Washington Duke's trek back to Orange County after the Civil War marked the beginning of his rise to prominence in the tobacco business. He gathered his family and returned to his virtually barren homeplace; having been unable to make the proper payments in tobacco during his absence, the tenants had been forced to abandon the farm to its rightful owners. Once again in full control of the property, Duke and his children began their smoking tobacco operation in a small log structure--now known as the first factory. Though a good part of Duke's stored leaf had apparently been confiscated by soldiers while he was away, the family members were able to fashion by crude hand processes the remaining portion into smoking tobacco, which they could trade readily for needed supplies and sometimes cash.
Washington took the manufactured leaf on a peddling trip into eastern North Carolina, using a broken-down wagon and two blind mules to transport him. The trip was a success; merchants in small towns and villages were the best customers. Money realized from the sale of the tobacco was used to purchase family necessities such as lard and bacon--and a surprise bucket of sugar for the children.
Washington Duke at his First Tobacco Factory, c. 1904