Faces of New Bern

Tryon Palace

Step back in time and meet the families of New Bern.

The Stanly Family
The John Wright Stanly House located on George Street in New Bern, North Carolina is a part of Tryon Palace. It is open for tours daily. 

John Wright Stanly was born on December 18, 1742 the son of Dancey and Elizabeth Wright Stanley, in Charles City County, Virginia. After his father's death and his mother's remarriage when he was fifteen, Stanly apprenticed himself to learn the merchant trade working in Petersburg and then Williamsburg, Virginia. After receiving his inheritance at twenty-one he went into trade with Kingston, Jamaica merchantmen. His first base was in Philadelphia. After Philadelphia, merchant Jonathan Cowpland falsely accused Stanly of defrauding him and left Stanly to spend a year in debtors prison. Stanly then chose to relocate to Charleston. On his journey south, his ship was struck in a storm off the coast of North Carolina and Stanly ended up in New Bern where he met and married Ann Cogdell.

After arriving in New Bern in 1772, John Wright Stanly established his mercantile business. During the American Revolution he supported the patriots outfitting privateers and working to acquire supplies for the Continental army. When the fighting approached eastern North Carolina Stanly moved his family to Philadelphia. By the war's end he had returned to New Bern and begun construction on a new home. The stately Georgian style home located on a full city block in New Bern, was only used by John Wright Stanly and his family for a short time. In 1789 both he and his wife contracted yellow fever and passed away within a month of each other leaving behind six children. Stanly had one other known son with an enslaved Ebo woman, John Carruthers Stanly. John Carruthers Stanly was born into slavery but was educated and manumitted at twenty-one by his owners, the Stewart family. Carruthers Stanly went on to great financial success and eventually became one of the largest slave owners in Craven County, North Carolina.

Ann Cogdell Stanly was born in New Bern, North Carolina the daughter of Richard Cogdell and Lydia Duncan. Both of her parents were members of Christ Church, the town's first established congregation. Her father was born in Beaufort and came to New Bern to expand his mercantile business. He was a member of three of North Carolina's provincial congresses and acted as postmaster for North Carolina. She married John Wright Stanly, a merchant and supporter of the American Revolution.

The couple resided primarily in New Bern but for a time during the war relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to further John Wright Stanly's business interests. When they returned to New Bern construction on their new home was nearly complete. They moved into the house in 1782. The family only enjoyed the home for a few years. Ann Cogdell Stanly died a month after her husband in 1789. She left six living children, three had died in infancy.

Lydia Cogdell Badger was the daughter of Richard Cogdell and Lydia Duncan, and sister of Ann Cogdell Stanly. Born in New Bern, North Carolina Lydia married prominent local attorney Thomas Badger. After her sister's death Thomas Badger taught John Stanly, the eldest son of Ann Cogdell Stanly and John Wright Stanly the practice of law.

The Stanly's had nine children. Three died in infancy but six were still living when their parents succumbed to yellow fever in 1789.

John Stanly was born April 9, 1774 in New Bern to John Wright Stanly and Ann Cogdell Stanly. After his parents death in 1789 he began to clerk for his father's business partner, Thomas Turner. In 1795 Stanly set off on his own career and married Elizabeth Franks of Jones County. Stanly went on to become a noted Federalist congressman and legislator whose career was marred by the death of Richard Dobbs Spaight in a duel they fought in 1802. In 1827 Stanly suffered a paralytic stroke and fell into declining health. He passed away on August 2, 1833 and is buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery.

Elizabeth Franck Stanly was born in Jones County and inherited a substantial amount of property from her father. She married John Stanly, son of John Wright Stanly and Ann Cogdell Stanly. The couple resided for most of their married lives in New Bern, NC at the Stanly family home. They had 14 children, five died in infancy and of the remaining nine there was one daughter, Elizabeth Mary Stanly Armistead, and the eight boys: John (idiotic from birth), Alfred, Frank, Edward (served as military governor of North Carolina 1862-1863), Alexander Hamilton, Fabius Maximus, Marcus Cicero, and James Green. In 1827 John Stanly suffered a stroke and his health rapidly deteriorated as did the financial health of the family. Elizabeth Franck Stanly cared for her husband until his death in 1833 and was forced to advertise for boarders in order to pay off debts. After her husband’s death she moved into her daughter’s home in Virginia where she died in 1843. Elizabeth Franck Stanly is buried in the Armistead family cemetery.

The Gaston Family
The Gaston-Coor House at the corner of New and Craven streets is a private residence. 

William Gaston was born to the American Revolutionary War hero Alexander Gaston, and Margret Sharpe on September 19, 1778 in New Bern. Raised by his widowed mother in the Catholic faith, Gaston became a champion of the Catholic Church in North Carolina. He was the first student enrolled at Georgetown University and went on to graduate from Princeton. Gaston accomplished a prominent career as a lawyer, judge and legislator. He is often best remembered for writing "The Old North State," the official state song of North Carolina. Gaston passed away in Raleigh in 1844. He is buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery in New Bern.

William Gaston married Susan Hay on September 3, 1803. She passed away the next year and there were no surviving children. On October 6, 1805 Gaston married Hannah McClure. Together they had three surviving children: Alexander (1807-1848), Susan Jane (1808-1866) and Hannah Margret (1811-1835). Hannah McClure passed away in 1813. Gaston married one final time on September 3, 1816 to Eliza Ann Worthington. They had two surviving children: Elizabeth (1817-1874) and Catherine Jane (1819-1885). Eliza Ann Worthington passed away in 1819 due to complications from childbirth.

Hannah McClure Gaston was born the daughter of General William McClure who served as a physician during the American Revolution. A native of New Bern, Hannah McClure married William Gaston on October 6, 1805.

Hannah McClure Gaston had three surviving children: Alexander Gaston(1807-1848) who married Eliza W. Jones and then Sarah Lauretta Murphy, Susan Jane (1808-1866) who married Robert Donaldson, and Hannah Margret (1811-1835) who married Matthias E. Manly of New Bern. Hannah passed away in 1813.

The Spaight- Donnell Family

Mary Jones Leech Spaight (often referred to as Polly) was the daughter of Joseph Leech and his first wife Mary Jones Leech. Born in New Bern, she married Richard Dobbs Spaight, also of New Bern in 1788. Four years later Spaight became the first native born North Carolina governor. As the wife of Richard Dobbs Spaight Mary Jones was accorded several honors including leading the first dance with President George Washington in 1791 when he visited New Bern, and being the first woman to attend a University of North Carolina commencement in 1795. In 1802 Mary Jones lost her husband to a duel with John Stanly. She passed away eight years later. Both she and her husband are buried at the Clermont Estate Cemetery in New Bern.

Richard Dobbs Spaight Jr. was born in 1796 to Richard Dobbs Spaight Sr. and Mary "Polly" Leech Spaight. He grew up in New Bern receiving his education at the New Bern Academy and continuing on to the the University of North Carolina. Spaight served in both the state and federal legislature as well as a short term as governor. After retiring from politics he returned to New Bern to manage his family estates, taking on an occasional law case to benefit members of the community. During this time he was an active Mason and supporter of Christ Church in New Bern. Spaight passed away in 1850 having never married and leaving no known children.

Margret Spaight Donnell was the daughter of Richard Dobbs Spaight Sr. and Mary "Polly" Leech Spaight. She was born in 1800 and grew up in New Bern. She lost her father when she was two and her mother when she was ten. On June 18, 1816 she married John Robert Donnell. Born in Scotland, Donnell had attended the University of North Carolina and established a prosperous law practice in New Bern, North Carolina. He also served on the North Carolina Superior Court. They had two children: Richard Spaight Donnell who served as a congressman and state senator, and Mary Spaight Donnell who married Charles Biddle Shepard. Margret Spaight Donnell passed in 1831 and her husband never remarried.

The Biddle-Shepard Family
Several members of the Biddle-Shepard Family are buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery. First opened by the Episcopal Church in the early 1800s, it was gifted to the city of New Bern in 1854. 

William Shepard was born in 1765. A merchant by trade, he traveled to New Bern to expand his business. He is best remembered as part owner of the privateer "Snapdragon" from the War of 1812 and grandfather of the Confederate Brig. Gen. James Johnston Pettigrew. William Shepard died in 1819, and is buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery in New Bern, North Carolina. His wife Mary Williams Blount Shepard moved to Raleigh in 1838 and is buried in City Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Mary Williams Blount Shepard was born in 1772 to Frederick Blount and his wife Mary Williams. They resided at her home "Elmwoods" in Pasquotank County. Mary Williams married William Shepard and they resided in New Bern, North Carolina until his death in 1819. Mary Williams Blount Shepard never remarried. She moved with her son James Biddle Shepard to Raleigh in 1838 and died in 1864. She is buried in City Cemetery, Raleigh.

Charles Biddle Shepard was born December 5, 1807 in New Bern, North Carolina to William and Mary Shepard. After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1827 he was admitted to the bar and began practicing law in New Bern. He served as United States Congressman and state legislator. Charles Biddle Shepard married twice. His first wife was Lydia G. Jones. They had one son. Seven years after her death he married Mary Spaight Donnell, the granddaughter of former governor Richard Dobbs Spaight. They had two daughters and a son. Shepard died on October 24, 1843 and was buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery.

James Biddle Shepard was born November 14, 1815 to William and Mary Shepard in New Bern, North Carolina. After graduating from the University of North Carolina and studying law for some time in New Bern he moved with his widowed mother to Raleigh, North Carolina. He served in the state legislature and wrote poetry. In 1845 his wife Frances Leech Donnell Shepard died shortly after giving birth to their only child John Robert Donnell Shepard. James Biddle Shepard never remarried and spent the last years of his life frequently traveling abroad to visit his son in Paris, France. He is buried in City Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Frances Leech Donnell Shepard was born in New Bern. She married James Biddle Shepard and the couple resided in Raleigh, North Carolina. Frances died shortly after the birth of her only child John Robert Donnell Shepard on May 8, 1845. She is buried in City Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina.

And all the Others...
Christ Church of New Bern is the oldest congregation in New Bern, North Carolina. The church, located on Pollock Street, is the third church building built on this lot. 

Josiah Henry Martin was born in 1772 to Royal Governor Josiah Martin and Elizabeth Martin at Tryon Palace in New Bern, North Carolina. In 1775 he fled to New York with his mother and siblings and eventually returned to England with his father after the American Revolution. This portrait was painted in 1787 or 1788 when Josiah Henry Martin was around 15 years old and at school. He went on to serve the British government in India.

James Bryan married Rachel Heritage and they resided in New Bern, North Carolina. Among their children were statesmen John Heritage Bryan and James West Bryan. In 1803 James Bryan began construction on a brick mansion in New Bern that his son James West Bryan later resided in. James Bryan died in 1806. The following year his wife Rachel Heritage Bryan remarried on October 1, 1807 to local physician Frederick Blount.

James West Bryan was born on November 7, 1805 to James Bryan and Rachel Heritage Bryan in New Bern, North Carolina. An attorney and legislator he graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1824. On January 19, 1831 he married New Bern native Ann Mary Washington in Christ Church. During the Civil War the couple relocated to Maryland, and died within a day of each other. They are both buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery in New Bern, North Carolina.

Mary Davis Daves McKinlay (1777-1840) was born the daughter of Oroondates Davis and his wife Mary Eaton Haynes. Her father passed away when she was a young child and her mother remarried to in 1782 to Major John Daves. McKinlay spent the remainder of her childhood in New Bern, North Carolina with her mother, step-father and younger half-siblings including John Pough Daves (1789-1838) whose home is now part of Tryon Palace. The family was very close knit and McKinlay remained close to her Daves siblings throughout her life. In 1796 she married wealthy merchant James McKinlay (d.1819) who became a close member of the Daves family. Mary McKinlay and her husband did not have any children but were very close with their nieces and nephews. In her will McKinlay provided equally for all of the children and her brother's widow. She also made provisions for full emancipation of the slaves she owned along with housing and furniture from her estate. In October 1840 Mary McKinlay was laid to rest in Cedar Grove Cemetery in New Bern, NC.

William Henry Haywood, Jr. was born on October 23, 1801 in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was a United States Senator, state legislator, and attorney who advocated for maintaining the state capitol of North Carolina in Raleigh. In February 1826 he married Jane Graham, a New Bern native. Together they had nine children. William Henry Haywood died October 7, 1852 and was buried in City Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina.

After the Battle of New Bern in 1862, New Bern was held under Federal occupation for the remainder of the Civil War. During that time the population of the town shifted dramatically. Not only did many of the local townspeople flee (only to have their homes taken over by Union soldiers) but the city became a gathering point for African Americans in the region seeking their freedom. Sylvia Conner was a successful African American seamstress who worked and lived in New Bern during the Union occupation.

Mary Jane Connor was the sister-in-law of Sylvia Connor and operated a boarding house. She provided housekeeping and cooking services.

Credits: Story

Curator: Siobhan Fitzpatrick

Photography by:
Richard Baker
Kristie DaFoe

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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