Beulah Land

WRITTEN BY CHRIS HARI | PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRUCE HARI

McMinn County has a wealth of fascinating history and is blessed with an abundance of historic structures that have survived the march of time. All have their stories to tell, but even in the midst of all this history, the story of
Beulah Land is a standout.

Joe Bryan, a native of Calhoun, has been a history buff since his college days at Tennessee Wesleyan College. He discovered the mansion that is now his home in the late 1970s. It was located on Walker Valley Road near where the high school is now and stood in the middle of a large family farm. The vacant house had previously been occupied by at least five different families since its construction in approximately 1840. The owner of the huge farm was willing to sell the structure to Joe in 1979 but not any land to go with it. For most buyers, that would have been the end of the story. It would be no small undertaking to dismantle the mansion and move the nearly 4,000-square-foot structure five miles down the road to a ridge above Calhoun that Joe purchased from his great-aunt, Beulah. The massive structure would then have to be painstakingly reassembled. Joe was undeterred by the enormity of work involved and purchased his future home.

The house was built prior to the Civil War using the “timber frame” method of construction popular at the time. The timber frame system of building skeletal framework consists of using large wooden posts (vertical), beams (horizontal), braces (diagonal), all locked into place with wooden pegs. It was no small task to dismantle and move, but with the help of two hired men, that is exactly what he did. Every piece in the building was numbered and described; interior pieces were stored in old barns, and exterior pieces were stored at Beulah Land. Unfortunately, some of the original wood flooring, hardwood and mantels were stolen from storage. It took ten years to reconstruct the old mansion, during which time Joe married Luajean. They moved into the home in an unfinished state in 1991.

A few stories about the move are really remarkable. The mansion was built around a beautiful curving staircase. To remove it, workers used a chainsaw to carve around it from above and below. They then placed the intact staircase on a heavy equipment transfer trailer to carry it to Beulah Land. The unusual cargo theoretically should have made it underneath the bridge in Calhoun. However, layers of asphalt had been added to the road over the years, and the clearance sign had never been changed. So the stairway, strapped to the transfer trailer, backtracked down country roads and finally reached the hills of Beulah Land.

The family selling the home wanted the large stained glass window to remain in the family. Though Joe offered to purchase it several times, the answer was always “no”…until it was stolen. Everyone searched the house and property to no avail. Joe returned for one last look. In walking toward the cow pasture, he nearly stumbled on an object covered over with leaves…thieves had hidden it to return for it later! When Joe called to relay the good news to the family, they finally told him the window could be his. Joe called his mother to bring the truck immediately before anyone could change their mind. As she helped to load the precious window on the truck, Joe told her, “Whatever you do, don’t drop it.” About that time, a piece of fallen roofing tin cut deeply into her leg as she gingerly backed up carrying the window. She kept going and kept hanging on. She never did drop the window. The gash required a dozen stitches.

Beulah Land is now a beautifully restored piece of McMinn County heritage. It is also a warm and inviting family home beloved by the Bryans, their children and grandchildren. It undoubtedly holds many more stories in the years to come.

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