New Bern (crs)
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Varying complex cultures of indigenous peoples had lived along the waterways of North Carolina for thousands of years before Europeans explored the area. New Bern was first settled by Europeans in 1710 by Swiss and German immigrants under the leadership of Christoph de Graffenried, Franz Louis Michel and John Lawson. It was named after the capital of Switzerland, Bern. The first permanent seat of the colonial government of North Carolina was located in New Bern. Following the American Revolutionary War, New Bern became the first state capital. Christoph von Graffenried ordered that the layout of the town was made into the shape of a cross, although the town is not in the shape today due to growth of the town and towns surrounding it. Tryon Palace was completed in 1770 and was the former home of British governor William Tryon. It was used as the original state capitol of newly independent North Carolina. It burned down in the 1790s. A replica, built from the original plans and on the original foundation, is now maintained as a historic site and tourist attraction. During the 19th century Federal period, New Bern was the largest city in North Carolina. After Raleigh was named as the state capital, New Bern rebuilt its economy by expanding on trade via shipping routes to the Caribbean and New England. It reached a population of 3,600 in 1815. In 1862 during the early stages of the American Civil War, New Bern was the site of the Battle of New Bern. The town was captured and occupied by Union forces until the end of the war in 1865. As nearly ten thousand slaves escaped and went to the Union camps for protection and freedom, the Union Army set up the Trent River contraband camp to house the refugees and organize the adults for work. Missionaries started classes to teach adults and children literacy. Beginning in 1863, a total of nearly 4,000 freedmen from North Carolina enlisted in the United States Colored Troops to fight with the Union for their permanent freedom, including 150 men from the Freedmen's Colony on Roanoke Island. After the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, slaves in Union-occupied territories were declared free; more freedmen came to the Trent River camp for protection. The Army appointed Horace James, a Congregational chaplain from Massachusetts, as the "Superintendent of Negro Affairs for the North Carolina District." In addition to the Trent River camp, James supervised development of the offshore Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony, which was intended to be self-supporting. Due to the continuous occupation by the Union troops, New Bern avoided some of the destruction of the war years. It recovered more quickly than many cities after the war. By the 1870s the lumber industry was quickly becoming New Bern's major source of revenue. Timber harvested could be sent downriver by the two nearby rivers. The city continued to be a center for freedmen and by 1877 had a majority-black population. The state legislature defined the city and count as part of North Carolina's 2nd congressional district, which elected four African Americans to the US Congress in the late 19th century. The state's passage of its new constitution in 1899 essentially disfranchised black citizens. They were totally closed out of the political process and participation on juries and in office, a situation that persisted until after passage of federal civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s. By 1890 New Bern had become the largest lumber center in North Carolina and one of the largest in all of the South. During this time, as many as 16 lumber mills were running and employing hundreds of men from New Bern and the area. The competitive nature of the lumber barons, the abundance of lumber and craftsmen, led to the construction in New Bern of some of the finest homes in the South, many of which have survived. The lumber boom lasted until the 1920s. One by one the lumber mills went out of business. Today only Weyerhaeuser manufactures lumber in the area.
Identifier: 574, Last Accessed: 2017-11-07 17:40:26
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Last Modified: Fri Jul 29 2016 09:10:20.