“One of four stops made by CSA President Jefferson Davis on his flight through Union County, S.C.”
City Directories and History: This extremely fine home, Cross Keys Plantation, was constructed for Barrum Bobo in circa 1812-14 on the Old Buncombe Road, an important transportation corridor leading from Columbia, SC to the South Carolina mountains. It was along this road he setup his home, business, plantation, post office and more.
The work of fine artisans went into the construction of this dwelling. The brick exterior is made with locally fired brick, molded corner and chimney brick, dark headers for inlay, and hearth tiles for the interior. The framework is all mortice and tenon work, a common practice throughout the 19th century. But it is the details of this carpentry that set it apart and make it one of the best in the region. Local materials were at hand to build the home, a mill was close by for cutting timber, and at that time a large number of skilled Quaker artisans remained in Union County. Unfortunately, there are no records as to who constructed the home. Much of the interior designs can however be attributed to architect-designers Owen Biddle and Asher Benjamin.
Bobo’s business location was ideal, at the crossing of two important roads. Here he ran a mercantile business, distillery, operated the Post Office, and ran his successful plantation. The Union County Historical Commission had worked diligently to restore the home, bring original furnishings to the site, and reconstruct facsimiles of the outbuildings.
“Built 1812-14 by Barrum Bobo, a prosperous merchant of an influential Union County family, the Cross Keys House is a fine example of a Georgian Colonial in common bond brickwork. Located on a knoll, the tall house with two full stories plus attic and basement is an area landmark. The house features a gabled roof with identical pairs of end chimneys, a massive raised first-story portico, and beautiful carving in its wainscoting, molding, and mantel. Between each pair of end chimneys a date stone is placed beneath the gable. On one of these is carved the date of the house’s completion (1814), original owner’s initials (B.B.), and crossed keys thought to be the insignia of the builder. Located at the intersection of the Old Buncombe Road and Old Ninety-Six Road, the Cross Keys House, center of a large and prosperous plantation, provided a welcome stop for travelers. As early as 1809, a post office was established at Cross Keys under the supervision of George Gordon, the first postmaster. Two old milestones indicating the distance to Union and Columbia remain in front of the house as evidence of early highway system. Tradition supported by diaries hold that Jefferson Davis, his cabinet and military escort dined here on their flight from Richmond. Listed in the National Register June 24, 1971.” [Courtesy of the S.C. Dept. of Archives and History]
“In Lower Union county, on a commanding site overlooking the town of Cross Keys, there stands a house of weather-beaten brick. Buffeted by the winds and rains for more than 150 years, its tall end chimneys, set in pairs, still tower toward the sky.
Looking upward, high between each pair of chimneys, you see plaques of stone upon which are carved the emblem of two crossed keys, and the dates, 1812- 1814. Five miles to the west, in Spartanburg County, on another commanding site, once there stood another house—a house of tall chimneys; deep, wide verandas and a steeply sloping roof. Destroyed by that ravager of landmarks, fire, it went up in flames in 1932 after looking down upon the town of Cross Anchor for- nearly 20 years.
But the people of Cross Anchor still talk of the slabs of stone, mounted under each of its gables, that bore the salty symbol of the sea—two anchors— crossed.”
Also: “Jefferson Davis was a luncheon guest in this house as he traveled from Richmond, Virginia, to Abbeville, South Carolina, during the last days of the Confederate War.”
The official South Carolina historical marker in front of the house records that Jefferson Davis passed through Cross Keys, South Carolina, on April 30, 1865, during the retreat from Richmond, and that Mrs. Mary Whitmire Davis, who owned the house at that time, afterwards related to her descendants the story of President Davis’s luncheon at the house.
Information from: Names in South Carolina by C.H. Neuffer, Published by the S.C. Dept. of English, USC
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