Updated: Oct 17, 2022
*written from a self-proclaimed, non-history buff's perspective*
*historical tour info at the bottom of page*
The Dickson-Williams Mansion: "The Showplace of East Tennessee"
What do you get when you combine Greeneville's first mailman - a wealthy Irish merchant, and a spoiled rotten' only child?
Probably the prettiest, grandest mansion in Northeast TN.
In 1815, when Catherine was only 15 years old, William Dickson begun building a big house that took 6 years to complete.
After it's completion in 1821, Catherine became a well renowned hostess - as she was known for her lavish entertainment expenses $$. See the guest list below.
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General Morgan: The one that died
Frances Hodgsen Burnett: British-American novelist and playwrite
John Caldwell Calhoun: 7th vice President of the United States
David Crockett: You should know this one
Andrew Jackson: The President of the United States that signed the Indian Removal Act
Henry Clay: "Great Compromiser" Compromise of 1850. Not so much of a compromise for enslaved people of color.
Madam Octavia Celestia Valentine Walton Le Vert: One of the first females southern writers to achieve national recognition and posthumously inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame
James Knox Polk: 11th President of the United States. His westward land acquisition kicked the Civil War into motion as new territory expansion fought over the rights of people of color - Enslaved vs. Free.
Andrew Johnson: The President we are known for here in Greeneville, 17th President of the United States; one of three Presidents impeached in U.S. history.
Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, AKA, Marquis de Lafayette: The French Hamilton guy.
Catherine married and had 10 children. Only four children made it past childhood, and her husband died, making Catherine a widow. She assumed the entire estate and all of the wealth that came with it.
(Photos from the inside of the mansion)
Fast forward to the Civil War beginning.
1861 Tennessee joined the succession and rebelled against what became the Union side of the War.
What is interesting is Greene County overwhelmingly voted to stay with the Union, but they were outvoted by the rest of the state that wanted to rebel.
Two of her three sons joined the war efforts BUT... they joined on the opposite sides of the war.
One Confederate, one Union soldier.
With the house split in half, mom showed no favoritism to either son, and invited important Generals from each side to join the family for dinner/to rest in between long journeys.
Because of Catherine's hospitality and support of both sides of the war, along came the story of THE ONE THAT DIED (link) in 1864
(Photos from the inside of the mansion)
Just one year later after the death of infamous General Morgan in 1865, Catherine gave her entire estate to her son Joseph A. Williams with the written agreement that "he supports his mother in the style to which she had been accustomed to."
The experience of keeping his mother content was so strenuous that he then literally signed the wealth back over to her. Catherine then transferred her entire estate to her son-in-law, William Sneed. One year later son-in-law William died, followed by Catherine herself, and then Eliza Sneed.
At this point, the Mansion was out of family hands.
The Mansion was then turned into random things - no longer being a private residence of the family - including a boys academy, the Greeneville Academy, a tabaco factory, a hotel, and a hospital.
Bringing us to 1970. The property was sold to the County to start restoration efforts under a 99 year lease to the Dickson-Williams Historical Association Inc.
The Association opened the restored mansion in 1995.
For a more ✨descriptive✨ narrative of the significance of the Dickson-Williams Mansion, you can book a 90-minute guided walking tour of the Mansion. Offered 1-2:30 PM, 7 days a week.
Call (423) 639-7102