Edenvale: Home of McCampbell family

Dr. Jim TumblinFeature, Fountain City

It takes a heap of living to make a house a home. (Edgar Guest, 1916)

The farmhouse where Samuel Shannon McCampbell (1842-1930) and Sarah Prudence Smith McCampbell (1845-1932) lived for over 61 years is a landmark in its quaint neighborhood off Beverly Road. It sits on 6.2 acres on Shannon Lane, a dead-end street off McCampbell Lane.

The house was built in 1856-57, probably by Leon Chavannes, and then passed to his widow Anna. She sold the house and 125 acres to Lewis Freymond in 1865. In 1868, he sold 114.5 acres to brothers John and Samuel McCampbell who divided the acreage between them. Samuel got 50 acres plus the house which would later be named Edenvale Farm.

Edenvale Farm. Built in 1856-57, the historic house has been home to several prominent families, including the McCampbells, the Dillards, the Coles and the Alleys. (Knox County Two Centuries Photograph Project, C.M. McClung Historical Collection)

The backstory of Edenvale began in 1820 when John McCampbell III migrated from Shelby County, Kentucky, to an area called Grassy Valley. This valley stretched from Beverly Road northwest out Tazewell Pike to near Murphy Road. (Another Grassy Valley, named by John Adair, extended from what is now known as Greenway Gap northward along present-day Broadway to near Fountain City Park.)

In 1823, John McCampbell’s son Benjamin Bennett McCampbell (1803-1866) married Margaret Anderson, the sister of prominent Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Isaac Anderson, who also performed their marriage rites. The Rev. Anderson established Union Academy (1802-1812) near Murphy Road and later moved it to Blount County where it became the predecessor to Maryville College.

The Grassy Valley area, later called Beverly, was settled by Scotch-Irish families including the McCampbells and the Andersons. Between 1845 and 1848, they were joined by several French-Swiss families. The Chavannes, Gouffon and Truan families arrived first. They were followed by the Babelays, Buffets, Dovats,  Freymonds, Sterchis, Stoffels and others.

During the next century, intermarriage among those families resulted in blended families of descendants and produced many Knox County business leaders, attorneys, ministers, physicians and teachers.

After Bennett McCampbell’s son Samuel Shannon McCampbell married Sarah Prudence Smith in 1868, another blended family entered the scene. Sarah was the daughter of Phillip Smith, a descendant of John Adair. The Smith family home was in Greenway Gap near the present-day location of Louis Restaurant. During the Civil War period, Samuel McCampbell’s family lived near there on the east side of what was once Walker Boulevard. It was during this period that Samuel decided to marry Sarah.

After their marriage, they moved into the farmhouse on present-day Shannon Lane. They belonged to the Spring Place Presbyterian Church near the Buffet Mill. Their Sunday attendance required an all-day trip from farm to church and return home. In 1886, the McCampbells became founding members of Shannondale Presbyterian Church where they were prominent members throughout the remainder of their lives.

When they were married their farmhouse contained a modest five rooms but, by 1892, as their family grew, they were able to add four more rooms. They also added porches across the south and east sides that were connected at one corner by a gazebo which the children called a “Merry-Go-Round.” This became Samuel’s favorite resting place with his straight-backed chair leaning against the banister. He would often appear to be sleeping but, alerted by the sound of little feet, he would become wide awake, sit one of the children on his lap and say, “Why hello sugar lump.” The family would later recall that there was a “heap of living” on those porches over the years.

From the evidence available to us, the name of Edenvale may have been used for many years, but it became officially registered as a farm with the state of Tennessee in 1927. Samuel and Sarah would live all their married life there. Samuel died in 1930 and Sarah only two years later. They are buried in Greenwood Cemetery only 1.5 miles from their home.

The house remained in the possession of their youngest daughter, Nellie Pearl McCampbell, who sold it to Dr. Bruce McCampbell, a grandson of Samuel and Sarah McCampbell, in 1953.

Every historic home deserves the tender loving care that Edenvale has received over the years. It was fortuitous that former Navy Commander Bruce McCampbell brought his family back to Knoxville after exemplary service as a surgeon in both World War II and the Korean conflict.

After purchasing Edenvale from his Aunt Nellie, Dr. McCampbell had a builder inspect it to determine the extent of restoration needed. A new foundation, new hardwood floors, new wiring, new plumbing, a new kitchen, updated bathrooms and a new bath upstairs made a very comfortable home out of the almost 100-year-old structure. They had a barn for their horses and cattle and the six McCampbell children grew up loving the rural life the farm afforded them. They lived there until 1966 when they bought and moved to the former George Dempster farm on Old Maryville Pike.

Edenvale was sold to the Bill Dillard family in 1966 and then later to the Cole family. Since November 1976, Bill and Chris Alley have enjoyed making a home for their two children, Taryn and David, in the house while maintaining the historical significance of the farm. They remodeled the back portion of the house in 1990, updating the kitchen, downstairs bathroom, utility room and replacing all the plumbing and wiring that could be reached without destroying the original wide board walls, plaster and lathing. In 1983, they built a swimming pool which their children and their friends have enjoyed and which their grandchildren and their friends enjoy today.

After 41 years living in Edenvale, the Alleys can also say that a “heap of living” has made the historic house a home.

Author’s Note: Thanks to Nellie P. McCampbell’s book (Samuel S. McCampbell and Sarah P. McCampbell, Ancestors and Descendants, 1965) and Dr. Bruce R. McCampbell’s book (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Ole Days, Papa Bruce, 1993) for the historic information. Thanks also to the late David Babelay and Bill Alley for their significant contributions to both the text and the photographs.

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