(10) The Canal Era

1793 to 1880

The Canal Era begins in 1793 with the digging the Dismal Swamp Canal. Like the Maritime Era, most transportation was still by water, but emerging steam power technology challenged the tradition of sailing vessels. Throughout this portion of the exhibit, you will see items and hear stories that relate to the expanding and changing farm and forest markets that increased the area’s dependence on enslaved labor. By 1860, several Albemarle counties had more black residents---enslaved and free---than white. Towns flourished, cotton became important for the first time, and educational and social opportunities increased. This period ends with the upheaval of the Civil War followed by Reconstruction.