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Christmas tour of Hawkins County's oldest building set for Dec. 15

Jeff Bobo • Dec 1, 2012 at 10:35 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Holiday revelers will have an opportunity Dec. 15 to tour Hawkins County’s oldest building while at the same time helping raise money to preserve a dam that was erected on Big Creek 234 years ago.

Guided historical tours of the Thomas Amis House and Ebbing and Flowing Spring United Methodist Church will be offered Saturday, Dec. 15.

The properties will be decorated for Christmas in Colonial fashion with natural fir garlands, cedar, magnolia, berries, nuts, greenery and fruit.

The event is sponsored by The Thomas Amis Foundation Inc., a not-for-profit foundation formed by Amis’ descendants for the sole purpose of preserving and maintaining historically significant properties.

The funds from this event are dedicated to preserving the historic stone dam built in 1778 on Big Creek which is in sore need of repair. The dam is part of “the view” for patrons of the Amis Mill Eatery near Rogersville on Ebbing and Flowing Springs Road.

Thomas Amis House, 677 Burem Road, Rogersville, is perched high atop a hill overlooking Big Creek, about two miles from historic Rogersville.

The main feature of the property is a stone house that has survived fires, Native American assaults, thieves, bushwhackers and the elements for more than 230 years.

Built in 1781 by American Revolutionary War Patriot Capt. Thomas Amis, the story-and-a-half structure with its 18-inch thick limestone walls formerly had rifle ports instead of windows. To keep it out of harm’s way Amis erected a palisade around the property that included a guard tower. It would serve both as the family home and as an inn.

Overnight guests, including Andrew Jackson, Gov. John Sevier, Bishop Francis Asbury, Sen. Daniel Smith, land surveyor Dr. Thomas Walker, Moravian Martin Schneider, botanist Francois Andre Michaux and a host of other 18th century notables, wrote of their stay at the Amis house.

A full second story with roofed balcony and a back wing was added in 1846 by Haynes Amis, the captain’s son.

Thomas Amis operated a lucrative business with both whites and natives. He opened a trading post, blacksmith shop, tavern and distillery, while operating saw and grist mills. The little community of “Amis” became the principal settlement of that part of what was then Sullivan County.

Amis died at the age of 53 on Dec. 4, 1797, and is buried in the Amis family cemetery near his home.

In 2007, Jake and Wendy Jacobs learned the Amis farm was up for sale and in danger of being subdivided and developed. Wendy Jacobs is a descendant of Amis. Having already visited the farm in 1998, they made the 1,600-mile trip to see it again, and decided to buy it.

Today the Jacobses operate the Amis Mill Eatery and continue to preserve the historical property.

The congregants of Ebbing and Flowing Spring United Methodist Church, organized in 1820, met in the nearby school until James Amis, grandson of Thomas Amis, donated land between the school and the cemetery to build a church. There was one stipulation — it had to face the grave of his mother, Matilda Lee Amis. The church was built in 1898 and still meets regularly.

Dec. 15 tour times are 1 p.m., 2:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at Amis Mill Eatery, Mountain Star Mall, Rogersville/Hawkins Chamber of Commerce, Morristown Chamber of Commerce, Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, and the Rogersville Heritage Association, or by calling (423) 272-7040.

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