“My grandmother used to clean this out and we’d play with our dolls here,” Smith said Friday, looking at the stone fireplace standing in the Daniel House — a preserved 1840s log cabin now part of Janney Furnace Park in Ohatchee.
Smith, along with her sister, Mary Emma Acker, and brother, Edwin Parton, are descendants of Henry and Mary Daniel, who first occupied the cabin around 1843. The three siblings on Friday made their first visit to the cabin since their family donated the cabin to the Calhoun County Commission.
Over the course of nine months, Gary Frazier, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, moved the cabin, log by log, from its location on Daniel Road to the park, completing the project in January.
“I don’t like seeing our history and heritage destroyed,” Frazier said on Friday. “There’s too much of that going on.”
The April 2011 tornado blew the roof of the cabin, which at that point had been uninhabited for years.
“My husband said we could just burn the place,” said Mary Emma Acker, one of the three living great-grandchildren of the cabin’s original inhabitants. “But we didn’t really want to do that. And this is certainly much nicer than burning it.”
Calhoun County Circuit Clerk Eli Henderson, who at the time was a county commissioner, said he’d been looking for years for a log cabin to put in Janney Furnace Park when he got a call from the Ackers about the cabin.
Henderson invited Smith, Acker and Parton, as well as their children and grandchildren, to see the preserved building, and on Friday, three generations of Henry and Mary Daniel’s descendants crammed into the cabin.
“They did such a nice job, and I’m so proud,” Acker said. “And I know grandmother would be proud too.”
The cabin’s first big scheduled event is next week, when fourth-graders from Piedmont and Jacksonville will visit as part of their history unit on the Civil War. Henderson said that was the biggest reason he’d wanted for years to get the local landmark to the park.
“It’s not like we got this from someplace else,” Henderson said. “It’s hard to believe there were people here in the 1860s, but they were here. This is part of Ohatchee history.”
Not that everything about the cabin is the same, Smith said. By the time she was born in 1927 in the cabin where her grandmother and grandfather lived, the structure had expanded into a house with additional rooms and hallways to accommodate the 11 children of Henry and Mary Emma Daniel. The recent preservation, which includes a new wooden table and chairs, is preserved to the single room first built and occupied in the 1840s.
But in many ways, Smith said, the cabin as it stands today, replicating its 19th-century look, is more modern than her grandparents’ home she remembered visiting as a little girl.
“It’s much nicer,” she said with a laugh, pointing out how the building now has electrical wiring and outlets. “They didn’t have a car, or running water, or electricity. Grandmother was really roughing it.”
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.