Brightleaf tobacco

Brightleaf tobacco is commonly known as "Virginia tobacco", regardless of where in the world it is harvested. Prior to the American Civil War, most tobacco grown in the US was fire-cured dark-leaf. This type of tobacco was planted in fertile lowlands, used a robust variety of leaf, and was either fire cured or air cured. Sometime after the War of 1812, demand for a milder, lighter, more aromatic tobacco arose. Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland all innovated quite a bit with milder varieties of the tobacco plant. Farmers around the country experimented with different curing processes. But the breakthrough did not come until around 1839. Growers had noticed that sandy, highland soil produced thinner, weaker plants. Captain Abisha Slade, of Caswell County, North Carolina had considerable infertile, sandy soil, and planted the new "gold-leaf" varieties on it. Slade owned a slave, Stephen, who around 1839 accidentally produced the first true bright tobacco. He used charcoal to restart a fire used to cure the crop. The surge of heat turned the leaves yellow. Using that discovery, Slade developed a system for producing bright tobacco, cultivated on poorer soils and using charcoal for heat-curing. Slade made many public appearances to share the bright-leaf process with other farmers. His success helped him build a brick house in Yanceyville, North Carolina, and at one time he had many servants. News spread through the area pretty quickly. The infertile sandy soil of the Appalachian piedmont was suddenly profitable, and people rapidly developed flue-curing techniques, a more efficient way of smoke-free curing. Farmers discovered that Bright leaf tobacco needs thin, starved soil, and those who could not grow other crops found that they could grow tobacco. Formerly unproductive farms reached 2035 times their previous worth. By 1855, six Piedmont counties

djoining Virginia ruled the tobacco market. By the outbreak of the Civil War, the town of Danville, Virginia had developed a bright-leaf market for the surrounding area in Caswell County, North Carolina and Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Danville was also the main railway head for Confederate soldiers going to the front. These brought bright tobacco with them from Danville to the lines, traded it with each other and Union soldiers, and developed quite a taste for it. At the end of the war, the soldiers went home and a national market had developed for the local crop. Caswell and Pittsylvania counties were the only two counties in the South that increased in total wealth after the war. Caswell County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of 2000, the population was 23,501. Its county seat is Yanceyville. Caswell County was formed from a northern portion of Orange County, in 1777. The newly formed county was named for Richard Caswell, Governor of North Carolina from 1776 to 1780. Leasburg was the first county seat. In 1792, roughly the eastern half of Caswell County became Person County. After the division, the Caswell County center of government was moved to a more central location: the community of the new county seat first was called Caswell Court House. Later, the name was changed to Yanceyville. Caswell County produced many political leaders, including Bartlett Yancey, Jr., Archibald Debow Murphey, Romulus Mitchell Saunders, Bedford Brown, Calvin Graves, John Kerr, Jacob Thompson, and others. At one time it was stated that all successful North Carolina legislation had to make its way through the Caswell County legislators. As an example, Bartlett Yancey, Jr., was Speaker of the North Carolina Senate 1817-1827, and during part of this time Romulus Mitchell Saunders was Speaker of the North Carolina House of Commons.