North River Mills, West Virginia
A village forgotten by time, but not by us.
The Hiett Log House
The Hiett Log House
There are several unusually interesting houses in North River Mills. For several of them the more modern siding hides the original log house. In the old days people were relatively poor since they were usually what we today call "subsistence farmers." They might have most everything that they needed for living, but little or no cash money to buy things that were not readily available from the woods or fields. Everything was saved and recycled as much as possible. This was true for buildings and building materials as for anything else. What we call the Hiett House is really two log houses joined into one. We do not know exactly when this joining of two separate buildings was done or what was the source of the original buildings. But we can see that this house had a very unusual feature. Usually when two houses were joined one or both of the adjoining fourth walls was kept to hold the house together. Without a log wall stabilizing the joint, the house might bulge outward and collapse. Here you see the joint of the two separate buildings without any fourth side wall to hold the building together. In fact, the log wall of the house on the right was cut off leaving the joint stuck on the facing wall logs; the house on the left had all of the joining wall removed and the logs attached to a vertical post.
This show were the space between logs was rather large and they chose to use pieces of wood to fill in the gaps instead of just chinking. The old chinking has not been repaired in this picture.
Log houses were usually built directly on the ground or maybe the lowest log was laid on stones to try to keep it from contacting the ground. In any case, eventually the lower log would rot away. After more years the next log that had become the lowest log would itself rot away. This process would lower the house as the base or foundation logs were rotted. These pictures show what happens to the house as this occurs. Several things must be accounted for: a. the second floor lowers, b. windows and doors lower, c. the roof lowers down. One must do something to correct all of these problems. This picture shows an old window that is now at floor height has been filled in and a new, higher window created just to the left of the old one. We do not know exactly why they chose to fill the gap with river rocks except that they were readily available. Sawed boards were expensive in those days.
This next picture may be a bit hard to see, but it shows the second story of the house. In the right corner is a window that has been filled in as the roof lowered. Just above the window is what was probably the original top log on which the roof rafters were set. You will note it is quite straight. It is joined to another straight log on the end wall. Above these are larger logs that seem a bit different than the lower logs. This shows how the roof was raised by at least four logs so the second story would be made a comfortable living space instead of a cramped area where one would have to crawl around.
For those of us today who are used to getting building supplies from Lowe's or Home Depot or even a local lumber yard, the old houses have something special. Here you see a partition wall in the house. Notice the vertical boards. Judging by the size of the doorway and the height of the chair rail, you can see these are very wide boards. They measure about eighteen inches wide.
These are just a few of the interesting points of this old house. Like the other buildings in North River Mills, this house has its own special charm and uniqueness. Each was a custom work, put together with whatever was at hand. Each has its own special history. Perhaps, one day, someone will write a history of this house and share it with us.
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