James Blacknall House

36.005218, -78.921538

Cross Street
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Year demolished
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James R. Blacknall, son of Dr. Richard Blacknall and brother of pharmacist Richard Blacknall was appointed the first Sheriff of Durham County when the county was formed in 1881. It was during this period that he established his home on Caswell Hill, at the corner of West Pettigrew and Case Sts.

Caswell Hill, 1890.
(Courtesy Duke RBMC - Scanned by Digital Durham)

Blacknall was born in 1843. His early years were likely spent in northern Orange (later Durham) County, as his father spent time in South Lowell, and James was educated at least in part at Red Mountain/Rougemont. He served in the Confederate Army, within the ranks of the Army of Northern Virginia, mustering out at a Sergeant in 1865. Per Wyatt Dixon, General Kilpatrick of the Confederate Army stayed at house of Dr. Blacknall (James' father) during the Bennett Place surrender.

James Blacknall's occupation of the Sheriff's post in Durham County lasted only until the first election, at which point he was rejected. Dixon notes that Blacknall owned farmland, although he does not say where, and evidently earned a living from tenant farmers utilizing his land.


West Pettigrew St/ Caswell Hill, 1910.
(Courtesy Duke RBMC - Scanned by Digital Durham)

He died in 1923. After Blacknall's death, the house was inhabited by the Holeman family until the mid 1950s.

Aerial of the 1500 block of West Pettigrew St., 1959.
(Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

Between 1960 and 1972, this house and 1511 West Pettigrew next door had been replaced by an institutional structure - that structure is, as of 2009, Pettigrew Rehabilitation and Healthcare.

Looking southeast from Case St. and West Pettigrew St., 06.27.09

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General Kilpatrick was actually the head of the Union cavalry of Sherman's Army. He was known as "Kill 'Em" Kilpatrick by his troops and was hated for decades because of the widespread looting of residences he allowed his troopers throughout what is now Durham and Chapel Hill. He commandeered Blacknall's house for his headquarters while he was in Durham.

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