Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A fine log house in Todd County, KY

Walnut shingles and tongue-in-groove floors


Many early log houses in Kentucky were built quickly and roughly. They were small structures with dirt floors and leaky roofs. They sheltered a pioneer family from wild animals, hostile Indians, and the worst of the weather. Perhaps when the fields were cleared, the barns and the fences were built, and a few harvests had been made, a larger, better house might be built.

This log house, built in Todd County sometime before 1809, was exceptionally well-made:
There were a few cabins which were quite pretentious and one of these had the first shingle roof in the county. It belonged to Adams, who sold out to Kennedy in 1809, and is thus described by the latter: "Adams was a thrifty, industrious man, and said to my father, 'I gad, I thought I would build the best and finest house in all the country.' It was constructed of large, hewed white oak logs, twenty-four feet long by eighteen feet wide, covered with black walnut shingles rounded at the butt end, and every one put on with walnut pegs, bored through shingles and lath with a brace and bit. It was a good roof, and lasted about thirty years.

"Then the lower and upper floors were laid with poplar plank, sawed by hand with a whip-saw, nicely dressed, tongued and grooved, and put down with pegs. Three windows two feet square, with nice shutters, but not a pane of glass, nor a nail in all the house, save in the three doors. For these a few nails were made by a blacksmith, his brother, Andy Adams. The chimneys were of stone, the first in the country, and contained at least 150 loads of rock. The fire-places were six feet wide, with wooden mantel-pieces."  -- History of Todd County, Ky., published by F. A. Battey Publishing Co. Chicago, 1884.

Source: Kentucky: A History of the State by William Henry Perrin, J. H. Battle, and G. C. Kniffin (p. 209). Published in 1888 by F. A. Battey and Company, Louisville and Chicago.

Todd County, KY,  is just east of Christian County where I live. The Todd/Christian county line is only a few miles from my home. I am familiar with the terrain of Todd County, and I suspect that this house may have been built in "North Todd", as we say here. White oak, black walnut, and tulip poplar were chosen because they were some of the most decay-resistant woods available.

A log house built in 1793, near Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Kitchen (at rear) with dogtrot added later. Photographed in 1940.  Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey, HABS KY,84-HARBU.V,2-

3 comments -- please add yours:

Anonymous said...

Where was and is the log cabin house located at here in north todd county-kentucky.Is there a road and street address of where this log cabin is located at. Thanks.

Genevieve said...

I don't know the exact location of this log cabin -- I was quoting from a 125-year old book, and that author was quoting someone who purchased the house in 1809. I suppose you could take the names from the story -- Adams and Kennedy -- and go up to the Todd County courthouse and try to guess the approximate location from old land records. It's highly likely that it has been torn down, burned down, or so weakened by termites that it fell down by now. The chimneys may still be standing if a farmer hasn't pushed them over with a bulldozer. Or, someone may have built a larger house that enclosed the original log rooms.

Patrick Kennedy said...

Hello Genevieve. Michael Kennedy, the man purchased the cabin from Robert Adams, is my great(X4) grandfather. From What I have been able to determine, the cabin was located south of 68 in the vicinity of Tress Shop Rd very near what was called the West Fork. Are you familiar with this area? Are you aware of any early 19th century building there? As an aside, I am also trying to determine the location of the Old West Fork Baptist Church and cemetery, as this is where Michael was buried. Does this still exist?

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"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

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Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

Photos and text copyright © 2006-2010 by Genevieve L. Netz. All rights reserved. Do not republish without written permission. My e-mail address is gnetz51@gmail.com