Catoosa Life Magazine

August - September 2015

Dalton Daily CItizen, Catoosa Life Magazine

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"History is a pact between the dead, the living and the yet unborn." — Edmund Burke (1729-1797) On a sweltering morning earlier this summer I stood in the yard of the historic Yates House alongside Nancy Harris Crowe, a descendant of the man who built the house, Major Presley Yates, one of Catoosa County's most prominent citizens in the county's earliest days. He built the house near Yates Spring in 1835, three years before the Cherokee were forced to leave the area on the Trail of Tears. "Cherokee children played right here along with the Yates children," said Crowe, gesturing at the lawn. "My great-great-grandfather and my grandmother, Rachel Thedford Yates, had 11 children." Major Yates was among the early settlers who moved to Taylor's Ridge Valley, today known as Woodstation Valley. He arrived from North Carolina with a large herd of cattle and a hundred slaves. In 1832, he married a local girl, Rachel Thedford, who was born in the Peavine area in 1815. In search of land with water, Major Yates discovered the spring that would later be named after him. He purchased the land and built a home near the spring, known even today for its pure water. Before he could move into his new home, it burned down. He then built a second home near the spring and the family cemetery. Major Yates owned up to 500 acres of land in the Woodstation Valley at one time, and built the Yates School and Yates Chapel to serve the community. During the Civil War, Major Yates was the state representative for this area. Even though he owned slaves, he voted not to secede from the Union. About three quarters of the way through the war, he released his slaves. Most stayed on and kept the Yates name. After the war was over, Major Yates established the Freedman's Bureau and in this capacity traveled to Washington, D.C. Many Yates descendants live in the area today. Until several years ago, Crowe says she and other Yates family members were able to tour the house after their family reunions. Today the house stands behind a locked gate. This one-story, ranch-style home has housed many families since it was built. A member of one of them was Civil War nurse Deborah Simmons Thedford, Rachel Thedford Yates' aunt, who worked on the injured at the Chickamauga battlefield. She lived there until her death in March 1887. The home is one of three Civil War-era houses in Catoosa County that still stand. The other two are the Napier House, built in 1836, and the Whitman-Anderson House, said to have been built in 1863. Both are privately owned; the Whitman- Anderson House is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Yates House was condemned in 1968 and today is owned by the Catoosa Utility District Authority, The house has a newer roof and as recently as April of this year, the house still had doors in place to keep out vandals or wild animals. Time has a way of eating away at historic structures while ideas on how to best preserve them are pondered. Although the Yates House has a sturdy stone foundation, and a new roof thanks to the Catoosa Utility District Authority, parts of the house beg for repairs. Near the front stairs a section of porch boards are caved in, leaving a gaping hole. Several doors are off the hinges and lie on the worn carpet inside the house. Vandals have strewn trash around inside and painted graffiti on several walls. Windows broken during the 2011 tornado are now boarded up. The fate of the Yates House is unclear. The Catoosa Utility District Authority would like to move the home to another location, and is willing to pay for the move. "There's just one solution the water company will go along with — to move it," said Jerry Lee, chairman. "Our main concern is taking care of the county water." If the home is moved away from its original site, it would be ineligible to be on the National Register of Historic Places. "Once it's moved, we'll never get funding to keep it up," says Crowe, who also worries that moving the house could destroy it. "It's a historic treasure," she says. "Once it's gone, it can never be replaced." Historian Jim Ogden with the Chickamauga & Chattanooga BOOMERANG Janie Dempsey Watts 16 Catoosa Life Magazine / AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015 Above, Major Yates and family in front of their home. Left, Rachel Thedford Yates.

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