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BRAVE / PRAXIS: Joseph R. Rice Log Home

Joseph R. Rice Log Home

12 November 2010, 15:12

My wife and I recently made a visit to Mission Tejas State Park in East Texas for a weekend of camping. Located about 20 miles northeast of Crockett, the Park is 364 acres of tall Sweetgum and Pine, permeated with oaks of all varieties. One of the standout features of this park is a log structure dating back to before the formation of the Republic of Texas.

Located on the trail of the original Old San Antonio Road, also known as “El Camino Real” or the King’s Highway, Joseph Redmond Rice started construction of the house in 1828. Shortly thereafter, Joseph and his wife, Willie Masters Rice, were forced to abandon the house unfinished due to Indian incursions and retreated to Louisiana. Years later they returned to the Houston County home site and completed the single-room house in 1838. The couple raised 9 children here and played host to immigrants, adventurers, and local residents as the home was a well-known stop over for those traveling the Old San Antonio Road. To accommodate the growing family and patrons, in 1854, two additional rooms, separated from the original structure by a dog trot, were added to the house. The attic space, accessed by exterior stairs and located in the loft above the ground floor rooms, served as sleeping quarters for these visitors.

Two things about this structure stood out to me. One, unlike a log cabin that uses rounded hewn logs with ends protruding from the corners, this is a log house, typified by finished, fitted corners and logs that have been flattened on the interior and exterior sides of the walls. Given this era and conditions, this construction method took considerably more time to fabricate and the erect. The second item is that this log house is more in common with homes built in Tennessee and W. Virginia, represented by using ceiling boards to cover the horizontal gaps left in the log construction, than other examples of Texas Hill Country log homes/cabins that used mud & straw daub between logs with a top plaster topcoat finish. This technique may have been done for aesthetic preference as much as avoiding the inevitable replacement of daub/plaster given the contraction/expansion of the green timber used in such a humid environment.

Raised above ground level, the deep covered porches, dog trot, and multiple openings within the single-width rooms, this structure is oriented to attempt maximum thermal comfort in a climate far from ideal.

The ceiling in the first room was raised from its original height to accommodate a son’s new bride’s tall, wood furniture. She also required that the house be beautified. Wall paper was added, as was blue tint to doors and door frames. Joseph Rice died in 1866, and his wife followed in 1886. A grandson built a frame home in 1919 and succeeding generations of the family ceased to occupy the home after 1923. The structure then functioned as a farm storage shed and garage.

The Texas Centennial Marker Commission in 1936 marked its history, and in 1973 it was given to the State of Texas and moved 16 miles from its original location near Crockett to Mission Tejas for restoration and exhibition in 1974.

West Wall <br/> East Wall <br/> front entrance - south wall <br/> South Porch <br/> dogtrot <br/> Half-dovetail wood joinery <br/> Main fireplace - Room 1 <br/> Door with blue accent <br/> Interior Room 1 from dogtrot <br/> Floor Plan Sketch