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  • The building blocks of history

    Workers are restoring historic cabin, using craftsmanship of its original era
  • Before swinging the broadax, Kyle McGuire pulled on a pair of thick gloves.
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    • History of the Harlow cabin
      The Harlow cabin was built in 1930-31 by William Harlow, a gold prospector from Virginia, with the help of his father, W.L. Harlow.
      The Harlow family's Evergreen Bar Placer Mine claim was along ...
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      History of the Harlow cabin
      The Harlow cabin was built in 1930-31 by William Harlow, a gold prospector from Virginia, with the help of his father, W.L. Harlow.

      The Harlow family's Evergreen Bar Placer Mine claim was along Elliott Creek, about a half-dozen miles southeast of what is now Applegate Dam. The site is just across the state line in Siskiyou County, Calif.

      Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the unique, 1˝-story cabin is built of hand-hewn conifer logs lifted up by an A-frame boom and placed atop a foundation of native stones laid without mortar.

      The mining cabin, which has a gable roof, offers 1,065 square feet of living space. It is 41 feet long by 17 feet wide. While the outside surface of the logs are round, their interior sides were squared off with a broadax.

      William Harlow remained in the area until about 1942, left the region for a decade, then returned to live and work in the Sterling Creek drainage until 1957.

      The U.S. Forest Service acquired the cabin in 1991 when the original mining claim was found to be null and void. In the early 1990s, the agency replaced some of the cabin's rotting lower logs and put on a new metal roof.

      The road to the site is blocked by a locked gate. To enter the area, a key must be obtained from the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District office.
  • Before swinging the broadax, Kyle McGuire pulled on a pair of thick gloves.
    "This is where the term 'barking' your knuckles comes from," he cautions, referring to the potential for scraping his knuckles while squaring off a log with what looks like something an executioner would have employed during the Middle Ages.
    What the U.S. Forest Service archaeologist was executing Tuesday was the finishing touches on a log being used in the restoration of an old miners' cabin in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest known as the Harlow cabin.
    The Region 1 Historic Preservation team from Missoula, Mont., is taking the lead role in the log-replacement work on the circa-1930 cabin in the Siskiyous.
    McGuire, archaeologist and minerals administrator for the Helena National Forest in Montana, periodically works with the team to restore old structures throughout the West.
    "I'm sure the old-timers were way better at this than I am," he says as he begins hewing the 30-foot-long log.
    The team refers to McGuire as the "log man" because his deftness with logs would have impressed the miners of old who built the cabin.
    The structure is believed to be the last largely unaltered mining cabin from that era still standing in the forest, says local forest archaeologist Janet Joyer.
    "We have two or three old structures like this that were guard stations and other things, but they were not built specifically for mining," she says.
    "Throughout Southern Oregon and Northern California, mining is what brought settlers here. To have one standing mining cabin left like this makes it a rare and valuable piece of our history."
    For Joyer, who retires Friday after more than three decades in the agency, the restoration project is a pleasant way to conclude her time with the Forest Service. The archaeologist has been shepherding the project along in recent years.
    "I have personally been working on this because of its deteriorating condition and the story it has to tell about our earliest settlers," she says. "It is tremendously satisfying to have this as my final project."
    When replacing logs suffering from dry rot, great care is taken to ensure the replacements match up, says Kristen Hauge, archaeologist with the Gold Beach Ranger District.
    "Inside the cabin, you see distinctive marks of the broadax having been used," she says. "We are replicating that on the new logs."
    All the replacement logs came from trees felled near the cabin, which has been hemmed in by trees in recent years.
    "They were shading the cabin — we are trying to get it to dry out a little," Hauge says.
    Once the cabin is fully restored, the plan is to rent it out, says Donna Mickley, ranger in charge of the Siskiyou Mountains Ranger District.
    "We want other people to come out and enjoy it," she says. "But it will take us several years to complete the restoration. And it's a bit of a process to enter a new facility into the rental program.
    "We've been trying to protect this site until we can get it restored and have a regular presence in here."
    Because of its remote location, the cabin has been vandalized by weekenders holding parties there over the years. The agency put a locked gate on the access road, which dramatically reduced the problem.
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