Preserving Bracey’s History; Local group aims to restore “Old Town”

The Old Post Office Building was built as a store around 1915 by the son of the town’s namesake, A.H. Bracey. (Jami Snead photo)

The Bracey History Project is a group of Community Center members with a common goal to preserve and remember Bracey’s heritage.

“Our goal is to collect, preserve, and share historical stories, photos, and artifacts pertaining to the Bracey area. We gather oral histories with plans to write engaging stories for publication.”

The group hosted a Bracey History Project Day of Saturday, May 29 with the hope of spreading the word about their mission and gathering stories from those who are from the area and remember the old town. 

The primary focus for the project is the “old town” located on Bracey Drive that was formed as a community in 1792. At the time the town was called Saint Tammany when the General Assembly made it the first incorporated town in Mecklenburg County.

 

The Bracey Train Depot was built in 1900 to service the rail connection portion from Richmond to Ridgeway, NC. When the station was built, railroad officials declined retaining the Saint Tammany name at the time. They chose to name the town after local businessman, A.H. Bracey, giving the community it’s current name. The railroad and station were owned by Seaboard Air Line from 1900 to 1967 when a merger that resulted in the Seaboard Coast Line as owners, followed by CSX in 1983. CSX abandoned the railroad corridor from Petersburg to Norlina in 1987 and removed the rail but retains ownership of the corridor. This building has been restored by the Barbosa family and is now available for use as an Air BND rental.

 

The Old Post Office Building was built as a store around 1915 by the son of the town’s namesake. From 1909 to 1943 the post office was located across the street in the Bracey & Co. mercantile with Waller T. Bracey as postmaster. On his retirement his niece, Nancy Bracey Dunn, became postmistress and the post office was relocated to her father’s store. Eventually the postal services became the primary function of the location. The postmistress would put the bag of mail or “catcher pouch” on the mail crane located across the tracks for the depot for the postal clerk on the train to grab as it slowed and passed by the station. Similarly the incoming mail bag would be dropped from the train onto the crane. Sometimes prisoners were temporarily held in the upstairs floor of the post office.

Bracey and Co. was one of the earliest general stores in Bracey. Built in 1900 by Waller Bracey son of A.H. Bracey. Waller Bracey sold everything from coffins to penny candy. The store was well remembered for it’s old-fashioned soda fountain. Waller Bracey also handled many funerals, maintained birth and death certificates as the registrar for the community, and served as postmaster in the store prior to th building of the post office. The original building was destroyed by by a fire in 1918 and was replaced with the current brick building.

 

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church was organized in 1883. Beginning in 1885, the Reverend Joseph Carroll, a deacon, served as priest of the congregation. The church prospered under his leadership. The old church building burned on Easter Sunday in 1923. The parishioners and community worked together and rebuilt St. Mark’s in two years. Worship service began in the new building in 1925. It is still currently used today for worship services, weddings, funerals, and other religious activities. St. Mark’s would, in time, increase its membership to become at one stage in history, one of the largest Black rural Episcopal Churches in the nation.

St. Mark’s also operated a parish school that provided Black children the opportunity for an education. Reverend Carroll’s wife, Mary, served as the first teacher at the school. As the number of students continued to grow, plans for a new school were completed in 1927 with financial assistance from the Julius Rosenwald Fund and contributions from the community. The new school was named after Mary Carrol and Nannie Boyd and became known as the Carroll-Boyd School. The building no longer stands in this area.

Kingswood United Methodist Church has been ministering to generations of the community. The church was organized in October 1807 as Calvary Church, and was located a few miles southeast of the current church location. Between 1833 and 1836, Calvary was moved to the present site and the name was changed to Kingwood United Methodist Church. The present sanctuary was constructed in 1888.

Other sites for preservation include Lebanon Primitive Baptist Church, the R.G. Kidd General Store, Roanoke R.Z.U.A. Church, the Lambert Store, the Bracey School, and the Bracey Community Center.

The project group members encourage anyone with memories of Bracey over the years to contact them for interviews by visiting their website www.braceyhistoryproject.com.

“Other ways to help in our preservation efforts include purchasing our note cards, calendars, and memorabilia items; keeping up with our website for events as they happen; and contacting our history collectors with pictures, stories, and family trees.”