Originally the home of William Dickson, Greeneville's first postmaster, built beginning in 1815. Dickson's daughter, Catharine Douglas Dickson, married Dr. Alexander Williams (of Surrey Co., NC) and they made their home here as well. The home was known as the "Showplace of East Tennessee", for its craftsmenship and hospitality. The grounds included a formal garden, designed by Theodore Brinkermann who was a veteran (drummer-boy) of the Battle of Waterloo. The Williams family entertained many famous guest, such as Davy Crockett, Marquis de LaFayette, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, President James Knox Polk, Confederate Generals Wade Hampton and Gen. John Hunt Morgan. [See Dickson-Williams Historic Marker]
During the War Between the States, the Williams household was predominantly pro-Confederate, but like many other families of East Tennessee, there were sons on opposing sides of the conflict. Sons, Thomas Lanier Williams and Maj. William D. Williams (of Morgan's Cavalry) wore Confederate gray, while brother Joseph Williams served as an Union officer.
Gen. John Hunt Morgan arrived in Greenville, Sept. 3 1864. Since the Williams mansion was the largest and finest home in Greeneville, it was natural for him to request quarters there. The widow, Catharine Williams, who was known as a southern sympathizer, warned Gen. Morgan that Gillem's Union cavalry were in the area and she feared for his safety. Catharine was also related by marriage to the General's wife's family (Mattie Ready). Lucy Williams, the wife of Joseph Williams (union officer) was also staying in the home. Lucy's father, Jacob Rumbough warned Morgan "that he should not sleep away from his command". As the night unfolded, it became clear that this advice would have saved the general's life had he followed it.
According to James A. Ramage, author of "Rebel Raider: The Life of General John Hunt Morgan", the
rumors that accuse Lucy Rumbough Williams of disclosing Morgan's whereabouts to Gillem's Union command at Bull's Gap are unfounded. The individual that relayed information about Confederates being in Greeneville was
actually a 12 year old boy by the name of James Leahy. Leahy had earlier been befriended by Gillem's command, and so acted as an informant for them. There is also some evidence disclosed at the MMA reunion, that another neighbor may have also relayed a message, although this has not confirmed. Lucy, who is frequently mentioned as the informant, later in life declared she had nothing to do with it, and stated she would no sooner betray Gen. Morgan as she would betray her Confederate soldier brother. [See historic marker about the death of Morgan]