The second oldest home in Washington County, the Sullivan Cabin, has added another chapter to its history.
“The Gibeon Sullivan home is a good intact example of a log dogtrot house, a popular house type in the 19th century, especially in the Deep South,” said Lee Anne Wofford, Alabama Register Coordinator for the Alabama Historical Commission.
In September the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) who now owns the c. 1874 home moved it from its original site on Bassett’s Creek to its second site on Highway 56 near Wagarville. In its new location, the Sullivan Cabin will undergo restoration slated to be completed by Spring 2012.
Some might call it luck, others fate, but for UDC members, gaining ownership of the Sullivan Cabin was a little of both. Not only is the cabin a historical landmark because of the open central passageway known as a dogtrot, but also it is home to Gibeon Sullivan’s “cooling board.”
When the home was completed in 1874, Gibeon nailed three planks of Alabama pine together and placed them between two logs, serving as a resting place for the recently deceased of the area.
It was on the spacious dogtrot and front porch of the Sullivan Cabin in which people from the area came to pay respects and to grieve for the passing of their loved one.
It is unknown why Gibeon added this feature to his home, but the cooling boards served as an essential role in the burial process for many residents of Washington County.
The Sullivan Cabin remained in Gibeon’s possession until his death November 1, 1914. It then remained in the possession of heirs until June, 2009, when Mr. and Mrs. James Lankford gave it to the Pvt. Gibeon Jefferson Sullivan Chapter 2662, United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Some of the unique features in the home include original double-pen units – rooms that served as kitchen/dining room and the parent’s bedroom. The children slept in the attic.
A distinctive spraddle-roof shape seen from the gable end protected the porches under the main house roof. The rear porch was partially enclosed to provide two shed rooms behind the log pens.
It was less common to have doors in the open dogtrot. The wide porches and the open dogtrot helped keep the house cooler in the summer, a necessity when there was no electricity.
Extensive repairs are being made to stabilize the foundation and repairs holes in the roof. Structural damage will also be repaired to replace damaged logs and preserve the original timbers as best as possible.
A Meeting Place
Once the renovation project is complete, the Sullivan Cabin will serve as a meeting place for authority functions, school group tours, and a museum. “It really is fantastic that we are able to preserve a building like this,” states Ellen Williams, Member of the UDC. “We are proud to bring life back into this historical landmark.”
Members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, left – Carolyn Knight, Ellen Williams, and Connie Harrison.
To learn more about the Sullivan Log Cabin or about the United Daughters of the Confederacy, please visit their website at