Somerset Place offers visitors a comprehensive and realistic view of nineteenth-century life on a large-scale North Carolina plantation. During its eighty-year existence as an active plantation (1785-1865), Somerset Place encompassed as many as 100,000 acres and became one of North Carolina's most prosperous rice, corn, and wheat plantations. Cumulatively, it was home to more than eight hundred enslaved men, women, and children of African descent-eighty of whom were brought to Somerset directly from their West African homeland in 1786.
The plantation operated as a business investment for more than forty years. In 1829 it became home to two generations of a planter family: Josiah Collins III, his wife Mary, and their six sons. When the Civil War ended in 1865, so did slavery in the United States. Left without unpaid labor, planters such as the Collins family could no longer maintain the plantation system that had characterized much of the antebellum South.
Visitors tour the Collins Family Home and related domestic dependencies including the Dairy, Kitchen/Laundry, Kitchen Rations Building, Smokehouse, and Salting House. Reconstructed buildings related to the enslaved community include the Suckey Davis Home, Lewis and Judy's Home, and the Plantation Hospital. Archaeological remains of several buildings and the plantation grounds (including stocks where slaves were punished) can also be explored.