Agricultural products like corn, wheat, and sweet potatoes; forest products like lumber, shingles, staves, and tar; fishing, livestock raising, and, to a lesser degree, market hunting expanded as the basis of the region’s economy during the first half of the nineteenth century.
Farm size and economics generally dictated whether farmer owned slaves or not, and many slaves were used in non-farming enterprises such as timbering, shingle making, and other manufacturing pursuits. A majority of farmers owned no slaves, and a sizeable majority of those who did owned fewer than five slaves. However, large plantations of fifty or more slaves became increasingly common in Bertie, Chowan, Hertford, and Northampton counties, with individual holdings of more than one hundred slaves not uncommon. At the largest plantations there were often more than fifteen slave houses, with some, such as Somerset Place in Washington County, having separate buildings for a kitchen and hospital.