Go West, Build Fast
The Log Cabin History
Mary Lea Burlison
There is perhaps no idea more American than that of the frontier. "Go West, Young
Man" was the call to adventure and fortune that motivated generations of settlers to
head for the great unknown. The notion that opportunity lay just over the next rise
sustained an immense migration that began soon after the first European settlements on
this continent. Scarcely had one area been settled than civilization would hopscotch over
it for the next. The rapidity of their push west could never have occurred without a
shelter that could be erected rapidly using only materials at hand. The solution for many
settlers was a structure that has since come to represent the quintessential American folk
dwelling: the log cabin.
As an icon of our frontier heritage, the log cabin symbolizes qualities that are
considered uniquely American: self-reliance, independence, practicality and ingenuity. So
strongly was the log cabin associated with these virtues that it was once a political
asset to have lived in one. Presidents Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln gained popular
advantage from the fact that they were born in log cabins. Even as late as the 1950's,
Senator Robert Kerr of Oklahoma tried to boost his presidential aspirations by advertising
his birth in a log cabin.
Actually, log cabins originated in Scandinavia long before the settlement of the United
States began. The Swedes who came to America brought their housing traditions with them.
The log house was adopted by every European nationality that settled in early America; the
difference among them were the floor plans. The Scotch-Irish usually preferred a
rectangular cabin with both a front and back door. Whatever the plan, most cabins had a
root cellar that provided cold storage for food.(1)
The log cabin also became a popular choice of the American Indians. By 1810 most
members of the Cherokee tribe living in Georgia and Tennessee had log cabins.
A cabin raising was a special social gathering that brought the settlers together in a
spirit of community. Usually, the men and boys of the family for whom the cabin was
intended worked several days felling trees, striping limbs and stacking logs suitable for
constructing the cabin or barn. When enough logs were ready, a day for the 'raising' was
set and news of the coming event was spread throughout the country side. The ladies took
great pride in preparing food for the occasion. It was a time for them to visit and catch
up on the latest news. The children looked forward to a day of playing with friends they
seldom saw. A cabin raising was a 'family event' as well as a community affair.
The living accommodations were at best, spartan. In a one room cabin, six to seven
people shared the space. Virtually everything in the cabin was handmade, from the
furniture to the cooking pots, to the clothing.
If work was hard for the log cabin dweller, life was dramatic and memorable. (Everyone
witnessed life up close, first hand and communally.) Births, deaths, sickness, triumphs
and tragedies were expressed as the essentials of existence. Frontier families were often
poor and exposed to constant dangers but most considered life fulfilling and good. The
settlers owned their own land and were free politically and economically.
In the later part of the twentieth century we envision the pioneers returning at the
end of the day to the comforting sounds of a crackling fire, the smells of roasting food
and the sharing of stories, gossip and the latest news. The hypnotic rhythm of a spinning
wheel and perhaps the gentle plucking of a dulcimer provided a preface to a restful nights
sleep surrounded by bedclothes made of down and homespun wool. For us, this romanticized
notion of frontier life is a provocative alternative to television and fast food!
Our early Casey clan members surely had their share of log cabin existence! Some of the
Casey 1800's cabins are still with us! Many of us have seen or know about the Levi Casey
cabin which has been preserved at Silver Dollar City, Branson, Missouri, but there are
several other Casey log structures still around.
Don and Rosemary Barrett, who own the Lewis R. Casey place at Witts Springs, Searcy
Co., AR, have invited the CFA members to stop and see the log cabin there. It is now
covered over by a storage shed but the log structure can be seen from the inside. Lewis
Casey is the ancestor of our CFA Vice-president, Charles D. Casey of Benton, AR.
There is a Casey house just south of the Walnut Grove Cemetery at Boxley, Newton Co.,
AR, which was built in 1880 by Alexander Franklin and Miranda (Brooks) Casey. It was built
on the homesite of A. F.'s parents' log home which had been built c1845. That
original log home was destroyed by fire during the Civil War. The west wing of the present
one story house is built of large logs, the east wing of milled lumber. The Bill Clark's,
who owned the house in the 1950's added a kitchen wing, a 'L' wing to the rear and the
enclosing of the original 'dog trot.' Alexander F. Casey was the son of Abner Ellsberry
Casey, grandson of Abner and Elizabeth (Bowen) Casey, great grandson of Aaron and Polly
A. F. Casey had an older brother, John P. Casey. John's log house still stands, vacant
and ivy covered, up above Walker Bench, by the road to Mt. Shiloh, Newton Co. AR. It was
probably built around 1880.(2)
My grandmother, Mary Emmaline (Casey) Craig could remember the log home on Falling
Water Road, Searcy Co., AR, which belonged to her grandparents, C. C. and Kissia Casey. My
grandmother was born in that house on June 18, 1891. She remembered the house as a two
story with a porch across the front where her grandparents often sat. She said that the
grist mill on Falling Water Creek, where C. C. Casey worked, could be seen from the
upstairs dormer windows.
At this same time Emma's parents, Tom and Mollie (Cherry) Casey also lived in a log
home at nearby Quincy, AR (now Moore), Newton, Co., AR, until she was 8 or 9 years old.
The log home of C. C. and Kissia Casey is no longer standing. Only the rock lined, hand
dug well remains as evidence of the home site. The log house of Tom and Mollie still
stands. It has been built around, but the back side is the original log house. This place
is now owned by the Rudder family. It is located on the right side of the road, north from
the Ben Hur corner to the Moore Cemetery, Newton Co., AR. It sits back from the road and
is now vacant.
James C. and Pauline (Bell) Casey, CFA members, now own a partial log home on Falling
Water Road which formerly belonged to J. C.'s parents Tom and Cretie (Garrison) Casey.
Possibly, some of the CFA members can inform us about other 'Casey log structures'
which still stand. If so, please share that information with the clan. The CFA would like
to take pictures and document them for the family history.
Bartholomew Abner Casey, son of C. C. 'Cap' and Kissia (Wright) Casey and his wife
Serilda (Laymon) Casey built a large log home at Quincy (now Moore), Newton Co., AR, c1882.
I hope that you will enjoy the following description of the Bart and Serilda Casey log
home taken from the Casey Family History written by their sons, Abner and George W. Casey
who were raised there.--The large house of the Bart Casey family was by no stretch of the
imagination a log cabin, but a real house. It was a large two story structure about 28
feet square with a porch extending along the front and a shed type room extending part way
along the backside which was used as a combination kitchen and dining room. The remainder
of the backside was a porch. The first story of the main house was for many years one
large room which served as a living room, bedroom combination, with a fireplace about four
feet wide. This was later divided into three rooms, living room and two bedrooms. The
up-stairs was a large room where the boys, the hired hands and the neighbor boys (of which
there was always from one to half a dozen) played and slept. The school teacher who taught
at the nearby school also stayed with the Bart Casey's. The home was also the regular
stopping place for anyone passing through the area.
The home was a favorite gathering place of the neighborhood after supper and on Sundays
afternoons, often with thirty to forty children in the yard playing such games as Ante
Over, Go In and Out the Window, Drop the Handkerchief, Needles Eye and Here We Go Around
the Mulberry Bush until dark.
The early neighbors to the Bart Casey family were the Craigs, Edwards, Boyds,
Claighorns, Mart Hudson, and many Standridge families, later came the Hankins, the
Garrisons, Smith, Stevens, Lees and others. At one time or another, Bart's brother, Tom,
Jack, Lum, Ben and Jim lived in the Quincy (Moore) community or nearby. His brother John
Turner lived nearby in Searcy County
Square dancing during the first twenty years of Bart and Serilda Casey's married life
was a favorite pastime in the community. They frolicked and danced to such tunes as
Leather Breeches, Ten Cents, The Eighth of January and Bonapartes' Retreat. On these
occasions the beds and other furniture would be moved out of the large downstairs room and
this area of that comfortable 1880's log home would become a large ballroom.
This log home was built from the sturdiest white oak of the Ozarks, some of which were
twenty inches or more in diameter at the small end. They were hewn with a broad ax,
notched at the corners. The walls were well chinked and daubed. The roof was made of white
oak boards which were froe-riven at the site.
About 1908 the Bart Casey family decided to build a new frame home and the log house
was torn down. This was a mistake! With a new roof at thirty year intervals this log house
would have lasted for centuries.
Note: The second home mentioned in the Casey History still stands today. The home site
is just beyond the General Store site, to the north. The second house had wrap-around
porches which are gone now, but the main structure is still there. I visited this house in
1949 with my grandparents and our pictures show the porches intact at that time. The house
is now painted white, unoccupied and in disrepair, but the wild, pink roses and yellow
daffodils still bloom each spring near the path to the front door. Mary Lea (Glover)
Burlison, Editor CCT
Return To: CFA Newsletter
1. Col. H. Mag. Mauer
2. Buffalo Valley Hist. Soc.