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.