Bratton, Nathaniel (fl. ca. 1815)




  • Tyrrell County, North Carolina


  • Carpenter/Joiner

Nathaniel Bratton (fl. ca. 1815), was a house carpenter in the Albemarle region who constructed buildings for Tyrrell County planter Ebenezer Pettigrew, among others. He came from an established local family, for an earlier Nathaniel Bratton had been a property owner in the Albemarle in the early 18th century. Like many rural builders, the carpenter Bratton seldom appeared in records. The chief memoir of his work appears in letters Pettigrew wrote in 1815 to his wife Ann (Nancy) concerning construction of their Bonarva Plantation House. The Pettigrew family had had a plantation center by the name “Bonarva” at Lake Phelps for some years. In about 1815 Ebenezer Pettigrew undertook to erect a house and some outbuildings there, and employed Bratton for the project.

Bratton’s helpers on the job included Cornelius Leary (apprenticed at 14 to William Nichols in Chowan County in 1809) and an enslaved carpenter named Dave. The workmen’s relationships were not always smooth: Ebenezer Pettigrew wrote to his wife from Bonarva on November 10, 1815, “when I went to the Lake, everything was as well as I could expect, everyone appeard to have done his duty, except Leary who quarriled with Bratten and quit soon after I left home I believe it was because B. would not give him brandy enough.” Bratton continued on the job, for on November 21, Pettigrew reported to Ann that the plasterers had finished their tasks on the house and predicted, “Bratton will I expect finish all the inside work of the house in about ten days, he has then to make dairy, cellar doors, bannistering of Piazzas and steps which will take until the end of the year. I think my dear you will be pleased with the conveniences of the house when you experience them, O Nancy!” Bratton also apprenticed Robert Alexander to the carpenter’s trade in Tyrrell County in 1819. Nothing is known of what must have been many other rural projects for the carpenter Bratton.

  • James H. Craig, The Arts and Crafts in North Carolina, 1699-1840 (1965).
  • Sarah McCulloh Lemmon, The Pettigrew Papers, 1 (1971).
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  • Bonarva Plantation House

    Nathaniel Bratton, carpenter; Jim Millen, bricklayer and plasterer; Joe Welcome, bricklayer and plasterer

    Early 19th century

    Lake Phelps, Tyrrell County
    Street Address:

    Lake Phelps vicinity, NC


    No longer standing




    Bonarva was one of the plantations owned by the Pettigrew family, who were neighbors of the Collins family in the large plantation zone that encompassed hundreds of acres in Tyrrell and Washington counties. Ebenezer Pettigrew moved there in 1803; he wrote [(1804]) to James Iredell, Jr., that he lived so close to the county line that “without much trouble I can peep alternately into both counties.” Pettigrew was constantly making improvements to his house and farm. Receipts in the Pettigrew Papers indicate that Joe Welcome and Jim Millen (Miller) worked intermittently on brickwork, whitewashing, and other endeavors at Bonarva from 1803 through 1818. See for example Ebenezer Pettigrew’s payments to Josiah Collins, Jr., October 4, 1816, Pettigrew Papers, North Carolina State Archives.

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