There are some parts of west Knox County that are not as easily defined as say, Farragut or Hardin Valley, and they’re in the county, but have those odd fingers of the city of Knoxville creeping in and around them. Much of it is west of I-140, south of I-40, north of the river and west of Morrell Road. But one of the byways traversing these parts and loaded with architectural treasures is Westland Drive.
Nestled back in the trees and off the road is one of the oldest homes in Knox County. In the past it has been called The Parsonage, Alexander-Ramsey House and Mount Ebenezer. It was called Glenmary by one of its earliest owners, the Rev. Samuel Graham Ramsey, brother of Col. Francis Alexander Ramsey of Swan Pond/Historic Ramsey House in East Knox County.
The exact date on the present house is somewhat puzzling. County records indicate it was built in 1825, so whether the present home includes any of the original structure built circa 1799 or someone got their dates wrong is unknown. The home was also owned and lived in by John Alexander, Samuel’s uncle. But, as is, the house has been there, through additions, subtractions and changes of ownership for (at least) nearly 200 years.
For most of its existence, it served as a private residence. In 1993 it was repurposed into a bed and breakfast called the Maple Grove Inn. In 2018 it was restored into a commercial event location (weddings, etc.) called Maple Grove Estate. The home is a mix of Georgian and Federal style architecture and sits on just over 15 acres of land, what remains of the hundreds more acres that were part of the original estate.
Samuel G. Ramsey was born in Marsh Creek, York County, Pennsylvania, on October 20, 1771. A Scotch Irish Presbyterian, he completed his regular courses at Liberty Hall, what is now Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia. He went on to study theology and by 1795 was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Lexington.
While he began his life as a preacher in Virginia, the road eventually brought him to the Southwest Territory, which is what we here in Knox County used to be a part of. He came to visit his good brother the Colonel. According to the Annals of the American Pulpit, Vol. IV, by William B. Sprague D.D., the brothers went on quite the tour of the area frontier:
A hearty welcome greeted their arrival at each cabin, and a cordial wish was everywhere expressed that the young minister should remain in the country, and organize churches in the wilderness. He listened respectfully to their solicitations, visited several forts and stations, and preached to many who had not, since they left fatherland, heard a Presbyterian sermon.
Samuel didn’t remain after that initial visit. He returned to Virginia and found a wife, a widow named Eliza Allen. They were married in 1797 and returned to Knox County and settled at Glenmary/Mount Ebenezer.
He took charge of the Grassy Valley congregations and preached on alternating Sundays to Ebenezer and Pleasant Fount churches. Ebenezer Presbyterian is what is now known as Cedar Springs Presbyterian, and the original church was built in the front of the property where Maple Grove now sits. The historic Cedar Springs Cemetery, where the good reverend and his wife are buried, sits well preserved along Westland Drive. Samuel died in 1817. Eliza survived him by 20 years.
Sources: Tennessee History Project, McClung Historical Collection – Knox County Library