Appalachian Trail Histories

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Introduction

Corbin Cabin, c. 1965

Corbin Cabin (1965)

Among the many histories of the Appalachian Trail is the story of the displacement of poor mountain residents to make way for several national and state parks through which the Trail passes. Crumbling chimneys, stacked stone walls, the occaisonal rusted out vehicle, and cemeteries all but invisible in the forest understory, are the only visible remnants of a once vibrant mountain culture displaced forever to make way for the leisure activities of AT hikers and other park visitors.

Within the boundary of Shenandoah National Park, only two homes of the mountain people survive intact--Jones Mountain Cabin and Corbin Cabin. Much closer to the Appalachian Trail, Corbin Cabin is named for George T. Corbin a resident of Nicholson Hollow who built the small structure in 1909 from chestnut logs he cut and shaped himself. The building consists of a main room with a fireplace, a sleeping loft above the main room, a kitchen room (added later by Corbin) on the back with a wood stove, and a small bunk room (also added at a later date and unfinished at the time of his removal from his farm to make way for the Park) on the side opposite the chimney.

Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the cabin is situated along the banks of the Hughes River in the upper reaches of Nicholson Hollow, and was the heart of George Corbin's small farmstead. Because Corbin Cabin is the only remaining intact structure in the Hollow, it conveys an impression of a community of subsistence farmers eking out a living on tiny farms. This is a misleading vision of life in the Hollow because Corbin's was the smallest home on the smallest farm in the community. Across the Hughes and further downstream were a number of much larger farms with substantial homes, including the farm of Aaron Nicholson that encompassed more than 240 acres.

Nevertheless, Corbin Cabin provides visitors with an opportunity to consider such things as the building techniques of the former mountain residents, what it was like to farm on steeply sloping hillsides, and to imagine the land before the National Park Service allowed the forest to return to what had been open land for almost 100 years.

In a newspaper interview in 1966, Corbin said of building his home, "Well, I had to go to the mountain and cut all these logs and haul them out with a horse. And then I hewed them myself… And when I got them all ready, we had what you’d call a house raising. The gang come in and take and throw a column in and three or four of them kick the logs up to build it; and we called it a rib-off, to put these ribs on the roof. The large studs were in, and I had to do all the rest by hand just as long as I could do it outside of working at other jobs to make a living."

Today the cabin is maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club as an overnight rental.