CHRISTOPHER BARBEE HOUSE (SITE)

CHRISTOPHER BARBEE HOUSE (SITE)

Chapel Hill
NC
Built in
1760-1790
/ Demolished in
1931-1940
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Type: 
Use: 
,

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Last updated

  • Mon, 12/25/2023 - 6:51pm by SteveR

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Chapel Hill
NC
Built in
1760-1790
/ Demolished in
1931-1940
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Type: 
Use: 
,

 

Christopher "Old Kit" Barbee (born ca. 1739, died 1832) is best known for his November 1792 donation of 221 acres of land to UNC for part of its campus. This property was originally part of his father, William’s, property, which Wiliam purchased in 1753 as part of a 585 acre grant. [1] Christopher acquired the property in 1779 by purchasing all of his father’s 1753 grant from his brother Francis (who, along with brother John, obtained the property after their father died in 1758). [2]

In 1831, Christopher sold the property to his son, William (born 1777, died 1857). It is likely that no other direct family members lived in the house after Christopher’s death, as William sold the farm and house furnishings soon afterwards, and he himself lived in Chapel Hill. William’s daughter Margaret (Barbee) Hargrave inherited the property in 1857, and later willed it to her son Robert W. Hargrave. He was the last direct-line Barbee descendant to own the 640 acre property, selling it in May 1873. [3] The location of the house (and cemetery) was locally known as "Barbee's Mountain" into at least the mid-1900s.

The Christopher Barbee house, built circa 1760-1790, measured approximately 17 by 37 feet. Its foundation is still visible, and a “playhouse” was built atop part of it in the 1930s when the DuBose House was constructed. The Barbee house was apparently still partially standing when the DuBose house was built, as some of its pine wood was salvaged to panel the house's library. [4]

There is also a cemetery not far from the house that was utilized in the late 1700s and early 1800s by the Barbee family and those enslaved by the Barbees.

The Barbees were a slave holding family, with Christopher enslaving 31 people in 1820 and 21 people in 1830; his son William enslaved 41 people in 1850 and six people in 1860; other direct family members also enslaved numerous people.[5] Research conducted by UNC Professor Brandon Bayne shows at least 17 transactions recorded in Orange County deed records involving the Barbee family buying or selling people.

Some Barbee family history from Kemp P. Battle's History of the University of North Carolina. Volume I: From its Beginning to the Death of President Swain, 1789-1868 (1907; pp29-30):

"Christopher Barbee, familiarly known as 'Old Kit,' one of the largest landowners of this county, had his residence on a commanding eminence called The Mountain, three miles east of the village of Chapel Hill. He was a familiar figure for many years...riding into the village on horseback with a little negro behind him, his destination being his blacksmith shop on Main street. He had two sons, William and Willis. William increased an estate already considerable, and at one time represented the county in the Legislature. Willis was a physician in the same neighborhood, after being a student of the University in 1818. One of the granddaughters of William Barbee married Wm. R. Kenan, of Wilmington. Their son was a recent student and instructor in the University. A great-grandson, William B. Stewart, was a graduate in 1881, and another, John Guthrie, was a student in 1896. A grandson, Belfield William Cave, was a graduate of 1848; and another, William F. Hargrave, was a student in 1866. The mill at the foot of the upper Laurel Hill, to which so many pilgrimages are made by young men and maidens, was known for many years as Barbee's Mill, and then Cave's Mill, after the name of one of his sons-in-law."

Archaeological testing of the site (31DH329 and 31DH628) was conducted by UNC's RLA in 1996, and can be read about here:

rla.unc.edu/Publications/pdf/TechRep/TechRep23.pdf

rla.unc.edu/Publications/pdf/TechRep/TechRep24.pdf

For more information on the Barbee family, read: Shields, Ruth. A Study of the Barbee Families of Chatham, Orange, and Wake Counties in North Carolina. Boulder, Colorado, 1971.

Excerpt of “Later copy of the John Daniel map” from November 1792 (via UNC)

View of the Barbee house foundation, view south east, 1996 (image by I. Randy Daniel, via UNC-RLA)

 

SOURCES:
[1] I. Randolph Daniel, Jr. A Preliminary Archaeological Survey and Assessment of the Meadowmont Property, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. May 1996.
[2] Ibid.; Orange County deed book 2, page 81
[3] I. Randolph Daniel, Jr. A Preliminary Archaeological Survey and Assessment of the Meadowmont Property, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. May 1996; Orange County deed book 41, page 537
[4] Davyd F. Hood. National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. April 1985.
[5] US Federal census records. 1820, 1830, 1850, 1860.

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