FRONTIER CABIN STORY published by Joseph Goss (Afghanistan)



The Rediscovered History of a West Virginia Log Farmhouse

Frontier Cabin Story is a rare architectural biography of a long-forgotten 18th-century log farmhouse in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. In the book, Joseph Goss (Afghanistan 1967–69) relates how he dug into the origins of his ancient home to discover its age and first owner.

After months of painstaking detective work, he found the holy grail of his search.

Along the way, the author creates an enthralling story about an unknown frontier house and gives it context by weaving it into the sweep of the region’s history from colonial times to the present. Colorful characters from the families of the house’s earliest owners populate the story and act on the stages of the French and Indian, Revolutionary, and the Civil Wars. They even take us out to the Osage Nation in Missouri and later to Mexico. The women, in particular, reveal themselves in striking detail through never-before-published personal letters from primary sources.

Besides stories of the early owners, the author uncovers tales — some humorous, some gruesome — from the lives of the farmhouse’s tenants. Glimpses of slavery surface from multiple historical documents. The author also recounts the physical history of the log house in generous detail, tracking changes to it over more than 230 years.

This unique book features 28 illustrations, including maps, drawings, and photographs. Comprehensive footnotes substantiate the author’s research. Appendices put forth deed extracts and family trees. An extensive index completes the volume. Frontier Cabin Story adds a new dimension to the investigation of little-known historical houses, not only in West Virginia but in other regions, too. Goss aspires not merely to tell his venerable old house’s story but to convince future owners to value and preserve it. On a larger scale, he hopes this book will inspire others to prize age-old dwellings and to listen to their voices by showing the wealth of material they too can discover about them.

Joseph says about writing Frontier Cabin Story: As a first-time author working outside my professional field — environmental engineering — I had no idea how to research, organize, and write this type of history volume. However, I became driven by a passion for uncovering everything I could that was in some way related to this one old farmhouse. My engineering training helped me assess the data I found, cross-check it with other sources, and evaluate its relevance and accuracy. I found an astonishing amount of little-known material and every time I thought I had uncovered everything, I found still more. Thus, it took me the better part of a college career to complete this project. In the process, I met a host of people with similar interests who encouraged me to forge onward. Since my material was so interwoven and spanned hundreds of years, I had great difficulty deciding how to present it. I organized and reorganized it multiple times, finally settling on a system of separating some significant topics and working my way through each of them in roughly chronological order. This approach results in turning the clock back to the beginning several times in different chapters with some inevitable overlap. But this was the only way I could deal with such vast resources and create a reader-friendly experience. I believe I have succeeded in accomplishing this.

Frontier Cabin Story: The Rediscovered History of a West Virginia Log Farmhouse
Joseph  Goss (Afghanistan 1967–69)
Peace Corps Writers
December 2018
208 pages
$14.95 (paperback)

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