Thomas Amis house to open for holiday tours

Posted on Friday, December 7, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Guided historical tours of the Thomas Amis house and Ebbing and Flowing Spring United Methodist Church will be offered on Saturday Dec. 15.

 The properties will be decorated for Christmas in colonial fashion with natural fir garland, cedar, magnolia, berries, nuts, greenery and fruit. Tour times are 1 p.m., 2:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 (limited tickets available) and may be purchased at Amis Mill Eatery, Mountain Star Mall, Rogersville/Hawkins Chamber of Commerce, Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce, Kingsport Chamber of Commerce and Rogersville Heritage Association, or by calling 423-272-7040.

 The event is sponsored by The Thomas Amis Foundation, Inc., a not for profit foundation, formed by Amis descendants, for the sole purpose of preserving and maintaining historically significant properties. The funds from this event are dedicated to preserving the historic stone dam (c. 1778) on Big Creek which is in sore need of repair, and the Thomas Amis house, 677 Burem Road, Rogersville.

 Perched high atop a lofty hill overlooking Big Creek, some two miles above historic Rogersville, there exists a stone house that has survived fires, Indian assaults, thieves, bushwhackers and the elements for more than 230 years.

 Jake and Wendy Jacobs saw it for the first time in the spring of 1988 and pondered it in their hearts for the next 15 years. Built by American Revolutionary War Patriot Captain Thomas Amis (Amy), Wendy’s fifth great-grandfather, the 1781 story and a half structure with its 18-inch thick limestone walls formerly had rifle ports instead of windows.

 To keep it out of harm’s way Amis erected a palisade around the property that included a guard tower. It would serve both as the family home and as an inn.

 Overnight guests Andrew Jackson, Governor John Sevier, Bishop Francis Asbury, Senator Daniel Smith, Dr. Thomas Walker, land surveyor, Moravian Martin Schneider, Botanist Francois Andre’ Michaux and a host of other 18th century notables wrote of their stay at the Amis house.

 A full second story with roofed balcony and a back wing was added in 1846 by Haynes Amis, the Captain’s son. Access to each of the upstairs bedrooms is by separate box staircase. Each bedroom has its own fireplace. Amis, a very enterprising man, conducted a lucrative business with both whites and Indians. He opened a trading post, blacksmith shop, tavern and distillery, while operating saw and grist mills. The little community of “Amis” became the principal settlement of this part of Sullivan County (Hawkins Co., Tenn.) for the next few years.

 Old account books show that Thomas offered just about every service a pioneer traveler might need. His slaves or free retainers could build or repair a wagon, shoe a horse, provision a wagon or stage for a long journey and provide the traveler bed and board while he was waiting to be outfitted for a trip through country peopled largely by savages.

 In his day Thomas Amis was a man both of substance and official distinction, and one who went around building doors for opportunity to knock on. He served in the North Carolina Senate, 1788-1789 representing Hawkins County (then North Carolina). Amis had previously been a member of the Provincial Congress of 1776; a justice of the peace; Superintendent of commissary, with the rank of Captain in the 3rd Regiment of Continental troops and was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati. He died at the age of 53 on Dec.4, 1797 and is buried in the Amis family cemetery near his home.

 In 2007, the Jacobs learned the Amis farm was up for sale and in danger of being subdivided and developed. They made the 1,600 mile trip to see it again, but when they returned to Colorado, their hearts stayed in Tennessee.

 Since purchasing the property in 2008, the Jacobs have made very few changes to the house. Other than installing central air and heat, having the painted floors stripped back to the original heart pine and going underground with all the electrical lines, it pretty much remains the same.

 The congregants of Ebbing and Flowing Spring United Methodist Church, organized in 1820, met in the nearby school until James Amis, grandson of Thomas Amis, donated land between the school and the cemetery to build a church. There was one stipulation – it had to face the grave of his mother, Matilda Lee Amis. Built in 1898 and still meeting regularly, it stands with its original timbers and interior, beautiful with patina only age can produce.

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