104 Prairie, Montgomery Texas 77356
The home was built in 1892 for John Britton Addison and his wife, Martha Bowe Davis Addison. They raised a family here and the home even spent some time as a rooming house run by Martha Bowe Davis Addison.
While it may rest quietly and empty on a grassy corner lot now, Montgomery’s Addison-Gandy House is full of rich stories about the family who once lived there. It’s been a family home, a hotel, a previous stop on the annual Christmas home tour and the scene of one of Montgomery’s most talked about “miracles.”
The cottage-type house was built in 1892 for John Britton Addison and his wife, Martha Bowe Davis Addison. Davis Addison was the oldest daughter of one of Montgomery’s most famous residents Judge Nathaniel Hart Davis and his wife Sarah White Davis. Davis was a judge for the surrounding community and also served as the town of Montgomery’s first mayor, being elected in 1848.
While the Davis family first lived in a small cottage that now resides along FM 149 in Historic Montgomery, the Davis family later moved into “The Oaks,” a large and stately home that still exists on Prairie Street.
Davis gave his oldest daughter land that was next door to The Oaks, so that she’d be close by to look after mother, Sarah, after Davis’ passing, according to Davis’ great-granddaughter Martha Adams Gandy, a long- time Conroe resident and noted local historian.
Judge Nat Hart Davis passed away in 1893 and his wife Sarah lived until 1904 passing away at age 77. As it turned out, Sarah Davis would live out her final years right in the middle of family. Her other daughter Amelia, lived directly in front of The Oaks in a house across the street.
The Addison-Gandy home was built by two local carpenters, Robert and John Martin. It was built of selected pine and cypress lumber. The detailed “gingerbread” railing seen in older photos remains a part of the house today.
An interesting part of the house is woodgraining on the doors and mantles. It’s been said an old German painter, “Mr. Pratch” or “Mr. Patch” did this work. He left his mark on the work by leaving a portrait of himself on one door. The only other home in Montgomery known to have the same signature is the Davis Cottage which was the original Davis family home.
Both the Davis Cottage and Addison-Gandy House featured hearthstones for the two fireplaces that were cut from native sandstone by Uncle Pat Dean who lived west of Montgomery.
From House to hotel:
John Britton Addison, who was born in Louisiana, died at age 48 in 1905, leaving Martha Bowe Davis Addison a widow and single mother of three young children. Gandy explained her grandmother needed a way to support the three children so she opened the home as a rooming house for local train travelers. “She moved her bed and the children’s bed into one room and rented out the other three,” Gandy said. She also had people working with her that helped with the cooking and cleaning as she served breakfast, lunch and dinner to travel-weary passengers.
“She did well. She was able to educate the kids with two going to college and the other becoming a cowboy,” Gandy said.
The Miracle in Montgomery
The story of John Bowe Addison is a favorite of Montgomery historians and has been studied by many seventh-grade Texas history students in Montgomery. Many versions of the story have developed over the years, but Gandy set truth to some of the varied tall tales.
Gandy said Addison was 16 and had gone rabbit and bird hunting on family land with a friend (which is now where the C.B. Stewart Library is located.) Addison had stuck a pistol in his belt and while crawling through a fence, it went off, shooting him in the abdomen.
“He really was in terrible shape. His friend ran back to the house to get my grandmother,” Gandy said. They brought him back to the house and laid him on a long table (which is still in Gandy’s possession.)
Martha Bowe Davis Addison, was a widow at the time, so she had a shotgun that she’d shoot in the air in the front yard when she was having a problem. “People came running to see what was the problem,” Gandy said. The doctor was summoned and he gave Davis Addison instructions to clean out the parlor room, take down the drapes and mop and clean the room as best she could to prepare for surgery.
The teen was placed on the table and his mother along with others would hold lamps so the doctor could see as he made incisions throughout the night. As the doctor worked, he would take some of the teen’s intestines and place them on a large meat platter the family owned. Addison lived through the night, Gandy said, eventually healed and lived to serve his country as a private in the US Army. He died in Montgomery at 84 years old. The story of his recovery has become known as one of Montgomery’s miracles.
Gandy still has the meat platter, lamps and table used after the accident. When the home was used in the annual Christmas Home Tour in Montgomery, she’d bring the items to the house for display and tell the story about the “miracle” of Montgomery.
When Gandy Lived in the House
Gandy’s parents, Thomas Jefferson Adams and Lu Delle Addison Adams, were both teachers living near Dallas around the time of the Great Depression.
She said they didn’t have enough money to pay the teachers, so her family left and came to the then-thriving Montgomery and lived with her grandmother in the Addison house. Gandy attended third grade in Montgomery schools. Her family eventually moved to Conroe and she said she’s been here ever since.
Another of her memories is the large oak tree in front of the house. It was there as she grew up and eventually it died and fell, fortunately not hitting the house. “But it had been there as long as I could remember,” she said, noting that she was an adult with a family of her own when the tree died. It’s prominently pictured in an 1899 photo of the Addison family home.
Renovating the House
Gandy’s mother, Lu Delle, and her two brothers gave the Addison House to Gandy and her husband, William Harley Gandy, also a noted local historian and former Sam Houston State University history professor.
When it was given to the Gandys, it hadn’t been lived in for about 15 years and was in terrible shape, according to Gandy. At the time they described it as “on the ground.” The home was raised, leveled and filled in under the floors. The Gandys worked with their children, Susan and Bill, during the renovation as well as a Gandy nephew.
Martha Gandy said her husband, Harley, who passed away in 2011, taught the younger family members how to level a house using a water hose during the project. They also learned to cook on a wood stove and how to do chores the way their ancestors might have done it.
During the Christmas tour, the Gandy’s daughter, Susan and her friend, would play the antique high-backed Victorian organ at the house. Gandy said she always enjoyed opening up the home during the Christmas tour and she still does enjoy telling stories about the home that contains so many family memories. Following the renovation, the Gandys gave the home to the Montgomery Historical Society in 1997.