We started our day at the Pearl Buck Birthplace Museum, where the Sydenstricker House is located. Pearl Buck was the Nobel prize winning author of the novel "The Good Earth". The Sydenstricker House was built by her great great grandfather, in approximately 1834. It's a two-story log structure that was originally located in Greenbrier County, and was moved to Pocahontas County in 1977 to sit on the Pearl Buck Birthplace museum property.
We start by going over the written/oral history of the structure with the property owner/manager. Then we do an initial sweep of the logs to see if there are any exposed outer surfaces. If there aren't any logs with outer edges that are exposed enough for us to collect a core, then the tour is over. This doesn't usually happen, although it has on occasion.
We start mapping the structure once we've determined that there are some exposed outer edges.
We always have in mind a minimum number of samples necessary to date a structure. This number increases with the size of the structure. If the potential coring locations are less than the minimum number of samples needed, we must reassess the structure's candidacy for dating. In cases like this, we may be able to offer a date that is close to the cutting date (within 10 years, for example).
After going over our map of sampling locations, we determined that the Sydenstricker House would be a candidate for tree-ring dating. There were over 70 sampling locations with exposed bark or outer edges, which is way more than necessary! Very fine, indeed. We will likely collect around 30 cores from this structure next summer, provided our funding comes through for 2016 field work.
Next we met up with Bill McNeel of the Pocahontas County Historical Society and Andrew Carroll, a reporter from WV Public Broadcasting. Bill had a few structures he wanted to show us around the area, and Andrew Carroll tagged along to see us in action.
Our first stop was a McNeel family barn (relations to Bill) in the Hillsboro area. The original house no longer stands but was believed to have been built in the late 1700s when the family settled in the area. It is unknown whether the barn is original or a later addition.
When we saw the barn we were blown away. Shawn and I were like kids in a candy store. The barn was HUUUGE! And the logs were rounded! And there was bark aplenty! And the logs were diamond notched! I'm sure both Bill and Andrew thought we were crazy. It really couldn't have been any better.
To say this barn might be a candidate for tree-ring dating is an understatement. There are so many logs in there, and with so many of them still completely covered in bark we didn't even bother mapping it. It's definitely on my list for next summer.
Next we headed towards Mill Point to see another McNeel barn. This one has been rumored to have possibly been a fort at one point because of its proximity to an old fort site.
We took a thorough look through the barn but could not see any indication that it may have served any other purpose. So it is unlikely that this barn was a fort, but you never know. We will collect samples here since we'll already be in the area collecting cores from the other McNeel barn.
Next we went to Kee Cabin, which is currently located on the Pocahontas County Historical Society museum property. We started losing daylight and had to pick up the pace a bit, because we still had a few more structures to see before heading home.
The logs were hewn and steeple notched. We noted a number of locations upstairs that still had bark, and many other locations around the cabin where outer edges were visible.
We are excited to add Kee Cabin to our list for next summer.
We drove in to Marlinton to see the McLaughlin House, a log structure owned by the WV Land Trust. They found the structure hiding within the walls of a dilapidated house, moved it, and are currently renovating it. It looked great. Because the Land Trust is currently restoring the structure it is not likely that we will collect any samples, at least not yet. But here are some pictures of the structure for you to see.
We are hopeful that we can help them date their collection of historic log structures! We also hope to come back sometime and stay in one. Super cool!
Hopefully we didn't bore WVPB reporter, Andrew, to tears! We were really excited to have him come out with us and share our project with the rest of West Virginia. Maybe one day we will be able to expand the Historic Timbers Project throughout the entire state!
And, of course, no post would be complete without some sort of critter picture! Here's a cute little guy we met at the diamond barn.