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Pre-Civil War Cabin Found Inside
Larger Frame Home
Abstracted From Sherman Democrat Newspaper, 1970
Sherman, Grayson County, Texas
by Keith Worsham
Whitewright -- History has a unique way of revealing itself after being hidden for many years. This happened recently to Joe Johnson of Whitewright.
Salvaging lumber out of a house is a day-to-day happening for most people, but to Johnson, it became a mystery. Johnson started on this ordinary task on an old house he had purchased near Woodville, Okla. The salvaged lumber was to be used to build structures on his farm near Whitewright. When the demolition was underway, Johnson found to his surprise another house concealed inside the one he was tearing down.
As workmen were dismantling the old house, they found inside a complete log cabin which had disappeared as the newer structure had been gradually built around it. The log cabin was walled up and unknown to anyone in the town.
Johnson was called by the workmen who explained their find inside the old house. Johnson immediately took charge of the operation himself to preserve the cabin. He very carefully numbered each log and piece of wood in the cabin with crayons. The pieces were transported to the west side of his government lake on his property southwest of Whitewright. Johnson said it took about $1,000 and two years to reassemble the cabin working in his spare time. "It is as near its original form as we could make it, " he said.
A room was added to the back of the cabin providing a kitchenette, a bathroom and a bedroom. The cabin has water, lights and sewer. Each log originally was hand cut, notched and clayed together by hand. Johnson put the logs back together with cement. "My wife and I spent weeks at a time at the cabin fishing and just relaxing."
After Johnson had completed the cabin, he became curious about the history of the quaint building. And it was not until Johnson and his nephew, Russell Moore, had spent days researching that the story became clear.
Johnson said the cabin was built by Rev. Robert S. Bell Sr., a Cumberland Presbyterian minister, prior to the Civil War. The cabin, located near Woodville, was inside the Chickasaw Indian Reservation, providing easy access to his various congregations.
The long dead Rev. Bell cut and hewed the logs himself, notched the ends for the corner fittings, placed the logs together and chinked the spaces with clay.
Records show the Rev. Bell received a patent from the United States government, claiming the land around his cabin. The patent read, "60 acres of and surrounding the Cabin in Sec. L-9-P-7-South range of East Part" near the town today known as Woodville, Oklahoma.
Just why the house was built around the cabin has not been explained. Johnson thinks that, as more room was needed, the cabin was built on to until the house completely surrounded the original cabin.
Johnson bought the old house from the heirs of the S.W. Henry Estate about two years ago.
A part of the history of the cabin and its creator are known. However, records dating back over 100 years hold only the barest essentials. The real story of what went on within those long forgotten walls will probably remain a mystery.
The old cabin could no doubt tell a long and interesting story...but it says not a word.
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