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The Swan Plantation House

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From the 100 year-old houses series ...

by Marian Bailey Presswood, Polk County Historian


I have been told many times over the years that I needed to go down to Swan Road in Old Fort to see the old Swan Plantation House. But I just never did get around to it - until now, that is. It is mentioned in many of our records as being located “almost at the point where the old Stock Road, also known as the Armstrong Ferry Road, reentered the Old Federal Road.” The roads had parted several miles south of Madisonville with the Stock Road passing through, or near, Athens, perhaps to find a more favorable place to cross the Hiwassee River at the Chain Ferry.

I knew a little about Dr. Edward A. Swan, born 1859, and saw his name on birth and death records of his era. He didn’t marry until 1914 to Laura Crewse, had no children, and they both died in 1918.  I had even clipped the picture of the old Swan house with Dr. Swan and three of his sisters standing out front (shown here) with intention of using it in an article sometime. So it fits perfectly into our series on hundred year old homes and the families who lived there.

I have no proof of when the house was built, but Dr. E. A.’s father, Isaac N. Swan, born 1809 in Tennessee (father born in PA) was living here as early as 1850.  He was with wife, Mary, and was a merchant with three children, Martin M., Charles C. and Wells A. - whether in that exact house or not, I don’t know. They are also in all the other censuses from then until his death in 1882. In fact, Isaac and Mary appear in our 1880 Polk census with six of his children still at home, Newton, C. C., Sarah, Mary R., Edward and Susan. And all of them, except 17 year old Susan, are in their twenties and thirties - well past the normal ‘marrying’ age. He might have had to change the locks on the doors to get those kids out of the house and on their own.  In 1900, only Edward, Sarah J., Mary R. (married Charles W. McClary) and Susan C. are still living in the old home place.  And in 1910, there was just Edward, his widowed sister Mary McClary and old maid sister, Sarah.  

Josette McTaggart, the submitter of article # 392 on Philmer Bruce Green in “The Heritage of Polk County” writes, “Mary Green married Isaac Swan, who owned a large plantation know as the Swan Plantation in Old Fort. After the death of Dr. Ed Swan in 1918, Mary’s last living child, Susie Blankinship and her brothers and sisters inherited the Swan Plantation. Susie and Charles lived there for a while, and my mother, Ethel, was born in 1922 in the front bedroom of the house.  Susie and Charles moved back to Benton Station and their property there after their mercantile store in Old Fort burned down.”

Ethel Blankinship Brown (Mrs. Paul) is still living, and graciously shared some of her memories of living in the historic old house. It didn’t have any ghosts that she knows of, but she shared a funny story about a trick some of her half siblings played on their little brothers, who were afraid of the dark. The tricksters put a ‘man’ under their bed and scared the wits out of the little fellows. She still gets a chuckle out of the memory of Papa taking his gun upstairs to shoot the ‘intruder’ - bet the little ones didn’t laugh at the time.

The Hoyt Dill family resided there for many years, and as far as I know, ownership is still in the Dill family. But sad to say, after Hoyt’s passing in 2005 the old house is probably past restoration, and well on its way to extinction. If old houses could only talk!

The Swans have deep roots in Polk County and most lived their whole lives here. There are at least 17 Swans buried in Cumberland Shed Cemetery, and probably many more that are related.  Isaac N. Swan is the oldest Swan interred there, being born 21 February 1809 and died 29 June 1882. A historic family and historic house indeed!


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