The circa 1790 Gilbert Strayhorn House, showing original 1750s house to its right, view south west (image courtesy of Ruth Shields via Jean Anderson via David Southern)
(also variously spelled Strain, Streaughan, Stream, and Streaghan) was born circa 1715 in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. The Strayhorn family moved from Pennsylvania likely sometime in the 1740s, down the Great Wagon Road to the Hawfields area northwest of Hillsborough. Gilbert married Margaret Roan of Pennsylvania in the 1740s, and the Strayhorn family moved to the New Hope area circa 1755 after Gilbert purchased 600 acres from John Wood. Gilbert was a co-founder of New Hope (Presbyterian) Church in 1756.
Gilbert is listed in the 1790 and 1800 federal census for Orange County. In the 1800 census, he is listed as having eight slaves. Over the years, Gilbert added to his original 600 acres of property. He died February 6, 1803, and is buried in the old New Hope Church cemetery.
The Gilbert Strayhorn house was located near the road between Hillsborough and Raleigh (the colonial Road to New Bern and Cape Fear), and near present-day Old NC 10, east of Hillsborough.
The Gilbert Strayhorn House, taken from the Road to Raleigh/NC 10, view south west (image courtesy of Ruth Shields via Jean Anderson via David Southern)
The original house was likely a log structure (covered in siding at some point), built circa 1755, that was later adapted as a kitchen for the later (circa 1790), two-story "Quaker-plan" house. The later structure faced towards the main public road (initially to the south, but then to the north when a new public road was built prior to the Civil War), and was similar in appearance to the Dickson House that now stands in downtown Hillsborough and is used as the visitor's center.
Hand-drawn map of the Gilbert Strayhorn House and landscape, by Ruth Shields
Hand-drawn map of the Gilbert Strayhorn House, by Ruth Shields
Regulator leader James Hunter and his family (his wife – Mary Walker – and five children) is said to have hid out at the house from Governor Tryon's troops (likely because Strayhorn's mother-in-law was a Hunter, and James Hunter was likely the half-brother of Strayhorn's wife) after the Battle of Alamance which took place in May 1771; and, Gilbert's nephew, Alexander Strayhorn (or Strain), married Hunter's daughter, and Strayhorn's son, William, married (it was his second marriage) Hunter's daughter Mary years later.
In mid-April 1865, Confederate Lieutenant-General Wade Hampton used the house as his temporary headquarters prior to rendezvousing with Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston at the Dickson House closer to Hillsborough: "We had stopped for the night at Strayhorn's, nine miles from Hillsboro. This was a long, low farm house on the south side of the Hillsboro road, the stables, barns and lot being on the north side of the road. Here the staff horses were being fed and attended to, the officers of the staff doing their own feeding and such rubbing as the horses got. My servant, ‘Lambert Owens,’ who had followed me faithfully throughout the war ... was engaged with my horses, which was the reason I was able to be sitting on the veranda of the Strayhorn residence and talking to the chief. Raising my eyes, and looking up the road, I exclaimed: “Yonder comes the commissioners!” when General Hampton rose from his seat to walk out to the front gate, saying simply, ‘Introduce me.’ I went out with him as they drove up and did as he had requested. The conversation that ensued was of an ordinary character. It was evident, however, that Governor Graham, who was spokesman, was detailing the facts of his recent visit to Sherman with a reserve, and I, who had known and honored them both from my boyhood, could easily guess what it was. He did not tell Gen. Hampton of what had passed at his interview with Sherman. They drove on, and we returned to our seat on the porch, when General Hampton, turning to me with a puzzled expression, asked ‘what do you think of all this?’ I answered, laughingly, that I had ‘expected him to have asked them in!’ He instantly exclaimed, suspiciously, ‘What do you mean?’ I replied, ‘Why, couldn't you see that Governor Graham had a letter in his pocket to Vance?’"
An 1891 article by D. Irvin Craig (written in 1886) documents the history of the New Hope area and the geneaology of the Strayhorn family; he states that Gilbert Strayhorn's "old homestead is now owned by his direct descendant, William G. Strayhorn ... the site of the old place is on the south side of the public road leading from Hillsboro to Durham and just opposite the present settlement." He also states that the property the house was built on was purchased in 1755, on lands adjoining John Craig's.
The structure is shown on the 1916 B.N. Duke Farm map and listed as being owned by W.G. Strayhorn (the old road from Hillsborough and the Hillsboro-Durham/Raleigh road is also shown), and also on the 1918 soil map of Orange County – but not on the 1891 Tate map. The area was known as "Strayhorn's" into the twentieth century.
The Gilbert Strayhorn House, view northwest (image courtesy of Ruth Shields via Jean Anderson via David Southern)
The Gilbert Strayhorn House, 1920s, view south
The structure was continuously owned (and usually occupied) by the Strayhorn family until it burned down in 1952 due to a chimney fire caused by renters of the house. The property where it was located has been developed (but on a low-scale, with several large houses).
(A big 'thank you' to David Southern, Rich Shaw, and Bob Strayhorn for most of the information about this house)