Sampson, Henry D. (fl. 1850s-1880s)
Henry D. Sampson (fl. 1850s-1880s), a Wilmington house carpenter who was born and practiced his trade in slavery before becoming free as a result of the Civil War, was like several of his fellow black artisans a prominent citizen during the postwar era.
When Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase toured the South immediately after the Civil War, he visited Wilmington, where he met on May 9, 1865 with a “colored delegation” who called on him. He identified the members as Jona[than]. C. Gibbs, a minister from the North; Allen Evans, a barber who had “bought himself & had conveyance made to his wife who was free”; Alfred Howe (see Howe Family), “a carpenter about 48 years old—has followed trade 30 years—bot himself for 1200 & wife & two children for 1800—3000 in all—was conveyed to White friend & relied on integrity for freedom—has house & lot—never legally free [until Emancipation]”; and “Henry D. Sampson—carpenter also much younger man perhaps 30 or 35—has followed trade many years—not free till made free by war.” It is likely that Henry D. Sampson was one of the several slaves owned and trained by the wealthy free black Wilmington carpenter James D. Sampson. A Freedman’s Bank record filled out in 1873 by Alex.[ander] Sampson, a schoolteacher aged 21, stated that he was born in Wilmington to Henry D. Sampson and Margaret (who was dead), and that his siblings were Joseph and John. According to the parish register of St. Paul’s (later St. Mark’s) Episcopal Church, a Margaret (“Col. Free”), who was buried on March 3, 1861, was the wife of “Henry Sampson, Servant of Mrs. Davis.”
After the war, Henry D. Sampson served along with Alfred Howe and others at Wilmington’s St. Mark’s Episcopal Church as a vestryman and as a delegate to state diocesan conventions, which encompassed both black and white congregations after the war. He was recorded in the 1870 United States Census as a house carpenter aged 45 living in the household of another along with his sons Joseph and John. By 1880 he had remarried and at age 55 headed a household that included his wife Hannah, 30, and several children. Although Henry D. Sampson likely worked on a great many houses and other buildings in Wilmington, only one has been credited to him thus far, the Williams-Holladay House of 1889-1890 in Wilmington, designed by local architect-builder James F. Post. He died early in 1890, before the house was completed.
- Salmon P. Chase and John Niven, The Salmon P. Chase Papers: Journals, 1829-1872, 1 (1993).
- “Church of St. Paul’s Burial and Baptisms, Wilmington, North Carolina,” transcribed by James Edwards, in Wilmington Clarion Courier (Spring 2003), http://www/onhgs.org/courier/CC-Vol15-2.pdf.
- New Hanover County Estates Papers, Henry D. Sampson Estates Papers, North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, North Carolina.
- William M. Reaves and Beverly Tetterton, “Strength Through Struggle”: The Chronological and Historical Record of the African-American Community in Wilmington, North Carolina, 1865-1900 (1998).
- United States Census.
- Dates:1889-1890Location:Wilmington, New Hanover CountyStreet Address:117 S 4th St., Wilmington, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialNote:According to the local historical marker on the house, the Queen Anne style Williams-Holladay House of 1889-1890 was built for George W. Williams for his daughter, Maggie M. Holladay; her husband William W. Holladay, a native of Richmond, Va., designed the elevations of the house. Mrs. Holladay died before the house was completed.