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Frank Vaughan, The Albemarle District of North Carolina, 1895

Following the arrival of the Norfolk-Southern Railroad in 1881, Elizabeth City sustained a tremendous growth. Foremost among their industries was lumber, but soon others also began to thrive from the boom. Because of its proximity to Kitty Hawk and its available service, the Wrights often purchased many of their commercial wares in Elizabeth City. In fact, Bill Tate personally assumed the responsibility for arranging the purchase and transportation of many materials. Furthermore, after Wilburís first travails, movement to and from Kitty Hawk and Elizabeth City became routine. This publication documents some of the historical changes experienced by the Albemarle Region up until 1895.

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Timber Lands.

The mainland of the Albemarle district, comprising the greater part of the thirteen counties named and extending westwardly from the sound shores to the Roanoke River, covers an area of about two and one-half millions of square acres, or four thousand square miles, and' contains a population at the present time estimated at one hundred and forty thousand souls, of whom about three-fifths are of the white race and the remaining two fifths of the colored race. Of this whole number not more than three hundred are foreign born. About fifty thousand are immigrants from other States of the Union; the rest are native born Carolinians.

Fully one-third of the territory of the district is still covered with virgin forests of pine, cypress, juniper (white cedar), poplar (whitewood), gum, oak, ash, maple, walnut, hickory and other kinds of timber that are well known in the trades and that make up a considerable item of the world's commerce. Much of these timbered lands, especially in the eastern portions of .the district, is in broad levels, elevated from five to fifteen feet above the sound surface: Westward from these levels the lands are higher and ridgy, and still further westward the country becomes still higher and more undulating-in a word, the land has a gradual ascent from the coast westward, which condition, in fact, con. tinues until the lofty mountain ranges in the western part of the State are reached. The lower levels produce the cypress and juniper (or white cedar of commerce)-in immense quantities. Here are unbroken forests in places of fifty to one hundred and fifty thousand acres, densely covered with these and many other kinds of valuable timber. Pine grows in greatest perfection on the sandy ridge lands, and vast areas of "North Carolina yellow pine" are still standing in the district awaiting the woodman's ax. Billions of feet of it have already been cut and moved away, yet billions of feet still remain.

Cypress is of slow growth, consequently the older and, best of it is

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becoming continually scarcer. Juniper, on the other hand, grows rapidly, and a forest of it cut away to-day will be reproduced as good as ever within thirty years ; pine, too, is of quick growth on land especially adapted to it; consequently there is "no end" of these quick-growth timbers, except where they are entirely cleared away and the lands put into cultivation.

Oak, hickory, ash, gum, beech, walnut, etc., grow to greatest perfection on harder, stiffer lands that have much of clay in their composition. These woods, it is well known, are used extensively in the manufacture of furniture, as well as for many other purposes.

Capitalists, chiefly from the Middle and Northern States, have come into the district and purchased immense tracts of these forest lands, established mills upon them, built railroads through them, and keep constantly employed great numbers of laborers, cutting arid hauling the timber and manufacturing.and kilndrying it and shipping it to the markets. Some idea of the magnitude of this business and the amount of ready capital required to carry it on may be had when it is known that one of the lumber companies operating in the counties of Washington, Tyrell and elsewhere in the district is the owner in fee or fully 3oo,ooo acres of land and has in constant employment hundreds of men ; at times more than 1000 men. Another company, operating in Dare and Tyrell has 2oo,ooo acres of land and employs great numbers of men. Many other companies own from 20,000 to 100,000 acres each and operate extensive mills and employ many men. Some of these companies have built and equipped railroads to carry their timber at a cost in several instances of from $200,000 to $300,000.

There are still vast tracts of these lands that can be purchased at reasonable prices.

These great enterprises have in many ways proved to be a blessing to the country. They have been the cause of the building of a number of railroads, and the establishment of many lines of steamboats which ply regularly between all important points on the rivers and sounds. The towns that were in existence before the coming of these capitalists have greatly increased in population and importance, and other towns and villages have sprung into being Towns that languished have become centers of active trade, and a whole region of country that was hidden as it were from the busy, world has been rendered easily accessible to the markets far and near. The people have gained information that has been and will continue to-be of inestimable benefit to them. Mail routes have been established in every direction, rendering easy and convenient communication with every quarter of the land. The farmer, the mechanic, the builder and the teacher. have learned and adopted new and better modes, and progress and advance are seen everywhere.

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Farms are better fenced and cultivated; the highways are kept in better condition, houses for habitation are built after better designs, and more comfortably and conveniently arranged. It is plain to see that those high walls that surrounded our beautiful Albemarle country, hiding it from m the world's view, are tottering and crumbling away, permitting the sunlight of a higher civilization to beam in on as fair a region as heaven ever created on .earth-a region destined to become, under the refining hand of art, guided by science, far more beautiful still, and not less enlightened than any section of country in our glorious America.

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Citation: Vaughan, Frank. 1895. The Albemarle District of North Carolina.
Location: North Carolina Collection, Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858 USA
Call Number:NoCar F 259 V38 1998a   Display Catalog Record

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Page Updated 03 September 2004
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