Picturesque Tennessee Farmhouse Has Stood Here for 170 Years

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The Walker-Ellis Home | Grainger County Tennessee | c. 1840s

This incredible farmhouse sits on a gentle slope in Appalachian Tennessee and is known as the Judge C. K. Ellis Home after one of its owners, a prominent local attorney, and banker who moved in during the early 1900s. But the story of this massive home starts with a humble cabin that was built here in the 1840s.

The James Walker Family

In 1836, James Walker married Eliza Harris and a few years later, a log cabin was built for their family. The cabin originally had 4 rooms, two up and two down, and large brick chimneys on either end. According to the 1840 census, James lived here with Eliza, 2 daughters, and one enslaved person. By 1850, they had 4 kids and James enslaved 3 people here. In 1855, his first wife Eliza passed away and in 1857, James married Nancy Ferguson. According to one record I found, James was a blacksmith and he must have had quite a bit of success in his trade as the 1860 census showed that he had more than $16,000 in personal and real estate property. When James passed away in 1891, the property was sold to the Ellis’ and the original cabin was reimagined as a massive home in the Tennessee foothills.

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‘Judge’ Charles K. Ellis

Charles Ellis was a local man, born in 1878 who learned in the public schools of Grainger County, TN, and then attended Maryville College in 1905. Soon after, Charles bought this property from the Walker Family. He lived in the original cabin until his marriage in 1915 to Bertha Joanna Shaver. He and his new bride wanted a bigger, more modern home, but instead of demolishing the Walker cabin, they decided to expand around it. The home was updated to add the lap board siding (purchased from Sears Roebuck), double porches, gingerbread trim, and a rear addition of a kitchen and bathroom.

As a young man, Charles Ellis was a teacher before attending law school in Knoxville. He served multiple terms as the judge of Grainger County earning him the moniker of ‘The Judge’. He was also Chairman of the Grainger County Schoolboard for 4 years. He was also a merchant, on the board of the local bank, and the founder of one of the earliest fire insurance companies in the area. Judge Ellis was also a successful farmer and cattleman, producing some of the most successful livestock in the county at that time. Charles and Bertha Ellis continued to live in this home until 1970 when they were moved to a convalescent home in Knoxville.

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The Walker-Ellis House Today

The family that currently owns is hopeful about restoring it but found that a full restoration would be too much to take on, so they are currently doing small jobs when possible to keep the place from collapsing. Even in its current state, it’s one of the most impressive structures of the South I have had the pleasure of capturing and I’m grateful that its current owners are interested in saving the house.

This Home is on Private Property that is monitored by cameras and police.


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  1. I love all pictures of old homes! I love to imagine the families who lived there, raising their children and creating their own history. The home pictured is so impressive, even in its current state. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Ditto to what you said. I wonder who came through those doors. Who sat on those porches and who played in those in those yards. Who once roamed through those halls and shared their lives together. Makes me wish that I had known them.

      1. You did a great job talking about the history and don’t listen to everyone else. You can’t make everyone happy. There will always be that one person who will try and make a issue and turn it around.

    1. Hi Ken, The house is part of the decedent’s of the slaves history also. I don’t think it’s disrespectful to preserve a beautiful home built by men that took pride in their work. That’s like saying we don’t need to remember the places where the Jews were killed in the holocaust, because it too sad and hurtful to remember. These horrible things are our history….let’s DO remember, so history doesn’t repeat itself! ❤

  2. I’m so glad this one won’t be torn down. I can see how a total restoration all at once would be too expensive, especially with the insane price of materials right now. I hope they can at least get the roof replaced and get it painted to make it look better.

  3. It is simply a fact of history. There have been many enslaved people over the millennia, not just Africans. Many of the black slaves in America took great pride in their farming, building, woodworking, and artistic talents. Many of the historic homes still standing and lived in today are a result of their builders expertise. Slavery is wrong no matter who is enslaved but trying to erase the facts robs these long dead folks of the tributes due them.

  4. I love to see the old homes, barns and farms and read about their history and the families that lived in them! Thank you for sharing these and others!

    1. There were very few slaves or fine houses in East Tn. The people who settled East Tn.,were mostly veterans of the revoloution,who recieved land grants for their service. The State of Tn. voted to secede from Union but the people of East Tn. were majority Union .

  5. I enjoyed the story behind the house, how it began. Truly hope it can be saved. History should never be forgotten. If you forget you are doomed to repeat.

  6. It’s history. It would be a shame to negate the effort of people working for a future….theirs or anyone else’s.

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