The Matheson House in Cheraw has served many functions, from a private school to a public library, from a Union headquarters to a Masonic Hall. The 1810 building was constructed jointly by the Masons and the Cheraw Academical Society, whereupon the ground floor became a school for boys and the second floor became a meeting place. From 1828 to 1832, the Presbyterian Church held services in the building and utilized its upstairs for offices.
The home was purchased in 1835 by Scottish immigrant John Matheson, though it continued to operate as a school until Cheraw Academy moved downtown in 1838. It then became a private residence. When General Sherman and his troops occupied Cheraw in March of 1865, the building was briefly used as the Union headquarters. The Federal occupiers left the home intact, and it remained a residence until Matheson descendants deeded the home to the Town of Cheraw in 1960. It was used as Cheraw’s public library until 1998, when a new library was built. The Matheson House then became a private home once again.
The Matheson House is listed in the National register as part of the Cheraw Historic District:
Around 1736 Welsh Baptists came to South Carolina and settled in the Pee Dee region. In 1766 Eli Kershaw, who had been given a grant of land along the Pee Dee River, laid out the town of Cheraw. It was incorporated in 1820. Located at a key navigational point, Cheraw began to develop as a commercial center of interior South Carolina; however, the Civil War and Reconstruction temporarily halted this progress. For a time development was impeded and rebuilding was delayed. Although the town eventually prospered, much of its physical character remained unaltered. The town of Cheraw also played an important role in South Carolina military history.
During both the American Revolution and the Civil War, British and Union troops used St. David’s Episcopal Church as a hospital. The meeting house-style church still stands today. Additionally in 1825, Revolutionary War figure Marquis de Lafayette stayed in Cheraw during his tour of the United States. Located within the district are a variety of architectural styles that include the early frame homes of the 1800s (often called upcountry farmhouses, or essentially I-House in type), antebellum structures with Classical Revival details and Greek Revival porticos, and Victorian houses from the turn of the century. The district also includes several churches, a cemetery, and the towns’ original boundary markers dating from 1766.
Reflections on Matheson House
SCIWAY thanks David Sides, Cheraw Director of Tourism and Community Development, for sharing the above photo and much of the information on this page. David writes, “During the Civil War, General Sherman temporarily occupied this home at 612 Kershaw Street as his official headquarters while his Union troops camped under the grove of trees in front of the house. First built as a private school and Masonic Hall, this structure was completed in the early 1800s by the Cheraw Academic Society and the Masons. At that time, the academy occupied the ground floor while the Masons utilized the second floor. Also, the newly organized Presbyterian congregation used the second floor as a place of worship prior to the completion of their first sanctuary in 1832. Beginning in 1960, the building was put into service as the towns public library and remained as such until March 2, 1998 when a 5,000 square foot library built on Huger Street opened. The home is now a private residence. This home is included in the 213-acre National Register Cheraw Historic District.”
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