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From the Kingsport Times-News, Sunday, March 8, 1992

Rotherwood Mansion

watched city grow up around property



Times-News Staff Writer

Sunday, March 8, 1992


Looking out over the confluence of the north and south forks of the Holston River, Rotherwood Mansion has seen a lot of time and most of Kingsport's history go by.

The present structure, correctly known as Rothferwood II was built by the Rev. F. A. Ross after his first Rotherwood, on the same site, was destroyed by fire in the mid-1800s.

At one time, the mansion consisted of two, two-story parallel brick wings. The house underwent numerous alterations over time, including the construction of a central hall between the two wings that was made into the main entrance.

The house is listed on the National Registerof Historic Places.

Filled with stories of ghost, cruel slavemasters, and tragic romances, Rotherwood has changed hands several times since the banks of the Holston River became home to Kingsport.

James W. Dobyns, who became the first president of the home and loan company later known as Kingsport Development Company, moved into Rotherwood around 1905.

City father John B. Dennis bought the house in 1917, and used it to entertain industrialists visiting the growing city. The house was wired for electricity in 1921.

Rotherwood was purchased by the U. S. Army in 1941. Officers stationed at Holston Army Ammunition Plant during World War II were housed there, and after the war, Dennis repurchased the house and sold it to Herbert Stone, a Tennessee Eastman vice president.

The house fell into disrepair during the next few decades, and was finally sold at auction in 1984 for $240,000. The purchaser, Sam Pickering, was a wealthy businessman who died a year after purchasing the house.

New York fashion designer and Kingsport native Rober Baugh bought the house in 1987 for $270,000. By then, the house was in need of much repair.

The mansion's familiar front balcony and 30-foot high Doric colums were badly decayed and propped by temporary wooden supports. The extensive stonework around the mansion was also badly eroded and damaged.

Baugh poured thousands of dollars into the mansion, saving and restoring the exterior and working the landscape that had been neglected for years.

Baugh did not live to see the project finished. He died in 1989, and house was put back on the market for $585,000 in 1990.

The exterior of the house was restored, but the interior had not.

The landmark mansion was purchased last summer by Kingsport physician Lenita Thibault, who told the Times-News last year that Rotherwood is her "dream house."

Thibault said she plans to restore the mansion to its original glory while living in the already-restored guesthouse. She said last year that she expected the restoration of the mansion's interior to take several years and a minimum of $325,000 --- what she paid to purchase the house in the first place --- to complete.







Famous Rotherwood Is Veiled In Romantic History

Beautiful Spot Is Cherished By the Kingsport People

Romantic Story Of Rotherwood Told By Charles C. Ross, Son Of Frederick A. Ross -- Complete Story Reprinted By Special Permission Of Its Well Known Author


(From The Kingsport Times-News,

Sunday, February 27, 1927)



Writer Says "Gentleman" of Olden Days Rode Fine Horse. Servants, Handsome and Faithful, Afforded Mount Same as Master, and Carried Master's Belongings in Trunk. Never Used Pair of Saddle Bags.


The fact that Kingsport is a young industrial city, only ten years old, and that its big industries, thriving business sections, pretty resdential sections and butiful schools and churches are all creations of the last decade, is all the more reason that the people of Kingsport cherish the spots of Historic interest and romantic coloring about the city.

Of these cherished spots the one most dear to the people of Kingsport is beautiful Rotherwood with its quaint history reaching back into the romantic pre-Civil War days, with its lovely scenery at the point where the Holston Rivers join hands, with its old silk mill and with its giant elm--- said to be the largest in the country.

For these reasons the Times is particularly glad to be able to announce that it has been given permission by Mr. Charles C. Ross, editor of "Rotherwood", to reproduce this interesting little booklet in full in this edition.

Consequently the interesting story of Rotherwood and the characters whose names were woven into the history of this romantic spot, follows in its entirety.


A Brief Outline of His Life, 1766 - 1883


Frederick Augustus Ross was born December 25, 1796, in the old family home at Cobham, on the James River, Cumberland County, Virginia. When about sixteen years old, the persistent urgings of an unusually wise sister induced his father, then quite old, almost totally deaf, and entirely indulgent, to send him to the noted Moravian school, "Nazareth Hall" Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. After several happy years at Nazareth Hall, he entered Dickinson College, at Carlise, Pennsylvania and there completed his college work.

Dr. Ross was always deeply appreciative of the Providence that sent him to the Moravian school and was heard to say many times, "the best in my life, spiritually, physically, and intellectually is due to those splendid Morvians," and he thanked God for them and for that wise sister.

In the spring of 1818, his father having died in the previous year, 1817, Mr. Ross made his first visit to the large landed estate left to him in Sullivan and Hawkins counties, East Tennessee. There on the North Fork of the Holston, he built "Rotherwood." Five years later he was converted in a great revival held at Kingsport by Revs. James Gallaher and Robert Glenn. The continuation of this meeting at Jonesboro brought Mr. Ross to that old and historic town. There under unusual, if not romantic circumstances, he first met Miss Theodocia Vance, who three months later, December 19, 1823, became his wife and "Mistress of Rotherwood."

At Rogersville, in 1825, he was ordained as an Evangelist and entered upon his career as a minister of the Presbyterian Church.

Rotherwood was lost to Rev. Ross in 1852. He had thirty years before donated the land and built, in large part, the first Presbyterian Church at Kingsport. For thirty years without compensation, he served the congregations of this church, and the clear and mellow tones of the fine old bell, his gift, still call "the faithful" to worship after more than a century.

Dr. Ross received his first salary as a pastor from the Presbyterian Church at Chattanooga, Tennessee, now and for nearly half a century, ministered to by the widely esteemed Rev. Jno. W. Bachman. His "beloved wife"died in Chattanooga, Tennessee on November 18, 1853. Soon after this great loss he was called to the Presbyterian Church, Huntsville, Alabama, which he served continuously as pastor, and emeritus pastor until a

few years before his death, April 13, 1883, in his eighty-seventh year.

On the twenty-seventh of january, 1859, Dr. Ross married hs second wife Frances Robinson of Dudley, Massachusetts. This woman of great intellectuality and noblest Christian life and influences survived him seven years. Her death occured May 15, 1890, at Rogersville, Tennessee, in the Synodical College, of which she had been the loved and honored principal for seven years.

In 1827, Rev. Nelson Gallaher and Ross became associated in the conduct and editor-ship of the famous old "Calvinistic Magazine," First Series* in 1846 the second series began with Isaac Anderson, James King, James McClain and Frederick A. Ross as editors. See "Calvinistic Magazine," last page.

Dr. Ross was the author of "Ross on Slavery," "Faith According to Common Sense," "Reprobation," and other works theological in character.

A man of striking and wining personality, of brilliant intellect, and wide culture, with extraordinary forensic power in pulpit and on the forum, he was often called---he was---"The Man Eloequent," (The Editor).



From the "The Autobiography of Rev. F. A. Ross, D.D., in letters to a lady of Knoxville," (Mrs. Juliet Park White). Huntsville, Ala., 1812-1883. Hon. Thomas T. Bouldin


After the death of my father in 1717, I had in mind to make the "European round." But while in Boston, Judge Bouldin, the active executor of my father's estate, wrote that he thought the business of the estate made it essential for me to go to Tennessee. So, I was soon in Richmond.

The judge was always a man of great fascination to me. He was of medium size, slender in forms, his slightly Roman nose gave signifiance to his eagle eye---all the more as he was bald. His demeanor had the happiest union of polished deference and dignity in his approach I ever met with. And it did you good to hear him laugh. As a lawyer he was among the highest.

My Father's indebtedness, which was very heavy, compelled the sale of part of his real as well as personal estate. This broke up the Oxford Iron Works, and forced the disposal of that noble body of servants. It was a sad time---one of the unavoidble results of that form of slavery existing in the United States.

This sale of the five hundred slaves at Oxford took place in the spring of 1818. There was a great crowd during three days, and the judge's feelings were greatly touched because it was to be expected that their homes could not in the nature of things, be so pleasant as in their service of my father. For many years I met with these families in every part of the South, and while enjoying their heartfelt pleasure in seeing me was always a distress in my recollection of what their condition had once been in their homes at Oxford.

There was one fact which brought great gratification. Many of these Oxford slaves were old or infirm. We therefore emancipated more than thirty and to avoid separating families, set free men and women who were in full vigor of life and gave them land to cultivate in a little community, and a paid commissioner to watch over them for more that twenty years.

Having all authority given me by Judge Bouldin, the active executor, I bade him adieu in Lynchburg, 13 April, 1818, and began my journey to East Tennessee---quite a boy in age, being little more than twenty one.



He rode a fine horse---the saddle, bridle, martingale, and collar, were of English white leather---steel bit and stirrups---the latter, I remember, cost twenty dollars. The servant, the handsomest man of the household, rode as fine a horse as his master, and had behind him on a pillion a small trunk, called a portmanteau, covered with a black bear skin. This was large enough to contain a full wardrobe. No gentleman of that sort ever rode on a pair of saddle-bags, or his servant either. When the tavern was reached at night, the master threw the double reins on horse's neck and walked into the house. He never thought of going into the stable. James Wilson, his servant , would certainly see to it that the horses were well fed and well groomed besides, so that , in the morning if the gentleman chose to wipe his handkerchief over the necks of the horses, there would be no dust, while their bodies and legs would shine like satin and the bits, curbs, and stirrups would be bright as silver. I do not say I ever saw as much style, in this particular as Mr. G. W. Curtis tells us General Washington required as to his horses, that their hoofs should be polished with the blacking brush. Washington with all his republicanism was fully the representative of the aristorastoracy of his day, derived from Old England.



My first resting place was Liberty---taking a look, in New London at the old court house where Patrick Henry made his John Hock beef speech, given to us in Wirt's Life of Henry.

The next morning I assended the sharp Peak of Otter. I saw the tottering stone which, years after, some young fellows rolled from the top to the bottom of the mountains. That night I passed near the Natural Bridge, which I visited the day after April 15. This ride from Liberty was out of the way to Tennessee; but after gratifying my curosity with these sights I turned to the left and followed the common road up the valley of Virginia and over the Alleghany Mountains through Christansburg, and the splendid blue grass country of southwestern Virginia. I traveled very leisurely. One day I went only two miles and spent all the next with Mr. Graham, a lively bachelor who played remarkably well on the violin. My next ride took me to a Mr. Carpenter's some miles east of Abingdon. I was tired, cold and hungry when an elderly man rode up to my side. "How far to Carpenter's" I asked, very pettishly. "Just there, Sir; I am the man." I was greatly relieved and spoke to him in much better humor. I remember he rode a sorrel horse with the shortest tail I had ever seen. His house was a gem of a tavern. There was a real parlor, with handsome carpet and a large mirror---a brick house besides.

My next stopping place was Col. Goodson's, west of Abingdon. It was a fine old-fashioned home. The colonel was a most genial man. The weather was now delightful---the last day of April. I had come down from the high region of Mt. Airy to a much softer climate and was rejoicing in the fate that next day I would be at my journey's end in East Tennessee.

I recollect one incident at Goodson's. He said, "Old Virginians only used shot guns; but I was now in the West where everybody handled the rifle." He was mistaken. I understood the rifle and when he put up his target at fifty yards I drove the center (as the phrase was) the first shot. It was an accident, but surprised my host and raised me in his good opinion.



After passing through Blountville, the first town in East Tennessee, I presently came suddenly to the brow of Eden's ridge, from which there was a long and sheer descent into the valley of the Holston River.

The prospect was very fine. Straight before me was that valley. Nine miles away I saw the gleaming water where the North Fork entered the main stream, and exactly where my future home was to be. Then the eye was lost as it stretched on and on and on towards Knoxville, one hundred miles, and far beyond.

To my left was Bay's Mmountain, coming sharply down just below that bright meeting of the waters. It was a most beautiful mass of verdure nearly a thousand feet high. As seen from my room window in later years, it always made me think of Milton's Wall of Paridise. Still further to the left was the Chimney Top, looming south towards Jonesboro and Greeneville.

On my right the Clinch and Cumberland mountains appeared as one long range running parallel until they seemed abruptly to terminate beyond Knoxville. That long stretch was the most singular mountain I ever saw. It had no high peaks but its top presented the appearance of the regular undulations of a vast serpent moving in the air---the tail in the far distance, the body having a hump, as if it had swallowed Cumberland Gap, while its head was gong up over my shoulder into the mountains of Virginia. In about two hours I found myself riding on the bank of the clear, sparkling Holston just where the Long Island terminated. The river was on my left. To my right there was a short row of houses, fronting the water, being thus a street with one side only. This little village was then called the Boat Yard. Soon my road turned sharply from the stream and after a mile's ride I was at my first Tennessee home, on the bank, and within a few feet of the rushing waters of the North Fork.



The pressing motive with Judge Bouldin to have me attend the business of my father's estate in Tennessee was this bridge matter.One of the great roads of that day, from Virginia, North and South Carolina to Tennessee, Kentucky, and northwest Alabama, and Missippi crossed the North Fork of the Holston river half a mile above where it united with the main stream. That crossing was a ford most of the year. The ferry, higher up, was difficult of approach; and the need of a bridge had long been felt, legislature of Tennessee, at its session (the winter after my father's death) passed a law to build a bridge. This act, in the facts belonging to it was, in the opinion of Judge Bouldin, unjust to our interests at that crossing and I, therefore, came to see about it.

Hence, in a day or so after my arrival, I rode down to Rogersville to consult John A. McKinney, one of the distinguished lawyers of the state. On my way I fell in with Mr. Wm. Young, a member of the Legislature, who obtained that Bridge Act, and who had it framed to be for his personal benefit and that of two other parties. Our interview, as we rode along, was plesant, but sufficiently positive on my part as well as his. He took me for a boy. I was indeed just past twenty-one, and looked not so old. Mr. Young," I began, "Our Virginia lawyers advise me to contest your bridge law. So does your John A. McKinney. But I prefer to buy the law (franchise) from you. How much shall I pay to you and the other persons?" "I will" he replied, "let you have half the "law" without paying for it." This was very handsomely said. But I declined his offer and insisted upon buying the law in whole. This he refused. "Then, Mr. Young, I will build another bridge along side of yours and make it free to the public." He looked at me and laughed, though not offensively, but rather in kindness to my ignorance and self sufficiency and replied, "You can't Mr. Ross, build a bridge over the North Fork which is a navigable stream, without the Legislature, aside from this act, which restrains you from building another bridge." This was true. But, in the impetuosity of my youth and self-will, I said, "Mr. Young, I don't care a straw for the legislature, in this matter. I will build my bridge." We were just at his house and parted in politeness.



The house in which I found myself at the ford of the North Fork was an old one story log structure with a porch running the whole length, having high steps at each end. It was the house of my father's agents for many years, and frequently used as a tavern. I found in it a clerk, a Mr Perley Fairbanks, recently sent out from Virginia.

The morning after my meeting with Mr. Young, I told Mr. Fairbanks what had passed. He saw the subject precisely as Young did, and was alarmed at my determination. We were walking up and down that long porch. Suddenly an idea was in my mind. "Fairbanks," I said, "I have a bright notion---that I can build my bridge at the mouth of the river, where I believe the water is always too deep to be forded, then change the road and avoid the present ford altogether, as the land is my own on both sides." The man looked still more startled. "Bob," to a servant in the kitchen, "I am going in that canoe to the mouth of the river." So Bob pushed the boat out into the stream and Fairbanks and I floated down nearly to where the two rivers came together. And lo! every-thing was what I wanted, in more perfection of conditions than I had imagined. The water was ten feed deep when lowest, a smooth rock bottom, while the new road would commence where the old road turned off, be on the level bank of the main river, and after crossing my bridge have easy ascent till it met the old road on the other side. I had thus absolute control of the matter in my hands. All was encouraging, save the significant fact that I had not a particle of right in law to do what I had made up my mind to do. Observe, I was an entire stranger to everybody excepting Richard Netherland, Esq., who I had known in Virginia years before. He advised my father before he removed from me not to attempt to build a bridge under the circumstances. Old John Rhea, member of Congress, who also had known my father, happening to be passing, was introduced by Mr. Netherland and advised me against the whole movement. These counsels however, had no influence on my decision. I sent without delay all over the country and engaged workmen of every sort needed. Besides this decision, I also determined to build a fine house on a beautiful eminence overlooking, from the west bank, the river and my new road, both undertakings were begun in ten days. The bridge was completed in a few months, and the house without delay.

Everybody was astonished at my persistent audacity as to the bridge, and energy of action. No one so much as Mr. Young. He never lifted a finger towards his bridge, although he did try, once, without effects to intimidate my workmen by threats of the law.



When, however, everything was accomplished, and the travel was taking my new road, he invited me to meet him halfway between our residences. Everything was adjusted in entire courtesy. I bought his 'law' for a trifle. And he agreed that the legislature should adapt the wording of the law to the change I had made in the location of the bridge and this he did.

In the conclusion of the matter, I made the bridge free to the two counties of Sullivan and Hawkins, whose line of division was the middle of the North Fork. This insured the establishment of my new road as the old soon became impassable and the ford could no longer be used.

While superintending these works I had much time nevertheless to spare for amusement in hunting with my friend, Mr. Netherland.

The present steel bridge over the North Fork, at Rotherwood, is just a few feet above the ruins, plainly visible, of the piers of the old bridge; which was the source of material revenue to its builder for more than thirty years; was rebuilt more than once, and finally destroyed by a storm some years ago.---Ed.

Mr. Richard Netherland and his family were fair representatives of old Virginia. He had been a number of years in Tennessee and a man of great influence in his county and social life. At this time he lived on his beautiful property, the Long Island. Soon after he built in the village already mentioned.

As we were the only Old Virginians he took a fatherly interest in me. Being a keen sportsman, and the deer numerous, we spent many days in the woods and on river banks with our dogs; at the stands, as they were called---he with his shot gun, I with the rifle. I remember his horse, old Half-Hammer as he named him from the limp of one fore leg, resembling the tiphammer motion in a blacksmith's shop.

It was sometime before I could calmly meet the lifting her hands, she exclaimed, "Lor' me! if there is any finer house than that I would like to see it!" So said many who saw the structure I built. It was nothing better than a brick building, two stories, hipped roof, a cupola with railing, having the ordinary porches, front and rear. Being stuccoed white, that made it remarkable in East Tennessee, at that time, 1819. But many, like the old woman, thought the house a wonder. "Why," said they, "It has a fishpond on the top!" The falling garden, indeed, gravel roads and walks, over some acres, were fine things to those who had never walked through finer.



From Eden's (Now Chestnut) Ridge


There is a point on the road crossing Eden's ridge (to which I alluded in my last letter) where, in my many journeys, I never failed to pause, and turning my horse, take a last look at my home. It was nine miles away, and at that distance was like a white tower rising over the shining lake-like river, so on returning from the east, there was the white tower gleaming in the sunshine or under evening clouds of beauty, revealing the care and giving the welcome of my heavenly Father, of wife, children, and the people to whom I preached the Gospel so many years, bringing to my mind the beautiful words of the old hymn:,

"As when the weary traveler gains

The height of some commanding hill;

His heart revives, if, o'er the plain,

He sees his home---to distant still."






There was a protracted meeting in Jonesboro immediately after the one at Kingsport, at which I was converted; and it was desired by brethern Glen and Gallaher, that should attend.

It was a beautiful day in September, 1823, when

quite a company of us were on our way over that hill coutry between the two villages. my state of mind was in harmony with the soft scenery and tranquil heaven. I was lifted to God in gratitude for his amazing grace to me. When, to my surprise, the idea came suddenly and distinctly to my consciousness that I would see in Jonesboro the woman to be my wife. I tried to get rid of the thought, as intruding upon my higher feelings, but the impression came, again and again. It was the more strange as I knew no one in the town.

On arriving, every one was at church. It was Saturday, and according to the usage at that day we were in time for the second sermon. After its close several, with myself, made our profession of Christ.

When the congregation was dismissed, the crowd being great, I was led to a side door, and there, just in front of it, standing by herself in great elevation as on a pedestal, was a young girl of surpassing beauty of figure. Her face was from me, as she was looking for a friend in the throng on that side. Presently, seeing her companion, they passed down the street. At dinner, with one of the Ruling Elders, I found the young lady with her friend. In the afternoon, Dr. David Nelson called on me and then an acquaintance began which was the intimacy of our lives.

When visiting him in the evening, I saw my young girl again; and at the house assigned as my home during the occasion, lo! for the fourth time I met Miss Theodosia Vance, the daughter of the family. In three months she was my wife, and the mistress of Rotherwood (December 16, 1832) and what a gift of God to me!

My friend and pastor, Robert Glenn, officiated.



Rowena was our first child. Her name was given in harmonious fancy with that of my estate; after reading Scott's "Ivanho." Rebecca, the Jewess, would better have suited my daughter's style of beauty. But, the name was too common

and the association with the name of her home would have been lost. I do not think I was at all like Cedric the Saxon. Nor my residence like the moated fortalice of the Thane. Neither was my Rowena's parlor in any resemblance to the tapestried hall of the princess descended from Alfred; but on the contrary, Cedric might well have envied me. For my broad lands were richer and finer than his, my sky was bluer than his, and what had he like that noble emniniscence rising above the meeting of those pure and lovely rivers! What like that green mountain, as a frame round them; that garden of fragrance; and, indeed, what the Saxon Rowena's tapestried log room, through the cracks of which the night wind blew the curtains and waved the smoky torches, compared with the refinements of the American lady's room of reception.

Yes, Cedric might well have envied me my home in East Tennessee if he had been able to imagine the beauty and the glory of human progress which liberty has given to America.

Indeed, he never saw at his Rotherwood such a hero as Andrew Jackson, such an orator as William C. Preston, or even such a governor as long "Jimmy" Jones of Tennessee.

When fourteen, I placed Rowena, in Mrs. Willard's school---Troy, New York. After twelve months, I preferred her being in Philadelphia at the more select school of Miss Hawks.

Our meeting with this lady was rather romantic. In coming down the Hudson I paused with my family at the Catskill Mountain House. After dinner the company visited the artificial water fall in a gorge near the hotel. While there, a lady and three girls came down the descent and joined us. This party consisted of Miss Hawks with these young ladies of her school on their summer vacation.

The result of that accidental meeting was my placing Rowena in that celebrated school for three years.

Rowena, on her return to Rotherwood, was a charm to everybody. Her education had been

brilliant. She was as beautiful as her mother, while her powers to entertain in conversation, music and song few or many, was wonderful.

In time she became the wife of Edward Temple, of Knoxville. The union was not long. Mr. temple died of Yellow fever in New Orleans; and a few years after her second marriage with Wescom Hudgins, she herself ended her bright life in Huntsville, Ala.

I may add, Rowena left one child, Theodosia Ross Temple, now Mrs. John S. Reed, of Huntsville, Ala. She had given to her even more than the mother's advantages, and became as great a light in my family, is happily married and lives near me in an adjoining street.


Most people won't let well enough alone. I was one of these unwise people. My property (for East Tennessee at the time) was large and unencumbered. Two things had increased my handsome paternal inheritance. The death of my niece, that of Anna Maria Virginia Ross, whom I have already mentioned, gave me quite a large amount in land and servants; while a sudden rise in the price of morus milicaules, in the silk worm business, gave me some thirty thousand dollars.

The unwisdom of my conduct was to risk my whole estate in a cotton factory---a business about which neither my partners nor I knew anything---and at a place unsuitable in every respect. Without going into particulars, I may safely say that from the first turn of the water wheel till the last, we never made a dollar. In a few years my partners and I were utterly ruined. And as I had preached without salary (which I did not need and the people could not have paid), I had to leave for a location to meet my necessities of life.

No blame was to be attached to my partners, who were my friends, and worthy Ruling Elders of the church at Kingsport. In this connection I ought also to say that, as I never had a particle of knowledge or taste for farming, I left everything to my overseer; and he, worthy man, made all the money. In this way, one of the most beautiful landed estates in Tennessee went with the rest. I did not mummer at this providence. I knew the Lord was right and I read his will to some extent, though not full then, nor even yet. I am sure under his holding up I was cast down only for half an hour. Praise to his name. Moreover, I have been a happier man since wholly dependent upon his hand for my bread and water than I was when so full of the world. Indeed, the Lord never meant me to be anything but a preacher and interperter of His word.



The only thing I ever had a fancy for in the way of business was the silk culture. I took a wonderful fancy to it and thought it was going to be a benefactor to East Tennessee. I planted the white mulberry, and then the morus multicaules. I built me a huge cocoonery and got me french reels and made the raw silk and induced many of the farmers to raise and sell to me the cocoons.

So far as feeding of the worm was attempted, I lost everything from the too great extent of my attempts and my ignorance of the business.
But in the reeling I succeeded until the reduction of the tariff took away my profit. The multicaules matter was an unintentional speculation as I have just said. For several summers I wore a suit of silk woven in the neighborhood and certainly it was the most enduring substance I ever had as my raiment.



The boat was built to take me and mine to Austin, Texas. But the Lord said, No; and after a year's lingering at Rotherwood He opened a temporary home for me at Chattanooga.




The army, the gaming table, and loss of property are times and conditions to learn the selfishness of human nature more undisguisedly, perhaps, than under any other circumstances. When full of riches my knowledge of native depravity, in the love of friends, was abstract, not of experience. But when I was a poor man, superficial and summer friends especially those I had benefitted most and who had promised most as to what they felt due to me, were the first to turn their backs and life up the hell.

I was tried by my Presbytery and tried by a commission from the bank touching my course in the factory business. I praise the Lord for both trials, for both the church court and the legal gave in a published statement to the world that I was as "gold seven times tried in the fire."




The great elm tree at Rotherwood is dying. The tree stands over a spring on the bank of the North Fork of Holston River, just below where the old Ross cotton mill, later the Jordan Woolen Mill, now stands. The trunk of this tree measures 22 feet in circumference and its branches spread 150 feet.

J. Fred Johnson, head of the Kingsport Improvement Co., has made an effort to save the wonderful tree, but in all probability his effors will prove unavailing.

Mr. Johnson believes the big elm is between 400 and 500 years old.

"History records that some French travelers passing through the country in 1870, wrote on this tree, characterizing it as one of the most wonderful things they saw on their journey," said Mr. Johnson. "They described it as standing over a bold spring near the junction of the North and South Fork rivers, and there can be no doubt that this is the tree they meant."

(During his residence at Rotherwood, Frederick A. Ross kept a neat fence around the tree and spring. It was an object of his affection. The spring supplied water to the Rotherwood home.)


Extracts from a copy of a letter written

by the late


June, 1916, Sweetwater, Tenn.


"Dr. Ross inherited a large body of land, known as the Ross Plantation. He built a magnificent brick residence, called Rotherwood, after the name of Cedric the Saxon's home in 'Ivanhoe,' upon the height facing the North Fork river. This residence had three fronts---east, south, and west---with large porches, and floors of hardwood. The rooms were wainscoted and in deep panels of ash, linden, chestnut, and logwood, the panels being dovetailed into the wainscoting while the ceilings were most delicately frescoed with crowning centers." The walls were finished in pure white.

"The top of the hill upon which the house stood had been sheared off, leaving some six or more acres level. Around these six acres was a broad drive-way covered with brown chert. East of this was a flower garden of an acre or more, and below this, and reaching down to the river, was the vegetable garden.
To make this garden more artistic it was terraced in long rectangular lengths around at least one eighth of a mile.

On the south were ten acres converted into a grove. The trees planted by Dr. Ross at equal distance and perfect angles. in this grove it was said there was a species of every tree in Tennessee.

Dr. Ross owned a large number of negroes, ready for any and every duty. He had the most splendid "turn out" of that day. His carriage was Napoleonic in style. The upholstery was of the handsomest gray silk, and finished trappings were silver, even to the clasp that opened the door, the steps were portable so folded when not used, as to be put out of sight and those steps were covered with rich brussels. The driver in livery, was upon the upper front seat holding a pair of rolled lines fastened to a pair of splendid and beautiful black horses, groomed until they shone like ebony. Out of this carriage looked the face of a perfectly beautiful young woman, with black hair and brown eyes, and a lithe symmetrical figure, and an expression felt but not to be described.

"Rowena Ross was the eldest daughter of Rev. F. A. Ross. She had received all the possible educational advantages of the time. She was an artist in voice and instrumental music. She was a gently, persuasive inductive, yet brilliantly intelligent somebody, whose presence just lives on through the years with a sweetness you never lose. Rich and poor, black, and white, were her intimate friends."


Rev. Frederick A. Ross, D.D.

And Rotherwood


Mrs. Annie Riley Hale


Under the above caption Mrs. Hale contributed a series of interesting and finely written articles in the spring of 1903-1904. The date has been marred, and at present, the "Files" of the Journal and Tribune are not available. Editor

One of Rogersville's most cherished traditions is that of Dr. F. A. Ross and his Rotherwood home, which was situated, it is true, twenty-five miles above Roggersville on the north fork of the Holston river, but which became so much in touch with the Rogersville life of that day as to always seem part and parcel of it. To East Tennessee, to the church and to the country at large, Dr. Ross will ever be the eloquent Presbyterian divine, the learned theologue, the able and accomplished polemic, who always upheld his end of the contention in consonance with Polonius' advice. But in Rogersville, in addition to all these, and perhaps rising above all these, he is remembered as the genial and generouus master of Rotherwood; and there are yet white-haired dames who recount to this generation the pleasures and splendors of that famous country seat in the days of their girl hood.

F. A. ross was born near Richmond, Virginia, and came to East Tennessee in the spring of 1818, when he was twenty-one years of age, to look after some lands left him by his father---lands which (1904) by a cost conserative estimate are now worth half a million dollars. In his autobiography, Dr. Ross thus describes his mode of life in Virginia at that time: "Servants in waiting without number---shotguns, Pointer dogs, fishing tackle, elegant horses---a table of sumptuous fare every day, and no Lazarus at the gate."

The pressing cause of his coming to East Tennessee in 1818 was that the Tennessee legislature the previous winter had passed an act to build a bridge over the North Fork of Holston river, the dividing line between Sullivan and Hawkins counties, at a point which should strike one of the great thoroughfares from Virginia and the east to Tennessee, Kentucky, and the southwest. F. A. Ross owned the land on both sides of the North Fork for many miles and being advised by his Virginia lawyer that such a bridge

would be hostile to his interest, his first visit to his East Tennessee possession was precipitated by this bridge act. On arriving, his first step was to come to Rogersville and consult their then most prominent lawyer, John A. McKinney, whose advise agreed with his Virginia attorneys that he might successfully contest the bridge law. But young Ross preferred a shorter route to the accomplishment of his purpose. Seeking out the member of the legislature who had secured the passage of the act, he proposed to buy his act, he proposed to buy his bridge law. The legislator probably feeling the weakness of his cause, very handsomely offered to give him half of it. But young Ross declined any partnership arrangement --- he wished to buy it all. the legislator refused; and then young Ross declared to him: "Then I will build a bridge of my own alongside of yours and make it free to the public!" The legislator laughed at what he regarded as a rash threat---cooly informing him that the act already secured, expressly forbade the building of more than one bridge over the North Fork.

An old gentleman in the neighborhood, Mr. Richard Netherland, who had been his father's friend in former visits to East Tennessee, advised young Ross against his bridge project; and old John Rhea, the congressman, warned him that in pursuing it he would be acting in defiance of law. But the "banks and Braes O'Bonnie Doon" shimmered in young Ross' ancestry, too, and he immediately set his Scottish wits to work to defeat both the law and the law-maker. Returning to the house on his lands occupied by his agent he paced the long porch thoughtfully in the interval before dinner. Suddenly turning to his agent he exclaimed: "I have it, Fairbanks! I own the land on both sides, I will change the road to meet it." And it was done. having taken his resolve, the intrepid young bridge builder collected material and workmen from all sides, and within a few months after its inception the bridge was completed and made free to the counties of Hawkins and Sullivan. The "Stage Road" was diverted from its old channel to cross the river over the new bridge and the promoter of the bridge law, finding himself outwitted, speedily came to terms with young Ross, and agreed to induce the legislature to alter the provisions of it's recent act to fit the new conditions, and this was accordingly done.

It was then that Frederick A. Ross determined to build the house which has ever been associated with his name. It was a large, two-story brick stuccoed white, and surmounted by an obervatory and balustrade. This, together with a contrivance for carring water to upper story gave rise to the ledgen among the country people then and now that "there was a fish pond on top of the house." One entire side of main building, which was a large square, was taken up with the dining room, lighted by tall windows and warmed by a wide, open fireplace in each end of it. The opposite side was divided into two spacious apartments known as parlor and library; while through the center, from front to rear, ran the wide hall of colonial times. The furnishing was rich and handsome, in the massive mahogany and mohair of that day. The name Rotherwood, from the Saxon Ivanhoe, was the outcome of an ardent love for Scott, conceived in Dr. Ross' boyhood and clung to in his old age, probably intensified by the Scottish strain in his own blood. He gives an account of his first acquantiance with Scott's poetry, when a school boy at Nazareth, Pennsylvania, in 1813, one of his professors said to him one day as they strolled in the yard, "Frederick, you have been reading the 'Illiad' and the 'Odyssey' now would you like to hear some modern poetry?" and drawing from his pocket a little book, he read aloud some stanzas form "Marmion." How the boy was thrilled and enthused by the ringing martial lines; And from that day Dr. Ross became an interested, admiring reader of all Scott's writings---prose and poetry---and at eighty-five he declares: "No boy or girl can grow up imbued with Scott's principles without being high in character for truth, honor, purity, love of country, and mankind."

The grounds around Rotherwood were laid off and beautified with every conceivable device, being terraced on one side of the river's edge and planted with every known shrub and flower while the other stretched out---a smooth green, lawn, traversed by white walks and shadowed by stately trees---until it met on the outskirts a vast park filled with the natural forest growth, and made, by careful selections, to contain every variety of tree indigenous to that section. Through this park to the highway wound a broad carriage drive, guarded at the entrance by massive stone pillars. The lawn and garden were enclosed by a low white blaustrade with broad pillars after the fashion of some old English homes. Rustic seats and arbors covered with vines and climbing roses enhanced the fairy-like beauty of the place. Its owner modestly states that to the simple country folks of that rigion whose range of comparative knowledge was not extensive, Rotherwood appeared the perfection of architectural splendor. In their own words: "If there was any finer house than that they'd like to see it!"

The owner himself thought its chief beauty lay in its setting; and he dwells with true poetic enjoyment on the silvery bossom of the lake formed by the confluence of the rivers which lay shining at the foot of Rothferwood; on the gleaming summits of "Chimney Top" and Bay's Mountain to the left of it; on the right, stretching far into the blue distance, parallel ranges of the Cumberland and Clinch Mountains. While Dr. Ross was not an "East Tennessee Sap-sucker" in the sense of having been born and reared in our midst, we nevertheless claim that for many of the best years of his life Dr. Ross drew his inspiration from the East Tennessee hills and storms.

In the winter of 1823 he was married to Miss Theodocia Vance, whom according to his Presbyterian creed he was fore-ordained to meet in Jonesboro, Tennessee, the previous autum. Their first child, born in 1824, being a girl, was named Rowena in harmony with the name with their home, though her father says, "The name of Rebecca, the Jewess would better have suited her dark style and beauty." Be that as it may, all agree that she was beautiful, and so fascinating in manner and conversation that all who came near her felt the spell.

She was educated in the best schools of New York and Philadelphia and was an accomplished musician. Her father says, "After her return from school, Rothferwood was a joy to all who entered it." There were fifteen children of this marriage though several died in early childhood, and the "Lady Rowena" was the only daughter who lived to womanhood. The story of Rowena would fill an interesting volume.

In the spring of 1824, F. A. Ross determined to preach the gospel; and having placed himself together with David Nelson, of Jonesboro, before the Abingdon presbytery, they studdied together for one year---as prescribed by the presbytery---and were together ordained at Rogersville in October, 1825. Speaking of himself and his colleague, the famous author of "The Cause and Cure of Infidelity," at that time, Dr. Ross says, "We were no mean theologians; the times were full of intense controversy, and no people---not excepting New England---surpassed East Tennesseans in refined biblical speculations."

In 1827 there was established at Rogersville the Calvinistic Magazine whose motto was, "Earnest contest for the faith once delivered into the saints," and which announced in the preamble it had been "called into existence by the aggressiveness of Methodism!" But perhaps their Methodist friends percieved some aggressiveness in this organ of Calvinism, so ably edited by F. A. Ross, David Nelson, and James Gallaher. Comparing this trio, Dr. Ross says, "Nelson was the best preacher (from which opinion there were many dissinters among Dr. Ross' hearers) and Gallaher was Moody and Sanky in one, being gifted with a fine voice; but that, while they were content to throw stones with-out knowing what the stones were, that he (Ross) studied to do both." To be convinced of this, one had only to read some of his sermons; and however he may demur to his major premise, one cannot but admire the energy and ability with which he arrays proof after proof in support of it, and marshals with the skill of a great general, hosts of scripture texts to the defense of Presbyterian dogma.

Dr. Ross was a famous disputant and some of his controversies brought him into national repute. With engaging frankness, he testifies of himself; "I was fond of debate and had a reasonable measure of pugnacity." Through the pages of the Calvinistic Magazine he combatted with all his strength the "errors of Arminianismin Presbyterian theology drew his controversial fire nearer home; he espoused the "now" side of the contention, and it is refreshing to hear him declare of this and other controversies, "The conscientious bigotry on all sides was about the same." The "old" and the new differences were, however, speedily displaced and overshadowed by the slavery agitation; which, in 1857 loomed darkly up to cause a more scrious and lasting division in the church. It was then that Dr. Ross held one of his famous discussions with Rev. Alfred Barnes of Philadelphia.

To the believing and admiring readers of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" it may be interesting to note in this connection that Dr. Ross once freed between thirty and forty of his own slaves, and made provisions for their maintenance. This was in 1818 when he had barely attained his majority, and was left by the death of his father, co-executor of a vast estate. A portion of this were some iron works near Lynchburg, Virginia, of which were attached five hundred slaves. It became necessary in order to discharge the indebtedness of the estate, which was large also, to sell some of the property and it appeared advisable, for various reasons, to sell these iron works with the slaves. Dr. Ross was much troubled by the thought of selling this great body of slaves who had dwelt together and labored at the forge so contentedly for many years. He herefore selected thirty of the old, infirm ones, and as many able bodiedness as were nearly related to these, and liberated them all, giving them lands to

cultivate, and appointed a commissioner to look after them during twenty years.

Never was the work of the ministry undertaken with more earnest and disinterested purpose than by F. A. Ross. Young, talented, well educated, newly married, the master of a beautiful estate, never did life open more alluring to a wealthy southern planter in the beginning of the last century. But when, in Calvinistic phrase, "he heard the Divine call," he resolutely turned his back on the fair worldly prospect and devoted himself to the work of a Presbyterian evangelist. He built with his own means, a small brick church in the little village of Kingsport, near Rotherwood, and preached to the congregation there for thirty years without salary "which (he says in his autobiography) I did not need and the people were unable to pay."

The little brick church still stands in Kingsport and the silvertoned bell given by Dr. Ross, and one of the first three church bells in Tennessee, still rings out its musical call to worship, with the sweetness of a cathedral chime. The country people will tell you that on a still Sabbath that bell can be heard fifteen miles down the river.

In addition to his regular charge at Kingsport, Dr Ross preached occasionally at Rogersville, "when" in the language of an old resident "the whole face of the earth would be covered with people," and he also made evangelistic tours through Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio.

Dr. Ross endeavored to interest the people of his vicinity in still culture, and for this purpose imported and planted the white mulberry in large numbers and built a huge coconnery. He also built, in 1850 on the banks of the Holston, a cotton factory, the disastrous outcome of which, a few years later, completely wrecked his fortune. This end was doubtless hastened by Dr. Ross' inexperience in farming methods, his generous trust of untrustworthy agents, and by the lavish and princely hospitality of Rotherwood.

East Tennessee has ever been noted for her hospitality, and the "open door" is one of her vaunted institutions; but it is generally conceded that there has never been throughout the length and breadth of it hospitality on such a scale as was dispensed at Rotherwood in the old days. A good farm on the Holston was bought with butter and eggs supplied to the Rotherwood tables.

In 1854, Dr. Ross, ruined in fortune and well past the meridian of life, moved to Chattanooga, where, as pastor of the First Presbyterian church (now in charge of J. W. Bachman) he received his first pay for preaching the gospel. Two years later, he accepted a call from Huntsville, Alabama, and there passed the remaining years of life, dying in 1883 in his eighty-seventh year. His once beautiful home on the Holston was burned to the ground many years before. it is sad to have to relate (as faithful historian) that he who had made a choice of the ministry under circumstances to lift it above cavil, and had devoted his long and useful life to upholding the principles he had exposed in his youth, that he, too, should fall a prey to the heresy hawks in his old age. yet in the closing year of his life, the Presbytery of Columbia, presumed to call him to account for his "unsound and unsafe" views on the Westminister confession of faith.* See Calvanistic Magazine, Page 34.

But Time has borne---continues to bear testimony to the greatness of his vision, his courage, his fidelity to the motto on the seal of his Scottish ancestors---"Think On."---Editor.


From Letter XXX of the



This work was in two series. The First commenced January 1st, 1827, under the editorship of Nelson, Gallaher, and Ross. It was continued five years. The aggressiveness of Methodism let to the publication. Old and New School differences do not appear during several years. Our church was one great whole; and the arguments of our common Calvinism were freely used against the opposing denomination. Just as the arms of the Athenians and Spartans, however against each other, were united when in conflict with the Persians. In the fifth year, however, when Barnes discussion agitated the church every where, then the Calvinistic Magazine took its New School side, and, in 1831 I published Faith According to Common Sense. That essay is as strongly in rejection of our Confession of Faith and "predistination" as my recent work on Reprobation. It led at once to a controversy with Rev. Joshua S. Wilson of Cincinnati. My part of the discussion is also in the "Magazine."

I make this statement for the benefit of the Presbytery of Columbia, which, under the lead of my friend, Rev. Dr.___ ___ thought it must do something (recently) with my writings touching the "Confession." And to let me off as easily as possible, it came to the conclusion that, in the days of the "Calvanistic Magazine" I was Old School, but in declining years and imbecility had made a "somersalt" into New Schoolism. This whole thing, on the part of the Presbytery, was a farce, not only in its ignoring the compact of 1861, but in disregard of Presbyterian law as to the trial of a minister. In absolute truth, the Presbytery of Columbia had no more right to call me to account for my writings in the way it assumed than it had to constitute itself a court of high treason to sit on the case of Arabi Pasha in Egypt; or a tribunal to try the murderers of Lord Cavendish and Mr. Burke in Ireland.

Moreover, nobody likes to lose his personal identity. And, therefore, I respectfully submit to my friends of Columbia Presbytery and elsewhere that the "Calvinistic Magazine", as I have explained it, shows that I have not lost my personality in my eighty-seventh year; nor in my fifty-second, when I penned Faith According to Common Sense.* * *".

In 1846 the Second Series of the "Calvinistic Magazine" was reviewed, Isaac Anderson, James King, James McClain, F. A. Ross, editors. All New School men. But, as in the First Series, the work was a Methodist discussion---not so much on doctrines as on church order; in which we, as Presbyterians, were the assailants.

I only need to add, that the results of all these controversial writings were full of the good fruits of righteousness and peace.

Methodist and Presbyterians have been in such harmony since those discussions as never before.

* * *

Dr. Ross was both admired and loved by the Methodists of Huntsville, Alabama, where his ministry as pastor of the Presbyterian Church covered more that a quarter of a century; and during his emeritus pastorate, especially, he filled their pulpit many times. (Ed.)




Giant Elm Here Listed

Among 12 Most Famous

Trees of the Country


Trees at Rotherwood on South Fork of Holston River Several Hundred Years Old ----- Many

Believed it Was Standing When

Columbus Discovered America

----- 22 Feet Around


Listed among the 12 most famous trees in this country at the Washington Geographical Society Museum is the name of a huge, old elm tree. This historical old landmark is situated at Rotherwood, clothed in history and beauty itself, about three miles below Kingsport.

The huge elm stands over a spring at the junction of the north and south forks of the Holston River opposite Rotherwood. It has weathered the storms of hundreds of years and literature from time to time has reported the ancient symbol of beauty and gandeur as dying, but so far it has survived and continues to grow, though slowly. The grand old tree bursts out in green splendor each season or perhaps less regularly. It is said that its growth has been recorded as about one foot in the past 50 years.

Closely interwoven with more recent history, that is of 50 years ago, is the story of an old cotton mill, established by the Ross family, settlers here in the early days of W. Kingsport, then King's Port. The old mill later became known as the Jordan woolen mill, but since then has been torn down and nearly forgotten by the older residents of this section who lived in the day when the mill flourished.


22 feet Around

According to "The Story of Rotherwood, " from the autobiography of Rev. Frederic A. Ross, D.D., the old elm is 22 feet in circumference and its branches spread 150 feet.

In "Historical Sketches of the Holston Valley," written by Thomas W. Preston, of Bristol, there is quoted from the diary of Dr. Thomas Walker, who conducted the first organized expedition into the Holston Valley, the following, written on March 31, 1750:

"We kept down Reedy Creek to Holston, where we measured an elm 25 feet around 3 feet from the ground."

Age Unknown


The exact age of the huge old elm is not known. Some believe that it was standing when Columbus

discovered America and even when the white man was unknown here.

The tree is standing in very fertile ground and the vegetation surrounding has all been killed and has aided greatly in the preservation of the tree.

Silently holding sway over all within its sight, the huge piece of nature's handiwork has been for years a source of curiosity and wonder and continues to reign as the "king of trees in this section."



Rotherwood's Spirits


Following are several versions of the stories of the ghost of Rotherwood. Although the basic stories are the same, the details vary with the teller.


Are they true ........ only you can be the judge.

Ghost & Spirits




Located on Netherland Inn Road in Kingsport, TN is Rotherwood Plantation. The lovely mansion was built in 1818 by the Reverend Frederick A. Ross. Mr. Ross was a kindly man who had a very beautiful daughter named Rowena. Rowena was well liked by everyone in Rossville, which would later become known as Kingsport. She was also very intelligent, having been educated in the finest Northern schools. As a result, she had many young men interested in marrying her. She fell in love with a young man. They were planning to marry, but he died tragically when his boat capsized in the Holston River in front of Rotherwood Mansion, in clear site of Rowena. Rowena was very much effected by this, and she became reclusive.

Finally, after two years, she began to socialize again. After a while, she announced her engagement to a rich young man from Knoxville. But tragedy struck again, when he died of yellow fever. Once again, Rowena went deep into depression. A decade later she married again. This time she had a daughter. When the daughter was six years old, Rowena committed suicide by walking out into the river, after she thought she heard her first love calling to her. Today it is said that her ghost still walks the banks of the Holston River, wearing her wedding dress, and searching for her first love. Some have suggested that the ghost of her first suitor also haunts the Mansion.

The good spirit of Rowena isn't the only ghost who haunts Rotherwood. After the Reverend Ross began to lose much of his fortune, he was forced to sell the mansion and it's grounds to Joshua Phipps. Phipps was a truly evil man, and almost no one liked him during his lifetime. In fact, people in Kingsport still speak of him with dread. Phipps was most notorious for his treatment of his slaves. He was extremely cruel, even having established a whipping post in the house, where he would beat the slaves. Their screams of anguish could be heard all over the Holston area, and Phipps was shunned by locals for his cruelty. It is said that when it rains, blood stains return to the floor inside Rotherwood Mansion.

Joshua Phipps got his in July, 1861. He became very sick, and had to be fanned by a young slave. According to legend, as he lay in bed, a swarm of flies materialized and filled his mouth and nostrils. Unable to breathe, Phipps suffocated.

As if his death weren't dramatic enough, his funeral turned out to be even more horrifying. A huge crowd turned out for his funeral, most out of curiosity. As the hearse was being pulled up a hill by horses towards the cemetery, it became too heavy for the horses to budge. At the same time, the sky began to get dark, as if a storm were brewing. It took many horses to finally be able to move the casket. As it slowly moved up the hill, and the sky got darker and darker, a large dog emerged from the coffin and ran down the hill! Those present were terrified. Suddenly, a cloud burst and rain poured down on the onlookers. The casket was quickly buried, and everyone returned home.

Today, the black dog, commonly known as the "Hound of Hell," is said to roam the area around Rotherwood Mansion. On dark and stormy nights, it's low, mournful howl can be heard throughout the area. Two more ghost are also said to inhabit the area. One is the ghost of the aforementioned Joshua Phipps. This ghost is said to haunt those in the mansion by removing covers, and laughing his evil, sadistic laugh. The second is believed to be the ghost of his mistress, who was a former slave. Despite this fact, she was even more evil to the slaves than Josh (if that was possible). She was killed when the slaves rose against her, after they became sick of her torture. To avoid punishment, she was buried on the grounds. Her unmarked grave lies somewhere undiscovered on the grounds of Rotherwood Mansion.

Most people in those parts tend to avoid Rotherwood after dark. Though seeing Rowena wouldn't be so bad, no one wants to see Joshua Phipps, His mistress, or the Hound of Hell.





From the website:






Kingsport, Tennessee


Rotherwood Mansion is a historic, private home that is located above the Holston River in eastern Tennessee. It is said to be haunted by two ghosts, although only one of them is the sprit credited with giving Rotherwood it's horrific reputation. The mansion was built in 1818 by Frederick Ross, who actually founded the town of Rossville, which later became Kingsport. He was a successful plantation owner and proud father of a daughter named Rowena, a girl who was admired and loved by everyone in the region.


Rowena was educated in the finest schools of the east and had only been out of school for two years when she fell in love with a young man from a neighboring town. They became engaged, but tragedy struck on the afternoon of their wedding when a boat capsized in the Holston River and the young man drowned.

The tragedy greatly affected Rowena and she was never the same again. Two years later, she did marry again but a short time later, he died of Yellow fever. Ten years after, she married another man and this union blessed Rowena with a daughter. A few years later, death came into Rowena's life once again and her daughter also died. The woman could take no more....and she committed suicide. Shortly after, the "Lady in White" began to be reported at Rotherwood. Rowena is the most frequently reported spirit at the mansion as people have been sighting her near the river banks for more than 125 years. Some say that she is searching for her drowned lover of long ago.

Rowena's ghost had already been reported many times when tragedy came to Frederick Ross once again. He fell into terrible financial trouble and he was forced to sell his estate to a man named Joshua Phipps in 1847. Phipps was a cruel slave holder who had a terrible reputation for evil and harshness...he is believed to be the other ghost of Rotherwood.

The mansion and the plantation prospered under Phipps until the first year of the Civil war, despite His bad reputation, cruel treatment of his slaves and general dislike for the people of the community. Summer came and Phipps came down with some sort of horrible illness that forced him to his bed. Many believe that a curse placed on him by his mistreated slaves may have taken his life. He was lying in his bed when according to ledgend, a swarm of Black flies came and covered his face, crawling into his mouth and nose and eventually suffocating him.

On July 10, hundreds of mourners and curiosity seekers assembled at Rotherwood for the funeral. The casket was loaded onto a funeral carriage but despite all attempts by the teamsters, the wagon refused to move. The horses strained at the small load but the wheels would not even turn. Then suddenly, the skies grew dark, as though a storm was approaching, and then bolts of lighting illuminated the sky. The canopy covering the casket of Joshua Phipps began to move and then an enormous, black dog jumped out from beneath it and ran off across the hillside.

Needless to say, the crowd was stunned at this inexplicable event and it is still discussed in the region today. It has also been said that this "dog" has made frequent appearances over the years and sometimes can be heard howling during the night ..... especially when it storms.

After the funeral, Phipps was laid to rest and locals returned to their homes. No one belived that Phipps would ever rest there in peace....and they were right. Many claimed that Phipps' ghost prowled the halls of Rotherwood at night laughing and screaming and yanking the covers off the beds.

Is the house still haunted? No one knows for sure and the current residents aren't saying.

The historic mansion of Rotherwood is now a private residence and is located in Kingsport in the eastern region of Tennessee, just off the Virginia border.

From the website :

Haunted Kingsport


Rotherwood Mansion

From the website :



Rotherwood Mansion was built by a man named Frederick Ross around 1818. It sits nestled in a crook of the Holston River overlooking the water. Ross had a daughter named Rowena. She was engaged to be married to a man she was deeply in love with. On the day before the wedding, he was on the river fishing with his friends and the boat capsized. Rowena had to stand on the shore and witness his death. She never got past it but was able to marry another many years later. Tragically, he died from yellow fever shortly after the marriage. Naturally, Rowena was devastated. She became depressed and reclusive. She eventually

married again and had a daughter. It seemed as though she would finally be happy when tragedy struck again. When the little girl was about 10 years old, she became ill and died. This was evidently too much for Rowena to bear and she killed herself in the mansion. Soon after, a lady in white was seen roaming the banks of the river in front of the home. Most people say she is looking for her lost first love. Whatever the case may be, she has been spotted numerous times for way over 100 years.

The story of Rotherwood does not end there. After Rowena's death, Ross sold the mansion to a man named Joshua Phipps. He was a very mean and disturbed man who owned many slaves and treated them very badly. he was short tempered and cruel. It is told that he tortured the slaves mercilessly in a basement dungeon. Their cries could be heard day and night. Many of them died from beatings and starvation while others were murdered for the slightest wrongdoing. It has been

said that the following incidents were a result of Phipps' cruelty. He fell ill and was confined to his bed. Even in this state he was mean and nasty to the people taking care of him. A little boy was made to sit by his bed and fan him to keep him cool. The story goes that a swarm of flies flew in the open window and began smothering him as the boy watched in amazement. His death was a relief to many people and hundreds showed up at the funeral. He was to be taken by carriage up the hill to the cemetery. As the procession began, there was a commotion from the carriage.
The horses pulling the hearse couldn't move. They were locked tight to the ground and no amount of straining would move them. All of a sudden, the sky clouded up and turned black. A terrible storm moved in without notice. As lightning and thunder filled the skies, the hearse began to rattle. A black dog jumped from the back and made his way up the hill. People still say they see the "black dog" and others believe it is the spirit of Phipps himself.

Needless to say, it has become one of the most famous tales of the region. Phipps ghost is said to haunt the mansion restlessly to this day. People tell stories of blankets being jerked off the bed in the middle of the night, scratching noises, thumps, thuds and footsteps. Does Joshua Phipps still control Rotherwood? Is Rowena the famous "Lady In White"'?

For the people of Kingsport, they wouldn't have it any other way.

Linda Linn's Kentucky Home

and Ghost Stories


Rotherwood Mansion




I grew up in Kingsport and all my life I have heard ghost stories about Rotherwood Mansion. The mansion is near the outside of town and is, I'll admit, a bit scarey. It is said to have many secret passages within its walls and if you do not know them you can easily get lost. As far back as elementary school I remember being told of its haunts. It was said that there onece was a very cruel man who lived in the mansion at the time of slavery and that he would torture and beat his slaves savagely. The man supposedly disappeared but they say that if you go there and go through the passages late at night, you can hear the man torturing his slaves, their screams and his evil laughter and at midnight it all goes silent.

Another story regarding this mansion is about a young woman who once lived in it. She was only a girl when she got engaed to be married and she became pregnant not long after. When she found out about the pregnancy, she also found out that her fiance was being sent to war. She spent he next several months alone in the house, waiting for the return of her love with no word of him. The young woman died while giving birth to her baby and it is said that you can occasionally see her during the day on the balcony of the house, rocking her baby and waiting for her fiance to return.

The last legend regarding the mansion is perhaps the most often told. It is said that during the times of slavery, after the death of the old man, the house became a part of the underground railroad and that they used the many secret pass-

ages to hide the slaves who passed through. They say that you can go through the fireplace and take a passageway into the basement of the house and you can see the slaves trying to escape and the bodies of those who died trying.

Linda Linn's Kentucky Home

and Ghost stories


Rotherwood Mansion


Here are Two Stories associated with

Rotherwood Mansion


In folklore the malevolent ghost is a ghost who behaves in harmful ways towards humans, animals, or property. These are spirits with an attitude who, in life, were said to be mean and malicious and merely carried their disturbing behavior over to the grave. Apparently, malevolent ghost are conscious entities who know exactly what they are doing. Take the example of the infamous master of Rothewood Mansion in Kingsport, Tennessee. Jonas Phipps was a slave holder in an area that was strongly abolitionist. His neighbors, of course, would make up tales about him (true or not) that would make Phipps a stereotype of the evil Southern planter who abused is slaves. In fact, tales filtered through the neighborhood that a person could hear the anguished cry of pain of severely beaten slaves coming from Rotherwood plantation at night. Phipps died in the summer of 1865. He was said to be a person who hated everyone, especially his family. When several of his nieces and nephews came to live at Rotherwood, he moved from the main house to the carriage house. In July, Phipps fell ill. It was hot and muggy on the second floor of the little carriage house and his only comfort came from a small slave boy, sitting at the head of his bed, constantly fanning him. Suddenly the room was filled with flies who settled on the dying man. They crawled into his nose and mouth, suffocating him. At first the little slave boy was horrified at the sight. Then he began to enjoy the spectacle of his hated master dying so horrible a death. After Phipps was safely buried in the ground, strange things began to happen inside Rotherwood Mansion. Odd, manical laughter was heard in the halls at night. Ghostly eyes were seen peering in at the windows. Objects were moved around and turned over. But the most terrifying phenomenon occurred at night when the covers were suddenly jerked off sleepers, who would awaken with a start to see the apparition of Phipps standing at the foot of the bed, insanely laughing at them.

The Ghost Of Rowena Ross


The daughter of the Rev. Frederick Ross, builder of Rotherwood Mansion in Kingsport, Tennessee, Rowena Ross was considered the fair flower of Sullivan County and a prime catch for any man. She had been educated at fine schools in the north and returned to Sullivan County a beautiful and finished young lady. A good pianist, it is said that she was the first person to play a composition by Beethoven (probably a portion of a sonata) in Tennessee. When she became engaged to be married to a local boy, people from all over the area came to Rotherwood for the wedding. The day before the ceremony Rowena's fiance and some friends went fishing on the Holston River, that skirted Rotherwood's front yard. The boat overturned right in front of Rowena's eyes and her fiance drowned. Rowena became something of a recluse thereafter. Ten years later she married again, this time her young husband died before the union was one year old. Rowena later took her own life. Her ghost, which is called "The White Lady", is said to haunt the ground of Rotherwood Mansion, especially the riverbank area, supposedly looking for her drowned love. She has been seen by a number of prominent people including John B. Dennis (financier of Kingsport) and George Eastman. A young man was sitting in front of Rotherwood Mansion one day picking wild strawberries. Suddenly he felt someone watching him. When he looked up, he saw the apparition of a lady in a white dress standing over him. He could see through her and immediately knew that he was seeing a ghost. The "White Lady" vanished and the boy---who is now a prominent Kingsport dentist--- never forgot the experience. Even now he shudders when he recounts the tale.