By TOM SMITH
LEIGHTON, Ala. (AP) — Colbert County historian Richard Sheridan said it's important to preserve history so future generations can have a better understanding of the people who built the area.
He was excited to learn Harold Kimbrough, owner of the Oaks Plantation on Ricks Lane in Leighton, was restoring a log cabin built by Native Americans in the 1700s. Kimbrough said the plantation got its name because of the abundance of large oak trees on the site when it was built.
"It's a place worthy of restoring," Sheridan said.
L.C. Lenz, a member of the LaGrange Historical Society, has worked on several restoration projects at the old LaGrange College site.
"I'd guess that house is one of the oldest houses still standing in the state — at least here in north Alabama," Lenz said. "I doubt there are many structures still standing that are that old."
Kimbrough, whose family bought the Oaks Plantation in 1966, said there are still some of the original logs in the cabin. He said the cabin, which is about 50 feet long, is made of all oak and poplar logs.
"Abraham Ricks bought this property, which was 10,000 acres at the time, in 1808 and he and his family moved here from Fairfax, N.C., around 1822," Kimbrough said. "When they got here, they lived in the cabin, until the big house, as we call it, was built."
He said research revealed the Ricks family lived in the log cabin for seven years while the main house was built.
"Once the house was finished, which is connected to the cabin, the cabin was converted into four bedrooms," Kimbrough said.
He said after his parents died in 2008, he and his wife moved into the plantation home and started some restoration on the house and the cabin.
"We're trying to restore the cabin back to the way it was, with the exception of a few modernizations," Kimbrough said.
He said there will be a bathroom, electricity, a small kitchen and heating and air.
Kimbrough said he has tried to do research on the cabin to determine which Native American tribe may have built the structure.
"But there were so many tribes — Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaws — in the area during that time," he said.
Sheridan said there were many farms in the area owned by Native Americans in the 1700s.
Lenz said the old cabin is an amazing structure.
"It's a showpiece, because you just don't see cabins made like that anymore," he said.
Kimbrough said the cabin displays craftsmanship of the builders and the primitive tools they had to use.
"The cabin has two lower rooms and two upper rooms," Kimbrough said. "We hope to have the lower rooms finished by this fall and then we'll start on the upper rooms.
"We want to do it right, so we're not in any hurry. (Restoring the cabin) has really become a labor of love."
"This is another effort to keep our history alive," Lenz said. "Once we lose it, it's gone and you can't bring it back. That's why projects like this are so important."