Missing house mystery solved

G. Sam Piatt - Daily Times Outdoors Columnist

I know you won’t remember, but in a June 19 column I reported on my unsuccessful search for a house and barn nearly 200 years old.

It stood along Lick Run-Lyra Road, about 10 miles northeast of Wheelersburg. But when I went looking for it in June not a trace of it could I find.

I had done one of my very first feature stories on the place in 1971 while working as a reporter for the Portsmouth Daily Times. It was then the home of Henry Skeens, 65 years old at the time, and family. Henry bought the farm in 1949.

HIS research showed that Shadrach Chaffin and craftsmen from the area started construction of the house in 1818, seven years before construction of the Ohio and Erie Canal began.

Both it and the barn were built of huge beams put together solely with wooden mortising pins.

“You could rip this house off its foundation and roll it from here to Pine Creek and never tear it apart,” Skeens told me during that 1971 interview.

It was built of wood, but looking at it back then, 45 years ago, from the basement to the attic convinced me that it should stand for another 100 years.

Later I talked with some residents of the area who had read the June column. The reason I couldn’t find the house or the barn was not that I had taken a wrong turn, but because they no longer exist.

The story I was told was that, after Mrs. Skeens died, one of the children moved in to help care for Henry.

There was an understanding that Henry would be permitted to live in the house for the remainder of his life.

However, his health evidently took a downward turn and he was moved to a nursing home.

Sometime after that the house burned to the ground.

The burial place of Shadrach Chaffin lies on a small knoll overlooking the farm. Surely there must have been a rumbling of earth as he turned over in his grave.

The forest service bought the property and it is now a part of Wayne National Forest. The barn was torn down.

Today the spot where Henry Skeens’ proud showplace stood is marked by tall weeds that stretch from the highway to the edge of the forest.


Along the Industrial Parkway, which stretches 14 miles from U.S. 23 at Wurtland to Interstate 64, many species of wildlife inhabit the thousands of acres of woods and fields left after seams of coal were worked by surface mining.

Five days ago, about 9:15 p.m., about a mile and a half from the highway’s northern end at Wurtland, Harold Pack and his wife, Candy, saw a species of wildlife not totally surprising but still quite unique to the area.

They were driving north on the highway when “a young

black bear ran across the road just ahead of us,” Pack said. “It was larger than a cub but smaller than an adult. And it was moving very quickly to the east. I bet momma bear was nearby.

“We have seen numerous species of wildlife on that road, but a bear?!”

It’s been about 10 years ago that teacher Danny Mercer, traveling the Industrial Parkway with a busload of kids, reported seeing an adult black bear cross the highway in front of them.


And more recently, Creighton Stephens, who was returning home to the South Shore area along the highway from his job as a night clerk at a Boyd County motel, reported seeing, in broad daylight, “a large, tawny cat with a long tail,” running for the woods in a field off to his right.

Yes, there’s quite a variety of wildlife living along that mostly isolated section of highway.


Lately I’ve been using the blazing heat spell as a reason not to go fishing. But all the time some of my neighbors, living along First Street here in the Sand Hill subdivision, located two miles east of South Shore, have not stopped fishing and have enjoyed much success.

Jeff Holmes and his 9-year-old son, Caden, have been catching some nice blue catfish from the Ohio River. And then there was that one big carp battled in by Caden.

Recently the duo was joined by Jerry Scythes on a trip to a friend’s farm pond. This was the pond they released three Ohio River blues into.

“We nicknamed them the Blues Brothers,” Jeff said.

They caught largemouth bass – and more catfish. Jeff videoed Jerry fighting a catfish – a flathead, I believe it was – up onto the bank that looked like it would have weighed 15 pounds or more.

Spring, summer, fall, and winter – catfish bite. They are swimming and eating machines.

And they always offer a fight that any fisherman will enjoy.


We all have them. Now and then they present themselves in a most startling and enjoyable fashion.

Such was the case recently when I was going through a box of old photographs. Jumping out at me was a picture of my mother and father – at least my mother and father to be – under the grape arbor at Grandpa Frank Piatt’s home.

This is the same grape arbor that Grandpa used to sit down under, light his cob, take me on his knee, and tell me some of the most wonderful stories of adventure a boy ever had the pleasure of hearing.

Mom and Dad – she’s probably 18 and he 21 – aren’t just standing around in that photo. They’re enjoying a hug and a kiss. Mom has on high heels but is standing on her toes to get her arms around Dad’s neck.

Precious memories, how they linger …


G. Sam Piatt

Daily Times Outdoors Columnist