Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dog-trot Cabin

The corner of a log tobacco barn on our farm.

Thanks to the Franklin County Historical Society’s program yesterday, I now I have a name for my cabin (or at least what’s left of it): a dog-trot. Actually, it’s two single-pen cabins joined by an enclosed breezeway.

Program presenter Michael Pulice, who works for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, showed slides of Virginia cabins—several of which are in Franklin County—and explained the type, construction, etc. I learned, for instance, that most cabins in the are were not made from chestnut logs as many folks believe, but from white oak.

Now I know the names for the types of cabins. The single-pen, log cabin, for instance, is a rectangular structure—usually one room. The double-pen is two single pens joined together. The saddle-bag has a chimney in the middle with rooms on either side. The dog-trot is two single pens with a breezeway between them.

My dog-trot cabin actually two single pen one story cabins joined by an enclosed breezeway. The left side was built by William Bernard in the 1850s. I don’t know when the right side was built. The old kitchen, which “fell in” when my aunts were children, must have been a single-pen cabin. Only a few chimney stones remain around the lilac bush that marks the spot.

Several more outbuildings used to be around the cabin. Only one remains.
This picture was taken before the roof sagged over the dog-trot and before the chimney toppled.

This is where the spring is. Years ago, a huge oak towered over it.

Imagine carrying water up this hill several times a day.

Several decades ago Aunt Belva, who was born in the cabin, said the right side was a “manufactured house.” That is, it was brought in from somewhere else and reassembled. Apparently someone (my grandparents? Mr. Bernard?) acquired a cabin from elsewhere and recycled it. I know that my father slept in the loft above it and his sisters slept in the loft above the original structure that was my grandparents’ kitchen, bedroom, and living room. Like many Virginia cabins, mine is covered with wooden siding. (And it’s also covered with poison-oak!)

A henhouse and smokehouse used to be here.
The top of this chimney blew down a few months ago.
My father slept in the loft on this side.

Anyhow, I now look at what’s left of my cabin with different eyes. I can put names to what I see.

If you’re interested in learning more about log cabins—or if you’re a writer who wants to get the details right in a story set long ago, take a look at “Historical Survey of Log Structures in Southern Appalachia” on the Digital Library of Appalachia site. “Historical Survey of Log Structures in Southern Appalachia” site has many pictures and numerous links to other pictures.

More info on log cabins:

From the National Park Service, Preservation Brief #26 tells about the preservation and repair of historic log buildings.

Homestead History” from The PBS series, Frontier Life, gives some insight into cabin construction.

And just for fun, Adam Bolivar’s story, “Jack and the Magic Ham,” mentions a single-pen cabin.




Blogger Amy Hanek said...

Great information Becky! I may have to return to your blog as I continue with my book!

4:23 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Becky, thanks for this! We've been here for six months, and almost every time we drive past the Historical Society, we either think or say, "We need to go there!"

With all the leaves down now, we recently found a cabin on our property line that has long been fallen down. Although our houses are newer, the neighbors grew up here and have heard a little bit of the history.

There's also a cabin on our street that we've NEVER seen until last month--and it's right off the road.

12:35 PM  
Blogger CountryDew said...

Great entry. Very useful information here!

12:09 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Great post! In fact, I've been enjoying quite a few of your posts tonight, having stumbled upon your blog while trying to figure out my own Franklin County cabin's history.

11:22 PM  
Anonymous kylie said...

this page is awesome it helped me with my progect

5:21 PM  
Blogger Sally Roseveare said...

Fascinating info, great history lesson. I know you must be really excited.

5:25 PM  

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