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Professor collects cabins to preserve history
CRAWFORD, Ga. -- Professor Bob Rhoades has a severe case of cabin fever.
The University of Georgia anthropologist collects log cabins built by slaves and poor farmers around the early 19th century. So far, he's brought six of them to his 320-acre Oglethorpe County farm over the past six years.
"We really need to preserve these log cabins before they disappear," Rhoades said. "They're just rotting down all over the country. Hundreds are disappearing in the South every year."
Rhoades has been working to preserve these remnants of early American culture, which he said are often overlooked as preservationists rally behind saving larger houses. A common sight just a few decades ago, the log cabins have recently been succumbing to neglect and development.
Rhoades became interested in cabins eight years ago, when he was looking to build a house on his farm. At first, he considered ordering a log cabin "kit," but "it seemed to be a total defiance of the pioneer spirit," he said.
Soon after, he read about an 1820s log cabin for sale in Tennessee and bought it over the phone. He hauled it back to Georgia, disassembled, and started putting it back together.
'Just caught the bug'
"The more I worked on it, the more interested I got," Rhoades said. "I guess I just caught the bug."
He and his wife, Virginia Nazarea, now live in that cabin, which has been expanded with the addition of a second cabin Rhoades acquired, restored and modernized with running water and electricity.
Since then, he has added cabins from Rome and other north Georgia locations, each time disassembling them, numbering each structural member, then putting the 800-pound logs back together by the numbers.
Rhoades would like to do more than simply preserve cabins. He's begun a foundation called Agrarian Connections, which he hopes eventually will develop programs to teach young people the ways of pioneer settlers.