It’s a sign of the times that the Haywood House went up for sale May 8, and the sellers accepted an offer four days later. Nineteenth-century mansions that need “a little updating and TLC” can linger for months before just the right buyer comes along. But these are still not ordinary times, and the Haywood House is no ordinary home.
Built in 1802, it’s a Classical Revival mansion with four monumental columns out front. It has four bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms (one with a fireplace in what must have originally been a bedroom) in 4,330 square feet (per county records; the listing shows 4,800). That divides out to a very modest $81 per square foot. The once-sprawling grounds have been reduced to a manageable 10 acres. The property is a few miles east of Mount Gilead in the Uwharrie National Forest. The address is 2989 Thickety Creek Road.
It’s out of the way, which could well be an attraction. Provided there’s reliable internet service available, a work-at-home professional could manage an occasional long commute to Charlotte, Raleigh or the Triad.
“Nestled on 10 acres and several hundred feet off the road, with a little updating and TLC the Haywood House would quickly become a show piece family homestead, Bed and Breakfast or Wedding venue,” the listing reads. Just how much updating and TLC is a good question. The kitchen and bathrooms are less impressive than you might expect. The listing’s 85 pictures show the house needs some cosmetic work, but much apparently original detail is still present. The mechanical and structural condition of the house isn’t addressed.
William and Oscar Haywood
The earliest Haywood associated with the house who is identifiable online is plantation owner William Haywood (1809-1888). The house could have been an expansion of a smaller home built by his father, but William’s obituary in the Montgomery Vidette (apparently written by one of his sons, then an editor at the paper) describes William’s father as “a comparatively poor man, and [William] therefore inherited nothing worth mentioning.” Little else is known about William’s father, even his name.
According to the obituary, William had nine children by two wives (the first of whom, Elizabeth Robinson Haywood, is dismissed — by a son of the second wife — simply as “a Miss Robertson”). The most notable child appears to have been the youngest, Oscar Haywood (1868-1943, about 37 years younger than his eldest half-sibling). At William’s direction, Oscar began preaching at age 12, apparently to the plantation’s former slaves. He entered Wake Forest College at age 14.
“His career as a Baptist minister was phenomenal, climaxing in his leadership in the consolidation of Collegiate and Calvary Baptist Churches of New York City, which resulted in a church with a membership of 3,000 and was one of the wealthiest churches in the world,” Mount Gilead Pride wrote on Facebook, quoting a 1980 presentation by a descendant, Frances Haywood (1901-1994).
Not the most humble of the Lord’s messengers, Oscar lived at the Waldorf. It is said he returned to North Carolina in the first automobile ever seen in the state. Back again in Montgomery County, he gained fame as an orator and was elected to the state House of Representatives.
“Oscar inherited the plantation house with 180 acres in 1888. He made renovations to the house, which included a crystal chandelier from Europe, a hand-painted landscape mural, and the installation of carved doors which were a gift from one of the Rockefellers (a member of his church). He installed an art glass window (said to be commissioned by Tiffany Studios in NYC) in the library of the plantation house bearing the initials O.H.”
Oscar’s library contained first editions of Oscar Wilde, O. Henry, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling and others. “To quote an article written by George Reed Andrews for the Charlotte Observer in 1942: ‘Upon his return to his ancestral home here, in the Piedmont, Dr. Haywood was able to set up in the midst of the wide cotton fields a literary oasis which could scarcely be equalled in the most metropolitan quarters.’”
In his father’s memory, Oscar donated a stained glass window to First Baptist Church in Mount Gilead. Mount Gilead Pride again: “‘The Empty Tomb’ (Artist Unidentified), arguably the most beautiful stained glass window in the NC Piedmont, adorns the sanctuary of First Baptist Church. Its enormous size and scale dominate the westward facing side of the sanctuary, and the sunsets work their magic each evening through the richly colored panes for those fortunate enough to find themselves inside at that hour.”
If Oscar’s life wasn’t immodest enough, two different woman are identified as his widow. Contemporary obituaries listed “the former Mary Eaddy of New York,” who is apparently untraceable online. An intriguing alternate candidate is identified by Ancestry.com and findagrave.com: Marion Davis Haywood (1930-1946), who died at age 15 or 16 the same year Oscar did. She was about 62 years younger than he was.
Marion’s status as Oscar’s widow seems most likely to be a mistake (though seemingly a hard one to make), but family histories sometimes do feature unlikely and even weird details. And Oscar Haywood wouldn’t be the most unlikely historical figure to have had an inexplicably weird aspect to his life.
2989 Thickety Creek Road, Mount Gilead
The Haywood House
sale pending May 12, 2022
- 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, 4,330 square feet (per county), 10 acres
- Price/square foot: $81
- Built in 1802
- Listed May 8, 2022
- Last sale: $255,000, August 2001