This stately Colonial Georgian manse in the Cross Keys community just outside of Union was once the centerpiece of Cross Keys Plantation. Completed in 1814 for merchant Barrum (sometimes spelled Barham) Bobo, this house of common-bond brickwork once stood at the intersection of two major thoroughfares: Old Buncombe Road and the Old Piedmont Stage Road. Not only is Cross Keys among the oldest homes in Union County, it is among the oldest in all of the Upstate.
It is speculated that the house was named for the community in which the plantation was established. A post office was operating in Cross Keys as early as 1809 under postmaster George Gordon. Distinguishing features of the home include a pair of identical chimneys on either side of the house. Between each chimney pair is a stone inscribed with the building dates – one bears the initials of Barrum Bobo with two crossed keys and the completion date, 1814.
The other stone boasts the builder’s insignia and a depiction of two crossed keys along with the construction start date, 1812 (pictured below). Also of interest are two stone mile markers noting the distance from Cross Keys to Union and Columbia. Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, is said to have dined here with his cabinet after fleeing Richmond, Virginia in 1865.
Several outbuildings also grace the property, including a log cabin, blacksmith shop, and barn, and detached kitchen, all relocated to the property from other nearby plantations. The home is currently owned by the Union County Historical Society, which operates it as a house museum on Saturdays. Live reenactments can often be viewed on the Cross Keys grounds.
The Cross Keys House is listed in the National Register:
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.
Historic Photos – Cross Keys House
Interior – Cross Keys House
More Pictures of the Cross Keys House
Reflections on the Cross Keys House
Contributor F. Everett Leigh says of his photo of the kitchen interior: “Many of the antebellum and plantation homes in the South often had detached kitchens that served two purposes: they kept the “big house” cooler and also kept the risk of fire isolated from the main home. This is a shot from one of the outbuildings of the Cross Keys House, a 200-plus-year-old plantation in Union County, taken just a couple of weeks ago. It has been preserved and maintained by the Union County Historical Society and open on the weekends free to the public.
Anthony Gunn says
I heard from the family that this was the place where President Jeff Davis and his cabinet discussed escape to Mexico/Texas to continue the fight for their country’s freedom and where he was suggested to wear a lady’s rain gear which when captured a few days later the Yankees make a big deal that he was gay.
Anthony Gunn says
My great grandfather was born in the mansion and had received several thousand acres of land in the county for his services in fighting the French and wrestling away Montreall for the British empire. He selected a 25 mile section of lands in Cross Roads, South Carolina because it was a stronghold of the British government.