Preservationists are racing to save and move a log cabin that may be the oldest structure in Cobb County, with a $65,000 fundraising campaign underway.
The Power-Jackson Cabin on Post Oak Tritt Road in East Cobb — likely dating to sometime before 1840 — is threatened by lack of maintenance and a recently withdrawn development plan that might come back.
The landowner and the County are supportive in principle of a plan by the nonprofit Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society to move the cabin and restore it at the Hyde Farm Park. That’s a historic site where a number of other Power family buildings still stand — including two other log cabins.
The plan “offers an incredible opportunity to have three cabins from this pioneer era all belonging to the same family” saved on one site, said Cobb Landmarks Executive Director Trevor Beemon.
The property owner is Ken Clary, a 94-year-old Sandy Springs resident whose daughter, Jan Clary Gross, is acting as a go-between on some of the talks. She said her father “absolutely” supports moving the cabin, which he does not have the resources to maintain and has been vacant for more than 20 years. “So we would be happy for someone to properly maintain it,” she said.
County spokesperson Ross Cavitt said there are “ongoing discussions” among Cobb Landmarks, the Parks and Recreation Department, and District 2 County Commissioner Jerica Richardson about the plan.
“The Hyde Farm complex already contains the second and third oldest structure in the county, and the Power-Jackson cabin is said to be the oldest, so a move would make sense,” said Cavitt. “It would, however, take a vote of the Board of Commissioners to accomplish, and that is not yet scheduled.”
Beemon said that the parks department has told his group that the plan is “likely enough that they want us to go ahead and fundraise for it.”
The Power family were early white settlers of today’s East Cobb and Sandy Springs areas in the 1820s. Some members later ran a Chattahoochee River crossing service immortalized in the name of Powers Ferry Road.
Hyde Farm, at 721 Hyde Road, is a site settled by James and Rosa (Dobbs) Power in the 1830s. Their cabin survives, though it is encased by a larger farmhouse built in the 1920s by the Hydes, the later owners of the property. The County now owns the site and maintains the house and other historic buildings as part of a public park.
Adjacent to the farm is another piece of former farmland with another surviving Power family cabin, now owned by Cobb Landmarks. George and Winifred (Copeland) Power built the cabin around 1843. Since 1971, it has been the home of Morning Washburn, an expert on local history who provides tours.
The Power-Jackson cabin currently at risk stands about four miles away, on wooded property at 4701 Post Oak Tritt Road near McPherson Road. Its history is murky, and Cobb Landmarks has volunteers continuing to research who built it and when. What is known is that William Power owned it from 1840 to 1850, when he sold it to his daughter Martha and her husband, Jeptha C. Jackson. The cabin has a significant addition that Cobb Landmarks believes was built around that time. The group wants to move the entire, including the historic addition.
Beemon said Cobb Landmarks has evidence the cabin is older — maybe even predating the Cherokee Land Lottery of 1832, when land forcibly taken by the government from Native Americans was doled out to white settlers. The cabin may even have been built by Cherokee residents. One piece of evidence, he said, is the unusual building method using “riving,” or logs split in half, with the rounded side used as the exterior. The other cabins used hewn logs, where a log was cut into a square shape.
The current owner’s brother bought the property around 1952, according to Gross, and allowed a friend to live in the cabin.
Preserving the cabin has been on Cobb Landmarks’ radar for about 15 years, but previous talks have not worked out. Beemon said there was a proposal to designate it as a county historic landmark, but that did not work out. Gross recalls talk of the County buying the property for parkland, which also did not happen.
New urgency came in recent years, Beemon said, as the cabin’s condition has deteriorated and several logs in the front have collapsed.
The site got fresh attention earlier this year after Clary proposed a housing subdivision. Cobb Landmarks pressed for any such plan to include paying for a move of the cabin. New concerns were raised, including responsibility for the conditions of a dam on the adjacent lake and another historical point — reports that there are graves on the property. A local history book says a Power family member died there in childbirth and is buried on the site with her twins, according to Beemon and an East Cobb News report.
Clary withdrew the subdivision proposal in May, while talks about moving the cabin have continued, as does testing for graves. Gross said an initial probe of the site by a consultant found no graves but that it remains a “pending issue” that could require more testing, including the site of the cabin.
Meanwhile, Cobb Landmarks — with Clary’s cooperation — had the cabin examined by Vic Hood of Tennessee-based Leatherwood, Inc., a specialist in log cabin restoration who previously worked on Hyde Farm. Hood could not be reached for comment, but Beemon said he deemed it salvageable.
Cobb Landmarks estimates the cost to disassemble and move the cabin is $65,000, with restoration costing another $300,000. The relocation costs — the immediately pressing concern — must be privately funded in the current plan. According to Cavitt, some restoration costs could be covered by a 2011 special local option sales tax (SPLOST) for the restoration of buildings at Hyde Farm, the funds for which have not been completely spent. SPLOST money could not be used for regular maintenance after that, according to Cavitt, and would need to be funded by the parks department.
Exactly where the cabin might go at Hyde Farm if the relocation is successful is unclear. Beemon said it would need to be “out of the sightline of that farm so it doesn’t interfere with the historic integrity of that site.”
Washburn, the longtime resident of the already-preserved Power cabin, said she hopes the endangered one can join the collection around Hyde Farm. She said their roots in local history and ecology are important.
“You could take these cabins and put them somewhere else, and the life of them would be missing,” she said. “I very much believe there is a sense of place. There is a spirit of place.” The cabins, she said, are “a library of information from the past and also a standard and a window for the future.”
For more information about the Power-Jackson cabin and to donate to its relocation fund, see the Cobb Landmarks website.