Knapp Heritage Park - Jopling-Melear Cabin

Jopling-Melear Cabin at Knapp Heritage Park, Arlington, TX
  • Year Built: 1863
  • Builder: G. W. Jopling
  • Orig. location: Johnson Station
  • Photo: O. K. Carter

About the Jopling-Melear Cabin:

Though the construction of a one-room log cabin is not difficult technically, it is an arduous task physically. This would be particularly true in the case of north-central Texas prairie cabins. The logs for such cabins, typically oaks, in this region do not grow particularly large. The obvious is this: Prairies are not forested.

If the builder was lucky enough to live close to a wooded creek or river, enough trees could be harvested to build a cabin, the logs towed to the homesite with horses, mules, or oxen. The log collection task would be more time-consuming if the pioneer lived some distance from the closest source of abundant trees, which around here would be the Eastern Cross Timbers strata that runs north-south through the western section of Arlington. Once enough trees were felled, then trimmed, then logs dragged to the site and the ground leveled, they would be trimmed to the appropriate length, notched to hold walls in place, and stacked log-atop-log, the higher the wall the more difficult and time-consuming the task.

Once walls were built, a roof would be fashioned, usually angled split logs covered with crude shingles or other materials, including branches, sticks, and leaves. Spaces between the wall logs would be filled with chinking, typically mud mixed with grass or leaves. Floors were usually dirt, at least initially. Most cabins would also have a fireplace fashioned of rocks. Such a home would be cold in winter, hot in summer, but nevertheless a welcome shelter.

This Jopling-Melear cabin is typical of the log cabins built in Texas in the early to mid-1800s.

One standard joke by Arlington residents about this cabin is that “George Washington slept here.” And he did, but it was George Washington Jopling (1833-1903) who erected this log cabin in 1863 in the now-disappeared Johnson Station Community for his wife Catherine (Thomas) (1837-1882) and their large family.

A farmer, cattleman, and cotton gin owner, Jopling also served as a community leader, helping organize the Johnson Station Masonic Lodge. After Catherine died he remarried and deeded the cabin, which had been enlarged, to his daughter Jane Catherine (1854-1940) and her husband Z.T. Melear 1850-1931). Melear, a farmer and blacksmith, owned a livery stable and cotton gin. In 1970 the cabin was moved to this site—about six miles north of its original location.

In addition to being a good example of log cabin architecture, the room is outfitted in the manner it would have been when George and Catherine occupied it—from rope cord bed frame to typical furnishings. If you have questions about any of the furnishings or the tools on exhibition, feel free to ask the park docent for more details.

Also at Knapp Heritage Park: