The following information about the Turner-Peters Dogtrot Cabin history and restoration is based primarily upon information provided at different times by Mr. Mervin Peters, a long-time Brazos Heritage Society member and a major member of the restoration group.
The Dog-Trot Cabin style in American History
While Mr. Peters and his fellow restoration group members are partial to the term “cabin”, the formal definition of the structure, built in 1856, is a “house” primarily due to the raised plank flooring. In contrast, a cabin typically has dirt floors. According to an article on the Texas State Historical Association site, a dog-trot (also known as a dog-run or double log) cabin consisted of two cabins separated by a ten- or fifteen-foot passageway. A continuous gabled roof covered the entire structure, including the passage. Often a front porch extended across the length of the house, while lean-to sheds were added at the rear for additional space. The walls of the house were made from horizontal, hand-hewn logs, chinked with sticks and clay to keep out the weather.
Anson Jones House, Barrington Living History Farm, Washington-on-the Brazos. Example of a restored dog-trot style house.
Each cabin had a door opening onto the dog-run. The purpose for the passage was to catch the breeze. However, the area often also “caught” farm and household articles as well as sleeping dogs…hence the name.
Flooring consisted of dirt, sawed boards, or split logs laid flat side up. Roofing was typically overlapping oak clapboards held down by weight poles; the chimney was a clay and stick mixture, like the chinking. Later chimneys were shingled with brick chimneys. Windows were few, and glass windows were even rarer.
Dog-trot cabins provided common frontier-housing all the way from Alabama to Ontario, Canada and came from earlier cabin styles found in parts of Europe. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s birthplace was a dog-run cabin built in 1889.
As was typical for the era, the Turner-Peters Cabin consisted of two 20-foot cabin sections, joined by a 10-foot run.
For many years, the Turner-Peters Dogtrot Cabin was in the care of the Texas Municipal Power Agency as it was originally built on land that was later purchased by TMPA in Grimes County in a section that was once part of Brazos County. According to Mr. Peters, TMPA did an exemplary job of caring for the cabin for the past 25+ years. It is in excellent condition being “one of the best in the wild found in recent years.”
In 2013, the Board of Directors of Texas Municipal Power Agency approved the transfer of the cabin in order to move it to Boonville. This approval was subject to the Texas Historical Commission granting them unrestricted permission to make the transfer. On February 21, 2014 Mr. Peters’ group received the Texas Historical Commission letter that cleared the way for the TMPA transfer. On February 24, TMPA forwarded an executed copy of the Bill of Sale that transferred ownership to Boonville Re-Development LLC. This entity was created solely to enable acquiring assets and arranging for the restoration/placement of the cabin in Boonville Heritage Park, subject to the Brazos County Commissioner’s Court approval. Approval to place the cabin in the park was given on February 25 during the regular meeting of the Brazos County Commissioner’s Court, subject to the group’s completion of the restoration and planned improvements.
Boonville Heritage Park
The future site for the restored cabin has its own interesting history. Boonville Heritage Park will be developed on property adjoining Boonville Cemetery and fronting Boonville Road (FM 1179). The Boonville Cemetery property was originally acquired by Brazos County at its creation in 1842. However, the Heritage Park site was not acquired by the county until 1890 and was never used as a burial area. Mrs. Margaret van Bavel first brought this separate tract of land to public attention and together with her husband Cornelius, W.T. McDonald, J. Milton Nance, Mary Bess Young, and other interested local individuals the idea of a Living History Museum was proposed. The Turner-Peters cabin will be the first piece of this project, finally bringing their dream to reality some thirty to thirty-five years after it was first proposed.
The Restoration Process
While waiting for final word on the cabin’s transfer, the group contacted Heritage Restoration, a Waco-based company specializing in log structure recovery and restoration throughout the United States and Canada. Ultimately, the group signed a contract with Heritage Restoration in the amount of $109,000 to include all necessary restoration with the exception of the foundation and a few outside items. Undergoing this expert restoration process is anticipated to add another 160 years of useful life to the structure.
Heritage Restoration started the painstaking disassembly of the structure in March of 2014, a process that took four grueling days. At the end of the work, unusable sections were separated into a burn pile, while the usable portions were neatly assembled, banded into numerous bundles of like items (wall logs, roof rafters, floor joists, flooring, etc.), separated into two large trailer loads and finally hauled to Waco. Over an anticipated 45-day period, workers would treat and reassemble the cabin, adding replacement logs and lumber as needed.
Pictures of the Cabin Undergoing Deconstruction
In early June of 2014, the first load of replacement red cedar logs was delivered, with a second load expected by the end of the month. The original logs used in the cabin’s construction were also red cedar, which allows the cabin to remain all red cedar logs from the Central Texas area.
Discussions were also started with the Curator for the Star of the Republic Museum at Washington-on-the-Brazos regarding how to lay out a typical period furnished two crib cabin. She could also identify possible sources for appropriate furnishings.
The Brazos Valley Master Gardner Association has gracious accepted responsibility for planning and planting an early Texas yard around the cabin. They will identify sources for the necessary materials as specified in their plan.
Heritage Restoration expects to complete their work later in 2014 and begin re-erecting the structure at the Boonville site soon thereafter. After it is put into place, it is expected to take several more months to add the roof, the fireplace, porches and the ADA entry that will make the cabin accessible to handicapped visitors. When finished, the structure will be 90% or more original. The group hopes to dedicate the cabin on its new site sometime around March 2015.
Pictures of the Cabin Being Restored
When Mr. Peters first reported on their fundraising efforts in early 2014, they group had succeeded in raising $105,900. In a later update, he disclosed that the William Joel Bryan Chapter #14 of the Sons of the Republic of Texas had adopted the project and was providing most of the leadership and support – along with Ms. Stephanie Sale, a collateral descendent of the Turner family that owned the cabin from 1861 to 1937. Various Turner family members lived in the home most of those years. In 1937, a Peters family member bought the home and it remained in the family’s possession until 1989, although none of them ever lived in the house. In 1989, it was sold to TMPA, who cared for it until its subsequent donation to the restoration group.
Donating to the Project
Two different areas of this ongoing project need support: the remainder of the restoration portion, and operation costs for the exhibit phase of the project.
If you would like to contribute to the project, you may either do so with a check or by credit card.
If you would like to donate by check, please mail the check (made payable to the museum) to Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History, 3232 Briarcrest Dr., Bryan, Texas 77802 with the notation that it is for the Turner-Peters Dogtrot Log Cabin Project.
You can also make a secure credit card donation right on our website through PayPal. Simply click the Donate button for either the restoration or the operation costs and then follow the instructions on the screen to complete the process. You can make a one-time donation or you can set up either a monthly or annual recurring donation.
Any amount that you can contribute will be greatly appreciated and will go a long way toward preserving an important piece of history in the Brazos Valley. Additionally, restoring and displaying the Turner Peters Dog-Trot Cabin will also advance the larger Boonville Heritage project.
Peters, M. Personal e-mail.
White, W. W. 2010. Dog-Run Houses. Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved October 01, 2014 from http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/cfd01
Turner-Peters Dogtrot Cabin Project