Henry Cooper Log Cabin Museum in need of repairs

Photo by Evan Bevins Paul Hoblitzell, a descendant of Henry Cooper, removes rotting wood from the side of the log cabin museum bearing his ancestor’s name as Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce watches. The city owns the cabin and is seeking funds to repair damage.

PARKERSBURG — The Henry Cooper Log Cabin Museum has stood in Wood County for more than 200 years.

The oldest documented structure in the county, it’s going to need help to make it to a third century.

Originally built along Elizabeth Pike in Mineral Wells and moved to Parkersburg City Park in 1910, the cabin has suffered water damage, causing logs to deteriorate, said Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce. The cabin did not open for tours last summer due to concerns over the condition of the structure.

“We think the cabin is stable, but in today’s world, you just don’t take chances,” said Paul Hoblitzell, president of the Oil, Gas and Industrial Historical Association Inc. and great-grandson of Wealthy Virginia Cooper, who was born in the cabin.

Hoblitzell estimated about 60 percent of the logs could need replaced.

Photo by Evan Bevins The Henry Cooper Log Cabin Museum was rebuilt in City Park in 1910 after standing more than 100 years on Elizabeth Pike in the Mineral Wells area. It is the oldest documented structure in Wood County.

It’s apparent which pine logs need to go, as they rot from the outside, City Engineer Justin Smith said. Just a few weeks ago, city workers used particle board to cover a damaged section that had rot “six inches deep,” he said.

Less obvious are the damaged oak logs, which rot from the inside.

Joyce has proposed allocating $25,000 from the capital reserve fund to match a state culture and history grant for which the city will apply to replace some of the damaged material. That won’t address all of the concerns, however.

“We can’t do everything in one year; it’s too costly,” Joyce said.

The city purchased the cabin from Cooper descendants in 1910 in the interest of preserving a specimen of early architecture of the settlers in the region. A new kitchen and porch were added in 1962.

Photo by Evan Bevins From left, City Engineer Justin Smith, Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce and Cooper descendant Paul Hoblitzell discuss the needs of the Henry Cooper Log Cabin Museum in City Park on the first floor of the more-than-200-year-old structure.

“The city owns this building. We have (the) deed to it,” Joyce said. “It’s an important piece of history that the city is responsible for.”

Not only is the structure itself significant, it’s filled with artifacts related to the Cooper family and the area’s history in general. There’s a collection of buttons filling 72 drawers, tools, furniture, glassware, clocks and even the skull of a soldier killed in a Civil War battle in Virginia, all of which have been donated over time by area residents.

“Before anything significant can get underway, everything in the cabin needs properly secured, stored and packaged,” Joyce said.

The westerly side of the cabin takes the brunt of the weather, Hoblitzell said, so that’s where the work is expected to start.

“All four sides will eventually be worked on,” Smith said.

Photo by Evan Bevins A display of china and dishware is inside the Henry Cooper Log Cabin Museum at Parkersburg City Park.

The cabin museum is operated by the Centennial Chapter of the Daughters of American Pioneers. Chapter Regent Charlotte Modesitt said the cabin, at least the front porch, will be open for Henry Cooper Day on Sunday, June 3. People can get help checking their genealogy with records there to determine if they are related to the Cooper family.

Beyond that, Modesitt said she hopes the cabin can be open this summer because it won’t be once the work starts.

“We’re sort of sad about that, but it’s also very happy because we’re saving the cabin,” she said.

Smith said the cabin will have to be closed during the initial work but could reopen while other phases are addressed.

Hoblitzell said Henry Cooper had 13 children, all but one of whom married. He’s hoping to enlist the aid of other Cooper descendants to help with efforts to restore the cabin.

Photo by Evan Bevins Water damage is visible on a wall in the Henry Cooper Log Cabin Museum.

Anyone interested in contributing can contact him at pch3@suddenlink.net or the mayor’s office at tom.joyce@parkersburgwv.gov.

Photo by Evan Bevins Parkersburg City Engineer Justin Smith looks at a lantern that is among the artifacts kept in the Henry Cooper Log Cabin Museum in City Park.

Photo by Evan Bevins Among the artifacts housed at the Henry Cooper Log Cabin Museum is a collection of tens of thousands of buttons.