Watoga Trail Report

Sollie Workman, on ladder, and Wayne Pollard continue restoration work on the Workman Cabin at Watoga State Park. K. Springer photo

Ken Springer
Watoga Park Foundation

Come rain, snow or sleet, the Workman Cabin can handle it

For several decades the 133-year-old homestead cabin of the Workman Family was open to the elements. The original doors, windows and shutters had deteriorated or were missing altogether. Rain, snow and invading critters took their toll on the exterior as well as the interior of the chestnut and poplar cabin.

As of this past Saturday, the cabin is once again impervious to the elements, thanks to the abilities and devotion of one man, Wayne Pollard. Wayne is a board member of the Watoga State Park Foundation and is also a skilled woodworker.

Wayne had already done much toward the restoration of the historic cabin by securing grants from his employer, Mon Power. During the summer of 2019, the foundation of the cabin was repaired and several rotted logs were replaced on-site by Ethan Burgess and his sister, Vada.

Additionally, the Workman Cemetery was revitalized with a new fence thanks to David Workman and his son, Travis. Volunteers cleaned up the overgrown gravesites and the Workman family took up a collection to purchase markers for some of the unmarked graves.

When Wayne heard of the wretched condition of the cabin’s two doors and three windows he offered up his own expertise to solve the problem. 

Because the dimensions of the various openings are non-standard, as well as being insufficiently square, Wayne knew that he had to customize some of the fixtures on-site.

Wayne credits his parents for his spirit of helping others. “I have always been taught to use any God-given talents for the good of others,” he said.

Judging by his history with the foundation, Wayne demonstrates his parent’s credo in spades.

On November 7, Wayne teamed up with Sollie and Anne Workman to install the custom-made shutters and doors. Sollie is the great-grandson of Andrew Workman, who built the cabin back in 1887 at the head of Rock Run.

I asked Anne, also a foundation member, how they managed to complete the project when the window and door openings fall short of conforming to any standard measurements.

“Wayne built the three sets of shutters and two doors off-site, and we hauled them in with our truck and Wayne’s trailer,” she said. “They were rough-sawn poplar and maple. Each window and door is a different size and nothing is plumb in the building.

“Each opening had to be cut to fit and new hinges installed for all. Thanks to eBay, Wayne was able to match the old, unique style of shutter hinges on the original cabin.

“Wayne plans to build some rustic windows using old glass donated from Cass State Park, but in case that doesn’t happen before winter, he wanted to get some shutters in place to protect the cabin from the elements.”

“While Sollie and Wayne installed the shutters and doors, I swept up decades of dust, spider webs, nutshells and nests,” Anne continued. “I also replaced a piece of wood flooring to cover a hole in the floor.”

Imagine what just a few people can do in one day – particularly the folks of Pocahontas County who demonstrate time after time their self-reliance and sense of independence.

Many people here are just a few generations away from their pioneer ancestors. Uniquely, the skills and perseverance of mountain people are not lost to time as is often the case in urban areas. They are passed down as family heirlooms.

So on one Saturday in November, three of the very best of our county came together and took one big step toward the preservation of one of the jewels of Watoga State Park, the Workman Cabin.

Wayne Pollard’s handiwork is impressive enough on its own, let alone having to make corrections on-site. When asked why he decided to put so much of his own time into preserving the Workman Cabin he replied, “I have always loved woodworking, and this is a great opportunity to leave a small legacy of sorts.”

A public hike out to the Workman Cabin is being planned for the summer of 2021 to celebrate the Bicentennial. The hike, led by Sollie Workman, will visit the historic Workman Cabin and Cemetery.

The story of life on this subsistence pioneer farm will be shared along the way. A side trip to view the nearby Old Growth trees is also in the works. 

Ken Springer
The Watoga Trail Report
Ken1949bongo@gmail.com

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