Rufus Ward: What is the oldest house in Columbus?

March 20, 2010 8:49:00 PM

Rufus Ward - rufushistory@aol.com

 

Last week Marion asked: "What is the oldest surviving house in Columbus?" 

 

The first structure built on the site of what is now Columbus was the log house of Thomas Thomas. It was built during the fall of 1817 on the Tombigbee bluff overlooking the present site of Harvey''s Restaurant. The early historic record does not tell the building sequence of the houses that followed. We do know, however, that the earliest houses were log and were on or close to the Military Road which turned into Second Avenue North. 

 

I know of three early log houses that have survived in Columbus. They are the Moody House, a log dog-trot on the South Side; Hickory Sticks, a log double-pen on 7th Street North; and The Cedars, a log single-pen on Military. A single-pen house is one room square. A double-pen has two rooms side by side. A dog-trot has two rooms separated by an open hallway and received its name from the ability of dogs to walk through the open hall.  

 

Of the three houses, both tradition and physical evidence indicate that The Cedars is the oldest. The Cedars sits on top of a hill overlooking the Military Road, which was surveyed in 1817, and was the first road through Columbus. Halfway between the house and the road is a natural spring, making this a prime building location. The earliest recorded owner of the property was Vardy McBee. The McBee family moved to present day Lowndes County in 1817. There is no record, though, as to when he acquired the property or if he built the house. 

 

There is also strong physical evidence as to the age of The Cedars. The original part of the house is a single-pen, 21-foot-square structure constructed of hewn pine logs. This represents the earliest style of house construction. The original log exterior is visible in the attic. It shows four long periods of weathering and white-washing prior to an 1835 addition. This would indicate construction sometime prior to the mid-1820s. 

 

By the 1930s The Cedars was commonly referred to as the oldest house in Columbus and the original Pilgrimage description from 1939-40 says it was the second house built in Columbus. Captain Edward Randolph purchased and enlarged the house in 1835. Since then The Cedars has remained in the Randolph-Sherman-Hardy family. 

 

Based on all of the available evidence, the house was built between 1817 and 1824. I think that the best evidence would place the date of construction as 1818, making it the oldest surviving house in Columbus if not all of north Mississippi.

Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at rufushistory@aol.com.