A lengthy, heavily illustrated article that appeared in the Raleigh News and Observer on Sept. 5, 1897, describes the impressive growth that was taking place in Youngsville.
Penned by Falconer B. Arendell, who a few years later served as general manager of the State Prison in Raleigh, the article provides interesting details concerning local businesses and the agricultural economy that underpinned the town's rapid development.
Located on the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad, which by the late 1890s was part of the Seaboard Air-Line Railroad, the town's post office had been known as Pacific.
Later, the railroad station was designated Youngsville, which created considerable confusion. To rectify this, the General Assembly in 1875 incorporated the town as Youngsville, in honor of John Young.
Youngsville grew rapidly during the 1890s. The population, which stood at 205 in 1890, reached 345 ten years later.
At the time the article was written, those who wished to move to Youngsville or to open businesses there could not find "a house of any kind ... for rent, not a dwelling, not a store, not a warehouse, blacksmith shop, not even an outhouse that ... [was] not occupied or utilized for residential and business purposes ... ."
To address this need, leaders had organized a "co-operative movement" to build new houses. Ivey W. Riddick, a popular and energetic physician, played an important role in much of the development that took place.
Rich farmland in the area produced cotton and bright tobacco - cash crops that fueled Youngsville's growth.
Cotton buyers operated a small cotton market that handled from 5,000 to 8,000 bales a year.
Like many towns in central and eastern North Carolina during the 1890s, Youngsville, in 1896, established a tobacco market. Experienced tobacconists from other tobacco towns assisted local investors in the market's development.
The Harris Warehouse and the Eagle Warehouse handled a million pounds of tobacco the first year.
Other individuals worked as tobacco buyers and operated a "leaf factory" (prizery).
Notable among the tobacco men were E.W. Harris of Henderson and members of the Cheatham family, who moved to Youngsville from Oxford.
The thriving community supported several mercantile firms, including one operated by J.D. Duke, known as the "Duke of Youngsville." Dealing primarily in drugs and medicines, he built the first brick store in town.
Walter Riddick operated a pharmacy.
The Seaboard Air-Line Railroad had a significant impact on Youngsville's development. It handled freight destined for Portsmouth, Va, and served passengers as well.
People who came to Youngsville by rail could find overnight accommodations at hotels operated by W.T. Young and E.W. Harris.
According to Lib Cheatham, a local historian who wrote an article about Youngsville's tobacco market for the Franklin County Sketchbook (1982), Youngsville continued to flourish during the early 20th century.
At its peak, the market handled 10 million pounds of tobacco in a season. Beginning in the early 1920s, however, decline set in. This was caused in part by improved trucks and roads, which enabled farmers to sell their tobacco for better prices elsewhere.
Published in The Franklin Times on January 23, 2014.
Maury York is director of the Tar River Center for History and Culture at Louisburg College. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Illustration credits: News and Observer (Raleigh), Sept. 5, 1897.