Sunday, January 7, 2007


I have been mesmerized by an old ruins that I like to visit often. If you look down through the blog site, pictures can be found indicating what is left of the place. I have tried and tried to find the history surrounding the site and events and have never had anything to go on but hear say. Today, while walking with the Golden Dog near the site, I met a lady who had the scoop. I will not name her as I do not have her permission to place her name here. But she enlightened me as to the circumstances surrounding the "Ruins". I could not upload the pictures of the original house and structures as the blogger engine is not operating properly tonight for some reason. I will upload two pictures when this modern technology settles down. There are photos of the ruins down further in this blog that I have previously taken. Foundations, bricks, fences and what is left of out buildings are below in previous blogs. I will post the original pictures of the house as it stood shortly. I promise. Below is the story. It is interesting. It has mystery and it, above all, is true. Enjoy......................... Amanda Tells Story of Tuskega On November 14, 1984, Tuskega, the home of Thomas Howard Callaway's (Joseph Woodson, Thomas Jr., Thomas, Joseph Callaway) descendants was burned to the ground. It's destruction left many people, including my family in shock.Last year my Mother saw an article in a magazine asking children to tell a story about their family's history. Knowing my family's feelings about Tuskega, I wanted to write our history in the Callaway home.In our house, we have many family pictures and each picture holds a story. My favorite picture is the old Callaway home, Tuskega, which is in Vonore, Tennessee. The history of the Callaways in Tennessee is very interesting and one of my famorite tales is about how a certain Callaway (we're not sure which one!) got some land from a Cherokee Indian chief. The story is called "Indian have dream" and this is how it is told:A certain Indian chief owned a big island which Callaway had been eyeing for a long time. The Indian refused to sell. One day Callaway bought a new pony, blanket, and rifle which caught the red man's eye. The Indian came to Callaway and said, "Paleface, Indian have dream last night." "What did you dream?" asked Callaway. "Indian dream that Paleface give Indian pony, blanket, and rifle." "What Indian dream White Man must do," Callaway told the chief and gave him the pony, blanket, and rifle. A short time later, Callaway went to the Indian's island and told him he also had a dream. "What you dream?" asked the chief. "White Man dream that Indian give him island," Callaway told the Indian. The chief scratched his head and replied, "What Paleface dream Indian will do. But Paleface and Indian dream no more!" (This story had been passed down many generations and every generation has enjoyed it!)Now the story of the Callaway home, Tuskega, begins around 1859 when Charles McClung McGhee selected the old Cherokee Indian town homesite of Tuskegee to build his home. (Tuskegee was a famous Indian village where Sequoyah, inventor of the Cherokee's Alphabet, was born!) There are many interesting stories about this village and about a secret Indian tunnel that ran near the house and down to the river. Indians used this tunnel as a runner to escape from attacks on the town. Our family has always heard stories about this secret tunnel and to this day it is still a mystery as to where that tunnel is!To build the house, Charles McGhee hired an architect from Louisiana and McGhee's slaves molded the bricks for Tuskega from clay found right on the property. (You should see these bricks - they are different because they are square with a hole in the middle!) McGhee used most of the wood for the house from the trees found on the land and everything was taken "off the land" except for the marble for the fireplaces. Because of the start of the Civil War, McGhee left for the city and never finished building the home. His slaves, however, did stay at Tuskega and continued to work for the next owners.During the Civil War, both the Confederate and Union troops stayed in Tuskega! There are several stories passed down in the family about a secret trap door at the house that the slaves hid in when hostile troops came. Many times this door was used to hide people as well as food and valuables. There were also bullet holes in the house as well as a cannon ball found in one of the fireplaces! My Great, Great Aunt Polly even told us about a blood stain that remained on the front porch where a soldier died! (They buried him out in the front somewhere, but his bones have yet to be uncovered.)After the war in 1870, McGhee sold all the land and the unfinished house to my Great, Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather Thomas Howard Callaway (whew that's a lot of Greats!) He was then the President of the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad. My five times Great Grandfather Callaway and his wife, Susan Jane Lea, felt Tuskega would be the house of their dreams. But sadly, Thomas Howard died before he was able to move to Tuskega. Maggie Lea Carson, Susan Lea's daughter, wrote "That her Mother felt she could carry out all of the plans for life which Thomas and she had made together." So, in December of 1873, the family left for Tuskega. Thomas Howard and Susan Lea had 11 children and Maggie Lea, who was 11, (just like me!) wrote down the story of the arrival at Tuskega so that future generations would remember the beginning of the Callaway's at Tuskega. In Maggie's story called "The Arrival" Susan Callaway and her children rode a riverboat down the Little Tennessee River in weather that was so cold there was ice on the river. The Captain of the riverboat (Captain Red) was concerned about Mrs. Callaway and her children arriving at Tuskega in such bad weather, but he realized she was determined to start a new way of life for her family. Maggie Lea's story tells how their servants were waiting for them and the excitement they felt to spend their first Christmas in their new home. Susan Lea's youngest son, Frank, had been very sick on the journey and sadly died at Tuskega in January. My Great, Great Aunt Alice Carson has always said that Susan Lea was a true Pioneer Woman because she stayed on at Tuskega even after the death of their youngest son.When the family settled in, Susan Callaway and her oldest son, Joseph, hired a builder to help repair the damage done during the Civil War and to finally complete Tuskega. When the work was done Tuskega was described by newspapers as "a beautiful gothic mansion." "The house has 13 rooms, two great halls, marble mantels, and a curved stairway suspended from a wall." From the pictures we have I think Tuskega is the prettiest house I've ever seen in all my 11 years!All of the Callaways tell of a "mysterious disappearance" at Tuskega. In those days a tailor came to the house to make clothes for the family. One tailor came and he just suddenly disappeared overnight and no one ever saw him again! My Mother says her family pretended his ghost was around but I never saw it!For 84 years the Callaways lived at Tuskega. My family says that Susan Lea Callaway passed on her love of family and home to each generation because everyone always returned to Tuskega to be together and to meet new family members.Before Susan Lea died in 1900, she was able to see one of the most memorable weddings at Tuskega between her daughter Annie and Humphrey Gray Hutchinson. Mr. Hutchinson was a very well known Doctor from Virginia and Atlanta and we have a whole book that is written about him! This book tells about his life and his love for Annie Callaway. It also talks about their married life at Tuskega and how they continued to make the Callaway home a well known place to visit.Annie Hutchinson and Maggie Lea had inherited Tuskega from their mother and when Annie died she left the Callaway home to Maggie Lea's family. My Great Great Aunt Alice Carson, Maggie Lea's daughter-in-law, was the last Callaway to live at Tuskega and her recorded interviews about the history of the family should be read and enjoyed by everyone!When my Mother was little, she remembers the family making trips out to Tuskega to visit her Great Aunt Alice Carson. The whole family loved those visits and especially the fun they had exploring "the old home".In the 1970s, Tuskega became condemned by TVA's Tellico Dam project. Because she felt that her Grandmother, Elizabeth Callaway, would want to save the Callaway home, my Mother started writing to TVA to find out what would happen to Tuskega. In January, 1981, she said that she "found a person whose love and work on the house's preservation she would forever be grateful for". This person is Mr. Jesse C. Mills, then TVA's Chief Librarian. Mr. Mills told my Mother that Tuskega had become "a living thing" and that the house "is the epitome of so much history and so much life; it must go on telling it's story through the years".For three years, Mr. Mills and my Mother wrote to one another gathering Tuskega's history. She and several Callaway descendants exchanged as much information as they could to help Mr. Mills' research. Mrs. Ann Morris, Maggie Lea's granddaughter, exchanged many old letters and pictures with my Mother and they both were excited about trying to save the home. Mr. Mills also met with other Callaway descendants at Tuskega to listen to all the many family stories. (It was Mr. Mills who taped my Great, Great Aunt Alice Carson's memories of Tuskega.)Finally, on August 3, 1984, the State of Tennessee and TVA agreed to the restoration of Tuskega!! Everyone in our family was so excited! All the hard work had at last been rewarded and I had fun just looking at all the newspaper articles about the famous Callaway home!The next date of November 14, 1984, was a very sad one. The phone rang and my Grandmother Johnson told my Mother that Tuskega was gone . . . that someone had burned the house to the ground . . .My Mother never again brought out all the papers she had worked so hard on until last year (1990), when she saw the article in the magazine. We decided it was time for Tuskega's history to be told, and Mr. Mills said, "go on telling its story through the years". Afterward - July 1991 This past summer when we returned to the ruins of Tuskega, we wondered how many more stories or memories there were which should be written down before they are lost. As we walked around we thought about all the people who had loved this house! What happened to the children who were born here and had grown up at Tuskega? What memories could each of them pass on?My story of Tuskega is only from my Mother's line. How many other Callaways can add to Tuskega's history? Yes, we know the beautiful house is gone . . . but its many stories and memories will stay within our hearts forever. Another article: Thomas Howard Callaway, who moved to Bradley County in 1838, was a leader in the development in East Tennessee. Samuel Callaway, grandfather of Thomas, (Editor's Note - I believe this is an error. Thomas' grandfather was actually Thomas Callaway, Jr.) came to explore the area for Henderson and Company in 1764 with Daniel Boone. Thomas Howard married Susan Jane Lea of Bradley County and they had eleven children. Thomas Howard Callaway, in his first position as a deputy surveyor under John B. Tipton, developed a relationship with Cherokee Chief, John Ross. He was instrumental in organizing and serving as first president of Ocoee Bank of Cleveland which later moved to Knoxville. Callaway headed the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad and the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad and was the first president of East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad, later part of Southern Railways. Some of the lands owned by Thomas Callaway included McNair Farm near Conasauga, extensive acreage in the Copper Basin (one mine carried the Callaway name), the 4,000 acre McGhee farm on the Little Tennessee River and Jolly's island at the mouth of the Hiwassee river. Two historic houses still in existence today, the Linden Avenue Callaway (Raht) Home and Ocoee Street R. A. Hanger home were built and occupied by Callaway.