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Rocky Mount
Rocky Mount

Location: Sullivan County, just off U.S. 11E-19W-411, about 7 miles northeast of Johnson City.

This log house, also known as the Cobb-Massengill Home, derives its name from its location atop a high hill, covered with limestone outcroppings, that overlooks the Watauga River. The residence served as the temporary capitol of the Southwest Territory for about 18 months, beginning in October 1790.

During this period, William Blount, the newly appointed Governor of the Territory and Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Southern Department who had just arrived from North Carolina, was a guest of Rocky Mount's owner, William Cobb. In 1791 Blount established Knoxville as the capital at the site of White's Fort, near the confluence of the Holston and French Broad Rivers, where he had signed the Treaty of the Holston (July 1791) with the Cherokee Indians, and moved there early in 1792.

Cobb, one of the first Watauga settlers, followed his brother-in-law Henry Massengill, Sr., to the area from eastern North Carolina, where he may have known Blount. About 1770 Cobb built Rocky Mount, one of the first frontier houses in the far eastern section of present Tennessee. Two stories in height and distinguished for its period and place, it was constructed of white-oak logs from nearby forests and chinked with clay. Pegs were used to secure the oak shingles and the large rafters. The glass windows, rare on the frontier, were a mark of prestige.

Cobb who was wealthy by local standards, not only entertained his guests lavishly, but also took an active part in community life. In 1780, during the War for Independence, he aided and outfitted some of the frontiersmen who were en route to Sycamore Shoals to rendezvous for the Battle of Kings Mountain, S.C. Later Andrew Jackson, who was related to Mrs. Cobb, also visited Rocky Mount frequently, staying there for 6 weeks in 1788 while waiting for his license to practice law in Jonesboro, Tenn. Another guest, besides Jackson and Blount, was Daniel Boone. About 1795 the Cobbs moved and the Massengill family acquired Rocky Mount, where they later hosted Andrew Johnson.

The residence has been restored to its original appearance and is in excellent condition. Weatherboarding, which once covered the original logs, has been removed, and the chinking between them has been coated with cement to preserve it. A large, hipped brick chimney rises from the reconstructed wood-shingled, gabled roof of the main house, and another from that of the one-story ell to the rear. A "dogtrot" between the ell and the front part of the residence provides access to both sections as well as to a covered porch, on the rear under the gable on the inner side of the ell. Single windows are on either side of the paneled front door. Matching white-oak logs from other sites were utilized in rebuilding the separate, one-story kitchen, including the scullery, on its original foundation.

The main building contains nine rooms, including those in the floored attic. The original wood interior paneling has all been restored. The mantels of the large fireplaces are all of native pine. A decorated stringer and a walnut handrail are features of the paneled stairway. The house is furnished in period pieces, some of which belonged to the Cobb family. On the grounds, which are attractively landscaped, is a Colonial-style brick museum that houses exhibits on pioneer life and regional history.

In 1959, stimulated by the Tennessee chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the State purchased the property from the estate of John M. Massengill. Using State funds, the Tennessee Historical Commission and the Rocky Mount Historical Association of the Tri-Cities restored the structure. It is open from April to November.

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Last Updated: 29-Jul-2004