Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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April 14, 2014

Barn demolition project reveals 19th century log structure

MONTCALM — A barn demolition project on Browning Lambert Mountain came to an abrupt halt last week when the owner of the barn uncovered a 19th century log structure at the core of the old barn.

Brian Pigg removed the siding from the old barn to reveal huge, old hand-hewn timbers — some more than 24-inches in height and more than a foot thick — revealing a structure that was formally known as the old Mullins School, according to Jack Johnson, a native of Browning Lambert Mountain, and a retired history teacher at Montcalm High School.

“A lady named Mullins owned an appreciable amount of land up here on the mountain,” Johnson said. He has done a considerable amount of research on the history of Browning Lambert Mountain, and although he didn’t have his notes with him during a telephone interview, he shared his best recollection that around 1900, Mrs. Mullins gave property to two Browning brothers — Boyd Browning, whose property included the Mullins School structure, and Tom Browning who received the property where another school — the Browning School — was erected.

“The Browning School House was torn down several years ago,” Johnson recalled. He said that another school on the mountain that was known as the Lambert School served students further out the mountain. He said that later, the community built a brick schoolhouse at about the mid-point between the Browning and Lambert schools and named it, Browning Lambert School. “That’s how the community got its name,” Johnson said.

As to the size of the logs in the old Mullins School, Johnson said as a young man he can recall playing in an old Chestnut Tree stump. “It was a huge stump,” he said recalling that one of his friends wanted to build a house in the stump. “There was one of these stumps near where the Mullins School is located,” he said.

The American Chestnut trees dominated the hardwood forests of the Appalachian Mountain region until 1900 when a fungus blighted the chestnut forests. Brian Pigg said that he has asked R.D. Dishner to check out the walls of the log structure to see if they were built of pre-blighted chestnut logs.

Nelson Pigg, Brian’s father, said the deed indicated that Mrs. Mullins owned the property where the school was located in either 1824 or 1844. The earlier date would have had the property located in Tazewell County, Va., because Mercer County was formed from Tazewell County in 1837.

Andrew J. Mullins, who was born in Tazewell County, Va., in 1857, is the man for whom Mullens, Wyoming County is named. His father served in the Union Army and died in 1865, according to Jim Comstock’s “West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia.” Comstock’s encyclopedia doesn’t include any other Tazewell County Mullins’ family entries.

“I stored hay in the old barn,” Brian Pigg said. “There was an old two-story house up here that I took down earlier.” When he discovered the old logs might be chestnut logs, he left the remaining tin on the roof to protect them from the elements until he determines his next step in the project.

Johnson said the Mullins lady who previously owned the structure is buried in a private cemetery a short distance from the structure on Browning Lambert Mountain Road.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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