Oldest Living Confederate Chaplain Tells All?: Or, James B. Avirett and the Rise and Fall of the Rich Lands

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Oldest Living Confederate Chaplain Tells All?: Or, James B. Avirett and the Rise and Fall of the Rich Lands

by David S. Cecelski
Southern Cultures, Vol. 3, No. 4: Winter 1997

"Compare the romanticized myth of the Avirett family decline with the economic and ecological reality."

Recently I toured the former site of the Rich Lands in the old piney woods of Onslow County, North Carolina. The Rich Lands had been one of the great plantations in the naval stores industry of the Old South. John Avirett and more than 125 slaves built a kingdom out of the long-leaf pine’s resinous gum, producing rivers of turpentine, tar, pitch, and rosin whose swelling tides literally carried sailing vessels to every continent on earth. Succeeded long ago by corporate timberlands and loblolly thickets, the Rich Lands once sprawled across more than 22,000 acres just southeast of what is now the small farm towns of Richlands, fourteen miles from the Atlantic coast.

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