Branch, Issachar (fl. 1790s)
Issachar Branch (fl. 1790s), a Perquimans County house carpenter, is linked to a specific building because of the survival of his agreement to construct the Edward Hall House (location unknown) in 1794 for £50. The agreement is notable because it documents the construction of a common regional house type—a 2-story frame house with two main rooms per floor Despite the abundance of such houses, seldom do documents survive to record their builders or the period language describing them. According to the agreement signed in May, 1794, Branch was to supply his skilled labor, while the client, Hall, was to provide materials—scantling, plank, shingles, nails, hinges, locks, glass, etc. The house was to be 30 by 18 feet, with two downstairs rooms, three doors, ten windows below and eight above, a “Sett of Stairs and Stair Case,” tongue-and-groove floors, and the upstairs left unfinished except for windows and floors. (The agreement is reproduced in Dru Gatewood Haley and Raymond A. Winslow, The Historic Architecture of Perquimans County, North Carolina .) Edward Hall was probably the man listed in Perquimans County in the 1790 United States Census as Edward Hall, Esq., owner of nine slaves.
The Hall House is the only known work of a family that included several carpenters and house carpenters, whose accomplishments are otherwise unidentified. The Branch family appeared frequently in southern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. A William Branch was identified as a carpenter in a Chowan County deed in 1718. The name Issachar Branch was given to at least three generations, including two carpenters by that name in Perquimans in the late 18th century: Issachar Branch, Jr. (son of Issachar Branch, Sr., and Rachel Steward of Chowan County), and his son Issachar Branch III. (It is not certain which man built the Hall House.) An Issachar Branch was listed as a head of household in Perquimans County in 1790 and 1800 and took apprentices to the carpenter’s trade including John Whedbee (orphan of Richard Whedbee) in 1788, Joshua Long in 1791, James Skinner (orphan of Richard Skinner) and Jesse Overton (a free mulatto) in 1792, and John Clayton in 1799. The number of apprentices indicates a busy shop. In 1790 Branch also owned four slaves. When Issachar Branch II died in 1801, leaving a widow, Rebecca, and three sons, he left his carpenter’s tools, chest, molding planes, and the like, to his son Issachar III. He directed that his son John was to live with Issachar III as an apprentice and that his son William was to be apprenticed as a house carpenter at the discretion of his executors. (William was apprenticed to Issachar III as a house carpenter for two years.) Presumably the younger men continued in the trade. Issachar III took as apprentice to the house carpenter’s trade the orphan Thomas Porlock in 1805.
- Charlotte Vestal Brown Papers, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, North Carolina.
- James H. Craig, The Arts and Crafts in North Carolina, 1699-1840 (1965).
- Dru Gatewood Haley and Raymond A. Winslow, Jr., The Historic Architecture of Perquimans County, North Carolina (1982).
- Contributors:Issachar Branch, carpenter/joinerDates:
1794Location:Perquimans CountyStreet Address:
Perquimans County, NCStatus:
It is not known whether the Edward Hall House which Issachar Branch agreed to build was actually constructed. Specifications for the house are reproduced in Dru Gatewood Haley and Raymond A. Winslow, The Historic Architecture of Perquimans County, North Carolina (1982).