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North Carolina Cities Population Changes in the 1800s
   North Carolina was primarily a rural state with small towns, as was much of the South. And during the period from 1815 to 1850, the state's emigration of residents to western and other southern states held down the population growth. For example, New Bern was the 48th largest U.S. city in 1820; with Fayetteville ranked 51st; Raleigh 59th 
    




    

and Wilmington 60th place.
   By 1830, New Bern was still the most populous NC city, ranked 72nd in the U.S., compared to Wilmington at 73rd, and Fayetteville at 86th. By 1840, only two NC cities were in the top 100 most populated Wilmington at 76th and Fayetteville at 98th. By 1850, only Wilmington was on the list at 99th. In 1860, Wilmington was still North Carolina's only city on the list, ranked 100th. By 1870, there were no North Carolina cities ranked in the top 100.
   The next time a North Carolina city broke into the top 100 U.S. cities by population was Charlotte in 1940, when it ranked 91st. See table below for hard-to-find NC city and town populations during the 19th Century.

The South
   In 1820, the largest 11 cities in the south were: 1) New Orleans (27,176); 2) Charleston, SC (24,780); 3) Richmond (12,067); 4) Norfolk (8,478); 5) Alexandria, DC/VA (8,218); 6) Savannah (7,523); 7) Petersburg, VA (6,690); 8) New Bern, NC (3,663);  9) Fayetteville (3,532); 10) Raleigh (2,674) and 11) Wilmington, NC (2,633).
   By 1850, the largest 11 cities in the south did not include a single North Carolina city. The largest NC city was Wilmington ranked 99 in the U.S. and 16th in the south.
   The largest southern cities in 1850  1) New Orleans (116,375); 2) Charleston, SC (42,985); 3) Richmond (27,570); 4) Mobile (20,515); 5) Savannah (15,312); 6) Norfolk (14,326); 7) Petersburg, VA (14,010); 8) Wheeling, VA (WV after the Civil War) (11,435): 9) Nashville (10,165); 10) Augusta, GA (9,448); 11) Memphis (8,841); 12) Alexandria, VA (8,734); 13) Montgomery, AL (8,728); 14) Portsmouth, VA (8,626); 15) Lynchburg, VA (8,071); and 16) Wilmington, NC (7,264).

North Carolina
   In 2000, the metropolitan areas of North Carolina looked much different than in 1900 or in the 1800s. Here are the 10 largest North Carolina cities over the past two centuries

(note: Winston & Salem merged in 1913)

Top 10 NC City/Town 1800 Top 10 NC City/Town 1900    Top 10 NC City/Town 2000   
New Bern 2,467 Wilmington 20,976 Charlotte 540,800
Wilmington 1,689 Charlotte 18,091 Raleigh 276,100
Edenton <1,000 Asheville 14,694 Greensboro 223,900
Fayetteville <1,000 Winston & Salem* 13,650 Durham 187,000
Raleigh 699 Raleigh 13,643 Winston-Salem 185,000
Salisbury 645 Greensboro 10,035 Fayetteville 121,000
Washington 600 New Bern 8,090 Cary 94,500
Charlotte 276 Concord 7,910 High Point 85,800
Plymouth 257 Durham 6,679 Wilmington 75,800
Kinston 107 Elizabeth City 6,348 Asheville 68,900

 





 

 

North Carolina Towns (major towns in 1800; towns with population greater than 2,400 in 1900)
Source: U.S. Census data and other city population reports (historic & contemporary CSI/ISI research). Additional statistical information will be supplied in the future. Contemporary estimates are in italics.

 
 

NC City/Town 1800 1810 1820 1830 1840 1850 1860 1870 1880 1890 1900
New Bern 2,467 n.a. 3,663 3,796 3,690 4,681 5,432

5,849

6,443 7,843 8,090
Wilmington 1,689 n.a. 2,633 3,791 5,335 7,264 9,552 13,446 17,361 20,056 20,976
Edenton <1,000 n.a. 1,561  n.a. 1,500 1,607 1,504 1,243 1,382 2,205 3,046
Fayetteville <1,000 n.a. 3,532 2,868 4,285 4,646 4,790  4,660 3,485 4,222 4,670
Raleigh 699 976 2,674 1,654 2,244 4,581 4,780 7,790 9,265 12,700 13,643
Salisbury 645 706 808 n.a. n.a. 1,086 2,420 n.a. 2,723 4,418 6,277
Washington 600 n.a.

1,034

 n.a. 1,000 n.a.  1,599 2,084 2,462 n.a. 4,842
Charlotte 276 n.a. n.a. 717 n.a.  1,065 2,265 4,473 7,094 11,557 18,091
Plymouth 257 671  n.a. 663 1,123 951 n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.  1,011
Kinston 107         455 1,333 1,103 1,216 1,716  4,106
Asheville         400 520 960 1,400 2,616 10,235 14,694
Greensboro 220 496 n.a. 1,500 1,050 1,497 2,105 3,317 10,035
Winston-Salem                 4,194 10,729 13,650
Concord     878 1,600 4,339 7,910
Durham   256 2,041 5,485 6,679
Elizabeth City         800 n.a. n.a. 930 2,315 3,251 6,348
Goldsboro 100+ 885 1,134 3,286 4,017 5,877
Gastonia     236 1,033 4,610
High Point            4,163
Henderson             186 1,635 1,421 4,191 3,746
Burlington                 817 1,716 3,692
Wilson     89 960 1,036 1,475 2,126 3,525
Reidsville                 1,316 2,969 3,262
Statesville           215 320 683 1,062 2,318 3,141
Rocky Mount               357 552  816 2,937
Greenville     281 488   1,893 828 601 912 1,937 2,565
Hickory                   2,023 2,525
Monroe 204 239 1,344 1,564 1,866 2,427
Halifax 503

 

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