Sandy, Uriah (b. ca. 1790)




  • New Bern, North Carolina


  • Carpenter/Joiner

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Uriah Sandy (born ca. 1790) was a New Bern house carpenter known for his role as lead contractor for the city’s handsome, Federal style First Presbyterian Church (1819-1822). But despite the importance of this project, little else is known of Sandy or his career.

Uriah Sandy’s origins are not known. There were men of this name living in Virginia and Ohio, among other states, but their relationship to the New Bern artisan is unknown. According to New Bern genealogist Elizabeth Moore, Uriah Sandy might have been the son of Captain James Sandy and Mary Hawks Sandy, but this is not certain. James Sandy is listed in the 1790 and 1800 U.S. censuses as head of a household in Craven County, but neither he nor Uriah Sandy is listed in the county in the census of 1820. (The 1810 census for Craven County is missing.) According to Moore, Mary Hawks was the daughter of Thomas and Mary Hawks, and she married Captain Sandy in 1781. Any kinship between Thomas Hawks and John Hawks, the English architect of Tryon Palace, is likewise unknown.

In any case, on March 14, 1804, at the age of fourteen, Uriah Sandy entered an apprenticeship in the house joiner’s trade with Benjamin C. Good. In due course, Uriah Sandy established himself in his trade and took his own apprentices: two free youths of color in 1817, James Thornton (no age given), and William H. Hancock, then aged fourteen; and additional apprentices, for whom no race was given, suggesting that they were white: Elijah Moore in 1821, aged seventeen, and Joseph Martin in 1826, also aged seventeen.

Uriah Sandy is remembered chiefly for his role as the lead contractor for construction of the First Presbyterian Church (1819-1822). He took a contract for $2,000 and (as recorded in the ledger of William Hollister) was paid in four equal amounts during 1819-1821. Working with him in the large project were established local house carpenters John Dewey and Martin Stevenson. Dewey was Sandy’s “grandfather” in their trade, having been the master of apprentice Benjamin Good, who had trained Sandy.

The large frame church, regarded as the finest Federal style church still standing in the state, features a tall Ionic portico and a square tower that diminishes in stages to an octagonal cupola. The interior, which is remarkably intact, has a narthex opening into an elegant sanctuary, with the pulpit on the wall by the narthex. Elliptical forms, and arched ceiling, slim classical columns upholding the galleries, and delicately carved moldings enrich the entire interior, linking it with other fine Federal work in New Bern. Originally the tower featured urns at the front corners of the portico and main roof.

Although its sophisticated architectural character and certain architectural motifs have led some to suggest that architect William Nichols had a hand in its design, there is no documentation of such a connection. It is possible that the church design was influenced by the architectural pattern books of Asher Benjamin of New England, and by familiarity with New England models, for it is similar in some respects to a meeting house design illustrated by Benjamin in his widely popular Country Builder’s Assistant (1798).

Although no additional works have been attributed to Sandy besides the church, he must have accomplished other projects in New Bern to gain sufficient experience and reputation to take the contract for the church. Where he spent the rest of his life and when he died remain open questions.

  • Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).
  • James H. Craig, The Arts and Crafts in North Carolina, 1699-1840 (1965).
  • Lynda Vestal Herzog, “The Early Architecture of New Bern, 1750-1850,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of California (1977).
  • William Hollister Account Books, microfilm, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Elizabeth Moore, Rice, Hasell, Hawks, and Carruthers Families of North Carolina (1966).
  • Peter B. Sandbeck, The Historic Architecture of New Bern and Craven County, North Carolina (1988).
  • Donald R. Taylor, A History of the First Presbyterian Church, New Bern, North Carolina, 1817-1972 (1972).
  • Lachlan C. Vass, History of the Presbyterian Church in New Bern, North Carolina (1886).
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  • First Presbyterian Church

    John Dewey, carpenter; Uriah Sandy, contractor; Martin Stevenson, carpenter


    New Bern, Craven County
    Street Address:

    412 New St., New Bern, NC





    Images Published In:

    Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
    Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).
    Frances Benjamin Johnston and Thomas Tileston Waterman, The Early Architecture of North Carolina (1941).
    Peter B. Sandbeck, The Historic Architecture of New Bern and Craven County, North Carolina (1988).


    Further information about the planning and construction of First Presbyterian Church appears in a notice in the Newbern Sentinel of February 13, 1819, which suggests that Dewey had a leading role in the project. The notice, signed by building committee members Robert Hay, William Hollister, James Griswold, and S. M. Chester, announced that the committee on behalf of the church trustees would receive proposals for “contracts to furnish materials for the construction of a wooden Meeting House, 72 feet long, 52 feet wide, and 28 feet high; and also for building the same. For further particulars, as to the structure, reference may be made to Mr. John Dewey, who has a plan of it in his possession.” Whether Dewey or someone else had drawn the plan is not known.

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