North Carolina is, and always has been, a diverse state with a complex character. Even the land itself reflects that complexity and has reinforced it: the people of the Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and Mountain regions have all developed their own unique identities, mirroring the particular natural resources and terrain found in each. From the time Native Americans, European settlers, and enslaved Africans first encountered one another more than four centuries ago, North Carolina's people have created distinctive yet interwoven histories that mark the present and continue to evolve, even as new people come to the state, seemingly from every corner and continent on the globe.
How, then, to represent all of these people, their institutions, their stories, and the events that have shaped their experiences, in a single volume like this one? It is a challenge faced by every individual or group that has conceived of an encyclopedia. In this case, the editors have answered the challenge by attempting to echo something of the state's geographical and regional complexity. Despite centuries of change, North Carolina remains in many ways what it always has been: a place defined by hundreds of smaller communities linked by culture, institutions, economies, and modes of transportation to larger towns and cities of moderate size. While modern highways and high-speed telecommunications hasten our travel and enhance our connections to the larger world, it is not unreasonable to suggest that most North Carolinians still retain a strong awareness of their region, their county, their hometown, and the people with whom they interact daily.
The metaphor of small places linking to larger ones seems apt for this encyclopedia, since all of the seemingly disconnected stories that make up the state's history are, in reality, part of one comprehensive narrative—that of North Carolina itself, a place whose history stretches back more than 400 years and continues to evolve during each new day of the twenty-first century. In this volume, more than 560 contributors—living from the mountains to the sea—offer articles written from their own perspectives and addressing approximately 2,000 individual topics of interest. But the stories are bound together, literally and figuratively, and within the larger alphabetical organization of the work are also topical connections. Short articles on subjects of specific or more local interest link topically to longer articles on broader issues, and these in turn connect to the longest essay-length articles on major topics.
The process of assembling and editing the encyclopedia to suggest these connections has undoubtedly been more art than science. Just as North Carolina has cities that retain a "cozy" feel and tiny hamlets that nevertheless have played major roles in the state's history, this encyclopedia has articles that, for their own reasons, do not adhere neatly to length expectations. But in the end, taken together, they represent the editors' best efforts to tell the whole story of North Carolina in a straightforward and valuable way.
While the Encyclopedia of North Carolina features numerous articles on the natural environment, scientific pursuits, technological advancements, and similar subjects, it takes a primarily humanities-based approach, addressing subjects from the perspective of their importance and impact in human history and culture. The editors have endeavored to address the broad sweep of North Carolina history, indeed even its prehistory, from the time before European contact until the present day; but, inevitably the focus is on recorded history from exploration and colonial settlement forward. Where the question of whether or not to include an article has arisen—and of course it has arisen often—the editors have consistently erred on the side of addressing subjects with a firm geographical or cultural connection to North Carolina and an enduring impact on the state's history. In the area of business and industry, for example, articles on large, multinational firms with relatively brief or limited ties to the state may have been omitted in favor of articles on smaller businesses based in North Carolina for their entire history.
The editors devoted considerable time and energy to the matter of geography and the best way to address it in this encyclopedia. They were guided first by the availability of geographical information in the North Carolina Gazetteer, which provides information on some 20,000 places, including counties, cities, towns, small crossroads communities, lakes, rivers, mountains, sounds, and inlets. Second, the editors were guided by the fact that North Carolina has developed, not within the shadow of a single huge metropolis or other central urban area, but through the history and progress of its counties and its many small communities, towns, and mid-sized cities. Reflecting this, the encyclopedia includes short articles on all 100 North Carolina counties and select cities and towns. The latter have been chosen by the editors on the basis of their significance in the early history of the state or for their key contributions to its modern composition and character. North Carolina's largest cities also have individual articles by virtue of the criteria just mentioned as well as their importance in the state's modern-day economy and culture.
Because of the large number of subjects included and the desire of the editors to make the encyclopedia as user-friendly as possible, articles are in many instances connected through a system of cross-references, enabling readers to explore related topics quickly and efficiently. Cross-referencing has been undertaken with readers' good sense in mind and should not be considered a complete list of every related subject referred to in a particular article.
Most of the articles in the Encyclopedia of North Carolina have been written by a single contributor, but in some cases two or more authors are credited. In such cases, authors are listed in order of their contribution, the first author having written the majority of the article and any that follow a lesser but still substantial portion. Other authors whose work was relied upon to complete an article in some way are credited as having contributed additional research.
The editors of the Encyclopedia of North Carolina have attempted to preserve the narrative voice of individual authors and allowed some stories to be told in a style suited to the subject matter. Consequently, the articles on moonshine or the Devil's Tramping Ground may touch the ear in a completely different way from the articles on exports or the Federalist Party. Although most articles are relatively brief, sometimes historical or editorial arguments—often presented by the contributors—compelled the editors to devote a larger amount of space to a given topic.
Rather than simply offering a list of works cited, the bibliographic references following the majority of articles in the encyclopedia represent works that the authors and/or editors believe would well serve readers in search of more information on the subject and would likely be readily available to the general population. Personal papers and other limited-availability sources have been omitted in most cases. In addition to scholarly works directly treating the subject, popular histories sometimes have been included to assist readers who may desire to approach the subject within the wider scope of North Carolina history. The editors acknowledge that these references are suggestive rather than comprehensive. Readers are always encouraged to consult general histories of the state and the collections of North Carolina's excellent libraries for additional information.
Statistical information in the encyclopedia—such as population and economic figures—is current at least through the 2000 U.S. Census and in most cases through 2005 estimates. Names of towns, schools, and businesses generally appear as they were during the era covered in an article, with parenthetical reference to their modern names as seems helpful. All named cities and towns are in North Carolina unless otherwise noted, with the exception of well-known U.S. cities that require no further identification.
The following abbreviations are used in the references and illustration credits:
|ncc||North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library|
North Carolina Historical Review
|ncoa&h||North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh|
|unc||University of North Carolina|