“Buncombe Hall,” the plantation of Colonel Edward Buncombe, was built in 1768 near Kendrick’s Creek in the present-day community of Chesson. Evidence as to what the main house actually looked like is scant, although it was known to have had two stories with double piazzas, three cellars, and spacious grounds that included gardens. Buncombe’s land holdings included nearly 2,560 acres between Beaver Dam Branch and Kendricks Creek along the road to Mackey’s Ferry.
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Edward Buncombe was born on the West Indian island of St. Christopher, the child of English planters Thomas and Esther Buncombe. He arrived in America in 1767 or 1768, and shortly thereafter began construction of Buncombe Hall. He served as a justice of the peace and militia officer, and supported the Crown and William Tryon in 1771 during the War of Regulation.
Three years later, however, Buncombe turned against the Crown, using his plantation as the meeting place for a conference that included himself, John Harvey and Samuel Johnston. The three discussed the decision to call an assembly (that later met in August 1774 in New Bern) in defiance of the Royal governor. At the outbreak of war, Buncombe was elected colonel of the 5th North Carolina Continental Regiment, which he led in the brigade led first by James Moore and then later by Francis Nash. Although quite confident in Buncombe’s courage and diligence, Moore once referred to him as “impulsive and impressionable.”
Buncombe commanded his regiment until he was severely wounded at Germantown in October 1777 during the American attempt to retake Philadelphia. According to historian Marshall Haywood, “Colonel Buncombe was left for dead by the retreating Americans and lay where he fell until the next day, when a British officer recognized him as an old schoolmate and had him removed to Philadelphia.” While a paroled prisoner awaiting exchange, Buncombe remained in the city recovering from his wounds until a freakish accident caused his demise. In May 1778, Buncombe fell down a flight of stairs while sleepwalking, opening his wounds and causing him to bleed to death. He was buried in Christ Church cemetery in Philadelphia with full military honors. In 1791 Buncombe County was created in his honor. Congressman Felix Walker represented Buncombe County and “spoke for Buncombe” during his term from 1817 to 1823, thereby leading to use of the term “bunkum” or “bunk.”
“Buncombe Hall” passed into the hands of his children and their descendants but slowly fell into disrepair. In 1868 what remained of the building was sold to a northern investor for the paltry sum of $800. That individual’s investments collapsed, however, and he was never able to rebuild the falling structure, and instead chose to sell it off piece by piece. By 1874 nothing was left, and the former manor house of Col. Buncombe ceased to exist.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 268-269—sketch by Sarah McCulloh Lemmon
Joshua Howard and Lawrence E. Babits, Fortitude and Forbearance: The North Carolina Continental Line in the Revolutionary War, 1775-1783 (2004)
Marshall D. Haywood, “Buncombe Hall,” North Carolina Booklet, II (1902)
(Edenton) Chowan Herald, February 18, 1993