At the junction of Bradley, Meigs and Hamilton counties sits tiny Georgetown, Tennessee. Today it’s merely a speed zone along highway 60 but in the nineteenth century it was an important little town. There, Cherokee Chief George built a two story log home from which he operated a trading post while he and his family lived upstairs.
It is said that Chief George owned 1500 acres of land surrounding this large log home. The house was built as a dogtrot cabin, which was a popular early American cabin style. This type of building had two rooms joined by a porch and shared a common roof. While two-story models are rare, this cabin was surely built with the intention of commercial use. Therefore the lower story was probably intended from the beginning to be a trading post. It would also house the post office for Georgetown. At forty-six feet long, this was a very large cabin.
While the construction date is unknown, we do have the major historical marker of the 1830 Cherokee Removal, also known as the Trail of Tears. The house was obviously built before that. There was a marker stone on the chimney with an 1842 date inscribed; this may have been a date for that stonework, or may simply have been antique graffiti.
Many families called this home through the years, and their descendants can still be found in the area. The home adapted with the times, closing in the dog-trot porch to make an entryway and enclosed staircase with a wide porch spanning the front; to the back of the house a large kitchen had been added.
When I saw the house it had experienced a fire in that back kitchen area which scorched but did not destroy the original log house. There was beautiful trim still visible despite the fire’s scars. Each end of the house had large stone chimneys that accommodated four fireplaces – one in each of the original rooms. While one of the downstairs fireplaces had been fitted with a modern facade, the other still sported a much older, wooden mantel. The large, white oak logs were hand hewn and joined in a unique semi-dovetail pattern. Even with its roof missing, it was obvious this had been a grand house that had stood the test of time and sheltered many.
I keep thinking about the walls of these old homes telling their tales and it brings tears to my eyes as I think of the discussions Chief George’s home would have heard. Can you even imagine how this must have been a gathering place for the native people living around Georgetown? As the white settlers they had served and befriended began to turn on them demanding their land and refusing to even allow the people to live in peace, what must the traders here have been saying? Did they question what went wrong in their relationships? Do you think they contemplated rising up to physically defend the land they’d called home for generations?
And then the Cherokees were just gone. Driven away by soldiers, they left homes like this large log house. Can you imagine moving into it? Could you lie down near the warmth of those big fireplaces, could you take shelter from a rainstorm in the dog-trot porch and not remember the man who had hewn the logs and carefully stacked and chinked them.
Yet the house stood. For another one hundred seventy-five years people would call it home. Children ran up the stairs, families passed quiet evenings by the fire and bread was passed around the table. The European descendants who took the property from the Cherokees would themselves see many hard times. This house stood through The Great Depression, then the rationing years of World War II. Those stories also might come from the walls – heartache as sons were sent to war, hunger and disease, the sorrows of life that always accompany the joys.
When fire broke out in the rear of the house, it would seem the end of a long story. But so much of the house was still sound that the logs were recovered by Greg Filter who bought and disassembled it. The Blythe Ferry, Cherokee Removal Park has discussed re-assembling it and I do hope that will work out. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to visit this historic house?