Rue, George A. (ca. 1820-1866)
New Bern, North Carolina, USA
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Newport, Rhode Island
- New Haven, Connecticut
- New Bern, North Carolina
George A. Rue (ca. 1820-Dec. 22, 1866) was a free black New Bern mechanic and joiner who moved north in the early 1850s and became a minister, then returned to New Bern in 1865, where for a brief period he served as an important religious and political leader.
Rue was a son of Hannah Rue, who had been emancipated when she was about 12 years old, and Bristow or Brister Rue, an enslaved man who was sold away at an unknown time. Like a number of free black New Bern youths, George and his brother Godfrey learned skilled trades, possibly from their father; Godfrey was a carpenter, who left New Bern between 1850 and 1860 for Colorado and later California. Their sister, Grace Rue Green, was a schoolteacher, and her son Israel Braddock Abbott, George’s nephew, was a carpenter who became active in New Bern political life after the Civil War.
In 1850 George A. Rue was listed in the United States Census for New Bern as a “mechanic”—a term that included various skilled crafts including building trades. His household included his wife, Ann, 26, and daughters, Hannah, 4, and Melinda, aged 1, and he had $300 in real estate. The family soon joined other free black North Carolinians who moved north, and in 1852 the New Haven, Connecticut, city directory listed him as a “joiner,” a term commonly used for skilled woodworkers in the building as well as furniture trades.
Long active in his home church (Andrews Chapel) in New Bern, George A. Rue felt a call to the ministry. After moving north, in 1855 he was ordained as a deacon associated with the New England Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) denomination. He served congregations in Newport, Rhode Island, and Boston, Massachusetts (Bethel Church, now Charles Street AME Church). After an unsuccessful effort in 1862 to return to New Bern (which had been occupied by Union troops early that year) to recruit Andrews Chapel for AME, he was active throughout the Civil War as a preacher and abolitionist in the North.
At the end of the war he was assigned to New Bern, where in the summer of 1865 he founded the congregation now known as Rue’s Chapel AME Church. Although his primary occupation was as a minister, he continued to employ his building skills upon occasion, and he and another man constructed a Sunday school building for the congregation. He also entered into the local political leadership’s campaign for equal rights and served as a leader in the two North Carolina Freedmen’s Conventions held in Raleigh in 1865 and 1866. Not long after the latter convention, George A. Rue died on December 22, 1866, at age 46, from the effects of yellow fever. His widow, Ann, later married the widower George Willis, who had helped found Rue’s Chapel. Thus far, no living descendants or family papers of George A. Rue have been identified.
- Catherine W. Bishir, Crafting Lives: African American Artisans in New Bern, North Carolina, 1770-1900 (2013).
- Christian Recorder, Feb. 2, 1867.
- “Freedmen’s Bank Records,” Ancestry.com, http://www.ancestry.com.
- New Bern Daily Times, Feb. 25, 1874.
- New Haven City Directories.