FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) Florence County is loaded with history, of South Carolina and of the entire south. The county has also been quite good at preserving it, not only the stories of its colorful past, but the artifacts that truly bring it all to life.
The Hewn Timber Cabins are located on the FMU campus and have been for more than 170 years, for a number of reasons. The folks who lived in the cabins back in the day, would sweep the yard daily so that no weeds or grass would grow, and in turn, there would be no bugs to infest the timbers that held these cabins together.
When traders came to the cotton farm, located where Francis Marion University stands now, they didn't fully grasp the building and architectural talents that came with them.
Two Hewn Timber Cabins are all that is left of an original eight on the grounds.
Karl McAlister explains, "The most unique feature about these cabins is the full dove-tail corners. And the people that built the cabins came with the knowledge when they came here to work as farm help."
Equally impressive was the knowledge the builders had of the material, that splitting the logs and exposing the inside core of the log to the outside element would offer an almost impenetrable facade.
"The wood they had the most of was soft pinewood, and that wood has a substance, resin. The resin could be used as a wood preservative as well as wood protectant. And it did. It protected the wood from insects as well as the weather," says McAlister.
In fact, the cabins have never been treated, not once since being built in 1836. The builders and their preservation was impressive enough to convince a world famous museum to want one for itself, then came Hugo.
"One of the cabins was supposed to go the Smithsonian museum in Washington. The hurricane destroyed the roof," recalls McAlister. "The roofs were redone. The cabins lost some of their authenticity and we had to keep it here at Francis Marion."
A win - win, for FMU.
Visit the cabins and get the story of those who shared the structures. Their actual tools, furnishings, even dinnerware. But most importantly, a sense of how this era in American history fits into the mold than makes us who we are today.
It was a difficult existence, no doubt, outside these tiny quarters. It must have been worse inside.
"In the cabin we have here the Whaters family. [They were] the last family to live there, and there was Mr. Whaters, Mrs. Whaters and their 12 children. So, you're looking at 14 people living in a cabin that [measures[ maybe 20 by 15. At the most."
On the National Register of Historic Places, the Hewn Timber Cabins are a step back in time, and a must step inside the next time you're in Florence.
The history of the Hewn Timber Cabins continues at the home of the president of FMU. In fact for all intents and purposes, it's the same mansion that existed in the mid 1800s.
Get more stories from WMBF News' In Your Community from Florence County.