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Riley log cabin finds a permanent home

BURLINGTON — Tucked between a notice about taxes paid by the railroads and the number of votes cast in the latest election in Huntington, W.Va., is the obituary of Joseph Riley, a Union Township farmer who died March 30, 1890.

The three-line notice in The Ironton Register is succinct and to the point.

“Joseph Riley dropped dead a few days ago, while sitting by the fire smoking his pipe,” the blurb states.

What moments of distinction that east end farmer accomplished seem lost to history. That is besides his fathering 10 children from 1867 to 1883.

But where he passed on to his eternal reward is known and has been the object of loving efforts at restoration since 1990s.

Now the log cabin of Joseph, aka Josiah, Riley has found a new permanent home in the Burlington Commons and those who have worked to maintain it will gather on Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. for a formal dedication.

The last family to live in the cabin and farm the homestead were Jim and Clella “Aunt Tike” Riley. Jim Riley was a son of Josiah, born Jan. 2, 1879, and grew up in the cabin that was built before 1877.

Margo Lemley of Proctorville recalls summers she spent with the couple as a young girl.

“I loved it,” she said. “There was a kitchen and off the kitchen a good-sized room and a fireplace in it. My aunt had a good-sized dining room table and a single bed in the corner. When I stayed with them, they made me a pallet on the floor. I thought that was great.

“You could hear the hoot owls. It was so silent. My aunt would make a pot of coffee and drop an eggshell in it. There was big wood-burning stove. That was really pioneering. I didn’t take full advantage of what a good place it was.”

First to work on the restoration was Lee Fitzhugh “Danny” Daniel Jr. who moved the log cabin from its location on Greasy Ridge. Taking it apart log by log, Daniel reassembled it on a lot in Chesapeake on County Road 1.

The last owners of the cabin were Don and Sue Livingston, who donated it to the Concerned Citizens of Burlington more than a year ago.

Bringing the cabin back to life is a project that Harriette Ramsey, president of the Concerned Citizens, eyes with special interest.

“This is my dream that teachers will be able to come here and bring their classes. We will have things that go back to the day and we can teach a class,” she said. “This is creating a lifelong history for Burlington. Hopefully, it will be a spot for people to learn of the history of Burlington and Lawrence County. That is the dream.”