Isaac Anderson Cabin dedicated in new home

Isaac Anderson Cabin dedicated in new home

Feb. 8, 2019

Seventeen months after being completely dismantled and moved from Knox County, the 217-year-old former home of Maryville College founder Isaac Anderson has been fully restored in its new location on the grounds of the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend, Tenn.

The Isaac Anderson Cabin was formally dedicated in its new home during a grand opening ceremony at the Heritage Center on Feb. 8. The cabin is now a permanent part of the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center and is open during business hours. Inside panels tell the story of Anderson, the founding of Maryville College in 1819 as the Southern and Western Theological Seminary, and Second Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, which Anderson founded in 1818.

Maryville College is celebrating its Bicentennial this year, and the ribbon-cutting ceremony is one of many events planned throughout 2019 to celebrate the College’s 200-year history. Approximately 125 people attended the Feb. 8 event, including members of the Maryville College and Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center communities, supporters of the cabin restoration project, as well as members of the public.

Melinda Shannon ’80 drove up from Atlanta, Ga., to attend the event. She last saw the cabin in the late 1970s, when she was a Maryville College student and visited it in its original location.

Shannon is related to Isaac Anderson, but she had no idea about the connection until her freshman year at MC. Dr. Arda Walker ’40, former MC professor of history, was her advisor, and from Shannon’s first day at MC, Walker was convinced that Shannon was related to Anderson.

“This cabin stood in a valley where the Shannons and McCampbells settled, and Arda Walker kept nagging me about Mary Shannon McCampbell (Isaac Anderson’s grandmother) and my connection to the Shannon family,” Shannon said. “We started on a long quest to prove my relation to Isaac Anderson, which I didn’t prove until 25 years later.

“Being here today is a big deal for me, since I’m related to Isaac Anderson,” she added.

During the event, attendees heard remarks from Bob Patterson, executive director of the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center; Cole Piper ’68, MC alumnus and board member for the Heritage Center; Clara Gowans Hardin ’57, MC alumna and member of Second Presbyterian Church in Knoxville (whose members supported the cabin restoration project); and MC President Tom Bogart.

“Over the last two or three weeks, people have asked me what are my feelings and what I think about this, and there are two words that come to mind: amazing and grateful,” Piper said. “Obviously, standing here today is amazing – that over the last year and a half, we’ve taken a cabin that was condemned and about to be torn down, moved it from East Knoxville to the Heritage Center, and we’re now ready for people to come and see it. That absolutely amazes me that we were able to do this.

“All of us can celebrate today for future generations, especially Maryville College students who might ask ‘I hear Isaac Anderson’s cabin is still here - where is it?’ We can say it is in Townsend, Tennessee,” he added.

Hardin explained that during Second Presbyterian Church’s bicentennial celebration last year, the congregation learned about Anderson and “what a remarkable man he was.”

“Our congregation knew the importance of saving this piece of history of our founder,” she said, adding that the church made a substantial donation, and several members donated to the restoration project. “For me personally, my involvement rests on this: I entered Maryville College in 1953 and in 1960, my husband and I joined Second Presbyterian Church. Isaac Anderson’s legacy through those two institutions have shaped my adult life, and I am grateful. And today, I am a happy woman.”

MC Associate Professor of History Dr. Aaron Astor and MC senior theatre and religion double-major Lenny Lively ’19 spoke about Anderson and his work. Lively is writing and directing a play called “Sturdy as a Rock: Our Bicentennial Story,” which will be performed March 30-31 at the Clayton Center for the Arts.

The two-story cabin where Anderson lived before founding Maryville College was slated for demolition in September 2017, when donors raised the necessary funds to move the structure to Townsend.

Built in 1802, shortly after Anderson’s father moved the family from Virginia to Tennessee, the cabin was located in a wooded area behind a Northeast Knox County subdivision and was unused and overgrown.

The subdivision’s homeowners association and Knoxville nonprofit preservation group Knox Heritage had worked to generate interest in the cabin, but estimates to haul it offsite and restore it were about $60,000 to $80,000. Maryville College had been interested in the cabin for years, but funding to move, restore and maintain the structure and determining how to make it safe and useful on the campus were obstacles.

After Knox County code officials put pressure on the subdivision’s HOA, Piper brought the cabin to the attention of Patterson, who was interested in relocating the cabin to the Heritage Center.

“To me, as a Maryville College graduate, as someone who really loves history and preservation of history, to me it would be unforgivable if we had the opportunity to save something and just because of inaction we didn’t do that,” Piper said. “When I called Bob, he said ‘absolutely. We cannot let this be lost to history. … If you’re able to make this happen, not only do we want it, but we will put it in a prominent location so that anyone who travels this road will see it.’

An anonymous donor provided funding to dismantle the cabin and haul the pieces to the grounds of the Heritage Center, where log cabin experts documented every piece with photographs and numbered them with plastic tags. A fundraising campaign supported the cabin restoration project, which included the careful reassembly of the cabin parts at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center.

“It’s hard for me to believe that it’s real,” said former Maryville College Registrar Martha Hess ’67, as she stood in front of the restored cabin on Feb. 8.

Hess volunteers in the College’s Archives, and she, along with fellow Archives volunteers, visited the cabin in its original location several years ago. They found it behind a modern home in a small cul-de-sac of a subdivision, surrounded by weeds, vines, poison ivy and trash – and “rapidly deteriorating,” she said.

“I thought about Isaac and Flora Anderson living there more than 200 years ago: Isaac teaching young men who hoped to enter the ministry and the young couple providing room and board for those who were unable to pay,” Hess said. “Today, Maryville College alumni and friends saved this cabin. They also support the students, faculty and programs of the College in a myriad of ways.”


Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”