Abbott, Israel Braddock (1843-1887)
New Bern, North Carolina, USA
- New Bern, North Carolina
NC Work Locations:
Israel Braddock Abbott (May 11, 1843-1887), a freeborn black house carpenter in New Bern, took an active role in local and state politics soon the Civil War, serving as a state legislator and running for the United States Congress in a crucial election.
Like many people of color in the mid-19th century, some of Israel B. Abbott’s family connections remain undocumented; further information is sought. He was the son of Grace (Rue) Braddock (Green), a free woman of color, and an unidentified father. In 1850 the 7-year-old Israel was living with his mother and his younger half-sister Hannah Cora, both of whom were encompassed under Grace’s last name, Braddock. By 1860, Grace had married carpenter Joseph Green, and the couple along with her children Israel and Hannah were living with Grace’s mother, Hannah Neale, and her stepfather Thomas Neale. Israel, aged 17 in 1860 and working as a carpenter, was now called Israel Abbott and his sister was recorded as Hannah Cora Brown. Where the name Abbott came from is not known. In addition to Grace, Hannah Neale’s children included Godfrey Rue and the religious and political leader George A. Rue; their father, Israel’s grandfather, was an enslaved man named Brister or Bristow Rue who was “sold away,” and though his name and memory remained strong in his family, Rue’s parentage, trade, and subsequent life remain undocumented.. According to a first-hand account of 1874, Israel Abbott’s father “died before he [Israel] had completed his first year, and he was left in the care of his mother and grandmother.” Hannah aided in her grandson Israel’s education until he was ten, when he was apprenticed to the carpenter’s trade for a two years, then “finished his trade with his stepfather, Joseph Green.”
During the Civil War, Israel Abbott, aged about 18 in 1861, was forced to work on Confederate forts, but then escaped from that duty, served briefly with a Confederate officer, escaped again, and hid out in New Bern until the city was captured by Union forces in March 1862. He “then made himself known, taking a leading part in all public meetings and enterprises among the colored people of his county, and soon became widely known and popular.”
By 1870, Abbott, identified as a house carpenter by trade and a resident of New Bern, had acquired property including $300 in real estate and $400 in personal property. He headed a household that included his wife Susan, and their children including James E., Ann, Cora, Gracey, and Isaac, Jr. He was a founder and member of numerous civic organizations and a frequent and popular public speaker. Despite his known activity as a house carpenter, no specific buildings have been attributed to him.
Like several other New Bern artisans of color, Abbott entered into political affairs after the Civil War, following in the footsteps of others in his family, including his stepfather, carpenter Joseph Green, and his uncle, Rev. George A. Rue. He became a leader in the Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass Equal Rights Leagues and subsequently in the Republican Party. In 1872 he was elected to the state legislature. Abbott is best known for his ill-fated campaign for the United States Congress in 1886. He was one of two candidates nominated by the state Republican convention, and ran in a three-man race against the Republican incumbent James O’Hara, also a man of color, and white Democrat Furnifold Simmons of New Bern. With the two Republicans splitting the vote, Simmons won the election, attaining his first office in a career that led him to become one of the “architects” of the White Supremacy campaigns of 1898 and 1900. Only a few months after the election, Abbott died at age 44, leaving a modest estate for his widow and children.
- Eric Anderson, Race and Politics in North Carolina, 1982-1901: The Black Second (1981).
- Eric Foner, Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders During Reconstruction (1993, 1996).
- “Freedmen’s Bank Records,” Ancestry.com, http://www.ancestry.com.
- Charles N. Hunter, “Israel B. Abbott,” Raleigh Examiner, Feb. 22, 1874; and New Bern Daily Times, Feb. 25, 1874.
- Peter B. Sandbeck, The Historic Architecture of New Bern and Craven County, North Carolina (1988).
- United States Census, Craven County, North Carolina, 1850-1900.
- Alan D. Watson, A History of New Bern and Craven County (1987).