(Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press)
Just a few paces off Boones Creek Road is a piece of history, but it’s a piece of history the Kirkpatrick family has had difficulty preserving.
The main difficulty in having the Bowers-Kirkpatrick Farmstead, a white, seven-columned house that lies just west of Old Gray Station Road on Boones Creek Road, is finding money for salvaging or preserving the building. The original log portion of the farmstead is more than 220 years old, and sits sturdily atop a strong foundation, but wears an exterior that has diminished in recent years collecting a great deal of brush and vine coverage. While additions over the course of the property’s history have started to cave in, the oldest parts of the house have held strong. There are several outbuildings, including tobacco and livestock barns, a chicken house, a smokehouse and an automobile garage.
Originally sitting on a 100-acre tobacco farm, the house and its history has been impressive. The Bowerses and the Kirkpatricks were prominent members of society in Boones Creek and in neighboring Jonesborough.
According to family records, Lawrence Bowers (1810-1901), a Boones Creek postmaster and magistrate in the 19th century, had donated land for the road and Boones Creek Seminary. He also had three sons who fought for the Union Army in the Civil War. Throughout their family’s run in the area, James A. Kirkpatrick (1845-1910) was a Confederate and became a medical doctor from Vassar University, Nathaniel Kirkpatrick (1877-1964) was a Johnson City dairy farmer and businessman, and, most recently, James R. Kirkpatrick (1920-2012) was a United States Air Force major and Washington County deputy tax assessor.
One of the current owners of the property, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, whose family name carries years of historical interest in the house, sees at the very least value in original building materials to carry on her family’s legacy.
She has a descending order list of scenarios for her family’s farmstead, but won’t entertain a plan of demolition.
A dream outcome for Kirkpatrick would be for it to become a museum or historical society structure, which could either be on site or moved to another location. Given its current condition, Kirkpatrick believes preservation would cost around $20,000, and moving and revamping the original portion of the house might run nearly $100,000. Other acceptable options for Kirkpatrick would be someone buying it and using it as a business or, as a last resort, breaking down the house and using the original 1790 logs for another structure.
National of Register of Historic Places documents say the Bowers-Kirkpatrick Farmstead is among the first generation of family farms in the state and the third oldest in the county.
While finding that kind of money for a house in its current condition is proving to be difficult, the endeavour has not been without many attempts to contact historical organizations near and far for help.
Kirkpatrick has contacted more than half a dozen local and regional groups to help or give ideas about what to do with her property.
All have come back with the issue of money, and they are currently moving forward without a “maybe.”
A cousin of the family lives across the road and goes over to mow the lawn for some upkeep, but any kind of serious repairs would be a giant undertaking.
The property is now for sale for the first time, 2.47 acres sandwiched between strip malls, in front of a call center and across the road from a tractor supplier. A look at the expanding commercial properties for I-26 would make it appear to be one of the last holdout properties to not sell for commercial use. And looking at the surrounding area, a commercial destiny might seem imminent.
Kirkpatrick and her brother, who lives in Hawaii and isn’t able to have much of an active hand in the outcome of the property, have their mother’s blessing in trying to do whatever they can for their family plot.
With fears that the old roof in the back might not hold against a leak much longer, Kirkpatrick is operating as if time is running out and something needs to be done.
In the mind of Kirkpatrick, the clear fix for the situation would be working with the Boones Creek Historical Trust, which operates out of the Boones Creek Christian Church.
Their reply to her inquiries have been understandable, she says, citing the cost.
Treasurer of the trust, Ed Bowman, who had toured the building when they were contacted about it, wishes the best outcome for the property, but is not able to commit that kind of support to its restoration.
“For our organization, it’s not worth spending any money on,” Bowman said, suggesting that the best outcome would be to see if someone would come in and demolish the property for no cost and keep the original logs for other uses.
Kirkpatrick has expressed that she feels they’ve pursued all options, and hasn’t been able to find any new leads.
She welcomes any comments or ideas to be sent to an email address set up for the property at firstname.lastname@example.org.