Yesterday the HTP accompanied fellow lab member and PhD student, Alex Dye, to Ridgeville, WV to see a man about a stone inn. Why? Well, because a hundred years or so ago Alex's ancestors moved to Ridgeville, WV and bought this large stone inn and called it Dye Tavern. And even though it is mostly stone, it has some pretty little logs hiding inside. And how cool would it be to date the house your ancestors lived in? We thought it would be very cool. Our mission was to help Alex determine if the logs in Traveler's Rest could be dated.
Traveler's Rest was believed to have been built around 1810, back when Route 50 was the main wagon road heading west. Apparently it received so much business that it had to be expanded in the 1820s. If you look closely you'll see a seam in the stone wall. The left portion is the original house and the longer right side is the addition. Written history suggests that the Kuykendall family was responsible for the construction of this inn. The Dye family purchased the inn in the later 1800s and sold it in the 1920s to move to Indiana where our superstar, Alex, was later born. After years of switching ownership, the Mineral County Historical Foundation purchased Traveler's Rest thanks largely to the late Elizabeth Dye Walker. There is now a sign dedicated to her efforts of acquiring the inn for restoration.
Frank Roleff, member of the Mineral County Historical Foundation, is now working to restore this beautiful inn to its original state. Alex hopes that tree-ring dating of the inn may help the Mineral County Historical Foundation to claim its historical status and aid in restorative efforts. It would probably make his ancestors mighty proud to know he was keeping the family history alive too.
We started our tour of Traveler's Rest in the attic, one of our two favorite places to work with logs. They're so protected in attics that they appear just as new as the day they were cut. We like that.
The attic logs were all pine. They were pegged and each one had a numeral carved into it.
We moved down to the second floor to see if any of the beams were rounded. We found one with bark still attached!
Since we didn't see much to work with on the first and second floors, we moved down to the basement, my other favorite place to work. Logs down here are also pretty happy and protected, as long as water hasn't seeped in....
Alex and Shawn searched the basement for "healthy" logs. They find one with tons of bark still attached!
Next, Frank took us to his house to show us a few other structures that he has collected over the years. The first was a two-story log house with steeple notching, indicative of the late 1700s/early 1800s.
Unfortunately, there were very few locations where we could drill because of the new chinking. This house reminded me of the Jarrett House in Greenbrier County that was also buttoned up. We did find a few locations though.
Next we checked out the chicken coop on Frank's property. It had half dovetail notching and was likely built in the later 1800s.
We sent Alex inside the coop to see if there was any bark on the logs. We told him he needed the experience. But really, Shawn wouldn't go in because of spiders. And I wouldn't go in because of the snakes. Yeah, they were fake. But we still weren't going in. Nooo sir.
And that concluded our tour for the day. Alex is now deciding if he can date these structures. If he does, we will gladly help him collect his samples. That's what friends are for. Unless there are spiders or snakes. Then he's on his own. Good luck Alex! We can't wait to read "Dendroarchaeological Dating of Dye Tavern" by A. Dye!
Thank you, Frank, for showing us around yesterday! It was a pleasure meeting you and we hope to see you again!
In our spare time, the Historic Timbers Project members like to do a little volunteer work for the local communities. Our latest volunteer project was helping the Old Hemlock Foundation determine the age of their log house.
We first read about Old Hemlock Foundation in January 2015 in the local paper. It had been recently added to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) because it was the house of the late George Bird and Kay Evans. George Bird Evans was an illustrator for Cosmopolitan, bird hunter, writer, bird dog breeder, and conservationist. If you're interested in the story of the Evans, you can find more information here. Old Hemlock House now serves as a museum of the Evan's artifacts (books, illustrations, sketches, etc!) and it is really a neat place.
We noticed while reading the news article that while the property had been added to the NRHP (yay!), it was not because of the age of the log house. The construction date of the house was unknown, though it was assumed it had been built sometime in the 1700s. After reading this we decided to contact LeJay Graffious, director of the Old Hemlock Foundation, to see if he would be interested in having us date the log house. LeJay was happy to entertain us, and we started work immediately.
Old Hemlock House is a two story log structure that is now covered. Logs are still exposed in the basement, stairwells, and attic of the house. Though the name suggests that the house was built out of hemlock, it was actually built out of oak logs. It was named Old Hemlock House because it is surrounded by beautiful old hemlock trees!
We invited a paleoecology class from WVU to help us core in March 2015. It was cold and snowy that day! I gave a brief lecture on using tree rings to date historic structures, then a quick tutorial on using the equipment, and then we put them to work! Shawn and I very rarely get to have that much assistance. We thoroughly enjoyed it.
Later, we glued and taped our cores...
Then Kristen sanded them until the rings were visible.
Then the cores were ready for analysis!
Which brings us to today. We are still working on the analysis. We've had some help from Devin Scanlon, Americorps volunteer working for Old Hemlock Foundation, to try to find documentation of the ownership of the house over time. He has been searching all over for records, but they are hard to find because many records were lost in a fire. We now have a pretty good idea when the house was built, but we have a few issues to resolve with the dating.
We will be presenting our results in spring, so for those of you here in mountaineer country that are interested in Old Hemlock House or the Historic Timbers Project, we invite you to come to our presentation of results! We will announce details of this in the next few months.
Thank you LeJay and Helen Ann for the wonderful hospitality you show on our every visit. We are so glad to be working with you and we can't wait to add to the history of Old Hemlock!
Hi friends! We're all friends by now, right?
We've been recovering from the blow of having our last grant proposal rejected. But we've been too busy to sulk about it. In fact, I'll be applying for another grant in October and another one in February. Fingers crossed!
Today I would like to talk with you all about replication. This is something I first mentioned in the August 11 post. But I want to bring it up again, because we've been dealing with issues of replication lately. The take away message about replication is that we cannot provide a date for a structure based on one core. Or even a few cores. We need to get the same date from multiple cores from multiple locations in a structure. But we like to be conservative in our coring, too. There is no need to core every log on every floor. We start with what we think will be the best representatives of the cutting date, and we come back and collect more cores if needed.
Now, in order to talk about our issues with replication today, I'm going to have to give you just a tiny bit of insider information on the Barracks. Don't tell anyone.
We have been working on cores from the Barracks for about a month now. I will show you what this entails in an upcoming post. But we have run into a bit of a problem.
Let me first remind you of where we collected cores from the Barracks. If you'll remember, the Barracks was recently renovated and rechinked. Because of this, we decided it would be best to try to get a date from logs that weren't adjacent to the new chinking. Our philosophy is to only be as invasive as necessary. So we sampled support beams in the basement and a log wall in the attic. BUT when we started dating the cores we noticed that our attic logs were very old and our basement cores were not so old....Interesting. The obvious reason for this is that at some point in time (I'm not telling yet) the basement support beams had to be replaced. But because we were not getting the same cutting years for the basement and the attic, we could not rely on the attic date to be the construction date. Maybe the attic logs were also replaced at some point. Since we did not sample exterior walls we could not, as of yet, answer that question. But we knew it was time to collect more cores.
So Shawn and I asked Nick at the Greenbrier Historical Society if we could come back for a day and collect cores from the walls. He said whatever you guys need to do, just do it! Nick is great like that. Thanks Nick!
Shawn and I packed up our gear and headed to Lewisburg Thursday morning (very early). We collected 15 beautiful cores from the walls on the first and second floor. It was a really. long. day. But it was a successful day! We will begin dating those cores next week. And just so you know, no chinking was harmed in the process.
It is with great disappointment that I must share with you all that we were not awarded funding from our latest grant proposal. I want to thank everyone who dropped what they were doing to help me gather the list of 12 structures we intended to sample. Needless to say, we are pretty bummed.
But never fear! We will find a way to work on these structures. We know of a few more funding sources to reach out to and we have every intention of working with you all next summer on these structures. We may have to get a bit creative on sleeping arrangements and we may have to eat Ramen every day but the show WILL go on!!!
Somehow we managed to still have some time left in Greenbrier County on our last trip. So we used it wisely. We sampled all of the beers at the local Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company! And then we had a nice long sleep.
The next day we met up with the Drs. McBride, archaeologists from University of Kentucky, at their field site. They were looking for archaeological evidence of Matthews Trading Post, an early store of the area. They even let us help them screen! We had a blast!
The McBride's mentioned to us that there were a few log structures on the property, so we had to check them out. One of those structures could potentially be the original trading post!
One structure was in pretty bad shape so we decided it was not datable. It was also not large enough to be a trading post, though it could have been built out of trading post logs.
Another structure had logs in the crawl space, but they were very difficult to access (aka Kristen does not want to crawl in there) and there weren't very many of them.
So far we were striking out. Then we saw the barn....
Ok, so the barn isn't in great shape. Clearly. But it was a lot better than the other structure. I'm sure by now you're all looking at this barn and thinking "Kristen, it doesn't look very old...". And, of course, you would be correct to think that. It doesn't look very old. It has saddle notching and small timbers. But keep looking. "One of these things is not like the others.....".
(I bet you don't know what that's from. Googling it is cheating, by the way.)
Alright, I'll give you hint.
There are 2 large logs that are both notched and pegged. You can't see one in the picture of the barn. It's on the top floor. But the other one is on the ground in the forefront of the picture. They are massive and do not fit in with the rest of the logs. They look like reused logs to me. I don't quite know what to make of the notching style though. Both the outbuilding and these two log have square notching. So they probably date to the same period. I am unfamiliar with the time period of square notching for this area, though. Anyone know?
Shawn and I decided to collect a few samples from the barn and get preliminary dates. It was also constructed out of multiple tree species, so we wanted to get an ID on those as well.
Just out of curiosity, would anyone like to suggest what any of these species are, based on the bark?
The winner gets a no-expenses-paid trip to our next site to help us core! Hah. Seriously though, if you're one of those people who can look at bark and tell what the tree species is, please do share!
I am terrible at identifying trees by bark. Sometimes I am just as bad at identifying trees by cellular structure. I do my best identification when a log is still a tree, with leaves, and has a small plaque at the base with Latin words on it. Hah! I really am pretty bad at it. Not that bad though...
Please help! What species is this??
We are mostly curious about "MTP01A". We sanded it and it's a beautiful, light colored wood. Additionally, it has a strong odor. Not unpleasant. Sort of floral and maybe a slight sour smell. Also, the smell of this tree is a smell I often associate with riverside hikes. So, it's probably a water lover. Which makes sense, considering the barn was directly next to the Greenbrier River, therefore the trees used to build the barn were likely from that area too.
I'll try to get a better photo under the microscope for you all to see the cellular structure. This one was taken with my phone so It's not the best.
I can't wait to hear some suggestions! I can't figure it out!
*Thanks to Stephen and Kim McBride for letting us play archaeologist for the day! We had a blast. Thanks also to the property owner for letting us collect a few cores from the barn!*