The History of Hayslope

Historic House in

 Hamblen County, TN

The house and grounds known as "Hayslope" are situated in Russellville, Tennessee, just east of Morristown in Hamblen County.  (See map.)  Located on Warrensburg Road about a half mile south of Highway 11-E, the property is currently owned by the C.D. Thomason family of Russellville and is being lived in by renters (sorry, it's not available for rent).  

I would like to share some of its history with you.  Changes in ownership are detailed in the table at the bottom of this page.



Tennessee Historical Marker 1 B 27 - Hayslope

0.4 mile.  Built 1785 by Col. James Roddye, from North Carolina.  He was subsequently delegate to the North Carolina Constitutional Convention, magistrate and register of Jefferson County under territorial government and member of Tennessee's first Constitutional Convention.  The house was also a tavern on the Kentucky Road.

located on U.S. 11-E, in Russellville, near the intersection with Warrensburg Road

Tennessee Historical Marker 1 B 30 - Longstreet's Billet

Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's Corps occupied this area during the winter of 1863-64, with the mission of securing East Tennessee to the Confederacy.  He and his staff occupied this house at that time.  Brig. Gen. Kershaw's troops were to the north of the road, and McLaws' Division to the south.  McLaws lived in Hayslope.

located on U.S. 11-E, in Russellville, at intersection with Warrensburg Road, in yard of house formerly known as the Nenney House and "Cavan-a-Lee"



One of the historic spots in this [Hamblen] county is "Hayslope," the handsome old home of one of the pioneer settlers, Colonel James Roddye, one of the signers of the first Constitution of Tennessee.  The town of Russellville is built on a tract of land awarded Colonel Roddye for his service in the Battle of Kings Mountain, and was named for his second wife, Miss Russell.

SourceCounties of Tennessee; by Austin P. Foster, A.M., Assistant State Librarian and Archivist; Department of Education, Division of History, State of Tennessee; 1923, p. 15.



Hayslope is a most intriguing home lying south of present Highway 11E.  It was long a beauty spot in our village [Russellville].

It is quite doubtful if there are many places in America that can boast that the halls of one of their humble homes have echoed to more steps of royalty than can Hayslope.

It was built in 1785 by Col. James Roddye on land that had only known the tread of the Red Man and the council halls of the Cherokee Nation.  This land had been granted to Col. Roddye, an ex-serviceman, if you please, of the Revolutionary War.  It has survived through the years to witness the labor of slaves who could trace their ancestry to the proudest chiefs of coastal Africa.

Poets, priests, and soldiers have crossed over the welcoming threshold of Hayslope and passed through its portals to meet fame, fortune, and death in distant places.  Could the red front door of Hayslope speak and tell of the trials, triumphs, and dire tragedies it has witnessed, there is not a single listener who would not be spellbound to hear of the great as well as the humble who have passed its way.

Picture with me if you will this famous old tavern, or ordinary, or inn as it was called in that bygone day.  Imagine its comfy beds and bountiful table spread for its guests, a most hospitable home with unassuming kindness and good fellowship.  The big inviting fireplace was the center of the family life, for there its warmth warmed the chilled hands and frozen feet of many a weary, forlorn passer-by.  It furnished all the heat and much of the light.  In the evening the entire family gathered around it; spinning wheels hummed busily as the women spun thread, or looms clicked as the thread was woven into cloth.  While the men and boys were mending their tools or making new ones from the wood cut in the spacious surrounding forests -- ax handles, shovels, plows, broomsticks, butter paddles, plates, spoons, or cups for their womenfolk.

All this intriguing lore would have gone with the snows of yesteryear, would have been obliterated or would have been buried with the old and knowing heads which surrendered this lore ere now; had it not been preserved in old books, account ledgers, and letters found in the attic when the last descendants of the Grahams and Roddyes to live at Hayslope had passed away.  (This valuable information I have been given access to by Mrs. Antionette Miller Taylor who also has in her possession her family's historical records.)

This outstanding home or "the Old Roddye house" which aptly may have been referred to as the "Old Stage Coach Inn" was truly a warrior's retreat and was to see the veterans of every major and minor war that America has faced and fought.  It was built by veterans of the Indian wars, owned by veterans of the Revolutionary; sent its sons to the War of 1812, to fight valiantly with Old Andy Jackson.

It has sheltered sons and neighbors who marched to Mexico in 1846 with Scott and Taylor on legal warfaring and excursions while wearing the uniform of their country, as well as men who marched Sonora and Nicaragua on the filibustering conquests with "the grey-eyed man of destiny, with William Walker on his equally brilliant but illegal and ill-fated expeditions -- all have passed through its doors.

In the winter of 1863, it sheltered a portion of Longstreet's general staff, and witnessed the execution and burial on its acres of two unnamed deserters who await another stern judgement while sleeping on the hillside above the spring where they were hastily interred.

Longstreet and his men left the sheltering walls of Old Hayslope only to meet the guns of Gettysburg and death on a northern hillside.

Another frequent visitor was Ellen Douglas Graham who was banished from Tennessee because she freed a prisoner from a military prison in Tazewell by the simple expedience of giving him a loaf of bread with a file, a pair of scissors, and an auger baked into its center. [See the link below to a story about Ellen Graham.]

A nephew of a later owner enlisted in the Spanish-American War much against his father's wishes and marched away, a young captain with his own company's volunteers.

A veteran of the Philippine Rebellion passed through its doors as one did a veteran of the Boxer Rebellion, who returned with a Chinkgo bullet forever imbedded in his flesh.

In later years the halls of Hayslope were to echo to the laughter of three children; one of them was to marry into the royal family of Austria; one into the highest aristocracy of Italy; and still a third would glitter with the stars of Hollywood.

This lovely old estate, after Col. Roddye's death, was purchased by a Mr. Graham of Tazewell who[se daughter, Louise Graham Rogan,] gave it the name of "Hayslope", and has been known by that name since.  How very appropriately it was named, for it lays so beautifully landscaped on the slopes of the green hillsides which hover closely by its cool, refreshing spring and entwining turns of Fall Creek.  Its grassy acres have yielded fresh grass to its livestock and an abundance of hay for many a wintering herd. [See the link below for an article about Mr. and Mrs. Rogan's fiftieth wedding anniversary party at Hayslope and for more history of the house.]

In the days of our early settlers, the homesteads were built near the babbling springs or rippling brooks to furnish water to the household as well as the livestock.  We may conclude that springs influenced not only homesites but future villages and towns.  According to old records of this entire region, we find that springs did consistently influence the location of homes, churches, schools, or camp meeting grounds.

This lovely estate has been registered in three different states, namely North Carolina, Franklin, and Tennessee and has existed under as many governments.

Since it was Col. James Roddye who named our village "Russellville" in honor of his first wife, Miss Elizabeth Russell, daughter of William Russell, and the history of the village is indissolubly bound with the story of this great aristocrat, we shall be concerned with his life.

It may be noted here that his second wife was Lydia Nenney, sister of Catherine Nenney (daughters of Patrick Nenney).  The late J. P. Roddye of Knoxville was named James Patrick for both his grandfathers, James Roddye and Patrick Nenney.

[Mrs. Trent is in error here, and later contradicts herself.  Col. Roddye's first wife was Catherine Jane Chase and his second wife was Lydia Russell, daughter of George Russell and granddaughter of William Russell.  Lydia Nenney was the wife of Col. Roddye's son, Thomas.]

Col. Roddye was one of the signers of the first constitution of the state of Tennessee; a devout Baptist and a colleague of Judson, the first missionary to India.  There in the big inviting living room of Hayslope he addressed an audience of Tennessee's pioneers soliciting means for the maintenance of work in mission fields.

In the earliest beginnings, a preacher had to preach in such surroundings and receive such accommodations as he could find.  It was truly the people and not the building that made a church, and so Col. Roddye's home, being the largest, most centrally located house, was selected or accepted to provide room for the ardent preaching of Richard Rice.

Source: Emma Dean Smith Trent's East Tennessee's Lore of Yesteryear, 1987, pg. 212-215.

Comments enclosed in brackets [] were added by myself, Carole Thomason.


"Among the ranks of the force [at King's Mountain] from the western settlements was one Capt. George Russell.

Some four years after America had won its independence, Capt. Russell and his family moved into the area and settled about 25 miles west of Greeneville, settled near a creek, now known as Fall Creek.  The stream was probably the main attraction to Capt. Russell, as an excellent spring (Hayslope) was located there.

Russell was granted a large tract of land in the vicinity by the state of North Carolina for his services in the Revolutionary War, and in a place that would later be known as Russellville, he built his home.

Russell had formerly settled on the Watauga, and was one of the 100 signers of a petition to North Carolina for the organization of the Watauga Association.  His sister was the wife of William Bean, first known frontiersman to settle on the Watauga.  Russell was prominent in the history of Jonesborough, having helped to lay out the town and to determine the location of the courthouse.

When Russell and his family arrived in the Fall Creek area about 1785, by the way of an Indian trail, they found only wilderness.  Deer, raccoons, foxes, panthers and other 'critters' filled the woods and made their way often to the creek for water.

It wasn't long, however, until other pioneers moved into the area, and transactions of land owned by Russell followed.

One such transaction was the sale of 500 acres of land to Col. James Roddye, who was the son-in-law of Capt. Russell."

It is indeed possible that Col. Roddye settled in the area at the same time as did Capt. Russell.  At any rate, in 1785, the former delegates to the North Carolina Constitutional Convention erected a tavern on the Kentucky Road.  The tavern was originally known as "The Tavern with the Red Door" but in time came to be called "Hayslope".

Records in the Jefferson County courthouse show the prices fixed by Roddye in the operation of the tavern.  They are as follows: breakfast and supper (each) nine cents; dinner 10 cents; lodgings, six cents; brandy (per half pint), eight cents; whiskey (per half pint), six cents; cider (per quart), six cents; rum (per 1/2 pint), six cents; wine (per 1/2 pint), 10 cents; corn or oats (per gallon), six cents; hay or fodder for horse, six cents; good pasturage for night, six cents.

It is told that Andrew Jackson spent nights at Roddye's tavern.  This is probably true, for Jackson traveled quite extensively.  Not only that, but his fondness for a "good drink" is well known.

James Roddye was a prominent leader in Jefferson County, being a magistrate and county registrar and member of Tennessee's First Constitutional Convention.

Source:  Emma Dean Smith Trent's East Tennessee's Lore of Yesteryear, 1987, pg. 569 - 571.


Col. Roddye settled here on his vast estate and married a daughter of William Russell (Elizabeth) [again, this is in error -- Col. Roddye married Lydia, daughter of George Russell and granddaughter of William Russell], and in her honor he named the village Russellville.  Col. Roddye was a devout Baptist and there being no place of worship in this scattered settlement, he offered his home for this purpose and there, in the big living room in front of a spacious fireplace, Richard Rice, a colleague of Judson, the first missionary to India, addressed a large audience of pioneers, soliciting means for the maintenance of missionaries.  During those early days Col. Roddy would also open his home where classes for the early school could be held, thus to provide safety from marauding Indians.

The large spring at the foot of the hill, that empties into Fall Creek, was found by watching a squaw and her papoose coming and going through the underbrush at the time the house was built.

Col. Roddy's home and plantation was later sold to Hugh Graham of Tazewell, who presented it to his daughter, Louise, as a wedding present on the occasion of her marriage to Theophilus Rogan.  This log house has weathered the years, been remodeled, weatherboarded.  Mrs. Rogan gave it the name Hayslope.

During the bloody days of the Civil War, Russellville arose to do duty to both friend and foe.  General Longstreet, with his staff, had headquarters at the Nenney home, while Gen. McLaws was in quarters at Hayslope, and Gen. Kershaw was at [nearby] Greenwood with his staff.

During the winter of 1862, Major Fairfax granted protection to the cows of Hayslope on condition of receiving a gallon of milk daily, for his eggnogs.

Source:  Emma Dean Smith Trent's East Tennessee's Lore of Yesteryear, 1987, pg. 572-573.

Comments enclosed in brackets [] were added by myself, Carole Thomason.


See also:

Tracing the Ownership of Hayslope:

1785 The house was built by Col. James Roddye.  It was known as the "Tavern with the Red Door".
1822 Col. James Roddye died.  The house probably passed to his heirs.
ca 1853 The house was purchased by Hughe Graham of Tazewell, TN, and given to his daughter, Maria Louise, and her new husband, Theophilus Rogan, upon their marriage on December 14, 1853.  Mrs. Rogan renamed the house and grounds "Hayslope".
Sept., 1904 Theophilus Rogan died.
April, 1910 Louise Rogan died.  The house passed to her heirs.
May 1, 1911 The heirs of Mrs. M.L. Rogan (Catherine M., Ellen, Hugh G., Griffith C., and Stephen, et. al.) transferred the "Hayslope farm" to Margaret Louisa Millar (55 acres).  (Recorded August 7, 1911, deed book Vol. 31, p. 150)
May 17, 1911 The heirs of Mrs. M.L. Rogan (Hugh Graham and Griffith Calloway) transferred the "Hayslope farm"  (51 acres) to Catherine Mary Rogan. (Recorded August 7, 1911, deed book Vol. 31, p. 147)
May 17, 1911 The heirs of Mrs. M. L. Rogan (Catherine Mary and Griffith) transferred the "Hayslope farm" (50 acres) to their brother, Hugh Graham Rogan.  (Recorded Nov. 28, 1911, deed book Vol. 31, p. 329)
Mar. 1, 1913 H. G. and Bertie M. Rogan sold "Hayslope" (50 acres) to his first cousin, Robert Patterson.  (Recorded March 4, 1913, deed book 32, p. 388)
ca 1940's Escoe Thomason acquired the house.  It is not yet known from whom he purchased it.
ca 1948 Escoe Thomason sold or gave the house to his brother, Briscoe, upon the dissolution of their partnership.
1983 Briscoe Thomason died.  The house passed to his son, C.D. Thomason.


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