Upland Chronicles: Millionaire’s Row offered idyllic summer respite
In 1992, Lynn Faust read an article in Science News written by mathematician Steven Strogatz. The Article explained the subject of synchronized flashing of fireflies known to exist in Southeast Asia.
Lynn was somewhat disappointed that the fireflies at Elkmont near her summer cabin had not been mentioned, so she wrote a letter to Strogatz. In the letter she detailed the location and time of the phenomenon.
After reading the letter, Strogatz put Faust in contact with neuroethologist Jonathan Copeland of Georgia Southern University, who decided to be present in Elkmont the following June to verify if this was real. Much to his surprise, it was all very real, right down to the detailed timing described in Faust’s letter.
He was proud to announce to the science world that synchronous fireflies did indeed exist in the Western Hemisphere, at Elmont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Over the years, word of the fireflies of Elkmont has gotten around and more and more people are showing up to see the spectacular display each year.
Lynn Frierson Faust spent a lot of time at “Springhouse,” a cabin on Millionaire’s Row at Elkmont, after she married Edgar M. Faust, whose family owned the cabin. The realization of the synchronized fireflies (photinus carolinus) is another story in the annals of Elkmont.
Today the three sections of Elkmont that comprise the Appalachian Club are often called Daisy Town, Society Hill and Millionaire’s Row. The Daisy Town and Society Hill cabins are located along Jake’s Creek and Millionaire’s Row, is near the banks of Little River.
Of the three, Millionaire’s Row was the last to be established when the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company moved their logging operation from there and sold the property between Little River and Bearwallow Branch.
In 1927, Alice Morier purchased about 60 acres and began building an estate that she named “Happy Landings.” She married Col. W.B. Townsend, the owner of Little River Railroad and Lumber Company, in 1934. In addition to her residence, Alice Townsend built a substantial stable and several cabins to lease.
Dr. William H. Schuerman, Dean of Engineering at Vanderbilt University, bought a lot beside the river in 1928 and built a cabin that he and his family used as their summer residence. Dr. Schuerman drowned in Little River on August 11, 1932, and his heirs later sold the property to Joseph Murphy.
A native of Pennsylvania, Joseph P. Murphy was the superintendent of Little River Lumber Company. Murphy was a single man when he moved to Elkmont, where he met and married Ivah Cochran, whose family owned a place in the Society Hill section of Elkmont.
One of the cabins built by Mrs. Townsend is River Lodge. Painted a unique shade of salmon, the handsome cabin is the only structure on Millionaire’s Row that has been restored by the national park. Built beside the river directly behind “Happy Landings,” the cabin was leased by Franklin Handly. After Handly died in 1962, the lease was passed to Shirley Spence. Therefore, the property is now called the Spence Cabin.
Shirley Spence was a son of Col. Carey F. Spence, Knoxville postmaster, merchant, and president of the Appalachian Club. Col Spence owned a cabin in Daisy Town.
Next door to the Spence cabin is the Brandau cabin. Henry Brandau Sr., a Knoxville real estate executive, built a cabin on property he purchased from Little River Lumber Company. An avid outdoorsman, Brandau was among those responsible for introducing rainbow trout to the streams in the Smokies after native Brookies were severely impacted by the cutting of timber.
The Brandau cabin lease was passed down to Henry Sr.’s three children. His son, insurance agent Henry Jr., “Skeet,” was also an outdoorsman specializing in fishing with a fly rod. He was considered among the best fly fishermen in the area.
Possibly before Joseph Murphy bought the Schuerman cabin, a lot between there and the Brandau place was purchased by Paul Parrot, owner of Paul Parrot Shoe Company, who manufactured children’s shoes under the name Poll Parrott Shoes. He built a summer home on the lot.
“Happy Landings” was destroyed by fire after being struck by lightning in 1968. Alice Townsend died June 26, 1969, two days before her 86th birthday.
On the opposite side of the road (the former railroad bed) Alice Townsend’s stable was converted into an aesthetic cabin with living quarters on the second level. Around 1963, Loye Miller, editor of the Knoxville News-Sentinel, bought out the lease. The cabin was given the name “Spindle Top.”
By accompanying officials on tours through the Smokies and writing articles in support of the park, Miller was instrumental in guiding National Park inspectors in their decision in 1934 to designate the Great Smoky Mountains as a national park. He later accepted an appointment to the Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains National Park Commission, on which he served from 1957 to 1976.
Next door to “Spindle Top” is “Spring House.” Located beside Bearwallow Branch, the cabin was owned by the Faust family. Hugh D. Faust Jr. was a University of Tennessee assistant football coach under General Robert Neyland. His wife, Emily Mahan Faust, was the owner of Emily Mahan School of Drama; her students included actress Patricia Neal, opera singer Mary Costa, and actress/teacher Carol Mayo Jenkins.
“Canyon Cottage” is located beside “Spring House.”
Lindsay Young was the last occupant of the picturesque cabin with its quaint stone bridge crossing Bearwallow Branch. Young was a Knoxville attorney and coal company executive. He served on boards of several charitable and educational organizations, including the Friends of the Smokies
In 1994, Young founded the Aslan Foundation, a philanthropy focusing on preserving and enhancing the Knoxville area’s natural beauty, assets, and history and enhancing the region’s quality of life.
The last cabin built on Millionaire’s Row is known as the Cambier Cabin. Park Service officials allowed Alice Townsend to build the cabin in 1940 to use as a caretaker’s cottage. The last occupant was Nora Cambier, niece of Alice Townsend. The Cambier Cabin is the only four-season dwelling on Millionaire’s Row.
The last occupants of Millionaire’s Row reluctantly moved out in 1992 when their leases expired. With the exception of Spence Cabin, the once gracious mountain cabins are deteriorating with no plans to save them. Each structure has a rich history that future generations will know only from written and digital documents.
Carroll McMahan is the Special Projects Facilitator for the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce and serves as Sevier County Historian.
The Upland Chronicles series celebrates the heritage of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for future topics contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org; or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email to email@example.com