4.1 Towns and villages
North Carolina had a number of towns in the antebellum period — though a “town” then was far smaller than it would be today. Only two, Wilmington and New Bern, had more than 5,000 people; Raleigh and Fayetteville were the only others with more than 2,500. Today, Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina, with more than 500,000 people, and the state has 56 cities with populations over 15,000 — bigger than the largest town in 1860.
The map above and the table below show the towns listed on the Census of 1860. In addition to these towns, every county had a county seat, where court was held, and there were numerous small villages — clusters of homes and businesses around crossroads or along rivers.
Compare this with a present-day map of North Carolina. Where were the biggest towns in 1860? (Why?) Where are the biggest cities today? What important cities today weren’t even on the map in 1860? Which of the towns listed here have faded in importance, and which have continued to grow?
- Next: Occupations in 1860