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Welcome To The Blog / What’s Ahead

This is a first posting on the Moving North Carolina blog. It welcomes you to the blog, tells you a little about the project’s origins, and looks down the road to what you can expect to see in future posts.

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A bateau on the Haw River loaded with cotton bales

Bateaux Ruled the Rivers

When rivers were our superhighways, open, shallow draft boats called bateaux did the heavy lifting that drove North Carolina’s economy. They transported the bounty of upland farms to markets on the coast, and they returned with manufactured goods, coffee and sugar.

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Hay wagon on a plank road

Plank Road Fever

In the mid-1800s, North Carolina was gripped by an acute case of plank road fever. By lifting travelers above the omnipresent ruts and mires, wooden turnpikes promised to speed travel, to stimulate commerce, and to bring big profits to the companies that built and owned them.

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A bicycle club in Oxford NC circa 1900

Bicycles Led The Way

When automobile drivers in North Carolina finally started to motor down good roads in the 1920s, they owed a debt of thanks to ardent bicyclists of the 1880s. Bicycle enthusiasts were early activists for what would become the Good Roads Movement.

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Best Friend of Charleston

Best Friend of Charleston

The little steam engine “Best Friend of Charleston” made its inaugural run on Christmas Day, 1830, “like a live rocket scattering sparks and flames.” The train’s passengers were too amazed to be scared.

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Hog Drovers on the Buncombe Turnpike

Hogging the Buncombe Turnpike

When the Buncombe Turnpike was completed in 1828, it was one of the best roads in North Carolina. The new toll road energized the local economy and transformed an entire mountain region. But while many smelled economic opportunity, some smelled only swine.

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Train Wreck at Bostian Bridge

Disaster at Bostian Bridge

At 2:30 in the morning on August 27, 1891, Richmond & Danville Railroad Passenger Train No. 9 plunged off the Bostian Bridge just west of Statesville, killing 23. It was “A Great Wreck!” “A Frightful Accident!” It was also a mystery.

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Charles Dickens

Dickens on American Rail

Touring America in 1842, young Charles Dickens captured in his journal the manic exhilaration of traveling on early American railroads: “…on, on, on – tears the mad dragon of an engine with its train of cars…”

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A boy rents boats on flooded Franklin Street

Boating on Franklin Street

In 1910, a heavy rain could turn North Carolina town and city streets – almost all yet unpaved – into ponds more suited to boats than to wheeled vehicles. Despite high ground and higher education, Franklin Street in Chapel Hill was no exception.

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The covered bridge at Bynum, NC

Spooky Covered Bridges

Covered bridges have a nostalgic appeal for us today, quaint relics of an idyllic past. But they were obstructive, spooky, and not so popular with the people who actually had to use them.

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