Bunch Family (fl. 1780s-1860s)
Embry Bunch; Elijah Bunch; Henry Bunch; Jeremiah Bunch I; Jeremiah Bunch II; Jeremiah Bunch III; Jeremiah H. Bunch; Micajah Bunch; Nehemiah Bunch; Solomon Bunch; William Bunch
North Carolina , USA
- Bertie County, North Carolina
Styles & Forms:
The Bunch family of farmers and house carpenters (fl. 1780s-1860) lived and worked in the plantation communities of Bertie County for at least three generations. The family is notable for its continuity in the trade as well as for the combination of farming and a building trade—a common practice in a rural society. Although many farmers owned basic carpenter’s tools, inventories for the Bunch family show quantities and specialized types of tools indicative of men who practiced a highly skilled trade. Prominent among them were men named Jeremiah and Nehemiah. Biblical first names recur throughout the family, making certain identification difficult.
Members of the Bunch family came to Bertie County from Chowan County by 1750. They may trace back to ancestors in Virginia. The first to practice carpentry in Bertie County was probably Embry Bunch (d. ca. 1789), a farmer who owned an unusually large number of tools, including specialty planes and a lathing hammer (to attach plaster lathe to the frame, thus implying that the houses were plastered, an indication of a well-finished house in the 18th century). Jeremiah Bunch II (d. 1809), son of Jeremiah Bunch I (d. 1797), also a prosperous farmer, owned similar tools, a workbench, and lumber; at Jeremiah II’s death his tools were purchased by his brothers Micajah and Solomon, and his sons Nehemiah (d. 1844) and Jeremiah III (d. 1858).
Both Nehemiah Bunch and Jeremiah Bunch III continued in the trade. In 1811 Jeremiah apprenticed Dempsey Cooper, and in 1812 Nehemiah apprenticed Jesse Cooper. These Bunch brothers owned farmland plus a saw and grist mill and produced plank, flooring, lathes, and scantling (timbers measured in three dimensions as for joists, rafters, etc.). In 1840 they had fifty-one slaves engaged in agriculture and manufacturing. At Jeremiah III’s death in 1858, he had still more tools, including a plumb and level, two ogee planes, a square and compass, gouges and planers, a jointing plane, a jack plane, and a tape measure. Among his thirty books was a “Builder’s Assistant.” Other family members with specialized carpenter’s tools were Elijah (d. 1858), Solomon, William, and Jeremiah H. (d. 1863).
According to Paul Heinegg’s research on free people of color, early members of this family were among the residents of the state who were of mixed race and were sometimes counted by tax assessors as white, and other times as mulatto or of color. Thus, for example, Heinegg notes that Jeremiah and Henry Bunch, Bertie County slave owners, were taxed in Jonathan Standley’s 1764 Bertie County list as free male mulattoes, but as whites in his 1765 list, and again as free mulattoes in 1766 [Colonial Records, 10.702.1]. People of Indian as well as African and English background were typically identified as mulattoes. By the 1820 census, and in subsequent years, the family members in Bertie County were identified as white farmers. There were also other branches of the Bunch family in the northern Piedmont of North Carolina in Orange and Granville counties in the 18th century, many of whom moved westward.
Despite their long involvement in the trade, only six houses are attributed to the Bunch family—all based on similarities with the home of Jeremiah Bunch III, which he signed “J.B. 1806.” They all feature handsome Federal woodwork with distinctive chair rails and elaborate mantels. Further research and fieldwork may reveal more about the family’s work and accomplishments.
- Bertie County Architectural Survey files, State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh, North Carolina.
- Bertie County Records, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
- James H. Craig, The Arts and Crafts in North Carolina, 1699-1840 (1965).
- Paul Heinegg, “Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware,” http://www.freeafricanamericans.com.
- Dates:Ca. 1800-1810Location:Ahoskie, Hertford CountyStreet Address:Ahoskie vicinity, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialNote:The Casper-Ward-Bazemore House originally stood at the S side of NC 308, 0.1 mi. S of jct. with SR 143, Republican community, Bertie County. It was moved to a location near Ahoskie in Hertford County in 1980.
- Dates:1806Location:Republican, Bertie CountyStreet Address:SR 1257, Republican vicinity, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialNote:The Jeremiah Bunch House originally stood at the S side of SR 1225, 0.75 miles N of SR 1257; it was moved a short distance to the N side SR 1257 between NC 308 and SR 1225, where it was restored. This is the house dated 1806 and which is believed to have been the home of the artisan Jeremiah Bunch III. Comparison with its details and those of other contemporary houses in the area suggest the other attributions to Jeremiah Bunch III.