Tall Pine Cabin, as nearly as can be determined, was built around the year 1900, possibly before, but most likely between 1904 and 1907. These estimations are based on the following:
- It contained a few square nails which went out of common use about 1900.
- It was papered with newspaper. The earliest date found was July 23, 1907, on an issue of the Kansas Star Mirror.
- George Harlan, a timber cruiser for P.F.I. (Potlatch Forests, Inc.) was born there in 1907.
The cabin is a two-story building, approximately twenty feet by thirty feet. It later had a lean-to kitchen, woodshed and porches added to it. The porches may have been a solution to the bedroom problem for the summer months. Nearly all the materials in the cabin, except the floors and windows were native materials, probably most of which was cut a few yards from the original site. Big Tamarack log-mud sills served as the foundation and supported floor joists of hewed timbers about eight inches square. The upstairs floor was supported by like square timbers thirty foot long running lengthwise of the building.
There was no upstairs ceiling per say; only hand hewn square timbers placed crosswise to form the bottom of the roof trusses which are notched and fitted at the apex of the roof. Shakes made of native cedar nailed on round pole purloins made a weather proof roof. Some of these shakes were eight to ten inches wide and three foot long.
The cabin was moved to its present location in mid-1960 by Samuel F. Swayne to preserve an example of the axemanship, sturdiness, and resourcefulness of the early pioneers who went out into the primitive wilderness and, with simple tools, built comfortable (for the era) homes. These pioneers, without government grants, aid, or programs such as Social Security, Welfare, or such help made a place for themselves and laid the foundation for the culture in the Clearwater Valley.
The building was dismembered one log at a time from its original location on Upper Fords Creek near Weippe, Idaho and reassembled at the present site. The original reconstruction plan was to combine the original building as in tact as possible with a replica of the old kitchen/woodshed lean-to rough enough to be harmonious with the main structure , but containing enough of the modern conveniences such as water, lights, and plumbing to be usable and useful by today's standards. The walls were sanded and oiled to get rid of years of encrusted grime and surplus slivers.
Swayne cabin before the move
According to George Harlan, the sawed lumber in the old cabin was cut by the Bob Cook's sawmill and hauled to the site by team and wagon. Some boards were nearly twenty inches wide and a sample can be seen on the south wall of the lean-to. There are also some on the ceiling of the lean-to that are twenty four feet long, one inch by twelve inches, with scarcely a knot in them.
It is worth noting the smoothness and lack of score marks on the ceiling beams. They were a full thirty feet long and squared with a broad ax. This was done by squaring one end with a hand level and doing the same at the other end. The ax man would then snap a chalk line between the square corners and, by hewing to that line, he would get a flat side from one end to the other. By repeating the process, each side was done which resulted in a beautiful timber.
Only the back door and wooden latch of the original cabin were preserved as the other doors were so battered that they were not weather worthy. The back door is currently the door to the upstairs closet and was preserved for the inscription, in blue crayon, which a former occupant wrote, presumably a message to a neighbor. It reads: "I do not care for you to come in, but don't eat up everything you find open and then lie about it. For I love to have you come but close this door when you leave!"
Several recent modifications were made for public safety. The original stairway was too steep, too narrow, and too badly chewed by countless caulked boots to be used by visitors. Also, a large beam was added for increased support of the second floor.
It is hard to guess how many families have lived in the cabin's shelter during its existence, or how big the families may have been. No doubt some may have numbered nine or 10 members. Some early residents and perhaps the builder were the Stiles family; two grown boys, a sister and husband and children, and possible some other adults. Sometime after the Stiles family lived in the cabin the Bonner family owned it and subsequently sold it to Samuel F. Swayne.
This history was revised from the book Tales of the Clearwater by Samuel F. Swayne. This book is available through the Clearwater Historical Museum in Orofino, Idaho.