The yard stores his collection of historical log buildings. The collection boasts two cabins, a smokehouse, a blacksmith’s shop and a corn crib.
“I kind of wanted to build a monument to the pioneers of East Tennessee,” Newman said. “I wanted to put these cabins back to as close as I could to the way they were built originally.”
This has not always been possible, he said.
Newman’s unique hobby began in the late 1960s, when he purchased a two-story log cabin.
“I started looking for log cabins. They’re hard to find,” Newman said. “They were hard to find then they are really hard to find now.”
His interest in the house began when a friend invited him to take a look at it with him.
After the friend moved to Nashville and did not have a place to move it too, Newman bought the structure.
The log cabin had been on a property between Cleveland and Chattanooga, he said.
He thinks this cabin was built between 1860 and 1870. However, since the main logs were covered with sawed timber when he bought it, the year could be as late as 1880.
“Trying to date these things is pretty hard,” Newman said.
However, there are some clues for history sleuths.
“Anytime you find a building that had no cut nails, no round nails like you see now, but all square nails, its pretty old,” Newman said.
How the logs were cut can also give a clue to the age of a building. If the logs have been sawed the structure is probably newer than one in which the logs were simply hewn.
However, he said when sawmills did come to this area they could not handle logs longer than 12 feet, so these still had to be hewn or cut with a pit saw.
“There’s so much work that went into these. Pioneers had to come in here and build these things with just their hands and a few primitive tools,” Newman said. “Me taking them down and moving them in here and putting them back up was quite a bit of work, but nothing compared to what they had to do to have a house to live in.”
Moving the historical structures requires deconstructing them into kit form, including marking each log, so that the building can be reconstructed later.
“They can only go back up the way they are, so you want to be sure you’ve got the logs numbered,” Newman said.
Newman soon began finding antiques to fill the log cabin.
“Everything primitive has gotten very, very popular in the last five to 10 years,” Newman said.
He said it is often hard to tell how old these pieces are.
Tools line the walls of his first cabin and an antique table sits in the main floor.
The table holds the telltale marks of something burning through the wood.
“An old bachelor had this table, and he had a Dutch oven,” Newman said.
Newman said it was a Dutch oven used for cooking cornbread over the fire. The pot had three legs on the bottom, raising off from the table
Evidence the oven is what caused the burns is found in the shape of the marks, which are triangular in shape.
In addition to collecting items to furnish the buildings, Newman has also created some of his own. A table he built and put in the second log cabin he purchased has been used for many family gatherings.
Another self-constructed addition is a wooden lathe. In Colonial days, the lathe would have been used to shape the wood for chairs.
“One of the things pioneers had working for them ... was they had good timber in this part of the country,” Newman said.
Log cabins combined the types of wood used to make a stronger structure. Poplar and pine were often utilized, and oak was sometimes used as the very first log on the ground
The smokehouse was added to his collection in the 1970s. A few years later the blacksmith’s workshop was added. The structure originally sat on a property in Polk County.
His second cabin features a fireplace with a bread oven built into it. Newman said he thought this style was more popular in the New England states than in Tennessee. This cabin was found in North Georgia. He hopes to add a log barn to the collection in the future.
The land itself holds a lot of history for the family. Lisa Newman, Newman daughter, said the land had been in the family since 1892.
Future ideas for the collection include a partnership with the Museum Center at Five Points to set up some educational events on the property, according to
Newman has already loaned some items to the museum.
Newman works as a buyer of steel tubing for an international company. In his travels for business, he has also found some “primitive items” to add to his collection.