Center For Transportation Research

Knox County, Tennessee

Knoxville, Tennessee 40KN 201

The history of Knollwood involves

the histories of both the Bearden Community and the Reynolds family. The Bearden Community began as a settlement built around a station or fortified house around 1790. Many of its early settlers, including the Reynolds family, were of Irish extraction, resulting in the first name for the community - Erin.


According to the Reverend John B. Creswell, the Bearden community got its start about 1790 as a settlement built around a station or fortified house (Creswell 1899). This fort was probably located near where the First Tennessee Bank and Mann's Mortuary now stand at the corner of Kingston Pike and Northshore Drive.

Some early settlers in the vicinity include James Miller, Jacob Lonas, Thomas Hudibergh, Heywood Bennett, Captain William Lyon, Walter Kennedy, and John Reynolds, all of whom arrived prior to 1820. The community was known as Erin until the late 1880s, when it was renamed in honor of Marcus de Lafayette Bearden (1830-1885), a prominent local citizen who was very active in local and state politics. He served two terms each as sheriff and mayor of Knoxville plus eight years in the state legislature. Bearden developed into a residential area with the construction of Cherokee Country Club in 1908 which attracted the wealthy and socially conscious to the formerly agricultural area.

Since 1925, many upscale residential developments have been developed in Bearden, including Highland Hills, Crestwood Hills, Westwood, Westmoreland Heights, Lyon's View, and Lyon's Bend (Rothrock 1946). Commercial activity has transformed Kingston Pike from a residential street to a retail and restaurant strip. Manufacturing activity in Bearden has declined steadily from its heyday in the late nineteenth century when Fourth Creek was lined with mills from source to mouth. In spite of creeping commercialism and homogeneity, the Bearden area retains a strong sense of community.


The Reynolds family came from Ireland in the 1770s or 1780s, settling first in Pennsylvania. By 1788, the family had settled in what is now northeast Knox County in the Gibbs and Corryton communities (Reynolds family history, ca. 1920, ms. in private collection of Dr. W. T. Holt, Knoxville, Tennessee). In 1788, one member of the family, James Reynolds, built Reynolds' Station near what is now Harbison's crossroads (Ramsey 1853).

In 1817, John Reynolds, the brother of James Reynolds, bought around 121 ha (300 acres) of land, including the 5.6 ha (13.8 acres) Knollwood now occupies, from James White, the founder of Knoxville. John Reynolds built a house about 90 m (300 feet) west of Fourth Creek. The property contained a large spring in the southwest corner of the yard. This spring is near or under the present Weisgarber Road. John Reynolds married Barbara Frazier, daughter of Samuel Frazier, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. The third child of the couple, Robert Bannon Reynolds, was born on November 11, 1811.

Robert Reynolds inherited the property when his father died in 1834. Robert had been educated as a lawyer and by 1837 had been appointed Attorney General of a four-county area, including Knox County. In 1845, he was appointed Quartermaster in the U.S. Army by President James K. Polk. By the end of the Mexican War in 1847, Reynolds had become Paymaster for U.S. forces in Mexico under General Gideon Pillow and had attained the rank of Major. After the Mexican War he spent some time stationed in the Oregon Territory. In 1848 or 1849, he reportedly sent his sister Rebecca the plans and the money to have the present house built for him. By 1851, Reynolds was home from the Army and living in Knollwood. The original house was built in the Georgian style of four rooms over four rooms with a central stair hall, hipped roof, and a fireplace in each room. Outbuildings included a detached brick kitchen, a cool cellar, a smokehouse, and doubtless other buildings as well. The only surviving outbuilding from Robert Reynolds' time is the cool cellar.

Robert Reynolds retained his commission in the Army until Tennessee seceded from the Union, at which time he offered his services to the Confederacy and was installed as a Confederate Commissioner of Knoxville. During the war, General James Longstreet stayed at Knollwood as Reynolds' guest (they had served together in Mexico) in late November 1863. According to family legend Longstreet mapped out his assault on Knoxville on Reynolds' dining room table. While acting as Commissioner, Reynolds started what was to become a bitter feud by having the vituperative pro-Union newspaper editor William G. "Parson" Brownlow jailed for treason against the Confederacy. After the war, when Brownlow was installed as the Governor of Tennessee, he had Knollwood seized from Reynolds and sold to a personal friend named James Cooper, reportedly pocketing the proceeds. Family history records that friends and family persuaded Reynolds to leave Tennessee and stay with family in Illinois, as they feared for his life if he remained in Knoxville (the family history states that Brownlow had many of his wartime enemies murdered after the war). When Brownlow's term as Governor was over, Reynolds returned to Knoxville and began legal proceedings to recover his property, which he eventually succeeded in doing only after the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1875, at the age of 64, Robert Reynolds married 19 year old Mary Alice Kennedy, a daughter of George Kennedy who ran a large woolen mill and a grist mill on Fourth Creek. The pair had six children. Mary Alice Kennedy Reynolds, who died in 1952, possibly was the last person in the United States still receiving a widow's pension from the Mexican War.

In 1888, Reynolds built a more modest house on Kingston Pike and had to sell Knollwood to pay security on a defaulted inheritance he had cosigned as executor. This house is now destroyed and the site is occupied by a gas station. The buyer of Knollwood in 1888 was Robert Hanks Eddington, a railroad magnate. Eddington made the first of many architectural changes to the house, including adding an attached frame kitchen in place of the original detached kitchen. He also added the porte cochère. Eddington sold the house to Bruce Keener in 1892. Keener was an engineer who modernized the property extensively. He removed the frame kitchen and added a brick kitchen ell with a bedroom upstairs and a basement beneath, installed steam heat in the house, removed a chimney to add the bay window, installed gaslights and his own gas plant, and installed running water supplied by a gasoline powered pump. Keener sold the property to coal executive Charles A. Griffith in the 1920s. Griffith added the Greek Revival style porch and the solarium on the eastern side of the house during his tenure at Knollwood. At an unknown date Griffith sold Knollwood to William Sienknecht, who sold it to W. A. Keen in 1950. W. A. Keen sold Knollwood to Harvey and Fana Tucker in 1960. The Tuckers were the last private owners of the property. Parker-Grass Company put an option on the property shortly before Mr. Tucker's death in 1996 (Mrs. Tucker had died previously).

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This page was last updated on 20 Jan 2002.

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