CALICO ROCK: Historic cabin makes move to new spot

— Amid the sumac trees by the flowing creek stands the 1854 Trimble log cabin. A few weeks ago, the cabin stood beside a spring surrounded by oak and pine trees. The trees didn’t change; the cabin was moved from Dolph to Calico Rock.

“Back in 2001,” said Juanita Stowers, Izard County Historical and Genealogical Society treasurer, “I was really angry when I heard they were going to use the Trimble cabin logs to restore the Wolf House in Baxter County. The North Central Unit prisoners had taken the roof off the cabin before the Wolf House Foundation decided the logs were too small to use.”

Determined to hold onto “our piece of Izard County history,” Stowers asked Carl Russell if he would donate the cabin - 20 feet by 20 feet - to the Historical Society. Russell wanted to save the historic structure, but he didn’t want people coming on his property to see it. For more than a year, Stowers searched for a new home for the cabin. When she approached the Rev. Wayne Wood, pastor of the Calico Rock Cumberland Presbyterian Church, he said, “I lived in this cabin for a year when I was a kid. And I’m also a Trimble descendant.”

With his encouragement, his Cumberland Presbyterian congregation said the cabin could be moved to the park they own on Arkansas 56 across from their church.

Everyone believed James and Phebe Trimble built the cabin in 1815 when they came to the wilderness north of Calico Rock bluffs. For more than 40 years, the Trimbles invited Cumberland Presbyterian circuit-riding pastors to hold services and camp meetings on their property. In 1858 they donated 107 acres to the recently chartered Union (now Trimble’s Campground) Church.

Early in 2009, the historical society began raising funds for the Trimble House Project. Donations from $100 to $1,000 quickly came in.

“I want us to pay for a treering study to see how old the cabin really is,” Stowers said.

In June 2009, David Stahle, professor of geosciences at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, took core samples. His analysis showed that the logs were cut in 1853 and 1854. Later, Russell gave the society a copy of the Abstract of Title for the property. The abstract showed that on July 1, 1959, the United States of America transferred title to the 144 acres where the cabin stood to John Newton Trimble, James and Phebe’s son. John sold the cabin in 1876. At least three of the later owners were justices of the peace. They held court for minor offenses and performed wedding ceremonies in the house.

Wood, who had experience in construction, agreed to be the Trimble House project director. On the Internet, he found Building and Restoring the Hewn Log House, by Charles McRaven. Following instructions in the book, this spring Wood and a crew of volunteers started to dismantle the cabin. The chimney and fireplace had fallen down years ago, and the chinking between the logs was long gone. First, they removed the original pole rafters piled inside the cabin.

“Underneath, we found some crockery, a very small horseshoe and a Vicks salve bottle,” Wood said.

They also found a 3-foot-long mummified black snake.

After tearing off the cabin’s roof, they brought down the loft floor one board at a time, carefully pulling out a lot of square iron nails in the process.

“Each of those boards is 20 feet long, and they don’t have [knots],” Wood said.

All the logs and boards are made from virgin hardwood short-leaf pine, trees that are nearly gone from the Ozarks. Wood personally numbered and tagged each log.

“We put a rope around each end, two men on each 400-pound log,” Wood said. “Then we lifted each log and slowly rolled it down long poles that leaned against the outside wall.”

With the materials loaded onto flatbed trucks, workers arrived at the Calico Rock location, where earlier they had poured footings and built a concrete-block foundation. Because the main floor was too badly damaged by termites and moisture to use, they rebuilt the cabin with the loft boards for the main floor. The bottom logs were also rotted, so the rebuilt cabin is one log shorter than the original.

Each end of the logs is cut in a “dovetail” to fit together in the corners.

“It’s amazing how strong these logs are after all this time,” Wood said.

By Dedication Day on June 12, the walls were up, and the original pole rafters supported the temporary metal roof.

More than 150 people, including many Trimble Family descendants, came for the dedication. After a luncheon at the church, visitors toured the cabin, which was temporarily furnished with a rope bed, a spinning wheel and other antiques. Then the visitors gathered in the church sanctuary, where Wood talked about the Trimble family’s connection to the history of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Glyn Trimble gave the church a copy of the Trimble Family History, and Don Trimble presented the Trimble family Bible to the church.

Wood also introduced the Russell Family. Two people in the audience said J.P. Claude Russell (Carl Russell’s grandfather) had married them to different people at the Trimble House, and another lady said she was born in the house.

Wood explained that the cabin is still a work in progress.

“We have floor boards from an old house to use in the loft,” he said. “We will replace the roof with wooden shingles, put rocks around to cover the foundation, and rebuild the chimney and fireplace.”

The 1854 Trimble Cabin is across from the Cumberland Presbyterian Church on Highway 56 in Calico Rock. Visitors can walk around the outside and look through the windows. Groups may call the church at (870) 297-3931 for a tour. For information, contact Wood at or the Historical Society at or visit and click on Trimble House or the Historical Society.

Three Rivers, Pages 51 on 06/17/2010

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