During the summer months of 2001, representatives from Huntsville’s Main Street Program worked with faculty members and students from Sam Houston State University to move the historic Roberts-Farris cabin from its location in West Sandy to a prominent site on Huntsville’s downtown square. It is there that the cabin sits today, at the intersection of University Avenue and 11th Street, on the location that Huntsville’s founder, Pleasant Gray, built the region’s first Anglo trading post. Yet, the story of the cabin -- its creator and construction -- is far more interesting than the simple site might suggest today.
Originally built in the mid-1840s, the cabin was intended as a gift from Hezekiah Faris (later Farris) to his stepson, Allen Roberts. Farris himself was a native of Virginia and long-time resident of Tennessee who migrated to Texas in 1835. He fought at the Battle of San Jacinto with Captain James Gillaspie and may have helped to capture the Mexican General Santa Anna. Following the Texian War for Independence, Farris received a headright of land from the new Republic of Texas in February 1838 and settled there with his wife, widow Matilda Roberts. In 1841, Farris and his brother, William, founded a church called Farris Chapel, which provided a home to multiple denominations and served as the basis of a community that exists still today.
Shortly after the completion of the church, Ferris hired a builder to construct a log cabin for his stepson, Allen, who had recently arrived in Texas. Originally located about 15 miles southwest of Huntsville along Sandy Creek, the cabin was constructed with “square-hewn logs and half-dovetail notches” -- a distinctive building style that showed up in several other cabins in the area.
Despite the expert craftsmanship that went into the cabin, the Ferris family moved the structure at least three times, disassembling and rebuilding it as needed. In fact, the cabin has provided shelter for many different people over the last 175 years. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, Alton Farris rented the building to tenant farmers who worked on his property, and one couple even used it as their honeymoon cabin in 1939. Yet, in recent decades, the cabin had fallen into disrepair, functioning primarily as a hay shed and refuge for animals.
In 2001, Farris descendent Maggie Farris Parker donated the cabin and $1000 to the City of Huntsville. Although degeneration and decay had beset the little home, and dry rot and termites had damaged many of its logs, the leaders of Huntsville’s Main Street Program teamed up with Sam Houston State University to restore the structure and move it to a place of prominence on the courthouse square. Tucked on a small lot at the heart of the town founded by Pleasant Gray, the Cabin on the Square now houses a shop where local hand-craft groups sell their wares.