Thompson-Brown House

Thompson-Brown HouseThe Thompson-Brown House (“TBH”) is one of the oldest log-pen style structures in Blount County, Tennessee and likely the oldest within the City of Maryville. It is currently home to the Cades Cove Museum – an effort of the Cades Cove Preservation Association. The museum is FREE to visit, so be sure and visit to learn about the history of “the Cove” and take a tour of the TBH! The house is also located next-door to the Blount County Historical Musuem.

William Thompson acquired the property in the early 19th century along with his wife, Rebecca Wallace Thompson, who was the descendant of a Revolutionary War veteran. The house itself was built circa 1820, with Thompson family records indicating the birth of a baby girl in the house in 1823.

The house was home to the Thompsons and their seven children. One of these children was Mary Reese – Mary fell in love with a young man named Samuel Anderson and they were eventually married. Samuel was the son of the founder and first President of Maryville College: Dr. Isaac Anderson.

The property was host to a Civil War encampment during 1863. The children of both the Thompsons and the Browns likely found many relics leftover from the encampment – some relics have even been found today!

The home and the property passed through several hands during the middle part of the 19th century, eventually being purchased by Rev. William Beard Brown in 1867. A Presbyterian clergyman, Brown had graduated from Southern and Western Theological Seminary in Maryville. During the Civil War, Brown lived in north Georgia where he ministered to wounded and dying soldiers and their families on both sides of the Civil War. He wanted a good education for his children, but war-torn north Georgia offered no opportunities. He moved his family to Maryville where his offspring could attend Maryville College, the successor to his alma mater.

Brown children collected Civil War relics; bullets, canteens, uniform parts – from the fields, leftovers probably from Sherman’s encampments in 1863. Brown died in 1879. His widow, Mary Elizabeth Bicknell Brown, and his son, John, continued to operate the farm. At the turn of the century they established Brown Brothers Cedar Grove Dairy, which was the first in Maryville to deliver milk door-to-door. John Brown and his wife, Sarah, brought up nine children on the farm. Their house and especially its Cedar Grove were poplar-gathering places for the young people of the town.

By 1934, some of the older Browns having died and the younger ones having moved on, the place was transferred to Maryville College. This closed the 67-year long chapter of the Brown family occupying the home. The college continued to operate it as a dairy farm into the 1960s. For several years a caretaker lived in the house. In 1975, Blount County bought the house and property.

The initial plan was to raze the house and build the Blount County Health Department on the site. But, that year was the nation’s bicentennial; historic preservation were popular, and a group of Maryville College students spearheaded an effort to save the log house. Siding was even removed to prove it was a log house!

The Blount County Historic Trust was formed at that time to take up the preservation effort and the county agreed to build the health department on the back of the lot. The then-newly-formed Smoky Mountain Visitors Bureau became interested in the house as a welcome center and together with the Historic Trust saw to restoration and some renovation. This partnership held until the Visitors Bureau opened new centers elsewhere in the early 1990s.

This summary has borrowed heavily from work conducted by Jennifer Pesterfield and Sarah B. McNeill, which can be found here.