North Carolina Transportation: A Chronology of Invention and Technology
1818: The Prometheus is the first steamboat built in North Carolina.
1818: The Neuse River Navigation Company operates a steamboat between Elizabeth City and New Bern. Robert Fulton, on the Hudson River in New York, had begun operating the first successful commercial steamboat only eleven years earlier.
1819: Archibald DeBow Murphey presents a formal report on internal state improvements to the General Assembly. Among his recommendations are deepening inlets through the Outer Banks to increase foreign trade with North Carolina ports, building canals to connect those coastal ports with major Piedmont rivers, clearing those rivers to make them more navigable and to increase trade with towns along them, and improving roads to link those towns and allow trade to grow farther inland.
1827: Completion of the Buncombe Turnpike starts an economic boom to the Mountain region of North Carolina. Mountain farmers can now get their produce to markets outside the region, and tourists can now travel to the mountains by wagon, carriage, or stagecoach rather than on foot or horseback.
1828: An experimental, or horse-drawn, railway in Fayetteville carries freight from the Cape Fear River to warehouses on Bridge and Person Streets.
1833: A horse-drawn, or experimental, railway is laid to move stone from quarries to the site of the new capitol in Raleigh. The first true railroad in the state also is completed. It connects Petersburg, Virginia, with Blakely, a town near Weldon on the Roanoke River.
1840: After seven years of fund-raising, arguing, and building, the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad is completed. Originally slated to terminate in Raleigh, the northern end has been moved to Weldon, which is already a railroad town, when Raleigh shows no interest. Once finished, the 161½-mile track is the longest route under one charter in the world. The Raleigh and Gaston Railroad also opens in 1840.
1849–1856: The North Carolina Railroad opens in sections between Goldsboro and Charlotte. Riders are excited at the great speed of the trains—about 14½ miles per hour! Towns along this transportation corridor will soon lead the state in population growth and industrial development. The area will become known as the Piedmont Crescent.