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Lewis C. Buckner (1856-1924)

Lewis C. Buckner, African American carpenter, cabinetmaker, and house builder in Sevier County, was born and raised as a slave in the Strawberry Plains community of neighboring Jefferson County. Buckner was the son of a white father and an African American mother. He learned his trade as an apprentice in Sevierville after the Civil War. He started his cabinetmaking business in the 1870s; the 1880 census listed him as a cabinetmaker. He married Jane Bryant in 1875 and found success in building furniture and dwellings.

From 1880 to 1921 Buckner built houses throughout Sevier County and embellished them with the ornate architectural elements indicative of Victorian-era ebullience. He usually built an entire dwelling and lived at the building site during construction. Buckner added decorative details such as porches and staircases to otherwise plain farmhouses. His handsome and creative furniture, cabinets, and mantels spread throughout the region and are now prized family heirlooms. Buckner also constructed ornate pews and a pulpit for the New Salem Baptist Church at Sevierville, a historic African American church built by Isaac Dockery in 1886.

At least fifteen examples of dwellings exhibiting Buckner's extraordinary craftsmanship still exist in Sevier County. Indicative of the chronological range of his work are the Darius and Mary Robertson House near Harrisburg (ca. 1880); the Andes-Denton House near Sevierville (ca. 1890); the Trotter-Waters House at Sevierville (1895); the Sam Dixon House near Shady Grove (1914); and the Mullendore House near Pigeon Forge (1921). Buckner built his own house near Millican Grove in 1894.

Reflecting his own interpretation of national architectural styles acquired from pattern books, Buckner's work is extremely creative and rarely are two pieces rendered exactly alike. Several of Buckner's flamboyantly styled houses are listed in the National Register of Historic Places due to their significant and unique architecture. Buckner is buried in an unmarked grave at the Union Hill Cemetery near Millican Grove.

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » January 01, 2010