History finds a home

Published 8:58 pm Monday, September 24, 2012

John Belcher’s 1860’s log cabin is located in Country Road 7708 near Needmore. | Photo by Wes Johnson

John Belcher’s 1860’s log cabin is located in Country Road 7708 near Needmore. | Photo by Wes Johnson

‘History buff’ saves 150-year-old log cabin from destruction

There is plenty of history in Alabama. Some has been preserved while much has faded with time and age.

On County Road 7708, a piece of Alabama’s heritage is being conserved by a self-proclaimed “history buff.” John Belcher came across a house in Bluff Springs in Coffee County.

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The home had an antique front with a large addition attached in the rear. “They had covered it up with lap board, so you couldn’t tell what it really was,” Belcher said. What “it” turned out to be was a double-pen cabin that was about 150 years old.

Belcher said the new property owners were in the process of building a brick home adjacent to the cabin and were having a hard time getting insurance due to the fire hazard. The owners were planning to burn the cabin, but Belcher balked at the idea.

“I just couldn’t stand to see them burn it down,” he said. “It’s all hand hewn. There was a lot of work that went into building it.”

Belcher had a friend with experience moving homes who loaded the cabin on a two-and-one-half ton cargo truck and moved it 30 miles to its current resting place.

Double-pen cabins, also known as dogtrot cabins, are two single-room cabins separated by a covered passageway. The style was popular in the Southeastern United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The unique passageway in the center was constructed to allow cooler outside air to be pulled into the home.

Belcher’s cabin, built around 1860, is located near a place full of Pike County history. Just down the road is a hill known as Old Peacock Hill. Before the rural roads were paved, a team of men and mules sat at either end of the steep incline and would pull weaker cars up the dirt hill. The Needmore Road cabin, with its dovetail-style joinery, is a project of reverence and an appreciation of heritage.

In fact, inside the old home is an antique pedal-powered grindstone, which people would use to sharpen their tools. “I like old things. I guess it’s part of our Southern heritage that we don’t like to see old things go away,” Belcher said. “It’s just nostalgia.” Belcher said he doesn’t have any specific plans on how he’ll use the cabin. He says he’ll just enjoy it.