The following article by David Strange was originally published on 11 Dec 2016.
I have good news to report this week, thanks to developer Richard Miles. Mr. Miles is restoring and repurposing a historic log cabin in the Zoneton area of Bullitt County as part of an expansion of the Oakwood subdivision on Christman Lane.
The log cabin, sometimes known as the Benjamin Summers house and also as the Christman house, does have quite a history. Thanks to extensive research by Daniel Buxton, as well as Lynn Eddington, Bob Cline, Barbara Bailey, and Sherry Lee, we now know a lot more about this home and its remarkable residents.
Ben Summers was one of the founders of Bullitt County and far more than that. The first meeting of Bullitt County government was held at a house he owned in Shepherdsville in January 1797. He was appointed "High Sherriff" of the county (1796-1797, & 1800), and oversaw the preparation and building of the county's first two jails. He was also a Trustee (1798 to at least 1808) of Bullitt Academy in Shepherdsville, along with other elites in Kentucky history such as Thomas Speed, Henry Crist, Armstead Morehead, and Benjamine Pope. But I get the impression that such work was just part of many services that Ben provided to the county as a man of means and his resultant social responsibility in his relatively new home.
Benjamin Summers was born on June 12, 1771 in Montgomery County, Maryland. Moving to Bullitt County in 1795, he quickly acquired a large area of land. Benjamin and wife, Volindah (1774-1836) were both children of Revolutionary War veterans. Ben was the son of 1st Lieutenant John Summers; Volindah (her name can also be found as Valinda, Voluda, Verlinda, and Yolinda in the records, but Volindah is the spelling on her tombstone) was the daughter of Sgt. John Beckwith and Martha Williams Beckwith. Volindah's parents had preceded Ben to Kentucky and had also acquired much land. At one time, the Summers family and Beckwith family, along with the Williams family (Martha's parents), owned most of Bullitt County east of Highway 61 (Preston Highway) and north of Bells Mill Lane to the Jefferson County line.
The Summers house in Zoneton was built in 1803, if not before. There were once large orchards of cherries, plums, pears, peaches, and apples on the farm. Ben was considered "vastly wealthy." At his death on August 6, 1844, he left each of his ten children the huge sum of $10,000 in land and estate. To compare, that value today would be at least a half million dollars, each.
And so, Ben Summers could afford to be generous, and was. In 1813, Ben gave land at Pennsylvania Run and Cedar Creek for the primary use of Baptists on one weekend, allowing other religions to use the building if needed on other days.
Ben was Episcopalian; his wife was Presbyterian. His mother-in-law, Polly Beckwith, was a staunch Baptist as was her husband. In 1843, Ben donated land and, along with his slaves (he owned 15 slaves, according to the 1820 & 1830 census) made the brick and built the first official "Little Flock Baptist Church," stating that "his mother-in-law's religion was good enough for anybody." That second church was built on the corner of Zoneton Road and Old Highway 61 and still stands today under another name. In 1834, Ben donated land for what would later become Hebron School, building the first schoolhouse, a brick one, there.
Benjamin Summers is sometimes confused in local history with his cousin Noah C. Summers, the son of William and Mary Summers. Noah was known in Bullitt County history for becoming County Clerk at age 25, and holding that office from 1826-1850.
When Benjamin died in 1844, ownership of the log home passed to son, Dr. Ben Franklin Summers, Jr. Doctor Ben lived in it until his death eight years later, leaving it to wife, Lucy. Lucy Summers sold the house to John Foster in 1886, who in turn sold it to blacksmith James Cochran in 1890, handing it down to son R. G. Cochran, who sold it in 1923 to Laura Frick. In 1938, Laura and husband Ben Frick sold the house to Frank Christman, and the home stayed in the Christman family for 72 years, passing through three generations.
David Christman, born in 1958, remembers growing up in the old house. His parents Donald (who only recently passed away) and Arlene Risen Christman moved into the house in 1957. By then, the old house was getting in pretty bad shape. David remembers that when he was a boy, that snow would blow into his room on the second floor. He remembers the old "three-seater outhouse with an electric light," and a bathroom being installed in the house when his mother insisted that she was not going to raise her children in a house without plumbing. The log cabin had long-since been covered with wooden weatherboarding. In the 1970's the family covered that with aluminum siding. The Christmans moved out of the old house in the early 1990's to a brick house next door. David Christman remembers humorously that his Granny Christman, who had lived in the cabin for so many years, did not want to move from her house. David remembers, "It was like the Beverly Hillbillies, with us carrying granny in her rocking chair to the new place."
The Christmans sold the house and dairy farm to All County Realty in 2010, which then sold to Dogwood Homes, led by Richard Miles.
Richard Miles is a successful developer with residential communities built all around the Bullitt County area. He grew up in the Zoneton area, graduating from Bullitt County schools. He had known the Christman family his whole life, and remembers digging potatoes as a boy on the nearby farm of Louise and Bernie Bishoff. "I would say that my being born and raised in the County just gives me a real love and pride for our community," he says. Richard went to the old Little Flock Church when he was a boy, but did not know of the connection to the church and to the county that his newly-purchased Summers/Christman house might have.
In fact, as he designed his new subdivision, Mr. Miles originally planned to tear down the old house. When it was pointed out by historians Barbara and Ken Bailey and others, he realized it was indeed a historic structure. He stripped off the aluminum and wood siding to reveal the large-log structure of the original cabin.
Richard Miles is now planning for the cabin to be a "signature entrance" for the new development, repurposing the historic log house as a feature element of the new roadway connecting Oakwood homes to Zoneton Road. He is restoring the exterior, windows and doors, stuccoing between the logs, and will seal the old wood to better preserve it from the elements. The cabin will eventually be owned by the homeowners' association.
This is not Richard Miles' first foray into preserving history. In 2008, as part of his River Crest community development on Bogard Lane in Mt. Washington, he moved an entire 100,000-pound stone smokehouse, intact, from another location on that farm to repurpose that structure as part of a grand entrance there.
Now that's how history should be preserved!
Below is an image insert from Google showing the location of the Benjamin Summers house. You can use the arrows in the upper left corner to move the image, or use the plus and minus signs to zoom in or out. You may also put the cursor on the map and drag the image to where you want it.
Copyright 2016 by David Strange, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.