“Much of the limited urban growth in post-Civil War North Carolina owed to the increased manufacturing of tobacco, the South’s oldest staple crop. “In the late 19th century the state’s dominance of the expanding tobacco industry resulted from several factors — declining cotton prices that induced farmers in the Piedmont to plant more tobacco, technological developments that initiated the mass production of cigarettes, improved railroads that connected North Carolina with national and international markets, and the bold entrepreneurship of men like James B. Duke and R. J. Reynolds, who formed vast monopolies and drove less ruthless competitors from the field. The success of Duke and Reynolds brought Durham and Winston, the communities in which they located their enterprises, to the forefront of the state’s emerging urban network.”
— From “Tobacco Towns: Urban Growth and Economic Development in Eastern North Carolina” by Roger Biles in the North Carolina Historical Review (April 2007)
On this day in 1904: The north wall of Winston’s brick reservoir, built in the form of a truncated pyramid, suddenly collapses, sending tons of water rushing down Trade Street toward the railroad tracks. Within moments, the city has suffered its worst disaster. Nine people are dead, the reservoir is rubble and houses in the water’s path are woodpiles.
“A Meeting of the citizens of Forsyth County, irrespective of party, will be held… to take counsel together on the alarming condition of the country.
“South Carolina has seceded from the Union. Commissioners from Alabama and Mississippi are now at our State capital inviting North Carolina to do the same thing. A great question is now before the people — no less than Union or Disunion.
“Believing that there is safety in the voice of the people, all our fellow-citizens, without regard to party, are earnestly invited to attend.”
(signed) MANY PEOPLE
— From a placard announcing “Public Meeting at Winston…On December 29th, 1860”
Such apprehension about secession wasn’t unique to these “MANY PEOPLE.” North Carolina would become the last state to join the Confederacy, reluctantly seceding on May 20, 1861.