Wartburg, Morgan County, TN

(scroll down for photos)

March 2013 Update from the Knoxville News Sentinal

Historic gem: Effort afoot to save 1814 Morgan County house
By John Shearer

Located off state Highway 62 about 10 miles east of Wartburg in Morgan County is the nearly 200-year-old Stonecipher-Kelly home.
Despite its familiarity to local residents and highway travelers, the saddlebag-style log home’s intact interior and exterior are less known hidden behind clapboard and other siding added years later.
However, preservation officials are hoping all these original features — from its artistically hewed logs to its central interior fireplace — can be showcased in the near future if the structure becomes a welcome or historical center for the Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area.
But because those plans are still in the formative and uncertain stage as the state looks at purchasing the property, the home has made the 2013 East Tennessee’s Endangered Heritage list being announced today by the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance.
“If that plan doesn’t come through, we will be looking for a private purchaser,” said Ethiel Garlington, Knox Heritage’s field preservation services director.
Overall, though, the outlook for the residence is much brighter than for some of the other structures and places from the 16-county region that made the list and will also be announced at 11 a.m. today at the East Tennessee History Center.
The listing, which is similar to the Fragile 15 list done by Knox Heritage for places in the immediate Knoxville area, is done to bring attention to threatened regional structures and places and to take steps to try to secure and preserve them.
The Stonecipher-Kelly home’s listing came after several members of the McCartt family of descendants had to sell the home simply to settle an estate as required by law.
Morgan County preservation enthusiast Barbara Stagg learned that the home was to be sold at auction and encouraged some of the selling family members to bid on the property. Her idea was to have them hold it until the state could buy the home and 33 acres later for use in connection with the nearby park named for the sometimes frozen mountain peak within it.
The possible state sale is working its way through the Tennessee State Land Acquisition Commission, and Stagg, Garlington and other preservationists are optimistic.
Bristol resident Joe McCartt, who successfully bid on the property with his sisters, also likes the idea of the home being preserved and used by the state.
“We felt like it had historical value,” he said. “It’s one of the few landmarks like that left in the area.”
The 2½-story home was built by Ezra Stonecipher in 1814. Along with his brothers and father and another family, he was one of the first white settlers in the Emory River valley less than 10 years earlier.
A furniture maker, he showed his craftsmanship through the home’s half dovetail notched logs, its two rooms that sit off each side of the center fireplace like “saddlebags,” the home’s wide floor planks, and its beaded board paneling, among other details.
“This was really advanced craftsmanship for that period,” Stagg said.
Not only is the handiwork considered eye catching, but so also is the home’s location.
“One of the interesting features is that it is in such a prominent spot on Highway 62,” said Garlington. “This is an opportunity to preserve one of the most interesting and noticeable houses in the county.”
Stagg, who was raised in nearby Deer Lodge in Morgan County, said she has known about the house since she was a child, when her father pointed it out and called it the most important house in Morgan County.
After examining it up close more recently, she agrees that it is significant.
“It represents the earliest settlement of the North Cumberland Plateau,” said the former executive director of Historic Rugby and current board member of ETPA. “There is nothing else that is public that you can say that about. And it is so well built.”
Williamson County restoration specialist Vic Hood, who is familiar with the log home, says the style is not that unusual, but its undisturbed condition is.
“It has existed all these years without alteration,” he said, adding that it also features some rich old-growth wood. “Whatever remodeling has taken place, they haven’t gone in and done major improvements. That is really unusual.”
Also somewhat unusual is that the same family line has owned the house for 200 years.
McCartt said his great-grandmother Docia Kelly raised her family in the home. The last person to live there was McCartt’s father, J.B. McCartt, in the 1980s.
Preservationists hope the home is soon reoccupied as well, and can somehow spotlight the area’s history and scenery of which the home has been a major part.
“I hope they can do something,” said Nancy Wilson, the brother of Joe McCartt, and one of the current owners. “I want kids to be able to grasp a part of history.”

© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

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Back of Home


Gravesites:   KELLY CEMETERY (behind the Kelly house, up the hill)

  Sacred to the memory of
Malindy Kelly
   Who died in the true faith of
   Our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ
    Died January 11, 1872
Aged about 64 yrs
(daughter of James Martin & Malinda)
born  February 6, 1828
died  August 14, 1843


The Kelly House on Beech Fork Creek in Morgan County was built in 1814 when settlers with landgrants for Revolutionary War service were moving into the Tennessee wilderness. The gravel road in front of the house, with its plank bridges across the creeks, was at one time the main turnpike between Petros and Wartburg.

Ezra Stonecipher, Lillie Kelly's maternal great-grandfather, built the house and subsequently sold it to her paternal great-grandfather, James Martin Kelly. Four generations of Kellys have lived in the old house, and descending
grandchildren, through the eighth generation, have visited here and climbed the staircases beside the huge stone chimney to view the loom on the third floor.

The original construction of hand-hewn poplar logs can be seen in a storage room on the second floor where valuables were hidden from the soldiers during the Civil War. The second floor bedroom ceilings have hand-planed joists with beaded edges, and the rafters, clearly visible on the third floor, are put together with wooden pegs.

The kitchen initially had a huge fireplace for cooking and heating. The dining room and kitchen doors have the nail-head trim peculiar to early American houses. Lillie recalls that the house once had shutters at the windows and an upstairs porch to air their bedding.

The old house has stood one hundred and sixty-nine years, sheltering against the cold of winter and the heat of summer's sun. Its rooms have rung with joy and laughter. It has rejoiced when babies were born and stood bleak and silent when sickness and death have taken their toll.

Most of all, it has always been a house of love and warm hospitality, reflecting the spirit of those within.

Union Cemetery:
Most of the Children (& their spouses) of Daniel Martin Kelly & Mary Jane Jones

Rachel A  Kelly & Calvin Joyner
James B. Kelly & Barbara Robinson
W. C. (William Church) Kelly &
Martha A. Wilson
Samuel W. Kelly & Julia Ann Stonecipher



(son of James Martin & Malinda)

born April 8, 1826
died June 24, 1905
Another link is broken in our household hand, but a chain is forming in a better land.


(1st wife of  Daniel M. Kelly)
  born April 8, 1822
  died December 5, 1877


(2nd wife of  Daniel M. Kelly)

                      1854 - 1933
Thy life was beauty, truth, goodness and love

Rachel A  Kelly & Calvin Joyner

b 3-13-1850
d 6-22-1903

wife of
James B. Kelly
b 2-18-1857
d 8-5-1924


b 11-6-1854
d  2-17-1917

wife of 
W. C. Kelly
b 3-3-1854
d 9-5-1900

b 2-15-1857
d 6-13-1922
b 4-1-1855
d 10-15-1943

Brasel Cemetery:

b 12-29-1849
d 9-15-1935
b 12-6-1847
d 8-11-1901

The following was found at the Wartburg Public Library, in a Kelly Family folder.  I do not know who wrote or donated it, but it appears to have been an  interview, with Lillie Kelly, abt. 1983.


Many family stories have been shared on a summer evening on the Kelly porch,
or around the warmth of the old fire-place on a winter night:
             The story of Malinda Hall Kelly, who rode her horse through the
Union lines to the grave of her husband;
             About Lillie's grandfather, Daniel Kelly, who escaped from a
Union prison in Kentucky and walked all the way home to Beech Fork;
            How her Grandmother Stonecipher, a tiny little woman knocked her
churn from the hands of a soldier who had snatched it;
            And stories told by John Kelly about his World War I experiences
as an American Soldier in Russia.

The Kelly Homestead is now owned by Vita? (Vida) McCartt. Her sons G.M. McCartt and J. D. McCartt are caretakers of the old homeplace. They are VERY Protective of the House and all the property. I spoke with G.M., and he agreed to let me and Tim take photos "because we were family". The old home is on private property, and obtaining permission to visit the house would be advisable, just in case someone else would like to visit homestead.

Info and photos courtesy of:

Timothy & Diane Kelly
Corbin, Whitley County, Kentucky

The following photos taken not long before the home was auctioned off as the McCartt Estate on 12/1/2012