Elijah Cate House built in 1823-1826 in present Niota is significant as an outstanding example of the Federal style of architecture in Tennessee and as an example of the work of Samuel Cleage, one of East Tennessee's finest master builders. It has continuously been owned by the Cate family.
Elijah and Nellie Davis Cate moved to McMinn County in 1823 and settled on 640 acres of farmland along Little Mouse Creek. Elijah, a farmer and democrat, served as Justice of
the Peace for eighteen years. He was instrumental in establishing a store in Niota
prior to 1850 and promoting the development of the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad. In 1873 John Cate, Elijah and Nellie Cate's ninth child, acquired total
ownership of the property. John had served with Company F, Thirty-first, Tennessee
Regiment, Confederate Army and was in the Battle of Vicksburg. Like his father, John
was a farmer, democrat and Justice of the Peace. The house is now owned by Emily Scott
Cate, great-great-granddaughter of Elijah and Nellie Cate.
The Elijah Cate House is a Federal style two-story brick house with a brick one-and-a-half
story rear ell, a five bay facade with a central entrance and interior end chimneys.
Brick is laid in common bond. Alterations to the structure, both interior and exterior,
have been minimal. A porch covering the three central bays was added in the Victorian
era. The rear porch along the interior of the ell was rebuilt in 1977 and the brick
end walls were repaired and partially rebuilt in 1953 after damage from a tornado.
Interior details such as staircases, mantels, wainscoting, and flooring are original.
Samuel Cleage, master builder and brickmason, was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1781 and moved to Botetout County, Virginia about 1800. After the death of his parents in 1819 Cleage moved to McMinn County, Tennessee where he settled. It is believed that Cleage financed his move by building houses along the trail through Jonesboro and Greeneville, Tennessee. His own house is "a peculiar Philadelphia type of townhouse in an unadorned Federal style situated on a hilltop in Mouse Creek Valley." Cleage's three-bay wide house with offset front entrance has been vacant for several years and has been badly vandalized. It should be noted that Samuel Cleage retired to farming after his own house was built, but his influence on architecture in southeast Tennessee was carried on through the work of his sons and grandsons, Thomas A. Cleage and David and Alexander Crutchfield.
The Elijah Cate House has been partially restored by the current owner, Emily Cate, and
her cousin, Dr. John Cate, IV. A new roof was installed in 1977 and the rear porch rebuilt
following the outline of an earlier porch. Much of the work which remains to be
done is on the interior of the second floor.