Richland House returns to Lea family

BLAINE – The historic Richland House, also known as the Albert Miller Lea house, has returned to the Lea family after 70 years. 

Jean Underwood Fox, 90, whose late husband, Harry Fox, owned the house from the 1950s forward, recently sold Richland House to a direct descendant of the Lea family. 

Mike Landree is a real estate agent and a retired Marine from Middle Tennessee. He is also the fifth great-grandson of Major Lea and Lavinia Jarnagin Lea who built Richland House in 1796.  

Both Landree and Fox are believers in divine providence.

After a divorce, Landree questioned God as to what he should do and where he should go. He began to think to himself about how he would like to live in a home his ancestors built.  

Landree wrote a letter to Fox explaining who he was and telling her if she was ever interested in selling the house, he would like her to consider selling it to him. What he, and many others, didn’t know was Richland House had been on the market for months. 

Fox said she had placed the house on the market months before she received the letter. She said she had bought signs, and for some reason, she couldn’t bring herself to place the signs in the yard. 

She called Landree at 10 a.m. the morning she received the letter and informed him the house was for sale and told him she wouldn’t entertain any offers for the house for one week. One hour later, Landree was informing her he wanted to buy the home. By that afternoon, a firm offer was on the table. 

It took three months to close the deal. Both said they are pleased with the exchange. 

Landree explained while his fifth great-grandfather had built Richland House, his sixth great-grandfather had purchased the property, along with all the land on the way to Joppa. The land purchase was made in 1783 and equaled 360 acres, making it the oldest deeded land in Grainger County, which did not become an official county until 1796.

Landree then explained houses during 1796 were typically log built. He said when Richland House was being built, the bricks were not common-stacked as is usual for standard brick stacking, but is, instead, Flemish stacked, with concave and convex bricks close to the roof. He said the Flemish stack was a symbol of wealth during the time period. 

Landree is continuing Lea family traditions as he learns about them. He said every generation of his family has a variation of the name Lea in it, except for his own children. When Landree began researching his history and discovered the passing of the Lea name, he insisted his daughter use the name Lea as a name for her newborn. 

Landree is currently restoring the home.