How Caswell County Affected Railroad Expansion into Western North Carolina
Before the Civil War
Caswell County's involvement in North Carolina's railroad history must begin with the vision of Archibald DeBow Murphey (1777-1832). Murphey was born in Caswell County the same year it became a county, being created from Orange County. By 1919, he was a lawyer and legislator who promoted education and internal improvements. These internal improvements focused on transportation, a vision that would result in the railroad movement that came to fruition after his death.
The early history of railroads in North Carolina is, to say the least, confusing. Many railroads were proposed, but few were built. A local group would petition the legislature for a charter (authorization) to create a railroad company and seek investors -- purchasers of stock in the new company. Few of these early efforts were able to generate sufficient funds to proceed. Several such early plans were floated in Caswell County, but no railroads were constructed.1