Monday, July 29, 2013

Chapter the Second: Deed Research

Since we didn't have a definite date for when the house was built I have been spending some time at the Courthouse Archives researching the title. In 1832 Ai Thornburgh purchased what the deed refers to as "a certain plot of land" and in 1852 he sells the lot with the house to his son Montgomery Thornburgh. I assumed that the story ends there with Ai during that 20 year span building or having built the house that he then sold to his son, but after a visit from Knox Heritage in which they crawled all over the house I now feel differently. The Knox Heritage people feel that the oldest part of the house predates the 1832 purchase date by at least 10 years based on the fact that everything back there is hand hewn: sills, joists, lath, all of it. The cooking fireplace with a massive hearth also figured in there. He speculated that perhaps this was a tavern or publick house and then fell into disrepair and was later fixed up into a residence for Montgomery. It's all conjecture, but fascinating nevertheless.

Montgomery himself is an interesting character. He was a small time slave owner, owning 4 slaves in the 1860 census and a supporter of the Union. When Tennessee seceded he advised allegiance to the new government and peace at all costs. He was implicated as one of the conspirators in the East Tennessee Bridge Burnings, rounded up in a Confederate sweep, imprisoned and died there in 1862. His widow remained living here for years, eventually selling the house to her daughter. When the Union troops finally arrived here in 1863 they marched through New Market, on the street that runs right in front of our house, and were greeted by the ladies offering them pies, cake and water. I look out the windows and try to imagine how that scene must have played out, Montgomery had died the year before because the Union didn't honor their part of the bargain. Was his wife overjoyed or angry? How much weeping did these walls contain? I find it so sad.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Chapter the first: In which we buy an old house

I suppose that it takes a certain type of person to be able to look at a crumbling wreck of a house and see beauty and potential. Old houses aren't for everybody, that's for certain, and there is something to be said for safe wiring and working plumbing. Still, when Gill and I first looked at the house we were smitten; the foot high trim boards in the parlor, the multiple fireplaces, old pine floors, wavy glass windows..... it had a charm about it that drew us in and helped us overlook its obvious deficiencies. People stop in all the time to tell us how glad they are that somebody bought it and how they had considered buying it, but... and they sort of trail off, apparently they all had more sense that we did when we agreed to buy this house with the intention of preserving it. We might have ignored its siren song and sailed away unscathed, but instead we raced headlong into it, grinning like a pair of idiots, knowing that it would swallow us in the process and not really caring.

The painted paneling with beaded edge
In the 2 weeks we've lived here we have uncovered real wood paneling, still with its milk painted green color mostly intact. The fourth fireplace that I *knew* had to be there and turned out to be in the oldest part of the house dating to circa 1820. The remainders of the crane are still there and honestly, I about died when we uncovered it. Some really bad and scary wiring that we never would have known about if we hadn't torn down ceilings. A pair of the original shutters, a butter mold, a crazy quilt and 2 wool (or maybe cotton?) carders. And a penciled date written on the plaster in an upstairs bedroom with the date "December 21, 1883", that's the newest section of the house.

Gill has replumbed and rewired enough to make us safe and we are making slow but steady progress day by day. I feel a sense of maternal pride in this home and I love that we live here in this place.

The Kitchen fireplace with crane