Mabry-Hazen House, Knoxville, Tennessee
Mabry-Hazen House, Knoxville, Tennessee | Photo Credit: Wikimedia
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Perched above Knoxville, looking onward to the beautiful Smoky Mountains, the historic Mabry-Hazen House has an exciting past. From the Civil War to deadly gunfights and a scandalous love story, this house stands to tell the stories of over 150 years of local history. With one of the most complete family collections in America, visitors can take a tour of the home and learn all about three generations of the Mabry-Hazen family.

Table of Contents

About

In 1858, Joseph Alexander Mabry II built a beautiful Italianate mansion on a hill overlooking Knoxville and the Smoky Mountains beyond. The home also offered panoramic views of the Tennessee River in the valley below. The family named the house Pine Hill Cottage. Joseph Mabry II was a prominent businessman in the Knoxville area. He was known for his role as being a merchant and importer to the region. Mabry II also served as the President of the Knoxville and Kentucky Railroad.

Portrait of Joseph Alexander Mabry II
Portrait of Joseph Alexander Mabry II c. 1860 | Photo Credit: Public Domain – Samuel Moore Shaver

Before even building his elaborate home, Mabry II was well known in the community as being a generous man. In 1853, he, along with his brother-in-law William G. Swan, donated much of the land needed for the creation of Market Square in downtown Knoxville. This square is still one of the city’s most popular areas for gathering, dining and shopping.

The Civil War

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Joseph Mabry II donated over $100,000 of his own money to provide an entire regiment of Confederate soldiers with uniforms and other needed items. With his donation, he was given the honorary title of General.

To aid the war effort, Joseph Mabry II welcomed Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer to hold the regional headquarters in the home.

When the Confederates were pushed out after the Union seized Knoxville, the house grounds were occupied by U.S. soldiers and their leaders.

Following the Civil War, the Mabry family continued on with their life in Knoxville including raising their children and doing business in the city.

Tragedy and Gunfights

In December 1881, Joseph Mabry II’s son Will was in a bar on Gay Street in downtown Knoxville. While at the bar, a brawl broke out and Constable Don Lusby shot and killed Will Mabry. Lusby was arrested for Will’s murder but was later acquitted in April of 1882. This caused tension between the Mabry’s and Lusby’s.

After several months of arguments and hostile interactions, Joseph Mabry II, Joseph Mabry III, Don Lusby, Lusby’s father and several other men broke out into a fight at the Knox County Courthouse. The two Mabry men shot and killed Don Lusby and his father. This act resulted in the arrest of Joseph Mabry II and his son, Joseph Mabry III. After a short period of time, the Mabry’s were acquitted of the murder charges. However, the violence and tension were not over.

Joseph Mabry II started to wonder if a land deal he had made in 1880 had led to his son Will being killed. A year before his sons Will’s death, Mabry II made a deal with the President of Mechanic’s National Bank, Thomas O’Connor. The deal stated that Mabry II would sell a piece of land O’Conner under the stipulation that it would be eventually given to his son, Will. Mabry II began to conclude that O’Connor had arranged the murder of his son Will in order to keep the land.

Willie Mabry, Joseph Alexander Mabry III, and Joseph Alexander Mabry II
Willie Mabry, Joseph Alexander Mabry III, and Joseph Alexander Mabry II c. 1880s | Photo Credit: Public Domain

While attending a fair at the fairgrounds in Knoxville on October 17, 1882, Mabry II was intoxicated at the event and ran into O’Conner. He threatened to kill O’Conner the next time he saw him. Just two days later, Joseph Mabry II and his son Joseph Mabry III were walking down Gay Street when O’Conner spotted them. He stepped out of Mechanic’s National Bank and shot Joseph Mabry II dead.

Seeing his father fall to the ground, Joseph Mabry III pulled out his revolver and shot O’Conner. As O’Conner fell to the street, mortally wounded, he fired one final bullet that killed Joseph Mabry III. O’Conner’s shots also wounded several other people in the immediate area. The infamous gunfight was referenced in Chapter 40 of Mark Twain’s famous novel Life on the Mississippi.

Family Life Continues

The tragic deaths of Joseph Mabry II and Joseph Mabry III made them the 2nd and 3rd generation of Mabry men to be killed in a gunfight after Joseph Mabry I was killed in a similar situation in 1837 near Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

After the tragic events of 1882, Joseph Mabry II left his home to his daughter, Alice Evelyn Mabry who had married a politician and businessman, Rush Strong Hazen. Rush Hazen is also known for being a benefactor to Leonora Wood, the famous schoolteacher who taught in rural Appalachia. Wood’s story was immortalized by her daughter Catherine Marshall in the popular novel, Christy.

The two lived in the home and raised their children. Their youngest daughter, Evelyn Montgomery Hazen went on to eventually own the home. In 1886, the homes first floor was added onto.

Evelyn Hazen and the Love Scandal

Evelyn Hazen grew up in the Mabry-Hazen House with a feisty spirit and a love for writing. She attended the University of Tennessee (UT) where she was a member of Chi Omega. Evelyn graduated with her degree in English before working as a New York Times correspondent. Throughout her life she remained very involved with UT and even served as secretary to one of the University’s most prominent English professors John C. Hodges, whom the campus library is named after today.

Evelyn Montgomery Hazen
Evelyn Montgomery Hazen | Photo Credit: Public Domain

Evelyn went on to also be a school teacher. She eventually courted and became engaged to Ralph P. Scharringhaus, a wealthy Knoxville banker and businessman. Their nearly 15 year relationship and engagement ended after Evelyn asked him when they would finally get married. Ralph sent her a letter stating that he was ending their relationship.

Upon receipt of the letter, Evelyn was outraged. She ended up deciding to scheme a plot to kill Ralph, which one of her close friends talked her out of. She was shortly after committed to an asylum.

By 1934, Evelyn Hazen had emerged from the asylum with a new plan. Ms. Hazen was determined to sue Ralph for their long engagement. The lawsuit was filed on the grounds of seduction and breach of promise to marry. The case was broadcasted all over the country and even TIME magazine did an article on the case. During the peak of the Great Depression, Evelyn Hazen won the case and was granted from Ralph $80,000. The love story and trial was told in the The Seduction of Miss Evelyn Hazen, a 2007 novel by Jane Van Ryan.

After the suit was settled, Evelyn was considered an outcast in Knoxville despite her family’s name and wealth. She retreated back to her family home and lived to be 98 years old. She enjoyed animals and had reportedly had many cats and dogs living in the house with her.

Becoming a Museum

After the passing of Evelyn Montgomery Hazen in June of 1987, the house was willed with two options. One, turn the house into a museum and create a foundation to manage it. Or two, burn the house to the ground. The burning of such a significant home was not an option, and so the home and its original furnishings was turned into the Mabry-Hazen House museum after a several year restoration period.

Shortly after the house was preserved, nearby Mamie Winstead donated nearby Bethel Cemetery and the 1886 caretakers cottage to the Hazen Historical Museum Foundation. About 1,600 Confederate soldiers are laid to rest in the over 2 acre Bethel Cemetery. The Cemetery also contains the graves of 20 veterans and about 60 Union soldier prisoners.

Since 1992, the museum has showcased over 2,500 personal items dating back several generations of the Mabry-Hazen family. This collection happens to be one of the largest family object collections in the country.

Plan Your Visit

The Mabry-Hazen House is situated on 8 acres and is located at 1711 Dandridge Avenue in Knoxville. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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