Wheatlands - One Of Tennessee's Oldest Homes - Coming Back To Life At Sevierville

Sunday, August 18, 2013

One of Tennessee's oldest houses on Boyds Creek Road at Sevierville is seeing new life.

John Burns and Richard Parker have brought a multitude of changes to Wheatlands Plantation in the short time they have owned it, and more are on the way, including rebuilding its historic distillery.

Still at the site are the Federal-style, three-story brick home that was built in 1825 as well as the separate kitchen and dining building to the rear, a loom building and a smokehouse.

When the overgrown seven-acre property was recently cleared of years of overgrowth, they found Cedar Spring and a pond it feeds, the slave cemetery near Boyds Creek and the mound where it is believed that Cherokees were buried who were killed by John Sevier on his way back from King's Mountain. An archaeological team also found the thick stone floor of a shed that was believed to have held the distillery product.

They were able to purchase boxes of fascinating Chandler family documents going back to the earliest days at Wheatland when 3,700 acres were planted in wheat for the distillery operation and another 1,000 were for other agricultural pursuits and timber.

Timothy Chandler had been granted land at the site for his Revolutionary War service. The Chandlers had been among the first settlers at Jamestown in 1609, with the first immigrant coming as a stowaway. They later lived at Wilkes County, N.C. Timothy died in 1819.

John Chandler, son of Timothy, came to the Boyds Creek area in 1791. His original house burned when three Chandler girls were using a lantern in an upstairs bedroom to teach a slave girl how to read. The girls perished along with a Chandler boy. The new house, featuring a "coffin door," single hall, double parlor and other interesting features, was designed after a house at Williamsburg.

Andrew and Rachel Jackson were among the famous visitors at Wheatlands, paying a call on the wealthy Chandler who had 188 slaves and loaned money over a wide area. 

Benjamin Chandler, a son of John, floated 6,000 hogs to Chattanooga from Wheatlands. His excursion started "at the bend" of Boyds Creek near the Indian mound and slave cemetery, then on to the nearby French Broad River and eventually to the Tennessee River. Benjamin Chandler married a daughter of the teacher that Col. James A. Whiteside had hired, and they stayed on in Chattanooga.  

As the Civil War approached, the crafty Southern advocate John Chandler arranged a hasty marriage with a Unionist wife, Anne Wayland Erwin, and left her in charge of the plantation. Union soldiers camped out on the property and occupied the mansion, while sparing it. Two Confederates trying to murder the master of the house were killed just inside the front door. 

The plantation remained in the family for seven generations. The last direct descendant of the Chandlers, Blanche McMahon, died at the house in 1966. Most of the historic outbuildings stayed intact, though, unfortunately, one family member during a drunken spree burned down the distillery and a couple of very old barns. A more recent barn remains. A slave dormitory for the "elite" slaves was lost in the not-too-distant past.

The new owners are from Eastern Kentucky and came to the Sevierville area in search of "an old house." When Wheatlands came on the market, a realtor told them he had just the thing for them. They at first were unable to reach a deal with the owner. He later called with a better offer and told them they had three days to take it or leave it.

The new owners have outfitted the Wheatlands mansion with period antiques of the day as well as Chandler family photos, including one of Benjamin they acquired recently. A bed that belonged to a doctor friend of the early Chandlers and which had been in storage for the last 70 years is now in an upstairs bedroom. A number of Chandler descendants have returned to visit the homeplace, and many have shared some family heirlooms.

They learned that a folk art portrait of Timothy Chandler, a son of John Chandler, was for sale, then found that the East Tennessee Historical Society had acted quickly to acquire it. The society, however, arranged for a close facsimile to be prepared, and it now hangs in one of the Wheatlands parlors. Timothy Chandler married Mary E. Smith Chandler, the widow of his brother, William Chandler. She was from Pikeville. Timothy's only daughter, Adela ("Miss Dell"), lived at Wheatlands until her death in 1936.

The owners also display some interesting artifacts that have been unearthed or found recently with metal detectors. These include coins, buttons and bullets dating back to the Revolutionary War and Civil War. There's also an early brown Coca-Cola bottle from the Knoxville bottler. 

A prominent UT archaeologist is helping with the excavations and the overseers of Mount Vernon are giving advice on the project to bring back Tennessee's first legal distillery.

They also discovered that the mansion is apparently built on a very large geode. Portions of this interesting rock formation are visible jutting out in the spacious basement.

Wheatlands is now available for weddings, receptions, showers, parties, teas and other special events. Overnight accommodations are available in two upstairs rooms.

Individual or group tours are also available. Call 865-365-1052 for times.


  


New Programs During Holidays Under The Peaks At The Tennessee Aquarium

Just in time for the holidays when extended families are looking for meaningful ways to connect with each other, the Tennessee Aquarium’s animal experts have a cornucopia of new programs to share with guests. This extra helping of immersive programs helps visitors get closer to tons of turtles, meet macaws, feed birds and discover other fascinating facts about many more creatures. ... (click for more)

Ladies Of Lee To Sing At Enchanted Garden Of Lights

The Ladies of Lee, an all-female choir from Lee University, will provide Christmas music for “Lee University Night” at Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights 20th Anniversary Celebration on Friday at 6:30 p.m. in the North Pole Lodge (Rock City’s Pavilion), located in Lookout Mountain, Ga. The choir, composed of approximately 40 women, travels throughout the eastern United States ... (click for more)

Attorney Says Member Of DA Staff Said She Was Having Sex With Judge At Time He Was Presiding Over Kiser Death Penalty Case

An attorney testified Monday that a member of the District Attorney's staff told him she was having sexual relations with the judge in her division at the time of the Marlon Duane Kiser death penalty case. Attorney Hank Hill said he and his wife ran into Cindy Richardson, former victim/witness coordinator in the courtroom of Criminal Court Judge Steve Bevil, at the North Shore ... (click for more)

Grote Hall At UTC To Reopen Tuesday After Sinkhole Is Deemed To Pose No Danger

Grote Hall at UTC will reopen on Tuesday after a thorough inspection determined that a sinkhole posed no danger. The campus building was closed on Monday with all classes cancelled. But classes are back on for Tuesday and employees are to report. Officials said the sinkhole was caused by a broken section of stormwater piping that serves the nearby Holt Hall. It was found ... (click for more)

Chattanooga State Faculty Has No Business Being Involved In Hiring Decisions

This letter will hopefully bring some clarity to the recent situation created by the faculty of Chattanooga State Community College. It is based upon my tenure as a member of the faculty at Chattanooga State Technical Institute, the transformation to Chattanooga State Community College, and my service as the financial and administrative officer at Chattanooga State until my retirement ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: UVa --Time For Change

The University of Virginia is, by any measure, one of the finest universities in the world. I have long admired it, whether covering dozens of sports events, cavorting with countless friends, or benefitting repeatedly from the surgical skills of the late world-class humanitarian Frank McCue. But today there is a terrible pall over “Mr. Jefferson’s university” – no, make that a ... (click for more)