Logan County Felts Log House a fixture of Kentucky Museum
By Christy Spurlock

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

Christy Spurlock, a former language arts teacher at Logan County High School, is Assistant Professor/Education Curator Kentucky Museum. She is the granddaughter of the late Logan County Circuit Clerk Ernest Williams and his wife Bess.
The Felts Log House sits next to the Kentucky Library & Museum on Western’s campus and provides visitors with an opportunity to step back into the past.
Gingerbread sampling and costumed docents make the house a favorite stop during Christmas in Kentucky, an annual free event held following the Bowling Green Christmas Parade. The house is even used occasionally for small luncheons and dinners for guests of the university.
Guests are welcome to tour the house daily, as part of the regular museum admission. Educators and children alike often list the log house as their favorite part of a museum tour. A variety of hands-on activities are used with group tours including dressing in period clothing, period toys, quilting, wool carding, slates, open hearth cooking and much more.
The house was originally built in between the Richelieu and Cave Spring Communities, near Gasper River in Logan County sometime between 1809-1815. How then did it end up on the campus of WKU?
Archibald Felts was born in Sussex County, Va. on Feb. 23, 1758 and came to Kentucky around 1790. The first recorded appearance of Archibald in Logan County was in 1796 for delivering wolf scalps to the Russellville courthouse, so he was among the first generation of settlers to the region. Felts received various land grants from 1796-1807, eventually totaling 800 acres of land on the Gasper River.
Felts built an earlier home for his family, and returned east to retrieve them. Once back in Logan County with his family, he found that dwelling burned to the ground. The family lived in one or more smaller structures before this final home was built. It is believed the house was built sometime between 1809-1815; accounts as to the actual year of construction vary.
From documentation at the museum, it’s known that Archibald married Mary Weldon (sometime before 1785) and had 10 children, Sally, Nathaniel, Elizabeth “Betsy”, William, Samuel, Mary “Polly”, Charlie, Archibald Jr., John, and James “Augustine”. The 1810 census records a total of 15 individual in the Felts household.
Tax records from 1819 show that Archibald was in the upper third of Logan County taxpayers. The family’s income came from hogs, sheep and tobacco. His will was written in 1817 and he divided his land and goods among his wife and children. Archibald died in 1825 owning livestock, grindstones and law books; however, a full inventory of his property was not taken.
Members of the Felts family resided in the home until 1960. The last family members to reside in the house were Miss Ollie and her brother, Carl Felts. In 1968 it was purchased by Sam Watkins, an adjoining neighbor to the Felts farm. A graveyard for the family still remains at the original home site.
Later in life, Miss Ollie explained how she came to own the house/property. She explained that she had received it from her father, Charles Monroe Felts; he had gotten it from his father, Nathaniel Felts; and he had gotten it from his father, Archibald Felts. When asked, “Who had it before that?” Miss Ollie is to have replied, “Well, there was a Shawnee Indian chief who claimed it, but his title wasn’t any good.”
Sam Watkins was the adjacent land owner to the Felts house and property and purchased the house from Ollie Felts in 1968. She asked Watkins to preserve the home as part of the family’s history. Watkins contacted the Kentucky Museum in 1978 to discuss donating the structure in an effort to preserve the home.
In the summer of 1980, the house was moved to the campus of WKU on a flat bed trunk.
The 30-mile move from Logan County to WKU’s campus was much anticipated. The roof, top half story and chimneys were removed. The doors and windows were boarded up and the house was lifted and placed on a large truck. The move was a major logistical undertaking - some lower power lines had to be moved. Faculty and staff remember a particularly frightening moment just as the house was nearing its resting place. The trailer and house tilted so much it looked as if the house might roll down the yard and into Kentucky Street.
Once in its new home next to the Kentucky Library & Museum, the house was placed on stone piers, where it was covered in plastic for several years due to lack of funds for renovation. The museum received several centennial grants in 1992 to work on the house. A new roof was added and the chimneys were rebuilt using the original stone.
The house has two floors, two chimneys and a “dogtrot “or breezeway. It is constructed of hewn oak, poplar, and walnut logs. The logs are notched at the corners of the building to hold the structure together - V notches. The roof is made with handmade red oak shingles, or shakes. Each is about 5 by 24 inches and there are over 1000. The roof has a comb ridge, or turkey tail at the top, which is an interesting feature.
The house has often been described as a log “mansion” for the period. The size and construction of the house were much nicer than the typical home of the day. The outstanding workmanship has allowed the structure to survive two hundred years and a “move” to a neighboring county. The house had been modified over the years with clapboard siding, a tin roof and an L- addition. When the museum acquired the structure, an effort was made to restore the home to its earliest appearance.
Grants from both the Warren County and Kentucky Bicentennial commissions were used to furnish the interior. Museum staff researched Logan County probate inventories for a general picture of the furnishings for a typical dwelling of the period. Old issues of the Russellville Messenger were reviewed for descriptions of clothing and textiles.
An exhibits technician built several items for the house, including multiple beds, a cradle, cupboard and chest of drawers. Other items such as dishware, utensils, etc were purchased from companies specializing in reproductions. The hands-on nature of the exhibit, and the extreme fluctuations in temperature throughout the year led to reproduction items being used instead of actual artifacts.
In the 30 years since it has been on campus, countless WKU students, tourists and school children have toured the home. Many descendants of the both the Felts and Watkins families continue to visit as well.
During a tour recently, I found myself standing in the 200-year-old doorway looking out to a beautiful early spring afternoon. I wondered, as I often do, of the home’s original inhabitants. How often had they too stood in the doorway breathing in the first signs of an elusive Kentucky spring?
“I really, really like this house!” an enthused 7-year-old visitor declared, before he turned his attention back to the activities.
The KYLM would like to express heartfelt gratitude to both the Felts and Watkins families for this rare gem. This wonderful home enables visitors of all ages to imagine, laugh, explore, and learn about life in south-central Kentucky two centuries ago.
Directions to former site of Felts log home and the Felts Cemetery
Travel 68/80 West from Bowling Green toward Auburn. Turn North (or right) onto H/W 73 at the South Union crossroads. Travel H/W 73 six & one/half miles to a sharp cure in the road. Turn right onto River Road. Travel this road four-tenths of a mile to Felts Cemetery Road. Turn left onto this road. The cemetery will be on the right side of the road; the Felts log home originally sat on the left side of the road among the beautiful mature trees, which are still standing.
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