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Texas | Architecture | Historic Homes

Historic Gaines-Oliphint House

350 Ensign,
Hemphill, TX 75948

Located in the Pendleton Harbor Subdivision on Hwy. 21 (Highway 6 on the Louisiana side) near the Pendleton Bridge, the Gaines-Oliphint House has been acknowledged by the Texas Historical Commission as the oldest standing hand hewn log structure in the state. The building is a double pen planked log story and a half building with a dog trot.

Gaines-Oliphint House oldest standing hand hewn log structure in Texas
Gaines-Oliphint House - "Oldest standing hand hewn log structure in Texas"

The Gaines-Oliphint House was given to the James Frederick Gomer Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas in 1999 by the SRT (Sabine District Chapter 33 of the Sons of the Republic of Texas). As of May, 2008, the DRT received a master plan for the restoration of the house and stabilization was completed in the fall of 2008. The Texas Historical Commission requires that in order to preserve the house we must replace the existing roof with a historically correct roof which is a fire retardant cedar shake roof. Funds for this project are actively being sought at this time.

Chartered on March 8, 1984, the Sons of the Republic of Texas, Sabine District Chapter 33 were gifted in December, 1984 with the Gaines-Oliphint House by Mrs. Tom Foster of Center.

Texas Log structure - Gaines-Oliphint House interior

The Oliphint House is one of the earliest Pre-Republic, Anglo-American structures in Texas. This house is the only surviving structure of the early settlement of Gaines Ferry. It was located on James Gaines' large plantation and ferry-tavern enterprise on the Sabine River crossing of the El Camino Real. James was born Richard T. Gaines in 1776 in Culpepper City, VA.

Many historians say the 2-story, double pen log structure was built about 1818 by James T. Taylor Gaines; Tree ring dating done as part of the master plan in 2007 indicates the house might have been constructed as late as 1849. Identical to the Gaines Ferry house that he built for himself around 1815 by slave labor at the Sabine Crossing, the Oliphint House was apparently built for his teenage wife's parents, the Edmund Norris', so they might live in the vicinity. Later his cousin Susan Jackson lived with her family in the house. The Gaines Ferry site was inundated by waters of the Toledo Bend Reservoir in the late 1960's and the Oliphint House, an exceptionally fine example of early Texas architecture, is all that remains of this early nineteenth century settlement.

Gaines-Oliphint House oldest standing hand hewn log structure in Texas

Gaines-Oliphint House
Gaines-Oliphint House

One of Texas' first Anglo settlers, Gaines first came to what is now Texas in 1812, crossing the Sabine River and traveling to Nacogdoches. This was prior to Stephen F. Austin's first 300 Angle colonists in 1812. Speculating that other settlers would choose to colonize west of the Sabine River, Gaines purchased an existing ferry in 1819 on the river in Sabine County. From this grew a mercantile establishment and later the town of Pendleton. Gaines lived in the home at Pendleton from 1819 to 1843. The property on which the Gaines-Oliphint House stands was sold to Wilford Oliphint by James Gaines about 1840; the bargain seems to have fallen through. The deed validly conveying the house and 61 acres of land was made by James Gaines and his son, John B. Gaines, to Martha A. Oliphint on February 17, 1843.

James Gaines’ influence on Texas’ development is significant, for he built a large plantation on the edge of the frontier and was continually involved in Texas’ growth. After participating in two Mexican expedition, he held office as the first judge (Aildae) of the municipality of Sabine in 1823 or 1824 and operated a post office at the ferry for a time in 1863. Like his grandfather, Edmond Pendleton, who inspired Henry Lee to author a Virginia resolution calling for American Independence in 1776, James Gaines participated in the creation of the new Texas Republic as a delegate from Sabine County to the Convention of 1836. He was placed on the committee to draft the Constitution of the Republic of Texas and went on to serve as Senator in the 4th, 5th, and 6th Texas Congress. Further, he was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence.

Several architectural features of the house indicate the carpenter to have been from the tidewater areas of the Carolinas and Virginia; the logs having square notched gravity corners and the house is built on high piers, both being features of early southern building in the U.S. Built of longleaf pine logs which were shaped into planks with an adze and broadax, the house was completely stacked before the windows and doors were cut into the walls. Archeological findings indicate the bricks for the chimney were manufactured on the site from native red clay.

The Gaines-Oliphint house provided lodging for Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, and Stephen F. Austin, among others. According to legend, it is the site where pirate Jean LaFitte held his auctions to sell slaves and goods he had taken from captive ships.

From Milam, Texas (junction Highway 21 and Highway 87) - Go East on Highway 21 for 6.4 miles to Pendleton Harbor Subdivision (Cedar Grove Road). Turn North on Cedar Grove Road and go 0.1 mile to the STOP sign. Turn East (right) on Harbor Blvd. and go 0.1 mile to Ensign Drive. Turn North (left) on Ensign Drive and proceed 0.2 miles to the Gaines-Oliphint House on the right.

Submitted by Nina Gooch, President, "James Frederick Gomer" Chapter, Daughters of the Republic of Texas

White Oak Tree (over 325 years old) at the Gaines-Oliphint House

See Hemphill, Texas

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