On a Christmas Day nearly 130 years ago, Gainesville Police Chief William Jones Kittrell responded to the train depot near what is now Industrial Boulevard to assist one of his officers.
The officer, Henry Towery, responded about 4 p.m. Dec. 25, 1890, to a domestic dispute near the train depot and saw a woman threatening a man and his children.
When the woman was told she was under arrest, she resisted by holding on to a fence, according to research by retired Gainesville Police Capt. Chad White.
The woman’s father arrived -- armed -- to inquire about his daughter’s arrest.
When the assisting Kittrell told the father and daughter to stop, the man fired his pistol at the police chief, the bullet “striking (Kittrell) in the right shoulder and lodging in his spine,” according to White.
Officer Towery returned fire and killed the man who shot the police chief.
The chief died five hours later.
To commemorate the sacrifice of Kittrell on Christmas Day, 1890, White said he plans to go in front of the City Council this spring to request a memorial be placed at the depot.
“The main thing, like any type of memorial that we do, is that we never forget those that came before us and those that gave the ultimate sacrifice, and that’s exactly what Kittrell did on Christmas Day,” White said, adding Kittrell was the first Gainesville officer killed in the line of duty.
Kittrell was chief less than a year, as he was promoted to the top rank Jan. 4, 1890. He had four daughters, and a son was on the way at the time of his death. The City Council voted in March 1891 to give Kittrell’s widow, Dona, a salary of $20 per month for one year.
Kittrell was laid to rest in Gainesville’s Alta Vista Cemetery.
In 2000, a memorial marker was placed at his grave by the Gainesville/Hall County Fraternal Order of Police.