I drove out Scioto County’s Lick Run-Lyra road last week looking for a particular place. Maybe I didn’t go far enough, or maybe I took a wrong turn somewhere. After all, it’s been 45 years since I was there.
I was looking for a two-story farm house and barn. They were the subject of one of the first feature stories I did after beginning my journalism career at The Portsmouth Times.
It was then the home of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Skeens.
Henry was 65 at the time (October 1971), and was still active in farming his 300-acre spread and managing a herd of cattle.
He called the newspaper office and wanted me to come see this house, which was built almost 200 years ago, during the administration of James Monroe, our fifth president.
“You could rip this house off its foundation and roll it from here to Pine Creek and never tear it apart,” he told me upon my arrival.
And nary a nail was used in its construction.
Henry bought the place in 1949. He began a search to find out who built the house and when.
He found the information in an old volume titled “History of Lower Scioto County.”
BUILT IN 1818
He learned that Shadrach Chaffin started construction of the house in 1818, seven years before construction of the Ohio and Erie Canal began.
“When he came here this valley was an unbroken forest,” Henry said. “He hewed this farm right out of the wilderness. All of the materials used in construction of the house and barn came from the surrounding area. The men who helped him were farmers, carpenters, blacksmiths, stonemasons and a little of everything.”
We went inside and walked across thick floors of yellow pine under ceilings of tongue-and-groove yellow poplar.
Down in the basement was where the workmanship that went into building the house really showed. Overhead, exposed oak floor joists, 36 feet long, nearly a foot square and hewn with a broadax, were joined to floor sills nearly 16 inches thick. Wooden mortising pins were used throughout the structure to form joists which had never budged.
The sills rested atop the foundation walls built of stones three feet long and a foot thick. Four-inch by ten-inch corner studding and four-by-four wall studs rose up to the second floor and on to the attic.
The framework of the barn, where Henry’s tobacco crop hung ready for stripping, featured the same mortising work as that of the house. The oak beams were 18 inches square.
The grave of Shadrach Chaffin lies on a small knoll overlooking the farm. If he could look down on his old home place he would realize that, thanks to Henry Skeens, it was still a show place.
A 50-INCH MUSKIE
A few weeks ago I wrote about a fishing trip I took to Green River Lake in west-central Kentucky. It was all about catching largemouth bass, striped bass hybrids, and crappie. I had forgotten that this lake is noted for the big muskellunge that anglers tangle with now and then.
Brian Gullett and his cousin, Darren Hayden, on a recent trip to the lake, discovered its big muskie for themselves. And how!
Gullett, who had never caught a muskie before, battled and brought into the boat a dream muskie that measured 50 inches.
Not many longtime muskie fishermen can boast of catching a 50-incher.
According to the email I received, the battle left Gullett a bit shaken (as it would me, too). He was so nervous, in fact, that he required Hayden to hold the fish for a photo, while he grinned over his shoulder.
I got no details on whether he was trolling or casting, or on what plug he was using.
Gullett is a nephew of baseball great Don Gullett. Both he and Hayden are grandsons of the late, great Tygarts Creek muskie fisherman, Elmer Claxon.
Reach G. SAM PIATT at (606) 932-361 or firstname.lastname@example.org.