East Knox County has survived as one the last places to see the rural history of our community. A drive out Washington Pike, beyond the sea of retail that has washed up around I-640, still provides scenic views of farmland and historic houses that have weathered the last century or more. In recent years though, the present began intruding in the form of subdivisions and strip centers. A cynic would proclaim the area is destined to suffer the same fate as the western part of the county. An optimist would be relieved to see a glimmer of hope just around the corner.
In most cases these days the sight of freshly turned earth no longer signals the start of the planting season. Instead, it's usually the precursor of destruction and that's what I thought a while back as I passed through the intersection of Washington Pike and Murphy Road. The front yard of the beautiful old farmhouse I always admired had been transformed by a backhoe and construction equipment was visible. The new gas station, houses and proposed retail sprawl nearby caused me to assume the activity on the northeast corner was the next domino to fall on the way out toward the Ritta community and House Mountain. I was thrilled when I found out I was wrong.
The Murphy family, originally from Virginia, first settled on the 180-acre-farm in 1797. The Gothic style farmhouse has stood since about 1841, but remained mostly empty for the last decade - expect for the annual family reunions that brought the Murphy clan back to the home place. The farm is like a snapshot of a way of life that is rapidly disappearing. The old spring house is still in place - right next to the smokehouse - and the old windows still frame views of woods and fields.
The family's connection to the house and the land has endured, but the Murphy Farm has only recently found the person determined to restore it and protect it for at least a few more generations. That person is Kevin Murphy and he's come home from Florida with a determination to do the job right.