When my wife and I bought the family farm years ago, I had no intention of becoming a farmer. I just wanted to keep the farm in the family and maybe spend some of my retirement years here.
Although some of the fields were being farmed by a neighboring tobacco farmer, the rest of the place had been neglected for decades. All of the old buildings were in advanced states of disrepair–that is to say, they were crumbling and falling down.
Over the first ten years we owned the place, while we were still living in Florida, we began slowly and gradually trying to restore and repair things. My dream (dating back to my childhood) had been to restore everything to the way it once looked (or the way I imagined they once looked). I’ve blogged before about our effort to save the old home. That’s been a success story, even if not on the scale I had hoped for. But, sadly, almost all the other buildings were too far gone to save. It’s a story that can’t be told in a mere blog post, but over time we had no choice but to push down and burn what was left of the old stable, the packing barn, the grainery, the hayshed, several collapsing tobacco barns and several of the old tenant houses. I hated that. But, fortunately, in addition to the old “home house,” (known affectionately by us as “the old house”) we were able to save two tobacco barns and a cabin, which I want to highlight today.
In my childhood there was only one family, other than ours, still living on the farm. The home they lived in is still here, but is now overground in the woods and uninhabitable. There were at least five other houses on the place that weren’t being lived in. The cabin was one of them.
From the looks of it, it was originally one room with a loft, then later a second room and loft were added to it, so that now it has two large rooms on the ground floor and two large attic rooms.
I found the place uninteresting when I was a boy. It was being used for storage, mostly of things related to repair of equipment.
After we bought the place I came to realize that it was one of the few buildings here that might be salvageable. The first step would be cleaning out all the junk. That was quite an undertaking.
In the attic, buried amid great stacks of trash and junk, I found some very interesting things. I found a stack of magazines from the World War I era. To my surprise I found the shutters from the old house. Why they had been taken down (at least 75 years ago) and put there, I have no idea. But we were able to find the ones that matched the hardware on the house, paint and rehang them were they belonged. Best of all I found the farm ledgers from the 1880s forward.
But on the main floor I never found anything of interest. Just broken tools, 6o year old cans of motor oil, and the like. But it was stuffed to the walls with that kind of thing and it took a lot of weekends to clean it out.
I insisted on carefully looking at every item before we threw it away. One day, nearing the end of the project my son and I were finally down to the floor. He was working in a different part of the house and called out to me, “Hey Daddy. What’s this?”
Here’s what he found:
Unfortunately, the other part of the buckle was gone. We’d probably tossed it during one of our cleaning sessions. Strangely, I never found anything else like this in the cabin. There were no clothes and no personal items. The only things of historical interest had been in the attic. Yet here, on the floor, buried for years beneath piles of junk and trash, was a rare Confederate belt buckle.
Eventually we got the place cleaned out and we replaced the rotting floor and roof. So the cabin still stands. I’ve got some tomato cages in it, some tobacco sticks and some old doors that I just haven’t hauled off yet. It deserves some better use and maybe some day it will have one. But for now, we’re just glad that this little slice of history has survived.