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Eastern Carolina Chamber of Commerce (Kinston, N.C.)
Eastern North Carolina, Where Prosperity is Perennial, Invites You!
Kinston, N.C.: Eastern Carolina Chamber of Commerce, [1924?].

Summary

The twentieth century brought sweeping and significant changes to North Carolina. Railroads, automobiles, education, and electricity helped facilitate movement and growth at unprecedented rates. The so-called "Progressive Era" in North Carolina (and beyond), lasting through the late nineteenth century and into the 1920s, saw a desire for a "reform of social, work, and general living conditions for women, immigrants and the poor" (Gregory). North Carolina saw a particular focus on quality of life issues, including public health and prohibition (Gregory). Eastern North Carolina, Where Prosperity is Perennial, Invites You!, published around 1924 by the Eastern Carolina Chamber of Commerce, encouraged Americans to move to Eastern North Carolina and experience its improvements while adding to its development.

The authors envisioned the booklet as an "Encyclopedia of Eastern North Carolina" which contained only "authentic" information reviewed by the Eastern Carolina Chamber of Commerce to ensure it contained "no extravagant statements" (p. 1). Divided into numerous subsections, Eastern North Carolina begins with a "few facts about the State as a whole," (p. 2). Noting that "no state in the Union has made such rapid increase industrially, agriculturally, and educationally as North Carolina, during the recent years," the booklet posits that Eastern North Carolina includes 46 counties and "half the State" and thus "has her share" of the rapid improvement (p. 2). The booklet then devotes large sections of text to selected Eastern North Carolina counties, written by local correspondents.

Beginning with Bertie County, the booklet states that "the home-seeker and investor" will find "a pleasant land, a hospitable people, a productive soil, a low valuation of property, and a low tax rate; good schools, convenient churches, and a warm welcome" (p. 3). With "nearly a half million acres of land," Bertie County has "room for all who wish to better themselves" (p. 3). Register of Deeds S. W. Kenney concludes this section by reminding readers that, in Bertie County, "the southern practice of hospitality still abides" (p. 5).

Subsequent counties receive similar descriptions, highlighting their unique selling features. Register of Deeds Jason J. Bowden introduces the merits of Duplin County via text and photographs. Located in the southeastern corner of North Carolina, the county reportedly has "an ideal climate for farming" and is populated by "the purest American stock" (p. 6). Expressing a seemingly xenophobic attitude not uncommon for the era, Bowden states that the population includes "Scotch, English, and Swiss" descendents, but "no undesirable aliens" (p. 8). The Secretary of the local Chamber of Commerce provides information on Edgecombe County, which "Has an Ideal Climate and Assures Four Distinct Seasons" (p. 9). The writer notes that it was settled in 1719, spanned 306,756 acres, and boasted 37,995 residents at the time of the 1920 census (p. 9). Subsequent sections outline the taxable wealth, railroads, public roads, public schools, churches, towns, and county officers. The booklet also contains a large section of text and pictures devoted to Greene County. Containing "every variety" of soil but dominated by "a light friable loam," much of the county "is easy to till at all seasons of the year" (p. 14). The county also boasts "improvement to its roads and improvement of its school system," two railroads, and a "wide-awake and progressive" county seat with "streets and sidewalks" and "a modern water and sewer system" (p. 15).

An unnamed Register of Deeds introduces Halifax County, which "abounds in opportunities awaiting development" (p. 17). Historically significant, the County was the site of the "first state capital" and the location "where the first state constitution was written" (p. 17). It also "ranks among the first counties in the State in material wealth, school facilities, and good roads" (p. 17). Its location by the "mighty and noble Roanoke" River gives it "an abundance of waterpower" and electricity, allowing for the "largest damask mills in the world" (p. 17).Similar reviews can be found for Johnston County (with a need for "more good farmers and more industries"), Jones County ("where you have the opportunity to make money all the year round, where there is no long, unproductive winter"), and Lenoir County (seeking to modernize its agricultural practices) (pp. 22, 26). Nash County (a pioneer in the health industry with a "whole-time health officer, and a county nurse"), Pender County (a good "investment as a summer resort, fishing for sport and commercial purposes"), Pitt County (where "any line of farming [is] attractive") and Wayne County ("With Favorable Climatic Conditions and an Unsurpassed System of Good Roads") are also discussed at length (pp. 31, 37, 41, 45).

Sampson County, located receives a large section due in part to its status as home of Clinton, the County Seat. The second largest county in the State at the time, Sampson had nine incorporated towns, as well as "creditable schools and churches" throughout (p. 42). With over "400 miles of improved highways," Sampson was reportedly one of the easiest counties to explore (p. 42). Largely agricultural, the county also boasts a "progressive county government" and a lower tax rate, as well as a health office, trained nurses, and a "Welfare Officer . . . for operations and treatment of venereal diseases" (p. 43). The county also has the possibility to "develop unlimited water power but the chief source for power and light is a high tension transmission electric line" which "affords unlimited amount of power for lights and all manufacturing purposes" (p. 44).

In the middle of the county reports, a short section on "Pecans in North Carolina" can be found. Noting that pecans are "the oldest food crop in the South," the writer foresees a change "from animal to vegetable" in the American diet, "the primal factor of which will be nuts" (p. 12). North Carolina has a "peculiar adaptability" for growing pecans, "the choicest of all nuts," and "the agricultural forces of the State" vow to plant "a million pecan trees in Eastern North Carolina in the next four years" (p. 12). Noting that "the South has a greater monopoly of the pecan than of cotton," the author encourages new growers to settle in North Carolina (p. 13).

The document also contains several other non-county-specific sections discussing Eastern North Carolina as a potential dairy locus, the possibilities for "truck and fruit growing," the possibilities for pork production in the area, and the cities of Kinston and Goldsboro (p. 33). A.C. Kimrey of the North Carolina Dairy Extension notes that a successful dairy sector must have "soil and weather conditions that will make it possible to economically produce an abundance of feed" (p. 23). Possessing both the appropriate soil and climate, Eastern North Carolina also has an expansive local market for distribution, as well as an accessible creamery for generating dairy products for outside markets. What Kimrey finds lacking are quality cows and "dairy minded" farmers; he thus encourages families to move with their livestock to the area to greatly increase Eastern North Carolina’s dairy production.

C.D. Matthews, the Chief of the North Carolina Division of Horticulture, discusses "truck and fruit growing" (referring to fruit and vegetable crops that can be loaded onto and distributed by truck) (p. 33). Eastern North Carolina is alluring for such growers given its "comparatively cheap lands, and close proximity to the consuming markets of the East and South" (p. 33). The climate and markets support a large variety of crops, and Matthews discusses several at length, including Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, watermelons, cantaloupes, cucumbers, English peas, asparagus, string beans, spinach, strawberries, grapes, figs and pecans.

W. W. Shay of the "Charge Office of Swine Investigation" finds that "the possibilities of profit from the production in North Carolina of pork of a high quality are exceeded by those of no other state of which we have made a study" (p. 48). He acknowledges that the right farmer will have to be able to grow large corn crops and know how to watch the hog market to ensure not flooding the market at the wrong time and thus dropping the prices for pork. But, with a reported 12,612,808 acres of uncultivated land in Eastern North Carolina, Shay acknowledges the possibility for large, sustainable growth (p. 49).

Kinston and Goldsboro, two important North Carolina cities at the time, receive their own sections as well. Kinston is the county seat of Lenoir County, located on the Neuse River "in the heart of the bright leaf tobacco belt" (p. 28). Served by four rail lines, the city is also serviced by "the finest system of hard surfaced roads" and a water and light plant (p. 28). The city is home to "two cotton mills, a hosiery mill, a packing plant, several lumber plants, five tobacco factories, and iron and mantle works, three ice cream plants" and many smaller industries (p. 28). The town welcomes new industrial plants, "especially those using as raw materials, agricultural and forest products" (p. 29). Goldsboro is the "leading manufacturing city of Eastern North Carolina" and the "Gate City of Eastern North Carolina from the Entire West" (p. 45). Developing rapidly, the city went from have 4,000 residents and a tax valuation of $6,000,000 in 1920 to 14,500 residents and a tax valuation of $20,000,000 in 1923 (p. 45). Its industry centered around the manufacturing of brick, veneer, cotton yarn, hosiery and lumber, and its railway accessibility made it "possible to serve eighty per cent of the entire State of North Carolina over a lone line haul" (p. 46). Goldsboro lists among its selling features "fourteen churches for whites," "eleven public schools," "well equipped parks and playgrounds, physical directors, a Boy Scout instructor, a Girl Scout instructor, and a Community Service building," a "Public Health and Sanitation Bureau," and an orphanage (pp. 46-47).

Researchers interested in any of the regions listed above, or in the agricultural or industrial development of eastern North Carolina will find extensive information in the 50-page booklet Eastern North Carolina, Where Prosperity is Perennial, Invites You!

Works Consulted: Gregory, Lisa, "Twentieth Century Overview," NCPedia, 24 March 2010, accessed 1 January, 2011.

Meredith Malburne-Wade

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