The economy of Franklin County on the eve of the Civil War was based largely on agriculture, but census takers in 1860 recorded interesting information about a variety of small manufacturing enterprises. The census reflected operations during the year ending June 1, 1860.
The Tar River and some of the county’s numerous streams provided power for at least seven mills. Most of these, such as the ones owned by John D. Hawkins, Joshua Perry, and Thomas Davis, ground corn and wheat into corn meal and flour. Perry had invested $10,000 in his mill and ground flour and meal valued at $22,000. He employed two men. It is interesting to note that the census omits Clifton’s Mill, which had been listed in the 1850 census, and several others that appeared on William N. Fuller’s Township Map of Franklin County, North Carolina (ca. 1868).
At least four saw mills produced lumber. Three of these likely were associated with grist mills. They were owned by A. S. Perry, whose Cascine Plantation was located on Cedar Creek; William Jeffreys, who lived in the Harris District, near the Wake County line; and W. H. Williams, who lived in the Franklinton District. The firm of Marshall and Rainey had invested $1,500 in its steam-powered saw mill. This company sawed logs worth $2,000 into lumber valued at $4,000.
The Harris District was home also to a hat factory owned by John Y. Stinson and Charles H. Horton. Stinson, a 34-year-old Virginian, had accumulated a personal estate of nearly $5,000. He and his younger partner, a North Carolinian, lived in the same household with two free black hat makers named Linsey Pulley and Harry Dunstan. Elizabeth Pulley, 21, who may have been Linsey’s wife or sister, worked as a domestic servant in the same household. Using wool and dye valued at $4,000, the factory produced 6,000 wool hats worth $6,800.
The Franklinton area, buoyed by the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad, supported at least two cabinetmakers. John Young, 67, and two male employees made beds, bureaus, tables, and other furniture valued at $1,000. The firm of Wiggins and Long began operations on January 1, 1860. By June, the company, which employed three men, had crafted 170 beds valued at $680 and bureaus and tables worth $250.
Two coach factories supplied buggies, sulkies, carriages, carts, and wagons to area residents. The firm of Dement, Pitman & Co. in Franklinton, owned by Albert L. Dement and James A. Pitman, commenced operations on January 1, 1860. Willis Holt Furgurson’s factory in Louisburg had been in business at least since 1857. Furgurson had invested $20,000 in this operation and employed twelve men. During the year ending June 1, 1860, the company had made 150 buggies and 30 carriages, turning a profit of $10,000.
Additional businesses included three tanneries, two turpentine distilleries, a shoe shop, and two machine shops. Cotton, tobacco, livestock, and other farm commodities contributed far more to the financial wellbeing of the county’s citizens, but a small number of enterprising individuals made an effort to diversify the local economy.
Published in The Franklin Times on November 19, 2015.
Maury York is director of the Tar River Center for History and Culture at Louisburg College and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.