Richardson, Edward A. (ca. 1830-1896)
Edward A. Richardson (ca. 1830-1896), a freeborn black plasterer and bricklayer from New Bern, exemplifies the many African-American artisans who entered into political and community leadership promptly after the Civil War. He was already an accomplished artisan, family man, and property owner by the mid-1860s, when he became engaged in New Bern’s vibrant political life. He became a respected civic leader and held government positions in the post office during the brief period of Republican ascendancy.
Edward Richardson was born about 1830, part of families long established in New Bern and Craven County. He was the son of Simon Richardson and Sarah Rue (Rew), free people of color, who were married in Craven County in February 1830. His father’s family, the Richardsons, had been free people in Craven County for many years; several of them, including Simon Richardson, were engaged in the calker’s trade, which was essential in building and maintaining wooden boats and ships. On his mother’s side, Edward was the grandson of bricklayer and plasterer Isaac Rue (ca. 1787-1880). Isaac Rue had been emancipated by the will of the noted New Bern artisan Donum Montford, who was also an emancipated brickmason and plasterer. Edward Richardson probably learned his trade from his grandfather, along with his younger brother, Isaac Richardson, who was also a bricklayer.
In 1860 and 1870, the bricklayer Edward Richardson owned real estate and personal property, and he and his wife Maria and their family were living next door to his grandfather Rue. At Rue’s death, the local New Bernian of January 17, 1880, reported that the elderly Isaac Rue had “acquired a considerable amount of property in real estate which is left to his grandson, E. A. Richardson, a faithful and obliging Clerk in our Post Office.”
Although Richardson worked for most of his life as a bricklayer and plasterer, no specific projects have been attributed to him. Both before and after the Civil War, New Bernians constructed many brick buildings, as well as brick chimneys and foundations, and doubtless many of these showed Richardson’s handiwork.
From the 1860s onward, Richardson was engaged in local political and civic life. In 1865 he was a delegate to the Freedmen’s Convention in Raleigh. Locally, he served on the local board of education, as justice of the peace, and as a founder and officer of a fire company and other civic organizations. By 1880 he was employed as clerk in the local post office, and in 1884-1885 held the important office of postmaster, an appointment made by Republican Congressman James O’Hara, whom Richardson had supported. At his death on February 26, 1896, the New Bern Weekly Journal reported, “E.A. Richardson, a prominent colored man died yesterday. The funeral will take place from St. Peter’s church this afternoon at two o’clock. He was well known to many of our city owing to his public position” as postmaster and “bore a good name as far as we ever heard.”
- Craven County Records (Estates Papers, Marriage Bonds, Wills), North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
- United States Census, 1850-1880.