After taking a year off last year, Amis House owners Jake and Wendy Jacobs are opening their historic home up to the public again Saturday for an afternoon of guided tours.
History buffs might be satisfied just to see the inside of the house which was built in 1781 by Revolutionary War hero and statesman Capt. Thomas Amis.
What really makes the tour a must-see, however, is the storytelling by Jake and Wendy, who have a knack for bringing the property’s history to life.
Guided tours begin at 1 p.m. at the house, which is located behind the Amis Mill Eatery, 127 W. Bear Hollow Road, about two miles south of Rogersville.
The house was decorated in Colonial Christmas style by Wendy, who has been making wreaths for two weeks.
“We’re going to have some folks milling around in Colonial attire to make it authentic,”Jake told the Times News Wednesday. “(Native American friends) Stonewolf, Walking Bear and some others are going to be here to lend a little more authenticity, plus they’re going to be setting up to sell some of their authentic Indian wares for gifts. When you go through the house, you get the history tour. One story is about the founding and how this place came to be thanks to a Revolutionary War land grant.”
Jake added, “A lot of people are surprised to find out that this property was the launching pad for the settlement not only of Tennessee, but of the west, and (state historian) Dr. Carroll Van West confirmed that. Also, the many things that Thomas Amis did make very interesting stories. He was the first American to trade on the Mississippi River, and he was the the first senator from Western North Carolina. Then he was the delegate to the State of Franklin from Hawkins County. This property is just steeped in history.”
Thomas Amis built a dam, a mill, a distillery, a blacksmith shop, and he had a store. And unlike his predecessors, who were massacred in Rogersville, Amis got along with the Cherokee who also called that land home. He traded with the Indians, and they allowed him to live in peace in a place which, at the time he moved there, was the last stop for pioneers heading west before they entered the wilderness.
Before his death in 1797, Amis hosted many famous explorers, scientists, clergymen, and politicians of the day including John Sevier, James Robertson, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Boone, Bishop Francis Asbury, William Blount, and Andre Michaux, all of whom stayed at Amis House.
“People are always surprised when they find out how much history is connected to this place,” Jake said. “The locals even shake their heads, and say, ‘We had no idea that there was this much history here.’ And then during the Civil War, the Battle of Big Creek was fought on the property. William Amis told his kids he remembered as a boy carrying water to the Confederate soldiers and their horses.”
Jake added, “The Union forces got routed, and they left in such a hurry that the Union general left his field desk here in the woods. The Amis family found it, and it stayed in the house until right before we got here. One of the cousins took it, and it’s in North Carolina now.”
There is no fee to take the tour, but a $10 contribution is requested, with all proceeds going toward preservation of the property, especially the dam, which was also built in 1781 and is in need of restoration.
Tours continue until 5 p.m., or until people stop coming. The eatery is also open and will be serving “Colonial Christmas fare.”