19th Century log cabin gets new home at history museum

The Macon County Historical Society is in the process of setting up a new exhibit in the Memorial Garden of the museum. Wayne Yonce bequeathed a 19th Century cabin to the society and it will be set up with historic furnishings as a living history exhibit.

Deena C. Bouknight  – Contributing Writer

Macon County Historical Society and Museum on Main Street in Franklin is a treasure-trove of thousands of utilitarian and artistic items as well as countless documents and photographs. However, as of Saturday, Oct. 3, a living history element is on the premises in the form of a circa mid-19th century, one-room log home. 

According to museum director Robert Shook, the log home was donated by Wayne Yonce, who died in March, and plans have been underway for “a while” to move the hand-hewn, dove-tailed construction chestnut and oak cabin to a small lot at the end of the Memory Garden walkway, which runs alongside the former general store that houses Macon County Historical Society and Museum. 

Helping to work out the logistics of moving the cabin from its Smith Bridge precinct area – across from the Macon County Welcome Center on 441 – was Jerry Vinson, contractor. 

“He volunteered to take on that task and provided the manpower to make the cabin transportable,” said Shook. “We thought all along we would have to take it apart to move it, but Jerry said it could be moved whole, and he was right.”

Shook said everyone involved in the moving process thought the chinking between the logs would have to be repaired or replaced, but none was affected. 

“It’s a miracle really,” said Shook. “It attests to how well built the cabin is. The chinking didn’t even crack.”

People traveling on 441 toward the Town of Franklin on Saturday morning may have seen the one-room log home atop a flat-bed trailer being driven down the highway by Tim Cochran, who donated the truck for the moving assignment. Mayor Bob Scott arranged for a police escort and the procession drove 25 mph for the nine-mile trek. 

The Town of Franklin had already inspected the site when the flatbed truck backed into the Macon County News building’s parking lot, owned by Randy Pendergrass. 

“He gave us permission to take up that parking lot for a few hours and we appreciate that,” said Shook. 

When the log home arrived at the site, Josh Young with Young Tree Service, used his crane to lift it off the truck and place it squarely in place. 

“Josh estimated it weighed about 14,000 pounds,” said Shook. “He had to really be careful because of power lines, but he did such a good job. We had measured and planned ahead of time, and that home fit into the space so nicely.” 

Wayne, along with his wife Sally, who died several years ago, collected antiques as well as historic buildings. In fact, Wayne made a business out of moving old structures and removing original wood from barns, houses, and buildings to be repurposed in new construction and renovation projects. Shook said Wayne found and located the bridge and the pottery building for the Bascom: A Center for Visual Arts campus in Highlands. The one-room log home was originally built in Kentucky, but Wayne found it during his travels, explained Shook, and set it up on his property. The Yonces decorated the log home with period furnishings and used it as an on-property place to “get-away” and spend the night. Periodically, the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County would assemble in the log home for meetings, “and Wayne would make them all biscuits,” said Shook. 

“With the log home, they made a sort of historic homestead on their property,” said Shook, “so this is the second and probably the last time the home will be moved.” 

Shook pointed out that it was important to the Yonces that the log home and some of their antiques be preserved. Once the log home is secure on its new site – with stairs leading to the door and a repurposed metal roof, since the original cedar shakes could not be saved – the Yonce’s antique furnishings will decorate the space in an authentic, living history manner. 

“There was no way to save the original fireplace,” said Shook, “but we will build another, non-working one just like the original one. The stepping stones to the front door are from the old Macon County Courthouse, and the heart pine floors and hardware on the door are original. We salvaged everything we could.”

Although one-room log homes were not typically indicative of town living, where mostly clapboard siding homes were constructed when Franklin was established in 1855, they were the most popular types of dwellings throughout rural Macon into the early 20th century.

 “My goal is to have a plexiglass door behind the original door,” said Shook, “so the public can come by and see how people lived at that time. I’m looking forward to recreating the space down to the coffee pots and pans of the time period.” 

Shook also believes that with the siting of the log home at the end of the flower-flanked walkway, the Memorial Garden will be a future photography setting for prom, wedding, and tourist pictures. 

Some costs are associated with moving the one-room log home, although Shook said he appreciates many volunteer hours that went into making it happen. Anyone interested in supporting Macon County Historical Society and Museum and its education and preservation efforts can visit at 36 W. Main Street or call (828)524-9758.