Local expert reviews Campbell Station Inn history: Shell’s part 1

Malcolm Shell, local historian, breaks down the history of Campbell Station Inn, one of Farragut’s landmarks with a more than 200-year history.

This week’s Part 1 review:

“Tell me about that stately old home” is a statement we hear frequently from visitors to the Farragut Town Hall and Museum.

The home, of course, is Campbell’s Station Inn on the northwest corner of Kingston Pike and Campbell Station Road. With historic restoration complete, along with an impressive plaza (Mayor Ralph McGill Plaza), visitors will soon be able to relive the past and enjoy the many stories about the Inn and the guests that stayed there.

No, George Washington never slept there, but our fifth president, Andrew Jackson, was a frequent guest. And many other “colorful characters” found refuge there while pushing west to the Cumberland Settlements and to Nashville and beyond.

The exact age of the Inn is indeterminate. The property originally was owned by Col. David Campbell, co-founder of Campbell’s Station in 1787, and was obtained as a Grant from North Carolina of which Tennessee was then a part. Early deeds did not always mention improvements to property, but we do know that it was built sometime between 1800 and 1823.

Campbell sold the property to Samuel Martin in 1823 and moved further west to Wilson County near the Town of Lebanon. Martin was an early emigrate to the area from Scotland. He was a charismatic individual who replaced the void in community leadership after Campbell’s departure.

Martin was also an educated man who is said to have owned an extensive library, and he was also a close friend of Andrew Jackson. It was not a friendship that would have seemed likely, given their different views on politics and other subjects, but the cohesive factor seems to have been a shared interest in fine horses.

After purchasing the property, Martin immediately became involved in many commercial enterprises. He advertised in the Knoxville Gazette for 20,000 gallons of good whisky in new kegs, with each keg not to contain more than 36 gallons. He also advertised for saddlers and copper smiths and promised steady work for tradesmen who were stable and sober.

Considering the amount of whiskey consumed by guests, it is safe to assume that the Inn must have been a “lively place.” He also built cattle pens behind the Inn to accommodate drovers driving hogs and cattle to settlements further west, and this added to the Inn’s popularity.

It is estimated that at one point, 200 people per day were passing through Knoxville heading west, and many of those migrants would have stopped at the Inn.

One of the early guests was the famed British geologist G.W. Featherstone. Featherstone and his son had been working in the area, and as they approached the Inn they saw President Jackson sitting near a window smoking a long stem clay pipe.

The young Featherstone was hesitant to approach Jackson and apologized for his appearance. Jackson replied to the effect: “Don’t worry son, your dirt will easily wash away. But if you were in politics, you might find it very difficult to wash away.”

The elder Featherstone was also a courageous man who relieved a “bully” of a brace of pistols and a dirk knife one evening.

Shell’s Part 2 final review in next week’s issue