Museum raises roof on history
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 9, 2000
Feb. 8, 2000 10 PM
Could there be an easier way?
Charles Lee and his building crew must have asked themselves that question hundreds of times as they labored at the task before them.
Yes, there was an easier way but not a better way and not a more rewarding way.
When the job is completed, Lee and his crew will be able to stand back and say with pride, "We did it their way" – the way of the hardy men who pioneered the "West."
Lee and his crew were charged with restoring an 1850’s log barn to its original state. To do so, meant doing it in the same way it was done back then.
The barn was a hidden treasure until it was discovered by Ken Hendricks as it stood in disrepair in a rural area of Wilcox County on what was once known as the Tait Plantation.
As chairman of the Pike Pioneer Museum’s board of directors, Hendricks always keeps an eye peeled for structures and items that would enhance the museum. All it took was one close look for him to realize this barn was a rare find and was well worth preserving.
Hendricks made the necessary arrangements to make it a part of the agriculture building collection at the museum.
"Curren Farmer started the agriculture building collection 27 years ago and Ken realized the log barn would be a perfect addition to it." said Charlotte Gibson, museum director. "In fact, we had a place next to our log crib that was reserved for just such a find."
Hendricks brought back pictures of the barn but the photographs didn’t do it justice.
"From the pictures, the barn looked like very unique but, when I saw it, I knew it was a rare treasure," Gibson said.
The barn was moved to the museum by Donald Hussey and Sons and was moved intact except for the roof.
Once in place, plans began to be made to put the old barn back together again.
The barn had a corn crib, a tack room, a hay loft and a wagon pass through, Gibson said.
"It also had covered animal stalls on either side but those had been lost to time," she said. "To make the barn authentic, they had to be put back."
Lee and his crew didn’t have to skin the logs with drawing knives, but they did it anyway.
"We wanted to do the work the way it was done when the barn was raised," Lee said. "Skinning the logs and notching them to fit was a lot of hard work. But, when we got it done, we felt good about it."
Raising the animal stalls was one thing; raising the roof was another.
The roof is about 30 feet on each side of the pitch and about 20 feet wide. That’s a big roof when you’ve got to lay the rafters with sweet gum saplings and then cover it with cedar shakes.
And,the saplings weren’t in stock at a local home center. They were growing in the local woods and had to be cut and hauled to the worksite.
"We had to find and cut about a hundred saplings that were suitable for our needs," Lee said. "Then we had to nail them in place to support the 2,200 square feet of shakes."
Getting the rafters in place took a lot of measuring, cutting, hoisting and nailing. Cold weather and rain slowed the work and even stopped it at times. But, now there’s "a whole lot of shakin’ going on" at Pike Pioneer Museum and visitors are treated to something few people have the privilege of seeing.
"You won’t see many roofs raised the way they were in the 1800s," said Gibson. "We have been very fortunate to have someone take the time and effort to restore the log barn in the way that it was originally raised and we were even more fortunate to see it being done."
Gibson said the shakes should all be in place by the end of the week and it’s still not too late to watch the work in progress.
Formal dedication of the log barn is scheduled to take place during the Jean Lake Arts and Crafts Festival the first weekend in May.