Read More: Early 20th Century Agriculture and Manufacturing


Tobacco harvests on a truck
Onslow County’s tobacco harvests were taken by truck to the market in Kinston.

The twentieth century also ushered in many changes in Onslow County's agricultural and manufacturing pursuits. The county's last turpentine distillery ceased operation in 1907, and after the first few decades of the new century cotton also ceased to be an important crop, especially in the Camp Lejeune area. Lumbering and tobacco farming partially offset the consequent economic impact; bright leaf tobacco, replaced cotton as the leading cash crop. Since the end of the Civil War there had been a rise in tenant farming in the region and within the state as a whole.

Naval stores had a long history in the area, but by World War I the industry in the county, as well as the rest of North Carolina, was drawing to a close due to the depletion of turpentine resources. In its wake, the lumber industry grew to new proportions and became one of the most significant manufacturing industries in the county (Watson 1995:115). In the early twentieth century, there were at least three large sawmills on the New River at Jacksonville (Onslow County Historical Society 1983:43). Fishing, long a traditional source of income for Onslow County residents, was an important component of the local economy throughout the twentieth century (Watson 1995:115). Along the shores of the New River, resorts and hunting camps were established as the tourist industry began to lay roots in the county (Loftfield 1981:166).  Despite these developments, there was no question that agriculture was of paramount importance; the majority of residents were engaged in subsistence farming and manufacturing. On the eve of World War II, Onslow County was, as it had been through its history, rural and relatively isolated.

Lumber trucks
Late 1930s image of a truck hauling one of Onslow County’s valuable natural resources – lumber.