Old Stover House slated for auction block this month

  star staff
  rhardin@starhq.com
  A priceless piece of Carter County history with regional and national implications is slated for the auction block later this month.
  The house where former President Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of the United States, died has been a part of Fuddtown in Rio Vista since the early 1960s. Fuddtown, which was started by the late Clyde Campbell, will be sold at an auction scheduled Aug. 19-20. The newly-organized Carter County Heritage Alliance, headed by Larry Blalock, has expressed interest in the building and would like to see it relocated and preserved as a part of local history. Also, the Andrew Johnson Museum in Greeneville has expressed interest in the house.
  Blalock said if it could be worked out for the CCHA to have the house it would be relocated to a new site, possibly somewhere near the Chamber of Commerce.
  Built in the 1800s, the house was the home of President Johnson's daughter, Mrs. Mary Stover Brown, and was originally located on the Isaac Lincoln Plantation. The Lincoln plantation was located on the north side of the Watauga River at the foot of Lynn Mountain about two miles out of town.
  The Stover home was a very large, rambling two-story farmhouse, which featured architecture of that era. Many years ago, parts of the old house were razed to make room for a new house. Two rooms of the original house remained when it was acquired in 1925 by Dr. D. Ensor of Alva, Okla., a physician and native of Carter County.
  From all indications, the house was built prior to the Civil War when Mary Johnson was married to Col. Daniel Stover on April 17, 1852. Col. Stover was a Union loyalist in the Civil War and died from injuries suffered in the war. He and Mary were the parents of three children -- two daughters, Lilly and Sarah, and a son. The son, Andrew Johnson Stover, was a guerilla fighter in the Civil War.
  Southern hospitality reigned at the Stover house, where the festive board was always spread and parties were often tendered.
  Mrs. Stover, a widow when her father became president, and her two daughters, lived in the White House. She helped her elder sister, Martha Rutherfold, with White House social duties. However, she and her children moved back to the Watauga Valley when Johnson left. She married William Ramsey Brown in 1869, but it was not a successful marriage. She postponed her divorce from Brown until after her father's death.
  The former president enjoyed visiting his daughter and her family at the Stover farm and did so quite often. He had many friends and acquaintances in Elizabethton.
  According to a news dispatch from the Gazette's Greeneville Special on July 31, 1875, President Johnson died around 2 a.m. at the residence of his daughter, Mrs. W.R. Brown, formerly Mrs. Col. Dan Stover in Carter County, from a paralytic stroke.
  The news account said the former president had been in rather bad health since the "adjournment of the last session of Congress, but nothing was anticipated." Johnson had been elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee after leaving the presidency.
  "On Wednesday morning he left the train for Carter's Station (Watauga), and from thence he went on horseback to his daughter's residence, a distance of about seven miles, riding in the hot sun. Arriving there he felt fatigued, and the same afternoon, about 4 o'clock, his right side was paralyzed, rendering him speechless. His wife was with him at the time, and his son, Frank, and daughter, Mrs. Martha Patterson, were at once sent for and left Greeneville on Thursday. On Thursday about noon he became conscious and had partial use of his side again, but it was evident that the great commoner could not live long, and thus surrounded by his entire family and neighboring friends he passed away about 2 o'clock this morning," the newspaper dispatch read.
  He died in an upper room of the two-story farmhouse, where accounts say he was stricken while looking out over a pasture of grazing cattle.
  Dr. Ensor, when he acquired the Stover House along with the farm, had a vision that someday the house would become an historic shrine. In 1959 he offered the house and some land without charge to any historical or civic group that would repair, maintain and make a shrine of it. When no group accepted the challenge, Campbell, a local businessman, did so. The house was given to him by Dr. Ensor's widow.
  In 1963 Campbell moved the house from its original location to his property in Rio Vista. The house was disassembled piece by piece with each piece carefully numbered, labeled and indexed with instructions for reconstruction. It was reconstructed on the Rio Vista site, where it stands today.
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  Other tidbits from the former president's death:
  * It is said that Johnson, on his way to the Stover farm from Carter's Depot, stopped at a tavern located where the law office of Banks & Banks is now located for a brief respite.
  However, another account has Johnson riding a hack to the Stover home from the rail depot with Watauga. An early story in the STAR lists Nat Lyons of Elizabethton as driver of the hack.
  * R.T. Johnson Sr., in a 1929 edition of the STAR, recalled the death of Johnson. Johnson told a reporter: "On August 1st, his (Andrew Johnson's) son, Frank Johnson, came to Elizabethton in search of someone to take some telegrams to Carter Depot to send out. There being no telegraph office or railroad and Carter Depot some six miles away, I agreed to make the trip on condition he would secure a certain horse belonging to John J. Edens, it being the largest horse in the community. The river was very dangerous to cross. Frank secured the horse and I made the trip and returned safely."
  * Upon the death of Andrew Johnson, church bells were tolled in Elizabethton. Andrew J. Shell tolled the bell at the Methodist Church, South. He was only 19 years old at the time. Shell was named for the president.
  The other two church bells in town were tolled by John Perry and James Hilton.
  * Andrew Johnson, when visiting his daughter in the Watauga Valley, often would visit with neighbors of the Stovers, one being Joel Nave. Nave's son, Andrew Johnson Nave, before his death often reminisced about visits with Johnson. He said Johnson when visiting the Nave household would sometimes stay for supper and "eat our cornmeal mush just like he liked it."
  * Johnson's sister, Mary, was married to John Singletary, one of the founders of Methodism in Carter County. A son, Dr. W.C. Singletary, was an early physician in the city.
  * The president's body was taken by wagon to Carter's Depot and placed on a train for Greeneville, where the funeral and burial were held. Johnson was the 17th president of the United States.