In the 1820s, the Blevins family built a primitive, two story home without the use of nails in today's Hempstead County, Arkansas. This house was situated just a stone's throw away from the pioneer road, also called the military road and now referred to as the Southwest Trail, that led Anglo settlers from Tennessee through Arkansas and into Spanish/Mexican Texas. It was not a fancy home but it became a focal point for southwestern Arkansas Territory as traders, soldiers, displaced Native Americans, pioneers, and people leaving the U.S. for potential opportunity in Mexican Texas passed by.
In the 1930s, the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), founded during the New Deal, documented the house: "The walls of the tavern are built of six inch pine logs of variable heights put togetehr with pegs; split boards and mud fill the cracks between the logs. The hallways at both floors are exposed to the open air at the front and the rear of the building. A circular stairway without handrails connects the two halls. Traces of former outside chimineys at each end of the building can be seen on the drawings. The second florwindows are very small and were placed only on the front."
HABS took two photographs of the front and rear sections but I cannot seem to locate any additional photographs of the staircase.
Although it's been described as a "tavern" by the Library of Congress, it seems to never have been one. Instead, it was the Blevins' family home. However, because it was located near a spring and along the main road to the Red River in southwest Arkansas, it became a beacon for all sorts of people, including Davy Crockett, who was described as a "personal friend" of Hugh Blevins. Lots of people camped around the home until the area became more settled. During the 1850s, the house served as a stagecoach stop and an inn.
I believe that the family did not rely on slave labor to build this cabin, but I could be wrong. As I researched the Blevins family (who lent their name to the town of Blevins in Hempstead County, Arkansas), they faced financial difficulty prior to the Civil War. When they had a judgement placed against them in favor of creditors, the court dispersed livestock and other items, but no human beings. But the craftmanship of building a two-story log cabin with precise dovetails, stone chimneys, and especially a circular staircase, suggests that the Blevins either were skilled carpenters or hired them.
It's frustrating that this cabin is no longer alive. It graced the public school's property but it proved to dangerous for the kids goofing around it. And, it was too dilapidated to move, so it succumbed to the bulldozer in the 1960s.
I've posted about this cabin before and it's alos included in my book, "The Red River Valley in Arkansas: Gateway to the Southwest." I love this building, even only from others' memories, and it is still a real shame that it no longer occupies its space in history.
The HABS program is still doing its thing. Read about its history here:
From a news article in the Hope Star, June 1936