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In the early 1800s, this site was just inside Chickasaw Territory, and any business needed a Chickasaw representative. In 1802, a partnership formed between Gordon and Chickasaw Chief William Colbert.
Building the Gordon House
While Gordon was away again in 1818, Dolly maintained the home front. Gordon did, however, send her instructions at least once on how their new house should be built.
“The windows to be placed on each side of the front door of the large room, and on the right of the door of the small room… The rest I leave with yourself.” Letter from John Gordon to Dolly Gordon, 1818.
The house layout was typical for the time—a Federal-style, modified hall-and-parlor plan—but the brick from which it was made created one of the most elegant homes on the Tennessee frontier.
If We Could See Inside
Even though you cannot enter the Gordon House today due to safety concerns, you can imagine a large, vibrant family filling the home. If we could pull back the curtains, we may see a well-worn floor from children playing. Through one front door, you may imagine seeing the family gathered around the fireplace—a room where many daily activities took place. The narrow staircase leads upstairs to two bedrooms. Through the other front door, you would see the formal parlor, where guests would visit during the day, or where people would sleep at night.
The Gordon House was not the only building on the land, as you see today. An exterior kitchen, a smokehouse, barns, coops, and servant’s quarters are all possible buildings that filled the 1,515 acre site.
From Family Home to Historic Site
Shortly after the Gordon House was completed, travel on the Old Trace started to slow down and almost came to a stop. The stand and trading post were no longer necessary, but the ferry remained operational for almost 100 years due to the high use by local residents. It was not until 1896, when a bridge was built over the Duck River, that the ferry was abandoned.
When John Gordon died of pneumonia in 1819, Dolly continued to run the farm with the help of her children and enslaved people. Cotton, cattle, and hogs all helped to support her family. At the time of her death at the age of 80, her son-in-law wrote, “She bore the burdens of their home, and was as brave and heroic as he.” She lived here until her death in 1859.
The Gordon House had numerous owners before the National Park Service acquired the site in 1973. In 1974, the home was nominated and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The exterior was soon restored to its 1818 appearance, as you see it today.
For more information on the Gordon house see Gordon House: A Home on the Nathez Trace.
Last updated: March 24, 2022