The Brick Church | Buncombe County, NC | c. 1876
Around 1876, Thomas Redmon “T.R.” James commissioned the firing of enough bricks to build a substantial mansion for his family in a small community in Western North Carolina, called Leicester. In those days he made his living as a farmer, but just ten years earlier, he was at Appomattox at the close of the Civil War, for which he had spent 3 years of his life fighting for the Confederacy.
As he built his home, T.R. included enough bricks to build a church for his rural community to replace a previous antebellum log structure. The church was constructed on 2 acres of land deeded to the community by David Palmer and was named The Brick Church as it was the first brick example of its kind in the area.
This facet of its construction adds a lot to its story because, at that time, Leicester was largely isolated from the outside world due to its hilly landscape and rough wagon roads. This meant that transporting heavy bricks into the area would’ve been nearly impossible and as such, most structures of that time were built of wood that would be milled locally.
Since brick wasn’t readily available until the railroad came through in 1880, the construction of this all brick church in 1876 makes it an exceptional example of the craftsmanship that existed locally at that time.
But as the years went on, rural life would change with the arrival of the railroad and later with cars and improved roads. Wars would come and go and people moved away. The church would close in 1928 and then reopen again in 1936 before closing for good in 1954.
Today the building and graveyard are well cared for and a homecoming service is held here yearly.
Stories From The Graveyard
As I was researching some of those buried here, I came across a Jacob O’Dell Duckett, a Revolutionary War Veteran in the Private Continental Line. Born in Maryland, he would find his final resting place here in Leicester, NC (then called Turkey Creek) in 1809.
The following stories are just a few of those I found in researching the graveyard here.
Sarah Mahala Grider
B. 29 February 1788; D. 1 September 1891
Another interesting story is that of Sarah Mahala Grider James. Born in 1788, Sarah would raise 5 children here in Leicester, including a son Thomas Redmon James, who built this church.
She would live to be 103 and according to family legend, Sarah could still use her spinning wheel on her 100th birthday.
B. 25 December 1784 D. 10 December 1879
Born in Armagh, Northern Ireland, James would marry Coelia (Celia) Hawkins Alexander, and to them, 8 sons and 4 daughters were born here in Leicester, NC. I found two land grants for James, both issued in 1853 for 57 and 200 acres, respectively, along the French Broad River at the headwaters of North Turkey Creek.
He died at 94 years old and is buried in an unmarked grave here at the Brick Church.
Amos Logan Lunsford
B. 27 June 1845 D. 26 August 1889
On August 23, 1889, Amos was attending a tent revival near his home in Leicester when he witnessed a man slapping his child. Amos intervened and a fight ensued with the man. A knife appeared and Amos was stabbed. He was able to make it back to his home where his wife, Malinda, nursed his wounds. He died at home 3 days later. The other man was found guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.