Filed Under Huntsville

The Roberts-Farris Cabin

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.

Audio

Caroline Crimm discusses Cabin Project Retired Sam Houston State University professor Caroline Crimm discusses the origins of the Cabin Fever project. Source: Mustings from Sam Houston's Stomping Ground, Newton Gresham Library, Sam Houston State University

Images

"The Cabin on the Square" Built in the 1840s, the Roberts-Farris cabin sits on the site on which Huntsville founder Pleasant Gray built his trading post. Source: Meredith Austin.
Earliest Known Sketch of Huntsville, 1843 Englishman William Bollaert drew this sketch of Huntsville as he traveled through Texas during the 1840s. His journals and diaries document the early history of the Republic. Source: Walker County Historical Commission.
Hezekiah Farris Land Grant The red square in the bottom left corner of this early map of the Huntsville area shows the headright granted to Hezekiah Farris 1838 after the Texas War for Independence. Faris built the cabin here in the 1840s. Source: Walker County Historical Commission.
Hezekiah Faris' Tombstone Like General Sam Houston, Hezekiah Faris (1797-1859) was a native of Virginia, long-time resident of Tennessee, and migrant to Texas in the 1830s. Source: Walker County Historical Commission.
The Cabin before the Move The Roberts-Farris cabin sat in a cow pasture where it was used to store hay before being moved to the Huntsville square. Source: Caroline Crimm's photographic collection.
The old roof License plates had been used to repair holes in the roof and walls of the old cabin. Source: Caroline Crimm's photographic collection.
Dismantling the Cabin Sam Houston State University history students assisted with removing the side sheds and roof from the Roberts-Farris cabin before it was moved to the Huntsville square. Source: Caroline Crimm's photographic collection.
Students and Community Members on the Move Students from SHSU and local community members helped move the cabin to the Square. Source: Caroline Crimm's photographic collection.
The Big Move of a Little House Movers transported the 1840s Roberts-Farris cabin 15 miles from a pasture along Sandy Creek to its new home on the Huntsville square. Source: Caroline Crimm's photographic collection.
Overseeing the Reconstruction History professor Dr. Caroline Crimm (left) and local cabin expert Stuart Cox oversee the rebuilding effort. Source: Caroline Crimm's photographic collection.
Working Mac Woodward (on right ladder) and Stuart Cox discuss cabin reconstruction. Source: Caroline Crimm's photographic collection.
Cabin on the Square Sam Houston State University history students, with the help of inmates from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, reconstructed the Roberts-Farris cabin on the site of its new home on the Square. Source: Caroline Crimm's photographic collection.
Finished Site The cabin at its new location. Source: Caroline Crimm's photographic collection.
Grand Opening Students and community members gather for the opening of the cabin. Source: Caroline Crimm's photographic collection.

Location

Metadata

Tracy Lewis, “The Roberts-Farris Cabin,” East Texas History, accessed September 30, 2022, https://easttexashistory.org/items/show/7.