“The Old Log House”
The old log house where Wilma (my late wife) was born, was built about 1842 by Rev. Thomas Wilson. Rev. Wilson had a grand of land that included most of the valley where the Rebels Creek community eventually developed. He had eleven children, all daughters, so the Wilson surname did not survive in the family. However, the daughters married Boones, Willises, and other names that do still live in and around this community.
The old house was continuously occupied until the 1960‘s. During the Civil War, according to a family legend, some Yankee soldiers came in and took all the food and even the blankets off the beds. One of Wilma’s distant Howell relatives (on her mother’s side) died during the war. Somewhere among my voluminous papers there is a copy of his last letter to his wife Sally — something I will eventually find and share with you. Wilma’s family moved to the small green house just below the High-Cove pasture some time in the 1960’s–I don’t remember the date. I used to depend on Wilma as my “data-bank” and I have forgotten way too much.
There were three main rooms in the original house, referred to within the family as the “upper room,” the “middle room,” and the “lower room.” Within the tiny middle room there were two short wooden beds strung with ropes and covered with straw mattresses, as well as a very steep stairway–almost a ladder–that led up to the attic. The roof was made of cedar or white-oak shakes that allowed a liberal amount of snow to sift through during the winter, while summer rains played a dissonant tune in the various pots and pans. The logs were chinked with mud; I remember brushing tiny drifts of snow from my bed when I visited during the winter. There was a fireplace in each end of the house. Wilma recalled that when she was very young, her parents, her five siblings, and two sets of grandparents lived with the family, and she remembered that before her father built the kitchen, sometime around 1936, they cooked over the fireplace in the lower room.
“Civilization” came late to this part of Rebels Creek. Electricity lighted up the old logs sometime in the late 1930’s. I remember Wilma telling me that when the lights came on everybody was dismayed to find out how much dirt lingered in the corners. They scrubbed the old plank floors with brooms and sand. Newspapers were used for wallpaper on some of the walls.
Sometime in the 1960’s “some feller from Florida” bought the tired old log house and moved it log by log to Yancey County. He added two or three courses of logs to make the attic high enough for four beautiful bedrooms and a bathroom; I have heard that he expected to use the house as a retreat for himself and his family, but that his children took one look at it and said “No, thanks.” So far as I know, it still sits there inhabited only by its memories.
Editor’s note: Byrne has offered to answer questions about his article. So please let me encourage you to reply below with questions about the log house and this area. This article clearly shows, Byrne is great resource for our community.