Stephen, a slave on the 1839 plantation of Abisha Slade in Caswell County, was tired from a long day of work. It was no surprise then that he nodded off from the heat of the fire he was watching to cure the tobacco.
When he awoke the fire was nearly out so Stephen rushed to gather coals from the blacksmith firepit, which resulted in an immense heat. The heat cured the tobacco faster – much faster.
The tobacco was called “bright leaf.” The new curing process was very popular and became North Carolina’s primary cash crop for more than a century.