Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2016

Access Restrictions


Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

American Studies

First Advisor

Rigal, Laura

First Committee Member

Adams, Bluford

Second Committee Member

Birrell, Susan

Third Committee Member

Marra, Kim

Fourth Committee Member

Priest, Tyler


This project is an environmental and cultural history of the sandhills region of North Carolina as it was transformed after the Civil War. It brings together agricultural science and the creation of a leisure industry in the sandhills to argue that they were interdependent in the transformation of the region. Chapter One narrates the gradual emergence and transformation of agricultural science in North Carolina from a venture of learned planters to a state-run institution, located in universities and government buildings, but still heavily influenced by the heirs of planters. Chapter Two examines the trajectory of resort creation in the sandhills after the region had been tapped out and cutover by naval stores producers and loggers. Its remained an agricultural problem area, while its acres of sandy land were available to be remade by developers. Importantly these new investors, like Pinehurst’s James and Leonard Tufts, reconstructed the sandhills to reflect a fantasy of yeoman agriculture—while deploying scientific findings and commercial fertilizers as advocated by state agricultural experts. Chapter Three analyzes a community that developed in the vicinity of Pinehurst after 1910, when a generation of idealistic Northern progressives turned to the sandhills, both to uplift the region and to escape the nervous problems they had experienced in the industrial North. Just as Pinehurst used agricultural science to create a leisure landscape, this group of Ivy Leaguers was inspired by visions of using agricultural technologies to turn the “sand barrens” into a state-of-the-art farmscape. Chapter Four turns to a literary account of the sandhills in the work of Charles Chesnutt, taking Chesnutt’s motif of gift-giving as a lens for understanding the author’s short stories set in the sandhills. This chapter focuses especially on Chesnutt’s conception of usufruct and an economy based in local social connections as an alternative to the version of commodity agriculture that had animated so many other projects in the sandhills. This dissertation reveals how the conceptual and material tools of an industrializing culture reconfigured this region, long seen as barren, from a cutover turpentine district into a tourist paradise.

Public Abstract

This project examines a region of the southeastern United States, the sandhills of North Carolina, to explain how the place went from a logged-over pine forest to a vacation destination and produce-growing region. It argues that two forces new to the region paired up to remake the sandhills: scientific agricultural reform and a growing leisure industry. In the process, the sandhills became integrated into a national culture and economy in new ways.

Agricultural science was the product of a longstanding culture of agricultural reform that had been fostered among the planter class. As such, the agricultural science prominent in North Carolina promoted an agriculture that fit the mold of larger planters rather than small farmers. This agricultural science proved useful in producing health resorts in the sandhills, such as Pinehurst, which became a destination for Northern golfers. Golf turf was difficult to grow in the sandhill soil, but technology and huge expenditures made it possible, even though farmers in the region had struggled to grow grasses for over a century.

Agriculture and tourism also brought another group of Northern visitors to the sandhills: elites disenchanted with urban life bought farms in the sandhills after 1910, part of the era’s back-to-the-land movement. In addition to historical accounts of these individuals, this dissertation uses the writings of Charles W. Chesnutt, whose short stories were based on Northern newcomers’ experiences with sandhills African-American life. I argue that the context of regional history, often overlooked in his work, offers possibilities for interpreting Chesnutt’s fiction.


Agricultural reform, Cultural history, Environmental history, Leisure, New South


vii, 263 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 249-263).


Copyright © 2016 Michael G. Winslow