Branch was born on July 28, 1828, at New Market, near Petersburg in Prince George County, the son of Thomas Branch and his first wife, Sarah Pride Read Branch. After an early education in the Petersburg schools he attended Randolph-Macon College, then at Boydton, and received an AB in 1848. An excellent student, Branch was elected principal of the preparatory school at Ridgeway, Warren County, North Carolina, one of four schools in that state then associated with the college. After a year there, he joined his father's business in Petersburg. With his younger brother John Patteson Branch, they formed a partnership called Thomas Branch and Sons, which became one of the largest commission-merchant houses in that city. On December 3, 1856, Branch married his second cousin Martha Louise Patteson, of Richmond. They had one son and four daughters.
After the war Branch helped to reorganize Thomas Branch and Sons as a banking house in Richmond. He became a leader among those businessmen struggling to rebuild the city's economy and helped to found the Merchants' Exchange, the Corn and Flour Exchange Association, and the Tobacco Exchange. Branch was also the Richmond banker for William Mahone and advised him in his effort to consolidate his railroad properties.
Branch attended a barbecue sponsored by the Colored Walker Club of Richmond on July 2, 1869, four days before the election. A temporary bridge provided access to an island in the James River where the event took place, but a policeman refused to permit those without tickets to cross. Already on the island, Branch stepped onto the bridge and shouted to the policeman to open the gate to all. The crowd streamed onto the bridge, which suddenly collapsed. Branch fell under the broken timbers and chains of the bridge and drowned. After funeral services at Saint Paul's Episcopal Church two days later, thousands of people followed Branch's casket to Hollywood Cemetery. Members of the Colored Walker Club joined the procession, and along the way other African Americans taunted them as traitors.
1848 - James Read Branch receives an AB from Randolph-Macon College, then at Boydton.
July 28, 1848 - James Read Branch is born at New Market, near Petersburg in Prince George County, the son of Thomas Branch and his first wife, Sarah Pride Read Branch.
December 3, 1856 - James Read Branch marries his second cousin, Martha Louise Patteson, of Richmond. They will have one son and four daughters.
May 11, 1861 - James Read Branch organizes an artillery company and enters active Confederate service.
May 2, 1863 - James Read Branch is promoted to major in the Confederate army.
August 25, 1863 - James Read Branch is promoted from major to lieutenant colonel in the Confederate army.
April 17–20, 1864 - Sometime during the siege of Plymouth, North Carolina, James Read Branch's horse is shot and falls on him, breaking his leg in three places. He convalesces in Richmond, but is slow to heal.
March 28, 1865 - James Read Branch resigns from the Confederate army.
1869 - The Conservative Party in Richmond nominates James Read Branch for the Senate of Virginia.
July 2, 1869 - James Read Branch dies at a barbecue sponsored by the Colored Walker Club of Richmond when the weight of the crowd crushes the bridge he stands upon.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Kneebone, J. T., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. James Read Branch (1828–1869). (2013, December 12). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Branch_James_Read_1828-1869.
- MLA Citation:
Kneebone, John T. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "James Read Branch (1828–1869)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, 12 Dec. 2013. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: May 29, 2013 | Last modified: December 12, 2013