Kristen de Graauw is a STEM Mountains of Excellence Fellow and PhD candidate in Geography at West Virginia University. She holds a BA degree in Geography from Kennesaw State University and a MS in Earth and Quaternary Sciences from Indiana State University. She is interested in including log structures – houses, cabins, barns, smokehouses – in Pocahontas County in the Historic Timbers Project.
In summarizing her work, deGraauw uses the word “dendrochronology.”
What is that?
It is tree-ring research.
While some of her work has centered on disease and insect-affected trees, her work in our area will involve “dating” some of the county’s many log structures.
deGraauw has a very impressive blog site, Central Appalachian Timbers, and one of her most recent posts features photos and information gathered when she visited the county last year.
If you own, or know of a log structure in Pocahontas County that needs to be dated or could be useful to the Historic Timbers Project, deGraauw wants to hear about it.
deGraauw includes her wish list, which is as follows:
1) Age: pre-1820 or 1840-1870 (to the best of your knowledge, historical documentation, oral history)
2) Structure type: cabin, house, smokehouse, mill, barn, cabin masquerading as a barn, etc. deGraauw would like to locate seven more structures in the county by spring.
She says if your structure is chosen to be included in the Historic Timbers Project, you will receive:
1) free tree-ring dating
2) final technical report of the investigation
3) an opportunity to hang out with the HTP!
deGraauw first came to Pocahontas County in November 2015, when she visited the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace and met with members of the Pocahontas County Historical Society to gather information on possible structures for her project.
deGraauw’s blog offers insight into the process and procedures incorporated within the Historic Timbers search.
“We started our day at the Pearl Buck Birthplace Museum, where the Sydenstricker House is located… built in approximately 1834…
“Our goal on this trip was to determine if the log structures would be candidates for tree-ring dating. This is the first step in the dating process for us. Very rarely do we accept a structure into the project without doing this important step.
“We start by going over the written/oral history of the structure with the property owner/manager. Then we do an initial sweep of the logs to see if there are any exposed outer surfaces. If there aren’t any logs with outer edges that are exposed enough for us to collect a core, then the tour is over. This doesn’t usually happen, although it has on occasion.
“We start mapping the structure once we’ve determined that there are some exposed outer edges.
“This part of the process is a bit lengthy (1 to 2 hours). We account for every log in the structure, and begin mapping locations that could be sampled on each log. We document whether these exposed surfaces have bark or an outer edge (directly below bark), both on the interior and the exterior of the structure. After we’ve accounted for every log, we add up the potential coring locations and assess the quality of those locations. Surfaces with bark are most preferred. Surfaces with outer edge are second best. Anything less than that reduces the accuracy of the dating…”
At the end of the sampling, it was determined that the Sydenstricker House met the criteria for tree-ring dating.
A barn belonging to the John McNeel family in Hillsboro was also on the agenda.
deGraauw records that “the original house no longer stands but was believed to have been built in the late 1700s when the family settled in the area. It is unknown whether the barn is original or a later addition.”
“When we saw the barn we were blown away. There was bark aplenty! And the logs were diamond notched… It really couldn’t have been any better.
“To say this barn might be a candidate for tree-ring dating is an understatement. There are so many logs in there, and with so many of them still completely covered in bark we didn’t even bother mapping it. It’s definitely on my list for next summer.”
deGraauw also checked out the Kee Cabin on the grounds of the Pocahontas County Historical Society Museum.
“The logs were hewn and steeple notched. We noted a number of locations upstairs that still had bark, and many other locations around the cabin where outer edges were visible.
“We are excited to add Kee Cabin to our list for next summer.”
The last stop in the November visit was at Jerico Bed and Breakfast and Civil War Cabins, and although owner, Tommy Moore, was not available to give a tour of the cabins, deGraauw admits to “peeking” into a few of the cabins, and determined from those “peeks” that the cabins would be candidates for tree-ring dating.
“We are hopeful that we can help them date their collection of historic log structures,” deGraauw wrote. “We also hope to come back sometime and stay in one.”
A return visit is a sure thing if deGraauw locates a sufficient number of log structures for her project.
If you have a structure that could be considered for this project, you can contact deGraauw via the “Contact Form” on the blog site, or email kkdegraauw@mix. wvu.edu
For more information visit www.centralapptimbers.wee bly.com
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at email@example.com