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 Petersburg Designer House

Welcome to the Bragg House, the first Designer House sponsored by the Women's Committee of the Petersburg Symphony Orchestra in 1992.  The Bragg House is located in the historical High Street area of Petersburg and was open to the public, following its restoration, from April 11 until May 10, 1992.  The Designer House was a collaborative effort of interior and landscape designers, businesses, and individuals who generously donated their ideas, resources, time, services, and talents.

The Bragg House

The 1992 Petersburg Symphony Designer House was built in 1823 and was known as the Bysett House.  William Bragg purchased the house and altered it to resemble a fashionable Greek Revival House.  Daniel Bragg, his brother, modernized the house in the mid-1860's.  The house has been restored to its original splendor by Jamie E Caudle, who was at that time the present owner.  Today this house is considered a 3/story Federal Style home with Doric Columns.

Introduction

It has been Brent D Bragg's pleasure to work on this project and help complete a research effort which is quite literally decades in the making.  Based on data collected by George Bertram Jones (Bert), Brent D Bragg began to piece together the Bragg family tree which included Bert’s collection of photographs, obituaries, and his research notes.  Bert possessed an encyclopedic memory about the family and had a great mind for detail. Fortunately for Brent D Bragg, he wrote down much of the information in a family tree he was compiling.

Sadly, Bert died in 1991 with his compilation of the family history incomplete and his research notes went into storage.  Since the information Bert left was largely photographic, Brent D Bragg's family inherited a great number of pictures of the Bragg and Jones families from the 1850’s forward. 

The images on many of the photographs had begun to fade and in some cases the cardboard itself was deteriorating. It was time to do something to preserve the images and organize the information.  Brent D Bragg decided to compile the pictures in an electronic format so that they could be shared among the family and preserved for the future.

Brent D Bragg is grateful he had the opportunity to go through a large number of the photographs with Bert before he died and write the identity and context of the photographs on the back of the pictures.  Without Bert’s knowledge, almost all of the individuals in the Richmond Bragg family photographs would have become unknown “ghosts” since anyone remembering any of the subjects would have also passed.

Quite by accident, in April of 1992, Brent D Bragg came across the notice in the Richmond Times-Dispatch about the Bragg house in Petersburg being the Symphony Designer house.  Since among the information that Bert had left were two pictures of William A. Bragg, Brent was convinced that there was a direct family connection between the Petersburg Bragg family and Brent D Bragg's family. Many of the Richmond side of the Brent D Bragg family went to the Bragg house in 1992.  The photographs contained on this website record that visit to the house.

Not much else was known about the Petersburg family history except at some point there had been a printed reference about William Jr. as the “Meanest man in Petersburg”.  Brent D Bragg has not found it in the boxes of Bert’s research, but in Bert’s defense, he is sure this is how the pictures were described to him.

Based on this information Brent believed there was a rock solid connection to the Petersburg Bragg family and unable at the time to identify James Edward’s parents (which would have quickly disproved the relationship); He started his research of William in Petersburg in February 2008.

With his (Brent's) father’s assistance, the trips to Petersburg to research produced a wealth of information.  Coupled with the internet research and the information from the Library of Virginia, a fascinating story emerged.  The information about the family was golden, for example, there were other professional genealogies that had been done that traced William Jr.’s wife, Eliza Madison Lee’s family back to Richard Lee, the father of Robert E. Lee and to Robert Madison, the brother of James Madison.  And it got even better, other genealogies traced Eliza’s lineage back the 1608 relief mission to Jamestown, and even further back to Edward III.  This was heady stuff - true first family of Virginia connections.

Sadly, and somewhat late during Brent's research, he discovered that his side of the Bragg family was a completely different line than that of the Petersburg Bragg family. 

It was when Brent D Bragg tried to connect William and Edward as brothers that the alleged connection broke down and he found it was quite impossible. 

Brent D Bragg cross referenced transatlantic ship passenger manifests and several 19th century Federal Census records. He found that James Edward Bragg was born in Ireland in 1828 and entered this country in 1832 through New York City on the ship “Tallahassee”.  William Sr.’s family was already well established in this country and was here at least by 1780 with William’s father Joseph Bragg in Chesterfield County.

Also, the situation was confounded by several family members with the same names.  There were at least three “William Albert Bragg" in the Petersburg family.  William Sr. (1809-1863), his son, William Jr. (1840-1901), and William Sr.’s grandson by his son Daniel who isn’t technically a third, so I reference him as “Son of Daniel”.  William Sr. also had a brother named “Daniel” and as previously mentioned, named his son “Daniel” (but he went by Willson).  Even the Bragg’s slave, Peter Bragg, named his two sons “William Albert Bragg” and “Daniel Willson Bragg”.  And on the wives’ side, the name “Eliza” was rampant as well as variations of “Rosa Belle”, “Rosabelle”, and “Belle”. 

After identifying all the “William”s and gaining their birth and death dates as well as their obituaries where possible, Brent D Bragg could not find a reference or connection from James to William, or from William to James.  Additionally, the birth date for James (1828) was not a close fit with William Jr. (1840) or William Sr. (1809).

However, the mystery of the photographs referencing William as James’ brother remained.  What is known is that James had a dry goods store in the 200 block of East Broad Street in Richmond in the late 1800’s.  James’ father, Thomas, had also owned a furniture store in the same location before him.

About 1875, William Jr. and his family moved to Richmond in the 300 block of Franklin Street (which is parallel to Broad St.) so their homes and businesses were in the same area.  Brent D Bragg is sure at some point the two families must have run into each other. 

Brent D Bragg does not know when James’ father died, but it must have been before William moved to Richmond or this would not have gotten confused.  James ran a furniture store on Broad Street during the time that William came to Richmond.  As mentioned, they must have met and been on friendly enough terms to exchange photographs.  They also must have tried to puzzle the families together to create the connection. 

Obviously, the correct relationship was lost to time.  The handwriting on the back of the photographs is Bert’s so the reference was recorded about 100 years after the families actually met.

Well, to say the least, Brent D Bragg was disappointed.  Not because of the time researching, but because he lost kinship with a group of individuals that he had felt he had come to know.  He is open to being wrong about this, but right now the evidence points to an 1832 arrival to America for his side of the family and no connection to the Petersburg Braggs. 

At any rate, Brent D Bragg is pleased that this research has provided an opportunity to bring together the information on the Bragg family and the Bragg house as well as identify other important Bragg homes.  Notably, the Bragg home on the corner of Second and Lombard Street, and the home on Bragg’s Hill.  He is very gratified that the research has helped re-identify (with the help of Dulaney Ward and Dr. Philip Ryan) the location of Bragg’s Hill which he believes was mostly forgotten.

The information that follows was collected from public sources such as property deeds, tax records, census and military records.  Without the internet and the electronic catalog of the Library of Virginia, this research would not have been possible.  One website in particular, www.arlisherring.com is very focused on the Petersburg Bragg family and is a great resource.

Since internet page references change over time and the references may fail, Brent D Bragg has added a copy of the source material or a screen shot of the actual data reference for documentation in the appendices.  He listed his research sources for this information to make it as accurate and referenceable as possible.  His hope is that this information may be useful to other researchers in the future.

The filenames for the pictures are included with the pictures so that the individual pictures can be copied and printed.  In fact, all of the pictures and data sheets are included on the CD in a standard JPEG format so that they can be easily used and preserved.  There is also a section of additional research threads concerning the Bragg family that current family members may also want to pursue.

It’s at this time that Brent D Bragg would like to thank Dulaney Ward and Dr. Jim Ryan for their patience with his questions and their generous support for this research.  He would also like to thank his brother, Mark Bragg, for his technical assistance with the tombstone rubbings and library research.  Finally, he would especially like to thank his father, Richard A. Bragg, who has helped him on every trip to Petersburg and the Library of Virginia to research.  It would have been impossible for him to navigate through the deed books and newspapers to research this project without his direction and assistance.

Brent D. Bragg
November, 2008

 

 

 

 


George Bertram Jones
1906-1991

 


Front                     Back
William A Bragg, Jr., 1840-1901

These are the photographs that started it all

 

 

 

 


 

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