Both indigenous peoples and early European colonists in North Carolina cleared farmland. But their impact on the seemingly endless forest was miniscule. Later, when the woodlands became the basis for thriving export business in naval stores, oak lumber, and shingles, the scale of deforestation jumped significantly. And yet it still seemed as though the forests were so vast they could never be used up. But a century of steam power – especially in the form of railroads – would call that confidence into question.
When it came time to transport colonial North Carolina's tobacco crop to market, wagons groaned under the weight of the half-ton hogsheads, and wagon wheels sank into the sandy soil of the coastal plain. Farmers overcame the problem by turning the hogsheads into rolling containers. By doing so, they created "rolling roads," many of which became the roads we drive today.
In our automobile age, when the fuel gauge in our car gets toward "empty," we look for a filling station where we can "gas up." In the steamboat era, when his boat got low on firewood for the boiler, the captain looked for one of the many woodlots that dotted the banks. Pausing there, he could "wood up."