Built in 1885, “Gallberry” served as the home of United States Senator William H. Kitchin and his family, including sons Governor William W. Kitchin and Senator Claude Kitchin. The home was named after the Gallberry shrub native to the low-lying coastal plans of the southeast United States.
Original Date Cast:
William Hodge Kitchin moved his family into the house after returning from service in the Forty-sixth United States Congress, which he entered as a Democrat in 1878 after defeating James E. O’Hara, a black Republican nominee. A Confederate veteran and white supremacist, Kitchin spent much of his political career attempting to curb African American advances within the state. A lifelong Democrat, Kitchin broke with the party in the 1890s over what he perceived as President Grover Cleveland’s pandering to the black vote. He wrote to Zebulon Vance, “I would prefer the Devil himself for President to Cleveland, provided he was not already a Republican.” Kitchin briefly joined the Populist Party in 1894. A self-proclaimed “militant-Baptist,” Kitchin found William Jennings Bryan’s Protestant stance quite appealing. However, he left the Populists for the Democrats in 1897, proclaiming that the Populist mentality threatened white supremacy. He died four years later at “Gallberry,” leaving a widow and eleven children.
The most prominent of William H. Kitchin’s children were his sons William W. and Claude. Born on October 9, 1866, William W. Kitchin only resided briefly at Gallberry after completing his degree at Wake Forest College in 1884 and while he was teaching at Vine Hill Academy. In 1887, he entered the University of North Carolina to study law, and the following year began a law practice in Roxboro. In the 1890s he followed in his father’s footsteps by gaining a seat in the United States Congress, where he served six consecutive terms. In 1908, he defeated Locke Craig and Ashley Horne for the Democratic gubernatorial ticket, and the following year he was elected governor of North Carolina. After his term, Kitchin practiced law until his death on November 9, 1924.
Claude Kitchin, born on March 24, 1869, followed his brother in attending Wake Forest College, and practiced law in Halifax County after his graduation in 1888. During the turbulent elections of the 1890s, Claude Kitchin stood out as a white supremacist leader in the county, organizing the Red Shirts, bands of armed men who assaulted and intimidated black voters. Kitchin gained a popular following in the county for his beliefs and actions, leading to his election to the U.S. House in 1900. He remained in Congress through the next eleven consecutive elections and perhaps is best known for his adamant opposition to Woodrow Wilson’s decision on America’s entrance into World War I. Kitchin died from a combination of pneumonia and influenza in the winter of 1923.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 375-377—sketches by Richard L. Watson, Jr., Eric Anderson, and C. Sylvester Green
Eric D. Anderson, Race and Politics in North Carolina, 1872-1901 (1981)
H. L. Ingle, “A Southern Democrat at Large: William Hodge Kitchin and the Populist Party,” North Carolina Historical Review (April 1968): 178-195
Alex M. Arnett, Claude Kitchin and the Wilson War Policies (1937)
Claude Kitchin Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill