In the Grain:
The Furniture of
Augustus P. James &
Edgar James, 1860-1930
In the Grain:
The Furniture of Augustus P. James and Edgar James, 1860-1930
The James Family of Lincolnton has furnished the citizens of Lincoln County with finely crafted walnut furniture from before the Civil War through the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early twentieth-century. This tradition began with Benjamin James and was carried on by his son, Augustus P. James, and grandsons, Edgar, William, and George. Their bedsteads, bureaus, wardrobes, lounges, tables, washstands, clocks, and chairs grace the homes of many of Lincolnton and Lincoln County’s oldest families.
The Lincoln County Historical Association and Lincoln County Museum of History chronicle this woodworking tradition through the works of Augustus Pinkney James and Edgar James. From the large Empire-style pieces to the linear characteristics of the Arts and Crafts Movement, In The Grain pulls from the pages of Lincoln County’s past the skill and workmanship of two of the county’s most noted cabinetmakers.
Augustus Pinckney James
Augustus Pinckney James was born in Lincoln County, North Carolina on July 24, 1825 to Benjamin and Julia Diefebach James at the home of his maternal grandfather John Phillip Diefebach. He learned the trade of cabinet making from his father, and worked with Dr. Samuel P. Simpson at his carriage factory in Lincolnton before volunteering for the Mexican War in 1841. For twenty years after returning from service, he crafted beautiful walnut, Empire-style furniture for the people of Lincoln County. He was married to Margaret Long McCullough on June 13, 1852 at the Presbyterian Church in Lincolnton by Reverend R.N. Davis. As the tocsin of war sounded between the North and South, Augustus enlisted with Company B, 23rd Regiment North Carolina Troops on May 23, 1861.
Upon returning from the war he resumed his cabinetmaking business with a single apprentice. As a member of Lincoln Lodge No. 137, A.F. & A.M., Augustus built a number of bureaus and cabinets for the Lodge from 1862 to 1870. He died in Lincolnton on March 30, 1904 and is buried at the Old White Church Cemetery.
Along with other skilled cabinetmakers in Lincolnton during the mid-nineteenth century like Thomas Dews and Warren Gheen, Augustus James built and supplied Lincoln County with high quality furniture. He passed his trade along to apprentices David Pink and Marcus Seagle, and sons William P., George L., and Edgar James.
Edgar James was born on January 10, 1856 to Augustus Pinkney and Margaret McCullough James in the old Delane House on the Courtsquare in Lincolnton. As a third generation cabinetmaker, Edgar learned the trade from his father along with his brothers, George L. and William P. In 1888 Edgar built his home on South Laurel Street in Lincolnton, and in 1890 had his own furniture factory behind his house. Among the pieces that he crafted at his shop were bedsteads, bureaus, wardrobes, lounges, tables, and washstands. In addition to his furniture business, Edgar owned and operated a flour and grist mill on his property in Lincolnton.
Edgar James was a faithful member of Lincolnton’s Methodist Episcopal Church South, present day First United Methodist Church of Lincolnton, and is credited with crafting the church’s Communion table and chairs. He was first married to Anna P. Jetton on December 23, 1875, and then to Mary M. Alexander on October 6, 1885. Edgar was one of Lincolnton’s most prominent citizens, and was one of the most noted cabinetmakers in the Catawba Valley. It has been recorded that “the ambition of every young couple beginning housekeeping was to have at least a part of their furniture made by Mr. James.”
Edgar James crafted furniture in various styles including Empire, Victorian Renaissance Revival, and Arts and Crafts. His pieces are constructed of solid walnut, many of which are scribed in pencil bearing his signature and the date.