Artisans in the North Carolina Backcountry

Artisans in the North Carolina Backcountry

JOHANNA MILLER LEWIS
Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130j411
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Artisans in the North Carolina Backcountry
    Book Description:

    During the quarter of a century before the thirteen colonies became a nation, the northwest quadrant of North Carolina had just begun to attract permanent settlers. This seemingly primitive area may not appear to be a likely source for attractive pottery and ornate silverware and furniture, much less for an audience to appreciate these refinements. Yet such crafts were not confined to urban centers, and artisans, like other colonists, were striving to create better lives for themselves as well as to practice their trades. As Johanna Miller Lewis shows in this pivotal study of colonial history and material culture, the growing population of Rowan County required not only blacksmiths, saddlers, and tanners but also a great variety of skilled craftsmen to help raise the standard of living.

    Rowan County's rapid expansion was in part the result of the planned settlements of the Moravian Church. Because the Moravians maintained careful records, historians have previously credited church artisans with greater skill and more economic awareness than non-church craftsmen. Through meticulous attention to court and private records, deeds, wills, and other sources, Lewis reveals the Moravian failure to keep up with the pace of development occurring elsewhere in the county.

    Challenging the traditional belief that southern backcountry life was primitive, Lewis shows that many artisans held public office and wielded power in the public sphere. She also examines women weavers and spinsters as an integral part of the population. All artisans -- Moravian and non-Moravian, male and female -- helped the local market economy expand to include coastal and trans-Atlantic trade.

    Lewis's book contributes meaningfully to the debate over self-sufficiency and capitalism in rural America.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6161-7
    Subjects: Art & Art History, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    This book looks at artisans in Rowan County, North Carolina, during the third quarter of the eighteenth century. As a backcountry county, one west of the “fall line,” colonial Rowan County contained some fairly populated areas to the east and the unsettled frontier to the west. In examining the craftsmen and their place in the social, economic, and political world of Rowan County, this study encompasses some of the most important and popular topics in the recent historiography of early America: artisans, the frontier, and the debate over self-sufficiency and capitalism in rural America.

    For every direction this inquiry might...

  6. ONE Artisans and the Backcountry
    (pp. 5-16)

    From the time of its creation in 1753, artisans played an important role in the social and economic life of Rowan County, North Carolina. Whether they came individually with their families to obtain land and establish new lives, or they were chosen by the Moravian Church to settle the one hundred thousand-acre Wachovia Tract, all of these artisans were part of the huge wave of immigration to the western half or backcountry of North Carolina that occurred during the third quarter of the eighteenth century.

    No other studies of Rowan County or the North Carolina backcountry have focused on the...

  7. TWO The Early History and Settlement of Rowan County
    (pp. 17-33)

    The traditional portrait of the backcountry resident—as either barely scraping by in the wilderness, so isolated that everything he needed he had to make himself, or as fortunate enough to be able to import some refinements from more civilized places—needs to be re-evaluated. Artisans practicing basic crafts were among the earliest backcountry residents, and their presence along with merchants and tavernkeepers proves that more than a subsistence economy existed early in the history of Rowan County. Furthermore, the increase of identified artisans and trades and the growing number of merchants over the years this study covers point to...

  8. THREE The Development of Rowan County, 1753-1759
    (pp. 34-57)

    The development of, and artisans’ participation in, the commercial economy of Rowan county is a story of both success and failure. The success occurred west of the Yadkin River, where population growth and a concentration of artisans helped Salisbury, the county seat, to become one of the earliest backcountry commercial centers. The failure occurred east of the Yadkin on the Wachovia Tract, where a singular lack of leadership and realistic vision on the part of the Moravian Church prevented a group of talented and dedicated church members from becoming as successful as their counterparts on the other side of the...

  9. FOUR The Commercial Development of Rowan County, 1759-1770
    (pp. 58-76)

    Salisbury achieved prominence as Rowan County’s center of economic and legal activity by 1759. Although most trading of agricultural and manufactured projects occurred within local networks, indications of Salisbury’s and Rowan County’s later participation in larger economic networks were already present. In the following eleven years, the economic activity of North Carolina’s westernmost county exploded from a partially semi-subsistent, local market economy to a regional and international commercial market economy with strong local foundations.

    A combination of three factors helped transform the economy of Rowan County: roads, merchants, and the Cumberland County trading town of Cross Creek (now Fayetteville) on...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. FIVE Moravian Artisans on the Wachovia Tract, 1759-1770
    (pp. 77-93)

    As the portion of Rowan County which lay west of the Yadkin River and the county seat of Salisbury experienced unregulated growth and success during the first decade of settlement, in Wachovia church officials continually reminded the brethren that Bethabara was literally a “house of passage” until the main town became reality. The frustration these reminders caused the Wachovia brethren and sisters, and the lack of progress and instructions on the future town, overshadowed the exchanges between Bethabara and Bethlehem about what constituted necessary crafts and trades. Following the first survey of the Wachovia Tract to select a site for...

  12. SIX Women Artisans in Rowan County
    (pp. 94-112)

    In a spare minute from running her busy household and tavern in Salisbury, Elizabeth Steele walked over to see the seamstress Ann Crosby to pick up a dress she had ordered from Ann some weeks before. Although the dress was for everyday wear, Mrs. Steele could afford to have Ann make it from specially-ordered fabric that cost four shillings six pence a yard.¹

    Just how uncommon was Elizabeth Steele’s order, and subsequent purchase, of a dress from Ann Crosby? Historians used to consider it nearly impossible. Spruill, in her 1938 bookWomen’s Life and Work, described the backcountry woman this...

  13. SEVEN Artisans, the Regulator Crisis, and Politics in Rowan County
    (pp. 113-138)

    Artisans played a profound role in the economic transformation of Rowan County, but they were less important in political affairs. Other studies of artisans in early America—which have focused on urban areas—have shown that when artisans had an intense interest in economic issues that directly affected them, these artisans frequently became involved in political organizations with similar agendas. As previous chapters have shown, backcountry artisans cared about economic issues that affected them personally, such as the development of a market economy with merchants and a good road system that tied them into a trans-Atlantic network. However, no group...

  14. APPENDIX A Andrew Kremser’s Indenture to Frederick Jacob Pfeil, Shoemaker
    (pp. 139-140)
  15. APPENDIX B Edward Hughes’s Last Meeting with the Moravians
    (pp. 141-141)
  16. APPENDIX C Definitions of Craftsmen and Terms
    (pp. 142-143)
  17. APPENDIX D Moravian Artisans Working on the Wachovia Tract, 1753-1770
    (pp. 144-145)
  18. APPENDIX E Rowan County Artisans, 1753-1770
    (pp. 146-152)
  19. APPENDIX F Road Building in Rowan County, 1753-1770
    (pp. 153-153)
  20. APPENDIX G Court Account of Robert Johnston and His Cow
    (pp. 154-154)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 155-177)
  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 178-190)
  23. Index
    (pp. 191-200)