Stronach, William (1803-1857)
William Stronach (November 3, 1803-May 9, 1857) was a Scots-born stonecutter who came to Raleigh along with other stone workers from Great Britain to work on the State Capitol. Like others such as William Murdoch and Robert Findlater, Stronach settled in North Carolina and became a permanent citizen who with his descendants took a strong role in local business and civic life.
William Stronach was born in Stroneveagh (“the place of the Stronachs”) in Elginshire, Scotland, the son of Ann Barron and Thomas Stronach. According to the minister of his home parish, his parents were “respectable and bestowed upon him the ordinary advantages of education,” and William “creditably supported himself by his industry.” Specifics of his training in his craft are not known, though his trade was a common one in a land of much stone architecture. He emigrated by way of Leith (now part of Edinburgh) to America in 1833. He was one of many Scottish stonecutters and stonemasons who had come to New York or Philadelphia to find employment, and were recruited there to work on the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, where there were essentially no native artisans capable of the demanding stonework. Stronach’s name first appeared in the “List of stone-cutters employed at the Capitol,” in the December 4, 1834, report of the superintending commissioners. His pay was $2 per day.
In the following August, Stronach applied to the Wake County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions for United States citizenship. While the capitol was still under construction, he opened his own “marble-yard” at his home at 555 East Hargett Street, conveniently located opposite the southeast corner of Raleigh’s City Cemetery. Several grave markers in the cemetery are credited to Stronach, including that of John Rex, a city leader.
In addition to carving grave markers, Stronach offered “all kinds of granite work, . . . plaistering and mason work of all kinds.” No specific building projects have been attributed to him, though several of Raleigh’s antebellum buildings featured granite block foundations and other stonework that may have been his work. He supplied and installed stone for many purposes. He provided “heart [stones], paint stones, slabs for Soda Founds, Baker’s slabs, and Nova Scotia grindstones.” The state employed him after the capital was essentially complete for “putting up Gothic Mantle Pieces in the Library” (where the Gothic Revival style woodwork was installed by the Conrad Family of carpenters and joiners). In 1847 William Stronach and Raleigh blacksmith Silas Burns won the contract to construct the stone coping and iron fence surrounding Union Square, around the State Capitol; it was completed in 1848. The iron fencing was removed in 1898 to enclose the City Cemetery.
Stronach became a substantial Raleigh citizen, an elder of the First Presbyterian Church, a founding leader of a local temperance organization, and a Whig. While the capitol was still under construction, in 1836 he married Sarah Eubanks Moody Savage (ca. 1814-1866), a widow from Richmond, Virginia. The couple had four sons and two daughters. The sons remained in Raleigh and became civic and business leaders. Especially prominent was William Carter (W. C.) Stronach, a merchant and bank director who also served as a director of two railroads, Oakwood Cemetery, and Peace College, and as city alderman and chairman of the Wake County commissioners.
- Elizabeth Reid Murray Collection, Olivia Raney Library, Wake County Public Libraries, Raleigh, North Carolina.
- Elizabeth Reid Murray, “William Stronach,” in William S. Powell, Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 5 (1994).
- Report of Commissioners Appointed to Superintend the Re-building of the State Capitol (1834), North Carolina Legislative Documents, 1831-1835, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
- Alexander Stronach, The “Geranium Valley” Stronachs (1956).
- Contributors:William W. Birth, superindendent, masonry department (1833-1834); Thomas Bragg, Sr., supervisor (1830s); John J. Briggs, carpenter (1830s); Thomas H. Briggs, Sr., carpenter (1830s); Alexander Jackson Davis, architect (1830s); William Drummond, supervisor (1830s); Robert Findlater, stonecutter (1830s); Asa King, carpenter (1830s); William Murdoch, stonecutter (1830s); William Nichols, architect (1830s); William Nichols, Jr., architect (1830s); David Paton, architect and supervisor (1830s); Henry J. Patterson, brickmaker (1830s); William Percival, architect (1858); James Puttick, stonecutter (1830s); William Strickland, consulting architect (1830s); William Stronach, stonecutter (1830s); Town and Davis, architects (1830s); Ithiel Town, architect (1830s)Dates:1833-1840Location:Raleigh, Wake CountyStreet Address:Union Square, Raleigh, NCStatus:StandingType:PublicImages Puslished In:Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
Edward T. Davis and John L. Sanders, A Romantic Architect in Antebellum North Carolina: The Works of Alexander Jackson Davis (2000).Note:Although sometimes credited solely to Town and Davis, the design of the capitol was the result of a sequence of work by William Nichols, Sr. and Jr., Town and Davis, and David Paton, with advice from William Strickland. For a fuller explanation of the chronology and contributions of architects involved in the State Capitol, see Bishir, North Carolina Architecture and other sources cited herein.