Volume 8, Number 10, Winter 1985
Someone with firsthand knowledge of an historical place or event is probably the best resource of documentation material. Especially someone with good memory, recalling those events and places as they were in the beginning. Luckily, the log cabin in Shadow Rock Park, Forsyth, Missouri, claims that good fortune as its former mistress still resides hardly a mile away, as the crow flies, and with some vivid memories of the life she lived there.
Mrs. Cuma Williams, nee Davidson, passed her 87th year in June, 1984. A chat with her and son, Dayrel, born 58 years ago in the cabin, reveals personal reflections and incidents of life in the old cabin when it was still young as its occupants.
She believes the cabin, built by her father-in-law, S.J. Williams, was constructed in 1886, or thereabouts, since her husband, S. E. Williams, born in 1884 moved there at age 5. His mother, the former Elizabeth Laughlin bore two other sons, Floyd and Walter. After her death, S. J. Williams married a second wife, the former Dora Conner. To this union 2 more children were born, Emer and Edith. (Mrs. Edith Kissee, I am told by Mrs. Williams, still resides in Forsyth at this time, 1984.1
In 1917 Cuma, her husband and oldest son, Carl, began occupancy of the cabin then located at its original site on route OO about 1 1/2 miles south of Kissee Mills Junction. They moved there from a house in Kissee Mills, Missouri. Two more sons, Dayrel and Maxie joined the family and were born in the cabin. The family called this log cabin home until 1942 when they built and moved into a new house across the road.
Son Dayrel explains the cabin is called a cribtype, layed with notched logs. A crib is simply a square room. It was built with a crib room on each end and joined by a breezeway, as it was called by the family. They converted the breezeway into a room with a lean-to at back for the kitchen. He states at one time it was 1 1/2 stories high with rafters originally made from small poles. Cuma says she built the stairway to the upper floor herself. Apparently the cabin always had the front porch.
White oak shingles for the hip-type roof were made on the premises with a wooden froe (wedgeshaped cleaving tool with a handle set into the blade at right angles to the back) and laid by moon signs, Mrs. Williams says with a slight smile crossing her face. This was thought to prevent a cupping of the shingles, making them lay flat. A shingler began stripping or chipping around a log until the center was reached, thus creating thin layers of wood for shingles, Dayrel remembers. The well, first dug 25 feet, later was drilled deeper he says. Also his father put slivers of wood between the cabin logs at various times; digging a specific kind of white clay mud from their land to re-chink them as needed.
As was usual for farmers of the era, sorghum to make molasses, wheat to make flour and corn to make meal were grown on the land. Flour and cornmeal were milled nearby but they made their own molasses and dried their own fruit. Coffee and sugar were the only staples purchased. Hogs, cows and chickens all were raised on the farm. Dayrel reminded his mother their rule of hog killing for food was one for each family member plus an extra one for company per year.
Cuma pasted pages of the Sears Roebuck catalog on the wall of the breezeway. She used burlap sacks as backing material on the walls of the other rooms, covering that with building paper, paste and then wallpaper. "I got awfully tired of those log walls," she
declared. Dayrel laughed at how he and his brother used to get rid of unwanted pests by laying in bed to stab the mice that slipped inside to eat the paste from the wallpaper. A woodstove was used to cook and heat by with the fireplace.
In 1968 some interested citizens of Forsyth moved the old cabin to its present location in Shadow Rock Park. As the cabin was demolished, each log was numbered to be properly placed at the new construction site. Now called the Pioneer Homestead, the site also has a smoke house donated by Mrs. Daisy Roberts and son; C. T. Roberts. The chimney and fireplace were donated by E. D. Ragsdale. The bell donated by Mr. and Mrs. Milt Ross and shake shingles by many citizens of Taney County, as well as, many furnishings inside the cabin.
A plaque at city hall proclaims "This cabin was restored through a community effort hoping to preserve the culture of our sturdy fore-fathers of this area."
At the present time, Forsyth Garden Club is aiding the city with the upkeep of the cabin by cleaning the interior and contents and also planting the iron kettles on the front porch each spring.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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