Tucked away on the northwestern rim of the commercial district at State of Franklin and Knob Creek roads, there’s a pioneer farmstead that predates the nation.
The property includes a two-story cabin built in 1765 by young Charles Duncan, who an early document records coming to the area with the pioneering O’Bean family.
Beside the cabin is a two-story museum chock-full of artifacts from 250 years of history the farmstead has weathered.
And beside the museum, there’s a bright red caboose loaded with memorabilia gathered by four generations of a railroading family.
The Knob Creek Museum and Pioneer Homestead at 243 Denny Mill Road is located a quarter-mile west of the intersection of State of Franklin Road, Greenline Road and West Oakland Avenue. Tours are available by appointment April 15 through Nov. 1.
Last week, the museum’s owners and curators, Margaret Sherfey Holley and her husband George Holley, were busy preparing the property for winter but graciously accepted a request for an end-of-season tour.
Margaret told the story of how her childhood home encompassed Duncan’s cabin and was torn away in 1995 when she and George restored the cabin.
The property came into her family in 1886 when her grandfather, David Preston Sherfy, purchased the cabin and 17 acres of a 400-acre tract that was granted to Duncan by the government more than a decade after he settled the property.
Margaret’s father, John A. Sherfey, who changed the spelling of their family name, built an addition onto the cabin and lined the inside of its stone chimney with brick for his family’s safety.
When the Holleys tore away the siding that encapsulated the log structure, they found long chaffs of wheat twisted and encased in mud to form the chinking between the logs more than 200 years earlier.
Near an inside wall of its stone foundation, they uncovered a spoon with an unusual pitcher-like lip and a rough buildup of metal that evidenced its use for pouring hot lead into the small molds of musket balls.
Sherfey family legend holds that the Duncans used the trap door in the cabin’s floor to flee to the cellar during Indian attacks and explains the spoon’s presence beneath the cabin.
In 1986, the Holleys built the museum beside the cabin to house a collection of family and community antiques.
Its artifacts include handmade furniture, “fancy quilts” and woven coverlets, linen bedspreads and tablecloths and a collection of military memorabilia that begins with the Civil War and continues through the Persian Gulf conflict.
Of particular beauty are three woven blankets from the museum’s Wine-Krouse coverlet collection that traveled the country between 2001 and 2003 with a touring exhibit titled “Textile Art from Southern Appalachia: The Quiet Work of Women” that was also displayed at the Royal Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Community contributions to the museum include the hand-pieced quilts and personal effects of the late Pearl Bowman of Jonesborough, John Martin’s collection of Native American artifacts, Marcella Epperson’s antique farm equipment and Gilbert Hodge’s woodworking tools.
The caboose was purchased from CSX Rail Corp. by George, whose family includes four generation of railroaders, including his nephew, Keith, the present-day manager of East Tennessee Railroad.
The majority of its memorabilia — signal lanterns, switch locks, steam engine tools, train schedules and photographs — was donated by Keith and Blanche Holley Martin, a former freight agent for CSX.
A personal note from George and Margaret at the museum website at http://bit.ly/HpbIz5 reads:
“Interest in the ‘old ways’ is dwindling. The history of this area is being scattered across the country as families are moving away, taking with them family heirlooms and antiques.
“What we are attempting to do is give a home to the artifacts that are left in the area, displaying them for those who still hold an interest in their own heritage.”Editor's note: An earlier version of this article mentioned Greenwood Drive when it should have referenced Greenline Road in the directions.