UNION — Descendants of the military and political leaders of the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War were among the visitors to the Cross Keys House in September.
In her report on the Union County Museum and the Cross Keys House for the month of September, Museum Director Ola Jean Kelly said that a total of 133 visitors to the museum that month signed its guest register.
Visitors signing the guest register totaled 133 during September. Those giving addresses (not all do) were from Charleston, Columbia, Fort Mill, Greenville, Laurens, Pauline, Spartanburg, Summerville, Taylors, Woodruff and, of course, Union County. Our practice of directing visitors to the guest book as soon as they enter seems to be working well.
The Union Music Club used the meeting room as they do most months. We also allowed an attorney to use the room for a deposition for which we charged a fee. The Music Club is not charged because they are not-for-profit but like most not-for-profits, they make a donation.
The Cross Keys House
The Union County Museum is owned by the Union County Historical Society which works to preserve and promote the history of Union County including its historic sites. One of those sites is the Cross Keys House which, like the museum, is also owned by the Historical Society.
The Cross Keys House is more than 200 years old, having been built by Barham Bobo from 1812-14, and it gained its historic nature in the final days of the Civil War when it was host to some very special guests.
After nearly four years of fighting, the capital of the Confederate States of America in Richmond, Virginia fell to the armies of the United States of America, forcing the Confederate government to flee the city. Lead by President Jefferson Davis, the Confederate cabinet and other officials headed south, hoping to not only escape the federal forces pursing them, but to somehow continue the fight for southern independence.
The flight of the remnants of the Confederate government brought them to Union County where, on April 29, 1865, Davis and the remaining members of his cabinet and their military escort arrived at the Cross Keys House, home of Mary Ann Bobo Davis. The story goes that when she answered the knock at the door of her home, Mrs. Davis didn’t know who the five well-dressed men asking for a meal were. She did, however, invite them in and serve them lunch, only learning after the meal was over who her guests were when the Confederate president told her they had the same last name.
Davis’ brief visit to the Cross Keys House made it a part of a American history in general and the history of the Civil War in particular. Since acquiring the property, the Historical Society has restored it and opened it to visitors interested in the house and its history and the history that made it a historic site.
In September, those visitors included several people who have a personal connection with some of the figures, both famous and not so famous, of the Civil War era, and to the Cross Keys House itself as well as visitors — from other states and even overseas — simply interested in history.
Kelly writes that, “Will Sprouse, who does the Saturday tours at the Cross Keys House,”reported that the following individuals visits the Cross Keys House in September including: gave us the following report of visitors there in September.
• Relatives of William T. Sherman as well as Jefferson Davis. These are from Clinton SC.
• Relatives of General George Dibbrell, Tennessee, who was with President Davis on April 30, 1865 as part of his military escort.
• Bobos from Mississippi. (Mrs. Barham Bobo moved from Cross Keys to Mississippi in 1839.)
• Former owners of the Cross Keys House — the Whitmires and Wilburns.
• Out-of-state visitors from Idaho and Minnesota.
• International visitors from Great Britain.
Kelly writes that “Will Sprouse has done extensive research on the families who lived at the Cross Keys House and the visitors who came with President Davis CSA. Among the treasures are correspondence including love letters to Sophronia Whitmire, (a daughter of Mary Ann Bobo Whitmire Davis and her first husband Jesse Whitmire) from her beau, one George Noland who lived and worked in Union. Interesting reading!”
Kelly also reported that the family of James Madison Bennett who repaired earthquake damage to the Cross Keys House, had “donated Mrs. Bennett’s spinning wheel and her photograph. “They are currently on display at the Museum.”
Kelly also reported that “Amy Garner has resigned from the Museum staff, having taken a position with the County. We wish her well and thank her for her many contributions to the Society.”
Thank you to all of you to whom this report is address for all you do for us.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.