LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

map of North Carolina towns, 1860

North Carolina towns, with population as listed in the 1860 census. Note that to make the map readable, we've made the towns appear much larger than they really were. (Click the map for a closer look.) (More about the map)

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?

Population of North Carolina towns, 1860
Town County Population
Free Slave Total
White Colored Total
Beaufort Carteret 972 59 1031 579 1610
Charlotte Mecklenburg 1366 74 1440 825 2265
Elizabeth City Pasquotank 952 217 1169 626 1798
Fayetteville Cumberland 2806 465 3271 1519 4790
Goldsboro Wayne 512 25 5337 348 885
Greenville Pitt 304 14 318 510 828
Halifax Halifax 146 46 192 ? ?
Henderson Granville 714 22 736 1225 1961
Hendersonville Henderson 353 5 358 1382 1740
Kingston Lenoir 662 36 698 635 1333
Lincolnton Lincoln 482 14 496 352 848
Mockville Davie 200 20 310 400 710
Monroe Union 232 7 239 ? ?
Murfreesboro Hertford 394 72 466 ? ?
Newbern Craven 2360 689 3049 2383 5432
Oxford Granville 364 62 426 452 878
Plymouth Washington 409 62 471 401 872
Raleigh Wake 2693 466 3159 4621 4780
Salisbury Rowan 1267 80 1347 1073 2420
Tarboro Edgecomb 453 65 518 530 1048
Thomasville Davidson 220 0 220 88 308
Warrenton Warren 719 81 800 720 1520
Williamston Martin 242 10 252 364 616
Wilmington New Hanover 5202 573 5775 3777 9552
Wilson Wilson 527 33 560 400 960