Listen Here: Appalachian History Weekly podcast posts today

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 17, 2014

We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. Check us out on the Stitcher network, available on mobile phones, in-car dashboards and tablets worldwide. Just click below to start listening:

We open today’s show with guest author Gary Carden. “Robin Williams has been much on my mind,” says the NC playwright, “because, like him, I suffer from depression. I was living alone when I began to have the sense that ‘something’ was living with me. It was dark and existed just out of the range of my vision, but it followed me from room to room, and when I sat on the couch, it sat with me.”

We’ll pause in between things to catch up on a calendar of events in the region this week, with special attention paid to events that emphasize heritage and local color.

“There are more culinary delights than just pepperoni rolls and wild ramps when it comes to food in the state of West Virginia,” says Kent Whitaker, who has just published the West Virginia Hometown Cookbook. “I know that may sound a bit on the obvious side to West Virginians. However, I must admit that I still tend to have a few preconceived notions of what foods best represent a state even though I’m a culinary writer and cookbook author.”

We’ll wrap things up with a look at a newly released CD of rare and historically significant tunes captured in the 1950s in Haywood County, NC. These recordings, featuring music performances by the late five-string banjo master Carroll Best and some of his friends, document that Best was a pioneer of the melodic, three-finger banjo style.

And thanks to the good folks at the Blue Ridge Institute Archives, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from ‘Georgia Slim’ and Ivey Rutland in a 1950 recording of Blackberry Blossom.

So call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corncob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian history.

Leave a Reply

4 + = 12

Rediscovering the Roots of Bluegrass: Historically Significant Recordings from the Great Smoky Mountains Released

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 15, 2014

Ted Olson, an East Tennessee State University faculty member in the Department of Appalachian studies, has spent many hours searching the university’s Archives of Appalachia for musical gems. After a year, he made quite a find.

According to Olson, the recordings he discovered, made in Haywood County, NC, by folklorist and linguist Joseph S. Hall in the 1950s, represent “the missing link between old-time string music and bluegrass, two music genres . . . whose connections are not widely understood.”These historically significant recordings, featuring music performances by the late five-string banjo master Carroll Best and some of his friends, document that Best was a pioneer of the melodic, three-finger banjo style.


Used today by numerous banjo players, including Bill Keith, Bela Fleck and Tony Trischka, the melodic style allows the banjo player to play more melody notes than the more widely known “Scruggs-style” bluegrass banjo. A new CD, “Carroll Best and The White Oak String Band: Old-Time Bluegrass from the Great Smoky Mountains, 1956 and 1959,” is a collection of informal jam sessions that occurred during Hall’s postwar forays into the Smokies.

In 1956, Hall recorded such local musicians as Best, destined to become one of the most significant banjo players of his generation, along with his wife, Louise Best, S.T. Swanger and Don Brooks, while in 1959, he recorded Best, Raymond Setzer, Billy Kirkpatrick and French Kirkpatrick.

Hall tagged both of these ensembles The White Oak String Band. Released by the non-profit Great Smoky Mountains Association, the CD contains a 64-page booklet written by Olson, and includes 37 songs. Among them are old favorites “Tennessee Wagoner,” “Arkansas Traveler,” “Old Joe Clark,” “Soldier’s Joy,” and newer material like “Banjo Boogie” and “Smoky Mountain Melody.” Proceeds from sales of the CD will be donated to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Grammy Award winner David Holt said of this new CD: “Carroll Best’s banjo playing was unparalleled. Inspired by Earl Scruggs and Don Reno but also learning from the old-time banjo and fiddle techniques of various family and community members, Best developed his own beautiful melodic three-finger banjo style.

The emergence of that unique and pioneering style can be heard in these rare recordings from the 1950s.”The sound engineer for “Carroll Best and The White Oak String Band” was John Fleenor. In 2013, Olson and Fleenor earned a Grammy nomination in the “Best Historical Album” category for their work on “Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music,” a release of music recordings collected by Joseph S. Hall in 1939 before residents of the Smokies were relocated to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Olson also received two Grammy nominations in 2012 for his work on a box set entitled “The Bristol Sessions, 1927-1928: The Big Bang of Country Music.”To reintroduce the music on the new Carroll Best CD to Best’s home community, GSMA will host a CD launch event Friday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. in Stuart Auditorium at Lake Janaluska in Haywood County, N.C. Expected to be in attendance at this free event are French Kirkpatrick, Raymond Setzer, Best’s widow Louise, and several local and regional musicians inspired by Best. At least five different music acts will perform regional music that evening.

For details about the CD, visit the GSMA website.

One Response

Leave a Reply

2 + 9 =

Nothing Dark Follows Me Now … But

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 14, 2014

Gary Carden
Please welcome guest author Gary Carden. Carden’s autobiographical “Mason Jars in the Flood” received the AWA Book of the Year Award in 2001. He received the NC Folklore Award in 2004, and an honorary doctorate by Western Carolina University in 2008. In 2012 he was awarded the North Carolina Literature Award….the highest honor awarded by the NC Arts Council to an individual.



Robin Williams has been much on my mind because, like him, I suffer from depression. Compared to Robin Williams, my talents are small, but I sense an empathy.

As a child, I always felt like a visitor. I think this is a familiar experience for all abandoned children. I had lost both my father and my mother, and although I was clothed and fed by my grandparents, I always had the feeling that I was not “of the family.” I was never embraced or treated with affection, but this is a familiar experience to many Appalachian children.

'Preaching to the Chickens,' painted by the author.

‘Preaching to the Chickens,’ painted by the author.

When I told my grandmother about the demonstrations of affection I witnessed in the homes of my playmates, she said, “Get used to it, Gar Nell. We are not huggers and kissers.” Indeed, they weren’t. The only time I saw my grandmother embrace her own children was when Uncle Albert came home from the Navy and she hugged him when he appeared on the porch with his big duffle bag. I remember that day vividly as it was Christmas Day.

My first encounter with movies was disturbing since they were filled with demonstrations of affection for both children and family members. I remember my grandmother weeping in the movie, “How Green Is My Valley,” when Roddy McDowell was badly beaten by a brutal teacher. Ironically, the same thing happened to me in (I think) 7th grade when an unstable teacher beat me with a broomstick until I fainted. Did this really happen? Yes, it did.

I remember fantasizing about my uncles rushing to the school like Roddy McDowell’s older brothers and taking vengeance on the teacher, but that didn’t happen. Now, at this late date, I actually wonder if I told anyone. Like many children who are abused by bullies and teachers, I remember feeling that I had been justly punished. That wasn’t true. The beating, as I remember it now, was an act of terrifying rage and it only stopped when another teacher (Miss Gisler) intervened. My offense was that I had arrived late, and finding the hall door locked, I …rattled it.

Make no mistake about it, I had a wonderful childhood filled with books (and Sadie Luck, a librarian whom I loved), movies, eccentric relatives, comics, radio shows and a few uncles who took an interest in me (especially one named Stoogie, my mother’s brother who came home on furloughs and took me on wild trips to carnivals, the Indian Fair, and movies, and who gave me a “pink radio” that he won at BINGO.) He let me ride the Ferris wheel until I threw up, and I loved it.

'Daniel and the Lions,' painted by the author.

‘Daniel and the Lions,’ painted by the author.

The only serious flaws were personal …. a sense of being an “inconvenience,” a painful shyness and a sense of guilt for being what I was. I had an aunt who often assured me that I was stupid and inept, but there was another one (Ruby, my mother’s sister) who took me to my first movies and bought me stacks of comic books. There were reaffirming experiences, like the first play I was in, the discovery that I had a talent for telling stories and that people “paid attention to me.” Being a part of theatrical productions in college was a kind of miracle, and although I went to college on a vocational rehabilitation scholarship (I had a touch of polio and a spinal curvature), even this had a dual effect. I was able to go to college and become a teacher…..yet, I was reminded that I was “defective.”

Let me sum all of this up by saying that I have had a full and rich life. I loved teaching and I think I thrived in the classroom although some of my most painful experiences took place while I was teaching. Probably, my most gratifying experiences happened when I worked for the Eastern Band of the Cherokees (15 years)….yet, always, there was a darkness that began occurring with growing frequency and it was always linked with a sense of being …irrelevant. Usually, this simply lead to a kind of desperation that prompted me to take on difficult projects…what some psychiatrists called an “overachiever” complex. I began to have anxiety attacks and was plagued by sleeplessness.

I began to have episodes of uncontrollable weeping. They would take me by surprise, frequently when I was driving. I had an image of being “filled with tears” like an overflowing container and I had to guard against an attack that would cause the tears to spill over. While I was working as a grants writer for Region A in Bryson City, I would sometimes pull off the road with weeping bouts. I was deeply ashamed. This kind of weeping is a sign of weakness. Sometimes, I would be overcome by the belief that the world was a vast pit of misery and I would be overcome by images of cruelty, especially the suffering of animals that were being slaughtered all over the world and that if I listened I could hear their cries.

"Two Foxes Dancing on a Moonlit Road in Georgia," painted by the author.

“Two Foxes Dancing on a Moonlit Road in Georgia,” painted by the author.

Once, when I was driving through Granny Squirrel Gap, I had the sensation that I had “surprised” the world by driving into a section that was not “ready” for my appearance and there was a void there. Then, the world began to
appear again…..mountains, color, the river, etc. And I thought that actually there was nothing there until I blundered into a world that was frantically trying to “create” itself before I saw the truth.

I once ended up in a crisis center at Pardee because I finally stopped functioning. There was a period where too much happened. I was divorced, then I lost all of my teeth and could no longer speak clearly.

When my teeth were replaced, my station-wagon burned in a freak accident on Cowee and I lost all of my teaching notes (I was an Elderhostel teacher at the time). Suddenly, I was without transportation, and I lost my Elderhostel jobs. My clothes had burned in the fire, and without work, I began to rely on my credit cards.

Then I had a series of operations at the hospital, and I was home, out of work and deeply in debt when I suddenly hit on a solution. I would quit. I did. I was living alone when I began to have the sense that “something” was living with me. It was dark and existed just out of the range of my vision, but it followed me from room to room and when I sat on the couch, it sat with me. The phone would ring, but I was unable to talk. For almost a week, I sat on the couch only rising to go to the bathroom.

This is where another storyteller found me. Marilyn McMinn McCredie called my mental health advisor, who advised that I be placed in a crisis center. The first two that Marilyn contacted were filled to capacity, but Pardee accepted me provided that I come immediately. It was not an easy process, and when we got to Pardee, there was a line of potential patients that extended out of the hospital and across the parking lot….people in bathrobes with their toothbrushes.

I stayed a week in a room with the lights on, the door open and a nurse’s station across the hall. I was considered “at risk.” There were sessions with psychiatrists, group therapy, medication, etc. I was content because all of those problems had gone away……or at least, they were at home.

After a week, they told me that I had to leave because “they needed the bed.” I asked if I was “cured” and they said no, but I had to leave anyway because there were others in worse shape than I was.

I asked, half joking, “What if I refuse to leave?” and they replied, half-joking, that their security officer would take care of that. I called a friend, Mary Wilson, to come and get me and I came back to a world of debts, work and hungry pets. I decided to stop taking my anti-depressants…Zoloft, lithium, Prozac… because although they banished depression, they left me a grinning fool who could not read a book, watch a movie or carry on a discussion because all required the ability to remember what was just said.

That took a while.

I was urged to find a replacement for the drugs…..what would that be? Work, distraction. I began to paint. Acrylics on cardboard. It seemed to work. I did some sixty paintings…all large, foolish, cartoonish.

I gave some away and then people began to buy them. I began to tell stories. I wrote several plays and one of them was filmed and went to PBS. So here I am. Nothing dark follows me from room to room now, but I suspect that it has merely moved to the attic. I am pretty sure that it is up there.

Leave a Reply

1 + = 4

West Virginia Food is Much More than Ramps and Pepperoni Rolls… Maybe

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 14, 2014

Kent WhitakerPlease welcome guest author Kent Whitaker. Whitaker is the author and co-author of eight cookbooks, three history books, and two books for children which he wrote and illustrated. His co-authored books with Shelia Simmons include the Tennessee Hometown Cookbook, the Texas Hometown Cookbook, the Georgia Hometown Cookbook, the Mississippi Hometown Cookbook, the Louisiana Hometown Cookbook, and the South Carolina Hometown Cookbook(Great American Publishers.) His love of barbecue, grilling and tailgating are showcased in Smoke in the Mountains – the Art of Appalachian Barbecue and Checkered Flag Cooking – Tailgating Stock Car Racing (Quail Ridge Press.) Whitaker has also written three history books, one of which is a culinary history of WWII. These books include Bullets and Bread (History Publishing Co.), The USS Alabama, and Talladega Superspeedway (Arcadia Publishing.) He has also written and illustrated two children’s books, Why are the Mountains Smoky? (Overmountain Press) and Big Mo’s Tennis Ball Hunt (Great American Publishers). Whitaker has appeared on the Food Network and other television stations, has hosted cooking classes throughout the South, and writes a cooking column for The National Barbecue News. He also hosts a short format radio show heard on over 60 stations across the country.


There are more culinary delights than just pepperoni rolls and wild ramps when it comes to food in the state of West Virginia. I know that may sound a bit on the obvious side to West Virginians. However, I must admit that I still tend to have a few preconceived notions of what foods best represent a state even though I’m a culinary writer and cookbook author.

WV hometown cookbook

My longtime role as a tailgater may have influenced my thoughts about the pepperoni roll. I’ve had versions of them at tailgates involving West Virginia University, Marshall University, and other colleges for years. As a traveler, lover of Appalachian style cooking, and history buff I’ve long known about wild ramps. After all, I live in East Tennessee and ramps are found here as well.

The great thing is that every time I complete one of my books I realize how much I’ve learned about each state. The West Virginia Hometown Cookbook is my fourteenth book and the seventh in the Hometown Cookbook Series. Sheila Simmons, of Great American Publishing, and I co-author the Hometown series and so far it includes Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina and now West Virginia. We learn something new with each book.

Working on the West Virginia Hometown Cookbook was once again a learning experience. I love being able to combine recipes from my own kitchen with those from West Virginia kitchens. I also include recipes from producers, growers, chefs, and even food related agencies and associations. I see my cookbooks as culinary history books.

When people give me a recipe to share in any book or article I always ask them to include a couple of lines of information about the history of the dish. Was it a family favorite? Was the recipe passed down over generations? Or, did mom get the recipe off a back of a can or food package and make it into her own? Why is it considered a family classic and why is it special? I find that the history of a dish is much more interesting than a book filled with pages and pages of generic recipes.

The Pepperoni Roll is That Important

Now that the book is in the hands of the editor it’s time to reflect a bit on some of the things that I learned, or observed, or thoughts that I walked away with upon completion. The first thing that pops into mind is actually the Pepperoni Roll. As a person from another state you could understand that my knowledge of the humble dish is simply that they taste awesome.


I was completely unaware of the history behind the rolls — and I’m a history guy. I had several people send me recipes, more than we could include in the book, as well as a few people who said to please play them down. These people, while well meaning, seemed to only see the rolls as convenience store food along side of Twinkies and two packs of peanuts for a dollar.

It turns out that the rolls actually are a fantastic representative of the state’s history. They were born out of necessity for hardworking people. The original the pepperoni roll was invented by Giuseppe “Joseph” Argiro at the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont, West Virginia. Some reports have its birthday as being in the 1920’s; others place it as first being baked in the 1940’s. Regardless, it’s really not disputed that Argiro combined hot rolls and the tasty pieces of meat in a simple form that people, especially coal miners, could eat without difficulty. It did not require reheating, was easy to carry to work, and literally required no cleanup after munching it down. An easy food for hardworking people.

Wild Ramps

A funny thing happened when I was talking to a nice lady about heritage dishes from the state. When I mentioned that I had a couple of my own Tennessee Wild Ramp recipes she was stunned to find out other states had wild ramps! In fact wild ramps can be found from Canada all the way to Alabama and from the east coast to states across the Mississippi.

By the same token, I have a contact in Tennessee who told me that she had never had a ramp. That’s fine, as I’m sure many people have not tasted them. I found the comment to be strange, though, because I knew this person was very interested in heritage cooking and locally grown foods. It took a while for both of us to realize that the Wild Ramps I was talking about were the same plants that she called Spring Onions.

Photo by USDA/Forest Service.

Photo by USDA/Forest Service.

Ramps play a large part in my love of Appalachian cooking, as they were used by cooks ranging from early settlers to hometown cooks as a way to add some flavor to foods coming out of winter. Before the days of well stocked grocery stores and mega markets many families relied on stored food in root cellars and canning jars. Travel to town, which could have been a good distance away, for an onion, may not have been possible. Gravel roads, snow, ice, winter rain, and mountains made the trips we take for granted now much more difficult.

As the winter went on the food chest would become a more limited in freshness. It’s almost like being on a submarine or ship at sea for long periods of time. One WWII veteran told me that after two weeks he never saw fresh fruit or vegetables again until they pulled into a port. For him, finally seeing land was kind of like the coming of spring years ago in rural areas of the country that relied heavily on home grown gardens over a long winter. Spring in the mountains then, and somewhat still today, meant an abundance of flavor was growing everyday and all you had to do was some hand picking.

How This All Comes Together

I guess the whole purpose of this essay is to say this: West Virginia has a love for food ranging from heirloom culinary items, fine dining, leather britches and cornbread, as well as to delights as simple as a pepperoni roll or slaw-dog. The slow food/local food movements have chefs and cooks looking to the past for inspiration. They are finding a food heritage in West Virginia that has an amazing lineage. Everything from frontier style cooking with the bare basics to fancy church social dishes, then back to Cast Iron skillet cornbread with bacon drippings.

WV Cornbread

Recipes could be of Italian, Scottish, Irish, Greek, German, Chinese, African American, Polish, or Portuguese heritage, and more. A recipe could even have come from the back of a cream of chicken soup can that your aunt saved to her recipe clipping collection over thirty years ago. Even though she originally got it from a can label she has since made it her own, and a holiday meal would not be complete without it.

It’s hard to say what makes a food in any particular state, or family, a special one. It really all comes down to your own family, your own kitchen, and your own memories. Thinking of a food as an heirloom one, or a recipe as being historical is a wonderful concept. That’s why I write my books, so we can save our culinary history one slice at a time.

However, I’ve learned one important lesson when talking about food with people and how certain dishes played a role in their own families. Never discount a good memory. The tradition of dipping cookies and pretzels in melted chocolate coating with the kids at Christmas is special. Just because your grandmother’s hash brown casserole was clipped from an old magazine does not mean you didn’t savor the flavor every time she made it.

Those kinds of memories are just as treasured as hand picking ramps, drying beans, and home canning vegetables… or eating a peperoni roll.

Leave a Reply

− 3 = 2

Chink, Daub, Repeat. A log structure restorer discusses his craft.

Posted by Dave Tabler | August 13, 2014

John VanArsdallPlease welcome guest author John VanArsdall. His Canjoeco Restorations of Blountville, TN specializes in meticulous, historically correct restorations of antique late 18th & early 19th century log structures. VanArsdall’s training in cultural anthropology while an undergraduate student of the University of TN, Knoxville, combined with a personal interest in history, eventually lead him to accept restoration work on historic buildings, beginning with a total restoration of an early 20th century eastern NC tobacco barn in 1989.


Each building has its unique nuances and complexities of difficulties to overcome. What I do requires a whole lot of adaptation in order to overcome these and involves, most of the time, a lot of patience and thought, but most of all, experience. Just changing the log’s environment by relocation, for example, changes many factors that the logs must adapt to, such as changes in humidity, sun or shade, geographic/environmental differences, and all these changes affect the logs in ways that might not be expected or predicted.

log cabin side

I use wood block chinking and traditional mix daubing primarily, because that it is the completely correct way to restore, and truly the most healthy for the well being of the structure.

The wood block chinking used by the pioneers not only added needed insulation, but also added significant structural strength to the whole building. The logs often span 25+ feet from notch to notch. With nothing in between (other than nonstructural wire), over time, gravity sags the logs. There is no upward strength supporting the length of the logs other than where they touch at the notches.

The wood blocks, then, as chinking material add structural strength, insulation, and a solid surface for the daub mix to adhere. The wood blocks also free float between the logs (not nailed to logs at all, but tightly wedged in) so that seasonal shrinking and expansion of the logs affects them very little, and if daubing does fall out, the wood shows between the logs, not rusting wire.

Modernists, rather than rely on wood block chinking, use wire mesh as foundation to apply a portland cement/mortar daub. Both the wire mesh and daub mix used do severe damage over time. Wire mesh never existed at the time the original structures were built. The methods of tacking the wire in using nails cause the daubing materials used to crack and to draw moisture in by way of the cracks. Moisture behind the cement rusts the wire, which “bleeds” onto the logs, but also rots the wood.

When I make daubing mixes, I use indigenous clay, usually found on site, and have to alter my sand to lime ratios in order to accommodate the levels of sand present in the clay used. Settlement factors affect a relocated log structure and if not reassembled properly, can damage the logs and the finished project, over time, can be compromised.

This is an example of water damage to log caused from inappropriate daubing material, specifically portland cement. Gibbs house, c. 1792, in Corryton, TN.

This is an example of water damage to log caused from inappropriate daubing material, specifically portland cement. Gibbs house, c. 1792, in Corryton, TN.

Many jobs I do are repairs to buildings that are compromised due to inappropriate or improper methods or materials used in their reconstruction. Many who are hired to “restore” these structures will also remove entire logs where only a portion of the original had damage; often replacing the entire log with a modern, recent cut replacement that changes dramatically over a couple of years as it dehydrates, shrinks, or bends to the elemenfts of nature. Very few logs require total replacement.

I skillfully splice antique replacement log parts together (authentic to the age, the hew marks, and the wood types of the original host) into the recovered solid host originals. There are so many pitfalls by errors and inexperience when moving these structures that we could write a book just on that aspect alone.

Most problems involved in moving them, or restoring them, are based on who does the job and their expertise and background. Lots has to be considered with the building’s new location: slope of terrain, drainage, protection from wind/rain/sun exposure, and orientation. Most modern contractors have no concept of these issues as pertains to log structures.

One example I am currently working on is a structure originally built c1787. I am working out and resolving many problems, but all have occurred due the reasons I expressed a moment ago: the wrong choice of builders.

When the building was relocated, it first was disassembled then stored for 8 years in a damp-proof storage building. When relocation to site took place, the building was put up on corner piers of limestone. No consideration to any of the environmental differences was considered. The property was not prepped, not sloped for water drainage, and no proper footers were dug. The lowest log on any log structure, the base plate, should be placed at 18″ above the ground to prevent water damage.

A close up of notch and crown damage that will require replacing. — in Corryton, TN.

A close up of notch and crown damage that will require replacing. — in Corryton, TN.

Moisture and insects are the two most damaging elements to logs and the water issues near the foundation must be accounted for in the building’s new location. Water damage attracts insects that do rapid and permanent damage to logs. That’s why portland cement and wire mesh, as well as other modern materials, should never be used to “chink” the logs, either. It traps moisture, rots the logs, attracts insects, and in a few short years the building is rotting down from the inside out.

In restoration work, too, one of the first things I have to establish is the building’s foundation; is it on “sleeper” logs (logs in contact with the earth), is it on rock piers, solid rock walls? I have to determine log height above the ground, water runoff, and the slope & grade of the terrain it rests upon. Then correct the issues as needed for on site work to progress. When relocating, all those issues are first considered.

Often, when relocating the buildings, the tendency is to first try and make the sill plates—the base logs—positioned to be as level as possible. Well, though that may be important, when the top plate is placed and fixed, unless just out of good luck, it most often will not be level.

The various logs, their notches, and the factors of the new terrain significantly affect the result of the roof being level at the building’s top. Though the base plates are all level, the roof may not be.

Often, after the top plates are in place, the roof trusses are put on, the roof then gets covered and when finished—‘Whoa!’—it is discovered to be out of square, out of plumb, not level. Too, as the building settles, the roof then becomes even more out of level.

There are ways to address these issues beforehand by knowing what to expect and by making simple adaptions in the reconstruction process that allow for the finished project to end as all level, plumb, and square (within reason). Sometimes the situation appears nominal and inconsequential at first but the water run off from the roof is a huge consideration when being level matters.

Before removing the portland cement, there was no apparent problem or evidence of log damage. This is the rot found in the interstice after the cement was removed and is as a direct result of the inappropriate daubing material used. — in Corryton, TN.

Before removing the portland cement, there was no apparent problem or evidence of log damage. This is the rot found in the interstice after the cement was removed and is as a direct result of the inappropriate daubing material used. — in Corryton, TN.

Period roofs are almost always shake shingle (metal roofs did not exist until the turn of 20th century). Water running down shake shingle roofs must not run sideways, as it will run under the shakes, or be allowed to pour off like a waterfall at the low end of the roof due to it being out of level. Water should not run over the walls, either; the roof drip line has to extend far enough over to properly allow run off.

Too often, modern roofers do not recognize the reason wide overhangs of roof lines were used or needed in these old structures. When relocating these buildings, a modern roofing contractor most often gets hired, builds a new “modern” design, and though made to look like it belongs, because of the contractor’s lack of experience with proper shake shingling of the old way, major long term problems develop.

The one building I am in process of “fixing” has these same issues, especially with it’s roof as I describe, as well as drainage and landscape issues that will need to be remedied. All this is mostly due to the wrong “builder” being first involved.

Another big mistake that occurs in relocation of these structures is that the logs have many checks and cracks in their surface. Too often people think that those need to be filled and will daub them with cement, or fill with epoxy. This, too, is a huge mistake, causing rapid damage to the logs. In regard to filling checks, cracks, and crevices: there’s no need to. The fillers that are commonly used, portland cement, modern mortar, plastics, epoxy, etc all trap water and force moisture into the logs, thus accelerating rot.

The natural checks, cracks, and crevices are most often not through & through the log, and as long as run off of water is properly remedied, they pose no harm to the life of the log and actually add much character. With traditional chinking & daubing, the very important main ingredients in the mix combine hydrated lime with clay. Along with the correct ratios of the proper sand used, both of these materials draw water moisture out of the adjacent log wood and wick the moisture, which then evaporates quickly into the air.

Removing a rotted section of log from the Nicholas Gibbs house (circa 1793) without displacing or affecting any of the surrounding logs, and replacing it with a section of 150+ year old matching log that was recovered from another log structure originally located ~ 50 miles from this site.

Removing a rotted section of log from the Nicholas Gibbs house (circa 1793) without displacing or affecting any of the surrounding logs, and replacing it with a section of 150+ year old matching log that was recovered from another log structure originally located ~ 50 miles from this site.

The lime also uses the carbon from the water to chemically convert the hydrated lime in the mix back into becoming limestone, over time. Anything else put between the log’s cracks, splits, crevices, or in the interstice spaces between the logs, forces water into the wood, holds moisture and causes rot.

Chemical insecticides should never be used! The elements used to make these products cause chemical damage to the wood, often discoloring it, or leaching out over time to damage the wood. Get the logs off the ground, away from moisture, use the correct building materials and the bugs will leave on their own. The foundation site should be properly prepped, sloped or drained to keep moisture away and there is where proper ground treatments against termites, etc, should be applied…not on the logs themselves… where it serves no real value.

Power washing logs as means to clean them? …not good.

There is much involved… as you might garner.

All the many log structures I’ve done are in either east Tennessee or in southwest Virginia. I am working on several now. One is being relocated next week to Stoney Creek, near Elizabethton to be reassembled and completed at the Brooks House, a former home of President Andrew Johnson’s daughter.

I am in process of working on the Woodland Hall, c 1855, a reclamation and restoration project in Glade Spring, VA.  I also will be doing the chinking & daubing and trim restoration in Abingdon, VA on the Breckenridge House, c1769. It is in limbo waiting to be disassembled and relocated to the historic “Muster Grounds” but requires a class B VA contractor’s license to get it moved.

Here's a wide angle view of the newly installed portico roof on the Gibbs house.

Here’s a wide angle view of the newly installed portico roof on the Gibbs house.

One Response

Leave a Reply

+ 1 = 7

↑ Back to top

This collection is copyright ©2006-2014 by Dave Tabler. All visuals are used in accordance with the Fair Use Law (Per Title 17—United States Code—Section 107) and remain the property of copyright owners. Site Design by Amaru Interactive