160 ||400 ||400 ||6,000 ||60 ||400 ||12,000 ||50 ||25 || || ||250 || ||25 || || || |
|Tarbo. No. ||5 ||100 ||150 ||30 ||300 ||1,300 ||1,500 ||50 || ||1,500 ||8 ||10 ||6 || || ||100 ||15 || || || |
|Tarbo. No. ||6 ||100 ||200 ||75 ||1,250 ||400 ||6,000 ||350 ||300 || ||10 ||100 ||30 ||30 ||600 || ||20 ||20 ||30 || |
|Tarbo. No. ||7 ||150 ||200 ||40 ||400 ||500 ||4,000 || ||100 || ||4 ||30 || || || || || || || || |
|Tarbo. No. ||8 ||200 ||200 ||50 ||1,000 ||400 ||5,000 ||165 ||750 ||5,000 ||20 ||6 ||17 ||30 ||100 || ||40 ||50 || || |
|Tarbo. No. ||9 ||800 ||800 ||45 ||150 ||200 ||1,000 ||160 ||600 || ||15 || ||25 || ||400 || || || ||74 ||1,000 |
|Tarbo. No. ||10 ||300 ||50 ||100 ||960 ||720 ||240 ||20 ||50 ||1,800 ||40 ||30 ||3 ||3 || || ||8 || || || |
|Tarbo. No. ||11 ||200 ||500 ||320 ||200 ||200 ||6,000 || ||500 ||15,000 ||50 ||15 ||20 ||10 || || || || || || |
|Tarbo. No. ||12 ||400 ||700 ||80 ||500 ||700 ||2,000 ||100 ||500 ||10,000 ||50 ||10 || || ||1,000 || || || || || |
|Tarbo. No. ||13 ||1,400 ||500 ||175 ||1,000 ||400 ||1,500 ||175 ||1,000 ||10,000 ||75 || ||25 || ||200 || || || || || |
|Tarbo. No. ||14 ||100 ||200 || || ||400 ||250 || ||500 || || ||2 ||2 || || || || || || || |
|Country || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || || |
| ||15 ||150 ||1,000 ||90 ||300 ||200 ||2,000 || ||500 ||2,000 ||50 || || || || || || || || || |
| ||16 || || ||20 ||250 ||250 ||1,000 || || ||20,000 ||30 || || || || || || || || || |
| ||17 ||200 ||250 ||165 ||300 ||300 ||500 ||74 ||2,263 ||8,000 ||13 || || || || || || || || || |
| ||18 ||450 ||150 ||30 ||200 ||50 ||1,500 || || ||11,000 ||26 || || || ||200 || || || || ||2,000 |
| ||19 ||25 ||50 ||60 ||100 ||100 ||1,000 || ||800 ||2,000 ||10 ||5 || || || || || || || || |
| ||20 ||300 ||200 ||300 ||300 ||100 ||1,000 ||100 ||300 ||12,000 ||50 || || || ||20 || || || || || |
| ||21 || ||30 ||92 ||200 ||50 ||250 || ||250 ||3,000 ||18 || || || || || || || || || |
| || ||6,325 ||6,850 ||2,042 ||8,210 ||8,170 ||43,240 ||1 292 ||9 413 ||124,300 ||556 ||243 ||145 ||73 ||2 770 ||150 ||158 ||120 ||104 ||3 000 |
70 Dr. Battle probably secured these statistics from the records or estimates of the various storekeepers.
|every farmer keeps a stock of cattle, & wheat is raised for exportation. There are several bolting mills in the county, but these only serve the convenience of the neighborhoods where they are. But we have as yet, neither learned the advantages of the dairy, nor met with sufficient encouragement in making wheat & flour for market.|
5. The inhabitants of the county generally live comfortably; & in proportion to their industry, enjoy the luxuries of life. There are no overgrown ‘estates’ here; & there are comparatively very few oppressed with poverty.71 Beggars are unknown among us. Those strollers that occasionally visit us are foreigners, who tell us they had fought in the American service. They generally get enough in this way to procure an intoxicating draught every day. In this hospitable country food is always at their service. The poor here, who are disabled by affliction, are liberally provided for.72 Our poor rates amount to about $1,000 annually.* A good estate in this county may be estimated at about fifty
*This bears no proportion to the five millions sterling that are said to be collected annually in England for charitable purposes, where, notwithstanding they have beggars innumerable, & the children of the poor left without education.73
6. Tarborough74 is the only ‘Town’ in the county. It is handsomely
71 From the table of annual exports from Edgecombe County, it is clear that a diversified small farm economy was dominant in 1810. Later it became an important cotton county and the seat of a rather highly developed plantation regime.
In 1786, the population of whites and negroes (slaves and free) was 6,007 and 2,473, respectively; in 1790, 7,033 and 3,222; in 1800, 6,410 and 4,011; in 1810, 7,079 and 5,344. With the growth of cotton production and the increase of slave-holding, the figures were: for 1840, 7,915 and 7,793; for 1850, 8,359 and 8,830; and for 1860, 6,879 and 10,497. S. R., XVIII, 433, XXVI, 515-41; Ninth Census, I, 52-54.
In 1790, 484 out of 1,260 heads of families in the county owned a total of 3,152 slaves—an average slave holding of 6.5; 381 owned less than 10 slaves each, 75 owned from 10 to 19 each, and 28 owned 20 or more each. The largest slaveholder was Edward Hall, who owned 86 slaves. S. R., XXVI, 515-541. The plantation system developed especially in the second third of the nineteenth century, so that in 1860 there were 5 farms of over 1,000 acres each, 58 of from 500 to 1,000 acres, and 368 of from 100 to 500 acres. 672 slaveholders owned a total of 10,108 slaves—an average slaveholding of 15: 66 owned 1 slave each; 66 owned 2; 47 owned 3; 40 owned 4; 38 owned 5; 47 owned 6; 27 owned 7; 27 owned 8; 23 owned 9; 88 owned 10 and less than 15; 61 owned 15 and less than 20; 55 owned 20 and less than 30; 36 owned 30 and less than 40; 13 owned 40 and less than 50; 17 owned 50 and less than 70; 9 owned 70 and less than 100; 11 owned 100 and less than 200; and 1 owned 200 and less than 300. The chief productions were: cotton, 19,138 bales (nearly twice the yield of any other county in the State); corn, 725,487 bushels; oats, 66,287 bushels; sweet potatoes, 200,014 bushels; peas and beans, 92,758 bushels; and swine, 40,574. Agriculture of the United States in 1860, 104-107, 210, 235.
72 The law provided that the freemen in each county should elect seven overseers of the poor every three years, who should elect two of their number annually as County Wardens. The overseers were empowered to levy a tax annually for the support of the poor. S. R., XXIV, 89-94, 260.
73 In 1812, the funds collected for poor relief in England amounted to £6,656,105. H. D. Traill, Social England, V, 608.
74 Since the town of Halifax was in the territory erected into Halifax County in 1758, Edgecombe was left without a town as trading center. In 1760, James Moir, Lawrence, Tool, Aquilla Sugg, Elisha Battle, and Benjamin Hart purchased from Joseph Howell 150 acres of land on the south side of Tar river, laid it off into half-acre lots, streets, and commons, received subscriptions for the lots, and secured from the General Assembly an act incorporating this plat of land as the town of Tarboro, with themselves as directors and trustees for designing, building, and governing the town. Each purchaser of a lot was required by law to build a frame house thereon at least 16 feet square and 10 feet high, with brick or stone chimney, within 3 years. S. R., XXV, 451-453.
In 1764, the county seat was changed from Redman's Old Field on Tyoncoca to Tarboro, and Aquilla Sugg, William Haywood, Joseph Howell, Sherwood Haywood, and James Hall were directed to contract for the building of a court house, clerk's office, prison and stocks in Tarboro on lots set apart for the purpose by the town commissioners. Other acts were passed from time to time for the regulation of the town. S. R., XXIII, 548, 641, 736, 792, XXIV, 176, 740-742, 853-855, XXV, 483-484, 495; Turner and Bridgers, op. cit., 35-40, 64-67.
The Council of State met at Tarboro in 1779, and the General Assembly in 1785 and 1787. North Carolina Manual, 1913, 456; S. R., XVII, 139-143, XX, 119, XXII, 938.
|situated on the S. W. bank of Tar river, just above the mouth of Hendricks Creek, in latitude 35° 45\m=’\. It is 48 miles west by N. from Washington, 36 S. of Halifax, 83 N. W. of Newbern, & 68 E. of Raleigh. It was laid off into lotts in the year 1760. The streets are 72 feet wide, & cross each other at right angles; leaving squares of two acres each. These squares being divided into half acre lots, makes every lot front or face two streets. There are about 50 private houses in it, & generally from 15 to 20 stores; a church, goal, Tobacco ware house, & a large court house, which in the year 1785 was used for the sitting of the State Legislature. There are several good springs adjacent to the town, but for culinary uses almost every family has a well; & some of these wells afford good water the greatest part of the year. This place affords good encouragement to all industrious persons, particularly mechanics, of almost any description. 60 or 70 mechanics have had full employ here at one time. But such of them as have migrated to this place have too soon found themselves in prosperous situations, & have betaken themselves to idleness & dissipation.|
Merchants generally do well here; & there has scarcely been an instance of failure in the place. There are a few well built private houses, some of which have lately been finished. The ‘styles of building’ is as it is in the country, generally plain & cheap. The Goal & one of the store houses is of Brick.
Adjacent to the Town is the country seat of Gen1. T. Blount,75 where he has lately built a very good house, the best that is in the county. This is a beautiful eminence, overlooking the town. An extensive grove surrounds the houses; back of which is a tract of 20 or 30 acres of rich swamp, well ditched & drained; & is in a high state of cultivation.
7. ‘Agriculture,’ with us is still in its rude state. Lands are too cheap & plenty for farmers to be induced to quit their accustomed plans, for the purpose of making the most of a given spot.76 The productions, however, will show that the people are neither very indolent nor entirely ignorant of the advantages of farming. The usual plan appears to be to clear, & put into cultivation as large an extent of ground as practicable; and to exhaust it as fast as a series of grain crops can do it. A few years of this mode of culture renders it necessary to give it rest every
75 Thomas Blount, son of Jacob Blount, was born in Edgecombe County, May 10, 1759. He enlisted in the revolutionary army at the age of 16, and rose in military affairs to the rank of major general of militia. In 1785, he was appointed a commissioner of the town of Tarboro. He was a member of the Convention of 1789; the House of Commons, 1789, 1792; the state Senate, 1799; and the House of Representatives of the United States Congress, 1793-1799, 1805-1809, and from 1811 until his death in Washington, February 7, 1812. In 1790, he was the owner of 27 slaves. He was a trustee of the University of North Carolina, 1792-1812. North Carolina Manual, 1913, 599, 600, 878, 913, 914, 917, 919; S. R., XIV, 642, 645, XVIII, 575, 598, 599, XX, 402, XXII, 938, XXIV, 740, XXVI, 516; K. P. Battle, History of the University of North Carolina, I, 821; The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, II, 185; A Biographical Congressional Directory, 483.
76 Wherever there is an abundance of natural resources and a scarcity of labor (a condition typical of the American frontier), rapid exploitation and not conservation of the resources is the practice. The abundant, cheap land of the Southern frontier was exhausted no more quickly or completely than the abundant, cheap timber resources of the Northern and Western frontiers.
|other year; at which times it is either sowed in small grain or abandoned to the weeds. It is at length entirely worn out, while other ground is cleared to supply its place. Manuring, & other modes of improvement cannot well enter into our method of tillage; the whole time being spent in extending the space of cultivation. But it must be acknowledged that this mode of farming is very well understood here, & is carried on with considerable energy. A man & horse can with ease tend sixty thousand corn hills, ploughing six thousand a day the crop thro; & where the land is tolerably good it will produce from ten to 12½ bushels per thousand; besides peas, fodder &c. But much of the success depends on judicious ploughing. Perhaps the farmers best judgement would be necessary to enable him to determine how far to abandon this loose mode of culture for the purpose of manuring &c. as manuring is not well understood here the fear of ill success prevents many from undertaking it. There have however, been some small attempts, & it is hoped the success will induce a continuance.77 Altho large quantities of Grain are produced, which together with the pork that is raised by it form a principal part of our staple commodities; yet we lose much by being illy supplied with food for cattle, the tops & shoucks of the corn being insufficient to feed the numbers usually kept. They are therefore suffered to glean the fields of every vestige of the crop that might, if retained, tend to retard the exhaustion of the land. Indeed the cattle that are raised are considered as a clear gain, being kept alive during winter on that which would otherwise be deemed of little or no value. In the spring they are turned into the woods, where many of them in the course of the summer become good beef, and those which do not may be rendered so at a cheap rate by turning them into a corn field, where there are plenty of peas & grass, a few weeks before frost. This is a very effectual method of fatting them, & they will do the corn no injury. But the most approved methods of rearing, & obtaining the benefits of domestic animals cannot well be incorporated with our system of cropping; the time & attention that should be devoted to them being considered as a serious drawback to the cornfield. By giving more attention to the procuring of summer and winter food, & to the best methods of distributing it, the comforts of the farmer would be greatly increased, & ample means thereby afforded for renovating the exhausted lands. But these & other means of improvement that might be mentioned will be reserved for a more systematic era in agriculture. There are but few in the county who undertake to raise clover, & those who do have of late experienced great evile from its salivating property; this is the case with both the red & white; the worst|
77 After 1840, Edgecombe achieved a wide reputation as a progressive, scientific, farming centre. Rotation of crops and manuring with leaves, mould, cattle droppings or swamp mud formed into a compost with lime, marl, or ashes were practiced widely with remarkable increases in the yield. Edgecombe farmers contributed frequently to farm periodicals. The Farmers’ Advocate, II, 21; The Farmers’ Journal, I, 52-55, 65-70, 81-82, 99-101, 101-102, 220, 310, II, 1-4, 73-75, 181-183, 210-211, 306-309; Turner and Bridgers, op. cit., 326-336.
|is the white, in pasture grounds that have not been ploughed up for many years.*|
*Meadows are not at all in use with us. Mr. H. a gentleman of considerable experience observes that the cultivation of foreign grass would not be very profitable here. The swamps, tho rich are many of them mixed with sand & gravel, & produces native grass & weeds so luxuriously, as would certainly in a year or two perfectly stifle the foreign grass, if it did not at its first coming up. Another disadvantage is that the swamps are so flat as not to admit of complete draining; so that if great gluts of rain should happen to fall when the seeds are first put into the ground, or even after the grass is of some height it would certainly be destroyed. In fact, there is but little need of meadows of foreign grass; for if the farmers would but prepare their swamps as if for these grasses, & let it remain, it would produce an abundant crop of crop-grass (vulgarly called here Crab-Grass,) very little, if any, inferior to Timothy.—Even if they would be at the trouble of preparing, some time in summer, a tolerable piece of ground, by once or twice plowing & levelling with a harrow, it would certainly produce as considerable a quantity, & as rich Hay as most kinds of foreign grass.
Very little attention has hitherto been paid to the particular breeds of any of the domestic animals except horses. They have for many years been in a state of tolerable improvement, & are still progressing towards greater perfection. Some of the best running horses on the continent have been bred in this county. There had, however, never been any imported horses here until H. Cotten Esq. whose zeal for the improvement of these valuable animals prompted him to introduce several of the best imported horses among us. With some of our farmers oxen & mules have in some degree superceded the use of horses, & are found to answer the purposes at a cheaper rate. The former are used principally for the draught, the latter for the plow. In the adjacent counties mules are used for the waggon, & draw very well, but there are no waggons in this county. It has been represented as a matter of astonishment that we have so degenerate a race of sheep; few farmers having a sufficiency of wool to supply their families. It would seem that they are most difficult of all the domestic animals to raise. Our home manufactures are carried on to considerable extent, but would be much greater if plenty of wool could be obtained, for want of which large quantities of woolen cloths are imported for servants, altho homespun is entitled to a preference in consequence of its greater durability. Notwihstanding the scarcity & meagreness of our sheep in general, there are some among them that would yield 4 or 5 pounds of wool at a shearing.78 Many of the best flocks in the county are found running at large in the piny woods all the year.
Our breeds of hogs have attracted more attention than cattle or sheep; pork being a more certain money article, the farmer's interest necessarily leads him to greater exertion in its production. considerable pains have
78 The yield of wool varies with the breed of sheep and the locality. It varies from 3 to 12 pounds per sheep, averaging perhaps 5 to 8 pounds. The Americana, XXIX, 501.
|been taken to bring these animals to greater perfection; but there are numerous instances of great deficiency: & it seems difficult to prevent degeneracy where they are doomed to toil a considerable part of the year, in the woods for a precarious subsistance.* The greatest advantages in|
*The Pork raisers are in a habit of depending greatly on the productions of the forest for the sustenance of their hogs, those on which they subsist & sometimes grow fat are from the different species of oak, pine, Beach, Chinquapin, ground whortle berry &c.—This method of rearing Hogs partakes of the manner of the first settlers, who found very little trouble or expense necessary to be bestowed on them. But our forests are now, almost destitute of their former means of subsistence. These remarks are equally applicable to the manner of rearing cattle.
raising pork is with those who live remote from market & from navigation; & it is an article that never fails to command cash when carried on the foot to the Virga. markets. The farmers who live on Tosnot & Contentnea give great attention to this & other kinds of stock, as being their entire source of wealth. They are an industrious & economical people.
8. The ‘Manufactories’ are only such as serve our domestic purposes, & consist of the following,79 Viz. Looms 933 in number; in which are woven annually about 150,000 yards of different kinds of cloth. which at an average price of 40 Cents per yard is worth $60,000.—159 Distilleries, in which are annually distilled 39,000 Gallons peach & apple brandy worth at 75 cents pr. Gallon—$29,250,—439 Tanneries, in which are tanned annually 1,964 Hides, worth at $4 each $7,856.—Mechanics—31 Blacksmiths shops, 4 Hatters shops, 2 Cabinet shops, 6 Saddlers shops of these there is only one, of the latter, kept up throughout the year; in this there is work done to the annual amount $4,000. 3 Carriage shops; only one of which is regularly kept up; in which there is work done annually to the amount of $4,500.—3 Shoemakers’ shops; one of which sells work to the amount of—$2,000.—Besides these there are others of less note; such as Turners, Coopers, Wheelwrights &c.
Labor saving machines.—There are 29 cotton machines,80 working 508 Saws; some of which go by horses, some by hand & some by water.
There are also a few cornshelling Machines in the county, & some Wheat Fans; the latter are in considerable demand, & can be hired for a Dollar per day.
(There has lately been erected at Tarboro a Turpentine Distillery. 2 stills are employed; each working from 15 to 20 Barrels.)
As wheat is now raised in greater abundance, than ever in this county before, it would be a great acquisition to have Thrashing Machines constructed, as in other parts.*
*I cannot help recommending to my fellow citizens, the use of an Instrument which has been in use for ages in Italy, & after proper experiments has been approved
79 Some of the statistics given here are found in the “Report of Manufactures Within the State of North Carolina,” by Beverly Daniel, Marshal for the district of North Carolina, January, 1, 1811, published in the Star, February 21, 1811. Daniel's assistant in Edgecombe was Isaac Norfleet.
80 Cotton gins.
|by an Agricultural Society in France.—The machine consists of a round piece of hard wood, about 4 feet in length, & one foot in diameter, on which are fastened with wooden pins, eight pieces of timber, of the same length, & about 4 inches square, so as to make a roller, resembling in some measure a piece of deeply fluited column. Exactly in the central point of each end of this roller, are strong iron pins driven in about one foot (they may also be made fast with a cross, sunk deep into the ends.) These serve for the axis on which are fixed a pair of shafts. Or to render the draught easier, a frame may be made, the two sides of which are bent upwards, & a single-tree fastened to the fore tail, by which means the line of draught is raised so as to be nearly horizontal.|
To use this Instrument lay the sheaves on the threshing ground, loosen & spread them in a spiral form (perhaps as if to be trodden by horses, but probably not so erect.) The roller is drawn by one horse, beginning at the outermost edge & continuing till you get to the centre, & then in the same direction to the outer edge again, & thence round till you get again to the centre, & so on till the straw ought to be turned over; but that does not require much precaution; then the machine is moved round again until the whole is sufficiently threshed.
According to the report made to the above mentioned Society a single horse can thresh perfectly well to the amount of 120 bushels (10 setiers81) in a day, working only five hours. Six persons are sufficient to spread, turn over & carry away the straw, &c. The Straw is better cleared of the grain than when threshed with a common flail. The effect of the instrument on the straw is to squeeze, flatten, & smooth it, so that it is thereby rendered better food for cattle.
This instrument may be used for threshing wheat, oats, pease &c. & may be adapted to the threshing of rice, & for separating Indian corn from the cob.
9. The ‘Commerce’ of this place is carried on to great disadvantage. The navigation is precarious, as there is usually a considerable part of the year that the water is too low for boats to have an easy passage from Tarboro to Washington. Tarborough is the principal market for this & some of the adjacent counties, & altho considerable quantities of pork & Tobo are taken here, there would be much more were there any opulent Merchants who could advance the cash for the whole of these articles. The Bank82 which is about to be established here will aid the Merchants greatly in this respect. The farmers pay off their debts contracted with the merchants, with their different kinds of produce, & receive cash for the over-plus, or barter for such other articles of merchandise as they need. This produce is carried down the river to Washington in long, flat-bottomed boats, carrying from 200 to 400 Barrels; & drawing from two to three feet water. a part of this produce is bartered in Washington for West India Goods; but the greater part is shipped to the northern Markets, principally to Norfolk, Baltimore & New York, where it is sold for cash
81 An old French measure of capacity.
82 A branch of the State Bank of North Carolina was soon established in Tarboro. In 1823, Edmund McNair was president and P. P Lawrence cashier. The North Carolina Register, 1823, 82; Turner and Bridgers, op. cit., 345.
|or bills, by which means the merchants here are enabled to make remittances to Philadelphia, Baltimore & N. York, from whence they receive their dry goods.|
10. The ‘Net Fishing’ at the falls has been already mentioned. Angling is folloed principaly as an amusement. The fish that are taken in this way are chubs, perch &c. including, in the spring a few Rockfish about a dozen seins are employed in the county; in which are caught some shad & sturgeon, but scarcely enough to serve the owners of the seins. Formerly many more were taken, both by the seins & nets. This defection is attributable to the great number of seins employed below us.
‘Game’ is not so considerable an object here now as formerly; not only in consequence of a greater scarcity, but because the people are more disposed to pursue their domestic occupations. 50 years ago, we are told, deer were abundant. It was not uncommon to see 20 or upwards at a time. Their skins afforded considerable traffic here. At present they are rarely met with; & the pursuit of them too precarious to excite any great interest. Those who are fond of the chase prefer to hunt Foxes, of which we have many. They subsist on partridges, Hares, & even on our pigs, Lambs & poultry; which circumstance renders the hunting them an object of policy as well as amusement. Our Hounds, in packs, consisting of ten or 15 in number, pursue them with great sagacity & eagerness; while the huntsment perform incredible feats, on horseback, in the pursuit, thro our thick forests.
In the swamps there are a few Bears & wild-cats. Beavers have for many years been extinct. Musk rats & Otters have become scarce. Racoons, Minks & Hares seem to be the principle dependence for furrs. Formerly wild turkies were in great plenty & were taken by various stratagems, but in these times we rarely see one of them, those that remain being extremely wild. We have ducks of several kinds, & in considerable numbers. Also a great variety of other birds.*
*We are visited occasionally by flocks of wild pigeons, tho seldom in large numbers. In the year 1807 vast numbers of these birds made their appearance in the autumn, more than had been witness'd for 20 years.83 They fed on the acorns & whatever they could find in the fields. They were tho't by some to have been driven here by famine, or a scarcity of their usual food. Some old people said the circumstance portended much sickness in the country. About the 20th of September the Influenza made its appearance: for a while it was sporadic; but it soon became epidemic & universal as far as we could obtain information.
About this time also was discovered a new kind of caterpillar, of a Green colour; & fed on the blades of green corn. In some places they were so numerous as to devour first the corn blades & then the grass in the fields. They also fed on the fodder that was dry & stacked.
11. The first settlers in this county lived in a ‘state of society’ not far better than that of the Indians. If we may divide the stages of Society
83 In colonial days, flocks of wild pigeons so numerous as to darken the sky were not uncommon at certain seasons. They were shot, caught with nets, and beaten off the roosts at night by the poor, who enjoyed the sport as well as the food obtained thereby. Edward Eggleston, “Social Life in the Colonies,” Century Magazine, XXX, 396.
|into the savage, the barbarous & civilized, we might place them in the second class. So late as 50 years ago there were only a few neighborhoods, on the water courses, that enjoyed the blessings of social life. Plantations were few & small; & men would go seven or 8 miles to assist each other in heaping logs. These log heapings were viewed as mere frolics; where the robust & athletic could meet together & show their manhood. This labour was then performed without the assistance of negroes. As perfect a state of equality as can well be imagined pervaded the community. Almost the only distinctions known or sought after, consisted in corporeal exertion. This circumstance led to many a fight between men who had no enmity towards each other. Some champions would travel many miles to meet with a combatant who had been celebrated as a fighter. Their mode of warfare was called first & skull; but was too frequently accompanied with biting & gouging:84 & we are still reproached by foreigners, for retaining as they erroneously suppose, this barbarous practice.|
As to the ‘progress of civilization’ little can be said here. Knowledge is certainly more abundant than formerly. Learning, morality & religion are more encouraged, or at least viewed with more complacency. The peaceful, social & humane virtues, it is believed have more than kept pace with the growth of Population. A thirst for knowledge was never great here. The people are neither aspiring, restless, nor basely servile. They are generally satisfied with their political situations, & seldom trouble their minds with politics. There are not more than about 108 Newspapers taken weekly in the county, altho learning is not very generally diffused, yet since the establishment of the university85 in this state there are more who possess liberal education now than at any former period.86
There is a certain suavity of manners employed in many places by Candidates for popular favor, very little studied or desired here, till within a few years past. It consists in a peculiar shake of the hand, called by our farmers the electioneering shake—in purchasing brandy & drinking with the people—pursuading them to get drunk, whereby they may lose sight of the objects of an Election—flattering & gulling the people, with empty professions of extraordinary devotion to their interests. &c. These means, when artfully employed generally answer the desired end. 20 years ago the practice was unknown in Edgecombe, & was considered as
84 In frontier fights, the contestant sometimes bit the finger, ear, or nose and with the thumb pushed or gouged out an eye of the opponent. Travelers noted the number of one-eyed and one-eared men in America. An interesting account of a frontier fight may be found in [A. B. Long-street], Georgia Scenes, 53-65.
85 The University of North Carolina was anticipated by a provision in the Constitution of 1776 that “all useful learning shall be duly encouraged and promoted in one or more universities.” The General Assembly chartered the institution in 1789; the cornerstone of the first building was laid on October 12, 1793; and the institution was opened, January 15, 1795. K. P. Battle, History of the University of North Carolina, I, 2, 6, 34, 61.
86 Francis Little Dancy appears to have been the only graduate of the University from Edgecombe County prior to the date of Battle's account of Edgecombe. Others attending but not graduating were: Adam Haywood, Lawrence Toole, David Evans, Jeremiah Battle, Joel Battle, and James Smith Battle. K. P. Battle, op. cit., I, 72-73, 76, 168-169, 181, 787-788.
|the reproach of some of our neighbouring counties. It has, since those days been introduced as a refinement—but at the first attempts at this innovation it was viewed as an indication of distrust to the sober judgments of the people.—But so fascinating was this liquor that its use on these occasions became fashionable & popular among all classes; and a liberal distribution of it became necessary to a man's election.87 But to the credit of the candidates of 1812 they have met in Caucus & agreed to renounce this expensive & dangerous mode of Electioneering.|
12. There are 17 Country ‘Shools’ in the county, at which are about 400 scholars: nothing more is attempted to be taught in them than the elements of reading, writing & arithmetic; & but few of the teachers are qualified to do justice to these. Notwithstanding this apparently infant state of literature, we may easily discover that it is progressing; for, 50 years ago, there was not more than one or two schools in the limits of the whole county. For want of an Academy in this county several have sent to those in the adjacent ones: viz. at Westrayville88 & Vine Hill.89 It is in contemplation to establish an Academy at Mount Prospect in this county.90 & we cannot account for the delay otherwise than from the general
87 This method of electioneering seems to have been both an agency and a by-product of the political movement of Jeffersonian Democracy, which triumphed in the United States in 1800. To get out a large vote was essential to victory, and the dispensing of drinks by the candidates proved effective. The practice brought forth numerous though ineffective protests. A petition of the Flat River Association (Baptist) at Mt. Carmel, Orange County, to the legislature of 1817, for a law prohibiting the practice of “treating” with drinks and holding militia musters during the month before election sets forth “that your petitioners have viewed with much regret a prevailing custom that has obtained for some years past, and is still abounding in most of the counties where we are acquainted to wit, that of treating with ardent spirits for several weeks preceding the election for members of the Assembly, which practice appears calculated to encourage vice, and of consequence to corrupt the morals of the people of our state, and militia officers, as if designedly to make way for such pernicious practices, do arrange their musters in the several districts, so that candidates may attend to treat and harangue the people, the consequence of which is (too often) drunkenness, quarreling and other acts of immorality, greatly to the subvertion of Religion and good order.” Legislative Papers, 1817, North Carolina Historical Commission MSS.
88 Westrayville Academy was opened in Nash County, January 1, 1810, under the superintendence of John Bobbitt, a graduate of the University in 1809. It was in a two-story building erected for the purpose by Samuel Westray on the Tarboro-Louisburg road, five miles from the Nash County Court House. Courses were offered in English, Latin, Greek, and French. C. L. Coon, North Carolina Schools and Academies, 1790-1840: A Documentary History, 263-264; K. P. Battle, op. cit., I, 184.
89 Vine Hill Academy in Halifax County offered courses in science and languages, preparatory for college entrance. In 1811, Daniel Adams of Connecticut was secured as principal, and a Mr. Hawkins had charge of the English department. The price of board was $50 per year, and the tuition rates were $12 for reading, writing, and arithmetic, $15 for grammar, and $25 each for geography and the languages. The academy prospered until in 1837 it had a male and a female department and offered a wide range of courses. C. L. Coon, op. cit., 175-177.
90 In 1812, Exum Lewis of Mount Prospect advertised for a man to teach English, writing, and arithmetic, giving assurance that “should any person undertake a school at this place calculated to please, he may expect on a birth for several years.” C. L. Coon, op. cit., 806. Turner and Bridgers (pp. 364-365) state that “in 1820 Mount Prospect was erected by Exum Lewis on his plantation about seven miles from Tarboro. This was a mixed school of importance. The early teachers were James C. Cary, George Pendleton, both of Virginia, Philip Wiley, an Episcopal minister, Eugene Casey, of Ireland, Alexander Bellamy, of Florida, and Frederick Philips, grandfather of the late Judge Philips.”
In 1793, John Leigh, Ethelred Philips, Amos Johnson, Edward Hall, Jacob Battle, John Ingles, and Blake Baker were designated as trustees of the Academy of Tarborough, though nothing further is known of this school. Laws of North Carolina, 1793, ch. 43. In 1813, F. L. Dancy, E. D. McNair, Jeremiah Battle, Robert Joyner, Bennett Barrow, J. W. Clark, Joel Battle, James Southerland, H. A. Donaldson, Peter Evans, and Carey Whitaker were appointed trustees of the Tarborough Academy. Laws of North Carolina, 1813, ch. 48. A building was erected and the institution opened its doors, January 1, 1815. Robert Hall, a graduate of the University who had taught in the Raleigh Academy, was in charge. Later teachers were Mr. Griswold, Eugene Farnan, Moses Hamilton, Miss Anna Maria Ragsdale, and James I. Sanford. There was a male and a female department. In the female department in 1826, courses were offered in chemistry, astronomy, natural philosophy, rhetoric, history, needle work, music, and painting on paper and velvet. From 1815 to 1826, the average enrollment was from 60 to 80 students per year. Board was obtainable in private homes for $7 per month. The academy evidently lapsed, for in 1847 a legislative act revived the act of 1813 and appointed new trustees. Laws of North Carolina, 1846-47, ch. 114; C. L. Coon, op. cit., 77-79, Turner and Bridgers, op. cit., 360-365.
|indifference with which learning is still viewed.*|
*It is to be apprehended that in this country general knowledge will never characterize many of its citizens as long as the dead languages are viewed as the basis of a liberal education.
This county has never been prolific in ‘men of talents’ or they have been obscured for want of opportunities of education. Among the most distinguished characters it has afforded was Jonas Johnston,91 whose name & character have already been mentioned. Had he received an education corresponding with his natural talents, he might have done credit to any Country.
Thomas Hall92 was a man who possessed considerable natural talents, with the advantages of a grammatical education. He was quite conversant with the Latin Classics, which he made the most of. He represented our County in the State convention, but never offered again for any public office. He was a Lawyer of some eminence, & would have made a Shinin Character at the bar had he not been almost led away from his professional studies by a strong poetical genius. He, however, continued to practise as long as he lived, & had a considerable share of business in the courts where he practised. But his mind seemed more frequently engaged in poetry than the law, & there have been frequent instances, that while his opponent was speaking in a cause in which he was employed, that he was engaged in writing satyrical verses. His favorite subject was satyre; but he wrote with equal facility on other subjects. He also possessed & endulged in a most biting and ready wit, was never at a loss for repartee: but like most other wits, he generally made fewer friends than enemies. Some few of his pieces are yet in the hands of his friends; but the bulk of them, which would have been sufficient to form a handsome volume, are now lost to the world.
We have but few men of Literary talents in the county; the means of education having heretofore been much circumscribed; we have more now however than at any former period; & we have never been destitute of men in whom we could confide our interest. Before the establishment of our University no children were sent out of the county to any College or Academy.
13. At present there is only one ‘professional Law character’ in the county, and he a native of the county,93 but there are more Physicians than any former period;94 who cannot boast, however, of great erudition. Quacks are abundant, & are privileged to boast.
91Supra, note 36.
92 Thomas Harminson Hall represented Edgecombe in the Provincial Congress of August, 1775. North Carolina Manual, 1913, 398; C. R., X, 165, 167, 173.
93 In 1823. there were two resident lawyers in the county, Francis L. Dancy and Joseph R. Lloyd. The one native lawyer at the time Battle wrote his sketch was probably Francis L. Dancy, who graduated at the University in 1801. The North Carolina Register, 1823, 46; K. P. Battle, op. cit., I, 165.
94 In 1823, the resident physicians in Edgecombe were: Thos. H. Hall, John F. Ward, B. B. Hunter, David Dancy, Benj. Boykin, Henry Brownrigg, Richard Bell, William H. Shollington, and James Phillips. When Jeremiah Battle wrote his sketch, he was perhaps the leading physician in the county. The North Carolina Register, 1823, 56.
|14. It is believed that about two thirds of the people generally ‘can read’; & one half of the males ‘write’ their names: but not more than one third of the women can write. The girls now at school are learning, & are very desirous to write; it is deemed a more important accomplishment in that sex, among the common people now than formerly.|
The progress of learning for ‘25 years back’ has been slow, & perhaps has not more than kept pace with the population, till within these two or 3 years. The people now manifest some disposition to diffuse learning; perhaps from their finding the means of obtaining it more accessible now than heretofore.
15. The custom at the public schools, & in some towns, among those who are desirous of ‘Intellectual improvement,’ has found its way here. ‘Societies’ have been formed, & kept up with a tolerable degree of spirit, greatly to the benefit of the members thereof, both in talents & morals.* But unhappily for want of sufficient interest in literary pursuits, & perhaps, for want of a more permanent residence of many who compose these Societies, they have generally languished in a few months, & are with difficulty sustained. Some attempts have been made to procure ‘Libraries’, but this for some of the above reasons, was never effected, except by a Society that was in existence about 15 years ago.95 On the dissolution of that body the Books were scattered abroad, or divided among those who contributed to the establishment.*
16. On the 4th day of July 1810 proposals were made for the establishment of a Society for the promotion of ‘Agriculture & the Arts.’ The plan has succeeded, so far as to go into operation. It has now upwards of 30 respectable members, whose public spirit is thus manifested, greatly to their credit, & it is hoped to the benefit of the county. The society convene on the second day of every court of quarter sessions in the county; adjourning from day to day as they see fit.
17. The only ‘Religious denominations’ in the county are the Methodists & Baptists. The former are not numerous, but they have several places of worship in the county, and frequently hold meetings in Town. The ‘number of their communicants’ is not ascertained.
*Novelty is a great matter here. We are generally ready to encourage any new institution that promises beauty or utility, but when it becomes familiar we grow indifferent. Three or 4 years ago a subscription was set on foot for establishing a free School for the education of poor children in the county—two or three hundred Dollars were soon subscribed. A few children recd. the benefits of this subscription (for it never became an institution.) But as the matter never got in to proper hands it soon languished & died.
*The Agricultural Society has appropriated a sum of money to procure an Agricultural Library—Some donations are made of Books for this purpose.
95 Turner and Bridgers state (page 360) that a library was established in 1800, but was soon scattered.
|The Baptists had eight meeting houses—in the year 1810, and about 520 communicants—since which there have been about 250 added, & another meeting house is building, near the place called Shell-Banks,96 & is to bear this name. Under this head the following Biographical sketch is added, as a tribute to the memory of a deceased ancestor.|
Elisha Battle was born in Nansemund County Virginia, the 9th of January 1723-4. In the year 1748 he moved to Tar river Edgecomb Co. N. C. About the year 1764, he joined the Baptist Church at the Falls of T. R. & continued in full fellowship until his death. He was chosen Deacon of the Church, & served in that office about 28 years. He usually attended the associations; at which he sometimes acted as moderator, & was well suited to that office. It is well known he was a remarkably pious, zealous member of Society, & was always plain & candid in censuring & reproving vice or folly in all their shapes. He was also very useful as a statesman: About the year 1756 he was made justice of the peace. In 1771. he was elected to represent the county in the general assembly; & he continued to serve the county in that capacity about 20 years successively; until he declined offering himself as a candidate. He was in almost all the state conventions; & was a member at the formation of the state Constitution. He was also a member of the Convention held for the deliberation of the Federal Constitution; & when that body formed itself into a committee of the whole House he was appointed Chairman. At length the infirmities of age rendered it necessary to resign public life, to which he had devoted himself more from a sense of duty than inclination. About the beginning of the year 1799 he found the powers of life fast exhausting; & he soon became so feeble (without any apparent disease) that he was no longer able to help himself. From this state of departing life he seemed to have no desire to recover, nor appeared to have the least doubt of future felicity. He departed this life the 6th of March 1799, being the 76th year of his age.97
18. We have been providentially favored with respect to ‘Fires’ except in a few instances, which have been mostly in the country, several dwelling houses might be enumerated that have been consumed; & a valuable Barn with its contents, was lost a few years ago by fire from Lightning.
We have occasionally been visited by ‘Storms’—The county suffered much by one which took place on the 7th Sepr. 1769. It destroyed crops, Mast-trees, Mills &c. Five years afterwards was another, which was not so destructive here, but did great damage on sea. The August Gust as it was called, which was in the year 1796, destroyed many Mills & Bridges. Crops were also much injured, but the trees were not greatly hurt. In April 1798 a Tornado passed thro the county, & thro Tarboro, which levelled
96 Shell-banks was the seat of Joel Battle on the Tar river, twelve miles above Tarboro.
97 Elisha Battle (1723-1799) was a member of the House of Commons, 1773-1774, 1775; the Provincial Congresses of April, 1776 and November, 1776; the state Senate, 1777, 1778, 1779, 1780, 1781, 1783, 1784, 1785, 1786, 1787; and the Convention of 1788. In 1760, he was designated as one of the directors and trustees of Tarboro. In 1790, he was the owner of 22 slaves. C. R., V, 1183; S. R., XVIII, iv-v, XXII, 13, XXIII, 993, XXVI, 515; S. A. Ashe, Biographical History of North Carolina, V, 7-11; North Carolina Manual, 1913, 364, 398, 599, 878.
|trees & houses as it passed. In Tarboro several houses & chimnies were blown down. Posts were dislodged & blown many yards from their places. About six years ago, on 22nd. August was a storm, which was very destructive to crops & trees in many places.|
19. ‘Amusements’ here are not pursued to any great extent. Hunting & Fishing have already been mentioned. In these there has, sometimes been great emulation excited. Two parties of equal numbers contend against each other for the greatest quantity of Fish, Squirrels or other game. A Dinner of Barbacue &c is provided, to be eaten by the two parties conjointly, but to be paid for by the unsuccessful party. Shooting matches are somewhat in vogue; which tend to increase the skill in gunning, of those who engage in it. Course-racing is carried on here in a small way, & it may be said purely for the Amusement; as very little time is spent in preparing the horses, & very little money adventured. . . . . Quarter-racing is carried on with more spirit & is viewed as a hazardous species of Merchandise; where the profit or loss exceeds all proportion to the capital employed. It is not uncommon for these races to be made for a Thousand Dollars, by men in moderate circumstances.98 We have no ‘sporting clubs.’
Card playing is an amusement confined to a few; & they are not much disposed to make the winning & losing any great object. Gambling under the name of amusement has nearly ceased. The Ladies have never been known to play here for money. Balls, & family Tea parties afford the principal amusements in which the ladies participate, & these are not so common as formerly.
20. The “Diseases” of a country generally correspond with the manners & customs of the people; varying occasionally from local circumstances. Thus we can find no great difficulty in believing that the diseases here have undergone, & are still undergoing considerable changes. During the early stages of Society, the food, clothing, houses, exercises &c. were extremely simple, but well calculated to give strength & vigour to the constitutions. The diseases partook of the simplicity of their lives. The Ague of fever,99 with distinct intermissions, was the principal autumnal disease; & this was generally looked for; but was not regarded as a serious evil, as the fits were short, & the intermissions a perfect state of health. Inflamatory diseases were also common at certain seasons, particularly the pleurisy, which was generally violent, & seldom failed carrying off the sufferer, unless timely aid was given. The “remedies” of these diseases were also simple, but often efficacious; for the former a dose of Indian Physic (of which there are several sorts in our woods) generally succeeded: and in
98 Course-racing consisted of a formal race over a set course. The ordinary circular course was one mile in length and was traversed four times in each heat. Where two four-mile heats out of three were needed to win the race, endurance was the prime requisite. Quarter-racing consisted of a quarter-mile race by two horses along parallel paths. Speed was the prime requisite. Quarter-racing was much esteemed in North Carolina and Virginia. Edward Eggleston, “Social Life in the Colonies,” Century Magazine, XXX, 397.
99 A fever of malarial character, attended by regular paroxysms of chill, fever, and sweating.
|the latter a copious bleeding or two generally turned the scale in favor of life. Other diseases, to which they were subject were chiefly accidental; & the remedies were often as accidental as the diseases; for in those days there was not a physician in the county for many years. as the arts of civilization advanced, tillage was extended; & mills were erected. The lands that were first cleared were mostly on the river & creeks; from these, & from the mill ponds, exhalations rose & poisoned the health of those who were exposed to them; but their influence did not reach far; as the woods still obstructed their passage. But a greater exposure to these exhalations, together with the progress of Society towards a more luxurious mode of living, gradually changed the aspects of diseases to a remitting type,100 with bilious symptoms. A few years ago we were astonished to see these bilious diseases making their inroads into those parts of the county that had always before been noted for their extraordinary healthiness: this circumstance can be attributed only to the extension of cleared ground & thereby increasing & giving passage to those sources of disease. By this time physicians had multiplied in proportion to the diseases; & these Bilious fevers were attacked by Emetics, cathartics & the Bark;101 & in addition to these some cooling or sweating medicines were exhibited during the hot stage. In general these remedies succeeded. But in some cases this treatment was unsuccessful, as the fever was sometimes too constant to admit of Tonics, & to violent & obstinate to be alleviated by refrigerating medicines.102 In some cases the Lancet103 was unknown here! The disease was suffered to terminate the patients existence with raging delyrium & a strong pulse; or to degenerate into a nervous disorder which wore him off gradually. Dysenteries sometimes occur, & most commonly in midsummer; but it has been epidemic in the healthiest parts of the county, & in the coldest time of winter. It was so violent as to prove mortal in several cases, where timely aid was not obtained. In general it yielded to a judicious use of apirients104 & anodynes,105 very few cases requiring the lancet.|
In Tarboro many children are afflicted with that disorder so well known in the large cities by the name of Cholera Infantum.106 Why this disorder is so prevalent in a small town like this, & so little known in the country; while bilious complaints among adults are somewhat more common in the country than in town, is difficult to determine; unless it may be ascribed to the difference that is observable in the diet & management of children in town, & those raised in the country, which is certainly very great.
In a late period of the history of our diseases a new fever (or a new
100 A remitting disease is one whose symptoms temporarily abate at intervals, but do not wholly cease.
101 The bark was the Peruvian Bark or quinine.
102 A medicine to lower the temperature of the body.
103 A sharp surgical instrument used in opening veins, etc.
105 Any medicine which allays pain.
106 A disease of infants, prevailing in summer and characterized by vomiting, uncontrollable diarrhea, and collapse.
|modification of fever) has appeared in this & some of the adjacent counties. And from its prevailing types & symptoms, may be denominated a “Malignant double tertian”.107 It however, bears various appellations; as Typhoid, Bilious remittant, nervous &c. These several names lead to different modes of treatment, which are attended with different degrees of success. It has also been called the ‘Roanoke fever,’ or ‘negro fever’—The origin of which names will appear from the subsequent History of the disease obtained from notes taken by my friend Dr. S. J. Baker; to whose politeness I am indebted for them.|
The account of the fever is preceded by a topographical account of Scotland Neck, where it is believed it was first known as an Epidemic in this part of the country.
“Scotland Neck108 is situated on the South side of Roanoke river, by a curvature of which it is formed. Its lands are almost all cleared of the timber, & in cultivation. They lie so low that there are but few points within a mile or two of the margin of the river that are not overflowed by large freshes, which occur almost every year; & which, like the inundations of the Nile, bring fertility & disease in their current. Every fresh leaves a sediment of rich black loam, varying from half an inch to two & three inches in thickness, in proportion to its height. a number of marshes & swamps serve to retain a large quantity of water a long time after it has subsided in the river, which in warm weather emits very offensive effluvia.109 One of those swamps, called the Cypress swamp, has its origin about a mile from the river where it begins to make the curvature that forms Scotland Neck, to which it forms a base, & enters it about ten miles in a tolerably straight direction from its origin. About three miles S. W. from this Swamp is Kehukee, running parallel with it. The land between the two swamps is low & flat, tho not subject to inundations from the river; not very fertile; & for the most part still retaining its native growth of trees. On Kehukee, & its branches, are several large mill ponds. Four miles south of Kehukee is Deep Creek,110 with extensive low grounds, but not cleared. The land between Kehukee & Deep Creek is a high, dry & sandy soil; covered with a growth of large pines, oaks, & other forest trees. Here it is that the wealthy farmers have sought a retreat from the pestilential effluvia of Scotland Neck; by consequence it has become one of the most populous neighborhoods in the State. The plantations here are generally small. The buildings all of wood, with a large proportion of doors and windows; & are usually surrounded with clusters of oaks, Lombardy poplars, Babylon willows &c. Those who have built within ten, or fifteen years past have very
107 A double tertian fever is one in which there are two sets of paroxysms, each recurring every third (alternate) day.
108 The reference here is to the entire neck of land in Halifax County formed by the curvature of Roanoke River. The town Scotland Neck, situated in the region several miles from the river, was not incorporated until 1867. Private Laws of North Carolina, 1866-67, ch. 39.
109 Invisible and noisome exhalations.
110 Kehukee is a southern, eastward-flowing tributary of Roanoke River in Halifax County. Deep is a northern, southward-flowing tributary of Tar river in Halifax and Edgecombe counties. R. B. Hardison and L. L. Brinkley, Soil Survey of Halifax County, North Carolina.
|small spots of ground cleared round their houses. The negro huts are generally built of round pine or cypress logs, with dirt floors, & dirt in the interstices between the logs. They are small, crouded, & smoky; & as might be expected very filthy.|
Diet.—Coffee is universally used by the white people for Breakfast, with salt fish or Bacon. For Dinner Bacon is a standing dish, throughout the year. Fish, both salted & fresh, is also in common use, with Beef, Lamb & poultry in great abundance when in Season, and vegetables in great variety. The negroes have, in general a plentiful allowance of bacon, with some salt fish; but they rarely use vegetables of any kind, tho easily to be procured. They also have milk in its various states on most plantations. They are commonly well clothed; but to this there are some shameful exceptions. Spirituous liquors are indulged in freely, & by some to a great excess. Unfortunately an opinion has prevailed that they operate as a preventative of disease, which has often proved to be a fatal error.
The first settlers in Scotland Neck were not aware of its being more unhealthy than any other parts of the country. But it was found that Intermittents, remittents,111 & what are called Bilious fevers prevail with more or less violence there every year; which has caused the white people to move to those high situations mentioned above so that not more than two or three white families are left, where formerly there was a very considerable population.
Between Kehukee & Deep Creek, as was before observed, the population is greater, perhaps than in any other equal extent of country in the state; & the neighborhood has always been considered very healthy. They are less subject to Intermittents than in any other parts of the low country. But here the Malignant fever, of which an account is about to be given, prevailed in its utmost violence.
This fever, for the first two or three years that it came under the Doctor's observation was confined almost exclusively to the Blacks & in consequence obtained the appellation of ‘negro fever’.
In the month of September 1802, in a large family of negroes in Scotland Neck, many were affected & several died. It did not extend to any other family. In the month March 1806, it again made its appearance in a large family of negroes, living immediately on the east side of the river; & extended back for two or three miles to the Uneroy Marshes. 50 or 60 had the fever in this family;112 four died; & it had quite subsided, by the last of May. The disease, in one instance, extended in the month of April, to a neighboring family; & about the 17th of June, ten or fifteen days after the disease had ceased in the family first affected, the Doctor was called to attend another large family within a mile or two of the same place, on the south side of the river, & 12 miles below Scotland Neck; but had the disease himself & could not attend. A neighboring
111 An intermittent fever ceases or intermits at intervals; a remittent fever merely abates or remits at intervals.
112 The entire slave force of a plantation is referred to as a family.
|practitioner of some eminince was called in. Thirteen died in this family, a few cases occurred in one or two families adjacent to this, & the disease disappeared before the first of September. In March 1807 the fever again occurred, & there were several cases, & some deaths in a family near Deep Creek, between it & Kehukee; but did not extend to any other family this year. It ceased by the middle of April; but it appeared again in the same family the first week in May 1808. The disease now became general throughout the neighborhood. It prevailed in the Town of Halifax,113 & in the upper parts of that county, & indeed, in several distant parts of the state, under the various denominations, as mentioned above.|
Symptoms.—The disease usually commenced with lassitude, disinclination to action, dull watery eyes, disponding countenance; pain in the head, neck, & shoulders, & loins; & sometimes in the breast or side, which were frequently very severe. There was some degree of nausea, & tho not considerable, large quantities of dark, green coloured Bile were discharged on the exhibition of Emetics & cathartics; & sometimes it was perfectly black. In many instances bowels regular & skin natural. But sometimes the heat was greatly increased, having a pungent, burning sensation, which was also imparted to the fingers on feeling the pulse. . . The pulse was extremely various in this disease; it was often very difficult to distinguish it from the healthy pulse. It rarely in the commencement exceeded 90 pulsations in the minute, & sometimes slower than natural. Sometimes it was small & apparently very feeble; but the most remarkable, as well as the most perplexing circumstance relative to the pulse was that the artery appeared to be contracted; & depressed among the tendons as almost to elude the touch, & made it impossible, until considerable experience, to discriminate between a small weak pulse from depressed excitement, & one depending on direct debility. On some occasions the pulse was rebounding, & often intermitting. Breathing was in many instances laborious, frequent sighing, great depression of spirits & prostration of strength. Thirst inconsiderable; & most of the patients expressed great aversion to cold water & acids; the latter was thought to increase the pain in the umbilical region.114 Wine, brandy & opium added to the general distress. The appetite was better than could be expected from the other symptoms: a Boy whilst eating some milk & mush, was attacked with a vomiting of black matter & died in two hours afterwards. Hemmorrhages were frequent, & sometimes to an alarming degree, from the nose, mouth & bowels. From the latter, not less than a gallon of blood was sometimes evacuated in a few hours, but in no instance were any bad effects discovered from it; on the contrary great relief was often experienced; &
113 The town of Halifax in Edgecombe County was incorporated in 1757. After 1758, when Edgecombe County was divided, the town was in Halifax County. S. R., XXIII, 496-497, XXV, 354-355.
114 The central one of the nine abdominal regions.
|the pulse from being contracted & depressed became moderately full & soft.|
The type of the fever, with very few exceptions was Double Tertian in the beginning, but soon became continued: In a few instances the type was single tertian.115 There was a very remarkable change in the colour of the skin in a few days. Black negroes became quite yellow, & those of a lighter complexion of an ash colour. The whites were many of them quite yellow. Large worms were frequently vomited up by persons of all ages. The hair came almost entirely off the heads of many on their recovery. Miliary116 eruptions both red & white, were common, altho the patients were kept very cool, & their apartments well ventilated. The white eruption was the most frequent, & was much elevated above the skin, & contained a pellucid117 fluid. Delyrium which was mostly of the low kind did not appear to be affected by the eruption. Deafness in the decline of the disease was common, & in one instance was idiotsy. Tremors, & slight subsultus tendinum118 occurred at different stages of the disease, but by no means in consequence of delibility; and were frequently removed by blood letting. Blood drawn from a vein was almost invariable covered with a thick coat, as blue as indigo, & it was very common for an extravasation119 to take place around the orifice.
Dissection.—This was performed on a negro man 36 years of age; who had been attacked with the usual symptoms, except the pain, instead of being round the umbilicus,120 was in the left side, & higher up. After being sick a week or more he got much better, & thot himself nearly well, but owing to some imprudence the symptoms recurred, (which was frequently the case) He now had diarrhoea; his pulse was large, & tolerably strong, & continued so till the last. Appetite good; thirst not considerable; was extremely deaf, & was delyrious. The pain in his side had disappeared for a fortnight before his death. Four or 5 days before his death he was attacked with Singultus,121 which was most trouble-some in the night, but it recurred frequently thro the day. On opening the body the concave part of the left lobe of the liver was considerably inflamed. The vessicula fellis122 about half full of dark green coloured bile. The external coat of the stomach on the left side very much inflam'd, to the size of the hand. The internal coat exhibited no marks of inflammation. It contained about a pound & a half of viscid123 fluid. The spleen large, & very firm. The mesocolon124 near the part of the stomach most inflamed, of a dark brown, or rather dirty appearance, was semi-putrescent; & easily torn by taking it between the finger & thumb. In the external coat of the Duodenum125 there were several
115 A single tertian fever is one in which there is a paroxysm each third day.
116 An eruption marked by the formation of spots or vesicles resembling millet seeds.
117 Transparent or translucent.
118 A convulsive muscular twitching.
119 The spread of blood into surrounding tissues.
122 Vesicula fellis or gall bladder.
123 Sticky, viscuous, glutinous.
124 A fold of peritoneum joined to the colon.
125 The part of the small intestine which receives the bile and pancreatic ducts.
|black spots, evidently in a gangrenous state. The inner coat of the intestine appeared to be thickened; The colon126 very much inflated. Near the spleen & on the mesocolon was a tumour the size of a Hickory nut, of the colour & consistence of the Spleen. The Diaphragm slightly inflamed in the part immediately over the inflamed part of the stomach. The other parts as far as was discovered, were in a natural State. From this dissection, & the similitude of symptoms in this & most other cases, it may fairly be infered that an inflamation, more or less considerable did exist in nearly every case. & we may further infer from it and some other cases where the usual fixed pain in the umbilical region was not present, but having all the other symtoms, that internal inflammation may exist without pain That the inflammation in all those cases, must have affected the external coat only is evident from the absence of sick stomach in many cases, where the pain was very great.|
Plan of Cure.—Blood letting was the first thing that was necessary; & was repeated according to circumstances, four or five times & in some few cases seven or eight times.127 The first bleeding was generally considerable; the quantity in subsequent bleedings was varied from six to 12oz. The operation was not confined to the early stages of the disease. but was frequently necessary at an advanced period. The principal indication for the use of the lancet was the pain in the umbilical region, which it always relieved more or less; the pulse, from being small, & contracted as before described, became larger, Softer & fuller; oftentimes quite tense from the effects of this operation. The blood drawn soon coagulated, & almost inveriably had a thick blue coagulum128 on the top, which formed very soon after it was drawn. The morning after the bleeding a cathartic was administered—& was repeated once in two or three days, as the symptoms required. Cooling medicines of different descriptions were also given; but as sweats in no instance appeared to prove critical diaphoretics129 were not used with the intention of promoting that discharge. Emetics sometimes had a good effect & created a desire for food soon after their operation. Opiates, which were early used with a view to mitigate the pains in the abdomen, were at no time found beneficial. Blisters had a fine effect, but it was most evident after the disease had continued ten or 15 days. Bark was seldom admissible except in the last stages; it was then useful in promoting the appetite & supporting the vis vela;130 & was used in several cases with good effect when the pain in the abdomen continued till a very late period, when evacuations could no longer be had recourse to from the extreme debility of the patient, & without any apparent bad effect on the pain . . .
[To be continued]
126 That part of the large intestine extending from the caecum to the rectum.
127 A procedure much in vogue in former years. Now the conditions brought about by its use are generally induced by other means, and its indiscriminate use has fallen out of flavor with the medical profession.
128 A coagulated mass or substance.
129 Having the power to increase perspiration.
130 “Vis vitae,” vital force.