Long lost cabin is a piece of Powell history

Beth KinnaneOur Town Stories, Powell

One thing Lori Smith Perkins knew she didn’t want to tangle with as a small child was a Guinea hen on her grandparents’ farm in Powell. Back in the early 1960s, indoor plumbing hadn’t made it to their home yet, and young Lori was no fan of racing past it to the outhouse, especially at night.


“I didn’t mind the pigs, the horses, the chickens,” Perkins said. “But that hen was a mess. I’d rather just ‘hold it’ than have to go to the outhouse.”

The fifth of six children, Perkins and her family made a lot of moves around the country and even to Europe while her father was in the Air Force. She recalls staying in hotels on Clinton Highway – “back then it was just a two-lane road” – when they came into town to visit family.

Needless to say, she was thrilled when they came home on one visit and her father and others added a for-real bathroom onto her grandparents’ home.

Lori Smith Perkins

“I was so excited, I watched them put it in. I really wanted to be the first one to use the new potty,” she said laughing. “I didn’t get to, though.” But at least she didn’t have to outrun the Guinea hen anymore.

The house that Perkins knew growing up had been in her mother’s family for generations on her Roberts side. It’s where her mother was raised by Johnny and Viva Roberts Collier. Anyone familiar with the history of Powell knows Roberts and Collier are names that have a deep reach in the area. Perkins is descended from John Menefee (sometimes spelled Manefee or Menifee), the first settler of European extraction to plant a flag in the area we now call Powell Station (see Knox TN Today’s story here).

Johnny and Viva’s farm sat on property near the intersection of what is now Collier and Paradise roads. When Perkins’ family moved back to Knoxville, they temporarily moved into her great uncle Matthew Roberts’ log house across the field from her grandparents’ white clapboard farmhouse.

“I can remember getting in a tin bucket to take a bath,” she said of the more rustic life than she was used to while waiting for the family’s new home on Copeland Road to be finished.

In 1982, the house and the property left Perkins’ family. While her grandparents’ home was still in use for a while, in recent years the deconstruction of the old farmhouse began. The house had been added on to here and there for well over 100 years. In the process of taking it apart, the contractor made a discovery: the entire house had been built up, piece by piece, around a log cabin that, according to Perkins, is at least 150 years old.

Exactly which ancestor built it and when is being investigated. For the time being, Perkins is thankful the current owner halted destruction of the cabin and gave her permission to come on the property to take some pictures and preserve some family history.

Beth Kinnane is the community news editor for KnoxTNToday.com.

Photos courtesy of Lori Smith Perkins. Note to readers: the cabin is located on private property and is not open to the public.

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