Historical Association searches for funds to purchase Taylor House

By Rozella Hardin

STAR STAFF
rhardin@starhq.com

   The Watauga Historical Association is hopeful of procuring Elizabethton's Nathaniel Taylor House when it is placed on the auction block Saturday morning. According to Larry Blalock, President, the association hopes to purchase the house and properties.
   "We want to keep the property out of the hands of developers, and our goal is to preserve and restore the house, which is a very important piece of our community's history," said Blalock.
   Blalock has been hustling to obtain needed funds for the purchase of the house. "The Taylor Family descendants have readily made available $50,000 in pledges toward the purchase of the house. We realize this will not be near enough to buy the property," Blalock said, noting that he had talked with both City Manager Charles Stahl and County Executive Dale Fair about purchasing the property.
   "The city is very much interested in seeing the property preserved for historical purposes," Blalock said. Also, he revealed that a local financial institution had made a commitment of up to 80 percent of the purchase price.
   At last week's Elizabethton City Council meeting, Mayor Sam LaPorte asked City Manager Charles Stahl to approach the heirs of James Reynolds, the most recent owner of Sabine Hill, to see if they would be willing to make an exclusive offer to the city for the purchase of the properties, located off West G. Street.
   Council also directed Stahl to inquire as to the price range in which the property might be sold. The property is expected to sell for $130,000 to $150,000.
   Harrison Taylor, a descendant of Nathaniel Taylor, said the Andrew Taylor Foundation had about $50,000 in pledges toward acquiring the house. "I know this is not anywhere near the amount needed to purchase the house, but it would be great if the historical association could find the financial means to purchase the house," Taylor said.
   If the association does acquire the property, Blalock said it would be needful for the community to aid in the restoration of the house with tax-free donations.
   "This property has so many possibilities. One would be a living history museum which would detail the history of the Taylor family, their contributions to the community, etc. The house, once it is restored, could be used for living history demonstrations, much like the Tipton-Haynes House in Johnson City and Rocky Mount at Piney Flats. It could be used for special conferences. Right now, the important thing is to keep it intact, and to make sure it is preserved. It is a wonderful piece of community heritage," Blalock said.
   He noted the state has also expressed a positive interest in the association's efforts to purchase the house and restore it.
   The house was built around 1819 by Mary "Polly" Patton Taylor, widow of Nathaniel Taylor, who was a state legislator and the first sheriff of Carter County.
   The house was reportedly started by Taylor, but was not completed until after his death. The house and the approximately five acres where it is located was part of Taylor's Happy Valley Plantation, initially known as "Rotherwood."
   It is said that Taylor could ride on horseback from his house on Sabine Hill to Jonesborough without ever getting off his property. "This was a lot of property and a lot of creeks to cross," Blalock said.
   The General's land extended from the headwaters of Buffalo Creek eastward across Gap Creek to the Green Hill Plantation, owned by the Tiptons.
   Taylor was a son of early pioneer settlers of Tennessee. His father, Andrew Taylor, settled in what is now Johnson County in 1772.
   The General served in the War of 1812 under the command of Gen. Andrew Jackson and was in charge of Mobile, Ala. when the city was in great danger of invasion and seizure by the British.
   During his younger years, he was probably educated by a tutor or attended local schools such as Martin Academy (Washington College), and obtained his military prowess by fighting Indians in East Tennessee. The General was also a justice of the peace and chairman of the county court.
   In 1791 he set out for Virginia to search for a wife. He married Mary "Polly" Patton of Rockridge County and brought her back to the Watauga on a black pony which he had purchased with 65 acres of rich farm land on Buffalo Creek.
   The couple reared a family of eight children. Among his great-grandchildren were three governors -- Tennessee Governors Robert Love, Alfred A. Taylor and Nathaniel Harris, who served as governor of Georgia. Harris, a post-Civil War governor, was instrumental in the founding of Georgia Tech, and was later married to Hattie Jobe, for whom Hattie Avenue in town is named.
   Harris had a summer home in Hampton, and it's there where he retired and died. The house is now known as the Butler Home in Hampton.
   Gen. Taylor was very prominent in county and state affairs. His estate consisted of more than 40 slaves and thousands of acres of land in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. He was engaged in the manufacture of bar iron, flour and gunpowder.
   "The Taylor house is really a centerpiece of local history, and we hope that the Historical Association can purchase it and restore it. We would appeal to the community to help us in this endeavor, and we are hoping that would-be developers who aspire for the property will understand the historical significance of this property and will allow us to purchase it and restore it," Blalock said.
   The house and property will be sold at public auction Saturday at 10:30 a.m.