This morning, I was “playing” around with the Historical Census Browser at the University of Virginia. There are many different ways to use the database, and many different facets can be examined. I was looking at the Cash Value of Farms, and the numbers are truly revealing as to the loss that North Carolinians suffered during the war. Yancey County farms were valued at $944,719.00 in 1860, yet only $218,651 in 1870, a loss of 77 percent. Union County farm land was valued at $1,293,504 in 1860, and just $378,056.00 in 1870, a loss of 71 percent. Orange County, there in the Quaker Belt, was valued at $2,141,690.00 in 1860, and just $977,308.00 in 1870, a loss of 55 percent. Duplin County was valued at $3,131,621.00 in 1860, and just $649,750.00 in 1870, a loss of 80 percent. Yancey, Union, Duplin were worth less in 1870 than in 1850.
Surprisingly, Mecklenburg County seemed to recover more quickly (or lose less?). In 1860, the cash value of farms was $2,823,949.00 and in 1870, $2,645482.00, a loss of just seven percent.
I am sure that there are a number of factors that led to this decline. The war would have destroyed some (many) of the farms; given that North Carolina lost tens of thousands of soldiers, there would have been fewer farm hands to work these farms; and, there was a mass exodus from North Carolina to points further west.
I also did another survey concerning the growth of slavery in North Carolina from 1850 to 1860. Once again (surprisingly), there were a number of North Carolina counties where slavery actually declined in that decade. Those counties include Ashe, Caldwell, Camden, Cherokee, Cumberland, Haywood, Macon, Orange, Stanly, Surry, Tyrrell, and Watauga.
There is much to be found by examining these numbers. Let me encourage you to check out the database here and make some discoveries on your own.