Some who read this post might say something to the effect of “Uncle Thereisno, why are you writing about a house?” Well, just sit tight and you will hear the amazing story of this 203 year old home of the Stonecipher family and then the Kelly family.
Sometime around the year 1813, Ezra Stonecipher, who was born in Wilkes County, North Carolina in January of 1782, moved to the Cumberland Plateau of Eastern Tennessee. By 1814, he had constructed a 3-story log home for his family. His father Joseph Marion Stonecipher had moved to the area between 1807 and 1813. Ezra was a multi-talented man. Not only did he build the house, but he made most of the furniture that was in the house. He was also a gunsmith, and produced many guns that found their way to many parts of East Tennessee. There is even an unsubstantiated story that he made a gun for David Crockett. But back to the house, there was a huge fireplace built in the center of the downstairs. This fireplace was used as a source of heat, served as the kitchen where all meals were cooked, and was just a striking centerpoint for the main room. There were bedrooms on the second floor and third floor. There was a huge front porch on the house that was ideal for enjoying the mountain breezes. In 1817, the area where Ezra’s house was located became a county. Morgan County, Tennessee is about to celebrate its 200th year of existence this October.
Eventually, log homes were no longer fashionable and clapboard siding was added to the exterior of the house. That siding probably helped to preserve the logs, because underneath it all they are in good shape today.
Ezra was married to Susannah Curtis and they had, by my calculations, ten children. Many of their children figured into the history of Morgan County, Tennessee. Also, some of their children followed other Stonecipher family to the Marion County, Illinois area and contributed to the history of that area. In 1838, Ezra and one of his sons made a visit to Southern Illinois to see the relatives who lived there and possibly purchase some land there. On their way back to Morgan County, Ezra became ill and died in Hopkinsville, Christian County, Kentucky. He was buried there and the grave was not marked. As an Uncle Thereisno sidelight, Ezra’s father, Joseph Marion Stonecipher, and Susannah’s father, Joshua Curtis, both served during the Revolutionary War and helped create this great country. After Ezra’s death, the house became the property of the Kelly family.
As the years went by, the house was passed down in the family to Samuel Walker Kelly who married Julia Ann Stonecipher, so there was once again the Stonecipher connection. Samuel and Julia had eight children; Wade, Mary, Delia, Douglas, John, Lillian, Docia, and Nancy. Douglas and Docia were the only members of the family to ever marry. Samuel died in 1922 and Julia died in 1943. As of the mid 1950’s, Delia, John, Lillian “Lillie”, and Nancy still made the Stonecipher-Kelly House their home.
The Kelly girls were members of Union Baptist Church in the Joyner community just east of their home. As late as 1956, Nancy taught Sunday School at Union Church. After the church services they would often invite extended family back home with them and there would be a massive Sunday afternoon meal that had been prepared in advance that would put many feasts to shame. Lillie especially was a gracious and courteous hostess and was very kind to any children in attendance. Lillie was also the last of the immediate Kelly family to occupy the house. It was her home until her death in 1986.
Since Lillie’s death, the old home place has fallen into major disrepair, and is in desperate need of restoration. Recently, the Stonecipher-Kelly House has come under the supervision of the Frozen Head State Park and the presumed intent is to use it as an entrance point to that Tennessee State Park. At the current time there has been no restoration. In addition to that, the only work that has been done on the old home has been accomplished through the efforts of volunteers, many of which are Stonecipher cousins and also members of the Morgan County Genealogical and Historical Society. The state does mow the property and has erected a sign. At the present time, a new 501c3 non-profit has been organized by Annetta Watson to help in the preservation and maintenance of the Stonecipher-Kelly House. The group is called the Friends of Frozen Head State Park, Inc. They are located at 964 Flat Fork Road in Wartburg, Tennessee 37887-3208. I have no axe to grind in this, but just threw the information out in case someone might be interested. My only desire is that the old home be saved from the ravages of time.
Another ramble from Uncle Thereisno Justice