This D.A.R. marker can be found by traveling US Highway 11 E & 321 through Greene County, TN and almost to the Washington County, TN boundary line. George Gillespie's home, known affectionately for generations as the "old stone house," still stands after more than two centuries just off state road 34 at Limestone, TN. The historic site marker records the following data: "This was built 1792 for George Gillespie by Seth Smith, a Quaker stone mason from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. An early fort originally stood on the site, and was the dividing line between Washington and Greene Counties in 1783. This house was purchased in 1842 by Jacob Klepper and has been preserved by his descendants."
Also at the same location as the Gillespie Stone House marker, another D.A.R. marker commemorates Davy Crockett's birthplace, a log cabin located nearby in the Davy Crockett State Historic Area and Campsite.
(photos by Stephen Ratledge, my husband)
Shane Ratledge, in the 1989 photo above, stands in front of the "old stone house." George and Elizabeth (Allen) Gillespie, the original owners, are Shane's great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents. Shane graduated May 4, 2002, from East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Washington County, TN, with a B.S. in Computer Science and Information Systems. Of the thousand graduating students, he was one of only thirty-nine who graduated Summa Cum Laude. We are very proud of him!
This side view of the "old stone house" in 1989 shows the excellent original masonry. Except for the addition of front, side, and back porches and a garage beneath the front porch, this house withstood nature's elements and remained for generations very much as George and Elizabeth Gillespie ordered it built in 1792.
"George Gillespie was an early settler in the Watauga country, having been there in 1772. He is listed among those signing the petition 'Of inhabitants of the western country' in 1789 to the Assembly of North Carolina, praying a separation from that state -- the inception of the movement ending in the formation of the State of Franklin. In 1783 the line dividing Washington and Greene counties was described as running 'From Iron Mountain, thence a direct course to George Gillespie's house, at or near the mouth of Big Limestone'."
Historian J. G. M. Ramsey wrote as follows about the home: "Brown's Settlement extended down Nollichucky below the mouth of Big Limestone Creek, and that neighborhood being the weakest and first exposed, a fort was built at George Gillespie's and a garrison stationed in it."
Regarding the settlers' difficulties with Indians in 1777, this same historian wrote, "Another division of the Cherokees invaded the settlements. This was commanded by old Abraham of Chilhowie. He led the division along the foot of the mountain by the Nollichucky path, hoping to surprise and massacre the unsuspecting and unprotected inhabitants upon the river. The little garrison at Gillespie's station appraised of the impending danger had prudently broken up their fort and withdrawn to Watauga, taking with them such of their movable effects as the emergency allowed, but leaving their cabins, their growing stock on the range to the devastation of the invaders."
"The house succeeding this fort was built on land which was still on a salient far out in the Indian country, with ownership of every acre fiercely contested by the copper-skinned enemy. It was a time when a man must plow with a rifle always within reach. His house must needs be a fortress as well as a home and in time of danger it was one of those situations to which neighbors brought their families for safety." So, it was with the "old stone house" of George Gillespie in the western frontiers of North Carolina. This was our state's first stone house built in 1792, four years before the state of Tennessee was so named.
The early twentieth century black and white photo above shows the rear of the old stone house. To the left, stands the old smokehouse. At this time, the home was still occupied. A flower garden and perhaps herbs are visible just behind the house. This photo is filed in the Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.
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