Cabin fever

I got a chance to do something exciting and unique last Friday (which is probably why I forgot to post a blog that day). I helped dismantle a 200-year-old log cabin.

A year or two ago, a Civil War fort was restored in my area. Fort Boreman commands the highest point around, with a spectacular view of Parkersburg, W.Va., at the confluence of the Ohio and Little Kanawha rivers. The fort defended the city, which was an important rail and shipping center during the war.

To complete the fort, a cabin of the original style was needed and county officials considered having a local log home builder provide one, but by a stroke of luck a local historian found an old cabin that was available. Built in the early 1800s and empty for many decades, it was falling apart and would have been razed eventually. But it was perfect and just the right size for the fort. Some individual logs were in rough shape, but for the most part we should be able to restore the cabin (perhaps a bit smaller) into a fine addition for the fort.

The old-time construction was incredible. Each log beam had oddly cut dovetail ends. Unlike dovetailed joints you might imagine that slide together side-to-side, these dovetails stack vertically, using gravity to lock the corners together. Once built, those corners don’t move.

With the help of a large crane, members of my Civil War reenacting artillery battery and a few other hearty individuals met at the cabin early last Friday and got to work. One by one, each log was loosened, tied off, then lifted into the air by a crane. Those of us on the ground guided each dangling log onto trailers. When the trailers were filled, we drove to the fort and unloaded the logs using muscle power alone into stacks to await reassembly at the site.

The dismantling, moving and unloading took all day, and gave new meaning to the term “back-breaking work.” We were sore, sweaty and utterly exhausted. I suspect it will take significantly longer to put it back together. For that matter, it will take a while – speaking for myself here – before all the sore backs and muscles recover enough to even think about undertaking the next step.

Yeah, I was hurting all weekend, but boy did it feel good.

Till next time,

A.J.

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