Green, John (fl. 1760s-1785)
John Green (fl. 1760s-1780s) was a house carpenter and joiner active in 18th-century Edenton, especially during the 1760s and early 1770s when several important buildings were constructed or completed in the venerable port town. He was variously identified in deeds as a carpenter and as a house carpenter and joiner, indicating that he could erect frame buildings and do the joiner’s work of making and installing paneling and other finish and likely producing cabinets and other types of “joined” furniture.
Green was probably the son of planter Richard (d. 1742) and Else Green of Chowan County (the northern portion that later became Gates County). He had four or five brothers, Thomas, Jacob, Leonard, William, and possibly Richard. Some of his brothers went to Edgecombe County, while John moved to Edenton. Becoming part of an extended artisan family connection, Green married Elizabeth Branch Underhill (the daughter of William and Elizabeth Branch and the widow of Edward Underhill [d. 1757]. John and Elizabeth Green had two daughters: Anne, who married Henderson Luten, and Sarah, who married James Luten. The Luten family, to which Elizabeth Green was already connected by her sisters’ marriages comprised several artisans including Edenton house carpenter William Luten.
John Green owned substantial property in and near Edenton, including several town lots by the mid-1760s and a house in town which he occupied from 1779 to 1781 and sold to his son-in-law James Luten. By 1777 he owned a 940-acre plantation in Chowan County, known as Sycamore, and he had at least three slaves. He also operated an inn at his Edenton residence, where he was licensed to keep an “ordinary” in 1768 and 1769, and he was cited as an innkeeper in his will written in 1779. As a respected citizen, he frequently served as a witness, surety, or executor for others. During the American Revolution, Green, like several other Edentonians, took an active role in the patriot cause. He served in 1775 on the Edenton Committee of Safety, and in 1776 he was one of four commissioners at Edenton appointed to by military stores and other goods for Continental troops. His wife may have been the Elizabeth Green who signed the famous “Edenton Tea Party” resolution in 1774; there were several local women by this name, but she was among the most prominent. Green took numerous apprentices to his trade over the years. He took John Mitchiner to learn the carpenter’s trade in 1763, Nehemiah Bateman and Cornelius Leary to the house carpenter’s trade in 1767, and a tax list of 1774 showed two apprentices, Harvey Vandewater and Art Elberson, living in his household.
Although Green was doubtless involved in many construction projects during his long career, few have been documented, chiefly small tasks on public buildings. In April, 1764, for example, he was ordered by the court to repair “the Bar of the Court House [the old Chowan County Courthouse], put up proper benches, and mend and put up door before next Court.” For this work, he and one James Palmer submitted a bill of £15, 7 shillings, 4 pence. Court records indicate that in 1764 Green built a house measuring 36 by 18 feet on lots 28-29 for James Luten, and also in the mid-1760s he built two other houses measuring 20 by 15 feet and 25 by 15 feet, on lots 95 and 96 respectively, for Joseph Hewes. Whether elements of any of these survive within existing houses is unknown.
For Edenton’s principal colonial building, the Chowan County Courthouse built in the late 1760s, the names of the workmen remain a mystery, though it is likely such a large project involved several local artisans. An advertisement in the Virginia Gazette of June 4, 1767, sought bidders for building “a brick Court-House 68 ft. by 45.” In 1770 when the courthouse was nearly complete, Green and Edenton house carpenter and joiner Gilbert Leigh were paid 15 pounds, 5 shillings, 1 pence for making “bookpresses” (bookshelves) and other items for the clerk’s office, but it is not known whether Green was involved in earlier work on the courthouse.
Indicative of his status in town, at the colonial brick edifice of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Edenton, which had been abuilding since the 1730s, in 1774 John Green accomplished the joinery work of putting up the pulpit (since lost), for which he was paid 5 pounds, 4 shillings. Further work by Green remains to be found.
- Marc D. Brodsky, The Courthouse at Edenton: A History of the Chowan County Courthouse of 1767 (1989).
- Chowan County Records (Apprentice Records, Estates Papers, Wills), North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
- Chowan County Records (Court Records, Deeds, Tax Records, Wills), Chowan County Courthouse, Edenton, North Carolina.
- James H. Craig, The Arts and Crafts in North Carolina, 1699-1840 (1965).
- Frances Benjamin Johnston and Thomas Tileston Waterman, The Early Architecture of North Carolina (1941).
- Elizabeth Vann Moore Papers (Transcripts and Summaries of Church Records, Court Records, Deeds, Tax Records, Wills), private collection, Edenton, North Carolina.
- St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Records, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.