Skip to main contentAccessibility feedback

North Carolina

The state

Click to enlarge

North Carolina, one of the original thirteen States of the United States, is situated between 33° 53′ and 36° 33′ N. lat., and 75° 25′ and 84° 30′ W. long. It is bounded on the north by Virginia, east and southeast by the Atlantic Ocean, south by South Carolina and Georgia, and west and northwest by Tennessee. Its extreme length from east to west is 503 miles, with an extreme breadth of 187 miles, and an average breadth of about 100 miles. Its area is 52,250 square miles, of which 3670 is water. Originally it included the present State of Tennessee, ceded to the United States in 1790. In 1784-5 the people of that section made an unsuccessful effort to set up an independent state named Franklin, with John Sevier as governor. It is divided into ninety-eight counties and has (1910) ten Congressional districts, with a population of 2,206,287. The capital is Raleigh, situated nearly in the geographical center of the state; the principal cities are Wilmington, Charlotte, Asheville, Greensboro, and Winston.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS.—North Carolina has a remarkable variety of topography, soil, climate, and production and falls naturally into three divisions. The eastern or. Tidewater section begins at the ocean and extends northwestwardly to the foot of the hills; the land is level, with sluggish streams and many marshes and swamps, including part of the great Dismal Swamp. It is the home of the long leaf pine, with its products of pitch, tar, and turpentine, long a source of wealth. The principal productions are cotton, corn, and rice; while “truck gardening” has recently grown into an important industry. The fisheries are also valuable. The central or Piedmont section, comprising nearly half the state and extending westward to the eastern foot of the Blue Ridge, is more or less hilly, but the rich intervening valleys produce practically all the general crops, including cotton and tobacco, with fruits of all kinds. The soil, though not naturally rich, is capable of a high degree of cultivation. The westward section, which runs to the Tennessee line, is mostly mountainous, with rich valleys and sheltered coves. Its principal productions are those of the central section, modified somewhat by its greater elevation. It contains some lofty peaks, Mount Mitchell being the highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains. The state is well watered, having numerous rivers, which, though not generally navigable, in their rapid descent furnish enormous water-power, much of which has been recently developed. They may be divided into three classes, those flowing indirectly into the Mississippi, those flowing into the Great Pedee and the Santee, and those flowing into the Atlantic. The coast line, nearly four hundred miles long, includes Capes Fear, Lookout, and Hatteras; and, at varying distances from the ocean, run a series of sounds, chief of which are Currituck, Albemarle, and Pamlico. There are good harbors at Edenton, New Bern, Washington, Beaufort, and Wilmington, including Southport. The climate is generally equable, and North Carolina produces nearly all the crops grown in the United States with the exception of sub-tropical cane and fruits. Four of the wine grapes, the Catawba, Isabella, Lincoln, and Scuppernong, originated here. It has also large areas of valuable timber of great variety. With a few rare exceptions all the known minerals are found in the state. In 1905, taking the fourteen leading industries, including about 90 per cent of the total, there were 3272 manufacturing establishments, with a capital of $141,639,000, producing yearly products of the value of $142,520,776. The principal manufactured product was cotton, in which North Carolina ranked third among all the States, and tobacco, in which she ranked second.

RAILROADS AND BANKS.—There are in operation within the State 4387 miles of railroads, besides 911 miles of sidings, with a total valuation of $86,347,553, but capitalized for a much larger amount. The state has 321 banks organized under the state law; with an aggregate capital stock of $7,692,767; and 69 national banks with a capital of $6,760,000. The entire recognized state debt is $6,880,950, the greater part of which could be paid by the sale of certain railroad stock held by the state.

HISTORY.—North Carolina was originally inhabited by various tribes of Indians, the three principal ones being the Tuscaroras in the east, the Catawbas in the center, and the Cherokees in the west. A small body of Cherokees is still located in the mountain section. In 1584 Queen Elizabeth granted to Sir Walter Raleigh the right to discover and hold any lands not inhabited by Christian people. This charter constitutes the first step in the work of English colonization in America. Five voyages were made under it, but without success in establishing a permanent settlement. In 1663 Charles II granted to Sir George Carteret and seven others a stretch of land on the Atlantic coast, lying between Virginia and Florida, and running west to the South Seas. The grantees were created “absolute lords proprietors” of the province of Carolina, with full powers to make and execute such laws as they deemed proper. This grant was enlarged in 1665 both as to territory and jurisdiction, and in 1669 the lords proprietors promulgated the “Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina”, framed by John Locke, the philosopher, but they proved too theoretical for practical operation. The lords proprietors made every effort to colonize their province, which already contained one or two small settlements and for which they appointed governors at various times, frequently with local councils. Albemarle, the name originally given to what now constitutes North Carolina, was augmented by settlements from Virginia, New England, and Bermuda. In 1674 the population was about four thousand. In 1729, Carolina became a royal province, the king having purchased from the proprietors seven-eighths of their domain. Carteret, subsequently Earl Granville, surrendered his right of jurisdiction, but retained in severalty his share of the land. It gained considerable accessions in population by a colony of Swiss at New Bern, of Scotch Highlanders on Cape Fear, of Moravians at Salem, and of Scotch-Irish and Pennsylvania Dutch, who settled in different parts of the state. For many years, however, there has been very little immigration and the population is now essentially homogeneous.

The people of North Carolina were among the earliest and most active promoters of the Revolution. The Stamp Tax was bitterly resented; a provincial congress, held at New Bern, elected delegates to the first Continental Congress in September, 1774, and joined in the declaration of Colonial rights. As early as May 20, 1775, a committee of citizens met in Charlotte and issued the “Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence”, formally renouncing allegiance to the British Crown. In December, 1776, the provincial congress at Halifax adopted a State constitution which immediately went into effect, with Richard Caswell as governor. The delegates from this state signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation. In 1786 the General Assembly elected delegates to the Federal Constitutional Convention and its delegates present signed the Constitution; but the General Assembly did not ratify it until November 21, 1789, after the Federal Government had been organized and gone into operation. During the Revolution the state furnished the Continental army with 22,910 men. Important battles were fought at Guilford Court House (between Green and Cornwallis, March 15, 1781), Alamance, Moore’s Creek, Ramsour’s Mill, and King’s Mountain on the state line. There was a predominant Union sentiment in North Carolina in the early part of 1861; and at an election held February 28, the people voted against calling a convention for the purpose of secession; but after the firing on Fort Sumter and the actual beginning of the war, a convention, called by the Legislature without submission to the people, met on May 20, 1861, passed an ordinance of secession, and ratified the Confederate Constitution. Fort Fisher was the only important battle fought in the state. The State sent 125,000 soldiers into the Civil War, the largest number sent by any southern state. In 1865 a provisional government was organized by President Johnson, and later the state came under the Reconstruction Act passed by Congress, March 2, 1867. On July 11, 1868, the state government was restored by proclamation of the president.

The Constitution of 1776 had some remarkable provisions. It allowed free negroes to vote because they were “freemen”, all slaves, of course, being disfranchised because in law they were considered chattels. Any freeman could vote for the members of the House of Commons; but must own fifty acres of land to vote for a senator, who must himself own at least three hundred acres, and a member at least one hundred acres. The governor must own a freehold of five thousand dollars in value. The borough towns of Edenton, New Bern, Wilmington, Salisbury, Hillsboro, and Halifax were each allowed a separate member in the House of Commons apart from the counties. It declared: “That all men have a natural and inalienable right to worship Almighty God, according to the dictates of their own conscience”; but that no person who denied the truth of the Protestant religion should hold any civil office of trust or profit. No clergyman or preacher of any denomination should be a member of either house of the Legislature while continuing in the exercise of his pastoral functions. All of these provisions, except the declaration of religious freedom, have since been abandoned. The Convention of 1835 adopted many amendments, ratified in 1836; among others, all persons of negro blood to the fourth generation were disfranchised; and the Protestant qualification for office omitted. The Constitution of 1868 restored negro suffrage, but in 1900 amendments, adopted by the Legislature and ratified by the people, provided that every qualified voter should have paid his poll tax and be able to read and write any section of the Constitution; but that any person entitled to vote on or prior to January 1, 1867, or his lineal descendant, might register on a permanent roll until November 1, 1908. This is called the “Grandfather Clause”.

EDUCATION.—In early times there were no schools; private teachers furnishing the only means of education. Beginning about 1760, several private classical schools were established in different parts of the state, the most prominent being Queen’s College at Charlotte, subsequently called Liberty Hall. The State University was opened for students in February, 1795; but want of means and a scattered population prevented any public school system until long after the Revolution. The Civil War seriously interfered with all forms of education; but the entire educational system is now in a high state of efficiency. The following are under State control, but receive aid from tuition fees and donations: the State University, situated at Chapel Hill, endowment, $250,000; total income, $160,000; annual State appropriation, $75,000; faculty, 101; students, 821; the North Carolina State Normal and Industrial College for women at Greensboro, founded in 1891, buildings, 13; annual State appropriation, $75,000; faculty, 63; students, 613; North Carolina College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts at West Raleigh, opened in 1889, annual State appropriation, $37,000; annual Federal appropriation, $49,450; faculty, 42; students, 446; the Agricultural and Mechanical College for the colored race at Greensboro, annual State appropriation, $10,000; annual Federal appropriation, $11,550; faculty, 14; students, 173. A training school for white teachers has just been established at Greenville. There are three State Normal Schools for the colored race. The official reports of public schools for the year 1908-9 show a total school population of whites, 490,-710; colored, 236,855; schoolhouses, 7670; white teachers, 8129; colored teachers, 2828; total available fund, $3,419,103. There are a large number of flourishing denominational colleges both for men and women, several of which belong to the colored race. Among the State institutions are: a large central penitentiary, three hospitals for insane, three schools for deaf, dumb, and blind, and a tuberculosis sanitarium.

RELIGIOUS CONDITIONS.—Under the lords proprietors there was much religious discrimination and even persecution; but there was little under the Crown except as to holding office and celebrating the rite of matrimony. The disqualification for office involved in denying the truth of the Protestant religion remained in the Constitution until the Convention of 1835. In 1833 William Gaston, a Catholic of great ability and noble character, was elected associate justice of the Supreme Court for life. Regarding the religious disqualification as legally and morally invalid, he promptly took his seat without opposition. While still remaining on the bench, he was elected a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1835, and attended its session. His great speech against any religious discrimination was conclusive, and the obnoxious clause was stricken out of the Constitution. Since then there has been no legal discrimination against Catholics. All persons denying the existence of Almighty God have been disqualified from holding office under every constitution. The preamble to the present Constitution recognizes the dependence of the people upon Almighty God and their gratitude to Him for the existence of their civil, political, and religious liberties. The Legislature is opened with prayer. The law requires the observance of Sunday, and punishes any disturbance of religious congregations. The following are legal holidays: January 1; January 19 (Lee’s birthday); February 22, April 12 (anniversary of Halifax Resolution); May 10 (Confederate Decoration Day) ‚Ä¢ May 20(anniversary Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence); July 4; 1st Monday in September (Labor Day); general election day in November; Thanksgiving; and Christmas. Neither Sundays nor holidays are regarded as diei non except in certain limited cases. Religious bodies may become incorporated either under the general law or by special act. If not specifically incorporated they are regarded as quasi corporations, and may exercise many corporate powers. The Protestant Episcopal bishop has been created a corporation sole by special act of the Legislature. All real and personal property used exclusively for religious, charitable, or educational purposes, as also property whose income is so used, is exempt from taxation. Ministers of the Gospel are exempt from jury duty and their private libraries from taxation. The only privileged communications recognized are those between lawyers and their clients, and physicians and their patients. There is no statute allowing this exemption to priests, and therefore they stand as at common law; but there is no recorded instance in which they have ever been asked to reveal the secrets of the confessional.

MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE.—Originally in this colony legally valid marriages could be solemnized only by ministers of the Church of England, of whom there were few, nearly all in the eastern part of the colony. In 1715 this power was conferred upon the governor; in 1741 upon justices of the peace; in 1766 upon ministers of the Presbyterian Church, and finally in 1778 upon the ministers of all denominations. The ceremony can now be performed by an ordained minister of any religious denomination or a justice of the peace; and the peculiar marriage custom of the Friends is recognized as valid. Males under sixteen and females under fourteen are legally incapable of marriage, and all marriages of those related by consanguinity closer than the degree of first cousin, and between whites and negroes or Indians are void. A marriage license is required, and the Registrar is forbidden by law to issue licenses for the marriage of any one under eighteen years of age without written consent of the parent or one standing in loco parentis. Absolute divorce (a vinculo) may be granted for the following causes: preexisting natural and continued impotence of either party; if they shall have lived separate and apart continuously for ten years, and have no children; adultery by the wife, or pregnancy at the time of marriage unknown to husband and not by him; continued fornication and adultery by the husband. Either party may remarry, but no alimony is allowed. Divorce a mensa et toro may be granted with alimony for the following causes: if either party shall abandon his or her family, or turn the other out of doors, or shall by cruel and barbarous treatment endanger the life of the other, or shall offer such indignities to the person of the other as to make his or her life intolerable, or shall become an habitual drunkard. Upon such a divorce parties cannot remarry.

Bequests for charitable purposes must be clearly defined, as the cy-pres doctrine is not recognized; and there must be some one capable of taking the bequest. Whether a bequest for Masses would be specifically enforced by the courts, has not been decided; but it is not probable that it, would be interfered with, as the courts have never invoked the doctrine of Superstitious Uses. Cemeteries are provided for and protected by law. In administering oaths, the party sworn must “lay his hand upon the Holy Evangelists of Almighty God“; but those having conscientious scruples may appeal to God with uplifted hand; and “Quakers, Moravians, Dunkers, and Mennonites” may affirm.

PROHIBITION.—For many years prohibition sentiment has been growing until it culminated, in 1908, in the passage by the General Assembly of an act making it unlawful to make or sell any spirituous, vinous, fermented, or malt liquors within the state, except for sacramental purposes, or by a registered pharmacist on a physician’s prescription. Native ciders may be sold without restriction; and native wines at the place of manufacture in sealed or crated packages containing not less than two and a half gallons each, which must not be opened on the premises.

RELIGIOUS STATISTICS(From the Census of Religious Bodies, 1906) Denomination

All denominations

Baptist, col

Presbyter. and Refor

All Other In the above, the Catholic population was reduced by deducting 15 per cent for children under nine years of age.

NORTH CAROLINA, Vicariate Apostolic of, was canonically established and separated from the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina by Bull, March 3, 1868, with James (now Cardinal) Gibbons as first vicar. It comprised the entire state until 1910, when eight counties were attached to Belmont Abbey. The latest statistics, for the entire state, show secular priests, 17; religious, 16; churches, 15; missions, 34; stations, 47; chapels, 5; Catholics, 5870. The Apostolate Company, a corporation of secular priests at Nazareth, maintains a boys’ orphanage and industrial school, and publishes “Truth“, a monthly periodical. There is a girls’ school and sanatorium at Asheville, and hospitals at Charlotte (Sisters of Mercy) and Greensboro (Sisters of Charity). There are parochial schools at Asheville, Charlotte, Salisbury, Durham, Newton Grove, Raleigh, and Wilmington. The vicariate is subject to the Propaganda, and its present vicar is the Abbot Ordinary of Belmont.

Belmont Cathedral Abbey.—By Bull of Pius X, June 8, 1910, the Counties of Gaston, Lincoln, Cleveland, Rutherford, Polk, Burke, McDowell, and Catawba were cut off from the vicariate to form the diocese of the Cathedral Abbey at Belmont, canonically erected by Msgr. Diomede Falconio, Apostolic Delegate in the United States, on October 18, 1910. The vicariate remains under the administration of the abbot ordinary at Belmont until a diocese can be formed in the state. Belmont Abbey, situated in Gaston County, was erected into an abbey by Papal Brief dated December 19, 1884, its first abbot being Rt. Rev. Leo Haid. He was born at Latrobe, Pennsylvania, July 15, 1849, ordained priest in 1872, and served as chaplain and professor in St. Vincent’s Abbey until 1885. Appointed Vicar Apostolic of North Carolina in 1887, he was consecrated titular Bishop of Messene July 1, 1888. The abbey itself has many extra-territorial dependencies, i.e. military colleges in Savannah, Georgia and Richmond, Virginia, and parishes in both of these cities, besides various missions in the state itself; and forms legal corporations in Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia. To it also is attached a college for secular education and a seminary for the secular and regular clergy. To the abbey proper belong 32 priests, 2 deacons, 6 clerics in minor orders, and 37 lay brothers. At Belmont is also a college for the higher education of women under the Sisters of Mercy, with 60 pupils, an orphanage for girls and a preparatory school for little boys.

Prominent Catholics.—Though there are few Catholics in the state, an unusual proportion have occupied prominent official positions. Thomas Burke was governor, and William Gaston, M. E. Manly, and R. M. Douglas were associate justices of the Supreme Court. R. R. Heath, W. A. Moore, and W. S. O’B. Robinson were Superior Court judges, and R. D. Douglas attorney general. Prominent benefactors were Dr. D. O’Donaghue, Lawrence Brown, and Raphael Guasterino. Mrs. Francis C. Tiernan (Christian Reid) is a native of North Carolina.


Did you like this content? Please help keep us ad-free
Enjoying this content?  Please support our mission!