Sullivan County Tennessee
ROTHERFORD MANSION

Frederick Augustus Ross, (December 25, 1796 – April 13, 1883) was a Presbyterian clergyman.

He was born in Cobham, Cumberland County, Virginia. He was educated at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, entered the ministry, emancipated his slaves, and from 1826 till 1852 was pastor of Old Kingsport Presbyterian Church in Kingsport, Tennessee, where he had moved in 1818. In 1828 he labored as an evangelist in Kentucky and Ohio. At the division of the Presbyterian general assembly in 1837–38 he adhered to the New School branch, and in 1855 he became pastor of the 1st Presbyterian church in Huntsville, Alabama, holding this charge until 1875 and continuing pastor emeritus until his death.

With James Gallaher and David Nelson he edited a monthly publication entitled The Calvinistic Magazine, founded in 1826, and he published a book entitled Slavery As Ordained of God (Philadelphia, 1857).

He died in Huntsville, Alabama. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


Rotherwood Residence - Kingsport TN 1940's

Haunted Tennessee:
Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Volunteer State
By Alan Brown

Reverend Frederick A. Ross built Rotherford Mansion on Netherland Inn Road in Kingsport in 1818. The reverend doted on his beautiful daughter Rowena, sending her to the finest schools in the North. She was a charming girl who was courted by men from the most prominent families in Rossville, which later became Kingsport. Two years after she completed her education, she fell in love with a young man from a neighboring town. On the day they were to be married, however, his boat capsized in the Holston River in plain view of Rotherford Mansion. Rowena, who witnessed the drowning of her lover, sank into a deep depression, rarely venturing from her room. Two years later, Rowena left the security of her home and began attending social functions in Rossville. She became engaged again, this time to a wealthy young man from Knoxville. Shortly before they were to be married, he died of yellow fever. Once again, Rowena became reclusive. Ten years later, Rowena decided to take another chance on love. She married and had a daughter. One day, when the child was six years old, Rowena became convinced that the young man who had drowned in the Holston River was calling her. She walked into the river and drowned herself.

For many years, residents of Kingsport have seen Rowena's ghost, walking along the banks of the river in search of her lost love. The ghost of the young man is said to haunt the mansion as well. In 1995, a man and his family were fishing from the bank of the Holston River near a bridge when they heard laughter. The man looked up from fishing and saw a man and woman, wearing wedding clothes from the previous century, walking down the steps of Rotherford Mansion. The couple seemed to be very much in love. The fisherman turned to his brother to point out the happy couple, but when he looked back, they were gone.

The constant sightings of Rowena's restless spirit made it difficult for her father to recover from his grief. Reverend Ross experienced even more tragedy in 1847, when financial setbacks forced him to sell Rotherwood Mansion to a cruel slaveholder named Joshua Phipps. After the sale, neighbors reported hearing screams coming from the plantation. Rumors soon spread around Rossville that Phipps beat his slaves on a whipping post he had set up inside the mansion. Stories of the torture Phipps inflicted on his slaves gave rise to the rumor that bloodstains that had soaked into the wooden floorboards reappear whenever it rains. As a result of Phipps's alleged abuse of his servants, he was ostracized by the owners of neighboring plantations.

Residents of Kingsport believe that a curse placed on Phipps by his slaves might have been responsible for his death. During the summer of 1861, Phipps contracted a mysterious illness and became bedridden. His only companion at this time was a young slave who fanned him. People say that Phipps died one July morning when a swarm of flies suddenly materialized and filled his mouth and nostrils, suffocating him.

Phipps's notoriety attracted a large crowd to his funeral on July 10. As dark clouds billowed in the sky, the horses pulling the carriage holding the man's casket suddenly had great difficulty surmounting the hill to the graveyard, as if the casket had suddenly became heavier. After struggling for several hours, the horses began to move the carriage. Witnesses say that as streaks of lightning flashed across the sky, a gigantic, black dog leaped from the coffin and ran down the hill. Women screamed and men gasped at the sight of the monstrous dog, which has come to be known as the Hound of Hell. The dog was no sooner out of sight than the sky seemed to open up. While the "mourners" sought shelter from the rain, the gravediggers hastily interred Phipps's corpse. Phipps's reign of terror at Rotherwood Mansion has given rise to a number of ghost stories. Locals say that on dark, stormy nights, the Hound of Hell's spine-tingling howl resounds through the hills of Kingsport. Apparently the ghost of Phipps still enjoys tormenting people. Subsequent owners of Rotherwood say that a malicious spirit throws back the covers late at night while they are trying to sleep. They have also heard what can best be described as an evil laugh. William Shakespeare's pronouncement that "the evil that men do lives long after their bones have been interred" certainly seems to apply to Joshua Phipps.

This story starts with the building of The Clinchfield Railroad on page 18, of a book written by Margaret Ripley Wolfe, "Kingsport, Tennessee: A Planned American City". (Most libraries will have a copy of the book).

--- Before they were finished, Carter's agents had obtained options on approximately 7,000 acres "stretching roughly from the western foot of Chestnut Ridge to the Clay Place two miles west of Rotherwood." Harkrader wrote that "almost before the ink was dry on the options, the exciting news of the railroad leaked out." Landowners "cried fraud and refused to convey." Dr. Roller resisted a suit that Carter brought against him in the U.S. District Court at Greeneville for a deed to his 800 acres. The controversy was reportedly settled in a room at the Hotel Hamilton, when Carter's treasurer, Jerry C. Stone, signed a certified check for $80,000. After Roller conveyed his land, other landowners acquiesced. It was about this time that Carter recruited James W. Dobyns, one of his boyhood friends from Virginia, to operate the farms that Carter now controlled at Kingsport. Dobyns, his wife, and their two sons moved into the Rotherwood mansion that had been built by Frederick A. Ross before the Civil War where the north and south forks of the Holston meet.

Page 21 ...... When the firm of Blair and Company was dissolved in 1920, Dennis was already deeply involved in the establishment of Kingsport. He had renovated the old Rotherwood mansion and made it his principal residence. Whatever other motivations Dennis had, his prime consideration was the development of an industrial city that would create traffic for the railroad. He recognized the importance of community spirit and the need to promote Kingsport. One report claimed: "Dennis detested publicity. He was never known to make a public speech. He never gave interviews to the press. He tried to avoid public functions. He took little interest in politics and never served on public committees except those dealing with public finance." Dennis's reticence may have stemmed, in part, from his almost total deafness. In any event, he chose to maintain a low profile, and on 31 December 1915 he hired J. Fred Johnson as a promoter, or a one-man chamber of commerce, for the new town.

Page 41 --- Nolen's plans "did not work out precisely as envisioned," contends Hancock, but "he never received such cooperation elsewhere from business backers." One must conclude, then, that the life of this pioneer professional planner was fraught with difficulties. No control at Kingsport was relinquished to him, and he was confronted by multiple authorities—H. Ray Dennis in New York City, who, while he did not always agree with his brother John, was always loyal to John's wishes; J. Fred Johnson, on site in Kingsport, who had the complete confidence of John B. Dennis (who was also on location, having made Rotherwood his principal residence); and as of 1917, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the city manager for the newly incorporated city, who were strongly under the influence of Johnson.

Page 78 .... The Board of Mayor and Aldermen granted Cumberland Telephone and Telegraph the franchise for a battery-operated system in June of that year. By February 1921, Rotherwood, Dennis's home a few miles southwest of the downtown, had electricity; lines were being strung to Roller Farm and Riverview Dairy; and White City was about to receive telephone service. In 1920, municipal officials pondered the purchase of a motor-driven garbage-collection vehicle to replace horse-powered contrivances, citing the high cost of horse feed as a major factor. Dr. T.B. Yancey, the city health officer, banished pigs from the town that same year, although cows whose owners obeyed rules and regulations would be allowed to remain because they provided sustenance for the young. The future Mrs. John B. Dennis, Lola Anderson, the town's resident landscape architect and operator of the nursery, was soon in a snit about the bovines that roamed about the town and damaged young trees. Public transportation within the city received a boost with the advent in 1921 of bus lines. Two Mack buses, with a capacity of twenty- nine passengers each, and a Ford bus operated at one-hour intervals between the Clinchfield depot, at Main and Broad streets, and Eastman and Corning Glass, with several intermediate stops. To facilitate this effort, the two companies adjusted their shift schedules by fifteen minutes.

Page 98 .... Newcomers joined established families of local gentry—the Grosecloses, Nelmses, Kinkeads, Rollers, and Clouds, along with the Dobynses, transplanted from Hillsville, Virginia—to form the nucleus of the town's elite. To their credit, they made significant civic contributions. Such heads of industries as the Shivells, Wilcoxes, and Palmers established homes and produced progeny. The Platts added a touch of class from New York City. John B. Dennis spent considerable time at Rotherwood when he was a bachelor, as well as after the town's landscape artist, Lola Anderson, became his bride; brother H. Ray Dennis, his show girl-wife Lilla, and their four male offspring were sometimes in residence.

Pg 145 ... It was not uncommon for local people to take in strangers. Single- family dwellings became boardinghouses, and stories are told about large rooms being partitioned with curtains and sheets to afford a measure of privacy for as many as four newcomers in each. Military brass appropriated John B. Dennis's Rotherwood estate, which bordered on Area B; some of the property was incorporated into the military reservation. Lieutenant Colonel William E. Ryan was commanding officer at HOW from June 1942 to March 1944- He left to serve with the American forces in Europe, and Lieutenant Colonel Francis R. Scherer succeeded Ryan in the post at Kingsport.