During May 2013, the Bear Paw State Natural Area near Boone, North Carolina acquired an 11.5 ha tract of land and two log cabins from David Wray of Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Work was soon underway to determine the historical nature of these two buildings and to evaluate them for consideration for the National Register of Historic Places. A historic structure report, completed as a collaboration between Appalachian State University and the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, was unable to discover much about the history of the two log cabins except that they were both likely moved to their current location in the early 20th Century. To determine when the cabins were built, we extracted core samples from logs in both cabins and compared the tree-ring patterns to region-wide, precisely-dated reference chronologies. We dated the tulip poplar tree-ring chronology from the Big Cabin to the period 1675–1859. Cutting dates on several of the logs revealed tree harvest likely occurred between fall 1859 and spring 1860. Some logs had outermost rings that dated to 1857 and 1858. Still, these logs may have been harvested a few years earlier, or some of the outer rings may have been lost during construction or sampling. We were unable to absolutely date an 81-year long American chestnut chronology from the Small Cabin. Our results confirmed that the Big Cabin was an Antebellum Period structure (pre-American Civil War) and therefore has potential historical significance. Because we still cannot tie this cabin to a historical figure or a historical event, the cabin cannot be nominated yet for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, but the identification of an original construction date for the cabin may contribute to further assessment for inclusion on a local or national register. In the meantime, we intend to use this cabin in annual summer workshops for undergraduate students taking courses at Appalachian State University so that more students can be exposed to the hands-on nature of scientific inquiry and can learn the value of dendrochronology for understanding human and environmental history.
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Vol. 73 • No. 2