We walked along a worn footpath and as we approached the old house, we discovered we weren't the only people curious about 18th century life in Virginia's mountains. Other travelers on the mountain top had also stopped for a glimpse back in time.
Notice the lack of windows on the side of the house. In the heart of the wilderness during the colonial period, hundreds of miles from civilization, glass windows were a rarity.
The two chairs suggest that the owners enjoy sitting on their porch, perhaps at the end of the day after chores are finished.
Before I even set foot onto the porch, I saw a woman's feminine touch. Do you see it? On each side of the steps, fall flowers bloom in a hollowed-out log. The small pumpkin whispers that it is harvest time.
We called out, but the mistress of the cabin was nowhere to be seen. With the open door inviting visitors inside, I couldn't resist admiring the kitchen with its stone cooking fireplace. Several skillets and a shovel for fireplace ashes hang on the wall. The hearth boasts a variety of iron kettles and a candle mold rests on the mantle. On the floor to the right is a stoneware butter churn. Perhaps the lady has gone to the meadow to bring the cow in for milking.
The blue granite coffee pot, galvanized bucket, and stoneware butter churn that you see in the photo are 20th century items. Because many 18th century log cabins were well-constructed and maintained, they lasted into the 20th century, their more recent owners blending their lives between the old and new.
To the right of the fireplace is a small opening that has been cut in the log wall. During the colonial period, raids by Native Americans were common on the frontier. Cabin owners intentionally cut several small holes in their walls for viewing and shooting purposes. Small openings used primarily for the defense of a cabin are called "loopholes." Additionally, the opening would help draw in fresh outside air. Hanging underneath the loophole is a block of wood that fits in the opening and seals it shut.
Tucked into a corner of the room is a rope bed covered with a homemade quilt. You can see a sturdy rope threaded through the bed frame at the foot of the bed. Straw or feather-filled ticks were laid on top of the ropes. Rope beds were popular in the 1700s. This particular wood bed frame appears to be from a later period. Hanging on the wall to the right of the bed is a dulcimer, a string instrument that produces a delightful sound.
Dulcimers were used by 18th and 19th century Scot-Irish who settled in the Appalachian back country. Today, one can still hear the instrument played in rural parts of the Appalachians.
Stepping outside, we saw that the sun was nearing near its midday mark - a sign that we needed to leave these tranquil surroundings and drive farther along the spines of the Blue Ridge. It's hard to leave such a beautiful, peaceful place where it's so easy to glimpse the life our ancestors once lived. But we'll be back when the mountains call once more to us.
Photographs by ©2017 Cynthia Howerter
Award-winning author Cynthia Howerter grew up playing in Fort Rice, a Revolutionary War fort owned by family members, and lived on land in Pennsylvania once called home by 18th century Oneida Chief Shikellamy. Hunting arrowheads and riding horses at break-neck speed across farm fields while pretending to flee from British-allied Indians provided exciting childhood experiences for Cynthia and set the stage for a life-long love of all things historical. A descendant of a Revolutionary War officer and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), history flows through Cynthia's veins.