During the American Revolution in August 1778, given advanced warning of an impending raid by Loyalist and their Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) allies, scores of families around Pakatakan (Margaretville, in the town of Middletown, Delaware County, NY) began leaving their homes to seek shelter with families and friends near Kingston.
Finding such shelter was not an easy task when so many frontier families descended on the more settled parts of Ulster and surrounding counties. Fortunately for the Henrich Yaple clan, even though Henrich has been taken captive, they had an existing place to welcome them.
Nestled among the forest of present day (2023) Mohonk Mountain House property, stood the Adam Yaple/Yeaple log cabin built circa 1771 after he had relocated from Pennsylvania with his father, Henrich and other family members. Families with many children were common in those days and Adam had built a cabin capable of accommodating many people.
The cabin’s basement level featured a large outside entrance door. The basement interior was completed to include a large fireplace on each end. Built inside the foundation walls the fireplaces and their chimneys served to keep the area warm and dry.
Although windowless, the basement could comfortably serve as a kitchen and sleeping space for several people even during the coldest of winter days. To compensate for a bare earth floor pine, fir, or better yet, cedar boughs, were cut and replaced on a regular basis to provide a measure of comfort for family members.
A ground level first floor was laid out measuring about 20 x 30 feet. Each end of the room has a large stone fireplace constructed, using a common chimney, directly over the two in the basement. The floor plan was open to also accommodate fireplace cooking, seating and feeding of many people at one time.
Three windows (2ft. 4in X 3ft. 10 in) each allowed light, ventilation and a panoramic view across the valley. Large ceiling beams were placed to allow six feet of headroom. Two doors (3ft. X 5ft. 4in and 2ft. 6in X 5ft. 4in) on the southeast side of the cabin opened to level ground, a spring and outbuildings.
The third story sleeping loft or attic was also built to allow a grown man to walk fully erect down the center of the room. A steep set of stairs, with a large trap door, allowed access from the main floor and small windows let in sunlight sufficient to illuminate one’s way in the daytime.
The massive stone chimneys to conduct smoke from the lower level fireplaces hug the inside walls of the loft before exiting the building’s roof. The tons of stones used to create the unique fireplace system radiated heat to warm the loft. Thankfully the family was blessed with an extensive surrounding forest and many hands to cut firewood and feed the fuel hungry fireplaces.
Following the Revolutionary War, the cabin was inhabited by two more generations of Yeaple family members before being sold to Albert Smiley, Mohonk Mountain House founder, in 1885. The structure remains a unique three story building today and has been preserved through the generosity of the Smiley family. (Visitors to the Adam Yeaple cabin must obtain permission from the Mohonk Mountain House as it is located on private property.)
Genealogical, baptismal, Revolutionary War, and Ulster County historical records vary and place Adam Yeaple and family at the Mohonk Mountain cabin between 1771-1778. The property’s original deed has not been located. An attempt was made in 2016 to obtain dendrochronological dates (based on tree-ring cross dates) to ascertain when the trees used to build the cabin were cut, and thereby constraining the likely construction date of the structure. The results were inconclusive.
The Adam Yeaple home on Mohonk Mountain House property could be the oldest standing log cabin in New York State. If so, perhaps it merits inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.
Editor’s Notes: There are lots of older buildings in New York State, but log cabins were not typically adopted by early Dutch and English settlers, so fewer early examples remain.
The Adsit Log Cabin in Willsboro, Essex County, NY is believed to be one of the oldest log cabins in the United States still standing on its original location, and has long been believed to be the oldest log cabin still standing in New York State.
Charles H. Yaple, PhD is Professor Emeritus at SUNY Cortland and the author of Jacob’s Land: Revolutionary War Soldiers, Schemers, Scoundrels and the Settling of New York’s Frontier (2017). Those interested in learning more about the Adam Yeaple cabin and New York State during and after the American Revolutionary War may find the book worthwhile reading.
Photos: The ca. 1771 Adam Yeaple Log Cabin (author’s photo, and courtesy Mohonk Preserve).