Heritage, Volume 9, Number 2, Spring 1991 Page: 10
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the gear shed. In the big
house, we could see the top
of log walls in the attic and
inside the doorways where
some of the facing boards
had been removed."
Mike and Karen started
the renovation immediately,
requirements, tackling administrative
of living quarters, and a
thousand other details. For
two people, with no outside
financing or help, it
was truly a monumental
"We couldn't live in
the main building, so we
moved into a secondary
building," Karen said, "but
it took us three months to
make it liveable." i 'd -,
They discovered that
the modern-day structure ,e - '
that was to be their living .- =
quarters had been built
over and around a stone -e ";
building with a cellar. It s! '
probably had been a storehouse
or perhaps a de- ~ ...f. . ^'
tached kitchen. While re- .
placing some decayed KarenCollin
floorboards, the Collinses workshop. PI
found an old-fashioned
hand-dug well under their temporary
bedroom. "Uncovering and renovating the
stone building and well will have to wait
until after we move into the main house,"
Mike said. "That will be the last major step
in the restorations."
The log walls of the main house had
been hidden by siding outside and
sheathed inside to "update" the structures,
probably as early as 1910. Some modernday
residents of the main house had not
realized that they were living in a log cabin.
The first step in the renovation was to
get a demolition permit so that a dangerously-sagging,
latter-day roof connecting
the house and gear shed, and some
other cobbled-up additions, could be
"We talked with Chief Building
Inspector Michael Heitz," Mike said, "and
his message to us was, 'We will work with
you.' We had meetings with numerous
other city officials, and all have been
s fills the chinks between the logs of the gear shed, which will be
hoto by Claude Crowley.
The Collinses started peeling the
"modem" exterior and interior sheathing
from the buildings. "It was like unwrapping
a present," Karen said. "There was
excitement every day as history came to
But as exciting as the work was, it was
done slowly and meticulously, so that no
information was lost. "We set out to do it
right," said Mike. "It took us a year to
unwrap the main house and gear shed."
"There is a saying that walls don't talk,
but in the case of our old buildings, walls do
talk," Karen said. "Dozens of old carved or
written names, dates, and phrases came to
light as we uncovered the logs and stones.
These inscriptions have helped us link the
place with some of the previous owners and
For four months, Mike and Karen did all
the labor, archaeological investigation,
and documentation by themselves. Karen
said that their two-person system was
working much too slowly. "I was spending
i* * i \ I hundreds of hours in
archives and libraries,
0w; 6 trying to establish the age
of the structures and when
changes occurred so we
could determine what to
remove, what to keep, and
so forth. Mike was the only
one of us qualified to excavate,
so I was trying to do
all the screening, leaving
him time to do things only
he could do and also earn a
living. The piles of excavated
dirt reached gigan!(i
jt tic proportions. At one
time I think there were
seventy piles of unscreenJi;
ed soil, covered with tarps,
i I 'j Em completely lining the
Fortunately for the
Ni Collinses, R.C. Harmon,
Travis County Archeological
president of the Texas
saw the stockpiled soil and
the unique opportunity to
involve society members
in the project. His offer of
become her quilt from the society was a
prayer answered. Since
November 12, 1989, the
society has fielded a volunteer archaeological
crew every weekend, to dig, screen
soil, record findings, and do other essential
The Delta Tau Delta fraternity from the
University of Texas has also sent workers
to fulfill part of their public service requirement.
From time to time freelance
volunteers appear and are given
assignments. Craig Peterson drove up from
Houston to donate a day to the project,
which has a special meaning to him. His
grandfather, William Peterson, probably
lived there around the turn of the century.
"We provide the volunteers lunch,
tools and materials, and lemonade, cocoa,
and coffee," Mike said. "They provide
muscle and skill. This arrangement has
both facilitated the work and provided
authentic, meaningful archaeological
experience to many people without
"Conservation is our watchword as we
work. We dig only where we expect
10 HERITAGE * SPRING 1991
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 9, Number 2, Spring 1991, periodical, Spring 1991; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45424/m1/10/: accessed September 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.