William Pitt Kellogg

William Pitt Kellogg
1830 to 1918

William Pitt Kellogg
1830 to 1918

He was born in Orwell, Vermont on 8 December 1831. His family moved to Illinois in 1848, and he was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1854, beginning his practice in Fulton County. There were already some distant cousins in the area, including William Kellogg ("WK"), his fifth cousin who was had an extensive practice in disputed land titles. WK was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1856 and served until 1863.

William Kellogg, William Pitt Kellogg and Abraham Lincoln were among the strong forces that reorganized the Whig Party into the current Republican Party from 1858 to 1860. WPK was also a Presidential elector for Lincoln in 1860.

Abraham Lincoln considered the two Kellogg cousins to be personal friends and rewarded them with the patronage at the disposal of the President. Lincoln appointed WPK as Chief Justice of the Nebraska Territory in 1860 (WPK was twenty-nine years old at the time, and had been a lawyer for only seven years). On the outbreak of the Civil War, WPK joined the Seventh Illinois Volunteer Calvary as a colonel, and was later promoted to Brigadier General, but left the Army for health reasons.

WK met often with Lincoln, and stayed in the Executive Mansion (now known as The White House) on a number of occasions, and Lincoln's papers have a number of references to him. At the end of his congressional career in 1863, WK apparently was looking for a presidential appointment, but when Lincoln nominated him as minister to Guatemala, he refused the appointment.

By early 1865, both WP and WPK were again the recipients of Lincoln's political patronage. On April 13, WPK resigned as chief justice of Nebraska and was appointed as the Collector of Revenue of the Port of New Orleans. The next day, Lincoln appointed WK as the new Chief Justice of Nebraska and signed his commission that afternoon before heading to Ford's Theater that evening.

Lincoln's death the next day didn't change the appointments in any way since both had already been commissioned.

Collector of the Port of New Orleans was not an insignificant appointment. To the contrary, as the Civil War was ending, it was the chief font of patronage in the entire state, and William Pitt Kellogg was one of the first Carpetbaggers (the term dates from about 1868, and is not a flattering description of those people from the North who came South after the Civil War seeking private gain from the Reconstruction governments; it has since taken on the connotation of an "outsider", a new or recent resident who is meddling in local politics).

Throughout the years of federal occupation (until 1876), Kellogg was the power in residence for the federal government and its most visible presence in the state. He was U.S. Senator from 1868 to 1872, when he resigned to run for Governor of Louisiana against John McEnery. The State Returning Board (which certified elections results) that had been appointed by incumbent governor Warmouth, was replaced by President Grant. The local (Democrat) folks declared McErney elected; the new Board (Republican) declared Kellogg the governor.

For a time there were two governors, each elected by a separate legislature.. The stalemate was partially broken when Grant signed an executive order naming Kellogg the winner on May 22, 1873, but few Louisiana citizens accepted the results, and most refused to pay their taxes. The strange irony was that with two governors and two legislatures in New Orleans, the rest of the state was essentially ungoverned. Kellogg was the object of an assassination attempt, and, to avoid yellow fever, spent most summers travelling in the North.

Then things got interesting.

On September 4, 1874, an armed group of Democrats marched on the State House to overthrow the Kellogg government. Kellogg fled to the federal Custom House, and President Grant called up troops to restore order (twenty two war ships arrived within three days). Kellogg had control of the City, but the local citizenry was allied with the White League, the militia of the Democratic Party. Republicans were ostracized. Kellogg's retreat to the Custom House was a blow to his prestige that never was repaired. The following year, the State House of Representatives (with a Democratic majority) voted to impeach Kellogg, but the Republican Senate refused to convict.

Political anarchy reigned throughout the state. Particularly noteworthy for our purposes was the racial bloodletting that happened in Coushatta in 1874.

Coushatta was a Republican stronghold, and the leaders of the Parish were closely allied with Kellogg. In fact, Red River Parish was established in 1871 was a creation of the Reconstruction Legislature. The political strongman in north Louisiana was Marshall Harvey Twitchell, a native of Vermont who had come to Louisiana as a Union officer in 1866. Twitchell, recognizing the vast economic opportunities after the war, purchased a large plantation and invited his brother and six other Northern men and their families to come to Coushatta and join in the economic largess of the Republican officials. Twitchell became a state senator, president of the school board, and then president of the Police Jury, the county governing body.

William Pitt Kellogg in later years

The Republicans organized the newly freed slaves, who outnumbered the white population by about a three to one ratio. In 1880, for instance, the population of Red River Parish was 8,573, of whom 2,506 were whites and 6,007 black. Taxes mounted at an alarming rate, and the cotton crop of 1874 proved a failure. Tensions were high by early 1874, and white Democrats organized a White League, creating an explosive situation because the parish was the north Louisiana headquarters for Twitchell and the Republicans.

The situation reached a crisis point in August 1874. The Republicans who held office in the area were seized and put under guard by local white vigilantes. Told they would be given safe escort from Coushatta so they could make their way back north, but in fact they were executed beside the road, along with four black men.

The situation in 1875 and early 1876 was essentially a stalemate. Twitchell had been forced to relinquish some of his power, but the absence of leading Democrats (who were imprisoned in the local jail) had enabled Twitchell to carry the parish during the 1874 election. He was able to remain in office, however, only because of the presence of Federal troops sent in response to the August 1974 massacre.

The elections of 1876 effectively brought Reconstruction to an end. The federal government had grown tired of the continuing political difficulties, and Louisiana was the most recalcitrant of all the states of the former Confederacy. The presidential election was between Samuel Tilden (Democrat) and Rutherford B. Hayes (Republican), and was accompanied by the usual instances of violence. The election results depended on who found himself in a strong enough position to count the votes. In 1876, that was the white supremacist Democratic Party.

Nationwide, the election without Louisiana's votes was a draw-neither candidate had a majority of the electoral college. In a bargaining session that is true to the Louisiana political traditions, the white Democrats agreed to certify the electors for Hayes, who agreed to withdraw the federal troops from Louisiana.

As part of the compromise, the Louisiana legislature elected William Pitt Kellogg as U.S. Senator from Louisiana (direct election of U.S. Senators didn't become law until the early 20th Century). At the end of his six year term as Senator, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the sugar district of Bayou Teche. He served a single two year term, and then retired in Washington, D.C. in 1885.


In 1912 Kellogg bought a four story complex of luxury flats in D.C. on Columbia Road, across the road from what is now Kalorama Park. The building had a tile mansard roof and stucco exterior, and a rarity for the time, an elevator. Kellogg had even grander ideas for The Kalorama. He commissioned a well-known architect, Appleton Prentis Clark Jr. (1865-1955) to design an addition to the existing structure. They added the northern section of the building to the existing structure in 1913, doubling its size. The cost of the addition equaled the cost of the original construction.

Tomb of William Pitt Kellogg

The building itself was an amalgamation of several different architectural styles, as was characteristic of the early twentieth century’s eclectic period of architecture. Clark added characteristic Beaux Arts detailing, balconies with ornate cast iron railings and grille work, exuberant surface ornamentation, and balconies on the lower levels with classical cast-stone balustrades. The detailed “K” insignia on the turret was added in honor of William Pitt Kellogg. The interior was also redesigned and featured the Beaux Arts detailing evident in the entrance foyer with the cornice molding carved faces, intricate tiled floor patterns, use of stained glass, and open staircase. The building still stands today and is undergoing rennovation into eighteen luxury condominiums.

Kellogg died at Kalorama on August 19, 1918. He is buried in Arlington cemetery The specific interment location is Section 3, Lot# 2538, Map grid P 16/17.

The tomb is quite large, particularly in relation to the other monuments in the area. It says simply "WILLIAM PITT KELLOGG" on the front. One side has his name and dates of birth and death. The opposite side has those of his wife. A plaque affixed to a slab of concrete in front of the tomb reads as follows:

The story on his tomb is correct, of course, but not nearly as interesting as his life.

And just so you know, a "Carpetbagger" is one of the Republicans who came South during Reconstruction to run the state and local government (and make lots of money). A "scalawag" is a local person who helped the Carpetbaggers.


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