Grand old house sheds light on past

George Harper plans to renovate the historic Moore House. (Submitted photo/Albert Dittes)

The historical Moore House on College Street in Portland and its carriage house contain many secrets, some of which came to light at last week’s meeting of the Highland Rim Historical Society (HRHS).

This once fine home with front-porch pillars survived the Civil War. George Harper, a Moore descendant, said that Dr. William Polk Moore tended to the Union soldiers occupying the area during most of the war as well as the Confederate soldiers at Camp Trousdale when the fighting started.

“They burned the Buntin House because Thomas Buntin had allowed the Confederate general to stay there, but apparently spared this house because they needed the services of Dr. Moore,” Harper said.

The House remained in the Moore family until around World War I. A lady making it off limits to visitors occupied it for years.

Now abandoned, George Harper, a great-grandson of former Sumner County Court Clerk Oliver Duval Moore, has acquired it and is renovating it to preserve this important part of Portland’s heritage. Though all furniture is gone, the house and grounds show signs of former high-level living.

Upon stripping the wallpaper on the inside, Harper discovered plaster with the date 1881 inscribed. He preserved another portion of chimney plaster with the 1880 date on it. The enclosed back porch has a siding with extremely shiny wood and no splinters. Harper surmises kids used it to steady themselves while going down the steps, probably for years. Then, away from the house and off to the side, one can look through the trees and see a grove that could have been used for a carriage driveway. It leads right to the well for drawing water for the horses.

The barn behind — still complete since the days of holding Dr. Moore’s buggy — fascinates as much as the house, with hand-hewn timbers, horse stalls, 19th century-looking nails, a nail pouch and horseshoe peg.

When Portland started as a community at the outbreak of the Civil War, Dr. Moore was one of the first to arrive and quickly acquired the best spots. Harper said he built a store next to the railroad depot and sold supplies to farmers.

“Among the things he could have offered were surgical operations,” Harper joked.

The Moores stayed in business in Portland for the next 100 years, operating a department store, insurance agency, and auto dealership, among other things.

Katie Moore Younger and her mother, Melanie Moore Younger,daughter of insurance agent Fred Moore and granddaughter of Oliver Duval Moore, shared pictures and reminiscences of the family. Guilford Moore, son of pioneer William Polk Moore, founded a successful real estate business in Springfield now in its fifth generation of family ownership. His brother, Risdon D. Moore, served as Portland’s first postmaster and mayor, taking office in 1905, and later started a bank on Main Street. Hiram Mitchell Moore was a charter member of the Portland Methodist Church and served as manager and salesman for the Portland Strawberry Growers Association for 23 years.

Harper is restoring the house as he is able and hopes to find a productive use for it in the community.

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