The Boss buys Fuddtown

Johnson house goes to local doctor


star staff

  Little Detroit may get a little bigger.
  Automobile potentate Steve Grindstaff successfully bid over $1 million at a public auction Saturday morning to purchase the "Fuddtown" property on West Elk Avenue. Grindstaff bid $1,026,900 to acquire just over eight acres of property fronting West Elk Avenue owned by the heirs of Clyde "Fudd" Campbell.
  "I am out of room," said Grindstaff whose massive "Little Detroit" automobile dealership extends several acres along West Elk Avenue directly across from the Fuddtown property. "I've seen the place all my life."
  Fuddtown's property line actually extends several feet into the Watauga River, which lies directly behind the property. The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission gave preliminary approval earlier this month to a site plan dividing the 8-acre property into six lots.
  Grindstaff said he might "do some different things" with the newly purchased property, but added that it was too early to discuss future developments at the site.
  In what is surely a relief for history buffs around the county, the historic home where President Andrew Johnson died in 1875 will be remaining in Carter County according to the home's new owner.
  Dr. Dan Schumaier outbid Grindstaff to purchase the Johnson home for the bid price of $26,000. Clyde Campbell bought and relocated from the Stoney Creek area in the 1960s.
  "The house is staying in the county," Schumaier said shortly after being named the winning bidder. "I was just afraid someone would buy it and it would leave the county."
  Schumaier said he planned to relocate the home near the historic Brooks house he owns in Stoney Creek. He said he knew of interest in the house and grimaced at the thought of seeing the home moved out of Carter County.
  "I couldn't let it go," he said. "It is a part of history."
  The Campbells' four children -- Jackie, Marcia, Cindy and Phillip --- inherited and now own the property. The Campbells operated the general store and a museum displaying American Indian artifacts for several years. The Campbell heirs announced plans to sell the property earlier this year.
  "I thought he would have wanted it this way," said Jackie Campbell of his father. "He was a Christian man and that helped him more than anything because he did a lot for us."
  Campbell recalled he and his siblings helping his father deconstruct the Johnson home and rebuilding it piece by piece at Fuddtown.
  The real property purchase required 10 percent of the bid price with the balance in 45 days.
  Saturday's events culminated the three-day public auction that saw hundreds of personal property items owned by the Campbell family heirs being sold to the highest bidder. Nearly 700 individuals had signed up to bid on merchandise proffered at the auction that began on Thursday morning. Auctioneer Ron Ramsey said the three-day sale had proven very successful in moving merchandise.
  "We have sold about 1,400 items of personal property," said Ramsey. "People think one million dollars is a lot of money, but in a couple of years it will seem like a great deal."
  Several Indian graves were discovered on the property in the 1960s and removed by the University of Tennessee. Ramsey advised bidders that the state archaeologist, Nick Fielder, had visited the site earlier this month. He said Fielder had advised him in a letter there was a higher than average chance of finding additional graves on the property. If construction excavation was four feet or less in depth, the probability of finding more graves was "minimal" according to Fielder.
  Jackie Campbell, who observed the auction with his siblings, said regardless of how the property changed, he would never drive by without remembering the family's fingerprint on Elizabethton history.
  "He was the best father anyone could ever have," he said. "This is a way they can take a little part of it with them."