Columbia landmark home, 1865 fire survivor on market

Columbia landmark home, 1865 fire survivor on market
Louisa Cheves McCord (Source: Mary Chestnut's Illustrated Diary)
Louisa Cheves McCord (Source: Mary Chestnut's Illustrated Diary)
Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard (Source: Library of Congress)
Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard (Source: Library of Congress)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For 166 years the house has stood at the corner of Pendleton and Bull Streets, just across the street from the University of South Carolina Horseshoe.

It's one of the few homes in the neighborhood that survived the burning of Columbia in February 1865.

"This house has several bits of history," said Tom Elmore, who features the home in his book, Columbia Civil War Landmarks. "It was the home of a former mayor of  Columbia who was active in the nullification movement. His wife...was a nurse over at South Carolina College during the war when the, what is now the Horseshoe, was used as a hospital."

It's known as the McCord house. It was the Columbia home of Louisa Cheves McCord (1810-1879) and her husband, David James McCord (1797-1855). In addition to serving as mayor of Columbia, McCord served in the South Carolina Legislature and President of the Bank of South Carolina. McCord also was editor of a pro-nullification newspaper.

"Built in 1849 by slave labor..." reads the National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form on the house.

After her husband's death in 1855, Louisa McCord continued to manage her Lang Syne cotton plantation in St. Matthews and published economic essays, poetry and drama.

Because of her father's career as a banker, attorney general and Congressman, McCord experienced education and life in cities throughout the North and South.

"She has the intellect of a man and the perseverance and endurance of a woman," wrote McCord's friend, Mary Chesnut, in her famous diary chronicling life in South Carolina during the Civil War.

When war broke out in 1861, the widow dedicated herself and her plantation's resources to the Confederate cause. Among her sacrifices was her son, Langdon Cheves McCord, who was killed at Second Manassas. After his death, McCord was nursing director at the hospital at South Carolina College, as the University of South Carolina was known at the time.

"Her life belonged to the boys in gray," wrote Idella Bodie in her book, South Carolina Women.

"Louisa McCord was sort of Columbia's Florence Nightingale, you might say, during the war," Elmore said. "She was a very interesting person and really someone very important to the survival of South Carolina College and to our community's history."

When General William T. Sherman's Union Army marched into Columbia in 1865, McCord and her daughters were busy nursing wounded soldiers at the hospital across the street from her home on the USC campus. Ambulatory patients walked across the street to her home to be fed.

"Mrs. McCord eventually converted a part of the house into a hospital ward," reads the National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form.

"People would come over to this house and bring food and other supplies to help the soldiers at the Horseshoe who were recuperating," Elmore said.

But in just two days, those same women who had delivered donations to McCord's house returned to ask for food and relief from the Union Army. Sherman's second in command, Maj. Gen Oliver O. Howard, claimed the house as his headquarters, hereby saving it from the fire that claimed one-third of the city.

"After the fire Sherman referred everyone to Howard for relief in Columbia and it was from here that women came to him to ask for guards for their property," Elmore said. "One soldier complained that they couldn't get any work done because they had so many women coming here for requests."

When Sherman's Army entered Columbia, the ratio of women to men was 40 to one.

"They came here to ask for guards, to ask for relief," said Elmore.

"It's interesting that the owner of the house was a nullifier and wanted to secede from the Union and then Howard was one who saved the Union," he said.

After the Civil War, McCord moved to Charleston where she died in 1879 and was buried in Magnolia Cemetery. South Carolina author Julia Peterkin eventually bought Lang Syne plantation. McCord's descendants live in the Lowcountry.

The house is on the National Register of Historic Places. Along with the home's current owner, Jane Oxner-Waring, Elmore would like to see it preserved.

"If I had the money I would buy this house myself," he said. "I want to see it saved."

When Waring's father bought the house in 1937, she said it had been divided into apartments. Waring's family lived there until 1934 and it has remained in the family. It continues to contain three apartments. Waring would like to see the buyer take advantage of historic preservation tax credits.

Click here for information on the property. The house next door is included in the sale. 

Sources used for this story:

Mary Chesnut's Illustrated Diary, Martha M. Daniels and Barbara E. McCarthy

South Carolina Women, Idella Bodie

The South Carolina Encyclopedia, edited by Walter Edgar

Special thanks to the Walker Local and Family History Center at Richland County Public Library and the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

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