This Old House - Again

Photos by Kristen Luther and Courtesy of Dr. Dan Schumaier

The exterior restoration of the house where the 17th president of the United States, Andrew Johnson, died, is nearly complete. Dr. Dan Schumaier purchased the home at a public auction in August for $26,000. (Below) The house in its original glory in the 1800s when it was located where the Watauga Industrial Park now stands.


  If there is any validity to the law of karma, a claim made by some historians that President Andrew Johnson’s mistakes were overshadowed by his struggle to put the Union back together again during Reconstruction may be true - because the house where he died, built in 1797, has survived “refining fire”, and been moved and put back together again - twice.
  On a hot July 31, 1875, just six years after he was acquitted in an unfortunate impeachment trial by one Senate vote, and after his sister’s husband, Daniel Stover, a Union Army colonel in the only Confederate-controlled region of the state died, Johnson traveled from Greeneville to Stoney Creek to visit his sister, Elizabeth, who had gotten re-married to a man named William Ramsey Brown. Johnson suffered a stroke and died that day in their home, then located where the Watauga Industrial Park now stands.
  Several years later, the house caught fire. No one in the Brown family was killed or injured, and the section of the house where Johnson died remained standing.
  For awhile, families lived in the reduced house after the Browns moved to Bluff City; then it functioned as a church and storehouse. Later, it fell into disrepair and was used as a barn.
  In 1925, an Oklahoma physician from Stoney Creek bought the home and property, but, according to Dr. Dan Schumaier, who currently owns the house, when Dr. Dan Ensor tried to give the home away, no one wanted it because the property it stood on was about to be turned over to industrial development. “The only people interested in buying it were the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) but they didn’t have any support to move it,” Schumaier said.
“  He was going to give it to the city of Elizabethton; he wanted to give it to the Rotary Club, but they had to move it because he was selling the property and it was going to become an industrial park, so no one would take it,” Schumaier said.
  Ensor’s widow finally gave the home, which was almost in ruins, to Fudd Campbell, who moved it in 1963 to West Elk Avenue where it stood for over 40 years on the property known as “Fuddtown”. Carmon Jackson, Howard Heaton, and Earl Montgomery dismantled the home board-by-board then rebuilt it and restored it.
  In August of this year, Schumaier purchased the house for $26,000 at a public auction held by Campbell’s heirs. “I went to the auction and I told my wife, I said, ‘I could buy a car, or I could buy this house, and I think it’s more important to save this house’, because I knew there were people there who wanted to remove it from the county,” Schumaier said.
  The men who moved the house for Schumaier were Dennis Hardin, of Elizabethton; his father, Jerry, and three men who worked for Dennis - Brian Ruchti, Danny Sons, and Morris Bowen.
“They took the structure down board-by-board, and when I say that I mean they numbered every board, then, if you pull the boards off they break, so we took a hacksaw and cut the nails and punched them out so the boards could be taken down very carefully,” Schumaier said.
  The house was moved with two tractor-trailers to 1548 Blue Springs Road behind another historic home Schumaier and his wife live in, and then reassembled using modern building techniques to make it stronger. “We put particle board next to the two-by-fours and then wrapped it with Tyvex; it’s made the building much stronger now.”
   A master brick mason named Elwayne Williams rebuilt the fireplace and chimney as close as possible to the original using photos. Every board was power-washed, and screws were used instead of nails to make the structure stronger. The roof will be made of stone-coated steel shingles.
“  Then we’ll put gutters on and repaint it, and then put the shutters on. On the inside we’re going back with period wallpaper. A man named Jim Yates will help us,” Schumaier said.
Carter County Economic Development Commission’s executive director, Haynes Elliott, sold Schumaier a dresser, table and piano stool that he had purchased from B. Carroll Reece, who represented the 1st District in Congress for 34 years and had bought them from a previous owner of the home.
“  I am trying to replicate it to the time period as much as possible, realizing that it’s not what it was before, and if school kids want to go through it, it’ll be available,” Schumaier said, adding that the structure is about 97 percent original. “We will have a registry book and pictures on the wall to trace the home’s history.”