Historic Cleghorn Plantation Manor House

In 1764, Col. John McDowell was granted 2,000 acres around Cleghorn Creek by the Royal Governor. This land is now part of Rutherford County, North Carolina, and is a few miles north of the South Carolina border. Sometime after 1820, the land was acquired by a Scot planter, Thomas McEntire, who was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, in 1782. In 1837, he built his two story manor house on a hilltop overlooking his fields. It was made of brick with foot thick walls throughout and two chimneys. A large sweeping exterior staircase led to the second floor, which was considered the main floor. Oral history says that the house was designed by David Paton, who was the supervising architect for the State Capitol in Raleigh. The plantation grew cotton, tobacco, and corn, and was the home to many slaves. It survived the Civil War, when it was used as a Union headquarters near the end of the war.

In the late 19th century, it was purchased by the Washburn family, who lived there until the mid 20th century. Above is the earliest known photograph of the house.

In 1940, the house was remodeled, and the original staircase that led to the main hall on the second floor was removed, and the lower floor entrance became the main entrance. In 1970, the plantation was purchased by a development company, and a championship golf course surrounded the house, along with many private homes and a country club. 

In the 1990’s, the house, which was being used as the clubhouse for the golf course, was remodeled again to become a first class restaurant.

Two large covered porches were added to the front facade, and a new mohagany front entrance was added with original gaslights. (below)

The restaurant was not successful, and was closed in the mid 2000’s. With the financial collapse of 2008, the entire developement suffered, and went into bankruptcy in 2011. During that time, The Historical Association of Rutherford County saw that the historically significant manor house was threatened, and a grant of $225,000 was made with the intent of restoring and protecting the house.

Detailed architectural drawings were made of the house using historical documents and accounts.

Shortly after work began to restore the mansion, legal complications developed with the entire property, and restoration was halted before much work could be done. Below are photographs of the first floor showing the current state of the house’s interior.

This is the parlour on the right side of the first floor. The fireplace is original. Below is the archway leading to the main hall.

Across the hall through this archway is a bedroom (below).

Looking through the bedroom into the hallway, you can see the spiraling staircase to the second floor, and also appreciate the thickness of the brick walls. (below)

The house is not being maintained for weather damage, and the exterior woodwork is being allowed to rot. (below)

A number of original handmade window panes have been broken out, and rain is getting inside the structure (below).

This old dowager has withstood 175 years of war, weather, and development, and it would be a real shame if she were allowed to deteriorate before our eyes.

I intend to become involved in her plight. The most pressing issue is the broken windows, and I will find a way to at least get those covered and sealed. This manor house is most likely very similar to what the Tara of Gone With the Wind fame would have resembled. If I have anything to do with it, she will be restored, and opened as the historic house that she always was.

40 thoughts on “Historic Cleghorn Plantation Manor House

  1. Well Rhet, that looks like a very interesting & worthwhile project , you’re thinking about doing! Isn’t it a shame its starting to fall in ruin, but I’m sure you will attack that problem if you can. What a lovely place to visit-let me know more when you decide what will happen

  2. I have been curious about this house since I first laid eyes on it several years ago. Would never have known it existed if it hadn’t been for my brother-in-law who worked at the golf course for several years. Since my first glimpses of the grounds, I’ve been itching to see the home’s interior and learn more of the history of the plantation. Yes, it will indeed be very sad if the house is left to deteriorate further as so many historic buildings already have. Just last month a 1870’s home in our town (the first capitol of Ohio) was torn down … the funeral home next door need a larger parking lot!! I wish you much success and hope to hear about and soon see positive results. Thank you so much for sharing the photos.

    • Thank you ,Elizabeth, for your comment. So far, I’ve been unable to speak with anyone who will be able to help me take the next step. The bankruptcy is freezing any activity on the property. I may just take it upon myself to take a ladder there and cover the broken windows myself. The worst that can happen is that they will ask me to leave.

      • talk to me at I’m the aforemention brother-in-law. I know where all the bones are buried, including John McDowell’s.

      • Please give me more information! I am yearning to learn more about the history behind this place, I plan on visiting the plantation again tomorrow, June 11, 2013.

      • I’m not sure if you have taken your ladder by, but contact Ken Bortner, the current owner, at the pro shop and I’m pretty certain he will let you in.

  3. My husband and I live here on the property and its is beyond a shame if they would allow such a beautiful structure to just rot, it was be a shame. This county doesn’t offer much but, the least thing that could be done is to restore it for its historical purposes. I wish you well in trying to get this done.

  4. I am so glad to have found your blog. It seems the mountains are calling me lately and my mind wanders to the scenery I’ve driven through on recent trips. My family is from Rutherford County and I drove through a few weeks ago to see my grandparents house and recalled all the days I sat in the porch swing and wished for all that time back. The house looked like it had excellent owners now. It looked the same but with improvements and I was pleased to see that my grandfather’s barn was still standing (he fancied himself a horse trader). Thank you again for your blog and I’ll be watching for your posts. I hope the next time I’m mountain bound it’ll be laurel time. Becky

  5. North Carolina has to be about the dumbest state on the map. These goofballs will probably let it sit there and rot when they (the state) could restore it and open it up to tourists.

  6. My name is Caylin Cleghorn and this landmark has obviously always been in our interest seeing as though we are Cleghorn’s. I know I have some of the poetry books that slaves wrote after taking on our family name, and I have a huge book about our family history that my great, great grandfather wrote. But The Cleghorn Plantation has always served as somehwat of a huge interest to me and I think it is a shame that this historical landmark has not been preserved. I wish I knew more about the history of this plantation, and I was curious if you had any to offer. I am doing a project on The Cleghorn Plantation since it is technically a North Carolina Historic Site. If you have any information and past history about this charming placec, please let me know!

    • Caylin, I got all of my information by surfing the Web, but the president of the historical association has much more complete research. His letter and name appears within my blog on my latest Cleghorn entry. I’m sure he would love to hear from you. Thanks for finding me! Vann Helms

    • Caylin, My grandmother, Katherine Camilla Washburn Champion was raised at Cleghorn. She was born in 1898 and married at the home in 1911. I have the newspaper write up about her wedding…walking down the staircase, “couple quietly conversing on the veranda”, etc. I have several articles about my great grandfather, John Washburn, who owned a general store. Not sure when they moved into Cleghorn. My great uncle, Dr. Benjamin Washburn, lived there around 1960 I believe then the home was sold. If you would like further information, please e-mail me at Kathywgibson@AOL.com
      So glad local folks are interested in saving this landmark that is dear to my heart. I live in Tennessee and can’t do much from here.

    • Caylin – I would be delighted to hear more about your genealogy research. Do you mind contacting me at jcleghorn@caldwellpresby.org. I live in Charlotte and have a good bit of research at my disposal to share. I’d like to hear more about the slave connection as you understand it. Thanks! John

    • I was at Cleghorn plantation yesterday for the first time. I am a Cleghorn descendant through my paternal grandmother Laura Cleghorn. Any update on the house?

    • My great Grandmother was Rebeca Washburn Scoggins do you have any suggestions to look up more of the history of the family or of Cleghorn? Would love to hear from you!
      Mary Jean Toms May

  7. This old property has an interesting chain of title belonging to the various purchasers of the property over its history. One of the early owners was Thomas McEntire who is, in some manner, is akin to Mary McEntire Green (a young widow) who, later married NC James McAfee Sr who is sometimes noted as a judge in the county court records. The son of James and Mary McAfee, who was Honorable Robert McAfee, served in public office locally, and also, in the NC House of Commons.

    The McAfees’ left NC and moved to the North Atlanta area in the mid 1830’s where they settled on about 1,000 acres divided by the Chattahoochee River. Robert McAfee petitioned the GA Legislature to build the McAfee Bridge which spanned the Chattahoochee and connected the two McAfee properties on either side of the river. During the Civil War, the McAfee Bridge was ordered burned after Union forces moved towards Atlanta. Four of the seven McAfee sons served as JIC’s (justices of the inferior court) to include one son who was a surgeon (who trained under the European eye of the personal surgeon to Napoleon) and served as a Brig. General in the GA Militia, and also, was a multi-term member of the GA Legislature. The pubic service of the McAfee brothers was in addition to their professions.

    Interestingly, the old Cleghorn Plantation has a Pro shop built on it as a Swiss Chalet and the pro shop is constructed of old logs which were once part of an old log cabin located on the plantation. And, on the course, at one of the holes, one will find some graves not well marked. These graves do not belong to the McAfee family.

    The McAfee family legacy is but one shadow among the other shadows of many other families who owned and occupied this old plantation manor house and property! Indeed, this old manor house, early known as the McEntire Plantation Manor House has a wonderful, historical story!

    C. L. McAfee

  8. Loved this site. My great grandfather, John Rutherford Washburn owned this home during the early 1900’s. I have some old photos of Cleghorn as well as a newspaper article about my grandmother’s wedding in the home in 1911. My cousin, water color artist, John Pike, painted the mural in the hallway. I hope it is still remaining. I have a great love for Cleghorn and wish I was financially able to save it!

  9. I can’t understand why it’s demolished on the inside. I graduated from RS and we held our 10th year reunion there and in the 1990’s I filled in as needed at the restaurant there. It wasn’t in near the shape it is now! What happened??

  10. Have u ever stopped to think about the current owners are doing their best to recover from the court dealings and are trying their best. I know they want to restore it, and some people think that money grows on trees. If u want to volunteer ur professional services to help restore it, then that would be great. Why don’t we worry about getting more jobs into our county? Then more people will go play golf, then the owners will have some money to fix it up.

  11. I’m part of the cleghorn family and would love to be kept informed on the progress of the cleghorn plantation. My gg grandfather was James Newton Cleghorn.

  12. Is there an update on the Cleghorn plantation? I am a decendant of William Cleghorn from whom it takes its name?

  13. Very nice write up. Certainly you put in the time to do your homework. 5 more seconds to credit a photo would be a nice finishing touch.

    • Help me out here, and let me know which photo you are referring to. I have an old photo that I found on Google Images, but it didn’t have an attribution tagged to it. Tell me what I need to do and I will gladly give credit. Vann Helms

  14. We live in a historical old home in Mission Hills Kansas it is over 100 years old and we have done many things to maintain its character and now we’re having to leave because of our age the economy and my disability and it’s breaking my heart.
    So many of these old homes in this JC Nichols development are being torn down and basically mega mansions are being rebuilt in their place and none of it makes sense because of the beautiful character of these homes. Our home was originally part of the Wolferman family of wolferman English muffins

  15. I’m the great -great-grandson of the Washburn… my grandmother was Katherine Camila Washburn who was married in Cleghorn.. I hate for it continue its slow deterioration… any new news?

    • Two years ago, the entire resort was purchased by the nearby Tryon Equestrian Center,and its name was changed to “Cleghorn Golf Sports Club”. Their plan at the time was to turn the house into a farm to table restaurant, but as far as I know, that has not yet been done. However, a major world equestrian event is happening later this summer at the nearby horse center, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors to the events. My guess is that a restaurant will be completed by then. In the meantime, the house is weather tight, and stands ready for its transformation. I hope it happens. Rutherfordton needs a really high end eating establishment.

  16. As a professional rehab and restoration contractor and formally trained as an Architect and Interior Designer, I would love to work on this structure and rehab it. Being a lover of old houses and history, this piece of property is very special to me as I had my wedding reception here in 1993 and I have many special memories of this place. I really hope they decide to rehab and restore this property properly for it’s ‘next life.’ Thanks for all the comments, a ton of great history on here.

    • Thanks so much John. I’m confident it will be reopened as a fine restaurant by summer. A kitchen will need to be built connected to the rear of the house, but with the right developer, it should be done right…

  17. I moved to The Plantation development living just off the 8th fairway in 2016. I enjoyed reading about so much of the Cleghorn history here. Yesterday the course was closed due to being too wet for play. I took a cart ride around the course, staying on cart paths, taking advantage of the empty course searching for the Plantation slave cementary. By luck I noticed found a low fenced area with single rock head stones just off the 5th fairway. It was very apparent this was a very old cemetery. Some repairs are needed on the fence. I would like to see this area restored as this holds so much history from the plantation
    days prior to the Civil War..

  18. I’m a decendent of James Newton Cleghorn. I actually took a trip and went by the plantation to see it. I’m from Alabama. Me, my sister and my son went by there. We were able to go in it at the time. Think it was in 2012. I sure hope someone restores it.

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