Eubanks, George C. (Eubank) (1860/61-1951)
George C. Eubanks (Eubank) (1860/61-1951) was a New Bern man of mixed race who began his working life as a carpenter’s apprentice and in the twentieth century identified himself as an architect. His story highlights the complexities of racial identity in the period. Like many mixed-race individuals, George Eubanks and his family were sometimes identified in records as “white” and sometimes as “mulatto.”
According to his grave marker, George C. Eubanks was born in 1860 and died in 1951. In 1870 the U. S. Census listed him as a white schoolboy aged 8 in the household headed by his father, Allen G. Eubank(s), a wealthy white auctioneer aged 51. The household was recorded as including several other Eubanks children—Isaac, Letia, and Ottie (also identified as “white”) and Charles and Walter (identified as “mulatto”)—along with Lucinda Stanly, aged 28 and identified as a white domestic servant. Lucinda Stanly (1838-1926) was formerly enslaved by Allen Eubanks then became his lifelong mate and the mother of George Eubanks and others of Allen’s children. Although she was listed as a white woman in the 1870 census, other records identified her as a woman of color and the daughter of a white man and a woman of color (see below). When Allen Eubanks died in 1877 he left his considerable fortune to Lucinda and named her as his executrix and guardian of the children. In 1880 the census listed 19-year-old George as a carpenter’s apprentice living in Lucinda’s household, which also included his siblings Isaac, Otto, and Mary. All were listed as “mulatto.”
After completing his apprenticeship, New Bern tradition recounts, George went north to study architecture and returned to New Bern by 1900, where he was listed in the census of that year as a white architect and carpenter and living with his mother, also noted as white. They resided in a large house among white neighbors on Broad Street. New Bern city directories of the 1910s and 1920s listed him as an architect—sometimes as “white*”, the asterisk designating a white person of mixed race—with his office on Broad Street. Lucinda Stanley (sic)’s death certificate of March 15, 1926 identified her as “colored” and noted that she had been interred in New Bern’s Cedar Grove Cemetery—a remarkable event considering that cemetery had been restricted to white burials for many years. Her death certificate stated that she was the daughter of James Stanly (a member of a prominent local white family) and Cathrine (Kitty) Leach. The informant for the death certificate was George Eubank (sic) of New Bern.
After his mother’s death, George engaged in a campaign to have himself legally declared white. Appealing to the legislature and the courts, he argued that his mother, Lucinda, was of white and Native American heritage and that he was thus ¾ white and ¼ American Indian, “with no African blood in his veins,” and he sought to have his maternal grandmother, Kitty Leach, recognized as “a full-blooded Mohawk Indian.” A bitter and public conflict arose, which included statements by local people and an attack on Eubank’s residence. In 1931, one judge ruled in his favor, and another rescinded the judgment. The case was appealed to the North Carolina Supreme Court, which on March 1, 1932, dismissed the case because it presented “a social matter rather than a legal controversy.” (See Raleigh News and Observer, Sept. 7, 1931; Statesville Record, Sept. 8, 1931; Supreme Court of North Carolina, March 1, 1932, filed March 9, 1932, at https://casetext.com/case/in-re-eubanks-3).
In 1930 the census showed George as a “black” architect in New Bern, but he was not listed there in 1940. He may be the George Eubank listed in the census of 1940 as a white man from North Carolina living on 134th Street in New York City. After his death in 1951, George C. Eubanks was interred in New Bern’s Cedar Grove Cemetery; the grave marker also lists his mother, Lucinda, and his siblings, Isaac, Mary, and Otto. The adjoining grave marker is for Allen G. Eubanks.
Little is known of George Eubanks’s architectural work. The only New Bern building attributed to him is the two-story, brick Stanly Building in downtown New Bern, which he built on a lot owned by his mother, who held extensive downtown property. The New Bern Daily Journal of March 13, 1913, noted several local construction projects, among which was the entry, “On the corner of Middle and Broad streets George C. Eubank (sic) is erecting a commodious brick structure which, when completed, will be occupied by a mercantile firm.”
Catherine W. Bishir, Crafting Lives: African American Artisans in New Bern, North Carolina, 1770-1900 (2013)
Peter B. Sandbeck, The Historic Architecture of New Bern and Craven County (1988). Allen G. Eubanks will and estates papers, Craven County Records.
- Contributors:George C. Eubanks, attributed architect, builderDates:
1912-1913Location:New Bern, Craven CountyStreet Address:
335 Middle St.Status:
CommercialImages Published In:
Peter B. Sandbeck, The Historic Architecture of New Bern and Craven County (1988)Note:
The 2-story brick commercial building, located on a premier downtown corner, was built for Lucinda Stanly (sometimes known as Lucinda Eubanks), a woman of color who owned extensive property in town. The New Bern Daily Journal of March 13, 1913, reported that it was under construction by (her son) George Eubank (sic), and other local newspapers carried similar accounts. It was also referred to as the Eubanks Building (New Bern Sun, May 2, 1913, quoted in Sandbeck, The Historic Architecture of New Bern and Craven County). The first occupant of the first story was the Bradham Drug Company, where the soda fountain sold Pepsi Cola, invented several years earlier by pharmacist Caleb Bradham. In more recent years, the building has contained restaurants.