Benjamin Bucktrout




     Benjamin Bucktrout, a cabinetmaker from London, England, came to Williamsburg in 1766.  He rented the Palmer House at the end of Duke of Gloucester St., opened a shop and advertised that he did “all sorts of cabinet work, either plain or ornamental.”  Palmer was a lawyer who had occupied this house in 1749 and who had had to rebuild it in 1855 since it had burned in 1754.  Benjamin’s first wife was Molly EarnshawAnthony Hay turned over the Hay’s Cabinet Shop and his clientele to Benjamin Bucktrout in late 1766.  Edmund Dickinson stayed on as a partner. 

    Bucktrout also advertised that, besides his regular business, he made Chinese palings for gardens and made harpsichords and spinets.  As a cabinetmaker, he also made coffins and was a funeral director.  Royal Governor Francis Fauquier died in 1768.  He was laid to rest in the north isle of Bruton Parish Church.  The present church, constructed in 1683, which was too small and was badly in need of repairs.  George Wythe was his executor.  Bucktrout handled the final details.  Benjamin’s sons and their wives and children were later buried in the graveyard at Bruton Parish Church.

    Bucktrout also did carpentry work, for there is in existence a bill for coach house repairs charged to George Washington in 1769.

    When Lord Botetourt died in 1770, Bucktrout conducted four days of elaborate ceremonies. James Geddy made the silver name plate for the outer of three nesting coffins, and the burial was in the chapel of the college.  Later, a statue of the popular governor was set up in the Capitol building.

    In 1771, Bucktrout left Hay’s shop to his partner and bought the Chiswell Place.  He rented the Pelham Shop next door (west).  Here he branched out, advertising “Paper Hangings and Hogarth Prints” amonth other things and general merchandise.  His new home served him then for exhibiting not only his own work but other materials for home decoration and use.

    In 1772, Bucktrout was making musical instruments, “elbow chairs, and stuffed mahogany chairs” and in 1772 he advertised for two stolen horses branded with a “B”.  A reward was offered for “conviction of the thief provided he is hanged.”  In 1774, his well stocked store offered foodstuffs, dishes, hats, boots and shoes, guns, saddles, chamber pots and coffin furniture.

    Bucktrout’s father-in-law, John Earnshaw, left for england, never to return.  In distress, Bucktrout advertised in Dixon and Hunter’s Virginia Gazette that he still did cabinet work in all its branches.  Records show that he also erected a mill and made gunpowder.  John Page (a member of the house of burgesses and one of the largest land owners in Virginia) in a letter to Jefferson begged him to assist and encourage him.

    Bucktrout became surveyor to the public hospitals of the state in 1777 until 1779 when his wife Molly died.   At this time he put his house up for sale and announced that he was leaving the state.  George Davenport bought his home and opened a tavern.  He later returned to williamsburg making frequent tripts to England through 1788 when Virginia state hood was declared, and in 1794 bought the property east of his former home, the Chiswell-Bucktrout place, on Francise street and was possibly in business or living there.

    Some recorded local gossip was that the Widower Bucktrout was courting a young Yorktown woman, Mary Bruce.  He was often seen follwing her in her riding chair “wearing a scarlet waistcoat and neat wig, mounted on a good horse with a servant riding behind him.”  It turned out that in 1797, Bucktrout married for the second time, this time to Miss Mary Bruce.  Records show that he owned the Ayscough House (now the gunsmith) in 1797.  The Ayscough House was possibly where Benjamin and Mary Bucktrout had their four children: Rachel, Horatio Nelson, Benjamin Earnshaw (1803) and Richard Manning (1805).  We know very little of the first two children born to the Bucktrouts: Rachel and Horation.  (This was possibly still the home of mary Bruce Bucktrout, who owned it after his death until 1836.)

    At this time Butcktrout was commissioner of taxes and town surveyor.  He made a map of Williamsburg in 1803 at which time he owned 8 1/2 lots.  His Francis street property now extended east to the Semple House.

    Bucktrout died in 1812 and is reported to have been buried at “Greens.”  Mary Bruce continued to live in Williamsburg and raise her family.  Ben Jr., 9, and Richard, 7, were the youngest.  Mary Bruce Bucktrout died about 1836.