Monday, November 14, 2011

The Home of I. T. Garrett

Isaiah Thomas Garrett, aka Tom, was the very first person to invite the LDS missionaries to speak on Cane Creek, Tennessee. He invited Elder Edward Stevenson Jr. to make the journey to his cabin in the hills. But Stevenson was released and went home before he was able to make the trip. His replacements, Joseph Argyle and Thomas Higham, made the trip instead. The place they preached was Tom's home shown here in a 1967 photograph, taken from the backyard. The opening in the center is a dogtrot, which was open all the way to the front. It allowed a breeze to pass through the house in the days before air conditioning.

The home has been mistaken for the farmhouse of Jim and Malinda Conder, which was the site of the Cane Creek massacre, but that home was a mile away and had burned to the ground, probably just before 1895. Tom's house was the place where three of the four missionaries stayed the night before the shooting. It was the last surviving structure with a connection to the massacre. I had hoped I might be able to get a better, and more current photo. But the road that ran along Cane Creek had been moved. So I wasn't sure where to look.

I knew that it was on the north side of the Creek, about a mile east of the Conder home. I knew that it had passed to the Talley family, after Tom had left Tennessee for the safety of Illinois. I knew that some missionaries had stayed there in the 1940's, even sleeping in the same bed that he missionaries had slept in on the night before the violence. But despite those clues, I couldn't find where the house was today.

Then a few weeks ago, I met with some descendents of the Talley family. They were a wealth of information, some of which I'll share later. But they shed some light on why I could not find it. The owner of the land had built an addition in front of the log home. I was lucky enough to meet someone who had worked on the heating system for the addition. He correctly described the house, with the dogtrot and all.

But it soon became clear that even the addition would not be enough. So, sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s, the owner of the home had the log house portion demolished, sold the logs it was made from, and replaced it with a newer structure. According to my source, an official with Lewis County, it was the last log home standing in the county. Today, there in a mobile home on the site which has had several additions built on to it.

While I may have been 30 years too late to get an update photo. At least I know where it was. Slowly and surely, I'm collecting a better understanding of just where the places connected to the massacre were.

2 comments:

Ardis said...

This is a good news/bad news kind of post, isn't it? I'm glad, though, that you have the answer to the question now.

I guess Tennessee, at least in the 1970s or '80s, didn't have the same kinds of laws we have now to protect historic structures? I mean, even if the state didn't recognize the importance of the building's connection to the Cane Creek massacre, its status as the last log home in the area would probably protect it today, wouldn't it?

BruceCrow said...

That area of Tennessee has a love/hate relationship with its roots. They want to shed their backcountry reputation, but they are proud of it at the same time. I'm sure that leads to all kinds of paralysis when it comes to removing older structures.

The official I spoke with said that at the time the old structure was removed, the logs from log cabins were in high demand by wealthy people outside the area. The logs were a kind of wood that were very hard - I think he said it was poplar - and were made more resistant to decay because of a treatment technique applied to the outside. The technique has since been lost and the species of tree had been over logged in Middle Tennessee and is no longer available.

Another log home with connections to LDS history was also sold at about the same time. But the untreated side of the logs were left exposed to the elements and they quickly deteriorated. I have pictures of that home too.