Benjamin Leecraft & Descendants

Benjamin Leecraft III

According to Ian Lucraft, who has been researching his ancestors for twenty-five years, "The Luckraft name appears first in the records in the small villages of the South Hams area of Devon, between Kingsbridge and Dartmouth. The variants of the name arise from the different phonetic spellings as the name was used and recorded. Most of the Luckrafts originate in families resident in the South Hams in the 1500s and 1600's The Lucraft variant originates from Nicholas Luccroft who was married at Farringdon, East of Exeter, in 1691 to Margaret Westcott. Where Nicholas came from is unknown to me, but he commenced a group of families in the villages near Farringdon of Woodbury, and Broadclyst." Leecrafts are listed as members of the Virginia Company that helped colonize Virginia and Bermuda, as well as settlements north of Virginia on the Atlantic coast.

A Lucraft/Leecraft was Governor of Bermuda under George III when many became discouraged by their lack of independence. Some of the Leecrafts moved south to the CaribbeanBarbados, Antigua and Martinique, to continue commercial shipping using their fleet of ships to cargo to ports along mainland America.

Around 1780 several Leecraft brothers came to the colonies. It is believed that two settled in New York and one in Beaufort, South Carolina. The fourth brother, Captain Benjamin Leecraft I, born in 1753, arrived in the Beaufort, North Carolina area on his own ship and became one of the largest land owners in the province. About 1783, he married Susannah Elizabeth Bell (1765-1818), daughter of Colonel Malachi Bell. During the Revolutionary War, Leecraft joined with a Captain Biddle of Philadelphia as mate in shipping on the brigantine Active. In 1784 Captain Leecraft was master of the schooner Sea Flower, trading out of Turk's Island for importer William Fisher. He was killed in 1799 in a sea battle off the coast of Bermuda and was buried at sea. 

Benjamin and Susannah Leecraft were parents of one son and four daughters: Nancy married David Perry in 1810; Sarah Elizabeth married Tarrington Roberson in 1801; Susanna, born about 1784, married Abraham Pigott in 1903, then James Johnson Verell in 1814; Mary (1798-1829) married John Cooper Manson in 1814. 

The only male heir, Benjamin II (1795-1860), married Mary Fuller in 1810. Their known children: Zilphia Ann (1816-1849) married Michael Fisher Arendell; Susan Benjamin (1819-1887) married Josiah Fisher Bell; Benjamin III (1823-1880) married first cousin Mary E. Arendell, then Susan Stowe; William, born about 1831, was a West Point graduate, mayor of Beaufort and NC Senator; Julia Frances, born about 1834; Lafayette Fuller (1838-1864), was a physician who died during the Civil War; and Nathan Franklin, born about 1840.

When Benjamin Leecraft II died intestate in 1852, he left behind a massive estate. In addition to his property holdings, thousands of dollars in promissory notes remained for his heirs to collect when due. This gave heirs a cash flow surplus, especially providing young William with adequate means to construct the two elaborate homes on Ann Street. Mary's petition for dowry contained seven pages detailing specifics as to the many properties owned by her husband. The 1860 census recorded 60-year-old Mary on Turner Street with Lafayette, Nathan Franklin, and grandchildren Mary and William Arendell; Mary's personal estate valued at $10,000; that of children and grandchildren totaled $37,000. The 1870 census found Mary and "seaman" Nathan; real estate valued at $3800, personal estate at $500. In Mary's 1866 will, proven in 1878, son Nathan received Old Town Lot 53 on Turner Street, "where I now reside." Grandchildren, Mary B. Arendell and William L. Arendell, received Old Town Lot 75 (219 Ann).

In 1845 Benjamin Leecraft III (1823-1880) married Mary Elizabeth Arendell (1826-1858), daughter of Sarah Fisher and Bridges Arendell. Mary and Benjamin III, who were first cousins once removed, had eight children; all are believed to have died as infants or young children except for Benjamin Bridges Leecraft (1855-1926) and Carolus Arendell Leecraft (1853-1915). The 1860 census shows a widowed Benjamin Leecraft III with three small children; his real estate value was $50,500 and personal estate was $23,000.

This is an important, but miss-labeled photo. It could not be Mary Fuller Leecraft (born about 1799) whose last child was born 1840. Portrait may be Mary E. Arendell Leecraft (1826-1858) and son Benjamin Bridges Leecraft (1855-1920), wife and son of Benjamin Leecraft III (1823-1880). Or, it could be Benjamin's second wife Susan Stowe (1846-1904) and one their sons.
By 1862, the Union provost marshal granted a Boston merchant “permission to occupy the store formerly occupied by Benjamin Leecraft, the owner having joined the CSA.” Leecraft served in the 2nd Regiment, North Carolina Artillery.

Since Leecraft was not occupying his home at the corner of Ann and Orange Streets, it was taken by the Federals and used as officers’ quarters. Soldiers left axe marks in the floor of the room (now the dining room) where fire wood was stored.

Susan Elizabeth Stowe 1846-1904
2nd wife of Benjamin Leecraft III
Benjamin Leecraft III left Beaufort shortly after the war. It appears that Leecraft’s wealth and holdings diminished—or else he was discouraged by the results of the war and the Federal occupation. Leecraft married his second wife, Susan Elizabeth Stowe in 1866. Susan, who was half his age, was the daughter of Colonel Samuel Neel Stowe, M.D., who had served on the staff of General Robert E. Lee. 

Susan and Benjamin III had five children—Arthur Neel (1866-1943); Albert Stowe (1868-1940); Bessie Holland (1873-1946); Daisy Dean (1876-1959); and Walter Benjamin (1879-1948). Arthur was born in Union, SC; Albert and Bessie were born in Lincolnton, NC. The other children were born after Susan and Benjamin moved to Texas in the 1870s.

Confederate swords carried by Captain Leecraft and Colonel Stowe became treasured possessions to Brigadier General Walter Alexander Dumas, son of Bessie Holland Leecraft and DeBerry Glenn Dumas and grandson of Benjamin Leecraft III. Leecraft’s sword was originally the property of a Masonic lodge and put into military service at a time when weapons were scarce.

Benjamin Leecraft III died in 1880 in Denison, Texas, when his oldest son Arthur Neel was only about fourteen years old.
Arthur Neel Leecraft
Arthur Neel Leecraft owned the first all-purpose store in Indian Territory--Leecraft Mercantile-- just north of Denison across the Red River by ferry. He married Lelah Maupin (1871-1921), born in Chicasaw Nation, Oklahoma, Indian Territory. Arthur later became “Colonel” Leecraft and was very active in governmental and civic affairs in the state of Oklahoma, including being state treasurer.

Emails from Pat Fleury, Benjamin Leecraft's great-great granddaughter, gives us more insight into the family's life in Texas. Pat is the daughter of Marjorie Leecraft McMahon, daughter of Bertram Maupin Leecraft, son of Arthur Neel Leecraft.

Pat wrote,
After Benjamin III left North Carolina, I couldn't find him in Texas. Finally, on a wild hunch, I found him in a California Gold Rush camp, living in a barracks with other men on the same quest. After he got that 'out of his system,' he came back to Texas. Even though genealogical records show the location as Sherman and Denison, back in those days they lived in the countryside. Even today, a person can easily get gored by a wild hog in the woods just outside of Denison,Texas.

When Arthur Neel Leecraft left to go into politics, he left my grandfather, Bertram Maupin Leecraft (b.1894) behind to attend to Leecraft Mercantile. Back then, the only way across the Red River was by ferry boat. At first, the town was called Colbert's Ferry.

John Rice Maupin

Lelah Maupin Leecraft's father, John Rice Maupin, rode with Quantrill's Raiders during the Civil War. Maupin married Helen Eastman. Through Helen Eastman, we are also cousins to the Eastman Kodak people. My grandfather Bertram Maupin Leecraft could tell stories about Jesse James and other outlaws because of the Quantrill's Raiders connection. Oklahoma in those post Civil War days was really a wild wild west.

Strangely enough, the Maupins were French Huguenots in 1700's Williamsburg, Virginia. Their 'ordinary' or inn in Williamsburg was first given a liquor license in 1711. Eventually they operated three inns. The last one is now called the Taliferro-Cole House, on Lot #352 in Williamsburg.

So...the Maupins started in Virginia and the Leecrafts in North Carolina and they all wound up in Oklahoma during and after the Civil War. 

I am sending old photographs from the Bessie Holland Leecraft album that I inherited from my Mom. The photo of John Rice Maupin came from an issue of Chronicles of Oklahoma.

Last Will and Testament of Susannah Leecraft 1818

In the name of God amen I Susannah Leecraft of the County of Carteret and State of North Carolina being weak in Body but of my Right mind and Sound memory and calling to mind the mortality of my body, and the certainty of death before my departure to another World Do make this my last will and Teatament, In measure and form following.

That is to say first of all, my Soul I reccomment to Almighty God who gave it, and my Body to be Decently buried in a Christian like manner By my Executors viz. My Brother Josiah Bell and my Son Benjamin Leecraft. whom I appoint constitute and ordain to be executors of this my Last will and Testament. And as touching the Earthly Property wherewith God has blessed me withal I give and alot in a manner and form as follows. viz.

1 Item I give and bequith to my son Benjamin One Negro Girl named Maria. also one third of two Negro boys named Jim, and David to him and his heirs forever.

2 Item. I give to my Daughter Elizabeth Roberson Twenty Shillings to be paid after my Decease by my Executors. I also lend to her the said Elizabeth Roberson the use of one Negro boy named Philip, during her life, and at her Decease, I give him to her children forever. I also give to my said daughter Elizabeth Roberson one third part of two Negro boys named Jim and David to her and her heirs or Assigns forever.

3 Item I give to my Daughter Susan Verell one third part of two Negro boys named Jim and David to her heirs or Assigns forever. I also lend to my said daughter Susan Verell during her life one Negro woman named Jane and her child Alfred and should she my said daughter Susan die without issue I give the said woman and Child to be equally divided among my surviving Children or their heirs of their body.

4 Item I give to my daughter Nancy Perry Twenty Shillings to be paid her after my Decease by my executors. I give in safe keeping One Negro man named Daniel and one Negro girl named Delila, In the hands and possesion of my son Benjamin Leecraft as a Trustee the said Negro to be hired out annually and the money arising from the hire thereof to be applied to the support of her my said daughter Nancy and her Child or Children for and during her natural life and should she die without heirs of her body then the said Negro to be divided among my other Children or their survivers. And should my said Daughter Nancy Perry leave Issue then and in that case I give said above named Negro to them their heirs or Assigns forever. I give to my daughter Nancy Perry one Bed, Bedstead Furniture to her and her heirs forever.

5 Item I give my grandson Benjamin Leecraft Perry one Bed Bedstead and Furniture, to him and his heirs forever.

6 Item. I give to my daughter Mary Manson Twenty shillings to be paid her after my Decease by my Executors. I also lend to her the said Mary Manson on Negro man named Sam during her natural life and should she Die leaving Issue I give the said Negro Sam to the ??? of her body forever. but should she die without Issue to be divided between all my other Children or their ??? heirs of their body.

All the debts which I owe it is my will and desire that all my Children pay an equlal share of the sum.It is my will and desire that all my House hold goods and Kitchen Furniture not already bequethed be Equally Divided among all my Children, by my Executors.
I Susannah Leecraft do hereby declare this to be my Last Will and Testament. Revoking all other will by me made. Publishing and Declaring this my Last Will and Testament, by affixing my seal there to this Twenty Eighth day of March One Thousand Eight Hundred and Eighteen in presense of James Manney Matthew Norris--Susannah Leecraft Seal

Carteret County Court of Pleas and Quarters Session August Term 1818. I certify that then was this written paper exhibited into Court and by oath of Matthew Norris ??? witness duly proved to contain the true Last Will and Testament of Susannah Leecraft dsc and Benjamin Leecraft and Executor therein named to qualify as such. GeoRead Clerk 

Leecraft Houses on Ann Street - Beaufort NC
307 Ann Street - March 1862 
Mounted orderly Lt. C.M. Duser

These three Greek revival-style homes have features taken from books on architecture by Asher Benjamin. His influence is seen in its wide hall, broad staircase, large rooms with high ceilings, and distinctive woodwork. Even though plaqued 1850, 1856 and 1857, the 1857 house (301 Ann), on the corner of Ann and Orange, due to its construction details, may have been the first built, possibly before 1850.

301 Ann Street - Built by Benjamin Leecraft III, 
likely before 1850
305 Ann Street - Built by William Leecraft, son of Benjamin Leecraft II
Plaqued 1856. Due to saws used, the house was most likely built earlier 
than 307 due to being framed mainly with sash sawn members

307 Ann Street - Built by William Leecraft, son of Benjamin Leecraft II
Plaqued 1850 - built with mostly circular-sawn framing members. 
One joist has "1856" lightly inscribed on its side.