color photos by Bruce Ikenberry Photography
The log cabin built by James A. Perkins in 1870 still faces east at the foot of a timbered hillside on property he purchased when he first came to the area. Some of the logs had to be hauled from as far away as Walla Walla. Preserved by the Whitman County Historical Society, it is the oldest building in Whitman County. In 1872, the first Republican Party convention in the county was held in the cabin.
Perkins made improvements to the cabin after his marriage to eighteen-year-old Jennie, the daughter of Captain James Ewart of nearby Ewartsville. He added wall paper, batten board exterior siding, window trim, indoor running water and a sleeping loft. The family lived in the cabin until James built an adjacent Victorian home in 1886. The batten board was removed from the front of the cabin during the restoration process to reveal the original logs.
The restored interior now contains rugs, furniture and other historic objects typical of the time period when the Perkins family lived in it. Cabins of the late 1800s would have been furnished with beds, a table, chairs, a stove or fireplace for cooking, and various kitchen and outdoor utensils. Some folks began with a dirt floor but wooden plank floors were often added. Inside one can see furniture, stove, rugs, bedding, curtains and various items donated to WCHS. A glass case on the wall displays numerous period kitchen utensils.
Although the Perkins’ family would have had an outdoor privy, the one on the property today was moved from a nearby ranch to show visitors what living was like in the late 1800s. Such buildings were moved periodically and placed over a newly dug hole.