Shaw home being restored

Published 7:00 am Friday, September 16, 2016

BACK IN TIME: visitors will notice the house has a new tin roof, which replaced the old wood shingle roof.  Photo by Jeremy Pittari

BACK IN TIME: visitors will notice the house has a new tin roof, which replaced the old wood shingle roof.
Photo by Jeremy Pittari

Behind a thick cover of trees and brush is an old log cabin that takes visitors back more than 100 years.
In the old cabin, are artifacts from a time before electricity made life easier. Many of these glimpses into the past have been pilfered, or moved to a safe location, said Julia Anderson, who lives next door to the cabin and acts as a representative for the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain to grant access to those interested in touring the historic site.
Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain Executive Director Judy Steckler said a lot of restoration of the home has been completed, but more is needed. The property is locally known as the Shaw Homestead.
The process to acquire the property began in 2004. Steckler said that most of the property was donated to the trust, but there was one heir who demanded money for their share of the property.
On that property is one dogtrot style log cabin, complete with four rooms, a separate building for the kitchen, and two standing structures described as a smoke house and shed. Another structure described as the tractor barn lies in ruins due to damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina.
So far, work to the property has included the installation of a new metal roof. Anderson said the original roof was made of wooden shingles, but the expense to restore the roof to that material was not cost-effective.
While touring the home, light shines through the many cracks in the walls and the floor gives like a trampoline. Some of the original linoleum remains, with patches missing that reveal the aged wood beneath.
Anderson said she befriended the previous owners of the home when she moved to Pearl River County in the 1980s. She made frequent visits to talk with the elderly residents, who at the time lived next door to the log cabin. During her interactions with that family she heard many stories about growing up in the early 1900s.
Kitchens and other buildings were typically built away from main cabins during that era due to the possibility of fires, Anderson said. That was especially true of the kitchen, which either employed a fireplace or wood-burning stove to cook food. The Shaw Homestead still has a fireplace in the kitchen, and what appears to be an old natural gas stove.
Throughout the home the most recent technological advancement is the presence of electrical wiring. Anderson said she heard stories about how a rural electric company announced they would be bringing electricity to Barth Road. In anticipation of this new service, residents along the road preemptively had their homes wired and even bought radios, washing machines and televisions in preparation for the day electricity would arrive.
Once the utility was available, instead of the families gathering in the open central area of the dogtrot cabin, they gathered around the television stationed in the master bedroom of the home.
Prior to the Land Trust taking ownership, the home sat dormant for decades. Steckler said that Mary Shaw left the home shortly after Hurricane Camille in 1969 to live with her daughter in the house next door. From that time until the Land Trust took ownership, the home fell into a state of disrepair.
So far, grant funding and volunteers have helped restore the roof on the home and kitchen. Repairs to the tractor shed are planned and will entail disassembling the remaining pieces before putting it all back together, Steckler said.
Once this property is complete, Steckler said she plans to hold farm days where visitors can learn about the history of farming, timber and shearing.
The Land Trust owns 80 properties throughout the six coastal counties, eight of those are in Pearl River County. The Shaw Homestead is the only property owned by the Land Trust to have a structure. Steckler said they tend to avoid purchasing property with structures due to the expense of maintaining them.
Properties are typically acquired by purchasing the deed outright, but there are instances of owners providing the trust with life estate deeds, which means the property is turned over to the trust upon the owner’s passing.
At that point, the heirs still own the property, but the trust is granted a conservation easement, providing certain rights to the property.
The exact nature of the rights depends on the agreement the trust meets with the owner prior to death.

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